20 October 2010

Inept herds

I'm quite proud of the fact that my trusty Marin Bolinas Ridge (bike) is still going strong nearly fourteen years after I bought it, but it's not sheer chance that this is the case. I'm not a maintenance freak who spends hours in the garage tinkering with gears and brakes, but I do realise the importance of looking after your bike; cleaning, occasional lubrication, adjustment of gears and brakes when required etc. I try to do enough to keep the bike functioning smoothly and reliably, and I haven't found the need for a mass of specialist tools or insider knowledge.

In Cambridge, it seems that cyclists wear their mechanical ineptitude like a badge! I've lost count of the number of times I've passed a bike with a rubbing brake pad, or a gearing problem. There are even more bikes in the city that look like they would struggle to move with a following breeze! What is it about such a cycling-mad city that makes people take their bikes for granted? Also, what is it that makes many cyclists feel they are visible to other road users at night-time when they make no effort to wear reflective materials or even to have lights on their bike?

I conclude that it's something to do with herd mentality. People feel artificially safe on their bikes because there are so many other cyclists about. It's the same with helmets, though there are more wearers in the city than I thought there would be.

On the plus side, I am enjoying cycling in a city where the cyclist commands more respect than I have experienced elsewhere. This is the positive side of the herd (for the cyclists), though I accept as a driver this is not necessarily good all round.

Rant over.


  1. just you make sure you go the right way down one way streets and stop at red lights! It does my little head in!! Especially as rumour has it it's always the driver's fault if they have an accident with a bike in Cambridge!! Fraser enjoys pointing out the 'silly men who don't have hats (helmets!) on' in Cambridge!

  2. I'm with you on both points, but I would note that the council need to be a bit clearer about the one way system. It confused me when I first arrived.

  3. Cycling Helmets need a design overhaul.

  4. Agreed. There also needs to be more research into the effectiveness of cycling safety equipment; there's surprisingly little.

  5. I noticed this herd mentality in Oxford too.

  6. If Cambridge is anything like Oxford, you don't want to keep your bike in too good a nick - if you do, it gets nicked! Richard