s-l300Following the Catastrophic Pothole Incident, I have been paranoid about the car and the tyres and the wheels and the suspension. The Touran vibrates at speed. I was especially aware of this on the continued motorway journey home, but wasn’t sure if the vibration was being caused by the roofbox and the high winds. You never know.

I don’t use the car much in the UK, but when I went out shopping in it, I was still convinced that it was vibrating, so I took it to the tyre place in MK to be checked out. Two of the alloy wheels, they told me, were borked, both beyond repair, one of them, “Like a 50p piece.”

“Yeah, he said it had been vibrating.”

“Well, it would.”

I happen to have a set of VW 16″ alloys that I took off the Polo, because driving a car with low profile tyres on these roads is a mug’s game. But they were just the wrong size. So.

I wanted a benchmark for replacements. Ebay has sets of 4 – used – for around £200, but caveat emptor and all that: I could be replacing damaged wheels with damaged wheels, and that’s if I found the right size. I phoned the local VW garage. Volkswagen’s price for replacement OEM rims? £480.

For a set of 4? you ask.


For just two replacements, then? you ask.

No. That’s the price for each wheel. So to replace the two damaged wheels, the best part of £1000. VW do offer after-sales rims, starting at £130 each. Or steel wheels, starting at £80 — plus, they would want to gouge you for £40 for a branded wheel trim. Or hubcap, as we used to call them. You know, those things you see lying in the grass at the side of the road.

£40 for a set of four wheel trims? you ask.

No. That’s the price for each one. Making a steel wheel plus trim cost more or less the same as an alloy.

Anyway, I was just benchmarking. A quick internet search turned up a set of steel rims for £133, so that’s what I’m getting.

£133 for each wheel? you ask.

No. That’s for a set of four.

I’ve never understood the fetish for alloy rims. You can’t see them when you’re sitting in the car. Sure, they’re probably not as precisely engineered as alloys, but I don’t think it’s really much of an issue. But it’s the last days of the Roman empire, isn’t it? They continue to sell pups and we continue to buy. Have you seen the state of Teslas? They look like they’ve been bolted together by blindfolded chimps wearing mittens. Their stark interiors look as inviting as a building site portaloo, and the giant touch displays look like someone threw a cheap television at a Model T’s dashboard. As for the leather seats: have you heard about the DFS Sale?

Volkswagen’s price gouging is no worse than any other manufacturer, I suppose, though I’m still bitter about the extortionate amount they want for replacing the old 30-pin iPhone adapter with the Lightning equivalent. I read last week that BMW are trying to charge people £80 a year for Apple Carplay, which Apple supply to manufacturers free of any fees, so good luck with that. And in the days of Google Maps, the fact that built-in sat nav can cost up to £2000 is a joke. The latest hilarity is the premium they charge for fitting a £5 Qi charging mat to a modern vehicle.

So, the increasingly shitting looking Touran will look a tiny bit shittier, and my unalloyed disdain for motor manufacturers endures.

It’s been a bummer the whole damn summer

English: A Snickers candy bar, broken in half.
Marathon – yeah, you heard me

Having established that the prevailing wind would be behind me on the way in, I finally did that thing and cycled to work last Friday. It was never the distance that bothered me. My normal drive to work is 16 miles, but to avoid the busiest roads (with the most fatalities), I had to go three miles in the wrong direction, so that made it 19 miles on the day. So I was bothered a bit by the extra three miles, which shouldn’t be necessary in a civilised country.

I also had concerns about getting stranded with a puncture, or being knocked into a ditch by an Audi driver. Then there were the clothes, my Rapha gear, which I’d been accumulating in hopes of looking reasonably smart at work after a 19-mile ride.

Ironically, the three miles in the wrong direction was along the A422 with the wind against me and very fast cars and the odd lorry thundering past me. You can’t hug the left hand side too much because of the horrible state of the road, so you just have to hope. I set off at 6 am, not because I thought I needed 2 1/2 hours to get to work, but because I was hoping 6 am would be a lot quieter than 7 am. It more or less was. I was allowing 90 minutes to get to work, meaning I’d arrive an hour early. We usually get there at least 30 minutes early, so it wouldn’t be too shocking,

(Yeah, Wilshaw, all this talk of teachers going home at three o’clock: no mention of what time we arrive in the morning, eh? Not a morning person, obviously.)

The odd dead hare avoided, I covered the three miles and finally turned off onto the back road to Thornton. On a map, it almost looks like a straight line to Wing from there.

The next half an hour was hard and hilly. It was cold, and although I’d got up at 5 to eat breakfast, I’d not digested it, and my legs wanted to be in bed.ImageLooking at the route profile (above), you can see that the lowest point of the ride is fairly early on, and then you start climbing until about the half way point. That little dip right at the beginning is the bit from my front door to the bottom of my street, which is followed by a sharp left and a steep climb up Page Hill.

Once I hit the roundabout on the A421 between Whaddon and Mursley, things got better. My legs suddenly felt better, and I fairly flew along. The Mursley/Whaddon road is in a shocking state of repair: there are bits of it where 100% of the width of the surface is potholed and there is nowhere for a cyclist to go, apart from up and down as you bounce and rattle. It’s like there’s been a war and the road was strategic and has been shelled. When you read post-apocalyptic science fiction, and it’s a hundred years or so after a disaster, and the few remnants of humanity are living in what’s left of the infrastructure: like that. You can see that there was once a road there, but nature is taking over.

Anyway, once I survived that, and as you can see from the route profile above, it was dead easy. So easy, in fact, that I arrived at work not at 7:30, but at 7:15, having averaged around 15 mph. This is a fairly respectable speed, and fast for me.

I wasn’t very sweaty, and frankly didn’t need the Snickers bar I had in my lunch bag (I actually started typing Marathon, then, if you can believe it).

I wasn’t teaching that day, but got a lot of comments about my clothes. I looked very casual. Probably it was the DZR shoes, which look like, you know, plimsoles, but apparently the grey Rapha trousers and the blue Rapha polo neck were fooling nobody.

I’ll do it again, though, if the weather picks up. But here we are in the middle of June and I can say with all honesty that I still have not been out on my bike on a day when it wasn’t cold, windy, or both. There have been no calm, sunny days at all. The wind has been at at least 15 mph all year, I reckon. 15 mph, as you might guess, is enough wind to make you feel like there’s something pushing against you. It’s what you start to feel even on a calm day when you’re cycling at a decent speed. 15 mph feels like you’re pushing against something, so even on a flat road you feel like you’re going up hill.

I can hear the wind blowing through the trees outside this morning. Forecast says 21 kph, rising to 31 kph by lunchtime. Here’s hoping for some decent weather in France this summer holiday. A faint hope. It’s Auxelles Bas: of course it’s going to rain.