Saturday, August 12, 2017

The old Dingle dally

Scouring my old hard drives for a long lost "potential" scan and I came across this pic from around 16 years ago. Sundown ride around the stunning Dingle Peninsular in Ireland, with my best friend John, who is sadly no longer with us.
Life doesn't come much better than this,  especially when washed down with a pint of the black nectar..


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Unplugged



Progress; despite what we’re told it really isn’t always for the best – or at least not for everyone. Sadly it’s hard to stand still in life, especially in a high-speed internet age driven by the myth of recording and sharing every move you make in your daily life.Thankfully there are still times when you can step off those Wifi rails, ditch the stats and updates and just go and ride as far and wherever you please – and just for the sheer hell of it.Sure enough, this may whiff of an old timer rambling on about how great the good old days were, and how things were so much better back then; although in reality it’s not. This is just me taking a well needed step back and sideways and rediscovering what it was that got me started with cycling in the first place, nearly 40 years ago.Around 20 years or so past I wrote a story for a mountain bike magazine – all about the virtues of taking a mobile phone out on a ride with you, or not as the case may be. Back then they were already becoming commonplace, yet very few people wanted to be lumbered with the potential burden of their ride time being de-railed by the self same things they were out there to ride away from, the hassles, stress and worries of regular daily life. There was a huge response to the story – mostly decrying the notion of carrying a phone on a ride.How times’ have changed, and now it’s tough to find anybody who doesn’t hit the road or trail without being wired to the instant insanity of the virtual world, where you’re every twist and turn is recorded for perceived prosperity, and where few rides are complete without the icing of a selfie or three, how mad is that?It’s not just a cycling thing (of course); it’s life in general, and naturally connectivity impacts on the lion’s share of rides we all take – even for me, and I actively rebel against the whole concept.Cycling has become far more popular than it’s ever been, and it’s become a far more expensive and trend driven sport in with it. Road cycling is now the highest value sporting market out there, estimated to be worth a staggering US$47 billion a year globally (New York Times, reporting on the raphe sale). The upshot of this is that the demographic of regular cyclists has changed dramatically in with this altered image, which does also reflect on peoples reasons for getting into cycling in the first place; for many it is now a gear and stats fitness thing, which it never was for me.Many of us got into cycling as young teenagers, and as it was never really a team sport it tended to attract more individuals, or loners (in my case), and the bike was first and foremost a means of freedom and adventure, a simple machine that gave you the liberation and independence you strived for (until you got a car).From a very early age that adventure, freedom, and the escapism was (and still is) what cycling was all about for me, yet through pressures and expectations that has all somewhat got left behind.A while back I interviewed Tom Ritchey, and we got to talking about this – and the fact that he refused to take a mobile phone or any device with him on a ride, preferring that his time out on two wheels was his time, and that he was fully independent and free – and it did stir up those old core values inside of me.I’ve almost never used a GPS or bike computer, because I know that I’ll become obsessed and stressed with it, especially on a tough day. I do carry an iPhone, not to record data, but to snap wholly un-necessary photos and videos along the road, and often end up compromising my ride and safety do so – usually for Instagram posts and stories that will be gone in 24-hours, along with the millions of others out there. I admit; this is not really because I want to, it’s because I feel I should do, which is ludicrous.With this in mind I’ve taken a couple of recent trips into the wilds of the Northern Thai mountains, staying in a small place with no internet or even phone coverage. In some ways it’s been a digital detox, although despite having no signal I do find myself habitually checking my phone every few minutes, which is frightening.Even having been raised in a Wifi free age and longing for the mental disconnect from it all, the whole thing really did take some getting used to. I was riding a gravel bike deep into hill tribe lands, where there are no facilities and no mobile phone coverage – pretty much the kind of things I’ve done for most of my life, until about 10 years ago that is.The feeling was one of apprehension and vulnerability, sugared with a little coating of anticipation and nervous excitement, and of course I did still take the phone with me – after all, you never know there may be a remote clearing somewhere so that I can clear my spam folder and reply to the news that World War 3 has in fact started.A couple of days later I rolled back to reality, eagerly waiting to check my mails and social media accounts, just to see if the world had forgotten me or something life changing had happened, huh – it hadn’t, and I did sneak a cheeky Instagram post of after the fact.Don’t get me wrong – I can see safety sense and even the value in recording these stats and routes, and I can unfortunately appreciate the addiction to social media. Even if it was slightly unsettling being off line and unplugged for a couple of days it did free up a whole lot more thinking time, and allowed me to re-acquaint myself with the jaded and distant memories of just what cycling was originally all about for me. Lets see if it can last longer the next time, after all I used to be able go off grid for a month at a time (pre-internet), and those are the adventures and rides that stand out to me; it must still be possible – give it a try, it’s like riding in a bus – you see and notice things you never to when you’re driving yourself.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Satay night fever

Back from as sick month on the road and just wading through images - I've posted a selection of mono pics from Jalan Alor in KL, you can see them over at www.thesoftsaddle.com under grazing.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Close shave, from last week

Earlier this morning and my vision momentarily went polarised, near tunnel like, and focussed wholly on that jutting out concrete delivery pipe on the side of the lorry, and at the skimpy one meter gap between the truck and the roads edge.
Just a fraction of a second earlier that self same chunk of dirty metal had skimmed my head with the clearance of regular a pizza in total width. That breathing space was all that had wooshed between me and near certain death or decapitation.
Having been sick for a week I’d only been out for around 30 minutes, and had been close cut at least 20 times already – by around half of all of the vehicles that had passed me, all of them at less than a meter of a gap.
This is Malaysia, a place I’ve ridden in regularly for almost 20 years now, and although I’m fully aware of this terrible close pass thing that happens here, this time it really un-nerved me.
A few days earlier I’d taken a taxi from the airport to my hotel, along the same road. The female taxi driver (who was about twice my girth and weight) was on a wide open road with very low traffic, and she’d done exactly the same thing to another cyclist, cutting at around half a meter of clearance – sheer laziness and disrespect for a life.
I’d raised arms and shouts and numerous cars already this morning, but was too far off any traffic pause to be able to catch up and point out the issues; those of actually slowing down for a few seconds, changing gear and giving a cyclist a little more room over cutting them so damn close that you endanger their lives.
Like all of us, this is not a first, or even a 101st, and I have been hit and forced off the road in the past, and gotten info fist fights with motorists. As cyclists we tend to assume that people “get it”, that they understand cycling – yet the sad fact is that in many parts of the world when people get into their prized tin box they see the world differently, and any hindrance by a scum bag on two wheels, well – we all know the feeling, and we all probably know people with such attitudes (sadly).
Despite the mainstream global boost in the popularity of cycling there are a huge number of people who simply do not get it, and never will – to them we should not be on the road “get a car, pay your road tax” and become a valid citizen seems to be the underlying attitude of many – and it only takes one such bigot to end a life by enforcing their rights to “their” road.
Recent high profile tragedies have hauled this home to many of us, although in reality less prolific cyclists the world over are mowed down like second class beings all too often, and for those with the power of an engine beneath them attitudes rarely change.
That said, many cyclists also transform when they hit the road, and the adrenaline does kick in at times. I recently came up behind a group of 6-7 riders riding on a winding and narrow road in the UK, in my old local area.
There a wasn’t much traffic, and they were not locals, but they insisted on using the whole road and riding TTT style, meaning that it was impossible to safely pass. For 5-6 minutes I drove behind, waiting for a safe opening. I was tempted to pull over and lay into them, not for holding me up, but for what they were doing towards damaging the relationship between cyclists and motorists, but I think my words would have been wasted at best.
There was no need to ride like that; a simple single line and a smile and wave past would make the difference, and had I been a pure motorist I would have been pretty peed at these guys. Just because you can ride double line and take up the whole road doesn’t mean you should – these kind of riders are directly impacting on the image of cyclists, and are not only their own worse enemies, but enemies of cyclists the world over. Perhaps the fading old school cycling club scene once played a major part in this education of cyclists.
It’s a dangerous world out there for cyclists, and one with ever growing traffic and a seemingly slow changing or halted attitude towards the value of cyclists. We all have to do out bit towards enhancing awareness and smoothing out relations between ourselves and other road users. It’s down to us, because at the end of the day there are very few groups around campaigning for our rights and safety, and when you do have an incident with a vehicle it sure isn’t going to end sweetly.