Bike podcasts tend towards the spoddier than thou, the tech-heavy porn-fest, or the angry-counter-culture catch all. that’s with one exception, the bike show, on resonance FM. it’s hosted by jack Thurston whose dulcet, calming tones, oscillate gently across the frequencies whilst he interviews a range of guests, from the unknown to the legendary.
I can’t recommend it enough; i’ll even speculate that the bike show is essential listening, regardless of whether or not you ride a bike. my favourite episode, (of many hundreds) features a ride from bristol to london, taking in landmarks along the route recommended by listeners, many of whom meet up with Jack and act as a guide for a small part of the journey. The first stopping point is the Stoke Poges Church, to see the earliest pictorial representation of a bicycle known to exist. it’s a Flemish stained glass window, created in 1642, thus predating other examples by some distance. it doesn’t look that comfortable, especially in the absence of lycra, but it is a lovely object.
I listened to this episode whilst cycling up over the mendips at the end of last year. one sequence of the show struck me quite as a particularly evocative description of cycling. he met up with a founding member of the ‘highway cycling group‘ for a perambulation along the ridgeway and some conversation. the two of them move almost effortlessly between the pre-historic landscape and the place of the bicycle within it…
“…there’s certainly a kind of liminal feeling to it, the Ridgeway itself is a sort of liminal area, there’s that feeling that you’re on a sort of threshold, that you’re not that far away from understanding just a bit more about it, and the bicycle i think is a perfectly designed vehicle for that, you’re putting yourself into a state of fugue, if you like, where you almost can’t take on everything, it’s a total immersion device, and that’s one of the things that i really love about it, it’s not like being in a car when you can lock yourself out from the environment, when you’re on a bike you can feel everything around you and you can see everything, you can even feel your passage through the air, you can feel what it feels like to move against what feels like very still air, if we were to go 14 miles per hour on our bike it would be roaring in our ears; that’s the power of the bicycle, it puts you into the world in a way that no other means of transport really does; it is an immersive way of travelling and this landscape in particular demands total immersion.”
To my faintly romantic, literary ears, this encapsulates the transcendent power of cycling, where paradoxically you become distanced from the world of things, and at the same time become closer than you thought possible. If you have experienced the elemental involvement with something other, and profound, that comes with time spent on the bike, with a world around that intoxicates through inchoate, unfolding beauty, where thoughts become one with everything else, then you will know what he is talking about. if not, you may find this a suitable entry for pseud’s corner.
Jack Thurston has also interviewed Ron Cooper, a famous English framebuilder from the 1950s to the present day; he’s 79, and still a master framebuilder. he has individually built in excess of 7000 frames. That’s seven thousand beautifully constructed artisan bicycle frames, most of them to order. I could almost repeat the number again, I’m incredulous. a frame every four days for every single day of his life. He built the bulk of them for AS Gillott, one of the pre-eminent London framebuilders of the era. There is a comprehensive history of the marque here.
The podcasts are free, you can get them through itunes, or RSS. if you have itunes you can grab every single one and then listen at your leisure. I recommend this second approach. incidentally, resonance fm is an arts based community radio station in Hackney, East London, and it’s worth supporting.
The show always features an excellent playlist of songs you’ve almost never heard of, or never heard in this particular context.
the bicycle bell, possibly as it was always meant to be heard… (1.27 onwards)