Thoughts from my bike

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So, today I rode a bicycle in the UKs best bicycling city – alledgedly.

I collected Molly from the Bristol Bikeworkshop, who’d been terribly positive about the chance of fixing her gears…


She had been rather lackadaisical about gear selection, leaping randomly around and making riding somewhat entertaining. I was also wanting some new brake shoes, the original 40’s ones seeming to me to be… lacking in braking facility.

Anyhow, they rang yesterday and said that Molly was ready for collection. They were pretty keen for me to collect, on the basis that they were lacking in storage space, so I turned up after walking* there and hopped onto my trusty steed. Well, not quite.

See, I’ve not ridden a pushbike for…years. I mean, the last time I rode any proper distance was riding Kate’s pushbike when she moved to Bristol…which is probably 8 years ago? And the discussion at the shop I discovered that they (a) had no new brake blocks (and thus I’d be using the ones that came with the bike to get home), and they (b) had only managed to get two of the three gears working. Still, the general once over and service cost a tenner, so I was happy enough to pootle off.

I pulled out onto the road, and a quick test revealed that my brakes weren’t really going to stop me in a hurry. Or indeed, necessarily at all, if the road were steep enough. However, on the slope I was on, both brakes together would bring me to some kind of halt, albeit one which needed to be booked well in advance. I pootled off down the hill again, some trepidation filling my bones, and attempting to see as far ahead as humanly possible, so as to ensure that there were no surprise stops required.

At the bottom of the hill I looked, hopefully, for some kind of direction as to what they’d like cyclists to do. Having looked and considered the matter, I feel that what the city planners would like cyclists to do is die. Horribly. I have decided that in future I’ll skip quietly up onto the pavement and skidaddle across the huge paved section because having made it part way round cabot circus on the bike I decided that enough death was enough, and that I’d rather hop up on the pavement where I might not be crushed by some distracted driver. Again I mention, Bristol is apparently the UK’s best city for cycling. The best. This is the veritable Peak of British Accomplishment in the arena of cycling. I only mention that as an aside. Something one might wish to consider as we continue our journey.

So I waited for an appropriate gap, slipped back out onto the road and (stopping at red lights as they occurred trundled down the road. As I crossed one of the bridges a bus (from the company abus, I think) pulled infront of me, and then promptly stopped at the bus stop causing me to quickly write in triplicate the stopping request, send it urgent same day delivery to my bike’s brake levers who replied with only a few bureaucratic and procedural concerns which I was able to address promptly, and forthwith some marked degree of retardation was applied, allowing me not to trundle straight into the back of the bus. Whilst I wasn’t exactly whipping along at speed, I suspect such an experience would not have endeared me to cycling, the bus, or the bike.

Having slipped around the bus I headed for what is probably the only decentish bit of the ride. Around Temple Meads station there’s some fairly modern / decent road planning and cycles are granted a route around the massive roundabout which, should they decide to take it, takes them well away from the traffic. I liked that bit. I wasn’t quite sure where I was meant to rejoin the road, but scootled along for a while and dropped back onto the road where there was a dip. Then I head over the bridge and to a set of traffic lights that have traffic sensors. That resolutely refused to change. Now, my bike has more steel in it than most modern bikes, so if it were going to change for someone, I’d be a good bet.

But no.

Fortunately, it wasn’t busy, and I headed through the tunnel in a gap and headed onward to the bit I was least happy about. There is a road near us which has a ‘cycle lane’ in the least accurate sense of the phrase. A cycle lane in paint only. They slapped some paint down and went “there y’go”. It’s not the worst, no, not by a long way. My favourite is this (I’m sure this isn’t the worst cycle lane)

View Larger Map

Which involves the cyclist dodging lamp posts and trees. Lots of them. And is horribly uneven. And next to a busy, narrow road.

Anyhow, this is not a patch on that. It’s just a busy road, on which people tend to drive faster than the limit, and which has cars parked all the way down one side. This means the cars coming the opposite direction to the cycle lane are slightly on the wrong side of the road, which means that cars going the same direction as the cycle lane tend to occupy the cycle lane. It’s not their fault, it’s simply poor design.

And then there’s the more fun bits, like the lane starts of nice and wide… and then sloooowly gets narrower, before finally (and cyclists will already be expecting this) stopping. No warning or signage. One minute you’re on a bit of road officially marked as a cycle lane, the next you’re fending for yourself on a busy main road. So that’s nice.

Despite all that, I actually rather enjoyed the experience, the bike was fun to ride, and didn’t hurt my body in any more than a kind of ‘You are seriously not used to this activity’ way, which is good, because it’s been really painful before. Now I just need to find a 1930’s book on hub gear maintenance, and see if anyone’ll sell me spares for a BSA shifter, otherwise I fear I might have to get a new wheel / hub. She could also do with new front bearings, at some pont.

Keep fit!

* Yes, I walked the 3 miles to the bike shop. Go me.


Kate is lord and mistress of all she surveys at