Monday, January 22, 2007

Grease is the word!

This morning was not much fun. The weather was cold, the weather was windy and there was an icy drizzle all the way to work. Fortunately the traffic was light, and the heated handlebar grips made things bearable, but a lot of concentration was called for.

On almost arriving at work I turned out of Savoy Lane into Savoy Hill and it felt like I had a rear flat. The back end was snaking uncontrollably. With luck I didn't go over, but mainly because there are a lot of white vans speeding the other way most mornings so I always take that corner with care. I slowed and put my feet down to steady myself, only to discover my feet had no grip either! By this time I was alongside the bike bay in Savoy Hill so I parked up to assess the situation. A short exploration found the road back and forward for some tens of yards was covered with black oil, which on black, wet, tarmac was invisible. The oil also covered the pedestrian pavements. I got the phone out to call 999 to report the dangerous road surface, and whilst I did so, a pedestrian and a cyclist hit the deck! The Police said they would send someone to cover the spill - I did warn them that this was going to need more than a bucket of sand!

My office was only about 300 yards away so I decided to sacrifice secure underground parking, for a spot were I didn't need to ride on oil any longer! I apologise for my less than perfect parking, which took up far too much room in what at the time was an almost empty bay - but I could barely stand on the surface, never mind manoeuvre the bike!

That was at 9am. An hour later at work a colleague said he had almost come off on the same corner. There was sand down, but the surface was still unrideable. I got him to 999 it, whilst I rang Westminster and told them they needed to clean up PDQ before someone was injured.

Just after noon the Stig and I went to lunch nearby and I checked on my bike. There was one of these, and several empty drums of heavy duty degreaser.

A worker was drawing up water from a hydrant and was testing the surface as he went. I thanked him for cleaning up, but he didn't seem to appreciate my gratitude. I would have thought thanks were pretty thin doing that job!

When I left the office just before five the surface was dry, and there was no sign of any oil. If it rains overnight I probably won't be going that way just in case!

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Mitcham's not my favourite place, and to be honest, I am not sure why I went there today, but hey, it was all a bit surreal.

My ride started with a shopping trip into Sutton. Got what I wanted, and thought that as the weather was pretty good I would pop down to Burgh Heath and surprise the Stig. After we had lunch I set off home, but the A217 doesn't make that easy. From where we met you can't go North, and are forced south for about mile to the next roundabout. As the day was so good I decided to turn of the main road and double back through Kingswood and Banstead as that would be more fun. Instead of turning off I followed the road through Chipstead Bottom.

When I got to Coulsden I decided to head towards Croydon. My new job may require visits to offices there and I thought it would be worth checking out the layout as I rarely visit Croydon these days. Getting to Croydon was no trouble, but once there I found the maze of bus only and tram only roads took me away from where I wanted to be and heading for Streatham. I gave up heading to the office after several changes of course were thwarted by the road layout and instead head off towards home.

As I left Croydon I spotted a couple of fire engines up ahead. No smoke, but there were a load of firemen, a lot of water on the road, and an old building with an ancient faded advert painted on the side. It covered the whole of the side of the kebab shop where there obviously had been a fire, and said "Bryant and May matches - the smokers choice"!

From there I cut through the back streets towards Mitcham to find my way home. As I passed through Mitcham town centre, glad that so far no chav had thrown anything at me like last time I passed through, when an an old green hatchback parked by the side of the road suddenly pulled out without indicating. I took evasive action as he took off like a rocket with his engine screaming. Following at my own pace he soon disappeared from view, but I expected to catch up with him as I got to the next set of lights. When I got there I was surprised to find that he had smacked into the back of a white van!

Already the van driver and the hatchback driver were out of their vehicles. I was about to pull over and tell the van driver that although I didn't see the accident, I could give evidence that the perp had been driving fast and recklessly immediately before the accident. I soon changed my mind when he started beating the shit out of the perp - I really didn't want to break up the fight just to tell him how justified he was! Instead I kept on going, but about half a mile on I turned round. I decided they might have calmed down by now - instead when I got there both vehicles had disappeared, leaving no evidence of the crash. I didn't imagine it - they were there!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The slippery slope!

I have come to the conclusion that heated grips are like crack - it has not been that cold since they were fitted, certainly not cold enough to cause discompfort. But warm hands is so addictive the heated grips get switched on for every journey!

Talking of slippery slopes, I was very disapointed to hear that Westminster are going to charge for motorcycle parking. I am lucky to have free secure parking underneath my place of work, and only 200 yards from Trafalgar Square, but even I sometimes like to travel to other parts of the Borough.

Westminster claim it is due to over demand - they want to help us poor bikers with more spaces (although not enough) and more security (which will only serve to make using all the available space more difficult). Anyone whi visits central London can see that car parking spaces are rarely full, but the bike parks are packed. Apparently it costs £10,000 to convert once space to motorcycle use - rubbish! Just allow motorclists to use unoccupied car spaces for free like some other boroughs. That can't cost 50p!

Heated grips may be like crack, but the addiction is not as strong as the addiction London Boroughs have to stealing every penny they can from everyone who uses any sort of vehicle. Westminster is even looking at charging cyclists to leave their bikes on the street! Eventually they will charge pedestrians for walking on the pavement, and charge double if you tread on the cracks!

I am sure there will be protests, but if Westminster actually enforce this, I will simply boycott all Westminster businesses. If they want my money, they can whistle!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Back to Work

Today was the first day back after the Christmas and New Year break. Let’s skip over work – that wasn’t any fun, but the riding was great!

Despite some terrible weather over the last few weeks this morning was clear and bright, and even this evening, the little bit of drizzle was too light to affect the conditions. Riding was a joy. Although the traffic has been light and getting lighter since the first week of December, the fog and rain made it difficult to enjoy the clear roads. However, today’s commuting was almost unimpeded by cars, bliss! No doubt the traffic will build up over the week, but I will enjoy it whilst I can!

Another joy today was the present I bought with some Christmas money. Hein Gericke in Stockwell were selling Oxford Hot Grips for only £29.99. With the right gear I have always s been warm and dry on the bike, but two fingers on my right hand have always been prone to getting painfully cold, even when wearing three pairs of gloves.

At that price I had to get the grips once my local dealer, Ewell Scooter Centre, told me he would fit them for £25 if done alongside the 12,000km service booked for Friday. On Thursday I rode up to Stockwell on deserted roads to get the grips, and on Friday Ewell Scooters did a great job, as usual.

Due to illness over the weekend this morning’s start (4 Celsius) was the first test of the heated grips. They definitely work! My hands were very comfortable for the whole journey, even though I was not wearing my thickest gloves and the heated bars were only on a very low setting. I see Oxford have brought out a new version with more elegant controls, but even if they are the older type, snap them up if you can get them at the lower price. If you do any regular riding in cold weather, you won't regret it!