My ‘2021 in 2021’: FEBRUARY


CYCLED: 210 Miles REMAINING: 1811 Miles


Raised so far: £861 (21 Supporters) To reach target: £1160

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Not a great cycling month. I am 120 miles behind target. A great deal of February has been very cold, not unexpectedly. When the mercury dips below 5 Celsius, cycling becomes quite tortuous, given the wind chill factor. Currently I am averaging 12.5 mph, but even at this modest speed the effect makes for sub-freezing cycling. At these temperature levels, I have been wearing 2 layers of leggings and 4 top layers but still this does not make for comfortable cycling. However, the main factor behind my low mileage this month has been mechanical. On Feb 15th, with the weather improving after a brutal week or so, I set out on just my 3rd ride of the month only to puncture after 3 miles. I do carry a spare inner tube with me, along with puncture repair kit, but as it was a rear wheel puncture I didn’t fancy fixing it and certainly not at the roadside. ‘Er Indoors kindly picked me by car from the top of Ally Pally, where the event had occurred. As it had been over 3 years and 1500 miles since my bike had been serviced, I decided that a full service was long overdue so I decided to hand the puncture over to a bike shop.

To my delight, ButternutBikes (see: here), an owner-operated independent bicycle outfit, has recently opened just 1/2 mile away from home and I was keen to check out the ‘cut of their jib’. When it comes down to it, one has a basic choice to make when it come to getting one’s cycle repaired. You can go to one for the majors, where the main thrust of the operation is the kit and caboodle, or one can opt for the local independent where repairs are more central to their operation. I’ve tended to favour the latter, wishing for a more personal service as well as from the desire to support their endeavours. In either case, I have ‘Marmite’ feelings about professional cycle-repairers. I suppose that it starts from a feeling of inadequacy that I have to call upon their services in the first place, but I also believe that these thoughts are not entirely self-generating. As a result, I tend to approach bike repair shops with a certain amount of self-loathing and dread, which tends to escalate from the moment I enter their premises. In my experience a typical state of affairs, when walking in, is that there is an operative busily engaged in another activity; in the smaller set-ups, invariably in the process of fixing a bike. You stand there patiently for a while but inevitably your impatience comes to the fore and this communicates itself to the repairer who, often with a deep sigh, acknowledges your presence and deigns to look in your direction. This sets the tone for a relationship where one side, the bike owner, feels underpowered and the other feels under-appreciated; the latter’s feeling often fuelled by a sense that when it comes to bike repairs the consumer always wants it for the equivalent of ‘a Fiver’. In the end, of course, the warmth of human contact and the love of bikes come to the fore. Your bike gets repaired and you are glad to have it working again, back in your possession – in most cases, prepared to return but in others with a ‘never again’ determination.

Picking up my bike from Butternut Cycles

My first experience with Butternut Bikes did little to change my feelings about bike repair operations. Given the Pandemic, I decided not to drop in unannounced but to call them first. My call was answered by Gavin – whom I now know by name and I presume to be the owner – who answered my inquiry as to whether a puncture repair was possible with the response: “We are a bike shop!’ However, he did with some pride inform me that Butternut provided a same-day puncture repair but that if I wanted any more that I had to book my bike in for a service. Not unreasonable, except that Gavin steadfastly refused to countenance this over the telephone and insisted that I needed to book my bike in via their website. This was to be my first taste of Gavin & Butternut Bike’s style of ‘our way or no way’ bike repairs, with a dash of Smart Alec humour thrown in as a bonus! I booked my bike in for the next available slot, the following Tuesday. As suspected, my bike needed quite a lot doing on it and, after the usual delays necessitated by parts and other adventures, I got my bike back on the Friday. Butternut’s charges are not inconsiderable but they are fair and I am more than pleased with the work undertaken. In the end, there is a lot to admire about Butternut Bikes. Grudgingly, I do think that the streamlining of the operation, with the high emphasis on the internet for booking and communications, is well considered. I also feel that Gavin has gone a long way to establish a brand and a culture, as evidenced via his website, internet channels and cycle club. If Butternut were to call on my former marketing consultancy services, I would certainly commend their strategic thinking and creative presentation but counsel them that they should not fall into the trap on presuming that all their customers are of a type and disposition. I wish Butternut well and will certainly use them again.


Feb 27th: On The Road Again (27.7 miles)

I am fortunate to live where I do, for quite a few reasons. One of these, to those who don’t know North London, is that by striking North one can be in the countryside within a surprisingly low number of miles. For this reason on any given day, lycra-clad cyclists are a common site striking a route towards Potters Bar; gateway to a myriad of marvellous Hertfordshire cycle routes. In fact, if you don’t want to head in that direction, about 6 miles of peddling from mine takes one to Barnet Lane which quickly becomes open country. The vast majority of my rides are in this area. Typically I head off without a plan in my head, as was the case on this month’s featured ride when I headed off over Alexandra Palace onto Friern Barnet and then via back roads to Barnet Lane, past the farm and then through Totteridge and Arkley onto High Barnet via Barnet Road. At High Barnet, I headed back into the country until the Dancers Hill roundabout, where I turned right to rejoin The Great North Road at the Duke of Yorks pub. From there it’s a straight run home along the A1, turning left at Highgate.

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