never claimed to be an industry insider, like Carlton, or a font of
bicycling knowledge, like Hilary, or bearded, like Dave (and Hilary
by contractual obligation), but I have my uses – aside from hoovering
the office after the staff have gone home for the evening.
Every once in awhile
a certain kind of letter arrives and gets carefully placed into a certain
kind of file: an X File, if you will. It's my job to draft a suitable
reply to such enquiries, or failing that, return the envelope marked
WHAT'S IN A NAME
What does 'Plus' stand for? Cycling Plus what?
Balthasar Nettle, Lincs.
The magazine you now hold in your hands began
life in the 19th century as 'Cycling Plus Dressage', in a nod
to the exciting new 'iron horse' as well as the age-old art of guiding
Black Beauty and his ilk through a series of complex maneuvers by slight
movements of the rider's hands, legs, and weight. Alas, sales were a
nightmare, and the publishers were forced to split the title into two
distinct periodicals. A fierce battle was waged in the courts over ownership
of 'Plus'. When Cycling won they found their coffers so
depleted by solicitor's fees that they were unable to afford a suitable
companion for the erstwhile conjunction or an explanation for posterity.
OF THE VALKYRIES
I like to listen to the Ring Cycle when I'm awheel, but I just can't
seem to get enough bass. Can you recommend a brand of earphones robust
enough to handle Wagner?
Emily Debussy, Leiceister
To enjoy high fidelity you're going to have to
budget for speakers. True audiophiles ride in accoustical pelotons and
form appropriate arrangements as a piece progresses. Earphones, on the
other hand, dangerously limit the full range of dynamic sound.
Some of your readers seem to have a problem with dogs. I thought they
might be interested to learn of a surefire remedy. Borrowing an old
idea from tribes in the South American rain forest, who ingeniously
use the toxic secretions of a species of amphibian, I've adapted my
frame pump to fire poison darts. I keep the frogs in my panniers and
feed them chips.
Jeremy Sharpe, Wadebridge
Capital punishment is a little harsh, Jeremy.
Perhaps you should just throw the chips at the dogs. A slow death from
cholesterol to be sure, but it'll keep the RSPCA off your back.
ON THE BLINK
As summer turns to autumn and thence to winter, the days get shorter,
at least in my experience, though for some reason my clock still works
normally, i.e., the dial continues to be divided into 24 equal units
of measurement. I don't claim to understand the physics of nuclear fusion
which result in the radiant energy that illuminates and warms our planet,
nor the vagaries of a nonspatial continuum. All I know is I need to
buy a bicycle lamp. Recently I came across references to so-called flashing
lights. I'm lost. What's a 'flashing light'? PS. Incidentally, I have
a nervous condition.
Fritz Bethe, Grimsby
Fortunately your letter itself provides a vital
clue to an otherwise inexplicable question. May I venture to guess your
condition prompts you to blink quite frequently and rapidly? It would
seem that your eyes and the light are both 'on' and 'off' at the exact
same moments. Extraordinary but not as rare as you might think. I know
a rather languid gentleman who refuses to watch the Tour de France because
'They keep jumping all over the place'.
Not long ago my bike started talking to me. But I can't understand what
it's trying to say! This mostly one-sided conversation began some months
ago, down near the bottom bracket. 'Tick-tick-tick-tick' it said. 'Oh,
stop complaining,' I answered to no avail, for it was capable of continuing
in this vein without surcease. Before long my rear axle took up the
chorus, particularly whilst freewheeling - an occasion, one would think,
for quiet contemplation. Add to this the creaking of my saddle and a
weird ethereal sound that eminates from nowhere in particular, and you
can gather some sense of my immense frustration. I do confess I often
end up screaming at the beast, pleading with it to just speak English.
Edward Fiddle, Wessex
Well, you could take your chatty friend to the visiting room of a bicycle
shop, but I'm afraid the last thing a mechanic wants to hear is 'It's
making this noise...' Those guys have enough troubles as it is. I suggest
instead that you cultivate a sunnier disposition.
THE MEASURE OF THE MAN
My last ride was pure agony. Each and every vertebrae in my spine complained
bitterly, and my knees nearly gave out halfway through. When I got home
my flatmate admitted that he had taken my bike out for a ride the other
day and adjusted the saddle down half a millimetre to suit himself.
Needless to say I chucked him out. Now I'm starting to feel guilty.
I made him homeless, after all. Do you think I was hasty?
Lance Unwin, Foulness
Given the care you evidently took in formulating
your ideal setup, rage is an understandable reaction... if mildly over
the top. You acted in the heat of the moment. I think he's probably
learned his lesson now.
I often see cyclists splendidly bedecked in the latest expensive attire.
A friend of mine even owns a waterproof jacket which cost more than
my bicycle. Doesn't such conspicious consumption contravene sumptuary
laws? I make do with a bin liner just fine.
Lizzie Windsor, Windsor
Those laws were repealed some time ago. There
is no legal remedy for the situation you describe. I should think you'd
be overjoyed that you can buy 20 jackets for £1.
WHAT'S IN A NAME II
Castor Prolix, Tunbridge Wells
cautionary tale on the danger of suggesting a column name in jest to
Plus, August 2002