Ahem, yes, more shameless reference to the Specials’ but more importantly the Holdsworth’s ever evolving livery that arguably throws my masculinity into question and places us in danger from pollination by passing bees. Having concluded the ITM Olympus are now obsolete thanks to non-existent spares availability, these rather fetching BBB complete the cockpit and allow extra oomph especially with a swanky new aluminium drive sprocket.
Punctures come in plagues- I can go for months without one and have a run of fifteen in as many rides. Uncharacteristically, tyre flatulence afflicted the Holdsworth while I was honing the handlebar positioning, rotating the pursuit bars downward in a more aggressive, yet curiously natural stance before dialling the aero bars a little closer. In keeping with Murphy’s Law, I’d used the last of the 60mm valve type for deep section rims and so ordered a couple more from Greyville. However, watching the neighbour chastising her husband for breaking wind without apology certainly added some levity to proceedings.
Joshua, my seven year old then began calling excitedly from the garage, apparently he’d found evidence of alien visitation (well, that accounts for the disappearance of my trixie tool then).
Credit where due, it took me several seconds to account for the strange green splurge oozing out from beneath the Univega’s front tyre-it was of course the sealant from the self healing tube and further inspection revealed a razor sharp glass slither embedded in the casing of the seemingly invulnerable Vittoria Randonneur tyre. Popping the Holdsworth back on its rightful hook in the workshop, it was time to load the Univega aboard the work stand and purge the demon. Ten minutes, a new tube, some tweezers, a drop of superglue and 80psi later we were back in business.
Rest assured the ruptured butyl weren’t consigned to the bin; rather they were used to keep a decorative wooden panel in my mother’s garden aligned while the cement set. That said, redundant inner tubes make superb frame protectors and/or disguises for urban bikes regularly locked to heavy street furniture, they’re equally useful for bodging racks back together in emergencies, lashing down odd shaped objects etc so I usually keep a length or two in a pannier for such emergencies.
Another close encounter of the first and very frightening kind came courtesy of a black Honda civic pulling out from a slightly notorious junction without so much as indicating, let alone a glance in my direction. This glaring act of carelessness was compounded by them stalling straight in my path. Mercifully there was time to haul in the front brake and hold off on the cranks, bringing Holdsworth and 70-kilo rider to a safe halt with a few inches to spare. Perplexed and possibly quite embarrassed, said driver restarted the engine before making her escape sans apology. Relative to my twelve-years riding round the capital; this wouldn’t even register were it not for the speed and elephantine ignorance involved.
Riding the final four miles home, a wealth of scenarios trickled through my mind like filter coffee. What if I’d been aboard the Univega towing Joshua-what of our chances then. He’s already displaying a small seed of uncertainty resultant from an encounter with an inexperienced/incompetent and above all, rude horse rider some months previously.
Driver incompetence and ludicrously lenient sentencing for such shows no sign of relenting as recent news stories clearly illustrate and there are three very serious problems that must be overcome. Firstly, there seems a simplistic rationale that passing the car test equates to a safe, competent person requiring no further development or learning. Secondly, cars are becoming ever more corpulent, consuming greater road space, resulting in a bullish, bullying “might is right” culture toward smaller vehicles and cyclists bear the greatest brunt of this increased aggression, reduced competence model of driving.
I might also suggest that automatic transmissions are problematic, providing too much temptation for idle hands. However, this is to some extent spurious and blame cannot be attributed to the vehicle but rather the persons operating it. A three-litre automatic BMW piloted by a kindly grandmother is, statistically at least an entirely different proposition with a young buck behind the wheel... Perhaps it’s the synonymous association with rights and the right of the individual presiding disproportionately above the needs of others that poses the greatest threat.
This arrogance seems deeply rooted (although by no means exclusive) in the British psyche. Afterall, the Dutch, the Danes and many other northern European countries have peaceful roads and broadly similar vehicles. Anyone can make a genuine error but if their speed, awareness and competence are appropriate the chances of serious accident or fatality are greatly reduced.
Thirty years ago, a child raced across my late father’s path. He was not speeding (25mph in a 30 zone) and bystanders were amazed at my father’s reaction time but for many months, he was haunted by the images of the little boy flipping in mid air before landing squarely on the car's bonnet. The child escaped with only minor injuries and my father rightfully absolved of any blame. This is an entirely different context to those who take no responsibility for their actions, maiming, killing and ruining lives forever.
Doubtless I’m preaching to the converted but (making some allowances in the context of physical disability) the car test needs radical overhaul with much wider horizons (Dutch students sit a three hour exam before they get behind the wheel). The days when, chances were someone sitting a car test was also a cyclist/motorcyclist have greatly diminished. Therefore, new legislation should require part of the car test be taken as a cyclist and where possible in an urban environment.
Sermon over, I’m off to play with some lovely kit but before I do, here's something to get you all of a lather... Justin Burls’ new 15lb Ti missile
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)