it's a question of standards

james taylor-american standard

i'm not what you'd call a dyed in the wool james taylor fan. i can remember the hits from the early years, such as 'carolina in my mind', 'fire and rain', 'you've got a friend', and 'country roads', but with my record player, cd player and, ultimately, ipod, more concerned with bands such as genesis, yes, bruford, brand x and a wide range of be-bop jazz and swing, the age of the singer/songwriter sort of got left behind. apart from joni mitchell, that is.

however, given that i spend way too many evenings scrabbling through youtube in search of the one drumming video that will transform me from rank amateur to the sort of fellow that vinnie would call for advice, i found james taylor. and lest you figure this was the result of a wrong turning, i might point out that mr taylor was expertly backed by jimmy johnstone on bass, mike landau on guitar, larry goldings on keyboard and steve gadd on drums. it was the latter that brought me to that particular corner of youtube, intrigued to learn the skills of accompanying a fellow playing an acoustic guitar.

it transpires, however, that james taylor is soon to release a new album, entitled 'american standard', featuring songs that will arguably appeal to a more senior audience, but conceivably might bring to light the songwriting skills of yesteryear. if i might offer a brief precis of the contents: 'moon river', 'almost like being in love', 'pennies from heaven' and 'ol' man river', to name but a few. the album's release on 28 february is presaged by a short video, enlightening us as to the musicians featured on the recording, and explaining taylor's reasoning behind his choice of material.

justifying his rationale behind the soon-to-be-released collection of songs, taylor commented, "In a way, this American Songbook, this forties and fifties music, is, to me, the pinnacle of American pop music. These are the songs to which Lennon and McCartney and so many of my generation in the sixties listened."

the workings of the human mind can be somewhat convoluted at times, a statement that i can perhaps better demonstrate via a tweet from photographer, scott mitchell. on saturday evening, he posted a short video of the eddy merckx bicycles belonging to ag2r mondiale, captioned 'discs, what discs?' i'm unsure whether scott is in favour of disc brakes on road bikes or not, but, bearing in mind i'm not a cyclist with access to the sort of top-line speed of the average pro, i still consider them to be a solution in search of a problem. and, every bit as importantly, a set of caliper brakes arguably offers a more pleasant aesthetic.

developments such as hydraulic brakes are symptomatic of a velocipedinal evolution that seems not to care one whit for cycling's lengthy and impressive heritage. if you consider that henri desgrange's distaste for derailleurs prevented their use until the 1930s, there's every likelihood that the current form of the road bike will disappear like snow off a dry-stone wall, the minute the uci demurs from enforcing the archetypal and beloved double-diamond. partnerships between the fabricators of world tour bicycles and formula one race cars already threaten the status quo beloved of luddites such as myself.

but despite the uci's reticence to relent over bicycle shapes, they have already decimated the calendar via their 'mondialisation' of the sport: racing alongside miles and miles of unpopulated sand, in order to attract the arabian dollar, or obscure events in the country currently under the corona virus curfew, have led to the demise of many an historic european event, some of which are commemorated by prendas in their forgotten races series. it would likely be a smidgeon inaccurate to place the expiry of all these events at the feet of the governing body's marketing drive: bordeaux-paris, omloop van vlaanderen, the peace race and the trofeo baracchi, but i think the majority of cycling fans would prefer the latter to the former.

and it occurs that perhaps the first step of a campaign to reinstate some, or all, of the above, would be to ask james taylor if he'd sing about them (with steve gadd on drums).

monday 10 february 2020

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command of chain

campagnolo twelve-speed chain

after my years as a student, and prior to looking for 'real' work, i spent the summer months working for a catering company a matter of some five or six miles from home, easily within cycling distance. as it transpired, one of the fellows with whom i worked, lived within shouting range, so when working hours coincided, we cycled together. apparently, his grandfather had been a keen cyclist and had instilled several maintenance tips in which the fellow placed great faith, particularly the one concerning the chain.

while the majority of cyclists observe remarkably little in the way of respect for possibly the hardest worked component on the bicycle, his daily routine was carved in stone. possessor of two chains for his ten-speed racer, on arriving home each day, he would remove the chain du jour and place it in a saucepan of diesel, replacing it with his second chain, which had been steeping in diesel since the previous day. this way, according to historical lore, every journey would be undertaken powered by a clean chain, theoretically lengthening the life of both chain and five-speed freewheel.

i don't doubt that there are a number of individuals who continue a similar practice to this day, aided and abetted by chains featuring quick-links and obviating the constant need for a rivet extractor. but, if that is indeed true, i'd imagine their number to be particularly minimal. based on occasional observation, today's pelotonic mindset seems considerably less concerned with wear or cleanliness of the chain or sprockets or, indeed, chainrings. i'm not even sure that many are aware of the fact that regular replacement of the chain is not only desirable, but possibly more economic in the long-term.

for example, the ritchey logic currently sports a campagnolo record twelve-speed groupset, for which, it must be said, a replacement chain is hardly what could be described as 'cheap' (rrp £54). if like me, you're less concerned with perfectly matching componentry, a campagnolo chorus twelve-speed cassette (setting you back £173), offers a considerable saving over the one in a super-record box. but, initial expense aside, any possible process that will lengthen the lifecycle of the cassette, while still smoothing out day-to-day pedalling, is alright in my book. so i tend to swap my chain every four to six months (depending on mileage and weather conditions).

campagnolo super-record twelve-speed cassette

i realise this flies in the face of regular checking of the chain wear, and could potentially result in my having dispensed with the services of a perfectly acceptable chain. however, similar to my experiences with drumhead tuning devices, i've rarely found chain measuring devices to be all they're cracked up to be. yet, even with the benefit of a (scarily expensive) campagnolo workshop chain tool, i doubt i'd resort to the 'chain in a pot of diesel' routine, expounded by my former colleague. i prefer to rely on regular cleaning and lubrication of the chain, if only to show how much i care.

in the expense stakes, campagnolo is probably a poor example; shimano and sram tend to be more economical purchases, but the principle remains much the same. i'm unsure if there's a statute of limitations on new year's resolutions, but assuming the likelihood to be as much of an invention as that of santa claus, i presume there's still time for you to change the errors of your ways. i do not suggest legal enforcement of any of the above, other than regular cleaning of the chain, but if you're adhering to 'the comic's persuasions to ride farther this year, you might like to pay a bit more attention to frequent chain replacement.

if you're intent on a full season of racing, however, you should be aware of the potential effects of the new chain syndrome. on derailleur systems, particularly those coupled with a single chainring, the sharpness of shifting depends greatly on the lateral flexibility of the chain. that's a factor that improves with frequency of use, but in order that such a period equates to a meaningful life-cycle, initial flexibility is curtailed until such time as the bushings and rollers 'bed in'. thus, if fitting a new chain for racing, it makes more sense to have achieved the bedding in period on your training bike, prior to transfer to the state of the art carbon, holding pride of place in the bikeshed.

if nothing else, knowledge of the latter will provide the perfect excuse for simultaneously maintaining two identical groupsets on separate bicycles. mind you, that might result in a greater persuasive effort on your significant other than that expended on keeping the chain(s) clean.

sunday 9 february 2020

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wind in the willows

storm ciara

a correspondent of mine e-mailed me yesterday not only to commiserate with the probable curtailment of my usual weekend cycling regime, but to include a link to a guardian newspaper online article, explaining how finland encourages year-round cycling even in thick snow. according to city officials in joensuu "...close to 20% of all trips in the compact city about 250 miles north-east of helsinki, near the russian border, are cycled on average year-round. This drops in winter but still remains many times the equivalent UK rate of about 1% to 2%."

though white christmases are conspicuous by their absence in the hebrides, at this time of year, we're no strangers to wind and rain. at the time of writing, the weather in that particular region of finland shows temperatures of minus ten degrees, in winds hovering around 5mph. islay, on the other hand, is about to be windswept by storm ciara, which probably isn't a 'real' storm, but keeps the naming department in the met office happy. it's highly unlikely that we'll escape the weekend without some level of precipitation (rain or snow), while the wind is currently gusting to 46mph, promising to become stronger by sunday afternoon. depending on which forecast you choose to believe, between now and wednesday we're either going to be windswept and interesting to the tune of 55mph or as high as 70mph.

in this instance, there is little call for bravado on our behalf; storm ciara threatens to bring similarly constituted winds and snow across the entire nation. the only real difference is a lack of anything to hide behind out here. so, at the risk of repeating myself once too often, there follows a precis of how to continue cycling in such conditions, or not, as the case may be.

though headwinds are probably every bit as welcome to the pelotonese as a puncture, they are eminently survivable; the energy and action needed is pretty much the same as ascending a hill. choose a gear with which you're comfortable, then knuckle down and deal with the gruntwork the situation will undoubtedly demand. if the difficulty with the latter is more psychological than physical, just consider it a part of a pre-determined training programme.

the wind, however, is, like most politicians: two-faced. aside from the slog of a headwind, or the joy of a tailwind, the dangerous part is undoubtedly the crosswind. this may even be more of a danger in towns and cities, where concentrated tunnels of wind slam into unsuspecting cyclists as they pass the gaps between buildings. it has presumably not escaped your notice that, on streets bordered by tall(ish) buildings, the wind tends to be concentrated at higher speeds than the forecast average. when those winds suddenly exhale at right angles onto fragile cyclists, to be quite honest, there's not often a lot of options, other than to stop, or fall off.

it's the perennial existence of those winds that has left most of the hebrides bereft of shelter from the very force of nature that created the problem in the first place. our neighbouring isle of jura has the infamous paps, three big hills that provide a level of shelter to craighouse, the island's principal village. tiree, on the other hand, a bit farther north and west than islay, is pan flat and it's of great surprise that it hasn't blown away altogether. cycling there is no doubt a tad more onerous than on islay or the majority of mainland britain.

for what it's worth, in winds such as those described above, have i need of perambulating by bicycle at all, i'd opt for the 'cross bike. if i had a gravel bike, that would probably do every bit as well. framesets such as those are generally less athletic than the archetypal road bike and will thus confer upon the rider an increased level of stability.

the road between the croft and debbie's describes a curve, ensuring that if a tailwind is in force when departing, it'll be a headwind on the approach to bruichladdich village, with a definable crosswind in-between. there's the added luxury of a lengthy stretch of grassland in the latter region, to which the 'cross bike is ideally suited; if i get blown over, at least there's a soft landing. your ultimate strength as a cyclist will define how well you fare into a headwind, but physical strength is little defence against crosswinds, especially if you happen to have fitted a set of campagnolo bora carbons to the ritchey logic.

if you really have to go out and cycle with ciara this week, make sure you're as safe as you can be. in the absence of any shelter, members of the velo club have determined that riding is a possibility in average windspeeds of 36mph or less. in anything above that figure, the gusts are likely to prove particularly dangerous, though the more stupid amongst us have occasionally tried and have idiotically lived to tell the tale. i'd hesitate to announce myself as an expert in such matters, but i do have over thirty years' experience of surviving, during which i've learned that 'if in doubt, don't'.

in the face of necessity, take the bus, take the train or take a taxi* and leave the bicycle at home. (*not all options will be aware in all locations.)

saturday 8 february 2020

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ronde and ronde we go

flanders poster

with the recent augmentation of the international race programme by way of gravel racing (in the usa at least), it would be a truly hard to please individual who struggled to find cycle competition worth following. i've often wondered if the fading out of cyclocross events after the world championships, was designed to lead seamlessly into the spring classics, thus maintaining an intangible momentum amongst the cognoscenti? imagine, if you will, a cyclocross season that snapped straight into the giro d'italia. the culture shock hardly bears thinking about.

though the parcours for each subsequent year's 'cross championships varies considerably, i'm surely not the only one to note a modest predominance of tarmac at dubendorf, conjoining the squiggly sections of gloopy mud. were it not for the commentary team on red bull tv, tom pidcock would have been all but unidentifiable as he crossed the finish line. and though weather conditions over the past few seasons have favoured dry and sunny at both paris and roubaix, images from yesteryear often saw sean kelly and gilbert duclos-lasalle presenting their own, world-famous impersonations of the weekend's silver medal winner. the mixture of road and mud at dubendorf, in hindsight, seemed remarkably prescient.

flanders poster

a quick poll of the sunday morning peloton would likely return two distinct strains of aficionado; those who incessantly tweet the number of days left before paris-roubaix and de ronde (guilty as charged), and those who alre already scanning the team ineos website to check for updates to this year's tour de france roster. there are probably very few individuals who actively dislike either one or other of the aforementioned cycling genres, but i'm willing to wager that the potential favouritism outlined above, proliferates to a hitherto un-thought of degree.

for, despite the acknowledged fact that we mere mortals are an order of magnitude slower than our heroes, we are entirely of the same species. how often have you read a magazine or website interview in which the subject announced that he or she had been selected for the classics or grand tour team? the split often arrives earlier than our own, deeply-held anticipation, with the two distinct groups sent in opposite directions to partake of differing training schedules. though it has happened in the past, chuntering up and down the hill leading to mount teide in the finest of sunny weather, is hardly conducive to racing a couple of hundred kilometres' worth of french cobbles.

flanders poster

while you and i need hold no fears over announcing as to which predilection we favour, it's quite possible that the professional rider may have to hide his or her light under a strategically placed bushel. retaining a contract revolves around many different factors, not least of which would be keeping schtum about the fact that dwaar doors vlaanderen is written in capital letters atop your wishlist, when sir dave starts booking french hotel rooms for july. the only individuals to whom this presumably does not apply, are those with professional clout, garnered through a lengthy and impressive palmares.

chaps such as lion of flanders, johan museeuw, for example.

the twice belgian champion and three-time winner of paris-roubaix has, on occasion, expressed his disdain, or disinterest in riding those three weeks in july. races such as la ronde, e3 prijs, amstel gold and omloop het nieuwsblad (née volk) are far more on his particular horizon. this is a matter of record, but for those who either need confirmation or wish to demonstrate the fact to others, the highly astute folks residing at the northern line have provided the precise wherewithal in an attractive, wall-mounted format. for a mere £21, you can while away the 58 days between now and this year's ronde van vlaanderen, content in the knowledge that your velocipedinal appreciation equals that of your aesthetic values.

as a belgian, winning flanders for the first time, is far more important than wearing the maillot jaune." johan museeuw.

the northern line ronde van vlaanderen print

friday 7 february 2020

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the ace of clubs

rapha cycle club

when i moved to islay over thirty years past, aside from a few distilleries, the island was notorious for one specific point, namely, it was allegedly host to more committees per head of population than any other similar community. quite who had carried out and verified this nugget of information, i know not, but i eventually lost count of the number of times i had this possibly apocryphal fact recited to me. as a hebridean newbie, i may have inadvertently contributed to the future; i joined more than just a single committee, flattered that, as a relative unknown, i had even been asked.

upon reflection, and with the benefit of hindsight, i seem to have fallen hook, line and sinker for this tactic, one that i have seen practised upon others recently arrived on islay's shores. rest-assured, it's many a long year since that one worked against me.

in relation to the above discussion, i may have mentioned once or twice, that i am distinctly not in favour of joining clubs. do not misunderstand, i'm not imposing this oddity upon others, simply yours truly. if push came to shove, i cannot deny i'd have a bit of a hard time explaining, and though committees cannot, strictly speaking, be defined as clubs, i tend to think the sentiment is pretty much the same. for that matter, though not the sole reason, i have so far refrained from applying to join the rapha cycle club or rcc.

i have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with rapha, pretty much since day one, but even i blanched at the price of admission asked for the club when originally formed several years past. the benefits then were certainly enticing, including a free espresso on every club visit, exclusive, monogrammed clothing, and the availability of a quality road bike for hire, should world travel preclude me from taking my own bicycle with me.

but in january of this year, rapha re-launched their cycle club, with a much-reduced entry cost of £70. not unnaturally, some of the benefits also changed in reflection of this lowered cost of admission. rapha sports an entire global network of physical clubhouses, and seem happy to persist with promotion of club membership allied to the existence of those myriad clubhouses. danny barnes is the man in charge at the rcc, so i asked him (rather bluntly, i admit), what he sees as the whole point of the rapha cycle club?

rapha cycle club

"Ultimately, the point of the club is two-fold. It's about being closer to Rapha, becoming a member of the brand and getting more of what you like in return. Secondly, it's about creating memories and friendships and being part of a community. After five years of the RCC, it's the memories and friendships forged amongst members, all over the world, that really matter. It's a lasting legacy and is truly life enhancing. It's the combination of these two that we strive to ensure all members can experience, or at least have access to".

as mentioned above, the club's early days commanded a substantially higher financial commitment, though given the average cost of rapha's quality apparel, it was possibly not too unseemly for the company's biggest fans. but at a price in close proximity of £200, it could hardly be described as 'inclusive'. arguably, the introduction of the lower-priced core range may have been a tenuous influence, but i asked danny what had been the reason for the substantial drop in the membership fee?

"We simply wanted to make membership the best value for money for as many people as possible, no matter where they live. Many of our members don't live in close proximity to a Rapha Clubhouse and they felt they were not able to gain the same value as those who do. To address this feedback, we reduced the price and evened out the benefits with changes to the coffee offer and bike-hire pricing and invested more in expanding the ride leader and partner café programme globally. This provides more people with the chance to meet and ride with other members in the club, while enhancing the global benefits of priority at Rapha, yet retaining clubhouses as hubs for members."

of course, as with the majority of clubs, the option exists not to join if you'd prefer not to; rapha have not decreed compulsory membership in order to purchase or wear their clothing. however, with a range of rcc specific clothing available only to members, along with exclusives (for instance, ef education first winter bibtights were initially available only to club members) and advance access to certain garments, is there not an inherent danger of encouraging what french cycing once described as 'deux vitesses'; a them and us mentality amongst rapha customers? for instance, is it possible that long-time customers of rapha who are disinclined to join up, are likely to feel disenfranchised by being excluded from the benefits afforded those willing to join?

"Certainly, this is something we have to be mindful of, and ensure does not manifest. We value all those who choose to buy from us or spend time with us, especially those who have been loyal to the brand for many years. Members will however always get more, which is true for membership to any club or brand, but we do try to ensure it's mostly in addition to the Rapha offering such as early access, reserved number of spaces or limited product, and we certainly don't treat people differently - everyone will receive the same standard and level of service."

nonetheless, there will be, undoubtedly, an amount of soul searching by prospective members, based on, as danny mentioned above, proximity to a bricks and mortar clubhouse. from a purely personal point of view, one no doubt shared by every scots rapha customer, with not a single rapha clubhouse situated north of the border (there are two in london, one in manchester and another in bicester), would i be likely to gain as much from my membership fee as friends and colleagues in the big smoke? i'd imagine there are similar situations in other locations across the world. do the benefits brought with membership of the revised rcc in any way mitigate this state of affairs? for instance, a free or discounted black and pink espresso is somewhat harder to come by north of the border.

rapha cycle club

"Indeed, as I mentioned, a key focus for us is to help ensure as many members as possible experience the club both globally and locally. We are achieving this through the member ride leaders (300 globally) and partner cafés (over 30). We already have one partner café in Edinburgh, Gamma, where discounted coffee is available to members and we intend to build on this in the near future. Our focus is to expand this to more and more cities worldwide where there is a concentration of members but no clubhouse or on the ground Rapha presence. While we won't be opening clubhouses in these cities, the ride leaders help bring members together and the partner café gives our members a base and place to meet, with more features in development in the (smartphone) app to bring this all together."

while danny mentions the dearth of clubhouses in certain regions of the world, it would be a naive cyclist who realistically expected otherwise. to once again take north of the border as an example, scotland's population stands at close to 5.5 million, yet 2018 statistics note that there are 8.9 million in london alone, a combinant of england's population of a smidgeon under 56 million. from a position of numerical superiority alone, that surely justifies england's four clubhouses, against scotland's none. bearing this in mind, are there plans to open more clubhouses throughout the world, or has the optimum number been reached for the time being?

"I am certain we will open more clubhouses in the future. Physical locations and being face to face with our customers is as important today as ever. Miami is the most recent example of this, becoming a permanent location over a year ago, following its success as a pop-up. You will see more of these pop-ups from us, such as that in Leeds in 2019. More are planned in the UK this year and around the world, and this is the first step towards proving that a permanent clubhouse will work in a particular city."

of course, it would be equally naive of rapha to simply follow the trend of most cycle manufacturers, many of whom seem content to offer a photo of their creation(s) with the subtext 'we make these. buy them'. having admitted that i have a distinct aversion to the joining any form of club, i can but assume, via the law of averages, that in this, i am not alone. statistically, therefore, there must be an entire clubhouse worth of individuals who would take a great deal of persuading to hand over their three-score and ten pound notes to imperial works. how would danny pitch membership to those who rarely, if ever, join clubs of any sort?

"This is a tough one to answer, because the reasons for someone joining or not joining are usually very individual, and the first step to pitching membership is about asking a lot of questions from that individual and seeing if there is a fit. That said, a common thread of why people join, is firstly because they like what we do and want to enjoy the early access to the best we offer. Secondly, it's the local and global nature of the club. Locally you can help shape it to fit you and the members around you, or maybe it's just an identity to ride with. Equally you can easily connect to the wider global community and be on the other side of the world or at an event like the Etape and have a ready-made group of people to ride with, or join an event and suddenly be off riding in places you never thought of ever going to. As with all clubs, it's what you make of it that will matter the most to you."

i cannot deny that i am in somewhat of a unique geographical instance, with relation to club membership. i have frequently suggested to rapha's ceo that a clubhouse in bowmore village really ought to be on the list, but currently, their partnership with edinburgh's gamma transport division places a rapha espresso on the opposite coast from the hebrides, some 200 miles plus a two hour ferry trip distant. and the chances of my joining a club ride are minimal, to say the least. despite this, one of my fellow sunday ride pelotoneers is a member, frequently cycling in full member's regalia, so all is probably not lost. if it seems like the very thing for you, danny is likely to be more than welcoming.

join the rapha cycle club

rapha cycle club

thursday 6 february 2020

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banned on the run

citylink glasgow-edinburgh coaches

one of the most popular bus routes in the scottish central-belt, is that coursing between glasgow's buchanan bus station and its far smaller compatriot in st. andrews square, edinburgh. on weekdays, the 24 hour service peaks at one coach arriving or departing every fifteen minutes, a frequency marginally greater than that of the rail service between queen street station, glasgow, and edinburgh waverley. (apocryphally, an american visitor was apparently once overheard asking why they'd built the castle so close to the railway station).

in early january, coach operator citylink trumpeted the augmentation of the glasgow-edinburgh fleet with 18 new plaxton panorama coaches representing a £7 million investment, their justification revolving around a 12% passenger growth on the route over the past two years. these new coaches boost the route's capacity by an impressive 32%, or an extra 2,500 seats daily. the launch included the unveiling of on-board amenities include fold-down tables, reading lights, mobile device holders and usb and wireless chargers at every seat.

with the constant use many travellers seem to make of their smartphones, as opposed to conversation, or simply looking out the window, the latter facility will undoubtedly be welcomed by many passengers on the service. yet, citylink isn't the only operator to implement wireless charging. on a different scale and for a heavier duty purpose, the city of nottingham has been awarded a £3.4 million grant to trial wireless charging for its fleet of e-taxis. ten of their latest models of range-extender electric taxis have been equipped with the necessary hardware to allow this less intrusive means of charging, but if the trial proves successful, there are plans to extend the number of vehicles so provisioned.

wireless charging cannot be considered a faster means of charging than conventional cables, but the technology has, according to experts, far greater potential, from motorways that can power your vehicle and simultaneously propel it, to garage floors that can keep the battery topped up, it seems the sky's the limit. this may arguably aid the recently announced government case for the mandatory phasing out of petrol and diesel cars by 2035, after which it will be theoretically impossible to purchase a vehicle propelled by the currently ubiquitous infernal-combustion engine. when the ban comes into effect, only electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles will be available to buy. however, as i believe i may have mentioned at least once before, there is scarce (ie, none) mention of the additional electricty that will require to be generated to power all those new e-vehicles. from 2035 onwards, electrically powered cars will form the sole means of vehicular travel, given that the proposed government ban in 15 years' time, also includes hybrid vehicles.

for those of us with no great affection for the motor car, news such as this is surely to be welcomed, even if there remain serious doubts as to whether it demonstrates the cutting edge of pragmatism. it will, however, likely provide a definable incentive to the uk's car manufacturers at least, to enlarge their electric car production lines, while boffins continue to investigate further and hasty development of battery technologies.

though the scottish government is apparently statutorily bereft of the powers to ban new petrol or diesel vehicles, it has already committed to phase out 'their need' by 2032. but perhaps it should not only be car fabricators ennervated by this environmentally-based government announcement. despite the media plaudits resulting from the boris johnson's governmental statement, i have yet to read of the opportunities handed on a plate to the purveyors of bicycles.

uk government statistics indicate that, on a daily basis, 55% of all car journeys are of less than five miles, a distance that is scarcely beyond the capabilities of considerably more than 55% of the population on bicycles. so, if westminster and arguably, holyrood, are intent on divesting the nation's petrolheads of their prides and joys, forcing them towards currently more expensive electric vehicles: enter the bicycle. whether the latter constitutes simple mechanical propulsion or the flavour of the month, the e-bike. if wireless charging can be accessed by a fleet of taxis, charging a bicycle in similar fashion ought to be child's-play. and assuming the population is every bit as obese as is currently claimed, this could prove to be a double-whammy (to implement the vernacular)

i think it only right and proper that cycling uk and british cycling combine to create a new department, with responsibility to position bicycle travel as a viable alternative to the electric motor car. from our own point of view, i suggest we take the subtle approach; everytime the subject appears in the media, we plant the seed in a manner most appropriate to the social circumstances of the hour.

i'm depending on you.

wednesday 5 february 2020

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travelling distance

the big pedal 2020

on days when the wind round these here parts tends to disrupt ferry traffic and results in the somewhat nonsensical met office yellow alerts, it has very occasionally become incumbent on yours truly to take to the school nursery, one of the children in the care of mrs washingmachinepost. were she to undertake the trip herself, it would be necessary to push a buggy with one younger sibling; buggies can be a bit of a handful in galeforce winds, so we choose the safer option. the school can be seen clearly from the sitting room window of the croft, evidence that the distance to be travelled is nowhere near excessive.

yet, if an old codger like me and a four year-old can make it to the school without incident, i seriously have to wonder why we're stood at a road junction for an appreciable length of time, to allow parents to drive their kids to the same school. the village is but a mile from one end to the other, hardly an onerous distance to travel by foot, even in the face of inclement weather, so, seriously, what's the problem? and directly opposite the school gate, is a length of tarmac featuring yellow zig-zags, advising that these are intended to discourage parking of motor cars.

it will hardly suprise you that there are nearly always cars parked on the zig-zags.

xavier brice, ceo at sustrans, discussing the 2020 edition of 'the big pedal', was keen to point out that they're "excited to kick-off another year of what we hope will be the biggest Big Pedal yet. With the climate crisis in the forefront of pupils' and parents' minds, campaigns like the Big Pedal are a fun way for us to reduce carbon by walking or cycling to school and make a real difference to our local environment, from less congested streets to better air quality."

in the light of my own observations as outlined above, i would take issue with mr brice's contention that the climate crisis is a major issue of concern to parents. i can accept that the case may be different for the school kids, for it seems to have made major inroads to the curriculum of at least the primary schools, if not those at the adjacent secondary school. i also doubt that my observations are in any way isolated. "climate crisis be damned, i'm going to drive the kids to school and myself to work. in this rain, a mile is still too far." all the more reason, i believe to hold the big pedal, patron of which is dame sarah storey.

perhaps concerns over climate change are purely seasonal?

"Walking, cycling or scooting to school are fantastic ways for families to include activity in their daily lives, and helps to improve both the physical and mental health of children and their parents."

you will note that sarah included the words 'families' and 'parents' in her quote, contrasting squarely with my own scrutiny of matters while walking to school. during the autumn term, the senior pupils at the primary school undertake teacher-led cycle education, at which point, they are implored to ride their bicycles to school. sadly, once instruction is over and done with for the term, those bikes rarely see the light of day; there seems to be little in the way of encouragement from either school or parents, to continue the apparently enjoyable process. thus, two-week events such as the big pedal might hopefully begin to effect a change in the mentality of both young and old.

and i make no apology for almost highlighting the fact that the big pedal lasts for two whole weeks, notably seven days longer than does national bike week. surely an unfortunate case of double-standards? so, if you are concerned about the climate crisis, as well as the health and wellbeing of your kids, come april 22 this year, why not drag your own bicycle from the bike shed and join the happy shiny people on the way to school? then ride to work afterwards

"by removing the number of cars at the school gate, streets will become less congested and polluted, making the school run more pleasant for all."

the big pedal runs from wednesday 22 april, until tuesday 5 may 2020 (no, i have no idea why it commences on a wednesday, thus encompassing two weekends when kids don't go to school).

tuesday 4 february 2020

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................