‘pssst’ competition: the winner

Nothing slows you down like stopping; which is why I like it.

a puncture is decisive

A puncture is decisive; it neatly answers the question of whether to stop
versus whether to carry on.

I’m indecisive, and lean towards carrying on at the expense of stopping;
riding optimistically past superbly placed benches, picturesque cafes,
patches of shade in the midday sun and patches of sun at the end of the
day, improbable scenes well worth photographing, bus shelters delightful
enough to take a nap in.

For this reason I like realising that the new noise I can hear is fast
escaping air passing my forks once every rotation, followed by the
roughness of the road becoming apparent. Nothing for it, where shall I sit?

Nothing slows you down like stopping; which is why I like it. A puncture
early one midsummer evening in Scotland resulted in me finding my favourite
campsite for over 1000 kilometres. The campsite was one that I would have
ridden straight past in the knowledge that daylight was plentiful had I not
recently realised how good it was to take in the mountains from a seated
position on the ground.

It consisted of an empty field surrounded by distant peaks with a stream
running through it and a single toilet block. One toilet, one sink, one
wooden slatted thing to stand on in front of the sink, and a clouded
mirror. The door frames were painted green and peeling, the walls inside
painted pink and peeling. The floor cold stone, the water from the hot tap
hot. The low evening light hit the pink walls like a flood light while the
stream sounded outside.

I didn’t find the farmer that evening on my walk but he found me in the
morning – the only tent in his field. He drove his tractor over just to say
hello and that I certainly didn’t owe him any money. He had white hair and
a red face and his trousers were held up by braces with a repeat pattern of
different tractors on.

Jane Stables 11/12

The author apologised for the absence of a photograph to accompany this tale. I hope you’ll agree it doesn’t need one? The words take you there without assistance.

What’s in your handbag?

The charmingly naive and deceptively simple question “whats-in-your-tool-bag?” triggered an embarrassingly long session of introspection.

What’s in your handbag? - What's not in your tool-kit?

What’s not in your tool-kit?

Apologies to readers who’ve had trouble tracking down fresh copy on owntheroad.cc since the recent transfer. I hope navigation is getting simpler, but if you haven’t found this message please let me know (cheap joke).

From my point of view it’s inspiring to be part of a stable of voices.

For example the charmingly naive and deceptively simple question “What’s in your tool-bag?” triggered an embarrassingly long session of introspection.

Obviously a nit-picker like me can’t answer – in concrete terms – unless the journey, vehicle and maybe, the purpose of the trip are specified. For example what’s in your tool kit for London-Edinburgh-London on a Burrows Ratcatcher? On the subject of that big test, remember – if you want a seat on next Summers’ edition – entries open on 5th of January 2013.

Then there’s the issue of limits. Where – for instance – does the tool-kit end and the pharmacy begin? Dental-floss goes in the pharmacy – obviously – but is useful for many repairs. Sewing needles go in the tool-kit but might be necessary – after sterilisation with the lighter which also goes with tools and is good for cracking chemical bonds – for removing splinters or draining blisters? There are plenty of simple questions but – if you aspire to get them halfway right – answers tend to be more complicated.

What’s in your handbag? - Sewing needle.

Sewing needle.

At an abstract level the glib professional answer to the question “What’s in your tool-kit?” is…

“Everything I need to make my travel reliable.”

…I’m not proud of it but glib has always been one of my favourite colours. Other answers might be…

1. Always a bike.

2. If not a bike then always an umbrella.

3. If not a bike or an umbrella then always surplus local currency.

4. 5ml Loctite 243.

What’s in your handbag? - add head-torch, tubes, lever(s), patch-kit and £50 in local currency

add head-torch, tubes, lever(s), patch-kit and £50 in local currency

Have a great holiday.

Not only a new year but also the first anniversary of owntheroad, there’s lots of excitement coming soon. The results of the Pssst competition, for which entries are still welcome. And news of the new ‘Dunwich Dynamo Daughter’ ride.

Thanks for reading.

‘cycling struggles’

Three network infrastructure can be a useful part of any exit strategy from motor-dependance but some people’s expectation of its ability to solve emotional problems about what people feel expected and entitled to do may be over-optimistic?

I’ve been reading the series ‘Cycling Struggles’ on the weblog of Dave Horton a sociologist based in Lancaster. Despite the gloomy title these accounts of testimony, from people of various backgrounds, on their attitudes to cycling, are useful.

In an area flooded with projection, hearsay and simple-minded theory – they present real people considering real problems and weighing up real solutions. In particular they clarify that those who are frightened of cycling, or the idea of cycling, are drawn from the same population that creates the threat; a useful antidote to lazy assumptions, that everyone who doesn’t cycle has taken an active decision not to, and that the factors informing any decision are the same for everyone.

Here’s my own anecdotal contribution to the genre. An account of a true conversation from the streets of London. A strange story which highlights the complexity of human motivation.

‘cycling struggles’ - Tavistock Place WC1

Tavistock Place WC1

We met in the basement garage of a grand office block near Holborn Circus, EC1. I checked his machine which was in good order. He’d recently started commuting – 5 kilometres throught the districts of Holborn, Bloomsbury, Fitzrovia and Marylebone – to Marylebone Station where he parked his bike overnight and caught a homeward train into the Chiltern Hills.

He was a strongly built, white man, in early middle age, smartly dressed in business clothes. I didn’t ask his job-description but guess it was salaried employment, legal or financial. He’d requested the meeting for guidance on riding from Holborn to Marylebone which he’d been doing for a couple of weeks. He told me he rode among the mighty Chilterns – on his other bike – at the weekends.

It was a dark Winter’s evening. We ran through the basics, how to choose where to ride on the road, passing junctions, overtaking parked cars. The guy was an easy student. His basic cycling skills were sound. As a qualified car-driver he understood the rules of traffic. He appeared socially confident.

We worked North and West taking it in turns to go ahead. The strange moment came as we moved into the university district of Bloomsbury, WC1 in the southern part of the London Borough of Camden.

As we turned on to Tavistock Place – where you have the option to travel on a narrow two-way, green-tarmac cycle-track on the North side of the road – my client exclaimed enthusiastically. “I like this bit.”

When I cautioned him not to ‘switch off’, that there was still potential danger, from turning traffic at every junction. I was shocked by his reply.

“Oh yeah” he said with a chuckle “I know it’s more dangerous, but I like it.” He continued to recount near-misses he’d witnessed – between turning motor-traffic and cycle-traffic on the side-path – in the few days he’d been riding the route.

I was too bemused to ask why he particularly liked riding on the green tarmac when he thought it held more danger than the rest of the route. And anyway he was paying me money to help him, not to interrogate the apparent contradictions of his feelings. Here was a person near the top of the pile. A man, white, English, prosperous, comfortable, at the peak of his powers, not the kind of person you’d expect to be willing to submit to extra perceived danger to avoid the risk of social conflict?

The rad-weg along Tavistock Place is sub-standard. I don’t recount this story to suggest that all side-path infrastructure for pedal-cycles and low-powered vehicles creates danger. It’s also worth noting that dangerous conflict between motor-traffic using the main carriageway and traffic on this newest layer of infrastructure – slotted between the footpath and the carriageway – seems to have reduced over the years, as people have got used to the third fragmentary network in South Camden. When it first went in some people told me how much they liked it, others complained what a nuisance it was. I was happy for the first group and told those who complained about it not to use it if they didn’t like it. To stay on the carriageway and stop moaning. That way there’d be more space for riders who wanted ‘their own’ strip of road.

Three network infrastructure can be a useful part of any exit strategy from motor-dependance but some people’s expectation of its ability to solve emotional problems about what people feel expected and entitled to do may be over-optimistic?

A significant number of those killed or injured by motor-vehicles while walking are on the dedicated network of the sidewalk, pavements. A 100 millimetre kerb may make people feel safe but if the driver of a heavy motor-vehicle goes out of control it may not be much help?

Redesigning street furniture doesn’t necessarily make people more careful or considerate. That can be a quicker, cheaper, more complicated process.

pssst – sample entry

The following is a sample entry to the first OWNERS CLUB competition. It’s OK but not that memorable. I didn’t want to set the bar too high. Twenty kilometres from the end of an early season 200, near the Herfordshire-Cambridgeshire line, rolling out of Litlington to join the A505 for a short stretch, I started to feel a little jaded – a normal feeling for a fat, lazy, old bloke, at that stage of a ride, at that time of the year – as if my bike were stuck to the road.

The following is a sample entry to the first OWNERS CLUB competition. It’s OK but not that memorable. I didn’t want to set the bar too high.

ONE THORN TWO TUBES

Twenty kilometres from the end of an early season 200, near the Herfordshire-Cambridgeshire line, rolling out of Litlington to join the A505 for a short stretch, I started to feel a little jaded – a normal feeling for a fat, lazy, old bloke, at that stage of a ride, at that time of the year – as if my bike were stuck to the road.

As I prepared to swing onto the dual-carriageway there was a nasty bump as the front wheel hit a pot-hole. Within a few metres I realised I was running on the rim, the tyre had gone pop.

The hole in the road didn’t seem that big – but hey – no big deal. The name plate for the side road provided a handy leaning post while I flipped off the front-tyre. No need to remove the wheel on a pretentious Burrows bike where the hub is mounted on one side only, like a Vespa.

Pumping the old tube confirmed it was a compression puncture, a snake-bite. I installed a new one, inflated it, remounted the tyre, remounted the bike and pushed on into the frosty darkness.

Twenty minutes later, labouring up a hill I noticed my front wheel was softening, again. This time the failure was harder to trace, a tiny pinhole from a thorn trapped in the tyre. It was – I realised – the second puncture from the little vegetable item. The first compression puncture had happened because my tyre was already perforated and half empty.

A penalty of the pretentious bike is two wheels of different sizes. I’d run out of good small tubes and thought for a moment about jamming a ‘559’ in the ‘349’ cavity and trusting it to last the remaining sixteeen klicks, then remembered the old adage ‘a puncture is not an emergency’. I patched the last of my little tubes. The low temperature meant the solvent took a while to evapourate, during which time I tried to warm my feet with crazy moonlit dancing.

I was close enough to the time-limit to be watching the clock. The second stop – feeling the inside of the tyre like Hellen Keller, solitary glue sniffing, rattling my cleats on the glistening frosted tarmac – took nearly twenty minutes.

Next time you get a compression puncture from a surprisingly small impact, especially if you were finding the preceding kilometre unexpectedly hard work, double-check the snake-bite didn’t come because a previous puncture had deflated the tube to the point where it could no longer keep the rim above the road. That way you’ll limit yourself to one tube per thorn.

pssst – owners club competition no.1

There are many good things about cycling, two personal favourites are pain and dissappointment, another is that random happenstance, the puncture. Too many people these days are so frightened of this inevitable failure that they end up riding around on tyres whose casings are so hard they may as well be rolling solid rubber, like it was 1885.

“My tyres and tubes are doing fine but the air is showing through.”

Hank Williams

A couple of months ago Simon Baddely sent a link to a post on his – always interesting and thoughtful – web-log, ‘Democracy Street’. The story features a pleasant and diverting puncture…

“…always a satisfying procedure when time’s unimportant”

It got me thinking. Is it time for a bit of team-building and knowledge sharing amongst readers* of this screed?

There are many good things about cycling, two personal favourites are pain and dissappointment, another is that random happenstance, the puncture. Too many people these days are so frightened of this inevitable failure that they end up riding around on tyres whose casings are so hard they may as well be rolling solid rubber, like it was 1885.

It’s true that a badly timed flat can be inconvenient but a well planned schedule really needs to allow a few minutes for this kind of thing. As living legend Mike ‘Barcelona Mike’ Burrows, the wizard of Rackheath has observed:-  “A puncture is no worse than tea with your in-laws”.

When did you last back-up your hard drive?

First ever OWNERS CLUB contest.

  • Please send in your best puncture story.
  • No length limit but if it’s over 700 words it better be very, very interesting.
  • The story can be educational, share your mistakes so others don’t have to make them. Here’s an example.
  • The story can be happy, did a puncture enable you to meet the love of your life? stumble on a secret swimming spot? discover a fifty-pee in the gutter?
  • The story can be remarkable in any sense but it must be trueish and must feature a puncture.
  • Entries may be published – in part or fully – on owntheroad.cc but all rights will remain with you the author.
  • Attach text and any supporting images – non-proprietary formats preferred – to an email and send it to…
  • patrick@londonschoolofcycling.co.uk.
  • with the subject line “pssst”.
  • The judges decision is final.
  • There will be a mystery prize or – if the quality is up to it – mystery prizes.

*Readers of owntheroad.cc  =  ‘Owners’ [thanks to Lydia for this neat coinage.]

never ride in the door-zone

The ‘door-zone’ is the corridor of uncertainty, where the doors of parked vehicles may be swung into your path. Never ride in the door-zone, or if it’s the only place to make progress, slow down.

The ‘door-zone’ is the corridor of uncertainty, where the doors of parked vehicles may be swung into your path. Never ride in the door-zone, or if it’s the only place to make progress, slow down.
If you follow this advice the most common crash that afflicts people who try to travel by bike in London will never happen to you.

The primary function of the highway is for people to pass and repass. If somebody wants to use that space to unload a vehicle they need to check first that they won’t endanger anyone else. If somebody throws a door into your way that’s their big mistake. They are in the wrong.

The question is:- “Do you want to rely on others for your safety or do you want to take responsibility for yourself?

Never ride in the door zone. Make others swear on whatever they hold sacred to never ride in the door-zone.

Riding outside the door-zone means you may delay others who want to go faster than you and can’t get past. The brutal truth is that if they want to be ahead of you they ought to have got up ten seconds earlier in the morning. The point is not to delay or annoy others but don’t put yourself in danger because others want to pretend to be in a hurry.

It’s good – for humane and pragmatic reasons – to be popular. It’s good to be safe. If you have to choose between the two which comes first? As they say in the USA – it’s a no-brainer.

A crash doesn’t happen when you upset somebody else. Deliberate road-rage assaults are rare enough to be international news. A crash happens when one or more people move purposefully into a space they anticipate will be empty, only to find – too late – that it isn’t.

That’s why it’s safest to ride where other people expect traffic to be, where they look for other traffic.

safe or popular?

Last week I posted good news, that the temporary buildings on Leyton Marsh are down. A couple of hours later Ron Binns announced a suspension of his prolific web-log “crap cycling and walking in Waltham Forest” from which the story was originally lifted. A sorry coincidence as Ron’s angry diary was a useful source of intelligence from the Essex side of the River Lee or Lea.

Last week I posted good news, that the temporary buildings on Leyton Marsh are down. A couple of hours later Ron Binns announced a suspension of his prolific web-log “crap cycling and walking in Waltham Forest” from which the story was originally lifted. A sorry coincidence as Ron’s angry diary was a useful source of intelligence from the Essex side of the River Lee or Lea.
Ron’s wide-ranging commentary sometimes featured short motion-pictures from the currently booming, head-mounted-camera-genre.

In January 2011, he used one to illustrate the ineffectual nature of cycle-training because according to Ron…

“…the more you cycle, the more you are exposed to risk, and the more likely you are to have these unpleasant experiences. YouTube is crammed with videos like this one:”

 

 

and two months later

“…cycling will never have mass appeal on the vehicle-dominated streets of Greater London, this short video will explain why.”

 

The two clips feature similar episodes, they both begin in a way that will be familiar to anyone who rides regularly in urban Britain, and is experienced enough to keep out of the gutter or the door-zone.

In both clips the camera-operator is proceeding innocently when a motorist behind starts blowing their horn because they want to overtake, even though traffic conditions mean no advantage is to be gained by such a manoeuvre. Almost immediately pedallist and sofa-jockey are forced to stop. Shouty, sweary exchanges follow.

Ron conflates these sorry little scenes of immaturity and discourtesy with deadly threat. Even though there’s no danger apparent in either.

To be safe on the road other people need to take notice of you. When you demand the attention of others you’re not in control of how they will react. Some might admire your choice of trousers. Others may start chewing their lips and thinking aloud “dozy fucking mare should be riding on the fucking pavement.”

In either case you’re not in danger. When someone following in a car blows their horn to express frustration they’re telling you three things…

  • …they’re thinking about you.
  • …they know they’re not allowed to run you over.
  • …you’re safe.

(Alternatively they may be trying to tell you that you’ve just dropped a glove, but that’s another story.)

A key skill in riding comfortably in city traffic is separating two issues:-

  • The social hazard of upsetting disappointed MDVs.
  • The real physical danger of being in a crash.

Perhaps Ron’s confusion of these two distinct categories explains his pessimistic view of cycle travel in London? Maybe fear of social conflict explains why his ‘Crap Cycling’ web-log didn’t take comments?

In his critique of cycle training Ron reveals…

“I find the concept of ‘defensive cycling’ quite an interesting one, because it tacitly accepts that there is an offensive going on. And cycle training is basically all about accommodating yourself to the mass-motorized battlefield.”

Anyone unfortunate enough to have tried to move a motor-vehicle with four or more wheels around, on streets busy with other motors, understands that you have no choice. You have to be pushy. If you’re not selfish you won’t get anywhere. Driving a car in a city busy with others trying to do the same thing is to join battle with your peers. Motor-traffic has a temper of it’s own.

One of the many pleasant things about city cycling is that – while you need the skill, knowledge and chutzpah to control the space around you – the flexibility and efficiency of your chosen mode means you don’t need to get involved in the battle. You can rise above it, defend the space around you but be generous to those less fortunate, less imaginative than yourself.

The main observation from Ron’s two clips is that – in both cases – the auteur looses his calm and ends up shouting and swearing. This incontinence risks dangerous escalation, surrenders the moral high ground, and lets slip any chance to promote growth and self-awareness in the agitated MDV.

If – when I’m riding my bike – somebody following in a car starts making a fuss because they can’t pass, the default is to check that there’s no source of danger present (and that they’re not trying to attract your attention because you just dropped a glove) then ignore the foolishness. Then – when it’s safe to let them pass and if there’s space enough ahead that they won’t be in the way, to let them by to continue their futile hurry with a courteous thank-you wave.

If you’re feeling frisky, generous and sociable you can jump to the right and wave them through on the inside, like they were your team car going ahead to support a teammate in a break, then you can drop into the turbulence behind the car and follow – for the usually very short distance – until they are forced to slow or stop by sheer volume of traffic.

You’re then nicely placed – on the right of the car to engage them in cheerful conversation.

This is my best recollection of an exemplary exchange in the Queensbridge ...

..Road, E8, last Winter.

Me: You alright mate?

MDV: You should keep to the left.

Me: No, I was riding there because I didn’t want you to try and squeeze past where the road was narrow.

MDV: If you ride in the middle that’s how cyclists get run over.

Me: No they get run over if they get too far to the left. People don’t see them and turn left and run them down. That is a nice car.

MDV: Thanks

Me: Do you race it?

MDV: (slightly confused pause) No.

Me: If I had a car like that I’d want to take it to the racetrack and see if I could rip the tyres off the rims. (traffic-lights change) Have a good weekend

MDV: Yeah you too.

The target is to be safe and popular.

“I don’t want to be a speed hump”

Under current conditions there are plenty of riders, plenty of would-be riders, who don’t have the necessary combination of control skills, technical knowledge and social presence to own the road with sufficient confidence to enjoy sharing it with others using clumsier modes. Children are one obvious example of this.

A clichéd response from someone who rides but doesn’t like it, or would like to ride more but is put off by people in cars, or would like to ride but is fearful of current conditions – to the idea that a person on a bike can be an active and civilising influence on the prevailng, often brutal, road traffic environment – goes something like…

“I don’t want to be used as traffic calming.”

This is a sensible position that does not need to be defended.

Under current conditions there are plenty of riders, plenty of would-be riders, who don’t have the necessary combination of control skills, technical knowledge and social presence to own the road with sufficient confidence to enjoy sharing it with others using clumsier modes. Children are one obvious example of this.

It’s also much easier to be a civilising influence on streets whose layout makes riding a bicycle obviously advantageous. In places where the highway network is engineered to accommodate and enable motor-dependence it takes more skill, morale and operatic presence to defend a space and there are usually fewer opportunities to help others grow.

In a ‘traffic’ context active citizenship – taking the courtesy and consideration considered normal in motor-free space out into the dog-eat-dog World of motor-dependance – is an opportunity not an obligation.

There is no shame in not being able to, not wanting to, or not enjoying, riding in current conditions. Even the World’s greatest living Welsh person has been quoted thus…

“I certainly wouldn’t fancy riding across Vauxhall Cross or Elephant and Castle in rush hour…”

Nicole Cooke

Olympic Champion 2008

tougher than you’ll ever be.

“I don’t want to be used as traffic calming.” Is a sensible position that does not need to be defended but the position is also passive and asocial.

There is a lot of inertia in the cheap-energy economy. Motor-dependence has been a dominating social force for most of the last half Century and we are only just emerging from a period when questioning the idea – that everyone is, aspires to be, or thinks like, a motorist – put you beyond the pale of sanity.

Even in the current new era of mixed messages it’s easy for we – with a critique of motor-dependance – to become demoralised, bitter and apathetic. This may be especially true if going for a bike ride is more of an ordeal than a convenient and utilitarian outlet for frustration. More of a horror than a chance to take a rest, from cooking up grand theories of how best to enforce bicycle paradise. More of a nightmare than an opportunity to pretend, for a few jolly kilometres, that the happy day has already dawned.

Changing the World one bike ride at a time may be like trying to stop a bulldozer with a pea-shooter but if the peas are hard enough and we fire enough…

…well it can’t do any harm can it?

Ron Binns’ extended series of pessimistic prophesies  – “What won’t bring about mass cycling…” can be extended to infinity.

Nothing will make people travel by pedal cycle until they decide it’s what they want to do. Once that’s what they’ve decided nothing will stop them. Trying to reduce this circular statement of the obvious, to any kind of Newtonian equation, is like investigating the workings of a watch with a 15lb hammer.

Riding like you own the road won’t bring about mass cycling. Helping others do likewise won’t either. But it can change their World. Riding a bike on roads busy with motor-traffic can be free assertion training.

Ron denounces cycle training because it’s subjects…

“…must be taught how, as a cyclist, to adapt your behaviour to this [hostile and dangerous] environment.”

Well it wouldn’t be much use if it taught people how best to behave in circumstances other than those that currently prevail, would it? Ron’s critique of cycle training echoes the old joke about a village idiot giving a stranger directions.

“If I were you I wouldn’t start from here.”

“I don’t want to be used as traffic calming.” Is a sensible position that does not need to be defended. You can’t calm traffic without calming people. Attacking those who aspire to calm and civilise other people – just because you don’t want to and you know they are very unlikely to hit back – is neither kind nor progressive.

the magic circle

Personally I find punctures one of the many entertaining things about riding a bike. Their random character, the chance to stop where you hadn’t planned to, to demonstrate your competence and efficiency, your progress towards the distant – probably impossible – goal of ‘becoming a cyclist’. A puncture is a special message from God – or John Boyd Dunlop – “Go home and back-up your hard-drive my child. For surely if it spins and was made by men, one day it will fail.’

Personally I find punctures one of the many entertaining things about riding a bike. Their random character, the chance to stop where you hadn’t planned to, to demonstrate your competence and efficiency, your progress towards the distant – probably impossible – goal of ‘becoming a cyclist’. A puncture is a special message from God – or John Boyd Dunlop – “Go home and back-up your hard-drive my child. For surely if it spins and was made by men, one day it will fail.’
Let me make a bold prediction. There will be pneumatic tyres on suitcases within ten years.

Think about it? Wheels on luggage used to be quite a novelty now they’re everywhere. Baby carriages – once sedate appliances with leaf springs –  are now available with puncture possibility. Where will it end?

also seen in Stoke Newington Church Street

We can divide the World’s population into two categories, those who understand how to fit pneumatic tyres and those who do not. Key information is in the three digit element of the ISO number etched on your tyres ‘622’, ‘559’, ‘406’ or whatever.

These numbers are not much used in England, where ignorance of technical matters is often worn as a badge of honour. Here people prefer to use the historic designations – ‘700c’, ’26 inches’, etc. – of a tyre’s diameter. The problem with these is they aren’t definitive. According to the late, great Sheldon Brown who – as usual – provides the most comprehensive explanation of the subject, there are seven(SEVEN) unique, non-interchangeable tyre sizes that may be marked with the diameter ’26’.

Once – in a specialist bike shop to make a distress purchase – I asked the tattooed man at the counter for “two 406 tubes please?”

“Sorry we only do BMX.” He replied.

In his defence when I explained – gently I hope – that 406 is BMX, he took it on the chin saying: “Oh yeah, I’ve seen those numbers on the boxes” and thanked me for the clarification as he took my cash and handed over the rubber.

This three digit element – ‘630’, ‘590’ ‘349’, or whatever –  is known as the BSD – a TLA* standing for  ‘bead seat diameter’. The ‘beads’ are the wires around the inside edges of the tyre. BSD is the inside diameter of the tyre and also the diameter of the circle on the rim where the tyre beads sit when in use.

The centre of the rim – the ‘well’ of the rim – will always be nearer the centre of the wheel, and a smaller circle than the bead seat.

life changing information

In order to fit a tyre on a rim you have to control the bead with tension so it stays along the shorter circle of the rim well. This generates enough slack to flip the last section of tyre bead over the rim wall.

People who think fitting tyres is hard don’t know how to do it. There’s no shame in this. Nobody is born knowing how to mount a tyre on a rim. The problem has lately been exacerbated by ‘puncture proof tyres’. Some of these are so rigid that – as well as giving a slow and uncomfortable ride – they are harder to fit.

A pneumatic tyre is already a  Faustian bargain. You get to ride on air, but will also suffer random punctures. Nasty armoured tyres raise the stakes of this gamble. They mean you are less likely to get a flat, but when you do it will be harder to get the tyre off to change the tube and more of a challenge to get it back on.

If you understood the above – and didn’t know it before – you are now on the way to joining the minority group, the people who know how to fit tyres without hurting their fingers or losing their sang-froid. This minority divides into those who can fit tyres but don’t have the conscious competence to explain to others how it’s done, those who know how they do it but want to keep that knowledge secret. If you can charge others £17.50 to undertake a simple task on their behalf, and you’re not able to do much else, why would you want to give them the secret of doing it for themselves? Others among the cognoscent are so desperate to drag the innocent down to their own tragic level of bicycle-dependence that they give the secret away freely.

Readers of the Guardian online may have noticed this item on Monday’s front page, a link to free content, moving pictures with audio commentary and written notes, from MadeGood.org.

I’m proud to be a collaborator on this project to spread knowledge of, and confidence in, the simple – not rocket-science – subject of keeping push-bikes running sweetly. This directory of instructional films will soon be enlarged. The plan is to make the library comprehensive and keep it updated.

Off course some people – especially young men with old man beards – will find plenty of weak spots in this work-in-progress. But hey, it’s free, and you have to start somewhere. Punctures are part of riding a bike, and the first twenty are the worst.

*TLA = three letter abbreviation.

substitute

Travelling without a bicycle can be an unsettling experience. Looking up from your reading book, glancing round the train carriage with the ominous feeling that something’s missing; only to remember, with relief, that – because you’re rattling South from London-Waterloo in the rush hour, and can walk from the station to the appointment at the other end – you left your trusty, rusty push-rod locked-up on platform 11.

Travelling without a bicycle can be an unsettling experience. Looking up from your reading book, glancing round the train carriage with the ominous feeling that something’s missing; only to remember, with relief, that – because you’re rattling South from London-Waterloo in the rush hour, and can walk from the station to the appointment at the other end – you left your trusty, rusty push-rod locked-up on platform 11.
If you have to travel without a cycle always consider taking an umbrella. An umbrella is a useful tool but can also serve as bicycle methadone. Umbrellas and bicycles have a lot in common. Both are invaluable when required but can be awkward encumbrances when not in use. Both are prone to technical failures, particularly if not of serviceable quality, or used inappropriately. You might have to fiddle with them to make them work. Beware of USO’s(umbrella shaped objects) sold at unrealistically low prices.

An investment-grade cotton gamp from here

…is a nice accessory, and when rolled, can serve as a makeshift ice-axe in emergencies, but carrying a 200 quid example – like riding round town on a three-grand bike – may be nerve-wracking. If something of this quality…

…ends up in lost-property, it’s got to hurt.

A personal favourite – a nice compromise between economy and durability – is the Rohan treking umbrella.

370 gramme bicycle substitute

The G.R.P. stick and frame make a lightweight package that can flex nicely in strong winds reducing risk of sudden failure. It will never corrode. The manufacturers make no claims for the canopy’s UV protection, suggesting carcinogenic rays can get through – which won’t happen with the old-school cotton example – but it’s still cool in the shade.

paramilitary picnic chic

It comes with a mesh sheath so will dry while rolled and can be toted slung across a shoulder rifle-style. Alternatively strap it on your big, butch courier bag for the ultimate in paramilitary picnic chic.