Tag Archives: life

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.

Friendship through adversity

  • Posted by howies
  • 7 March 2012
Twenty-five years ago, Bill and I rode rigid steel mountain bikes from Kashgar in China to Chitral in Pakistan. It was hard yakka all the way. Our friendship was young as we set off: we’d come together for the adventure.

I ride a bicycle for many reasons. Perhaps the most powerful reason at this stage of my life is to share the physical and emotional fellowship of riding with friends. Happily, all my best friends ride. I’m not saying that we can’t be friends if you don’t ride – that would be absurd – nor am I suggesting that I’m friends with everyone I’ve ever ridden with. It’s just that all my best friends do ride. That’s the way things have turned out.

When I reflect upon the friends I have now, though, I realise the link between cycling and friendship is more profound than I’d previously thought. I see there is a direct correlation between how close my friends and I are, and how many miles we’ve put in together. I’m not talking about commuting miles or Sunday morning miles. I’m talking about the hard miles, the miles where you’re hanging and sore and need help, the miles where you’re far from home, shit’s gone wrong and your mettle is being tested. These are the miles that really count. Adversity puts friendship on the line. When things go awry, we subconsciously confide in each other. This leaves a lasting bond.

Twenty-five years ago, Bill and I rode rigid steel mountain bikes from Kashgar in China to Chitral in Pakistan. It was hard yakka all the way. Our friendship was young as we set off: we’d come together for the adventure. When my cheap aluminium luggage rack fell apart deep in the Hindu Kush, Bill offered to strap one of my panniers to his back. I knew then our friendship had distance. When I got married a decade later, he was my best man.

I have as many examples of hard miles with folk I’ve subsequently come to trust as I have good friends, so when my Dad died suddenly last autumn, old riding buddies were the first people I called.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: ‘A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.’ I believe in this. It’s why I’m still riding the hard miles, and why I’m still making new friends. It’s why I’ve hooked up with Ade and Alex and the howies team to organise a ride across Wales at night, in March. When I’m lost in a dark forest with a broken chain somewhere between Cardigan and Abergavenny, when the night seems dead, when hope is fading and the right road is gone, then new friendships will be forged.

Rob Penn
www.bikecation.co.uk

Beginnings of a new t-shirt design

  • Posted by aron
  • 12 January 2012

After a lovely fortnight off over Christmas and New Year we're back in the office and hard at it with new t-shirt designs for the spring range. Trying to come up with ideas got me thinking about my life and how I live it, and the things in it that I love or hate (sometimes both).

One of the things that I noticed was that I find myself glued to my iPhone. All that information right at your fingertips is an amazing thing to have, but at the same time it kinda works the opposite way. You end up consuming more information than you create, almost becoming a bit of a 'slave to the machine, man'. So I thought about how I could reflect this in an illustration for a t-shirt.

Here are a few sketches of what I've been working on. It was nice getting away from the mac and get drawing again, although, as you can tell, it's been a while since I've picked up the pencil and drawn some human forms so they're a little bit rusty. But I do like the Matisse-esque style they have.

As long as it makes the cut, the final design will be included in the spring range. We'll keep you posted on new tees via our twitter and facebook.

Thanks for reading.

Aron.

P.s. I understand there's great irony in posting these on Instagram from my iPhone.

Winning Microadventurers

  • Posted by alex
  • 28 October 2011

After much deliberation, the long-awaited winners from our Microadventure competition are named and famed below.

A huge thanks to everyone who took part and we hope you had as much fun as we did.

Microadventures let anyone plunge into a world of cheap Credit Crunch adventures. Adventures that are close to home, which are fun, affordable, easy to organise and designed to get you doing and experiencing things that would normally pass you by.

This competition was a great reason for howies to invite Alastair Humphreys up for a Microadventure of our own and if you missed it, the video is here.

We asked you to get out there and do your own Microavdenture and send us your story. For us, these four stories really captured the spirit of Adventure and we've thrown in an honorable mention to the good folk in Japan for their unique video approach.

Enjoy - in no particular order:


Tom Allen - Zone 1 Microadventure


Luke & Brooke - London to Lewes


Simon Edwards - South Downs


Ariel & Emma - Belfast

Runner Up

Rob Thomson & Co - Sapporo, Japan

If you're one of our winners, please drop us a line on info@howies.co.uk to claim your prize.

How-To: Microadventure

  • Posted by alex
  • 15 August 2011

howies microadventure
Last Monday, Alastair Humphreys came down to see us in Cardigan. We'd arranged to go on a Microadventure - an adventure close to home that is cheap, easy to organise and most of all, fun!

So, what if you're new to the world of adventures? Alastair's got a few tips for you mind out of the daily grind and taking the plunge into the world of Microadventures...

It's been more than fifteen years since I began enjoying sleeping in wild and wonderful places. I guess I've spent about a thousand nights sleeping outdoors. Out of all those probably only about ten have been in a 'proper' campsite.

I've slept on top of England's highest mountain on New Year's Eve and on the northern tip of Britain in midsummer week.

I have also spent many nights without a tent -bivvying- and these are often the most magical of all. (Not always, mind!). I've bivvied on hill tops, seashores, even on a swimming platform out at sea and in sewage pipes (clean ones) on three continents!

So I know how easy, safe, simple, fun, rewarding and invigorating sleeping wild can be. It is one reason why I came up with the idea of microadventures to try to encourage people to give these things a try. But I completely understand how someone who has never done it might think otherwise.
Therefore I hope that this article will help encourage wild-campers to give a microadventure a try by explaining how to do it all, and answering a few common worries.

What is a bivvy bag and wild camping?

A bivvy bag (bivouac bag) is a waterproof outer layer for a sleeping bag. If you live somewhere it doesn't rain (ie Not Wales) then you don't need one, and you can just lie out smugly in your sleeping bag. For a one-off bivvy microadventure a cheap orange survival bag is fine (your sleeping bag will get a bit damp on the outside from condensation). That's what I used on our howies microadventure last week. A better option is one from Alpkit for about £30.

Wild camping is camping away from a proper campsite, out in the wild.

Is wild camping legal?

It's completely legal in Scotland and, elsewhere in the world, nobody has ever complained, told me off, arrested me, or been in the slightest bit concerned. In the same way that nobody would mind you having an afternoon snooze on the beach, nobody minds wild camping, so long as you're not on private land, near someone's home, or otherwise being annoying.

Is it safe?

Assuming you are out in the countryside, away from people then a night out under the stars is about as safe as a night can be. I will admit to the occasional night when strange noises in the woods have spooked me a little, but that is only the fault of an over-active imagination and a youth frittered on late-night horror movies! This goes away after a couple of nights. If you're out there with a friend it's even easier.

Where will I sleep?

Finding spots to wild camp is an art form! It's also all about compromise: sheltered in an old barn or under a cliff in case of rain versus a full canopy of stars out in the open if it doesn't rain. Getting out of the wind will keep you much warmer, so if you're bivvying on a hilltop (my very favourite place) then consider dropping just a few metres down the leeward side. If you're sleeping on a beach sleep above the high-tide mark or else you might win a Darwin Award.

You can find safe, snug wild camping spots surprisingly close to towns and villages too. Follow a footpath just a short distance away from a road then nip behind a hedge or a clump of trees. You'll feel very open, conspicuous and slightly silly as you lie down to sleep but you'll soon relax and enjoy the novelty of being right out in nature.

How do I use a bivvy bag?

Shove your sleeping bag into the bivvy bag. You can, if you wish, put the sleeping mat in there as well, but I find that's too cramped. Snuggle in and sleep. If it rains in the night just snuggle even deeper, pull the bag over your head and leave just a little hole for your mouth otherwise you end up getting way too hot!

What do I need to take on a microadventure?

The whole point of microadventures is that you do not need much time, money or specialised equipment. The trip I did with howies is a perfect example - we left their office at the end of the day's work, rode out of town wearing small backpacks, had a great adventure, and were back at the office ready for work the next morning. Granted, not every workplace will allow you to ride your bike round the office or wear merino cycling stuff as you work, but these are minor problems! A bundled up suit makes a great pillow...

Here then is an idea for a microadventure and the stuff you'll need:

  • Leave work
  • Cycle / walk / run / paddle / swim, even drive (if you must) out of town
  • Climb a hill / go to the beach / find a lake
  • Eat
  • Relax
  • Campfire (where appropriate)
  • Sleep
  • Wake up
  • Find a lake / river / lido / ocean for a quick skinny dip.
  • Cycle / walk / run / paddle / swim, even drive (if you must) back into town
  • Greasy Spoon cafe
  • Back to work
  • Ask your colleagues if they did anything interesting last night

 Basic Kit List

  • Bike
  • Rucksack
  • Sleeping bag
  • Cheap orange survival bag
  • Cheap foam sleeping mat
  • Torch
  • Rain coat
  • Wooly hat
  • Warm clothes for night (use a spare jumper as pillow)
  • Food and drink that doesn't need cooking
  • Water bottle
  • Toothpaste with toothpaste already applied and wrapped in clingfilm
  • Matches to light a campfire
  • Notebook - even if you never write a diary this is a really good chance to jot down a few observations, thoughts, resolutions
  • Camera - for smug self portrait

 Next Step Up: take all the above plus...

  •  Camping Stove
  • Pan
  • Pasta and sauce / pesto, Super Noodles, Pot Noodle etc.
  • Spoon
  • Proper bivvy bag (instead of orange bag)

Luxury Additions: take all the above plus...

Even if you have never cycled or walked ten miles before, even if you have never wild camped (or even if you have never camped) I really urge you to give this a try on a nice warm, dry summer's evening.

The very worst thing that's likely to happen is that you get back to work the next morning a bit tired. Far more likely is that you will be thrilled to discover wildness, nature and beauty on your doorstep. You'll probably enjoy it so much that next time you'll take the whole office with you as well!

Microadventures

  • Posted by alex
  • 9 August 2011



You may have heard on the grapevine that Alastair Humphreys came to Cardigan to see us yesterday. A few of us joined him and spent the night on a Microadventure based out of Cardigan.

Keep an evening or two free in the coming weeks, we've got something we'd like to share with you and will let you all know about it very soon...

NEW T-shirt of the Week

  • Posted by aron
  • 4 June 2009

This week's T-shirt of the Week is 'Best Day Ever', by our very own Jon Heslop.

Now, I don't know what Jon The Geek's 'best day ever' would consist of.

But I would hazard a guess that it would involve a bit of sunshine, a giant breakfast of bacon and eggs, followed by several episodes of Spongebob Squarepants. Then he'd have to download his emails and all those RSS feeds he subscribes to, plus a bit of computer programming, whilst blogging it all of course. Then he would Twitter that he had just blogged and upload photos of it all to Facebook.

Geeks, gotta love 'em.

Get your mens tee here, and your womens tee here.

blog_bestdayever_m

blog_bestdayever_w

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