I was looking for a picture of Feeding Kübler but could only find an old copy of Miroir Sport given to me by a friend a few years back. The pictures are amazing.
I have come to the conclusion that the provision of cycling infrastructure in Bristol is utterly awful and the council doesn’t give a shit about the safety and life expectation of young children. The simplest way to reach this conclusion is to plan a ‘safe’ ride with young children, and see how viable it is to navigate through this supposedly forward thinking city. The next simplest way is to look at the condition and design of our roads outside primary schools.
I’m currently locked in battle with Bristol Council in a desparate bid to reduce road danger outside my daughter’s primary school. I’m staggered by what masquerades as priorities. For instance, at this moment in time, Bristol are not repainting any road markings whatsoever, and not tackling road safety issues until a new system of wards and budgets has been signed off. This has been happening for 18 months. This is the result:
I haven’t disappeared again – fear ye not, all three of thee. Thy shalt be rewarded with assorted drilled bike parts whence thou reaches the pearly gates.
I have been doing the following:
- Working on Rollapaluza stuff with Caspar Hughes; mostly road danger reduction and education resources.
- Finishing the Alf book, which is so nearly there I can see it and touch it. In virtual form.
- Sorting the reprint for Corinthian Endeavour which is done and out in March. It has two new chapters and Maclolm Lelelot’s name is spelt correctly at least once.
- Not riding as much as I should have been, considering I’m riding from Barcelona to St Malo on 5 March (and the following days, I’m not doing a Gareth Baines ultranutter shitfest)
- Applying for jobs, without being entirely sure what it is I want to do with this thing called life, apart from not do what I was doing before.
- Marvelling at the fact that zwift has a rain setting, and now has a thing for runners.
As you were.
Phil O’Connor has been going through an extensive archive of images from the 80s and 90s and putting them up in various places. There are some incredible unseen images.
Explore the countryside indeed.
From your turbo, in the basement of your house in Cromwell Street, with no windows and freshly-laid concrete.
I’ve been on strava a lot more lately. This is because I have been riding my bike. In fact, last week I managed nearly 170 miles, which is quite a lot by my standards. Of course, for a standard Gespink ride, they’d still have another 50 to go before the cake stop.
I’ve been looking at other people’s ‘feeds’, a vicarious thrill. Far too many of the bastards are abroad at the moment, hitting up the mean streets of Sydney, for example, in the name of Das Rad Klub. Ho-hum; another shitty winter’s day in 30 degree sun beckons.
One thing which is startlingly obvious is the rampant success of Zwift. The world and his dog are posting carefully mapped rides with power estimates and climbing, often achieved in the wacky world of Zwift watopia. I can’t work it out. Most of the rides seem to take place in open water.
However… there is no avoiding the increasing ubiquity of the smart trainer and the hyperreal evangelistas; “it’s a social thing”, “I keep my bike clean”, “it helps me train”, “it allows me to structure my sessions and maximise my time on the bike.”
Of course, all
three two of you are expecting me to say something short and pithy, maybe that begins with “Fuck” and ends with “that shit”, and you’d be entirely right, because like most new things I reserve the right to be the world’s angriest luddite until such a time as I am seduced by the same things, just decades later. Like when your Mum finally turns to you and says; “Ooh that song by Slayer is actually quite melodic. I think I can see the depth and meaning behind this particular genre after all”.
However, it’s also opened up a really confusing layer of reality and hyperreality when I’m looking at strava, because I can no longer tell if a ride is real or if it’s something that took place in a dank cellar, with the protagonist dressed only in bibshorts, a sweatcatcher for each salty rivulet hanging off their unkempt chest hair and a book under the front wheel, all the while listening to a podcast about Josef Fritzl. People are even having celebrity encounters with famous people whilst riding in the virtual world.
I half imagine an x-box live type scenario when all these ghost riders in the sky start getting dropped.
I’m not sure it ever reaches the ‘fuck you fucker I’ll fucking kill myself and your first born’ stage but I can’t be certain because I’ve never been there, or not there, or wherever not there is.
On to the point – I can no longer tell what is real and what isn’t. Here are some ride maps from strava. All you need to do is work out what is real and what isn’t.
As fun as this game is, this week I used a dated hashtag linked to the outdoors being free, because i felt it quite palpably. It just doesn’t seem to matter as much these days. I’m not going to take it too seriously, after all, it’s just a big, sprawling computer game and everyone will bang on again about how useful it is and all that bollocks. But, as I famously said in a book read by about 11 people, it is a huge part of the gamification of modern life and the illusory nature of ‘social’ media. Beyond that, it’s not cycling as I know or see it to be. It’s the part where cycling met with big business and sold its soul in exchange for crystalline views, the breath of air and savagery of a headwind, replacing it with control and numbers.
I can’t imagine Zwift ever being a transcendent experience, which is by the by, because it isn’t really supposed be anything of the sort. However, the more I see it, the more it’s coming to replace the kind of experiences that cannot be replaced: swapping the infinite joy of a winter morning on the Mendips with the turgid monotony of an FTP builder in your kitchen.
It’s funny how things escalate. I arranged to meet Steve Douchebag for our first ride together since the Tour De France in Yorkshire, which was some years ago. Initial plans were for me to drive down, then do a nice little spin around the levels. Steve was keen on doing a maximum of 30 miles, on account of his slight ring-rustiness. Therefore, thought I may as well ride down, get the miles in, you know. After all, it was only 20 miles there and back. What’s the worst that could happen?
When you’re out of shape the spectre of hubris haunts every ride. It was freezing cold. The road to Wells was paved with gert hills. I left late and felt rough as a tramp’s gusset. I made it, we drank coffee and Steve took me out on the Levels. I haven’t done much riding down that way, it’s the wrong side of the Mendips and a bit of a trek. I went to Wedmore recently, but didn’t get in amongst the really flat stuff.
I have been missing out. It’s an amazing landscape of rhynes and roads that trace the edge of the watercourse at right angles. The sedge and wetland hold hidden secrets and the topography seems somehow untouched, primitive and inchoate. The sweet track runs across, and neolithic echoes chime across the fog and hang in the air; a reverberation and ripple caused by the hands of time and history.
Steve’s route had me confused. It looped around and turned, I thought we were going east when we were going west. My sense of direction was awry. We rolled along the path near Shapwick and Ham Wall, where Giant White Egrets stalked the shallows and then laboured into the air on our approach, each one a billowing white sheet caught in the breathless air. Buzzards sulked silently in the trees, waiting and waiting until impelled to move because we rode too near. Swans stalked the fields like livestock, and swooped across the sky, wings beating to a whistling sound.
The roads were filthy and I had to stop to clear the gunk from my mudguards. Tight Belgian clearances are not good for tracks and trails. We parted company at Wedmore and I made my way back into the headwind, limping towards Bristol. I opted for the Strawberry Line, trying to extend the off-road experience and avoid the Mendips. It was closed, with a diversion through a wood and a farmer’s sump. I nearly drowned in the mud. I ran out of food and had to do an emergency stop for a garage flapjack and bottle of lucozade, just for the privelege of limping on a bit further towards home, 6 hours and 78 miles later. Still alive, but just.
It was amazing.