Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Digression, but why cycling?

Long story, my father and grandfather used to run a newsagent's in Newcastle and maintained a fleet of bikes for the paper boys to make deliveries on. Nothing too special but hard working porteur style bikes with big front racks for carrying the loads, leather saddles, (one had a board in the frame triangle advertising tobacco). I remember being very young and wanting to ride that bike and even though the top tube was above my head I would occasionally scoot around on it when no-one was looking.

Grandad showed me how to repair punctures with vulcanising patches and would let me hold
tools and help repair them. I enjoyed getting dirty and learning to use a spanner.

I read a lot as a kid and would often visit my local library and once I had saved up and got my Speedwell, I'd ride to the library and more often than not borrow books on bicycles. These books had a big influence on me.

A couple of my favorites were "Richard's Bicycle Book" by Richard Ballentine, and Robin Adshead's "Bikepacking for beginners" which informed my purchase of the Apollo III.

Ballentine's book is a classic and I still enjoy reading through bits. It takes me back. I found/find the maintenance section very useful and he also had good advice about dogs and avoiding collisions. Most of all I was apalled at his account of the 1972 destruction of bicycles in Paris by riot police. My humble Speedwell meant alot to me and someone smashing it up was unthinkable.

Adshead's Bikepacking was something altogether different and I guess philosophically the two authors couldn't really be further apart. Ballentine was a bohemian idealist while Adshead, an ex Gurhka was more conservative and pragmatic. Nevertheless they were united in my mind as they both loved cycling, and promoted it in a way that involved your entire lifestyle.

Robin Adshead detailed construction and fettling of his beautiful custom Jack Taylor touring bike. Even though it was reproduced in black and white photographs I knew that this was the style of bike for me. Adshead, introduced me to fenders, padded handlebars and the formula for gearing calculations that would inform my preference for bikes for the next 30 or so years.

So, I'm a little bit retro, maybe even a bit indiosyncratic. I like lugs and fenders, leather saddles a-and a comfortable trail. Exploring the web and finding the likes of Rivendell Bike Works, Heron and many others, means I'm not alone.


Anonymous said...

This was the book that got me interested in extending the bicycles capabilities,adding a pannier rack and bags meant freedom from conformity,and the boundaries of distance achievable were broadened the inclusion of a solo tent and lightweight sleeping bag opened up a whole new index of possibilities, i will be eternally grateful for such a captivating read, R.I.P. mr adshead on you next adventure.

taffer said...

Actually got this book some weeks ago, after having met Robin in a photography board in 2004 and enjoying inmensely some conversations over the email about our common passion until his unexpected departure. Little would I know that I'd be getting the book 6 years after that moment, just when my interest in cycle touring arised from another source, and that I would find exactly the kind of contents that I could only dream on. As MacMan says, another reason to be eternally grateful, wherever you are enjoy the ride Robin.