Commute, year 2045

Writing the following post was prompted by a tweet I made earlier expressing my hope that driverless cars will soon become a reality. Having been knocked off my bike this week, there is a big part of me which thinks that, on the road, being around computersĀ  will ultimately be a hell of a lot safer than you lot! So roll on the Rise Of The Machines (at least at the expense of people-driven cars).

The pod arrived promptly at 6.55am, just as it does every other week day. It waited by the kerb, the rim lights gleaming in the pre-dawn light, emphasising the vehicles aerodynamic profile. I left the house, coffee in hand, and walked across our empty drive – we’re having it ripped up next week and replaced with a flowerbed.

The pod sensed my approach and opened the wing door. I always feel a bit like Michael Knight then, except longer in the tooth. Much longer in the tooth. I climbed into the single seat, my back to the direction of travel and stretched out my legs. Addison, the pod’s persona, knew from my profile settings not to greet me – I never did get past Arnie’s encounter with Johnny Cab in Total Recall, even though the film is 55 years old now. Thinking about it, I felt the same about Siri and Cortana and I’m still self conscious around Pip, the house persona. The door closed to the barely audible purr of hidden motors while I rummaged around in my satchel for the paperback novel I’m reading. Yes, I know it’s old fashioned, but I’m of the last generations before the Digital Natives and I still like the feel of a good book when I’m reading. Obviously I’ve got a pad for everything else though.

The fuel cell pushed the pod forward in near silence. It was almost 7am and I asked Addison to put on Today. The headlines reported more God-bothering fundamentalists still trying to drag the world back to the dark ages. I asked Addison to turn it off until Thought for the Day; I must admit I do find I’m enjoying the show’s philosophy segment more in my old age.

The pod joined the Great North Road, heading south to London. I only noticed because of the slight pressure of force as the pod accelerated from the country lanes to 150kmph. Signals between it and other pods on the already busy road allowed us to join seamlessly with the flow of traffic.

A couple of neighbouring vehicles pinged me to see if I wanted to join their game. I looked out of the window at one that had pinged. A youngish lad in his thirties smiled back, but the immersive combat game flashing in the background didn’t appeal and besides I felt he was taking the piss. I declined and told Addison to be in privacy mode; I wish I could set it as a permanent mode and even then I still can’t turn off the social media stream.

In fifty minutes I arrived, predictably on time, at the Kings Cross Travel Hub. The old trains which I used to travel here on were 10 minutes quicker, but then again, with the pod, I no longer have to get to the station, park and hang around on a platform. Overall my journey is quicker. The pod deposited me by the Boris bike rank – it’s amazing that the name has stuck, despite him being the worst PM in living memory.

Next year I’ll be 70. I’ll finally be able to retire and get my state pension, but I think I’ll miss the peaceful solitude of my pod commute. At least we gave up trying to junk the NHS in the twenties, so I’ve still got my health and my bike will keep me out of my wife’s hair.

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Bike meet bumper, body meet bonnet (again)

Almost one year since I was last knocked off, it happened again. On the way to work, I’m always wary of one of the junctions. It leads off the A1 southbound. People still seem to be in a motorway mentality as they pull off and don’t always look quite as well as they could. I’ve had a few near misses there and seen a few crashed cars too.

I passed the junction safely. It was at the next one that a small car cautiously edged out of the side road into my line. I tried to steer out into the road, but I didn’t have the time or the space and her bumper connected with my front wheel. T-boned again, I bounced on the bonnet and land on the floor.

The driver was very apologetic and she couldn’t do enough to make sure I was OK, however the excuse was the same old story – sorry but I didn’t see you. I was well lit, running a Cateye Volt300, fully charged and on flashmode. It is bright, easily up to the task of lighting the offroad section of my commute, and a light that I had thought would get me noticed.

I am OK, I don’t even have a bruise (I’m not complaining about that), although my front wheel will need some work to run true again. I would rather not get knocked off again though. Check the road and check again; keep your windows clear. Stay wary, stay safe.

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#Festive500 Ride 9

The last day and the last ride to complete Rapha’s Festive 500. The roads were quiet and free of ice; my legs felt good and I enjoyed the ride, uneventful as it was, through the gentle hills north of Bedford. 78km took my final tally to 502km. And after all that I’m half a kilo lighter than on Christmas Eve.

I’m glad to have done the Festive 500. My cycling targets for the year were ruined by my bust collarbone back in May, so it has been satisfying to end the year by setting a goal and actually achieving it, but will I do it again? I’ll never say never, but probably not. I’ve enjoyed riding the 500, but spread as it is between Christmas and the New Year, it brings home just how selfish a sport cycling can be, especially for those around us. I am very grateful for the forbearance of my wife and daughters. I owe them some time, so no bike for the next few days, well apart from giving it a well deserved clean!

Happy New Year

Cycling 500km and Christmas feels a bit like this

Cycling 500km and Christmas feels a bit like this

<< #Festive500 Ride 8

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#Festive500 Ride 8

Another bitterly cold and frosty morning for a ride and New Year’s Eve is looking only marginally warmer. Originally I had intended to set off before the dawn, but given the conditions of the roads I decided to wait until I could see what I was riding on. The main downside to this was a later start and I had to be back by 10am – we were off to Cambridge to take the girls to see Aladdin. It was a very entertaining panto and the girls thoroughly enjoyed it even if most of Widow Twanky’s jokes were over their heads, although I would love to have seen the discomfort on any teenage boys facesĀ (and there were some in the audience) at the sock gag.

On the Kimbolton Road

On the Kimbolton Road

Anyway, while the winter countryside looked stunning the roads were nasty. Not only did I have limited time to ride, but by necessity it was also with caution and at a steady space. I stuck to the roads I know well, reading them constantly for signs of ice and the best lines to take. There was little traffic so I spent much of the time in the middle of the road. The exposed surfaces were already thawing, but I encountered a bad patch just before the descent down Sunderland Hill. A car, now covered in an icy glaze, had run off the road into a hedge. It wasn’t a fun stretch and so when I approach the lip of the hill I dismounted and walked down.

Looking across to Staughton

Looking across to Staughton

I made it home without incident and passed Mark, one of my club mates, on his way out. A few more kilometres logged. Only 76km left to go and all now for New Year’s Eve.

<< #Festive500 Rides 6 and 7#Festive500 Ride 9 >>

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#Festive500 Rides 6 and 7

I’ve got a 500km target to meet and with only two days to go, I’ll seize whatever opportunity I can to grab a few more kilometres. So, this evening, travelling down to London for a friends birthday meal, there was no way I would be using the tube to get from Kings Cross to Covent Garden. Oh no, not when there are perfectly good Boris bikes available for riding. OK, so it was only four kilometres each way but it has chipped my distance left to ride to an even more manageable 120km and besides, riding through the decorated city streets beats the grimy underground every time.

<< #Festive500 Ride 5#Festive500 Ride 8 >>

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#Festive500 Ride 5

Yesterday was cold and today looked even colder. The countryside was pale green and faded while the road outside was white with frost. I decided to leave the road bike in the garage and take my crosstrail out for an off road spin around Grafham Water instead. I threw in a couple of bridleway diversions for good measure too.


I had heard a couple of comments and tales from yesterday of bad ice and slides on the roads around Grafham. Today was unlikely to be any better so I headed straight through the village for one of the bridleways to the north. It semed like a good choice – the mud was frozen and the going firm. My tyres crunched over the hard earth and cracked through the icy puddles. With the Cambrigdeshire mud tamed by the cold, I was enjoying the off road riding.


Of course, the good riding didn’t last. The route went through a gap in the hedgerows and I braked hard because the corner of the field it continued through was flooded. Ice covered the water, and there was about seven metres to cross. The hedges grew flush against the water too so there was no way to skirt around. So, like a man on a bear hunt, I couldn’t go over it and I couldn’t go under it, I had no option but to go through it.

I pedalled forward on to the ice and broke it into great ragged plates. A couple of times my front wheel found purchase on the ice and started to pull my bike out of the water only to smash through again. And then my momemtum stalled and my front wheel stopped. To keep balance I put my left foot down, straight into the freezing water. My footwear, I knew, was not especially waterproof; this was what I had been dreading. At least I was able to hop off the bike and land my right foot on dryer mud – I had been that close to getting across.

The rest of the ride was uneventful and enjoyable. I encountered ice, the worst of it being on the Grafham Water cycle track rather than the few bits of back road I did venture on to.

Another day then of winter riding at its best, even if I did only make 23 hard earned kilometres.


<< #Festive500 Ride 4#Festive500 Rides 6 and 7 >>

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#Festive500 Ride 4

This was the cold one, mind you looking at the forecast there will probably be more. Setting off at 9am there was still a hard frost on the ground so I rode very cautiously down the hill from the village and made a direct line for the comparative safety of the salted B roads. Today’s ride was taking me out into the Fens to see my parents. On a crisp and bright winter morning, a Fenland odyssey was looking quite appealing.

I crossed the A14 and took a meandering route through the superb cycling country along the Huntingdonshire/Northamptonshire border. Despite the frost, the roads were mostly OK, although the first true minor road I took, from Clopton to Thurning, sparkled white in the bright morning sunlight. Along there I took the rougher and grippier centre line and listened to the soft crunching rhythm of my tyres over the frost. I was also following the wider tyre marks of another rider, and just before Thurning I caught up with him. We got chatting. His name was Steve and he was out for a pootle on his mountain bike, heading for Oundle. A couple of miles later I had a chance encounter with Leon (this is the sort of thing that happens when you ride). He’s one of my clubs senior members and we were both far from home; obviously we stopped for a chat. He warned me of ice ahead, we wished each other a Happy New Year then went our separate ways. After nearly 300km I had hardly seen a soul, today was positively social!

I was approaching the edge of the Cambridgeshire Fens now. The brickyard chimneys of Whittlesey and the towering lines of wind farms rose over the horizon. The tranquility of the country roads was usurped by the roar of the A1M – heard long before it was seen.

Across the A1 and I was into the black earth fields of the Fens. The flat roads, totally devoid of any sheltering hedgerows, were free of ice and I picked up speed. The Fen villages started to whizz by and I made good progress, but on the approach to Ramsey Mereside I saw flashing lights by the verge. Two police cars, three police officers, two dispirited looking lads and a beat up car, smashed into a ditch on a Roman straight road. It was a reminder, if one was needed, to treat the Fen roads with respect, especially on such a cold winter day.

I finished the ride with a loop of the Circuit of the Fens course then headed to my folks for a welcome post ride roast (beef, not turkey, thankfully). Three more days and only 150km left to complete the Festive 500.

On the way to Folksworth, looking out across the Fens

On the way to Folksworth, looking out across the Fens

<< #Festive500 Ride 3 .. #Festive500 Ride 4 >>

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