Sunday, 6 February 2011

I Want To Ride My Bicycle

As you might expect, I’m a big fan of the bicycle. After a year or so of me commuting by car my trouser clips will once more be seeing some serious action.

One of the issues I have with biking to and from work is what to wear.

I see plenty of cyclists in all the day-glo gear and feel tired just thinking of the palaver involved. I sadly don’t have the luxury of a shower and changing room at the office otherwise it would be tempting to stow a grey flannel suit, fedora and selection of ties there so I could at least look like I work for a living.

Instead my uniform tends to involve dark, thick, comfortable and crumpled trousers (never light coloured - a combination of chain grease and puddles means they never stay light for long and the thickness is essential given the wear and tear on the nether regions), an open necked shirt and one of those waterproof jackets with air vents. I have a feeling I should don something that ‘wicks moisture away’ but I worry where it would wick it to. Wouldn’t I be the cycling equivalent of those motorists whose windscreen scooshers result in spatter on the windscreen of the car behind?

(The editor in my head tells me I’m getting yukky.)

One of my bikes is of the folding variety. “Spoddy” is how they’re described by some, with even less flattering terms used by others. To my face.

There was a brief period when I seemed to be constantly on trains going to country hotels for seminars, conferences and symposiums and a folding bike was without doubt an excellent investment. Yes it looks a bit nerdy, like a gangly teenager, but it’s compact and reliable.

One recent change to my biking behaviour has been to wear a helmet all the time.

Previously, especially on a sunny day, I’d do without. I have a spectacularly handsome hairdo that makes intelligent women walk into lampposts when I cycle past so I prefer not to squish it. I also believe, as this research suggests, that if you dress like a normal person motorists take more care around you whereas if you gear up with lots of safety kit they behave like maniacs and are more likely to send you sprawling into traffic.

But Wife Features tutted and the spate of slips other cycling friends experienced during the recent ice age has made me err on the side of caution.

I see in the greater conurbations some cyclists are adding video cameras to their helmets to record the shocking behaviour of drivers.

I reckon Inverness is mostly okay for getting around by bike. There are some obvious gaps such as how the hell you get across the Raigmore Interchange and out to the retail park without taking your life in your hands. I’m also a bit unsure of the new system between Eden Court and the Ness Bridge which encourages cyclists to go against the flow of traffic in front of the Palace and Columba hotels. Any time I’ve done this I’ve been met with shocked looks from pedestrians. And motorists just seem even more intent on mowing me down.

There was a fair bit of fuss over the recent approval of plans for a major housing development at Stratton between Smithton and the retail park but for a change it was a development that seemed to have seriously considered how people get about on foot and by bike.

Donnie ‘Knobbly Carrots’ Macleod believes the area should be used for food production - an interesting idea. Which reminds me - the allotments at the end of our street are starting to take shape.

Away from biking I see the other part of my commute - the train - is the subject of some investigation. I do hope the Aberdeen-Inverness service improves, and more importantly, becomes cheaper. It’s maddening that other routes into Inverness are subsidised to reduce costs for commuters but those travelling from the Far East have to pay a premium.

I also see electioneering is on track. The other day the SNP minister for transport announced an increase in frequency of trains to and from Inverness, while the Libdem candidate going up against Fergus Ewing issued a mailshot to households expressing fury at the fact that one of the trains takes nineteen minutes longer than before.

A few extra minutes versus more frequent service. Which gets your vote?

Back to bikes and it’s usually this time of year I take mine to the shop for a service and my annual telling off. Oh yes, that’s Highland hospitality for you. The local bike shop is a marvel and the guy who runs it is a diamond geezer but pretty much any time I take one of my steeds in he rolls his eyes and tells me I really should take better care of it. Scolded, I hand over some money and promise to do better. This makes perfect sense. I am a cyclist; I am therefore a sucker for punishment.

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