The automobile, once a portrait of freedom and independence, has since had its benefits outweighed by congested traffic. The term ‘road rage’ was coined by psychologist Dr David Lewis in 1985. This state of anxiety is something that affects 1 in 3 motorists. Driving is one of the most highly dramatic activities we hazard ourselves in regularly. The series of events and incidents such as changing lights, lane changes and near collisions require concentration, are sometimes frustrating, and often formidable.
The expectation of freedom only leads to frustration when drivers are held back from their destination by other motorists undertaking privileged journeys to fulfill their needs. Predictability and unpredictablity are conflicting structural elements of driving; a steady speed in one lane is safe and secure, whereas a sudden manoeuvre not signaled creates danger, stress and risk of an accident.
A large amount of frustration when driving is immobility and constriction, whether it be caused by roadworks, congestion, speed limits or traffic lights. Drivers feel like they are wasting their time simply ‘sitting there’. You cannot perform other tasks whilst behind the wheel, whereas a journey taken by foot or bicycle includes excersise, relaxation and a chance of social encounter, without being held up.
I sold my car a year ago with the commitment of using only sustainable transport methods or lift-shares. Agreed there are some restrictions, such as not being able to simply down tools and get to the waves when the swell is kicking off. But on the other hand, I have made friends through sharing lifts to the beach, have slept on the beach, and risen at dawn to hit the beach. Surfing has since become more of a social activity for me. I feel more freedom now than ever before. This is because of the limiting factors of driving such as regulations, loss of control and expense.
Whilst cycling, I am avoiding the hostility of drivers (I can ignore it more easily because I’m having fun), the defensiveness and territorial behaviour. I can predict exactly how long it takes to get from A to B and the chances of a disaster or break down en route are very slim. This avoids the stress of an unpredictable journey and the usual delays encountered. Cycling in heavy traffic is the faster option; a journey of 10 minutes on the bike can take 30 minutes in a car. There is always an alternative route to get to your destination than driving and is nearly always more enjoyable. If not; how much do you really want or need to get there?
Daniel Ulf-Hansen’s cycling infographics yelled at me from the walls of Sho Gallery during the 2011 Cardiff Design Festival. It was actually his work that inspired me to create the art.spoke.soul event this summer. I jotted his name down and got in touch with him inviting him to participate in making some work for this year’s Cardiff Cycle Festival.
Dan’s currently studying graphic communication at Cardiff Metropoliton University. His portfolio ranges from branding and typography to animation. He has a penchant for vintage rides having restored a 1980’s Peugeot and has landed a summer project to restore his 1960’s police bicycle.
Following the River Wye from Monmouth to Hay-On-Wye, the road climbed gently for 7 miles to Coleford before turning off towards Lydbrook. Lydbrook is a charming little town with lots of history, nestled down on the banks of the Wye. From there, I skirted past Kern Bridge to Ross-On-Wye and found some scenic lanes to Hereford that ran directly adjacent to the river, although slow going, a little rough, and hilly.
From Hereford to Hay, approaching half way was the most gruelling part of the ride. Facing a fair headwind with nearly empty energy levels, I couldn’t wait to reach The Town of Books for a gooey chocolate brownie and mocha. Despite the damp weather, crowds of literary folk were out and about, giving the town its unique atmosphere. I couldn’t help but be slighty anxious about whether or not my tired legs would carry me out of Hay-On-Wye and up the 2000 ft Hay Bluff climb. But they hadn’t failed me yet and reaching the dramatic peaks still capped with snow, I had more energy than the start of my ride. Nothing like a mountain to lift ones spirits.
From there on was a long descent along the single track lane through Capel-Y-Ffin and down past Llantony Priory. This was Rob Penn country and I enjoyed every second of it, feeling very surreal about having reached the Black Mountains since cycling in the Forest of Dean just hours earlier. I couldn’t believe how far my own legs and determination had carried me. People often ask me; ‘Why do I want to cycle for so long?’ and ‘What do I think about whilst out on the bike for 7 hours?’. I set out on this ride with the idea of knowing my land. The Wye Valley and Monmouth is my home and I wanted to hug the river from there to Hay, discovering its meandering bends and over looked, under treasured view points. That day, lacking any company, the river felt like a friend. Also, I’m sure 80 per cent of my cycling pleasure comes from the mountains. They simply fuel a desire in me and it’s mostly the environment in which I ride I am thinking of; taking in all its beauty, feeling its currents, sighs and moans, sharing its Spring revelry and fresh winds. I appreciate it and feel a sense of stewardship; it belongs to all of us and is there to be loved. A day spent out on the bike is heaven to me.
Leaving the mountains behind, I was homeward bound passing through Abergavenny and taking the old road back to Monmouth where a steaming bath would be waiting for me. I’m beginning to think it’s not all about the bike Mr.Penn; it’s all about the mountains.
I’ve previously had some unsatisfactory experiences of customer service from some of the larger cycle chain stores where rushed sales staff offer inadequate advice and after sales service. I felt it wasn’t personal. Buying your trusty steed should be an enjoyable episode and the first step to a happy relationship with your two wheels. This week, I caught up with Suzy at Reg Braddick Cycles with the intent of familiarizing myself with my local bicycle stores.
With 65 years in the business, Reg Braddick Cycles have a wealth of knowledge to offer about bicycles and cycling in and around Cardiff. The running of the business was passed from father to son and granddaughter; originally started by Reg, a competitive cyclist and butcher’s delivery boy who participated in an olympic time trial and the Empire Games in Sydney.
Reg Braddick cover all disciplines of cycling and have noticed that riders today are enjoying a varied range of riding, often a road and mountain biking combination. It seems like ‘one for every occasion’ is the new way to stock your shed. There has been a recent increase in cycle use as transport and the shop stocks a range of town and electric bikes; a great way into cycle commuting, giving the confidence to build fitness with an extra kick up the hills where necessary or to speed you along to that post-work cuppa.
Suzy’s advice to someone beginning cycling is “Make it easy for yourself. Get a good quality bike that is efficient and a pleasure to ride”. Like your friends, choose your bike wisely and it will serve you well. If you are considering making a new purchase, your local bike store is a great place to seek some advice. Think about what you want to get from a bike and the staff will understand your needs, offering the best advice for you.
The workshop offers servicing, repairs, rebuilds, wheel truing and wheel builds. There is no need to book, simply take your bike in. An after service is provided within four weeks of all bike sales for readjustments. Reg Braddick also have an online notice board where riders are offered free advertisement of their bikes for sale. The cycle community is at the heart of Reg Braddick and Suzy is keen to get riders to ‘buddy up’ and share their experiences, whether it is trying a new route or helping a novice rider begin cycling on roads. You can find this information on their website: Reg Braddick Cycles. Be a part of the hub and find Reg Braddick on Facebook.
Reg Braddick Cycles 63 – 65 Broadway Roath Cardiff CF24 1XJ Tel: 029 2049 0137
Taking advantage of the glorious spring weather we’ve been having, I headed off on a 70 mile loop taking on the Bwlch and Rhigos. Heading out past Llantrisant, the scenery began to open out through the Ogmore Vale and traffic dwindled. The climb up Bwlch was pretty arduous, but perfectly possible and with a rewarding flapjack and a backdrop looking down the Clydach Vale, the prospect of a fast descent was well worth the effort. Having speedily dropped down to Treorchy, the Rhigos was approaching; again a challenging but rewarding accomplishment. Catching a whiff of pine forest, I visualised swooping alpine descents and was quite content. The route back was much to be improved. Avoiding another climb over Maerdy, the pay off was 4 miles on the A470. Although not to be recommended, it did make for fast paced easy riding for tired legs. Next time, I’m going for Maerdy or Ynysybwl.
With Saturday’s test of endurance over, Sunday’s cake off at Made In Sping was a guilt free treat. Helen Clifford’s daffodil installation Primavera in Milkwood Gallery perfectly captured the scent of a Welsh spring experience.
Primavera, Helen Clifford.
Spokes In Spring; a ride from the museum to Milkwood had a very successful attendance of vintage clad cyclists. The evening was topped off with great humour in Milgi’s yurt with acoustic performances from Gaudy Orde, Rum Puppets, Sam and Howard, The Scarletts and The Fflip Flops.
Angus Street Spring Fiesta
Spokes In Spring from Cardiff Cycle Chic
Made In Roath
I’ve been working on some new illustrations myself this week. It all started with an iplayer typo “Have I got eewes for you” and like most of my ideas; a good ride. I know it’s been done before, but not with a velo.
Copyright Andrew Singer
I was delighted to recieve an email from Andrew Singer submitting some images on recommendation from his friend in Japan and more so, to say he will be exhibiting in Cardiff Cycle Festival this June.
Global communications reverence aside, Andy has been drawing and publishing cartoons for 20 years. In 2001, he produced a book of cartoons and auto-biographical essays ‘CARtoons‘. It considers the negative social, economic and environmental impact of automobiles. With an interest in non-automative transport, Andy is volunteer co-chair of the cycle advocacy group Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition.
Saint Paul and Minneapolis form the ‘Twin Cities’ which has one of the highest mode shares for bicycle commuters in the US at over 5%. This is second only to Portland, Oregon and I’m assured the winters of the Twin Cities are certainly unyielding. There is an active cycle scene with various annual city bike tours, events, alley cat rides, races and monthly critical mass rides. Twin Cities are also the home of Quality Bicycle Products, one of the biggest distributors of bike parts in the US, bike rack manufacturer Dero, and Surley Bikes, making beautiful frames such as Long Haul Trucker to fill the most steadfast of hearts with wanderlust (yes..I’ve had my eye on that one for some time).
Saint Paul has recently been given ‘Bicycle Friendly City’ status by the League of American Cyclists. This provides an evaluation report that outlines the city’s achievements and need for improvements. The Bicycle Coalition is striving to establish a cycling friendly culture and infrastructure through public participation, working with politicians, traffic egineers and citizens for positive change; www.saintpaulbicyclecoalition.org.
Andy is hoping to complete another book this year examining the politics of highway building. Check out more of his cartoons here: www.andysinger.com
Well, for one reason or another, I couldn’t get on the bike yesterday. So, I found the next best thing; A Sunday In Hell.
The documentary by Danish director Jørgen Leth is an epic account of the 1976 Paris – Roubaix race. One of the most dramatic and oldest races in the history of cycling, the 1976 event was no let down. It ends in a thrilling sprint finish between just four riders that have toiled over about 160 miles with 27 cobbled sections, giving the race its name ‘Hell of the North’.
If you’re interested in vintage steeds, you’ll enjoy watching Eddy Merckx, Freddie Maertens and Roger De Vlaeminck battle it out in this gruelling pilgrimage. With some great aerial cinematograhpy of the peleton, gripping atmosphere and humerous dated narration, the film was a win for me.
With a whiff of nostalgia, I invited Sarah to get involved in the bike art trail project for Cardiff Cycle Festival 2012.
Sarah has simply blossomed as a creative since we were sketching out early artworks in Monmouth Comprehensive sixth form studio. She certainly ‘likes to make stuff’ and currently produces letter press prints, gorgeous illustrations and bound books.
With a penchant for poetry and literature, Sarah has a diverse sweep of inspiration and it is surely her visible passion for words that gives her a unique artistic fabrication. I’m a massive fan!
Have a look at some more of Sarah’s creations here: http://www.textilesketches.wordpress.com
And, if that has motivated an appetite for print making, why not give it a bash at Papergirl’s Easter workshop.
Lucy Driscoll of Windsor
I first met Lucy in the depths of last year’s stubborn winter on a residency at Arteles Creative Centre, Finland. We toiled together for one month producing scandanavian inspired art works, discovering an eclectic collection of 80’s musical delights and devouring whole salmon with all manor of pickled edibles.
Lucy oozes charm with a good eye for a vintage bargain and upmost talent for paper cut illustrations. She has kindly agreed to show some of her work in this year’s Cardiff Cycle Festival. If I know Lucy, vintage cycling literature will be an inspiration along with a love of her own two wheels.
Check out her work here: http://www.lucydriscoll.com/