Friday, 9 September 2011

Accessory To Murder.

Everyone has their idea of a perfect bike, for some that perfection lies in the ultra clean lines of a track bike stripped down to the bare essentials, no brakes, no gears, the beauty simplicity and freedom of single speed. For others a BMX, brakeless, dialled, strong, light and responsive, perfectly adapted for maneuverability and balance. Some may preferentially choose a road bike either the height of modernised high modulus carbon with Di2 digital shifting and aerodynamics or classic lugged steel road, springy and lively but fast. Perhaps a downhill bike for testing yourself to the very limits of nerve flying down runs in the French Alps or Whistler Canada. Whatever a rider's vision of a perfect bike is this is rarely met out of the box, virtually every rider customises their ride in someway. Adding their choice of pedals, seat or handle bars, the addition of a mudguard or rack and pannier, the needs of the rider are most directly met with the additions they choose.

As a whole I struggle to comprehend the urban utility cross country bike. It's probably Britain's most popular bicycle and I've got to wonder why. Low gear ratio for going slowly, fat tyres for maximum drag on the road, bar ends for skewering pedestrians, lights, crud guards, comfy saddles, 30 gears, front suspension. Riders of the urban utility cross country bike cover a broad spectrum of the community from ultra fit older riders, hi viz clad commuters, post driving ban boyos, radgees popping wheelies, drug dealers hustling 20 bags, weekend warriors desperately seeking fitness, fat lads with the seat slammed dropping the bow legger, bobbys on the beat aka pacific blue, new mums with slathering and semi conscious infant in the child seat. Anything goes in the world of urban utility cross country. Tieing all these people together is not only the bicycle itself but also the ideology of accessories. Urban utility cross country is all about accessorising.

The above bike has a series of non legit add ons that includes a pencil torch, not one but two multi tools, a throw away constructing spanner from a supermarket bike, two bottle cages, transparent cruds, front and rear lights, over 15 white reflectors, and a gel seat cover all lovingly added to the bike with white zip ties. If you had to use say the throw away spanner how would you first remove the spanner without having a pair of pliers and secondly presuming you found something to use the spanner on as this Specialized is mostly put together using Allen keys how would you then reattach the spanner back to the top tube. I don't get it. What if you hit a pothole and end up with balls on top tube, that sharp spanner is gonna tear your perineum quicker than you can say "I should have thought this scenario through a little more carefully".

The above urban utility cross country bike is ridden by the police and features not only full wrap guards but an additional rear crud guard also, how dry do you need to be?

The above fully stacked urban utility cross country featuring two locks, cruds, bottle cage and bottle, two frame bags, lights and frame pump.

I feel a little sick at the thought of this post, cycling should be for everyone and everyone has different ideas about what is needed on their bicycle, with this in mind i feel a little harsh throwing criticisms about. Some love clutter some abhor it. My view of cycling is similar to when Luke is training with Yoda in the Dagobah System on Empire Strikes Back, when Luke is drawn to the cave and he asks:

Luke: There's something not right here... I feel cold. Death. 
Yoda: [points to a cave opening beneath a large tree] That place... is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go. 
Luke: What's in there? 
Yoda: Only what you take with you. 

Luke takes his weapons and when he meets himself as Darth Vader, true to form Vader has a light sabre just like his own. Almost as if you take a load of gear with you you're eihter tempting fate or inviting disaster. I think the 'less you take with you' approach requires a mind fuller of confidence, perhaps loading your bike with all these nick nacks mirrors Luke's inexperience taking weapons against Yoda's wishes. Riding a bike literally pits a man against the elements and adversity and perhaps this over abundance of accessories is a form of comfort blanket incase of mishap. The more experience you have the less you need to take. This ethos is similar to when an assassin learns the scoped rifle first because it keeps him at the most distance from his victim, the last weapon learned is the knife because then he has to be right there and look into the victims eyes. So realistically the fully loaded urban utility cross country rider should shed accessories every year as their experience grows and finally when the training is complete they can progress to a different bike. A rights of passage that begins with the novice on an urban utility cross country bike. Cross country sounds exciting but 95% of these bikes only go as far as the shops and back.

Riding a track bike in the city while brakeless although exhilirating and zen is also dangerous especially if you ride like Rob Cairns, here's my attempt at saving his life by modding his bike when he was out for the day. To his ride I fitted a multi speed freewheel rear wheel (sans tyre), front hydraulic disc caliper (no rotor), zombie pad set, rear BMX caliper brake and lever, Alien number plate for extra visibility, handle bar mounted satchel for tools and spare tubes and most importantly rear non drive side peg for aggresive feebles. Don't get mad, I'm just trying to keep you alive brother.

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