Thursday, March 31, 2011
British Summertime has arrived, although the very first day of it saw me cycling to the train station in pitch darkness and dense fog, at a temperature of 3°C.
Things have gradually become more cloudy (and slightly less cold) through the week, and today is the sort of grey drizzly day that has you closing the blinds in the office, and opening them a few minutes later, in the hope that the rain has buggered off, to be replaced by the sort of cheery yellow sun that adorns children's pictures of landscapes.
Which is all by the by, as the real purpose of this post is to share a bit of subvertisement from Crewe.
This is an ad for some sort of car, enhanced by a local wag/activist/irresponsible vandal with a cut out of a superhero like character exhorting the viewer to buy a bike. Good advice, if you've ever seen, or been a part of the jams on the road adjacent to the poster, and a lot cheaper than even this (allegedly modestly priced) motor vehicle.
Here's a detail;
 Albeit a typically British piece of infrastructure - just next to the poster, you rejoin traffic with the typical 300° angle of view required to observe traffic entering the road you turn into and the path ahead. Maybe it's designed for cycling owls?
For all the moaning about the weather and the design of local bike paths, I'm still riding, and beginning to feel the effects of my short commute winter less and less. The truth for a lot of us is that despite the shortcomings of infrastructure, fellow road users, and the local weather, cycling is still more fun than getting to work/the shops/Auntie Mavis' house any other way. It has to rain VERY hard for me to wish I was elsewhere.
Anyhoo, don't forget that 30 Days of Biking starts tomorrow. If you're undecided as to whether or not to participate, maybe I can persuade you?
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Last year, I participated in a fun little event called "30 Days of Biking". The essentials of this are that you pledge to ride every day of the month (in a month with 30 days in, naturally), record your rides (at the time, this happened on Daily Mile, and was one of the reasons I have an account there), and tweet/blog/flickr/whatever about them as the mood took you.
I confess, it's a fairly easy challenge to do if you ride in to work every day - as I already had a habit of riding on Sundays, I just had to figure out how to justify/fit in a ride on Saturday.
From the year I did the "Photo a Day" Challenge on film - it's like riding fixed, for photographers.
This year, 30 Days of Biking takes place in April - it's bigger, with a fair amount of social media buzz going on around it. Predictably, the naysayers have popped up too, to ask what the point is, to deride the idea that anyone *wouldn't* ride every day anyway, why it's not held in a "harder" month, and so on.
So what is the point of 30 Days of Biking?
Yellow - a shot I'd taken lots of times, in lots of formats - all you need is the weather.
Let me offer an analogy. Back when I had more time for it, I was a keen photographer, and one of the things I used to participate in was a "Photo a Day" challenge in July. Now I was purely a hobbyist, and no one was stood over me demanding my day's output - any pressure was solely self imposed. I have to confess that some days were easy - I was already at an interesting location, or I had my shot for the day planned - this building (above) for example, was a picture I'd rehearsed, and simply went back to take.
"World of My Garden" became a recurring theme on days when inspiration failed.
But the interesting days were the ones where my plans fell apart, or were non-existent to start with. And it was here that I felt the pressure of the challenge, and from that produced some of my better pictures (in my opinion, that is).
My daughter in "Why Princesses Wear Crowns" still one of my favourite pictures, and one I'd never have taken if not for the photo a day challenge.
I think that's what 30 days of biking has to offer to you - it'll be easy to ride on the days that you planned to, or do ride on already. Some of those rides may turn out better than you thought, like the planned pictures I had did (sometimes) in my photo challenge. But what will you do on the days you'd not normally ride? That recovery ride you know is a good idea, but somehow never get around to? Trying to do more errands with the bike, instead of using the car? Trying a commute, if you don't already? One day, you could point your bike in a direction, and simply see where it takes you.
In my case, I rode errands on the Brompton and released the Surly Long Haul Trucker from commuting duty to explore the local trails too rough for the SCR2.0 to handle. Generally, my experience of 30 Days of Biking was that it quickly turned a sense of having to ride (to satisfy the challenge's requirements) into having fun, exploring new places, and generally getting more out of my cycling.
If you already ride every day, your rides could inspire others, or give them some idea of what kind of things to do if they're running out of ideas. If you don't, you could find that the challenge is the inspiration you needed to try different sorts of riding, head for that trail, or that route you always wanted to, but somehow never get around to.
Friday, March 18, 2011
It was a cold day this morning (hence the shiver induced blur on the photo above) but a beautiful day.
That's the sunrise as I left Crewe at 6am ish.
We're close enough to Summer now that I don't see the sunrise on the Manchester leg of my journey, which is a good thing, it means Summer, and rides where I can still feel my toes after 40 minutes are on the way.
If I were a cycling Mr T, I'd pity the car driver that missed being on a bike on days like this.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
This review is by Kalina Wilson, who can also be found at geminica.com.
Antietam (pronounced something like an-TEE-dum) is not one of the more frequently appreciated colors of Noodler's ink, but I'm a big fan. This ink is generally described as looking "antique" or like dried blood. It caught my eye while searching for a rich, red-tinted brown, and it fits the bill very, very well.
Because the color has such strong shading, it changes a lot depending on what you're using it with - your paper and especially your pen make a huge difference. In general, the thicker it is laid on and the less absorbent your paper, the more the ink moves towards an extremely rich deep red. A lighter layer can look like rich orange or thin tomato, depending on the paper and pen. Some paper pushes it towards brown.
There's some lovely art in this review too, well worth reading further.
Friday, March 11, 2011
As m'learned friend Carlton Reid points out, "Road Tax" hasn't existed since the 1930's.
So who at Suzuki is pocketing the money? Enquiring minds, &c.
A Cluck Who's Gone To The Dogs
With the advent of March, the first of the 3 books that have consumed my every waking moment for the past several years has finally appeared on store shelves. The title in question is my inaugural foray into illustrating children's books, a handsome little read called The Trouble With Chickens. I wasn't sure whether to discuss it here, since it is a children's book and I definitely don't want children following a google search back to this completely inappropriate site. But then again, a google search will probably turn up several steamy images of my bronzed doppleganger, so perhaps this is the lesser of two evils.
Illustrator and cartoonist (you might know his work on Birthday Street, and the Superest) has illustrated a children's book. Lovely art, do take a look.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
This is a post about a pencil case. No really. If you follow this posterous/tumblr/blog for my tedious ramblings on cycling, photography and art, this may not be for you.
Nomadic are a Japanese company that makes a bewildering array of pencil cases, electronics cases and bags, with interiors that allow you to organise the stuff you're carrying to varying degrees, and according to your preference.
I've been carrying my writing stuff to work in a "pouch" style case, and latterly in the pen slots of my rather nicely designed Brompton "C" bag. On the "normal" commute, I use a Carradice saddlebag, which is brilliant, but lacks any internal organisation at all. With this bag, I use the aforementioned pouch style case, and having everything lumped in together led to some distressing scratches on my Rotring Esprit pen.
On switching back to the "normal" commute, this year, and thus the Carradice saddlebag, I figured I needed a better solution for organising things in the bag.
WHAT?The Nomadic PE-10, Closed
Nomadic's PE-10 "Tri Fold" case (sometimes called the "envelope" case) seemed like the best bet for me. Try as I might, I couldn't find a UK supplier for these (note to UK suppliers - you could CLEAN UP selling these things here, they are BRILLS) so mine is from online stationery emporium "Jet Pens".
The Nomadic PE-10, Open. Note the velcro strip down the side - the case closes VERY securely.
What appeals is the way everything can be given its own slot - no nasty scratches or fumbling about in the bag for me anymore! The case also unfolds to lie flat, so everything is ready for use and nicely organised.
In the pen slots are:
Back Row, (L-R);
Parker Jotter Mechanical Pencil (0.5mm)
Front Row (L-R);
Worther Shorty Clutch Pencil (3.15mm lead) black
Worther Shorty Clutch Pencil (3.15mm lead) blue
Why so much? Well, at least partly for redundancy, should one pack up, I can switch to another. The fountain pens are there principally for the different colour inks, which help me make sense of my to do lists (I'm naturally horrendously disorganised, and my life would fall to bits if it weren't for writing things down, and Mrs Monkey, of course).
Pressure of space means that my planner of choice (a Filofax) is in the "Pocket" size, making an "F" or "EF" nib (like that on the Lamy) essential for effective use of the page. "F" and "EF"s are a bit small and scratchy for meeting notes though, so for those I tend to use the Jotter fountain pen.
The mechanical pencils are for planner entries not quite definite enough for ink (the Jotter, mainly for this) and the others for sketching, should I get chance.
The ballpoint is for addressing envelopes, writing on "proper" ink unfriendly surfaces, and occasional "do you have a pen?" loaning - people really don't like borrowing fountain pens, I find.
Whilst there's nothing in there to set the pen afficionado's heart a flutter, they're all super reliable "workhorse" type writers, that'll start without needing a minute of scribbling on scrap paper, and not dry up in between making notes.
The pen slots aren't the whole story of the PE-10 though.
Pocket 1 - Behind the Left hand Pen Slots
Behind the left hand side pen slots is an top opening pocket that extends about 3/4 of the height of the case. I use this for spare cartridges, and "Post It" note tabs (these are fantastic little things, I use them for marking items of significance in books, diaries & planners, and as dividers in the "notes" part of my Filofax). This pocket doesn't have a closure, but I've yet to find that anything has "escaped" from here.
Pocket 2 - at the top of the middle section of the case
At the top of the middle section is a small pocket, closed by a velcro strip. This is just about large enough for a small Staedtler Rasoplast eraser, and my SanDisk USB MicroSD card reader.
Pocket 3 - behind the middle section's pen slots
Behind the middle section's pen slots is a full length "slot" type pocket - I don't keep much in here beyond a usb key and my headphones. I'd really like this pocket if it had a zip closure, and/or was wide enough for a Rhodia 11 pad (it isn't *quite* there, sadly).
The PE-10 is great - a very practical way to organise my stuff & keep it safe, and I've not had the problems others have described with losing items from the case (although all my pens have pocket clips, and I do use those to clip to the case's slots). It has the advantages of a pen or tool wrap (separating your pens so they don't scratch each other and can be organised), with an unfussy closure and some useful extras (like the pockets, and pen slots that are different sizes - Parker Jotters being slimmer than Lamy Safaris, or Worther Shortys). The material is a tough "ripstop" nylon, the stitching is nicely finished, and the overall impression is of solid build quality. Although the case isn't padded, using the "slot" pockets (and putting the right things in them) should provide a degree of protection to the pens & pencils inside when the case is closed.
For perfection? Make that middle slot pocket a smidge wider, and zipped, and get a UK/European distributor!
A NOTE ABOUT LINKS
Provided on the off chance that you're interested in the things I talk about here - I have no affiliation with the companies linked to, and will get no kickback from them if you purchase. However, I have used these companies, recieved good service, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to you.
The items I describe may not have been bought from the supplier in the link (some were bought in actual shops, many years ago, some came from eBay), but were all paid for by me long before this review was even a glimmer of thought in the back of my brainium.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
However, this is actually an example of transport planning at its most acute.
Greater Manchester's planners have foreseen the day that cycling's modal share increases to the point that such separate facilities are unnecessary (everyone will be on bicycles, after all). By the time this facility's surface has crumbled to dust, the cycling utopia guaranteed us by such foresight and wondrous facilities will have surely have arrived, meaning any money spent on maintaining it would have been senselessly wasted.
For god's sake, Don't Manchesterize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
"Now I enjoy drinking bottled watered as much as anyone who finds the idea of paying for tap water fatuous, but that didn’t stop me from finding the water bottle shaped pen utterly adorable."
I'm very taken by the echoes of the water bottle in the design too, nicely done.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Sold over here as the SMART Super Flash (in its non turbo incarnation) SMART produce a great value rear flashing light for commuters.
Very bright, with a default ON/OFF flashing pattern, and a price around £13, I love these little lights.
The idea of a TURBO version is both alluring and frightening - much more powerful and the lights will probably begin to melt seatstays. Still, read what Bike Commuters thinks of them at the link above.