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An Explosive Start


2010 opened with an explosive start courtesy of the Ka’s camshaft eighty miles from home while bowling along the M25 on New Year’s Day. Mercifully, I was able to coax the elderly eight-valve beast to my front door. With the prognosis pushing it beyond economic repair, much trawling of dealer forecourts and £2,500 secured a newer, low mileage replacement. Not to be outdone, the Univega began chomping through tubes.

Sadly, the otherwise likeable Kenda Small block eights were the culprits-their supple casings appear too readily infiltrated by shards of glass, flints and other sharps to recommend them on greasy winter roads. Refitting the sprightly and ultra dependable GEAX semi-slicks has cured the problem while proving instrumental in the resurrection of my beloved speed lever that saves time, effort and thumbs!

Other resurrections include this leather-topped Turbo saddle, earmarked for the Teenage Dream once a local engineering firm completes the necessary machining of the featherweight Thompson post, reducing its diameter by point two of a millimetre  so it slides effortlessly inside the seat-tube. Being a complex creature, I found myself amused by Martin Thomas’s lament of the surly roadie.

Bowling along the Queen’s highway, I’m partial to a nod and a wave by way of acknowledgement and always offer help to a rider by the roadside but I’ve a very thick skin should others choose not to capitulate and more often than not this happens when aboard the Univega. Said purists will draw alongside for a moment or two when I’m commanding the Holdsworth or Teenage Dream but not the tubby tourer. Others regularly acknowledge me from afar only to tut or cross themselves in horror, realising said beast sports the big tyres and low gears!

So Lance the brash Texan is back in the saddle again. I can’t say it surprises me any more than I’m particularly endeared to his character. Objectively, love or loathe him, to return from such an aggressive cancer is a remarkable feat full stop, let alone his successive and largely convincing Tour victories. Personally, Armstrong is a shrewd, calculating, media savvy and ultimately highly successful businessman for whom cycling is just another venture and I expect him to run for mayoral office or enjoy subsequent political career in the coming years.

He will no more care for my opinion than I worry about whether the next indvidual, or indeed group acknowledges me. I would be deeply disappointed to hear of a rider bereft of courtesy, failing to offer assistance to someone injured or otherwise in difficulty but so long as my own conduct/road manners are good, acknowledgement is nice but insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

If a rider’s “in the zone”; thinking deeply about some personal matter or even putting all their energies into reaching the off licence on the return loop of a training ride, they’re fully entitled to ignore me! Serendipity and quality of interaction is the key, some of the best rides are just those sorts of encounters-often when I’ve been on a moderate canter aboard the crosser, encountered another rider and the journey expanded to suit.

Seemingly never far from trouble, I’m presently under fire from certain quarters concerning my use of the Discovery method  for training my son to ride his solo-dropping the saddle to its lowest, removing the pedals and bringing the controls very close and encouraging him to master balance and control. Said technique is very much at odds with some people’s rigid definition of  cycle training, reminiscent of the very formulaic fashion in which some driving schools/instructors teach with increasingly disastrous consequence.

The widely reported casual carelessness of Katie Hart seems to be the tip of a distressingly large iceberg. Last summer a driver of similar age left two riders for dead after a collision involving a “borrowed” Subaru on Mersea Island’s causeway. It is reported the driver failed to stop or even call the emergency services, choosing instead to leave the scene, hiding the high-powered vehicle in a garage before finally reporting the incident some twenty-four hours later. In court the defendant’s solicitor tried to use his interest in moto cross to somehow demonstrate an affinity with vulnerable road users. Meanwhile two otherwise confident men were left deeply shaken and finding it nearly impossible to make the separation between cycling and the horrific events of that afternoon.

I regularly travel that stretch of road-sometimes towing the tag-along, many drivers passing with inches to spare at questionably high speed, compensating lack of skill with increased aggression. Much of the problem stems from a blinkered “Won’t happen to me” philosophy. Traditionally people held other licences- rode motorcycles, cycled etc as a matter of course and so had  much greater empathy with others.

A wholesale shift in attitudes to road use and behaviour coupled with better training and stiffer penaltiesare essential. There is room for everyone on the public highway bar those who behave carelessly, callously and contemptuously towards others.



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)

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