Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The thingameebob has a name

My brilliant brother-in-law took a quick look at my bike last night. I showed him the thingameebob. He fiddled with it for a few seconds. He pulled a bit off and confirmed it was broken. "What's it called?" I asked. "A spring", he answered.  Ah - so there is a technical name.

The annoying thing, of course, is that it's not a simple repair job so I can see myself going to the shop. Which means at least one more day without the trusty steed. Bother. Bother. Bother.

I tried to take a picture of the offending bit but it didn't come out well. Here's one from the net which I think shows it. It's essentially the spring which keeps the pads from being forced on to your wheel all the time:

and here's the blurry broken bit from mine:

I suspect you may now have heard enough about springs to satisfy you for the day.  KC

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The thingameebob got my day off to a bad start

Do you ever get this? You're cycling and it feels like you're going through treacle? So hard to peddle ... well it was like that last night. I did manage to limp home, thinking it was probably just me being a bit unfit or something. But when I wheeled it through the house to the shed, I saw and felt that it really was sticking - the front brake pad was stuck against the wheel. This morning I thought I'd twist a couple of screws to restore it - but then I realised the thingameebob seemed to be loose and the bit of wire which holds the pad away from the wheel could not be tightened.

Realising I would not be able to attempt the repair, I did a hasty change into my "work" clothes which I'd carefully folded up into the paniers and took the miserable Central Line. Somehow when you're all geared it, it's really frustrating when you can't cycle.

I'm going to ask my very kind and knowledgeable brother in law tonight what the thingameebob actually is and what it's real name is. An update later.

PS Sorry Nat - no picture of Penguin effect as I didn't get to wear my funny leg things today.

Monday, 25 January 2010

What annoys a noisy oyster most?

This was an old joke from my childhood.  It goes like this:

"What annoys a noisy oyster most?"

Answer: "A noisy noise annoys a noisy oyster most".

Obviously you have to say it out loud for it to have any impact. And while we're on these kind of jokes, did you ever do the one about the most number of the same words in a row? OK, here it goes. Imagine the unlikely scenario that there are two boys in a class, one called "Had" and one called "Had Had" and both had submitted grammer excercises.  Here goes:

"Had, while Had Had had had "had", had had "had had". "Had had" had had the teacher's approval."

Anyway - that's all a rather irritating, no doubt, preamble to me getting a couple of cycling things off my chest. Having been not biking for a couple of weeks, when I came back I was looking at the activity with fresh eyes. I was feeling very positive about it.  And it surprised me somewhat to discover the things which started irritating me quickest.  The two biggest and most immediate horrors were:

1) Motorists not indicating
2) Cars and motorbikes stopping at lights in "our" green box

I found myself getting very quickly annoyed, in spite of being in a fairly benign state. I know we all have whinges about cycling, but I think those are now top of my whinges.

So that's what annoys a noisy cyclist most. I suppose we should also be outward looking - I wonder what the top whinges for motorists are in their dealings with cyclists?

Note to self - why do I keep talking about "motorists" like I'm in some PG Wodehouse novel? I'm pretty sure this century we call them "cars".

Friday, 22 January 2010

How to waterproof your feet

Has anyone noticed? It's raining quite a lot today (in London, UK, that is. And probably elsewhere too). That fine, sneaky rain designed specifically to get into your clothing and make you feel wet and clammy. There's enough of it to leave puddles. I'm now going to (imagine some kind of online roll of drums before a magic trick) going to show you a picture of my cycling shoes, taken AFTER I got into work, having braved puddles, horrid drizzle and general wet conditions:

The sharp eyed among you will have noticed:

  1. My boots are horrid and old
  2. I have luminous laces which are, frankly, a bit grubby

  3. They are ... dry!

Until today, these boots would have been soaking and nasty. But I used my Christmas present for the first time in anger today. A pair of ... waterproof shoe covers. There's probably a more technical name. Gaitors perhaps. Or salipettes (?) - no. Anyway, needless to say they're from Mountain Equipment Co-Op and they fit nicely around your shoes. And they kept my boots and feet bone dry. Wow!

Many of you will be going "Ah come on man, we've been using these for years - get with it!" ... but I haven't seen many people using them out there on the streets, and I'm now a convert.

You do somehow look a bit of a git, almost at least half like a penguin - but they do the trick. Here's to a whole new era of dry feet.


Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Cycling and bereavement

This is going to be a difficult one.  I've just come back to cycling after a couple of weeks away. My Mum died over Christmas and we had the funeral this weekend. I won't dwell on it as this is a cycling blog, but I will say that the funeral was beautiful and uplifting - as well as deeply sad and moving.

My Mum's favourite colour was purple, so close family wore a lot of purple including purple silk ties for the men. My Mum had asked to have a cardboard coffin and for it to be painted by the family. My sister, who's an artist, painted on some key scenes from her life (e.g. two of the houses she'd lived in) while her grandchildren painted on flowers, butterflies, ladybirds and birds. Then it was given a purple wash. Because she'd spent a bit of her life in Trinidad, the flowers on top were of the exotic kind (birds of paradise flowers, orchids). It was a freezing day on Saturday and in a very traditional church the coffin and flowers brought a bit of warmth to the occasion. Her four children - or perhaps I should say offspring as we're grown up - carried in the coffin at the beginning of the service. We chose hymns which people could really belt out (e.g. "bread of heaven" and "I vow to thee my country"). It also helped keep us warm. We had a huge family gathering afterwards, and, without sounding too hippyish, the love flowed.

Anyway - I said I wouldn't go on about it, but I did. But I did want to relate it to cycling in a weird way. I was back on the bike this morning after quite a big gap. I'd been almost wholly pre-occupied with other things. But - and here's the point - it was fantastic to get back on the saddle. And I suddenly remembered how good cycling is for thinking. Obviously not when you're about to be run over by a juggernaut, but when you're on a nice open area and you can get into the "zone" and just reflect. For some reason the combination of taking excercise and doing some thinking is fantastic. It's early days, but I think cycling might help with the grieving process.

And by the way - many of you guys have left really nice comments on the last entry in which I said that my Mum had died. I really appreciate them. Thank you.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010