Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The ultimate in bike desirability - silence

I had to make a pretty big detour on my way into work this morning. It was partly because large sections of the Regent's Canal seem to be shut down for repairs at the moment. But also because I was being driven slowly mad by the rattling of my bike rack. It was fitted to my lovely new bike when I bought my LCM (London Commuting Machine, actually a Giant Seek Zero) from Chamberlain's in Camden. But as I've been riding it pretty intensely every since, several screws worked loose -  and in fact on closer inspection, had popped out. So my bike has been rattling and it's also not great having your child on the bike seat while you worry about whether the whole rack is going to give way.

So I made a detour back to Chamberlain's. Sure enough, they're as lovely as ever and wasted no time in replacing the offending screws and bolts. They have a lovely way of selling stuff to you too where you actually feel great that you've bought something - in this case, I walked out with a bottle of chain lube. I'm impressed to say they didn't charge me for the screws or fitting them. I was sorely tempted by a fancy light you can buy with its own battery pack - but for £99 I didn't quite feel I could afford it.

Anyway, by now I was feeling rather late for work, so I got back down on the canal and sped off. I suddenly noticed something. The silence. It was fantastic. Obviously there's the slight sound of the wind in your ears and the low hum of the tyres on the towpath. But the bike itself - completely quiet.

That somehow felt better than having any number of gadgets or gear. Going at speed along a lovely stretch of canal with hardly another person in site - it's about as close to flying as you can get without actually taking off.

Consequently, when I finally did arrive at work I was in rather a good mood, rather exhilerated, and yes, a bit knackered. But nothing an enormous coffee and a muffin couldn't sort out.

So cyclists - fix that bolt, get that chain sorted, declare war on rattles. And sing along with me "Silent bike, holy bike ..." OK, perhaps forget that last bit.  KC


Mark said...

And the silence of bikes is more important than at first it might seem: not only does it feel great when you fix that annoying rattle but consider what the noise of 10 cars sounds like by comparison to 10 bikes... apparently noise pollution drives people to an early grave in central London at quite a high number (they probably all live near Old Street roundabout) so the sounds of silence is just another egalitarian reason to love cycling!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, its all fine and lovely until a pedestrian walks into your path without looking behind them, assuming that they can hear something approaching.

I prefer my slow bike with the loud springs in the seat, as people can hear my coming. My fast bike, which is silent, is usually going much faster when I have to swerve at people walking on a cycle path...

And on the canal path, you really need to take care of pedestrians. As a runner and a cyclist who loves the regents canal path, I really feel that cycling should be banned, as there are so many cyclists who don't understand the meaning of "shared".

KarmaCycle said...

Thanks guys - Mark - yup, I know what you mean about Old Street. Once you get a few sirens, the odd juggernaut, some buses, a "modified" car or two and handful of motorbikes, the din is ... overwhelming.

Anon - totally take the point about pedestrians. I can only really let rip along the canal once I get past the Zoo, heading West, as it's normally clear of people and dogs. The old "two tings" thing does work to an extent, though most people seem to wear headphones. Funnily enough, I went behind someone this morning who literally had a couple of children's rattles tied around her bike, and I thought to myself - actually, that's quite a good way of making sure you get heard.

Gemma said...

Hello! I would like to invite you to an event for journalists and bloggers about cycling and about the Two Tings campaign that you have just mentioned. If you are interested, please contact me at gemma.bancala@britishwaterways.co.uk
I'm writing here becouse I didn't find any email adress, I'm sorry about that. Thank you. Gemma

KarmaCycle said...

Hi Gemma - I'm responding direct by email ... and I'm impressed that you managed to find this blog and noticed the two tings. Makes me feel almost ... relevant!

Paul said...

I've got really screechy brakes, so bad they frighten pedestrians. Does anyone know what makes brakes screech? - the blocks look OK.