Monday, 31 August 2015

Bank holiday rain and a word or two about David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries...

Bank holiday Mondays are traditionally rained off in the UK. The very phrase 'bank holiday Monday' brings to mind past days of gloom when there was nothing much to do but watch the television and look out of the window at rivulets of rain in the gutters and the occasional person wrestling with an unruly umbrella.

I knew it was going to be raining this morning and I was right. When the alarm went off at 0600hrs I just lay there listening to the news headlines without any sense of urgency – EU crisis talks on migration, the death of US horror movie director Wes Craven, Isis inflicting severe damage on an ancient temple in Palmyra and, of course, the death of neuroscientist Oliver Sacks.

Well, at least the grass is greener after a downpour...
At 0700hrs I looked out of the window to see the rain hammering down on next door's conservatory roof. There would be no cycling today, I thought. Now, sitting in my own conservatory, the rain hammering on the roof above me and the time rapidly approaching 0730hrs, I feel quite relaxed about the prospect of not riding the bike. Sometimes it's nice to just not go out, although I'd much prefer sunshine and blue skies and the prospect of a ride somewhere.

A book I've been dipping into of late is David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries. I bought a hardback copy of it back in 2011 and have been reading it here and there in between other books. Reading about his rides around Buenos Aires in Argentina makes me want to visit the city and follow in the footsteps of my grandfather, George Harry, who lived in the Argentine capital for a short while before enlisting in the army to fight in the Great War.
My hardback edition of David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries
I've referenced Byrne's Bicycle Diaries in past posts and will continue to write about it in the future as Byrne is an interesting man. I flicked to the back of the book where he discusses bikes and the fact that he doesn't like the folding bike with small wheels. Byrne rides around the cities of the world using a foldable bike and while he started off with a small-wheeled Peugeot he now rides full-sized folding bikes with some form of suspension. He talks about Montague and Dahon folding bikes with full-sized wheels, which can be folded into a large suitcase with wheels and checked in (when travelling by air) as a second piece of luggage. But I wonder if Byrne is making a rod for his own back. Surely, if he knows where he's going he can check out local bike hiring or the availability of a bike share scheme.

Avid readers of this blog will know that I've used bike share machines in Indianapolis, San Antonio, Montreal and Essen and have hired bikes from hotels in Berlin and Amsterdam. Although, to be fair to Byrne, he writes, "An alternative to all this luggage and packing is to rent a bike when you get to where you're going."

I agree with Byrne's thoughts on bicycle maintenance – that bikes with expensive gears and brakes are a constant headache. "...keeping it in tune and running smoothly was such a never-ending process that when it was eventually stolen...I didn't bother to replace it," he writes. I feel the same way about my bike, although I don't want it stolen. At the moment, however, my bike uses only eight of it's 16 gears and has a faulty front brake. I can't remember the last time everything was running smoothly. It is, as Byrne says, a constant headache.

He is also right about helmets. They are 'notoriously uncool-looking'. He's tried other headgear, such as a baseball batter's helmet and an English riding helmet (I assume he means horseriding). He's even decorated his helmets and once tied a raccoon's tail to the back.

Proof that Byrne would be more than welcomed on a NoVisibleLycra ride at any time comes with his remarks about Spandex (Lycra). Byrne prefers semi-baggy shorts with a crotch pad. "We guys have read about bikes and the prostate," he writes, claiming that 'only once in a rare while' has he ever experienced what he calls the freaky feeling of numb nuts. David, that's why I bought the Spongy Wonder bicycle saddle – it also negates the need to wear Lycra cycling shorts.

Outside the garden is wet and dripping with rain and it looks as if the rain is here to stay, at least for today. I'd planned to visit the Peaslake Fayre near Guildford and will probably still go as the British tend to 'carry on regardless' and won't let a spot of rain get in the way of Morris dancing and tug-o-war competitions. That said, plans keep changing. We might drive to the south coast, we might simply go to Croydon. Who knows what the day will bring?

No comments:

Post a Comment