Sunday, February 27, 2011

Stuff - don't talk to me about stuff

What is it with the weather, during the first real signs of Spring - well a bit of sun and warmer temperatures I find myself struggling to find time to cycle. In case you are wondering, this is not some elaborate psychological trickery my brain is playing on me to avoid cycling - life is really getting in the way.

Saturday's little surprise started off with rain. Although when I want to cycle a bit of rain is not a problem, in fact a lot of rain is not a problem either. It can be quite exhilarating cycling around when it is pouring.

We generally get our food shopping done on a Saturday morning, as you get older you become creatures of habit I think. We were late setting off and so my daughter who is learning to drive - well drove us. Anyone who has a son or daughter who has turned 17 will know just how expensive it can be to insure a car for them to learn to drive. At the moment it costs less for girls than boys, but that might have changed with a European ruling. The consequence of this is we have a very small second car which my daughter is learning to drive in. It came without a spare tyre (tire) or jack. You get a bottle of sealant, a device to remove the valve and an electric compressor that runs off the battery. It saves space and weight (and cost) but it will not fix all types of puncture.


You can see where this is going, whilst she was driving home, via a slightly longer route we had a puncture. It turned out to be scaffolding clamp that had lodged by a drain. The puncture happened at a reasonable speed and to her credit she didn't panic although she didn't know what had happened. we pulled in and as luck would have it the car manual was in the kitchen so as the car was still covered by the Manufacturer's warranty/breakdown cover we got the AA out. They (he) turned up surprisingly quickly and jacked the car up checked the tyre. The puncture was in the middle of the tread and quite big and took quote a lot of the sealant to "seal" it. To encourage the process the AA man spun the wheel to ensure the sealant fluid got to the puncture. It did seal after a few minutes. (Note Tescos are selling Jelly Babies as a TwoFor".)

When I am cycling for pleasure I carry patches, spare inner tubes and a pump to deal with punctures. However when I am cycling for business I carry an aerosol with sealant, at pressure, that will inflate a tyre and pump sealant in to "fix" the puncture. It is much quicker, lighter and saves time, but is messy and I always replace the inner tube when I get home if I've used the aerosol. I very much view it as a temporary get me there fix.


Well it turns out that is the same for cars - they don't recommend fixing punctures after the tyre has been gunged - you need a new one. As our tyre hole was quite large the AA van followed us to the nearest tyre dealer (Quick Fit) at speeds no faster the 50mph. I drove as my daughter felt is was probably better. It turned out that the tyre size was a little unusual and after a 40minute wait in the queue we had to go off to another tyre place. This time they had one and after the usual faffing about we were on our way. (Yes my daughter took over the driving, although nothing untoward had happened it is better to get back into the saddle straight away - car bike or horse.)

The final thing that is needing attention is we have redecorated out living room and after some floor cleaning I need to put the blinds/curtains back up. As any cyclist will know there is no way that cycling can take precedence over the precise, but unforeseeable point in time when the blinds/curtains suddenly need to be done!

All this means I have had to get my cycling fix vicariously, along with my attempt at demonstrating how cars will have to play a smaller role in our lives. (Yes I know I am a bit hypocritical there having spent the last six or seven paragraphs talking about car stuff. I can't resist pointing out this news item - "The end of the road for millions of drivers..." which predicts petrol could reach £8 a gallon. Now I am not anti-car, I like the flexibility my 4x4 gives me and can achieve just under 40mpg when I focus on not wasting diesel. However I do feel that we could be better at planning a world with less reliance on the car. I cycle more miles each year than I drive. I don't think it compromises journey times. I might turn up to meetings a little more ruffled but hey that's a small price to pay.

I think that we are all assuming that some "magic fix" is just around the corner, well it has done a good job of staying hidden. Here in the flatlands the Police plans to bring in electrically-powered police cars had been shelved - too expensive and they don't run for long enough between charges. Unfortunately here in Cambridge bike theft is the most common crime. despite recent Police successes tin catching bike thieves the number of cycles stolen has risen - 2010: 2,870, 2009: 2,597, 2008: 2,326, 2007: 2,240. Sadly the numbers have just gone on rising. It would be interesting to see whether this correlates with cycle usage. Sadly I also saw another report of a cyclist hurt in a hit-and-run in Newmarket. Fortunately he was not seriously hurt. However it makes me wonder whether we are seeing more hit-and-runs because more drivers are perhaps not driving legally? Talking about driving illegally, a Mobility Scooter rider was charged with being drunk in charge of a bicycle as there isn't a specific offence for a mobility scooter. I hope this doesn't skew the data against drunken cyclists! (The picture is completely random by the way.)


I am not sure quite how I feel about this story of a Cyclist awarded £12,000 damages for being grabbed too forcefully by a London Underground employee. Whilst the idea of jobs-worth employees annoys me I have rarely come across them, certainly not on the railways. Then when you read that the individual tried to claim for massage and a two-month holiday in Thailand it makes me think that there two side to this story and perhaps the London Underground got the raw end of the stick.

It is a somewhat loose connection from the Tube to the Intertube: Edinburgh cyclists launch an interactive 'innertube' map. It is a "tube" style map of the various cycle routes around Edinburgh and what I like about it is it has the potential to get more people thinking about cycling by stripping it down to its simplest features. Of course one you know you want to cycle then Cyclestreets helps work out how long and how far.

I mentioned earlier that it helps to get back in the saddle after a fall. As a cyclist I tend to think of horse-riding as much more dangerous. Although if I am honest I really don't know what the numbers look like. However with Newmarket just down the road we do get regular reports of riding accidents. This one had an Air Ambulance in attendance but ended up going to Addenbrookes by road. Apparently the East Anglian Air Ambulance was grounded recently, they had their Operator's licence taken away (on technical grounds) but did get a replacement in quite quickly. It goes to show how running a charity is no picnic. As Addenbrookes expands it will get a lit helipad apparently. It is expected to employ 17,000 people by 2020 (currently 9,000 work there). Let's hope the CGB is up and running by then.



And almost finally with the heightened sunspot activity we might get a chance to see the Northern Lights in Scotland. The Northern Lights are something I would love to photograph. Mind you it is quite a long cycle ride to Aberdeen. And finally - yes really, "lack of sun" is leading to rickets apparently. Now there is a good reason for cycling I must use that the next time I go for a ride. Which is in the next 30minutes hopefully.



  1. If you're looking for aurorae here are two links: - and sign up for their free email alert service, and: - a display of current polar activity. When the yellow band reaches our position it's worth having a look, red band is must have a look. The blue band is essentially no activity.

  2. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for that I've signed up.

    If you were wondering where the comment went it was diverted by the Blogger Spam filter. It must be sensitive to links?

    Now to wait for it to go red!

  3. You might be waiting a while!

    I have seen and photographed fantastic displays from just to the east of Cambridge, but not for some years.

    Thanks for putting the comment back, I had wondered where it went.

  4. Judging from this Solar Cycle website
    I have a few years before the next sunspot peak.