3 Jul 2015

July 1st 2015 Short cut to extinction?


Wednesday 1st 68-73F, 20-23C warm with full sun and light winds forecast all day. It is already rather more windy than expected!

I was reading somewhere that robotics may lead to human extinction through laziness. Many of our historic "breakthroughs" could be seen in the same way: Fire allowed us to maximise energy from our food without having to gather nuts and fruit for hours each day to survive. Tools saved us hours of tearing at things with our teeth or nails. Or getting a slave to do it for us.

Crops saved us wandering endlessly in search of sustenance but led to crime. Anything which has value can be taken away by those too lazy to earn it or make it. Crime became a short cut to everything as did slavery. The ultimate laziness imaginable is to have somebody do something for you without your making any contribution whatsoever. The slaver borrows the limited lifespan of the slave for their own profit. Paving paths and roads led to efficiency of travel for the conquering Romans. A skill lost to the descendants of their slaves for almost a couple of millennia. A short cut of any kind is really a kind of cheating. It saves energy, or time, or both. You can have your cake and eat it thanks to improved efficiency. Though there is always a cost.

By now you are probably wondering what any of this has to do with cycling. I would hope that it is obvious. Plain bearings gave way to ball bearings. Heavy wood and iron frames gave way to thin-wall steel. Cast iron components slimmed down to steel and eventually aluminium alloys and later, carbon fibre. Steel rims gave way rubber bands and then pneumatic tyres and tubulars.

From the start it was all about saving weight, reducing friction, rolling resistance and wind drag. It's all in aid of a "free ride." It allows us to go faster and further or climb more quickly. Or, basically, to ride more effortlessly without paying for it in muscle tiredness or countless training miles or hours. Racing performances constantly improve thanks to our steady technological progress. The price is that the elite can afford the wind tunnel testing and speciality manufacturer's one-offs for their millionaire riders. The rest [weekend warriors] can only try to emulate their constantly cheating heroes.  

Any reduction in the number of ordinary cyclists would suggest laziness. It happened in the 1960s as the populace became motorised. Which meant they could sit and rest in traffic jams on the way to and from work. Instead of getting all sweaty, cold and wet on their way to the factory where there were no showers. Though subject to trends and other influences the numbers of cyclists do seem to be rising.

Motorcycles, mopeds and scooters allowed lazy cyclists to go much further/ more quickly/ in less time than any cyclist could manage. The electric bicycle is now being touted as the next big thing in personal transport. It has the huge advantages of lightness and lack of noise and pollution but at enormous expense compared with the traditional, infernal combustion device.

Serious range is the one hurdle for electrics to overcome. Even so, pensioners are already able to thrash keen cyclists on speed and climbing ability given a fresh battery. I can still remember, quite vividly, how effortless it was to climb a long, local hill on a borrowed moped in my teens. The exhilaration was highly addictive but had to be ignored for economic reasons. I did not own one then and never would. It was years later that even a secondhand car became the norm for my generation. Car ownership is still a status symbol compared with two wheeled transport. A habitual drunk who has been banned for years and still drives a rusting clunker while having no tax, driving license, MOT or insurance is infinitely more socially acceptable than the world's best paid cyclist on a tens of thousands of pounds bike.  

Meanwhile, back at the pig ranch: Walking the suddenly, weed free, field edge took me past the pond with all the young ducks. While sneaking past I noticed a large batch were hovering on the bank nearest me just behind the shading water plants. They turned their hockey sticks my way but did not budge. I was very grateful for the slightest breeze as it grew ever warmer. Dressing suitably for the sudden warmth is difficult. I need so many pockets and shorts are hopeless in chest high grass. With the risk of deer bugs I need long trousers. I rounded one field corner hedge to exchange a 30 second stare with a large, ginger fox. When I finally moved, to take out my camera, it loped off into the crops.

There was quite an easterly tailwind when I set off on the trike after lunch. So much so that I was climbing at 20mph! I was the warmest day this year so far and my drinking bottle of plain tap water went down quickly. Probably just as well because it was soon as warm as bathwater. Headwinds and crosswinds on the way home. A fire leader, police car and fire truck went the opposite way at incredible speed using all of the road. Fortunately I took to the first available run-off each time I heard the sirens to give them plenty of room on the blind corners. Luckily I did or I might well have become the emergency myself! And, I'm really not kidding! 21 miles.

Thursday 2nd 71-78F, 22-26C, very breezy, full sun. Another cloudless sky in Europe's continuing heatwave. Britain had a record yesterday of nearly 37 degrees [high 90s F] I saw 76F, mid afternoon, on my usual digital thermometer with the outside sensor in the shade under the northern eaves. The weather station records temperatures a degree or so higher but I am sticking to the old thermometer as my standard to avoid confusion.

While the temperature and weather probably has little interest to my readers I use it to guide my cycling [or walking] dress code for the day. All depending on the wind speed, of course. Our very well-protected garden gives little guide to the actual conditions beyond the high trees and tall, thick hedges. It can be a real shock to escape from the micro-climate of our enclosed, rural garden and be hit by a freezing cold gale! Normally I do get my wardrobe right for the conditions. Thanks to owning several [secondhand] winter jackets to choose from I am usually warm enough. Only occasionally do I have to remove something when I warm up.

Overheating is more dangerous in cold weather than being slightly too cool. Even when wearing polyester it can build up too much sweat and become cold. Once the layer next to your skin is cold and wet it is impossible to warm up again until the garment is removed. Which usually means back at home before jumping into the shower to warm up. A wet vest on a cold windy day is misery. All of which is highly irrelevant during a heat wave.

Left late morning. Visited umpteen shops and returned heavily laden. It was rather hot and very windy. My luke warm water bottle was emptied, refilled and emptied again. 22 miles.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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