Rest Less Ride Film

  • Posted by alex
  • 4 May 2012

On the night of the Spring Equinox, Rob Penn and friends took off on an overnight cycle ride across Wales.

The Rest Less Ride took the peloton of 16 riders from the west coast, all the way to the east. They cycled unlit back-roads riddled with pot-holes, gravel and barrier-less hairpin bends. They passed through deep dark valleys, through forests and up mountains, in a race against the sunrise.

The Rest Less Ride celebrates the pleasure of cycling and the friendships it forges.

Riding a bike should be easy

  • Posted by alex
  • 3 May 2012

Isn’t that what we are told? You learn when you are small and, like an elephant, you never forget. What an amazing deal. Once mastered, you have a gift that lasts a lifetime, and even if you part ways for a period of time it waits patiently for you to return. Once bought, it is the gift that keeps giving – health, entertainment, and convenience. So why isn’t everyone riding a bike? Shouldn’t the streets in every village, town and city hum with the sound of rubber passing over tarmac? You only have to observe parts of cities like London, Bristol, and Cambridge at rush hour to see the potential. Hybrids, racers, fixies, bmx, mountain bikes, single speeds, choppers, Dutch bikes, and cruisers all spinning to and fro.

While cycling numbers have increased by around 20% across Britain over the last decade, we lag behind other European countries. The number of cyclists killed or injured sits around 27,000 for that period. This figure is unacceptable and concerns over safety are the main reason many bikes sit unloved in garden sheds up and down the country. This is a terrible shame since cycling represents the elixir to many of our problems. Regular riding can significantly improve fitness levels (goodbye beer belly) and increase life expectancy (hello happy retirement). By swapping an eight mile round trip commute from car to bike, you save 0.5 tonnes of carbon per year – that’s the equivalent of a short haul flight.

It stands to reason that if we want a country that is synonymous with cycling you need to ensure that it is safe. As a result of much hard work by sustainable transport charities and cycling campaign groups we have seen significant progress. Most recently, the Cycle Safe campaign from The Times – coupled with February’s Parliamentary cycling debate - has helped raise the profile of cycle safety. There is much that can be done to improve junctions, slow speeds in neighbourhoods, and provide better road user training. However, this all requires investment – even a small percentage of the road budget could make a huge difference across the country.

Ultimately, the goal is to get people – young, old, male, female – on bikes for their everyday journeys to places like school, work, and the shops. However, currently around 66% of journeys (two miles or less) are completed in a car. While the number of accidents involving cyclists are a concern, the perceived danger can sometimes outweigh the actual risks. It is important to emphasise that cycling is still a fun, exhilarating, and egalitarian means of getting around. You hear of schools not letting kid’s cycle and adults looking on in horror as you ride past on the way to work. It is important to remember that it’s cycling, not war. Going forward, we need more people on bikes and (much) improved cycle infrastructure to ensure that the fun isn’t taken out of cycling.

Words: Ben Addy

Getting out the door

  • Posted by howies
  • 12 April 2012

Exercise makes me happy. If I run a couple of times a week I think clearer, I sleep sounder, I eat better, I work more productively. I am happier. And yet, I can go for months without going for a single run. What's with that?

It took a chance meeting with Olympic athlete Steve Cram to tell me what the problem is. It's the front door. It's there, and its shut. He told me, "it doesn't matter if you're a professional athlete or training for your first fun run, the hardest part is motivating yourself to get going. If you can pull your trainers on and get out the door, everything else is easy."

The good news is he also told me how to open the door. Its a 2 step process:

1. Set yourself a goal.
Enter a run / bike ride / triathlon / adventure race / bog snorkel.
Nothing too hard, just something you couldn't do today.

2. Tell EVERYONE.
Parents, children, postman, neighbours, doctor, God, Twitter followers,
ticket collectors etc. There's no turning back now.

It works. For example, I haven't been swimming for 5 years. Then yesterday I entered a 1.5 mile swim to the Isle of Wight. I now have exactly 94 days until I walk down the shingle beach and into the waters of the Solent. So today I found my old trunks at the back of my drawer and tomorrow morning I'll be in the local swimming pool.

David came to howies to show us a website he built with a couple of friends to help people with the difficult Step 1.

You can guess what it does. It gets you out the door.

Words: David Wearn

www.findarace.com

Challenge yourself to something new and when you've found a race, let us know where you're racing on facebook, or tweet us with the hashtag #foundarace. You might even find a friend or two to get out the door with you.

Frawley’s Bar

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 September 2010

Categories:

Frawley’s Bar

Frawley's Bar
Tom Frawley was born here in 1914. He has been pulling pints where he had always lived – for 86 years. Think about that for a moment. He and his bar are still points in the flow of time.

Ireland has changed a lot in the last couple of decades. The Celtic tiger hadn’t begun to roar when I first set foot in Tom’s bar fifteen years ago. All of a sudden, something happened. The economic boom that resulted had changed Ireland forever. Now that beast had been licking its wounds quietly in the shade of a recession. I had been wondering whether Tom and his bar would still be there.

It’s a simple, quiet place. It feels more like an old fashioned living room than a pub as most of us know them. Behind the red Formica counter where he sits there’s a flotsam of objects that local people might have to pick up after the shops have closed. You can get disposable razors, packets of salt and firelighters. Brown sauce and custard powder sit next to the usual assemblage of bottles stacked at room temperature.

There is of course a solitary tap for the Guinness. The smell of boiling potatoes and cabbage filters in from the room next door.

Tom’s a bit of a local hero these days. There have been appearances on chat shows. Local journos come and talk to him about the old days. He’ll answer your questions in clipped, simple sentences. Historians come in and ask about his old neighbours. Away-with-the-fairies locals who have been coming here years shoot the breeze. He remembers serving his first surfer, an Australian, in 1965.

Have a drink with Tom when your system has been doubled up on endorphins – your brain chemistry shifting and bubbling from the surf, your limbs calmly quieted. Stoked. On a good day the waves at Lahinch Lefts will do that to you.

The tilt of the planet into the 21st century had come and gone and Tom was still in his place, holding court, slowing things down just so.

The Golden Hour

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2009

Categories:

The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour
As my cycle journey around the coast of Britain over the Summer has progressed, there is a question that people ask a lot “what’s the best place that you have visited?”. I would say that our coastline is amazing and it’s hard to pick a single place. What is easy though is a favourite time of day.



There is an hour or so in the evening that is magical. The time before sunset, when things calm down, the wind drops, less cars. The skies are amazing and often the low sun will pick out and light a single building on the horizon or throw huge shadows across the fields.


It’s a great time to ride: on Anglesey you are alone on the ancient hills, in Cumbria the hedgerows come alive with birds, the west coast of Scotland has vast dramatic sunsets, and in Norfolk and Suffolk the huge skies light the rich and vast farmlands.


Now the days are shorter and darkness arrives a bit sooner, so there is more of an urgency to find a place to camp or a bed for the night. But if things work out I can drift into a coastal campsite with supper in a pannier with just enough light to grab a quick shower and cook a bit of food. That’s a perfect evening.

Nick Hand
www.slowcoast.co.uk

Man make fire. Man stay warm.

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2009

Categories:

Man make fire. Man stay warm.

Man make fire. Man stay warm.
I don’t know what my carbon footprint is. But I do know that I make an effort to keep it small.



Yet, only since we moved from the city and disconnected from mains gas (choosing to heat our house by wood alone) do I know the true metrics of what it takes to “stoke the boilers” in our house for just one year.



It breaks down like this: We burn 4 wheelbarrows of wood a week in the winter to heat our house and do most of the cooking. In the summer we would use just 1 wheelbarrow a week. Winter is 8 months, summer is 4. We have 2 log storage compartments in the woodshed that each take 2 trailer-loads of logs to fill. Each trailer is about 1 tonne of wood. Each compartment lasts about 1 month, so it holds about 16 wheelbarrows.


In terms of volume, one of our storage compartments can hold about two whole 35-year-old ash trees, including the trunk and all the branches that measure up to 20mm in diameter. In a year we use about 5 or 6 trees.


I know that to fell 1 tree, limb it, move it, split it and stack it, is 1 day’s work on my own. This will consume about ¼ of a litre of 2-stroke and half of that in chain oil for the chainsaw. I consume approx. 6 cups of tea and 2 litres of water on the job. The limbing and splitting is done by axe. We need to split and dry all the wood in advance so that we get full energy from the burn and don’t end up drying the wood on the fire.

Indeed, an ash tree takes 1 year to dry enough to burn hot. A sycamore takes 6 months. Hazel and Hawthorne 1 year, oak and beech take upto 2 years or more and rescued driftwood from the river takes 2 months to dry under an airy tarpaulin. Trees take longer to grow than firewood does to season, so deciding what to cut down and planning replanting needs a lot of consideration.


These days, every household has power, heat and water on demand. It wouldn’t be far from the truth to say that most of us probably take it a bit for granted.



Yet by leaving the comfort zone and disconnecting from the mains, the inconvenience, effort, planning and physical preparation I now have to go through has actually reconnected me with exactly what it takes to sustain just me and my little family.


Adrian Gunn

Bengt the Fixer

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2009

Categories:

Bengt the Fixer

Bengt the Fixer
This is Bengt.
One super nice Swede.
He invited us into his home and fixed Jon’s bike.
Bengt is a fixer of everything, particularly old bikes.
You name it, Bengt can mend it.
His shed is an amazing place. 
With all the tools a fixer needs.
A nut for every bolt, a bolt for every nut.
Full of bikes and mad contraptions.
Never seen anything like it. Crazy.

It led us to thinking, Sweden is full of such characters and people who share Bengt’s ‘fix things’ philosophy. And we found Sweden to be a richer place for it. Thanks for helping us Bengt.

Sverige år fantastiskt.

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2009

Categories:

Sverige år fantastiskt.

Sverige år fantastiskt.

I am 27. Jacob is 27. I ride BMX, so does Jacob. But that is where the similarities end, as I was born in England and Jacob was born in Sweden.

My local spot was a concrete abnormality where I learned the tricks I saw in all the magazines. Jacob’s local spot was a perfect bank, transitioned at the bottom where he learned all the tricks he could think of, the bank was the side of a cliff.

This is probably the reason that he has an ability of looking at everything in a completely different way to myself and all the people I grew up riding with. Nature is just a part of his life and just like every single one of his fellow country folk they just seem to be so in tune with it. 

If Mother Nature herself walked into a bar she’d give us all a hug I’m sure, just before she wandered over to the outside bar and high-fived all the Swedes before buying them a round, which they would definitely buy back.

I’ve been doing my best to integrate walks in the park, runs on the cliffs, cycling through the woods but I feel strangely alien, like I’m trying too hard. 

It’s not natural to my sort, my lungs are too full of West Midlands smog and although I love the outdoors I just know it’s going to take me a lifetime of being Swedish to refine that look in my eyes when I see nature do something amazing. No matter how hard I try it’s just not there. 

Yet Jacob and all the rest of them do it perfectly, just take a look at a sunset and look into the eyes of a Swede as they say “Sverige år fantastiskt” and that is why they get the high-fives. They are right too, Sverige certainly is ‘fantastiskt’.

Matthew J Adams

Tax: 60%, Happiness: 91%

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2009

Categories:

Tax: 60%, Happiness: 91%

Tax: 60%, Happiness: 91%
Sometimes you go to another country, and it looks like everything’s upside-down. But as you get to know more, you wonder if maybe they’re the right way up – and it’s the rest of us who are topsy-turvy.

Sweden’s famous for its high taxes. Most Swedes pay between 49% and 60% of their salary in tax.* It’s the second-highest tax burden in the world.

So why are they so cheerful? 91% of them say they’re happy, which puts them current equal second on the world happiness scale. The UK comes in at number nine.**

To many Brits, this looks like a contradiction. How can Swedes be worse off than us, and still be happier? The answer is, of course, that they’re not worse off. They just have a different attitude to tax. The Swedes have a very neighbourly, co-operative outlook. Instead of the state being something that just siphons off your cash, they see it as a protective roof over everyone’s head. 

Paying taxes just means chipping in to pay for timber and nails and slates for the roof.

To Swedes, high taxes mean free schools (and school lunches). Free healthcare. Incredible maternity and paternity leave (new parents get a combined leave of 480 days, most of it at virtually full pay). Generous state pensions, child allowance and unemployment benefits. Nice, eh?

So could it be that higher taxes are actually a good thing? 

Well, at least it’s got us thinking.


Mike Reed

* We got our figures from Wikipedia (of course), and this Observer article about tax in Sweden.

** Happiness figures from www.nationmaster.com

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