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Cycling by itself is all very well, but it leads to other things, like permaculture courses and interest in alternative lifestyles and before you know it you’re seriously working out how to go off grid and build a house out of tree bark, so in case anyone out there is wondering, here are a few pointers that may indicate you are going down the same slippery slope…
You don’t know the names or personal lives of anyone who became famous since 1995.
When you go to the garage you fall over 3 buckets, a bike pump, and a breeding colony of pickle jars.
You sit in the doctor’s waiting room reading instructions on how to make compost toilets.
Social events are annoying impositions on gardening/bike repairing/chicken house building time.
You don’t see adverts.
You are genuinely startled how well roads connect into a network.
You’ve arrived early at meetings so many times you no longer remember to look smug.
Your mother has to explain what an ‘i-Pad’ and a ‘Kindle’ is*.
You haven’t been to a ‘high street’ store in months.
You don’t know why people are looking at your bike. (Thanks to Karl Mckracken for that one)
You don’t know the difference between a Porsche and a VW.
You go out for the evening wearing work boots. Again.
Your dream house is a yurt.
You don’t even know where the nearest Mc******s is.
The last time you went on Eb*y, you bought seed pots, a hammer and some chicken wire.
A ‘Good weekend’ means going to the garden and making a significant dent in the jobs list.
If you recognise any of these, then you could be on the way to becoming a subversive. I’m sure someone somewhere has a way to help people like me to get back into the mainstream, stop thinking and obsess about the lives of people far wealthier than I am. I’m having too much fun to find out though.
The sun is shining, the rain has stopped, the steep part of the garden is no longer a mudslide, and the seedlings are growing. In fact the only blot on the joyful horizon is that I’ve pulled my biceps on both arms. This is probably the result of suddenly going from a job sitting and typing to a job which involves lugging large amounts of timber about the place. I’m now written off sick for three weeks while they sort themselves out again. My elbows have been mummified in pressure bandages and I’m taking some pretty hardcore anti-inflammatory drugs. I’m now banned from the garden except for light stuff like seed trays and painting. Doing things like unloading trailers full of roofing tiles and building materials is out of the question.
Last week the train service to college threw a wobbly because a signal failed. Trains generally manage to arrive within five minutes of when they say they will arrive, but when things go wrong the whole thing seems to fall apart. From experience you just have to wait in hope until a train may or possibly may not come along, so I got back on the bus home, retrieved my bike and cycled to college instead.
It worked okay. The last hill on the way home was pretty tough, and I can’t say I felt like doing much in the evening. Probably not a commuting strategy for every day then.
I would probably be less tired if I had a bag that would clip onto the luggage rack instead of my backpack. I could also carry the backpack on the Xtracycle of course, but that would mean leaving the Xtracycle in an open bike rack all day.
Cycling all the way from home to college is considered seriously strange by most people of course, but people at college are used to my subversively hippy tendencies.
The first part of the cabinet I’m supposed to be building* is solid wood joined by good old-fashioned dovetails: seventeen per corner and four corners. In theory this means we get lots of practice cutting accurately.
We also get plenty of time sharpening and polishing chisels.
Finishing off one of the side pieces. Every join has to be connected several times, then taken apart again and the wood carefully chiselled out to make the fit better, without taking so much off that there is a gap between the sections. Of course, if you don’t take enough off then there is a loud noise announcing that the wood has split again, and it is time to get the glue out.
Notice set square carefully placed in shot to give the impression I use it.
This is culmination of about four days cutting and chiseling, the moment where all the sides have to be glued and clamped together in the hope they fit straight. Each join is unique by this stage so they have to be fitted in the correct order, and we have to make sure the sides are square.
The glue makes the wood expand slightly as well, so the joins are tighter than before, and it begins to set within eight minutes of being applied so everything has to be glued and straight within that time.
*Eventually I should have one of these. In theory.
This is the same view as last week. Being able to see the road ahead is quite exciting.
The weather does this quick change every year and it still takes me by surprise. I’m not complaining though.
In case you think I’m showing off, it’s still freezing in the mornings.
The bakfiets in for repair again. Notice new repair method with bike vertical instead of on its side. This saved twenty minutes of digging the chain out from behind the front cog.
Having repaired the puncture on the rear wheel a couple of weeks back, and -surprisingly- got the wheel back on the Bakfiets again, I discovered the bearings were loose. In theory this meant taking the wheel off again last weekend and carrying same to my local bike shop where they could do some technical jiggerypokery with their astonishingly expensive cone spanners until the bike worked again.
This should have been the end of the matter, but when I rebuilt the wheel this time I forgot to tighten an essential but normally inaccessible bolt, so after another trip to the bike shop to find why bits of the brake assembly were rattling against the wheel, I had to repeat the operation to sort this out.
My incapability with complicated mechanical things is another reason I hopefully won’t ever own a car.
Apparently spring is coming, heralded by longer days, more sunshine (or indeed, any sunshine), snowdrops, birds singing, green buds on trees, that sort of thing.
Infortunately nobody told our local weather department so they delivered snow and blizzards today. Naturally this all hit the ground after I’d cycled to the bus stop: the road home is directly ahead.
It’s that time of year again when the snow turns to ice, glues itself to the road surface, and stays for weeks. I kept cycling as long as I could but eventually it came down to a choice of riding on ice or along a busy narrow road with drivers who rather object to sharing the space with anyone.
And then the weather report said it would get really cold. Even if the bike had had incredible ice tyres like Disgruntled, cycling in temperatures of minus ten would mean all kinds of cold weather clothing which I’d have to haul around all day, so I’ve been going on the magical mystery tour on the bus. This does nothing for my energy or mood.
To try and get some exercise back into the morning routine I’ve taken to abandoning the bus once we get into town and walking the final bit to the railway station. No time is lost by doing this as the bus goes wandering around the inner ring road and takes as long to reach the station as I do on foot.
I also enter the city via a stone bridge and a city gate, which gives a rather glamorous mid-European vibe to the start of the day.
I finally got myself moving and replaced the front light on the commuter bike. The old light had been flickering for a while and expired one morning on the way to college, naturally after I left the street lights of our village but before the short section on a busy main road. Fortunately there isn’t that much traffic at half past six in the morning.
At some point in the not too distant future I’m hoping to get a hub dynamo to replace the bottle dynamo I currently use, so the light has its own switch and a lot of wire that I’ve wrapped together and secured on the forks with tape.
This adds to the already chic apprarance of the bike no end.
I was going to leave the old light on the bike but the casing reflected most of the beam from the new light into my face, so it has gone in the spares drawer.
As an added advantage I no longer become invisible when I stop in traffic, and I can see where I’m going.
The bike is probably filthy as I’ve been riding it through puddles, mud, and runoff from the fields for a few days, but I haven’t seen it in daylight for weeks, and with three modular tests coming up at college cleaning will have to wait.
At least the light is now strong enough that I can see to avoid the horse poo.
Winter has kicked in with a vengeance, and for the last few weeks I’ve been leaving home before dawn and arriving after dusk on weekdays. Once out of the village it is pitch dark, and the wonderfully retro bodged halogen light I fitted on the commuter bike hasn’t got enough oomph to break through the dark and fog that are a feature of the ride, especially on the section where the local council has thoughtfully closed the pedestrian/cycleway to accommodate building work* and I have to navigate over the fields and around some trees largely by memory. When I’m riding in traffic I’m fine while I keep moving but as soon as I stop I become invisible.
I reckon I’ve got at least eight more weeks of this, so I’ve finally got a modern light, which actually lights up the road, and stays on for a few minutes when I’m not riding. It’s a bit of a risk having a better quality light on a bike I’ll leave in a public space most of the day, but the bike parking space seems pretty safe, and weighed against crashing into a tree or being run over, it makes sense.
If I muster up a lot more self discipline than usual, I may even fit it to the bike and take photos before next March.
*Because it isn’t a road, so it’s not like anyone important will be using it.