Saturday, May 19, 2007

Cyclists Special - parts one & two

pt 1

pt 2

A fine cycling life.
I discovered these videos on the blog Planetary Gears.
This reminds me so much of the old cycling books I've been collecting, Thanks to my mother- in-law down in Geelong.

I find the style of these books quite exciting, they offer conventional suggestions for the choice and maintenance of bicycles and emphasize cooperation with other road users. Standards of roadmanship, are also promoted in the books, which at the time must have been universally granted and expected. It's like, functioning as part of a cooperative group or a contributing member of one’s society was the keystone to the individual’s capacity for joy or fulfillment. There is also a considerable amount of space given to road rules and codes of conduct.
The authors make a lot of personal statements and judgments that imply a formula for successful enjoyment of cycling, whether alone or in a group, I can’t help thinking that we could use a little of this kind of guidance today.
Although I do remembering a time, back when I rode a motorbike. I’d gone on a ride with the Harley owners group and found all their rules and structured rides particularly overbearing. After about an hour of chugging along in formation on a ridiculously straight and very boring road, I couldn’t stand the monotony and decided to go for a blast breaking the club rule ‘Thou shalt not pass the Road Captain’.
This was not appreciated and I soon found myself back in the place I am most comfortable; riding solo on the back roads and bush tracks that may or may not bring me to where I think I’m heading.

But I digress….

My cycling books

  • Bicycling / by Ruth and Raymond Benedict (New York, A.S. Barnes, 1944)
  • Bikes and Riders / James Wagenvoord (New York, Van Nostrand, 1972.)
  • Cycling book of maintenance (London, Temple Press, 1954)
  • Let’s go cycling / Reginald C. Shaw (London, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1960.)

Online source of older reading material

Here’s an example of the writing style in Let’s go cycling:

Chapter VIII Roadmanship
“Seamanship is the quality of a good skipper at sea, and roadmanship is the quality of a good skipper on land. The skippers on land are those who drive and steer vehicles, including cycles, that travel along our roads. Cyclists are indeed skippers; their cycles are their craft, the little ships of the roads, as dainty as yachts.”… (p.132)

Now here’s the bit that I really dig.

From the same chapter:
“Helping one another is in fact the idea behind the rules of the road, just as it is the foundation of the rules of the sea. Road users are not individuals competing one against the other, but members of a team –a gigantic team—that can only work well if everybody keeps to the rules.” (p.136)

What's the big deal about Roadmanship?

The comparison between maritime law and the rules of the road was very interesting but somehow I feel the mutual respect part has long since vanished from our roads. On the sea amongst most seafarers there is an understanding which compels human beings to cooperate with each other for the greater good. There are codes of etiquette that should be understood by all, many of which are enforceable under the ancient codes of Maritime law. Good sailors are respected for their 'Seamanship' as there are times when it can prevent the needless death of others.
When I typed the word ‘Roadmanship’ in MS Word I got a red squiggly line under it and I could not find it in my Oxford dictionary either. It seems the word has been lost to time an extinct relic of a concept never truly adopted or understood. (At least by the broad majority of road users.)
It seems on many Australian roads today there exists only the conflicting forces of the law and an overwhelming presence of unenlightened self-interest. Stress and agro. However there are places where there are obvious exceptions to this theory. If you are lucky enough to travel in Outback Australia one of the first things that may surprise you is the sense of camaraderie between travelers.


John said...

I'd like to hear more about those books. Please post your bibliography soon.

David J said...

Hi John,
I think I'll check out the possibility of digitizing the books that are outside of copyright. Although copyright laws seem to change it might be worth a shot! These books are too precious. I'd love to see them re-released in another format. They could inspire a retro-lution....