Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Cruiser II

It's that time of year again; the dreaded Crimbo.

Last year a bunch of us met up on Christmas Day to have a wee ride around the city on the one day of the year it's practically free from traffic. It turned out to be a great success and was probably the most fun I've had any Christmas in living memory.

So... if you fancy getting out of the house for a bit on Tuesday why not come and join us. Bring a bottle of wine or a flask of tea, some nibbles, lots of warm clothes, and maybe some nice clothes to dress Dublins statues up in like we did last year... check the photos here.

I guess we could meet at the IFSC again, around the Famine Statues, and take it from there.
11 am-ish? Let me know and I'll spread the word.

Race report from 25

Twas in Berlin it all happened. I was there for a week in October to visit Gar. He was putting his third annual Monopoly Alleycat. Freisin the Hallowe'en Alleycat was going on so many birds with the one stone. I arrived in Berlin on the Saturday and rolled up to the start-point, a long bridge over some train-track junction. So, new city, wrong side of the road, cycling a bike thats not my own, i was hungover, it was dark and it had just started raining.. racing, hmmm.. but the usual, get out there rollin and you're fine once you've warmed up. Monopoly Alleycats are a great idea.. there's not one definite route, you're on your own but pass people all the time, you're in and out of bars and cafes, there's chance involved and it's another timed race in that you've got an hour and a half, say, to do what you can. Perfect format.

It is tricky to organize mind, lots of working out of checkpoints, you do need a lot of marshalls, paper, dice etc.. but it all came together. Twas indeed a cold enough night but ideal for a racing.. We got about 17 racers all in. Pleasantly surprised to see a good few non-messengers out.. I was kinda waiting for that to happen in Dublin, it opens up the thing more.

I did a checkpoint with Ben and we sat about with a can or two. Punters came and went. So did we after the hour and a half. Crowd is right up in GB Shaws. Shane in there was good and gave us space out the back for the prize-giving. They were keen on the Goldsprints but alas it wasn't to be.. Next time we can squeeze them in there though, good venue methinks.

Prize-giving was great. Took over the smoking area, standing on tables shouting and drinking.. my favourite. Results were

1. Lally
2. Lola and Mimi
3. Cliffy

4. Lukas
5. Ed

Had a Chrome bag from Berlin so that went to Lally. Cliffy in CycleLogical was good and gave me stuff for the girl and the fixi prizes. T-shirts, hoodees, lunches in Gruel, boxes of tea(most Irish name, Seamus O Leprachaun/ 12Tony) and a steak (Alan for doing most press-ups at a checkpoint, 50).. Altogether mighty.. We drank poitin from Tamak, then more Guinness..

Thanks indeed to all the checkpoints(Natasha at Friends Cafe), the Marshalls, idea came from Gar. Good luck in England Mimi, sure you know where we are. And thanks to the racers If you do a race, I'll come and race it... and I can't wait.

Final thing that must be mentioned. The Christmas Alleycat was always a particular race, that of 5Ciaran, who died around this time in 2004. He is the guy we all must remember at this time and this race goes to him


Nollaig Shona agaibh go leir

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Some useful numbers

Tired of that fucker on the Green that always parks in the bike lane? Reduced to a gibbering mess by the twat that tried to run you off the road?
If you feel you'd like to try something different why not stick these numbers into your phone and abuse them to your hearts content? I think I'd spend more time on the phone than actually riding my bike, but maybe a lot of nuisance calls will make these people realise a portion of what we have to deal with on a daily basis:

Incidents: Garda 'Traffic Watch' service (note, not my inverted commas): 1890 205 805

Joy of joys: The Clampers: 01 6022500 or 01 6390742


Race Report from Cliffy

Results will be up soon. Here's Cliffy's take on the event:

Most fun race since sean's last race, or my first one, whichever was more recent.

To start. pretty busy week, two 40s then 3 50s, really nice weather, great riding weather, pretty much the best week in work since 2006. so to race or not to race? no commitments, i'll help if there's not enough checkpointers, but since when has that been a problem in
dublin? eh... about 3 or 4 years maybe? so many couriers here want to checkpoint i think they (we) all harbour secret cross dressing/secretary re-enactment fantasies. so i raced as sean had
about 50 million people doing checkpoint duty, thank god, cause it meant i could drink and ride my bike. no groups causing problems with pedestrians or (god bless em) cars, we all separated soon as sean surprisingly said go (after standing in the cold for two hours),
myself on the way to dice bar from christchurch, easy as pie, real nice trip down the quays, down to a warm reception from early drinkers, not just chris and other fella doing c/p duties there, got
some roll, some points, off to somewhere else, can't remember. so the rest of the race passed in an hour and twenty minutes blur (last ten minutes = hell on wheels) with a huge amount of fun and good and bad luck. great luck with cars and pedestrians, the most welll mannered traffic i've seen in an alleycat since ever? no problems, which amazes me since i've never been up and down the quays so many times in such a short space of time at full pelt, all clear apart from the odd scraped wheel well. so on to pretty much every c/p, well distributed close enough to christchurch, i visited jail twice from the dice bar, had to ask for drink there the first time, second time they were prepared, nicely, free flowing red wine, thanks munyi!. last ten minutes hurt pretty bad, but a perfect length for a race altogether, ten minutes of pain after 1.20 of pure
effort = worth it. checkpoints = fun every single one, bars, great, distribution, great, tasks, great, cards, great...

i'm trying to think how i would have done it better but i couldn't think of even doing it half as good as this. so on to finish and everyone and their grandmother/dog is at the george bernard shaw where of course there is a grace period of an hour's drinking time before the results get announced. lucas from enniskerry shows off his newly mobile hip, nice to see him out and about, lucas from another country achieves fourth place, congratulations! i get third, yippee! mimi and lola pull off second in mimi's final appearance in dublin = fantastic! and lally out races and out classes everyone to win the christmas monopoly alleycat 2007... maith an fear!

In total: great night, super well organised, thanks to sean and each
checkpoint: hope we can repay the favour sometime, this is what it's
about folks.

see yis on the road - john/cliffy/dublin

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

They finally beat me...

...after so long, and so much effort, they finally beat me. the conscientious courier died today. We hope to see him back in the New Year.

After so many years on the bike I have learned to keep myself calm; kinda hare and the tortoise stuff. Some couriers dash around as if their lives depended on the job, while at the same time putting their lives at risk. I used to be like that, but after a few years at it my attitude changed. 2 euro really isn't worth it any more...

I've always tried to treat other road users like I wanted to be treated. I don't break the lights at dodgy junctions. I always give pedestrians the right of way when I'm breaking a safe junction. I indicate when I'm going to turn in front of a car. Generally I try to be as invisible as possible during the day. I may do a few less jobs than some other people, but i go home feeling like I haven't added to the bad reputation we already have.

But today I had enough. It's taken a few days, but finally I broke.

It began last week when I noticed I was screaming the word 'cunt' at the top of my lungs far more frequently than I normally would, in fact far more than i think I ever have in my life! This came from numerous near misses from non-looking pedestrians, door-openings and 2 articulated lorries that didn't think i was traffic and turned at full speed in front of me. The thing that draws all these incidents together is that I had the right of way on all occassions, and the offenders were genuinely confused as to why I was getting upset.

So it continued through Thursday and Friday. And on Friday we forget everything. We have a few beers and laugh it all off. Sure they're the stories of the week. The near misses and close calls. But I'm sick of them.

Sunday afternoon I was going to the cinema when a 'dude' stepped into the bike lane and knocked me into a car. My thigh took the wing mirror of the car. Adrenaline pumping, I leapt from the ground and confronted the guy, to be shouted down with 'that was your fault, that was your fault'. I tried to understand how it was my fault that he stepped from the path into the bike lane knoocking me off my bike, but really couldn't see his point of view. With this in mind I told him and the driver to stay put whie I phoned the police, as I wanted this prick to pay for the guys wingmirror. As soon as I started dialling, the asshole pedestrian and the driver both took off like wanted criminals! (So I went to see the Golden Compass anyway and was pretty disappointed, it was way too rushed). When I got out of the cinema I could barely bend my leg or ride home and subsuquently had to take 2 of the busiest days of the year off work to let it heal.

Today... well nothing in particular today, but the usual catalogue that the conscientious courier goes through. Door-openings, cut-offs, people on phones... it goes on and on.

Finally after lunch i couldn't take it any more, I decided that they had won. No matter how hard I've tried, I'm always wrong. Nobody notices the 100 times a day I stop to let people pass, swerve out of the way of their door, slow down to let them cross, they only notice that I'm in their way, that I'm holding them up, that I shouldn't be there.

I'm used to being treated like shit as a courier, like I don't exist, like I'm invisble to receptionists, drivers and pedestrians alike, but somehow Christmas takes the biscuit and this year they've finally managed to grind me down.

So this afternoon I became what they wanted me to be, what they expected me to be. Fuck them. The conscientious courier died. I didn't wait for pedestrians, I cut in front of cars and busses, I broke dangerous intersections, and I was angry. They'd won, they'd made me what I'd tried so hard not be; "that asshole courier with no respect''. And guess what? It wasn't fun. I finished work with a grimace and a weight on my shoulders. I don't like this person and I don't want to be this person.

The only thing I can say for sure is that this is a christmas courier. A 'Bad Santa' kind of courier. I know he'll go away in the New Year and I'll be glad to see the back of him. but right now I don't know what else to do, he seems to be the only way of getting through this mess we call Christmas.

So beware, the conscientious courier has gone away now, and won't be back for a while. Right now I'm just another asshole.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Crap bikes, why do they bother?

Nice article from Matt Seaton in the Guardian today:

My first, autodidactic lessons in bicycle maintenance were not happy occasions. One issue, granted, was not having the right tools. Using a pair of rusty pliers from my dad's motley collection at the back of the garage, I would try to manipulate the locknut after fitting a new brake cable. First, I nicely rounded the edges of the nut, which seemed to be made of a metal only slightly harder than marzipan. Then, since to get a grip on the nut to tighten it I now had to use all my strength, the bolt simply sheared off - leaving its broken end snug in the thus completely unserviceable brake caliper.

The real problem, of course, was not the lack of a full set of bike-specific spanners, but having a bike with such cheap and ill-manufactured parts that it defied efforts to maintain it. There is a reason you see people on crummy bikes riding around with gears and brakes that don't work, and it's not indigence, slothfulness or incompetence on their part. These are bikes you cannot mend yourself; take them into a shop and any self-respecting mechanic will most likely refuse to fix them too. So you might as well ride your semi-functional piece of scrap around until it fails completely or - better luck - some misguided or desperate person steals it and relieves you of the aggravation.

Like as not, untold millions of these hopelessly inadequate bike-simulacra are filling space in people's sheds, garages and lofts. Unloved, neglected, no longer working, but too substantial-seeming to throw out. Britain is not, pace Napoleon, a nation of shopkeepers, but a nation of crap bicycle-keepers. You think "millions" an exaggeration? According to the UK industry body the Bicycle Association, we bought 4.5m bikes in 2004 (the last year for which figures are available). How many of these would you bet on being still roadworthy?

I say "bikes"; in reality, we are talking of the dreaded "bicycle-shaped object", or BSO. As trade webzine Bikebiz points out, Mintel research in 2001 found that the average price of an adult bicycle was £107 - which, despite EU anti-dumping rules against cheap Chinese and Vietnamese imports being in force since 2000, is likely to be as low as £80 now. Although there is plenty of research that shows how, say, bicycle theft or the perception that roads are unsafe deters people from cycling, I have never come across any about how truly trashy hardware puts them off. Yet I am convinced that the BSO is one of the great menaces of our age.

It would be easy to blame the big chains such as Halfords for inflicting it on the British public, but that's too easy. For one thing, its 400-plus stores account for only a quarter of the market; independent bike dealers represent a third - the majority of which sell their fair share of BSOs. And Halfords' internal franchise Bikehut now stocks "real" bicycle-shaped bicycles, with high-end brands such as Boardman, Van Nicholas and Condor.

Who is the culprit, then? Unfortunately, it is us, the consumers. When we shop for flatscreen TVs, game consoles and MP3 players, we pay hundreds and rightly expect excellence. But, when we're buying a bike, somehow our mentality morphs into one that delights in buying a "bargain" lot of nylon knickers at a street market stall.

Perhaps, all too often, it's because we're buying for our kids and we figure they won't know the difference. But they soon will. What we need to remember is that a bicycle is not just for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ivan Illich

Austrian Philospher and social critic. He liked bikes:


A century ago, the ball-bearing was invented. It reduced the coefficient of friction by a factor of a thousand. By applying a well-calibrated ball-bearing between two Neolithic millstones, a man could now grind in a day what took his ancestors a week. The ball-bearing also made possible the bicycle, allowing the wheel---probably the last of the great Neolithic inventions---finally to become useful for self-powered mobility.

Man, unaided by any tool, gets around quite efficiently. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer in ten minutes by expending 0.75 calories. Man on his feet is thermodynamically more efficient than any motorized vehicle and most animals. For his weight, he performs more work in locomotion than rats or oxen, less than horses or sturgeon. At this rate of efficiency man settled the world and made its history. At this rate peasant societies spend less than 5 per cent and nomads less than 8 per cent of their respective social time budgets outside the home or the encampment.

Man on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than the pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only 0.15 calories. The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man's metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well.

Taken from his 1973 book Energy and Equity

Read the full quote here.

And check his wiki here.

Vicky Pendleton

A personal hero of mine in the last year or so.

She came from nowhere, she's young, she's a woman in a male dominated sport, and she would kick all our asses with a smile on her face. Having watched this girl race quite a lot in the last year I'm constantly amazed. Track riding, sprints in particular, is in a lot of ways a power sport, and with the men in particular, like tennis, doesn't always rely as much on skill as raw power. As with tennis it is becoming more and more the case that it is far more entertaining to watch the women compete, as the slight lack of pure power makes for a far more interesting tactical and psychological struggle.

Victoria Pendleton has become a master of this, and she will be the first to admit that she is not a natural sprinter, yet is practically unbeatable in the world right now. I think we can all learn something from the dedication and the application of people like this, not just in our working/cycling lives, but in our lives in general.
Ok, gushing over, check out her personal website here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I wonder if fix-pushing is bad for your knees?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Xmas Alleycat

As promised, here we go with the details for the Xmas Alleycat:

25Sean is organising, so you know it has the mark of quality. Afterparty to be in Bernard Shaws, also a quality venue. We were hoping to have goldsprints running for this, but technical schmozzle will probably prevent this from taking place, so I guess you'll all have to just get shit-faced instead!

The alleycat is a Monopoly themed race. There will be 1 1/2 hours to collect as much moolah as possible, but be careful not to get sent to jail! Sean was in Berlin for Gar's Prenzlopoly, it's been running for a few years and is a huge crowd-pleaser, so come prepared to have fun.

See you there!

It's art, get it?

Remember my post about A Toronto-based Irish designer who'd out together a sick Colnago pursuit bike? Of course not... well look at it here. Turns out that the bike received a certain amount of ridicule in certain sections of the cycling community.

The snobbishness knows no bounds, sometimes I don't know what's worse, the hipster 'thing' (which I'm so over anyway) or the bike riders who are oh-so-precious about their private little world of cycling.

Anyhoo... check out BikeSnobNYC's little piece about it here, and in particular the comments afterwards, it makes for some humourous reading.

Here are some of Eoin's comments on it all:

Good to see he has a sense of houmour about it as well.

Anyway, this is all a preamble... so Eoin got in touch. He's coming back to Dublin next week for a month and is thinking about doing a show with some messenger bikes. Would be nice methinks. Anyone with any interest feel free to slip a note into my back pocket as you're passing me on the street. Alternatively you could mail us at the above address, ya know?

The Bike Show

Can't get enough of bike chatter? Want something to lull you to sleep at night? something to listen to on your i-gizmo in work? Well, look no further than The Bike Show, a podcast from Resonance FM. Check it here.
Also found a quirky blog from Copenhagen:

Check it here for some imporant fashion tips.

Also... alleycat Friday. News to follow...
And will someone please write some content for this thing... I'm going to change the name to Graham the Messenger or somesuch soon.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Fucking car doors

Probably a messengers worst nightmare. Certainly one of mine.

I have a beautiful scar on my right shoulder from about 5 years ago when a nurse (yes, nurse) opened a door on me on College Green. My bars hit the door and threw me shoulder first into the edge of it. My shoulder then dutifully acted as a lever and somersaulted me over the car where I landed on my back in some considerable amount of discomfort.

The nurse gigglingy informed me that I'd be fine, and gave me her phone number(saucy). When I got home and peeled off my clothing I was amazed to find that I could see right in to my shoulder! Like a true messenger I decided I didn't need to go to hospital and that I'd be fine with lashings of Betadine and some painkillers.

Upon awakening the next morning I found I couldn't actually sit up in bed... or move the right side of my torso. I had to slide myself out of bed, fall to the floor, and drag myself up by the wall. 2 weeks off work, no compensation, joy.
It's the kind of shit that makes you want to do what Ryan did(see previous post).

And I count myself lucky:

NYC bicyclist hits open car door, is struck by truck, dies

NEW YORK - A Manhattan bicyclist has been killed after crashing into an open car door.

Police say 63-year-old David Smith struck the door of a parked car and was thrown into oncoming traffic as he rode northbound on Sixth Avenue near 36th Street. The impact caused him to land on the street, where he was struck by a passing truck.

Smith was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The driver who opened the door has been issued three summonses.

Fuck car doors, and all who open them without checking their mirrors.

Nice idea... unfortunately seeing as the drivers have to look in their mirrors in the first place in order to read the sticker I can't see it having much of an impact...
Read more about the wonderfully progressive Toronto here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Many of you out there will remember Canadian Ryan from when he worked here in Dublin, or may have met him during CMWC. He's a great guy, a big character, and an asset to the community. Turns out he's also daft as a brush...

In an outburst of messenger madness he put his bike through the windscreen of a Mercedes that was hassling him. Apparently a heated exchange led to the driver deliberately running into the back of Ryan, which led to him smashing the cock's windscreen. You know you've all wanted to do it at some point.

Problem is he didn't make a getaway... and has been landed with a £1,000 bill for criminal damage. If he doesn't pay this he will get turfed out of the country. I'm sure nobody wants that to happen.

The wonderful lads at House of Pistard have made some t-shirts to commemorate the incident and are giving 100% of the profits to the cause. Check out their page here and contribute to help save the guy.

Was thinking we could maybe get some cash together at our next alleycat to send to the big eejit.
Let me know what you think. Worthy or not? Personally I'd give some cash to try help him out, but people who don't know him or think he should deal with his own problem himself might not, so please comment and let me know what you think.