Böikzmoind

A friend, Gavin Strange, is making a film about cycling called Boikzmoind. he’s been making the film for nearly three years and now appears to entering the endgame. the trailer seems like a distant memory but it still makes me smile:

from what i can gather it’s an oblique look at way people ride bikes with a focus on fixed wheel and the various cultural aspects of the current bike boom. he is conducting interviews and managed to find some time to track me down and get my twopence worth.

the premiere is on the 2oth august in bristol. i’m very excited. gav is a supremely talented designer and all round good egg.

The Bike Show; Resonance FM

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)

Spelunking (or: how i learnt to stop worrying and love neoprene overshoes)

cycling in winter requires specialist gear. having just read that sentence back, i am struck by its absurdity, insofar as cycling in any of the four seasons requires specialist gear, unless you regularly wear bib-shorts to the pub or round to meet the in-laws. however, cycling in winter requires a particularly esoteric and specific form of gear. one of the most frequently asked question by the new cyclist is ‘how do i keep my feet warm in winter?’ overshoes are the answer. i recently bought a new pair, they are mighty fine with a lime green inner lining and they keep my toes toasty for hours on end. the only downside is that when combined with a skullcap, buff, helmet, various forms of LEDs, reflective tags and armbands, multilayered gloves, i look like i am about to head into the void, searching out the watersource of an underground cavern. people at work find it hugely entertaining. i do not care. i am warm.

my new overshoes:

The Best Cycling Books

i say ‘best’, when in reality i mean ‘my favourites’, it’s pretty subjective. i confess, i prefer the slightly more literary ones, rather than the messy ramblings of an ex-pro. At the moment i have two cycling books on the go at once. whenever i get my grubby mitts on a new cycling tome it unceremoniously elbows all other reading material into the shadows; literary merit cannot compete with a velotastic yarn. i’m waiting for david millar’s autobiography to come out later this year, he has always struck me as one of the more erudite members of the peloton, and clearly has had some eventful experiences. at this precise moment, i am about to open the new brian robinson book, by graham fife, to get through.

in no particular order, (apart from the first one, which is without equal) these are some of my favourite books about cycling, with brief reasons as to why.

existential, truthful and incredibly beautiful in its simplicity, the rider encapsulates cycling through a rare and unparallelled depth of thought. it follows a ‘classic’ one-day race in southern france where the undulations of the road mirror and reflect the contours of the main character’s thoughts. there’s a fantastic review of the book here.

Laurent Fignon died last year; possibly the last of the truly great french cyclists. his writing is honest, compelling and endlessly charismatic, exploring what it means to be genuinely gifted within a profession, and what happens when that gift is eroded by the capricious effects of time. i really like the french title, “Nous étions jeunes et insouciants”, it’s the last word, with its allusions to unfettered youth, that loses something in the translation; it’s also manifestly sad in light of Fignon’s untimely death.

this book does more perhaps than any other – rough ride, yellow fever, breaking the chain included – to underscore the dark heart of cycling; through looking at the literal and metaphorical heights of emotion and glory achieved by Pantani, (a genuine mountain goat, able to decimate a peloton in a brief moment with a series of sudden accelerations) before tackling – in some detail – the shattering fallout from drug use and his subsequent tragic death. on a side note, if your partner is having trouble sleeping there are some lengthy scientific sections relating to haematocrit levels, read these aloud and they’ll be out for the count.

footage of Pantani riding at alarming speed up a mountain, before dropping a shattered Pavel Tonkov:

an idiosyncratic choice, but this book, and this island race, form a dyptich that captures the early continental incursions of British cyclists. it’s full of lovely anecdotal material; living in caravans, eating bread and cheese, beating the frenchies at their own game, being ganged up on by the pesky frenchies, that sort of thing.

britain’s most reclusive rider gets the matt rendell treatment. a well-written book that attempts to explore Robert Millar, someone who comes across as a incredibly focused, gifted climber, and a complete enigma to nearly everyone. He remains the first and last British rider to win a classification at the Tour, taking the polka dot jersey in 1984.

somer valley hardriders

today i rode a hardriders event for the first time in ages. the events typically start early and involve some unmitigated hill-related violence. today’s abuse was further enhanced with the addition of a vile headwind. there are few things i loathe more than a headwind; chipping away at the very fabric of my soul and destroying morale with a relentless, invisible force. on the plus side, my campagnolo bib shorts are totally wondrous, and really protect the gooch.

i failed to observe a golden rule – don’t carry out bike maintenance the day before a race; hence threading the bottom bracket shell on my TT machine. i managed to link together several normally disparate swear words that i won’t repeat here. the end result was i had to ride the road bike, on the one day thus far when some serious aero-smut might have helped. i went off too fast, faded from there and had a dismal ride. oh well, it had to happen sooner or later – all these exponential performance curves were a false representation.

in other, cheerier news, i made a pinhole camera from an old matchbox, two 35mm films, a bit of a coke can and some black insulating tape. it came out well.

it provides moments of analogue beauty in a world of digitised madness.

Incremental Gains

Yesterday was the inter-club 10; featuring the massed armies of Dursley RC, Gloucester CCC, Severn RC and Bristol South CC. It’s an annual event on the U7B where riders achieve points, counting backwards, for the team competition. i rode out and back, making it a 50 mile ride with a 10 mile TT sandwiched in the middle – hopefully good training for the upcoming Hardriders event.

the course was as difficult as usual, and i went off to hard, so spent a long time trying to get back within the right sort of parameters. i think i gave up in the end and just hammered it as hard as i could. ended up with 4th place – which is great – and a new PB of 22.28. with this in mind i’ve entered a 10 on the U47, because i hear tell of it being a fast course – a long 21 is tantalisingly near….

levrier bags

dan is making bags. they look pretty amazing. i don’t think the greyhounds are involved in the construction, materials-wise, although i’m sure they help out. the bags look big enough to transport both hounds if their paws begin to ache.

http://levrier.wordpress.com/

i may sign up for one. my current bag is starting to really pong after 4 years of carting my stuff around in close proximity to my sweaty back.

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