Was 'An Appropriate Bicycle' supposed to run for a limited time only? Yes it was, but it might be nice to continue something in a similar vein; musings on bikes and related paraphernalia.
I’ve been fairly active since the London to Brighton in this respect. I take specific pride in a ramble out to Chertsey I've developed; expanding on my route to Walton-on-Thames and back, I now drive onward to Chertsey, then turn back on myself and ride on through Weybridge, Hersham, Esher, and finally to Kingston.
To mix it up, I might take a different turn at the roundabout that unites Chertsey Road, Woburn Hill and St. Peter’s Way. I will select Chertsey Road/the A318, follow it as far as Byfleet, and then head east along the A245, which takes me over the A3, then through Cobham, back over the A3, before re-joining with my default path in Esher. Depending on the twist and turns – and including the roll home via Richmond I often tack on the end – it’s anywhere between 25 and 30 miles; nothing epic, but mostly free of traffic control – lots of roundabouts instead of light-administered junctions – and so I can cycle mostly unchecked. I rarely bother with rides into London town anymore, let alone Ealing or Chiswick.
I also managed a 35 miler out to Staines and Virginia Water. That was Mommersteeg's idea, although he turned up hung-over and the loop up to Windsor and back was spontaneously excised from our pre-planned route.
On the final run in, back through Sunbury, a man reclining in the passenger side of a red van – dragging behind it a speedboat – threw a plastic bottle at Mommersteeg in an act of gratuitous indignation. I tried to chase the van down – almost succeeded – but we met again at the junction where Ham High Street and Hampton Road intersect. We were told that we 'didn't own the road.' Why the driver thought we thought that we did own the road can probably be explained by his obvious contempt for cyclists first, rational explanations later. I was in a mellow kind of mood and answered back literally: I didn’t think that I owned the road. I then pointed out that he was the guy who had thrown a bottle at my colleague: ‘You’re the guy who threw the bottle at my colleague,’ I said. The guy who’d thrown the bottle at my colleague told me to 'shut up'. Mommersteeg suggested that I 'leave it', which I did, and that was that.
I've resisted any calls to arms against these types, but you can see I’ve the ammunition, should I ever I need it.
In other news, I've been inspecting long-sleeved jerseys. The Urban Cyclist recently ran a feature on autumnal apparel and I was very taken with a Santini jersey they included. They said that I could buy this remarkable vesture from Prendas Ciclismo for a mere £65. Beautiful it was, but Prendas don’t sell it, for £65 or otherwise. I managed to establish contact with the Urban Cyclist collective via their bookface account, and they conceded it was a misprint. In fact, it sets one back a penny short of £120 from a company called Fisher Outdoor Leisure, and I can’t afford that right now.
A fresh faced British company called Vulpine do a nice little Merino wool number, kind of along those minimal lines that Rapha like to lead. The ‘Alpine Jersey’ retails at £95, so still exceeds my present budget. Moreover, it appears it’s perhaps not rough and ready enough to satisfy my needs. It is referred to as ‘stylish and comfortable’ – it’s probably been featured in the Urban Cyclist at some point. I have nothing against this more relaxed approach to cycle-wear, but it’s not for me; I need gear that I can martyr myself in, which doesn’t stretch and won’t catch on the impedimenta with which I invariably fill my jersey pockets.
Sportful do a more affordable and utilitarian alternative – the ‘Pista’ – and at £50 it may well have to do. I’ve tried it on and it’s a good fit, but I’m actually thinking along the line of arm-warmers as well now, for these will allow me to continue utilising my short-sleeved jerseys throughout the winter.
I ended up selling my Solo Heuvel jersey at a small profit and buying an original mid 1990s ONCE jersey with the proceeds. ONCE were a Spanish team founded in 1989, who slowly metamorphosed into Astana, by way of Deutsche Bank, Eroski, Liberty Siguros and Würth (don’t ask me). ONCE actually stands for Organización Nacional de Ciegos Españoles, meaning the National Organization of Spanish Blind People. I think I have the 1994-1997 version, made by the Spanish sportswear manufacturer Etxe-Ondo and co-sponsored by Look (the make of bikes Team-ONCE rode) and Macario (no idea). Mavic, as opposed to Macario, had their name on the jersey before 1994, and after 1997 their kit was made by Castelli and their bikes by Giant. Because ONCE’s team colours were predominantly yellow they wore a pink version during the Tour de France, but I have the yellow and black designation, worn for their three consecutive triumphs in the Vuelta a España and a number of Spring Classics besides.
I’ve also added to my collection an all-green vintage jersey with faded lettering across its front and back spelling ‘Cassa Rurale Ed Artigiana Popolare Palm-Mont’. I have no idea what that means but it looks and sounds good, and it only cost a tenner.
I’ve got my eye on a Caja Rural jersey too, because I would quite like a contemporary jersey and Caja Rural’s top is by far the pick of the modern-day crop. If I do end up with that then I will own a total of five jerseys (long-sleeves don’t count), in complete contradiction to the Trinity Theory of Jerseys that I’ve been proposing. Oh well.
Finally, I’d like to say a word about this year’s Tour of Britain. Last year’s Tour of Britain felt a little bit cheap and nasty; it really suffered in comparison with the Vuelta a España that preceded it. This year’s Vuelta was cracking, but after the predictably pedestrian first few rain-soaked stages the 2013 Tour of Britain exploded into life on the fourth leg, from Stoke-on-Trent to Llanberis. The stages that followed were good too, especially Stage 6 from Sidmouth to Haytor – and that’s not just by Devonshire bias speaking.
I managed to spectate at two of the Tour’s stages: a few members of Team Carlos-Weltschmerz and I saw them pass through Dorking on the Saturday, and then on Sunday my colleague accompanied me to watch the riders lapping incessantly around central London. It was a lot of fun.
Bradley Wiggins was victorious overall, although it’s not considered a particularly prestigious title. However, after a troubled year it would have done his confidence a world of good, and perhaps helped him in securing second place in the time trial at this year’s World Championships. That was an impressive showing, all things considered, and it was more the imperious of form of the German Tony Martin that sealed the deal, as opposed to Wiggins getting his game-plan wrong. And then there followed the road face, which went badly for Team GB, although nobody is quite clear as to why.
Which sort of brings the cycling season to a close…