Thursday, 26 August 2021
I don’t like or own a satnav. Call me a technophobe or a Luddite if you like, but I prefer map books. On a bike, I prefer to keep my handlebars clear. If I get lost, I prefer to be able to work out where I’m lost, rather than blindly following instructions.
Because there is a certain pleasure specific to the uncertainty principle: I might not know where I am, exactly, but I do know what I’m doing.
Generally, I plan a route before I go. Sometimes I make notes. But then I put the mapping tools away, tuck any notes into a back pocket, and go. If I miss a turn or get diverted, I have a general idea of where I’m heading – which direction, which place names to look out for. So I can enjoy to diversion as an opportunity to find fun roads and good pubs I would never have spotted otherwise. And I usually reach my original destination, approximately when I planned to arrive. Yes, I have a decent sense of direction, and these rules apply to places where I have some idea of the general geography. I’d probably be more pro-satnav if I didn’t have these things. But as long as I do, I’ll continue to relax and enjoy getting a little bit lost.
Monday, 28 June 2021
Maybe it’s a year of lockdown, but it seems to me that animals of all kinds forgotten to avoid us. I’ve seen a lot more roadkill than I used to. And insect life is on the rise as well, which probably had to do with an increased trend for wildlife friendly gardens and verges. Well, it’s on the rise at least until it flies headfirst into headlight or visor.
Some insects, of course, are smarter than that. I inadvertently gave a lift to a bumblebee the other day. I’m not sure when she landed on my tank, but I noticed at a red light that she was perched between the caps, apparently enjoying the ride. I can’t say I blame her. My only regret is that I didn’t manage to take a photo before she flew off again.
Wednesday, 23 June 2021
Weather is a big factor in riding. It affects visibility, road conditions, personal comfort. There are things we all know about. There’s the first half an hour of rain, in which all the diesel rises to the surface of the asphalt: best avoided until it’s washed off.
There’s the mist created by columns of traffic in rain as they spray the water/diesel mix back under their tires.
And there’s hail. Hail is no fun on a bike with legs relatively exposed in jeans. It’s even less fun when it comes out of a clear blue sky. Not only does it fall onto any body part it can, it also bounces up of the road or back off the car in front, to find new angles from which to strike.
At least when there is rain, or gathering cloud, you have half a chance to put on an extra layer in the form of waterproofs.
Thursday, 8 April 2021
Another sign of the season is the re-emergence of beautiful and deeply loved vintage cars (and, in the UK, convertibles owned by optimists). They are lovely vehicles, but not massively representative of their types, when you think about it. Most of their brethren were not so deeply loved, or so expensively cared for, and had more mud and scratches, and rather less polish.
Tuesday, 6 April 2021
Recently, I went on a spring hunt for types of flowers and blossoms - but there are less enjoyable signs of the season. It’s still too chilly and early for many insects – for which my headlight and visor are grateful. But other animals are in evidence – usually because they’ve been on the losing end of an encounter with a vehicle. I’ve seen badgers and squirrels and foxes, and even – unusually – a hare. Also a pheasant, which was a tragic sight of beautiful feathers wasted, waving in the wind.
So, when I saw a pheasant in full male feather strutting across the road ahead of me, I slowed down and revved just enough to scare him into jumping and racing the rest of the way. The car behind me wasn’t too happy, and I’m sure the bird wasn’t either – but surely he could better afford to lose his dignity than his little pheasant life.
Monday, 22 March 2021
You wouldn’t know it from the temperatures, but according to the plants, it’s spring. The wind chill is still enough to have sensible bikers wearing multiple layers of Gore-Tex, and longing for heated gloves or grips, but the scenery is advertising longer days, warmer weather, and enticing roads.
Of course, there's still nowhere to go, really. Pubs are not allowed to open yet. Take away is the only option. On a bike, that's an interesting proposition, what with buff (mask), helmet and lack of spill-proof cupholders. I've had to find other objectives around which to structure rides. I mean, it's not that I NEED a destination or a purpose, but I do need to somehow decide in which direction to head.
The daffodils are nodding their heads, towering as they do over all the other early spring flowers. So, I thought I’d celebrate this with a form of Easter egg / scavenger hunt. That is, I decided to see how many types of daffodils, different blossoms and other signs of spring I could spot from the saddle. To make it interesting, I couldn’t count anything deliberately planted. Yeah, Easter egg hunt sounds better.
This was actually surprisingly fun, and not nearly as distracting as I expected it to be.
Next time, I probably won’t feel the need stick to roads I know as well as the back of my glove.