Vive memor quam sis aevi brevis.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

One Hundred Years Ago...

No bike stuff today.

Today, 1 July, is the hundreth anniversary of the beginning of the Battle Of The Somme. It lasted until 18 November,  1916.

On the first day of the battle, the British army alone suffered well over 57,000 casualties.

By the end of the battle, there would be over one million killed or wounded on all sides.

So, what have we learnt?

Beaucourt Revisited
I wandered up to Beaucourt; I took the river track
And saw the lines we lived in before the Boche went back;
But Peace was now in Pottage, the front was far ahead,
The front had journeyed Eastward, and only left the dead. 

And I thought, how long we lay there, and watched across the wire,
While guns roared round the valley, and set the skies afire!
But now there are homes in Hamel and tents in the Vale of Hell,
And a camp at suicide corner, where half a regiment fell. 

The new troops follow after, and tread the land we won,
To them 'tis so much hill-side re-wrested from the Hun
We only walk with reverence this sullen mile of mud
The shell-holes hold our history, and half of them our blood. 

Here, at the head of Peche Street, 'twas death to show your face,
To me it seemed like magic to linger in the place;
For me how many spirits hung around the Kentish Caves,
But the new men see no spirits-they only see the graves. 

I found the half-dug ditches we fashioned for the fight,
We lost a score of men there-young James was killed that night,
I saw the star shells staring, I heard the bullets hail,
But the new troops pass unheeding-they never heard the tale. 

I crossed the blood red ribbon, that once was no-man's land,
I saw a misty daybreak and a creeping minute-hand;
And here the lads went over, and there was Harmsworth shot,
And here was William lying-but the new men know them not. 

And I said, "There is still the river, and still the stiff, stark trees,
To treasure here our story, but there are only these";
But under the white wood crosses the dead men answered low,
" The new men know not Beaucourt, but we are here-we know."


Monday, 27 June 2016

A Ride out in the Great Corn Desert

Not much in the way of hills, but in Illinois the wind is your hill.

Yesterday the Fox Valley Bicycle &Ski club held its Swedish Days Ride in mostly rural Kane county, west of Chicago. Like many invitational rides in recent years, it was a Fredfest, with fully half of the cyclists present turned out in full Tri kit. It was an interesting sight to behold a paceline comprised of aero-barred riders.

In attendance were not one but two World Champions:

Bet that bike's a bear in a crosswind...

A Rainbow for... which event?
(Just kidding.)

We had some rain...
It was refreshing, actually. Wish it'd lasted all day.
i believe i had the only bike that day that had mudguards... but no one wanted to sit on my slow wheel. i saw a lot of ruined jerseys.

We rode past a Buddhist temple,

i wonder if they'll be filling in that blank page there on the left.
 i'll be checking back in a month or three.

And lots of cornfields...

And soybeans...

It turned hot and windy later in the day; it started to really take it out of me, and i hobbled in as possibly the last rider on the course, where the great people who ran this ride treated me to lots of ice cream goodies and the last of the watermelon.

Many thanks to the organisers of this great ride. i look forward to returning next year, hopefully in better shape.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Why Self-driving Cars Won't Catch On

Random thoughts during this morning's ride, inspired by observation of  typical US driving habits...

i believe that the self-driving car will never be popular in the USA. Here's my short-list of reasons:

The Auto-piloted car will:

1) always drive the posted speed limit,

2) come to a complete stop at every stop sign at all times,

3) accelerate smoothly and gradually from a complete stop (no "jack-rabbit" starts,)

4) not pull sudden U-turns,

5) never drag race the auto-pilot car in the next lane,

6) never go around a lowered railroad gate.

i am convinced that no American driver will tolerate these operational conditions and limitations, especially when it comes to speed limits and stop signs.

Add to that the costs of adding reliable infrastructure and technology to major US highways and arterial roads to support/guide these vehicles. i don't have a real big picture of American taxpayers footing that bill to improve even the most important major roadways, and forget about all the rest of the country's barely driveable roads and streets.

i think we'll be looking at a modern, high-tech version of the Edsel.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Really Big Gears!

Saw this bike yesterday while on my ride:

Classic Old School speed machine!

The owner told me that it was a 68(!) tooth ring. The inner ring looked like maybe a 62, but he wasn't sure himself. i forgot to ask who built the frameset, but was told it was titanium and about 25-30 years old. The original fork was replaced with a Kestrel carbon unit. It appeared that the rear brake was fitted to an adapter mounted on cantilever studs. Given the generous clearances, i wonder if it was originally built for cyclocross?

Jacques Anquetil would be envious... T.A. rings, 225mm Bullseye crank arms. Minimal ground clearance!

The rider had just come in from riding a rather rolling circuit. Looked like he had a 13-25 freewheel mounted. i asked how he got up those hills, and he said basically that he just takes a good run at them. i couldn't imaging turning over that windmill crank at any speed under 25mph! It reminded me of pictures i'd seen of the time trialists  in the old British cycling magazines, back when road racing there almost exclusively consisted of 25 and 50 mile TTs.

The guy was probably about my age or so, meaning late middle aged. As i get older my choice of the big rings has gone from 53, to 52, to 48, down to 46T... i have a bit of envy for a fellow whose knees and leg muscles can still turn over those gears!

If i encounter this rider and machine again (and it will probably be in the parking lot as there's no way i'd catch him on the road!), i'll try to take more pics of this unique bike. If you have an idea as to its origins/builder, pass them along? Thanks! 

Monday, 13 June 2016


Last Saturday i made an attempt at a 300k rando. i've attempted that distance three times before. Only once was i able to complete the distance, but that time finished two hours over the time limit. i came to the realisation sometime around the seven and a half hour mark that i was not fit enough to face the coming hills and the rising heat. After turning around, i felt almost no pressure to make any kind of speed on the return trip, except that i really wanted to get back to Delavan before Brody Beef (-the best italian beef sandwich and fries north of the Illinois border,) closed. Didn't make it... sigh.

Still hoping to get a longer ride done sometime... the next 300 attempt will be next year. Meanwhile, i'll be content to plug away at 200's as perhaps the Slowest Randonneur in the Midwest.

Friday, 10 June 2016


Charles E. Pickett, 50, of Battle Creek, Michigan, has been charged with five counts of  Second-degree Felony Murder in the deaths of the cyclists near Kalamazoo last Tuesday evening.

In my humble opinion, it's about friggin' time a prosecutor took such incidents seriously.

We will wait to see if these charges get pleaded down. ( i have to wonder, is there such a thing as misdemeanor murder?)

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Vehicular Homicide

This Wednesday morning i awoke to the radio news reports of the carnage in Kalamazoo. A group of nine cyclists was mowed down by a man with a pickup truck. Five persons lost their lives, four more are in hospital.

Notice the nuance here: a man mowed them down, not a pickup truck, not a vehicle. The vehicle was merely a weapon and at the controls of that weapon was a man. 

Some of the reports i've read or heard state that the people were run down by a pickup truck- as if the pickup truck were an autonomous thing with its own will and beyond human control.

Some reports called this event an "accident" as if it were a fated thing beyond human involvement or prevention. This was no "accident," but homicide, if not willful murder.

As of this writing i haven't heard if any charges have been laid on the driver. We have heard that he was apprehended whilst attempting to flee the scene on foot as he had struck the people with such murderous force as to render his vehicle undrivable.

Think about that for a moment: the force and speed required to cause such extensive damage to a two-plus-ton steel and iron machine by something as soft and fragile as a human body.

As of this writing i have yet to hear if the driver, the person at the wheel, was intoxicated or suffering a physical ailment or distracted. IF charges are laid, one wonders what sort of defense this person will put up. One wonders what charges may be laid and if he is proved culpable (remember, the laws here state "innocent until proved guilty,") what fitting penalty is in order?

Other people more articulate than i have been expressing themselves over this event, and i find myself too heartsick and angry to continue much longer today.

Here are a couple of websites that may allow you to help the victims of this driver's action:

If you should have any ideas that may help bring comfort, please let me know and i'll post  them here. Thanks.