Friday, February 5, 2016

The 'Death Farm': Some Thoughts on Obstacle Blindness

The country roads in County Derry are notoriously bendy. But one bend near the town of Limavady has an especially bad reputation. Although neither as sharp nor as awkwardly cambered as some of the others, it is said to have claimed the most lives. And so continuing on the theme of the senses from the previous post, let me tell you about the Death Farm.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Sound Decisions

That morning we woke to a most unnatural circumstance. So strange and utterly different it was to the state of affairs we had known previously, that at first our senses could not work out what exactly was happening. As we walked through the house, every room was filled with the same eerie sensation. And when we stepped outdoors it persisted.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Rental Market

Earlier this week on twitter, the Flying Pigeon bike shop in Los Angeles has mentioned they’d be renting Brompton folding bikes come spring 2016. In Boston and Portland Oregon Bromptons can already be rented at Broadway Bicycles and Clever Cycles, respectively. And of course in the UK, an entire network of bike hire docks has been set up by the manufacturer directly, which, rumor has it, might spread to cities in Ireland soon.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Gathering

Grass Routes Kalkhoff E-Bike
When I owned and drove my first car, I began to observe a funny phenomenon. Often I would park beside whatever other cars would happen to be there, only to return and find my vehicle in the company of a "cousin" - a car of the same (somewhat unusual) make and similar vintage. On a few exciting occasions it would even be a "twin" of the same colour. And on rarer occasions still, it would be an entire gathering of several "related" vehicles. It was as if, given the option, like would gravitate to like, the machines compelling their drivers to gather them into a flock. When the mood was right and my parking skills up to the task, I too would play along.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Why Order a Custom Bicycle?

New England Builders Ball 2014
With opportunities to ride diminished in winter, there is more time to devote to thinking, perhaps a tad obsessively, about bicycling - from planning cycling routes for summer adventures, to browsing internet "bike p0rn.” For some this includes considering a custom bicycle, made from scratch by one of a growing number of specialist builders, who now exist in nearly every region.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

In a World of Our Own Making

{drawing by pixelgraphix}

Having spent the past two years in "recovery ride" mode, at the start of 2016 I finally feel... well, more or less recovered! Creatively I am on surer footing and have a better sense of direction. It has also, I think, only now truly sunk in that my move to Ireland is permanent and real, rather than some bizarre dream I am about to wake up from. As a result I've been less tentative in making connections, less reluctant to plan. And in the coming months I look forward to several new projects that I'm either starting myself, or am taking part in.

One of these is the SlĂ­ na gCopaleen festival, which I feel exceptionally lucky to be helping to organise. Translatable roughly as "na gCopaleen's way," the festival's name is a reference to one of the pseudonyms of the Irish writer Brian O'Nolan, aka Flann O'Brien - author of that bicycling metaphysics bible, The Third Policeman. It was just over two years ago now that I read this book (see: Is This About a Bicycle?) and fell in love. I fell in love not only with the author's writing, but also with his unique ability to shape language to accommodate his ideas, rather than allowing for the more usual, reverse, relationship between the two. Well, I won't get too deep and analytical in this wee bicycling blog, but anyway: There is a Flann O'Brian festival in Donegal coming up, and it will be lovely, and free to attend, and will feature dinner talks and live music and a themed bicycle ride, and if you would like to join us check the website for info and updates.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Winter Training

"It's normally much better behaved than this!" I heard myself say to the train conductor, in a frazzled, parental voice, as my bicycle buckled and slid away from the space I'd been trying to shove it into with one hand, whilst paying the faire with the other.

"No worries," he said, looking in fact slightly worried for me.

"Sometimes they'll not do as they're told," added a man behind me, as if in my defense.

"Happens to the best of them," chimed in another at the other end of the car helpfully.

A parcel-laden woman in a yellow beret chuckled.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Steering Your Loved Ones' Bicycle Purchase Decisions

I did not meet my spouse through cycling. He was a pilot instructor at a small airfield I happened to be photographing one day (a meeting I unwittingly documented here!). It was only some time after, perhaps as an attempt at wooing, that he mentioned he too rode a bike. Turned out he had been a rather strong club cyclist some years ago ("back before everyone was doing it"). But by the time we met he'd been off the bike for nearly a decade, focusing instead on running and weight training. His machine, circa the early 2000's, had since been wilting in a shed: a battered aluminium road frame with a worn Ultegra drivetrain, 21mm tyres, a thin wedge of a racing saddle, and decomposing Look pedals. He remembered the bike as being fast, albeit uncomfortable - which he saw as a logical, and tolerable, trade-off. When he tried it after the long absence, however, the discomfort proved too much while the speed he remembered was no longer there to compensate. He rode with me a few times, but it clearly did not feel nice. I proposed he buy a more comfortable bike and made some suggestions. But he was skeptical a new bike would make a difference. It was him that needed work, he said, not the bike. Well, these things are not mutually exclusive, I ventured - but decided not to push the subject further. Perhaps this was for the best, as cycling as a couple is not always a good idea!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mixed Signals

Cycling up a long, steep stretch of the main road, I noticed a car emerge from a narrow side road ahead. The driver was just about to turn across traffic, when he spotted me and stopped, mid-maneuver. He was now positioned awkwardly, both the main and the side roads being steep and meeting at a strange angle. At the rate of my huffing and puffing, there was plenty of time for him to turn before I would reach the intersection; he would not be cutting me off. So, after checking traffic was clear, I gestured, waving him through. He promptly raised his hand in acknowledgement and made the turn, while I proceeded uphill past the now-empty intersection.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Fitting Transporteur

Mercian Transporteur
Want to know the surest way to improve the weather? Buy your bicycle mudguards! As I pedaled home, my new Zefals gleaming in the unfamiliar sunlight, I could almost hear the dry roads laughing at my formerly sleek and minimalist fixed gear steed, now looking more like an overburdened pack mule.