Edward Peppitt explains why he will be visiting many lighthouses
When you’re a responsible (or at least not criminally negligent) adult it can be tough to make time to ride. That’s why the secret to maintaining a healthy cycling life is sneaking in those rides when you can–which in turn means knowing when to dispense with the formalities.
Sure, it’s nice to wear the special clothes and brew the special coffee and apply the special unguents to your crotch and limbs in preparation for your time in the saddle, but sometimes doing so can be the difference between taking advantage of an open riding window and having the sash come crashing down on your head while you’re still applying your chamois cream.
On a recent afternoon I had just such a window. Birds were singing, the sun was shining, and a pie was cooling on the windowsill. I knew I had to get out there while I had the chance. So I skipped the riding attire, hastily stuffed a vegan man-purse from Rivendell with some essentials, and decided to take a spin out to City Island, which bills itself as the “Seaport of the Bronx.”
Here’s what I packed as I ran out the door:
“Photography as a fad is well-nigh on its last legs, thanks principally to the bicycle craze.”
So wrote the great Alfred Stieglitz, one of the pioneers of photography, back in 1893. He was wrong of course. Both these novel technologies of the late nineteenth century are still very much with us. And more than that, they seem to go hand in hand.
Throughout that decade cyclists were earlier adopters of Kodak’s new ‘hand camera’. Kodak boss George Eastman himself rode a bike to work and made long sight-seeing cycle tours of Europe. He knew that the last thing cyclists wanted to carry was a hefty tripod and a saddle bag full of heavy glass plates. His company sponsored round-the-world cyclists Thomas Allen and William Sachtleben, who sent back more than 1,200 circular images on 3.5-inch nitrate negatives, a selection of which are currently on display at an exhibition in the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles.
Every once in a while the cycle industry re-invents itself to follow fashions which come and go. Meanwhile, the ancient spirits of quality and style sit on the fence and watch, lending a helping hand to those who allow them through their doors. The recent resurgence in the hand-built British bicycle is a fashion that was once an epidemic. Almost every town had a cycle shop, with an often rudimentary building attached where a skilled craftsman would be building frames for local cyclists.
After returning from a 59 day tour of mainland Europe, I never envisioned taking on the world on two wheels. But 13 months and 2,000 miles later, I found myself in Istanbul, Turkey far from my home in Ireland once again. With the right support behind me I continued on through 41 countries, covering 30,000 miles on bicycle, and 20,000 by boat. Relying on the kindness of strangers, I lived for two and a half years on the finer things in life, while raising over £5,000 pounds for Depaul Ireland, a charity tackling homelessness on the Emerald Isle.
In the spring of 2013 I set off from California carrying my father’s ashes to his hometown in China. By the end of the year I had cycled across the United States, flown to Norway from Florida and cycled Scandinavia, the Baltics, Central Europe and most of the Balkans. It was early 2014 when I decided to escape the winter doldrums of Europe and fly to the warm and exotic land of Egypt.
I must be getting old. Just like that, 2014 is over. I remember when I was a kid, the summer holidays lasted forever and Christmas always seemed an eternity away. I always hoped that those who told me ‘school days are the best of your life’ were far off the mark. Endless hours of maths, PE in sub zero temperatures wearing gym knickers and an airtex shirt; how could that be the best life had to offer? PE even made me think I wasn’t ‘sporty,’ but that’s another story for another time. Now I’m free from the horrors of netball, drinking at bus stops and GCSEs, I’m having more fun that ever and life seems to fly by. So they were wrong. I bloody knew it. School sucks and being a grown up rules.
It’s the longest standing record in cycling. Some say it can’t be broken and few have even tried. But on 1 January 2015, a little known British cyclist will begin a year of cycling with the intention of surpassing the 75,065 miles that Tommy Godwin rode way back in 1939.
If there’s a month for armchair cycling it’s November. Emily Dickinson described it as ‘the Norway of the year’, which is a bit hard on Norway. November really is the gloomiest month. Dreary skies above, mud below – and not much in between. As an embalmer removes the blood from a corpse, the landscape is drained of its autumn colour. Spring seems inconceivable and we’ve not yet reached the frost-spangled glamour of midwinter. November promises little and delivers less. Even professional bike racers – men and women whose job it is to ride their bikes – take the month off.