It's October and this morning it was 5 degrees Celcius. Yesterday it was 1.7 degrees. My full finger fleece gloves are beginning to make their reappearance as my full finger mesh gloves bow out. Last week I arrived home with several fingers turning white, and I decided that just wasn't on. If I had a coal fire in the house I would probably be poking it this evening; in its stead I'm poking this blog.
Back in April I was busy leading a bike ride from Perth to Dundee, along the south shore of the River Tay. I'd been to Perth a few times before for work, even cycled a tiny bit there, and back in the early days of Laid Back Bikes and our weekend tour to Rannoch Station I cycled a tiny bit in Dundee, but not so much that I was terribly clued up on routes. The plan had been to take my P-38 because of the distance; I was in London for work in March—the week after my last entry, in fact—with my Brompton in tow: another story entirely, when over three days I covered about 60 or 70 miles, and that was enough for me on a regular bike saddle. The only problem was that my cheapskate in-no-hurry approach to booking train tickets included having dinner in Dundee before catching the train. And the more I looked at Open Cycle Map, Streetview and pored over search results for places to eat, the more I realised that taking an expensive touring bike to a strange faraway city and locking it up somewhere anonymous wasn't that great a plan. It seemed that bike parking was practically limited to a bunch of poorly installed, poorly sited, imitation Sheffield stands outside the railway station, and that was sufficient reason for me to take my Brompton to Perth instead.
It rained a bit as we left Perth, past the prison and through an industrial area, brightened up as we left the main roads to go sightseeing, then drizzled. Further on, it began to rain, and then rain even more. By halfway we were huddled inside a bus shelter waiting for the rain to die down. Much further on, towards Newburgh and Wormit the sun came out! And for the final two miles across the Tay we freewheeled down the central cycle lane of the bridge. The northern end of the path was a great big lift, plenty big enough for anything other than a tandem or a monstrous American recumbent, and we quickly found ourselves outside the railway station. Going for a meal in the nearby multiplex-cum-leisure facility was straightforward with the bike folded in a corner, but there were bike racks outside that might, just, have been adequate.
Before long I was back in Edinburgh, back home and missing my recumbent's creature comforts terribly. And no wonder: I think the day's total distance was about 45 miles, two-thirds of doing Pedal for Scotland without any toughening exercises.
Pedal on Parliament came along at the end of April. A rolling stone gathers no moss, they say, but POP28 was certainly rolling, and gathering moss as though it was going out of fashion. What started out as an observation became an idea for a demonstration to parallel one in London and another in Italy. It became a mass bike ride followed by a demonstration, and as a few more people joined the core group it became several mini-mass bike rides followed by a mass bike ride followed by a demonstration.
'How many do you think will turn up?', Lothian & Borders' finest asked.
'We don't know how popular it'll be, but we think two or three hundred. No-one's really done this before.'
'Well then, we'll probably look to arrange support for up to a thousand. Junction controls, light phasing, and there's a demonstration earlier that day that you'll want to avoid. You should consider starting an hour later in the afternoon.'
Little did they know that the thick end of three thousand people would turn up on bikes. Not just bog standard town bikes but every kind of bike, and every kind of person. Lycra, tweed, fluorescent yellow, stealth black, people wearing hats and gloves, people with helmets, a little girl dressed as a lobster. Bikes with trailers, recumbent bikes, trikes, unicycles, Moultons, Bromptons, mountain bikes, tourers. Retired people, middle aged people, young people, Mums and Dads, children. And an environment in which the road was so comprehensively claimed by weight of numbers and good spirits that one little boy rode his wooden balance bike all the way from the Meadows to the Parliament.
The politicians were slightly taken aback by the theme of the event and the show of feeling: time to stop marginalising people who ride bikes, time to start spending some money. To give some perspective, while Edinburgh filled with 3000 cyclists, London filled with 10,000 and Rome filled with 50,000.
The next month I led another bike ride, this time on the west coast, exploring another area I hadn't visited before. And this time the Rain Goddess was left high and dry. As a matter of fact, as I luxuriated on my P-38 for 30 miles I was quietly burning up. 'Sun cream? In the middle of May? I think you overestimate my chances.' It was a lengthening of a ride suggested in my book, "21 one-day routes in Central Scotland", which I bought while scouting around for ideas for a summer tour a few years ago. For the most part it was fairly unremarkable, actually, following National Cycle Route 7 to Johnstone along a converted railway line, then branching north-west along another old railway line. We ate our picnic on an old railway viaduct, and then carried on to the industrial centre of Greenock and finishing up at Gourock railway station, just next to the terminal for the ferry to Dunoon.
We arrived at the station with mere minutes to spare as a train was waiting at the platform. Piling on and shoehorning our bikes in, herringbone-style, we dropped into our seats and sped back to Glasgow Central.
Sometime between May and last month, my bike's front brake started squealing now and again. I couldn't be bothered doing anything about it this time. The back brake was ready for new pads anyway and Kool Stop's salmon went in. To tell the truth, I'm not sure I can really tell the difference between them and the ordinary black ones.
Also sometime before the summer, Speedy, whose long-awaited swansong was Pedal on Parliament, finally went to a new owner. Then of all the coincidences, not a week later the original owner got in touch with me, having been wondering of its whereabouts over the last nine years. So the girl who thought it ridiculous and madness to own two recumbents, and had managed to acquire four, and whittled the stable down to three—'a nice round number'—was finally back to two. The supreme tidiness of my little P-38, matched by the sheer bulk and unwieldiness of the monstrous bike, and coupled with a Brompton that is on loan at the moment (if not actually being used for anything so drastic as riding, and rather unobtrusively occupying two square feet of floor space) and a mountain bike that, still wearing its beastly studded tyres, is quietly waiting for the snow, means that I am sitting comfortably for once.