March 9th - I passed through Lichfield on a bright, warm, sunny Sunday afternoon, and the place was bustling. People were queueing for ice creams, browsing in the shops and just taking the air. It was an absolute joy to be there.
Interestingly, there were a huge number of bikes around the city - people really seem to be increasingly turning to bicycles these days for leisure trips at least.
A fine thing to see that lifted my spirits.
February 3rd - I was in Leicester for an important meeting, but the travel gods were not favouring me. I left with good time to spare, but a bastard of a headwind made me just miss my train; a frantic Clockwise-esque fiasco ensued. I got to Leicester, and had to head to the outskirts of the city. I took a wrong turning. I found myself battling the headwind again. I arrived with just minutes to spare.
The person I was due to meet was running an hour late, so at least I had time to freshen up. Thankfully, the journey home was less eventful, and with an assisting wind.
At Leicester railway station, apropos of nothing, an apparently abandoned table tennis table. No, I haven’t a clue, either.
Nice to see Notwork Fail have actually recognised the shortage of bike parking here and stopped getting shirty with people chaining their steed to the railings. So good to see so many bikes.
22nd January - In Birmingham, I was intrigued by this venerable old Claud Butler well locked up outside Moor Street station. When this was new it would have been a very expensive bike indeed - the brand was considered the Rolls Royce of bikes back when I was a lad, but not so much now. This seems fairly true to the original, too; down tube shifters, tight angled quill stem, lugged steel 501 frame and cotterless cranks.
This is clearly a favourite ride for someone, and looks like a well loved and well ridden steed. It’s also a remnant of a great cycling tradition.
December 1st - I swung past St. James Church in Brownhills to check a couple of things out, and taking the path between Great Charles Street and the Church, I noticed how much litter and leaf detritus was gathering there. I’m not sure who’s responsible for this path - whether it’s Walsall Council or the Church - but it’s pretty grim.
I also noticed that in the fantastic covered bike shed in the adjacent schoolyard, two children’s bikes had been left. It struck me as being a bit odd, and slightly sad: who’d go to school on a bike, and not come home on it? Surely the wee ones are missing their wheels?
Few things sadder than an abandoned bicycle.
November 26th - I spotted this curious bike as I passed the bike stands at New Street Station. It’s an unusual thing, to be sure. I’d say it’s a late 70s or early 80s knockoff Chopper; all the ingredients are there; small front wheel, three speed with central car-style stick shift, ape hanger bars and big banana saddle. This is clearly not a real Chopper, and has a single front hub brake, and a curious fork with decorative springs to mimic suspension, possibly aping the Cinzia Cricket, another odd, chopper-like bike of the period. This thing must weigh heavily, and the gears are broken, but it’s clearly someone’s loved getabout. It’s the kind of thing one might be lucky to find at a boot sale or house clearance, and is obviously original.
I’d love to know more about it if any bike wonks are reading this?
September 27th - Returning to Birmingham from the somewhat disappointing Cycle Show at the NEC, I was reminded whilst walking a relatively short distance through the city centre that there really is a cycling boom going on; you’d never have seen cycles in such numbers around the place as you do now. And these are real machines, as opposed to the pristine new stuff that I’d seen that morning. Bikes of all ages, types and sizes, from BMX to fixies, all carrying the patina of their owners - the stickers, modifications, adjustments and dirt that go to making a bike your very own.
It’s good to see.
May 7th - Ach, the sadness of things. This elderly bike - a GT - isn’t a bad steed, but is in poor condition. I noticed it this morning leaning forlornly against the bike racks at Blake Street station. The rear mechanism hanger had sheared, and something looks like it has smashed in the derailleur. The bike had clearly been abandoned for the train. Sad.
That ruined someone’s day, I bet.
April 24th - It never ceases to amaze me, the state of bikes some people ride. But this is also an argument about rubbish components.
This is a Real ladies step through (Real is a brand unique to Halfords) - a cheap, functional, popular utility bike. It’s mostly OK quality, like the majority of Halfords cycles, but the brakes are rubbish. V-brakes like this crept in on cheap bikes about 10 years ago, and replaced superior cantilever versions. They replaced them not because they offer mechanical or user benefits, but because they’re much easier to fit in production. They are a benefit not to the customer, but to the manufacturer. To put it bluntly, unless you’ve got a really good, high end set, they’re shit.
Their ease of assembly tends to make them likely to disassemble, as the arms and cable pop apart easily when snagged - for instance when getting on and off a train.
The chap(!) riding this bike - spotted on a morning train into Birmingham - is riding with no front brake, and has been for a while. I’ve seen him a few times, and doesn’t seem bothered about it.
I wouldn’t dream of riding a bike without a decent braking system… mystifying.
March 2nd - Erdington Bike Jumble. A regular fixture every year - loads of buried treasure and junk, and the chance to meet old friends and acquaintances and shoot the breeze. Most of the cycling tribes are here - tourers, city cyclists, vintage buffs, fixie kids, even bike polo guys. Busier than ever before, it was nice to see lots of youngsters here for a change, and it’s also nice to check out other folk’s steeds. I was particularly taken with the lovely refurb of the Carlton, parked out front.
February 20th - An interesting bike spotted on the way to work. Think there’s a bit of a hipster thing going on here - an aluminium road bike frame, carbon-looking forks, titchy short flat bars, and oddly, full derailleur gears. The frame colour wasn’t original and looked to be a good quality powder coat. The rider had good tyres, with no guards and it looked well loved.
An interesting steed. I would have liked to have chatted to the owner, but he was talking on his phone. I love what some people do with otherwise ordinary bikes, to make them their own.
February 12th - Lunchtime, just in front of New Street Station in Birmingham. I keep seeing this lady and her pastel blue Dawes step-trrough framed bike. The front basket (only just visible in this hurried shot) is always full of shopping.
That’s some rake on those forks. Bet it’s a nice bike to ride.
January 16th - Other people’s bicycles. As I came out of New Street Station this morning, stamping and puffing in the cold whilst waiting for the lights, my gaze turned to the crush railings on the junction. I don’t normally see bikes chained here for some reason, but today, there were two - both nice steeds. A minimalist, no nonsense, Carlton-based homebrew fixie, with beautiful Brooks saddle, and also a veritable behemoth of a tourer. The tourer put me in mind of a Dutch roadster, but had derailleur gears, cantilever brakes and the frame wasn’t right - although the dutch lock and improvised loop to the similar Brooks bum-comforter did make me wonder if the two owners were connected. I found the butterfly handlebars - the cycling equivalent of ape hangers - made for a monster cockpit. Both bikes were clearly well loved and ridden. When I returned 8 hours later, the Carlton had gone, so I guess the owners weren’t together, after all. Interesting steeds.
December 8th - I was stuck in doing paperwork most of the day, but skipped out late to do some shopping and take the air. Stopping at the dreaded Tesco in Brownhills for my fix of posh doughnuts, I noted I wasn’t the only occupant of the bike rack. There was a rather fine Mongoose hybrid parked up, with traditional Caradice long flap saddlebag and a rather splendid Brooks B33 fully sprung saddle. Man, that thing is the equivalent of a sofa. That really is being kind to your bum. Whoever owns this steed is very fond of it and loves traditional British cycling gear. And to whoever they are, I doff my hat… Chapeau, sir!
September 9th - I’d attended the Bandstand Marathon event in Walsall Arboretum, and had a great time. What made the occasion wonderful was it’s relaxed nature, with people drifting in and out and from place to place within Walsall Arboretum as the mood took them. Also wonderful was the fact that bikes were allowed. This led to a good bit of bike watching on my part, as I always welcome the chance to eye up another rider’s steed. It was late in the afternoon when I spotted this fine tandem. I didn’t get to see who owned it, but what a fine thing it is… there simply aren’t enough tandems being ridden these days.