There are a lot of duff quotes about bikes out there, some of which are endlessly recycled (no pun intended).
I came across this one whilst doing some stuff about Angela Carter. It’s my new favourite.
“To ride a bicycle is in itself some protection against superstitious fears, since the bicycle is the product of pure reason applied to motion. Geometry at the service of man! Give me two spheres and a straight line and I will show you how far I can take them. Voltaire himself might have invented the bicycle, since it contributes so much to man’s welfare and nothing at all to his bane. Beneficial to the health, it emits no harmful fumes and permits only the most decorous speeds. How can a bicycle ever be an implement of harm?”
The talk went well – there were lots of people and I’m fairly sure that at least two of them weren’t either friends or family. It was a tough gig – the first bit of talking I’ve done about this book, and the book isn’t out yet. I was really grateful that people came along, listened, and then asked questions. Sometimes people ask questions and you know the answer. This is most gratifying because you feel like you actually are an expert.
Prior to my talk, Jack Thurston did some Lost Lanes stuff. It was full of super images and made me want to go and bivvy out on a micro-adventure somewhere on a hill in Somerset. The book – Lost Lanes West, but any of the three will do – is absolutely great.
And on to time-off – I went out riding in the rain the other day and came a cropper on West Harptree. It’s a stinky descent and the surface was really wet and greasy. My tyres were old and a bit slippery, which was fine in all the beautiful weather we’ve been having, but not when there is a thin film of moisture and diesel oil. The front wheel went out and I went down like a sack of potatoes. It was as hard as I’ve crashed for a very long time. I slid down the road on my side, taking the skin off my hip, elbow and knee. I did some damage to my shoulder – soft tissue damage and some very minor ligament thing that has initials but isn’t anywhere near as bad as some other chums have experienced lately. It seemed to twist something and it runs down my arm.
Since then, I have been mostly sticking to things – trousers and bed sheets – and posting up epic instagram pictures of my injuries, trying to make them look as bad as possible. I have received lots of sympathy, mostly along the lines of, “Why were you on Harptree in the wet?”, “Forgot how to descend have we?”, and some troubling comments about my chins due to the unflattering angle of one of the pics.
You live and learn. I have learnt that hydrocolloid dressings are really really good. Thank you James for the recommendation.
I would like it noted that after my crash I rode the 13 miles home.
Fantastic news; we have a publication and launch date.
It’s been a bit of a journey, involving lots of interviews with Alf along with all the usual stuff that goes into writing a book.
On Wednesday 26 September there will be a launch party at Look Mum No Hands! in London. It’ll take the format of a loose question and answer with Alf Engers, a bit of a spiel from me and a chance to buy copies of the book and get them signed.
In the interim, there is the chance to meet Alf at the National “25” Championships in Liphook, on Sunday 5 August. Alf will be guest of honour and presenting the prizes. There will be a commemorative set of 4 postcards and some stickers available to buy on the day (at very low prices, simply to cover production costs), and the opportunity to get these signed, not only by Alf but also by Marcin, Dan Bigham and others. The race HQ is Bohunt School. You’ll also be able to pre-order the book and if lucky, pre-order one of the ultra-rare drillium editions. (note: the pages are not drilled, it comes in a beautiful, hand milled hardcase).
On Saturday 18 August at 3pm I’ll be giving a preview of the book, reading some sections and playing unreleased audio from interviews, along with unseen images. This is happening as part of the Bristol Ride Culture festival, organised by Forever Pedalling and in conjuntion with Spoke and Stringer. I’ll also have copies of the hill climb book and postcards/stickers for sale and will take pre-orders for the drillium (subject to availability) and standard editions.
Yesterday’s stage delivered everything that I’d hoped it would and more. It also gave the armchair expertmen plenty of hot air to emit in the mistaken belief that people were listening and cared about what they had to say (blah blah not fair blah GC blah) and have yet to fully understand the phrase “that’s bike racing”. They share pictures of Hoogerland juxtaposed with Neymar and yet moan ceaselessly when it actually happens in a real race.
At times it felt like a film, some fictional variant of what cycling should look like according to our endlessly mythical and epic dreams. I don’t think that’s because of Jorgen Leth, more because it had so many narrative arcs and twists that it functioned on a purely narrative level. If I was being a compete numbskull I’d probably try and map it onto Propp’s morphology and chart the transition from equilibrium to disequilibrium and back again.
It had tons of crashes. It was the crashiest race I’ve seen since every cat 4 race at Odd Down. There was something more baroque and awe inspiring though in the sight of adept bike-handlers being brought to heel by carefully placed cobbles. It made for incredible pictures.
I’m certain someone somewhere on the internet is busy trying to articulate how the bottom one is a renaissance painting, either that angrily mouthing off about how it was an awful business, using a crude portmanteau swear word like “cockwomble” in the hope that they will go up a level on the tweets, rather than just spew out the same hackneyed, unoriginal content as everyone else. The other day someone tweeted something horrible at Jonathan Edwards consisting of another tedious swear word splice. You may not like his commentary, but is that really acceptable? It’s men, of course it’s men, dishing out this year 9 oppobrium, one step across from calling everything “gay” at the back of Mr Engers’ history class.
The ending of the race was as good as it gets. John Degenkolb’s chances have been written off since he suffered a brutal accident in 2016, wiped out by a car whilst training. The narrative represented a gleaming victory for hope and determination from one of the nicest chaps in the peloton. There are two clips doing the rounds. The first one shows the immediate aftermath, whilst riding back to the bus. He is congratulated in the warmest terms by Cavendish and then his dad. The second is his post race interview. I had a wobbly lower lip for both. I think it must be the high pollen count. I was cooking tea and cutting onions.