Friday night at ‘Look Mum no Hands’, a cycling-themed cafe on Old Street. Once upon a time there were places to hang out, Bar Italia has good coffee – and showed live coverage of the Giro before satellite TV was everywhere – the Duke of York’s in the Clerkenwell Road, thick with couriers on a Friday evening.
Cycle mechanic’s joke.
- Q. How many cycle-couriers does it take to change a light-bulb?
- A. None. They want you to do it. They want you to do it now. And can they have a discount, because they’re a courier?
Back in the day there were places to hang out. Now there are cycle-themed cafes. LMNH is busy with people of all stripes. Truly we live in crazy times.
It’s the launch of ‘The Ride Journal VI‘ a handsome, perfect-bound anthology of writing, illustration and photography. Even the sparse ads are easy on the eye and loaded with symbolism. Ever wondered why Brooks saddles are so costly? Check this.
I’m disappointed. My 800 word contribution features an embarrassing mistake. The submitted copy described recumbent bikes as “crashworthy”, which has been misunderstood and rendered in print as “prone to crash”.
Some cycles are harder to ride than others, the’re good reasons why disc wheels and tri-bars aren’t allowed in road-races. Crashworthiness is about the ability of a vehicle to leave its pilot unharmed in a wreck. A car with seat-belts, crumple-zones and an airbag is more crashworthy than one without.
On a recumbent you’re usually closer to the ground than on a classic bike. Impact is to do with acceleration not speed; half the distance, equals one quarter the force. Crash a classic bike and you’re likely to land hard on your head, shoulders or arms. Crash a recumbent and you land gently on your arse. We all know individuals who’d be better off landing on their heads, but – in general – it’s better to absorb energy with your glutæus maximus than your skull. The brakes also work much better because you’re weight is loaded on the back wheel. Until you’ve been on a recumbent you’ve never really ridden a push-bike with brakes that actually work. On a recumbent with hydraulic-controlled discs you can out-brake anything.
Don’t get me wrong, crash a recumbent at speed and you can give yourself extensive superficial injuries, but it’s usually a walk-away. It’s a good job recumbents are so safe because most of the people who ride them are idiots.
It’s a truism that nobody (except the producers of El Dorado?) went bust by under-estimating the public, so I’m the mug for sending copy containing unexplained sub-cultural vocabulary; but whoever subbed the piece could have looked up ‘crashworthy’ before they mistranslated it into nonsense?
Not to worry. I’m not Anne-Caroline Chausson, and my little essay doesn’t appear until page 159. In truth this kind of volume is more likely to be thumbed through and tossed on a coffee table then read carefully.
Out of the window Critical Mass goes past.
The Mass has become more cheerful lately. It’s always better in the Winter or in the rain. You get a higher proportion of people who actually like cycling, fewer angry twerps who only ride to annoy their parents. Critical Mass is a free event – it belongs to everyone – so you can’t complain how participants treat it, but I always hope bystanders think…
…’wow those people are cool. I wish I was one of them’…
…’why are those white kids so angry?’
The presence of people on the blue Transport for London hire bikes make the ramshackle peloton look approachable and inclusive; a clear indication that ‘normal’ people can join in. The increasing cadre of long-board skaters blur the boundaries further.
Lots of people already have a line on ‘cyclists’ – sheroes at the vanguard of peace, freedom and sustainability, or self-righteous, work-shy vermin, who think they own the friggin’ road. Personally I can’t see the point of wheels without punctures, and no-way am I tough enough to ride the streets on a vehicle with no seat and no brakes, but the skaters certainly add gaiety. Also great to see Professor Kayoss rolling by on his custom Linear.
Standing in a bar full of assorted people for whom the little queen of the road is the default mode, watching a jolly, random club-run pass, soaking up anger and frustration and giving out LOVE as it goes.
These are the golden years.
- Q. How many cycle mechanics does it take to change a light-bulb.
- A. One. They’re resourceful, self-reliant people; but… …if it’s a Shimano light-bulb? Maybe you should consider moving to a new house?