101 Uses for a Brompton: A little light mischief

February 14, 2018

I think I mentioned I had a small intervention planned – and last night saw me heading out on the Brompton with a fellow conspirator, a stencil and two cans of entirely temporary and not at all vandalistic chalk sprays to do my first ever (and I suspect last) spot of tagging.

It was all for a good cause – lovebombing the cycle paths of Bigtown for We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote, in an idea that made absolutely perfect sense to me when it popped into my brain in September. As the date got nearer and the thought of heading out to do something that would look from the outside very much like graffiti-ing things, I have to admit I got rather cold feet on the idea, but others seemed to think it was a good idea and I had a partner in not-actually-crime who was keen and so off we went into a freezing cold night to share the cycling infrastructure love.

pink spray on boots

Graffiti on the cycle paths officer? What makes you think I had anything to do with it?

Anyway, it turns out that if you’re standing on a bridge in some parts of Bigtown late at night, apparently blatantly spray painting it, then passers by take it in their stride, with nothing more than a faintly amused note to their ‘allright?’ as they pass on by (it was the other half, blamelessly sitting in the car doing the Sudoku as he waited for me to finish, who attracted the curiosity of the police).

ILOH in orange

I’d post some daylight pictures of the resulting work, but the weather today looked like this pretty much the whole day, so you’ll have to wait.

snow on window

This is what happens when you look out of the window and say ‘it’s snowing a bit but it’s not really trying that hard’

And now I’m very much relieved the whole thing is over. Just in time to head down to London for another #5goMad adventure. Watch this space.


Winter Might have Renewed its Grip …

February 7, 2018

… but spring is just around the corner.

winter and spring

This is less cheering to me than you might think because spring has also become associated in my mind with the start of the cycle campaigning year, and specifically Pedal on Parliament. Much as I love the buzz of being part of a big campaigning event, I could also do without the stress.

That said, I have come to realise that the minute I’m not completely flat out busy, I start looking around for other projects to get involved with, so perhaps it’s safer for all concerned this way.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying:

Pedal on Parliament save the date Saturday April 28th

Time to start spreading the word

Taking it to the Streets

February 2, 2018

chalk heart

So I’ve been saying for a while now that as campaigners, we need to get out of our social media bubble and do more in the real world. And obviously by ‘we’, I mean ‘everyone else’, because getting out there and doing stuff in the real world doesn’t really change much when you have cows for neighbours, and even then only a few months of the year.

Still, Back on my Bike has ways of digging me out of my rural fastness to join her for some event or other. The most effective involves suggesting things that aren’t going to happen for a ridiculously long time so I don’t need to worry about them, and then filling me with enough coffee and cake that we can hatch all sorts of ridiculously ambitious ideas about what we could do in the unlikely event that we make it through to the new year alive.

And then suddenly it is February 2018 and as part of the Firestarter Festival (launched by the First Minister no less), we seem to have rashly agreed to transform four parking spaces in the middle of Edinburgh into a pop-up park, and turn a dead space for cars into a welcoming place for people. In February. Yeah, that February, the cold one.

Fortunately, my partner in crime is the most organised person in the world, so has done the bulk of the actual work, which means it will actually happen, rather than remaining a beautiful idea. So now all we need is some actual people to come and enjoy it. If you’re in Edinburgh next Friday, please do drop by. We can’t guarantee Nicola will join us, but you never know.

Meanwhile, I have been busy plotting another real-world intervention, of which more anon…

101 Uses for a Brompton: Going Singing

January 31, 2018

As I mentioned, I’ve been trying out a new choir (if it was the sort of choir where it was the other way round, I’d probably not have got very far, but they claim to be able to work with ‘the voice you have’ …). The main reason for choosing this choir, which is in Notso Bigtown (there are others which are nearer) is because a pal and ex choir member from Old Nearest Village found out about it and offered to give me a lift there and back. But this means her first driving five miles in the wrong direction to our house and then turning around to go back past her house on our way out. Clearly this is just dispiriting, even in a car, so after trying a few cunning alternative routes which turned out to be slower, I decided the easiest thing would be to ride the Brompton down to hers, at least on evenings when it isn’t snowing, pissing down or hailing frogs, all of which seem equally likely given the weather we’ve had recently (snowing again today, thank you, although none of it seems to have stuck around). It cuts out at least one of the unnecessary journeys, and crucially it’s almost all downhill, so it doesn’t feel like anything but a pleasure on my part.

So last night, I zoomed happily down the hill, blessing my new C&B Seen lights (which I should probably review one of these days), and arriving feeling refreshed and ready to head off for a happy evening of singing, and learning, and generally not looking at a screen, which is all good.

Even better is the fact that we pass through the village on the Big A Road that has recently had two Stoplights of Shame installed. These are amazing. If you’re detected doing more than 30 as you get into the village outskirts, they turn red on you and you have to sit there for all to see, having saved precisely no time. Instant karma. There was of course an almighty fuss when they were first installed and they were taken down to be tweaked after people complained they were stopping people who weren’t speeding, but they’re now back up again and working a treat. I have to admit I love the wonderfully sedate pace everyone now adopts through the village (there might even have been some unholy cackling), at least until the last SoS is negotiated. Why we don’t have these installed everywhere I have no idea. They’re bloody brilliant.

And the choir? Well they seem to be coping with the voice I have, which is only really an alto in the sense that I can’t hit any of the higher notes, rather than being particularly comfortable in the lower ranges. We’re learning some quite challenging-to-me stuff, but so far we have always managed to pass through the ‘God we’ll never get this’ stage, to the ‘hang on, that sort of makes sense’ stage to the ‘oh wow actually that managed to sound quite good’ part, at least for a line or two. And no being singled out or shamed, at least unless my pal puts her foot down on our way home.

Watching Where the Wind Blows

January 29, 2018

One of the advantages of our house on the side of the hill is that you can watch the weather coming out of the windows at the back – and then going away again out the front (assuming normal prevailing winds apply and the weather actually is planning on leaving, which isn’t always a given).

So it was very satisfying to be able to time my trip to Bigtown this afternoon just behind this heavy shower – just moderating my speed enough to stay out of its skirts.

rain falling on Bigtown

Even better to get to the roundabout on my way into town and realise that the queue of cars that has built up is merely stuck behind a working bin lorry, leaving me able to filter past the lot of them and skip onto the roundabout scot free.

It’s little moments like this that make it all worth while.

Wheel Adventures

January 28, 2018

With the snow and thaw replaced by milder weather and rain, I have finally had to admit that the real reason I still had the spiky tyres on my back wheel was that I was putting off changing my back wheel as it was a real bugger to get done the last time. Somehow it’s been easier to just pump up the slow puncture every morning when I need to use my bike than to wrestle with switching wheels. But with the temperatures creeping into double figures, and with a biggish ride coming up today, I finally broke down, got the maintenance stand out (a task in itself, frankly, as it was designed to be used by someone with far more manly thumbs than I have) and changed the wheel, which, in the end, only took half an hour, a record for any bike maintenance task undertaken by me.

In fact, broken down in more detail, actually changing the wheel only took about 10 minutes, most of which was spent wishing for a third hand because actually getting a wheel on and off is one of those things which is easier with the bike upside down so that the stupid thing doesn’t slide out of the dropouts the minute you let go of it to pick up the spanner. The rest was spent as follows:

– assembling and disassembling the maintenance stand: 5 minutes
– searching for correct spanner: 2 minutes
– muttering ‘lefty loosy, righty tighty’, while turning the spanner the wrong way: 2 minutes
– wandering around the garage looking for the tool I had put down while cursing myself for not putting the tool down next to the pile of tools so I could find it again: 3 minutes
– finding the tool in the pile of tools where I had put it down so I wouldn’t lose it: 30 seconds
– putting chain back onto front cogs: 1 minute
– desperately searching for the horrible mechanical thing that was causing the drive train to jam with a worrying-sounding clunk after I’d got the chain back on: 2 minutes
– realising I’d left the kick stand deployed and it was jamming the pedals: 30 seconds
– cycling up and down the road in front of our house to test everything was working: probably far longer than was necessary but then again, this is the fun bit

There was also a lot of swearing and some whimpering with frustration but, crucially, no going into the house and asking for help, even when my feeble girly hands couldn’t at first get the wheel nuts undone (it turns out getting cross and shouting at them while giving it another go helps with this one). Even more crucially, I’ve since taken the bike on a 30+ mile ride with no problems, not even the usual one of realising I haven’t done the wheel up tight enough and it jamming.

So, onwards and upwards. Who knows, 2018 might even be the year I manage to crack the unassisted sub-60-minute puncture repair. Stranger things have happened. Even with Marathon Pluses.

Papershop Run, Viking Biking Style

January 18, 2018

As will possibly surprise nobody but myself, I didn’t make it to Glasgow today. Perhaps having someone from your very own coonsil on the Today Programme explaining why they’d effectively told everyone not to attempt to go anywhere at all overnight might have been the clue – that and the additional few inches of snow that meant we weren’t going to get the car out in time for me to catch the morning train – and even if we did, there was no guarantee that the other half would be able to get in again to meet the 10pm train back once the temperatures had dropped and the next yellow warning had rolled around.

BT track marks in snow

By mid morning, indeed, the only vehicle that had attempted to get up our hill was the BT van which had ignominiously ground to a halt half way up (‘it was stopping to look at the telegraph pole that did it’, according to the driver; I imagine it’s an occupational hazard) and then slid back down again. We could see that the main road was moving okay so, with the sun briefly out, and a newspaper to fetch, I kitted up the bike with the second spiked tyre and wheeled it down to the main road to give it a go.

Bike in the snow

Actually, once up and running it wasn’t too bad – slushy rather than icy, and I could probably have got away with ordinary tyres. I considered staying on the main road all the way down, but after a close-ish pass from a bin lorry, of all things, I decided to take my chances on the back roads, where not everyone had been so lucky.

lorry slid off road in snow

(The advantage of being on a bike is that when you are on your way back and the rescue lorry has arrived and is blocking the road and there are four men just standing around having a blether about how it all happened and what to do now, a bike can just slip through the gap and get past)

clouds and snow

Plus it was lovely to be out – and even lovelier to get back just as the next snow shower rolled in.