Blogger: Gavin Hughes
Published 22 November 2012
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The witching time of year - Halloween may have come and gone - so too Guy Fawkes but for me - the real winter watershed was the clocks being turned back at the end of October.
I regard this as a turning point in the year, as do many commuters who cycle to and from work throughout the winter. The end of British Summertime may grant a few precious weeks of light mornings, but come home time, lights and hi-viz accessories really start to earn their keep.
Evening commutes that were once completed in light or fading light are now entirely enveloped in darkness. The smell of gunpowder in the air - the sight of fiendish candy hunting ghouls, adds to the chilling atmosphere of that time between September and Christmas.
I find that attitudes of commuters - both four wheeled and two wheeled - prone to match the grisly, dark environment. Whether it's the creeping gloom of the evening, or the fear of phantoms, there always appears to be greater danger on the roads for the first few weeks after the clocks go back. My suspicion is that the early evenings instil the perception of lateness and increases the inclination towards hastier homeward bound journey.
And it is not just us miserable, wage-slave commuters who are prone to peril. Recent high-profile incidents - with Wiggo then Shane Sutton and now Cav, highlights that no-one is untouchable - not even cycling royalty.
Having been knocked off my bike twice last winter I am aware of the hazardous state of affairs on the roads. Allied with this, the razor thin tyres of the fixie, and the extended breaking distances in the wet and icy conditions have made me feel rather susceptible.
Five of my fifteen miles in to work are through busy shopping thoroughfares. Cycling up the Kings Road or Putney High Street involves second guessing not only the taxis and cars - but also pedestrians. There are over thirty zebra crossings, traffic lights and pelican crossings on the Kings Road alone - and wet weather breaking on my fixie is taking it's toll on my legs.
And out of the darkness - a new project is born! That of resurrecting my ugly, old hybrid - unused for many years for anything other than a trip to the paper shop. The quick wins are obvious, thick tyres and a disk brake - reducing both the probability of punctures and braking distances.
The cons? The ugly mobile is heavy and the chunkier tyres make for slower journey times and a lot less fun. Armed with a shopping list and a few week-ends' commitment this villainous looking bike can - I hope - keep me on the commute this winter - and protect the Langster from the perils of the dark winter commutes. Watch this space . . . . . . .