Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Re: Cycling

Is it just me (yes- Ed.) or has cycling changed beyond all recognition? I know we've progressed from velocipedes and Dursley-Pedersens, but the whole thing now seems to revolve around either eight mountain bikes strapped to the back of a Touareg or extremely skinny men in obscenely tight Lycra pedalling furiously with their heads down. And having arguments with motorists and pedestrians alike whilst they teeter on the pedals at traffic lights so they don't have to stop like everyone else. What happened to the Elswicks and Hoppers with bottles of Vimto and bananas in saddle bags, Sturmey Archer gears, Ever Ready lamps with screw tops, John Bull repair outfits, yellow oilskin capes and sou'westers, Fibrax brake blocks? There are still outposts that would be recognised by Miss Marple; indeed only recently I shared the back of a black cab with not only my publisher but also his punctured bicycle that comes with (sticking in my ear) a wicker basket on the front. I know this is the Unmitigated view of things, and I recognise we don't live in a Heartbeat / Foyle's War England anymore, but it would be very gratifying to look out of the window now and then and instead of seeing a streak of pink and mauve nylon see a vicar in a Panama applying rod brakes at the crossroads. Perhaps with a butterfly net over his shoulder. And a killing jar in the saddle bag. And maybe a...(That's enough obscure out-dated references- Ed.)

35 comments:

CMS said...

A country lost indeed. I cycle to work every day and the roads seem to be populated with chaps indulging their mid-life crises with these fixed gear things (and I don't mean the old kind with huge chain guards), lycra and all.

Vincent said...

I was hoping you would mention bells. Round here they ride on busy pavements trusting us pedestrians to get out of the way to avoid causing them injury. They creep up behind you and cough or try to rattle something, but a tinkling bell it seems is no longer cool.

The other day I mildly castigated a polite boy who asked me to yield to his bike as he rode up behind me. When I suggested that he was supposed to ride it on the road, he told me that the police had advised him to ride on the pavement. I haven't yet got round to looking up whether this is now considered a legal thing to do, when there is no marked cycle lane.

CMS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CMS said...

Sorry - had a blip there. Don't get me started on cycle lanes. As far as I know it's illegal to cycle on the pavement whether or not there is a cycle lane. There is in fact adequate provision for cyclists everywhere -it's called the road. Although some drivers seem object to this. Apologies for the rant. I'm going now....

Peter Ashley said...

There's a simple answer for pedestrians harried by those simpletons who ride on pavements. The Unmitigated Hooked Stick for ramming into wheel spokes.

TIW said...

As a kid, I was reprimanded by our moustachioed and terrifying local bobby for pushing my Raleigh on the pavement. "You can walk on the pavement lad, but the bike'll have to roll in the gutter".

They're still knocking out Pashley sit-up-and-beg boneshakers in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Very popular with the hipsters of London's Trendy Shoreditch (TM).

Peter Ashley said...

I should have one of those Pashleys really, shouldn't I? I understand they still make postmen's bikes, yes, with white mudguards and red frames.

SMB tech geeks said...

Is anyone else disturbed by how exotically neon many lycra-clad cyclists are? They obviously can't cycle much in Scotland or the Lakes or they'd be attracting midges from miles around with their mango orange, violent lemon & toxic green attire. Bring back tweed, that's what I say!!

Sue said...

...and things were so less unisex all those years ago. There were cycle clips for the gents that weren't wearing plus-fours and those headscarf things over the back wheel for the ladies so your frock didn't get tangled up and create an unseemly scene...

Peter Ashley said...

Oh Sue, I was going to get on to ladies' bikes, (if you'll pardon the expression), but I thought I'd leave it to you.

martin said...

Disraeli Gears. Fine album.
I don't own a bike at the moment,but I used to own a wonderful sit-up-and- beg job that weighed a discreet half ton,had a wonderful broad leather
saddle,and a 3 speed Sturmey Archer.Naturally enough,some bugger nicked it.God knows why.It wasn't going to make him go any faster.

Peter Ashley said...

Agree with you about Disraeli Gears. Pride of my collection along with Wheels of Fire.

Anonymous said...

Peter, the London Tweed Run sounds more up your alley. Have a look at hte photos on Flickr.

Bucks Retronaut said...

An inescapable link exists, so far as I'm concerned between Disraeli Gears and all this talk of bicycles in the title of my favourite track on the album......"World of Pain" !
Ooh wah wah,Ooh wah wah ,indeed !
Call me a voyeur if you like, but I fully intend to stay well inside my window, happy to just look at the tree,and any old bikes that might present themselves.

Anonymous said...

Yes, here in the states we are also deluged with Lance Armstrong wanna-bees... all clad in their lycra racing gear covered with logos and all racing like there's no tomorrow and terrifying the 'normal' people on the trail.

One difference with regulations here though is that we can cycle on the sidewalk with impunity. This I find indispensable, since the bicycle is a therapeutic refuge from driving. And I'm too terrified to ever cycle in the street. But of course I never go all that fast.

The easy going cyclist with a basket of groceries is not nearly as common as the crazed racing cyclist I'm afraid.

Jon Dudley said...

Where have all the Unmitigated bicycle names gone? I had a remarkable machine - not only was it an Elswick Hopper, but the model was the 'Avenger Convincible' which I now know to have been so rare that I was a fool to allow it to decompose to such a state that it was no longer salvageable. To the non(but interested)-cyclist there's a wonderful world of exotica out there, what with fixed wheels, Brooks' saddles , bamboo frames and the admirable 'Old bicycle Company'. I see you Mr.A on the Pashley gentleman's tourer known as 'The Guv'nor'. Disraeli Gears is still forced on youngsters at work when I feel the need...great album...great sleeve. More John Bull puncture repair outfits!

Peter Ashley said...

For the record, my last bicycle was a Raleigh policeman's bike, in black (obviously) and with the obligatory rod brakes. It was the first, and last, bicycle that I rode around the interior of a public house. For those who may have been affected by the incident, this was The Clifton in St.Johns Wood.

Bucks Retronaut said...

Almost fifty years ago my late, lamented, and in my case singularly unsuccessful, English teacher rode a Sunbeam , which bore on its sealed and oil- filled chaincase, words something like "Sunbeam,The Oil Bath Bicycle".
He used this as an example to explain the nature of a palindrome....."Oil the Bicycle or Boil the Icicle ".His name was Cyril, and we all thought he was nuts.

Vincent said...

Indeed he was unsuccessful as an English teacher, in that he either taught you wrong or failed to make indelible impressions on your memory.

Napoleon's lament "Able was I ere I saw Elba" is a palindrome.

"I do like a well-boiled icicle" is a Spoonerism named after the Rev. Spooner.

A. Pedant

Bucks Retronaut said...

Thanks for that A.P.
Now I know.....Wonder if I`ll remember though.........?

Give us a shout in 2059 !

Peter Ashley said...

John Pool's little book of palindromes is fun (illustrated by the marvellous Peter Brookes): Lid Off A Daffodil.

David said...

The Halfords "Real Classic" range, suitably augmented with a wicker basket, looks like the sort of bike an Unmitigated chap could safely ride down a minor road.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Elgar had a Sunbeam bicycle. He called it 'Mr Phoebus'.

Bucks Retronaut said...

.....and wasn`t Selwyn Froggitt`s Raleigh named "Sir Walter" ?.

Peter Ashley said...

The Naming of Bikes. Marvellous. And I must look at that Halford's range. In truth, all this has got me wanting to squeak around the country lanes on something, my genial if unsteady waves at those toiling in the fields being met with the usual 'V' signs.

Bucks Retronaut said...

Is there a slight typo in your latest message Peter, in that there seems to be a `t` missing from the word `genial` ?
If so, perhaps that`s why your progress was unsteady ,and evoked the reported responses.

Hope your bike has a chain guard !

KSV Woolfoot said...

Hi Peter - I found this very interesting and a great resource for additional research on old, I mean, "vintage" English bikes. I have managed to pick up two of my own in the last few years - a 1969 Raleigh Ladies' 3-speed "Sport" and a BSA Ladies' of similar vintage with a similar configuration. They have been an inspiration to me for a story I want to write. (Which is why I found this post so esp. interesting). I also think we are at the start of something big or (biggish) with a return to cycling for pleasure and practical purposes for which the English 3 speeds of yesteryear are ideal. I have restored my bikes and passed one on to my 11-year-old daughter, who loves it.

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