All My Little Words

Me and My Musettes

Posted in Cycling by nickchristian on April 23, 2017

If my flat was on fire there’s not much I’d try to save. Maybe the Rembrandt. And I’d *probably* give my flatmate a knock. I guess what I’m saying is I like to think I’m not especially materialistic. I’m not generally a collector of things either, but one accessory I can never seem to have enough of is the musette.

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An evolution of the “haversack” used by infantrymen for centuries, it’s thought to have been adopted by the French-dominated world of racing cycling between the wars. Saving riders from having to stop for lunch, the musette aided the arrival of the feedzone and has been a mainstay of the professional peloton more-or-less ever since.

 

Few amateur roadies have the luxury of feedzones on their weekly club runs, however, so instead of grabbing a dangling bag packed with goodies from a soigneur, must make do with deep jersey pockets to carry their energy gels and bananas. The musette is therefore not much use to them, but it is ideally suited to city cycling.

 

Magnificent in its minimalism, the musette consists of a simple oblong of stitched cotton fabric, with a long looping strap. Just two pieces of fabric in all, you could almost make one yourself. The half dozen I own, in a variety of vibrant hues, hang from my bedroom door and I never leave home without one. Each morning as I rush from the flat, triangle of toast in hand, I grab whichever most closely matches that day’s socks. My one gesture towards colour coordination.

 

The musette won’t cater to your commute – it is, after all, designed to carry little more than a bidon and a couple of rice cakes – but it’s perfect for more casual rides about town, when you don’t have enough to transport to justify a rucksack or full size messenger bag. A bottle of wine and packet of sausages for a barbecue; a spare sweater and paperback to read in the park. (Is it obvious the overnight arrival of Spring has left me with outdoor pursuits on the brain?)

An empty one will squeeze into the smallest of pockets and won’t mind a bit being scrunched up, which makes it the perfect “just in case” bag. You might not intend to stop off for a few bits on the way home, but the musette means you can.

 

Unlike many single-strap satchels which, no sooner than you’ve slung them over your shoulder like to swing themselves round the front, the musette will magically stay put, proving no impediment to pedalling. London’s streets being paved with particulate matter means grime will inevitably accrue, but being completely machine washable, you can just toss it in with your regular load.

 

More elaborate versions are available, sure, but they don’t do the job any better and serve no greater purpose than to part a fool from more of his money. Adorned with bells, whistles, zips, flaps and buckles, it’s like comparing the perfect jam donut with those eye-wateringly expensive, surgically enhanced behemoths sold in artisan coffee shops.

 

No bag is better suited to the freedom afforded by the bicycle. As I dash about town, all I need is my musette.

Update: Simpson Magazine Blog Posts

Posted in Cycling by nickchristian on November 2, 2016

Here’s a long overdue dump of links to my blog posts for Simpson.CC. A new one coming very soon.

September 2016: In Defence of Running With Riders

July 2016: The art of crashing

March 2016: Do you remember the first time?

January 2016: False start

January 2016: A purely accidental Festive 500

December 2015: What a dope

December 2015: Let’s make it a date

November 2015: From neo-pro to no-pro: Thoughts on Campbell Flakemore Calling it Quits

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A Few Links to Bits and Pieces

Posted in Cycling, Local, Media, Politics by nickchristian on July 17, 2015

For The Love Of One: In Praise Of A Single Speed

Posted in Cycling by nickchristian on September 20, 2011

Last weekend I achieved the unlikely: I conquered The Beacon on a single speed bike.

fixie

To non-cyclists that won’t mean an awful lot, but to those familiar with the by-bike London to Brighton journey, Ditchling Beacon represents the end – either of the ride or of the rider. Rising 139 metres in just shy of a mile, while hardly Everest or even a Yorkshire Dale, it’s  pretty steep. Most riders can expect to reach in to their gearbox and be spinning on the biggest cog by about half way but on my single speed, my options were somewhat more limited. Prior to doing it I didn’t think it could be done and while I found that, in one go it could not be, in the end, after three evenly spaced 30 second pauses, it was. Still as I rested at the top, glad to have made it, I felt the achievement belonged to the bike.

People have questioned the logic of a bike with only one gear. Why, they wonder, would you deny yourself the advancements designed to multiply your effort on a downhill and save it when you’re going back up again? Is it a “hipster” thing?

While I can’t deny that my bicycle is very pretty or that he looks far more at home in the Old Streets and Hoxton Squares and Curtain Roads of Shoreditch than I do, for me, still, the function is all. Well, almost all. A single speed bike is a wonderfully simple thing: remove the gears from a bike and you remove most of what can go wrong or, at least, most of the bits that are tedious and difficult to repair when they do.

My old multi-geared bikes used to go wrong all the time and it was always in the gears. It would start with an annoying but largely cosmetic, rhythmic clicking noise, which would then progressing to a less than cosmetic paralysis of a chain ring, before ultimately leaving me with… a single speed bike.

The most complicated bits of a bike, not to mention the bits with the most perplexing nomenclature, are also all related to the gears: derailleur, cassette, bottom bracket, sprocket – while probably not as intimidating as they sound, none of those components do not do exactly what it says on the tin. Even it it did it would probably be called something else and you’d be far too embarrassed to ask for it anyway.

My new bike has none of those things and as a result there is nothing now, or very little, that I don’t think I can repair on my own. Replacing a chain is a relatively simple fix and the frequent flat tyres – a hazard – are a doddle. I may at some point have to replace a brake cable but given that it’s just a thing that pulls a thing that stops the bike I feel I understand how they work and how, with maybe some Youtubed tuitional assistance, I could do it on my own.

One other question which is always asked is: how do you get up hills? The answer to which, now, is like this:

ditchling beacon

http://bit.ly/mP0COH

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