Historian Josie McLellan tells the surprising story of gay activism in Cold War East Berlin. In the 1970s, a group of lesbians and gay men formed the HIB (Homosexual Interest Group Berlin), the first gay rights group in the Eastern Bloc.
Our very own Isy, as well as being a tremendous cook, irrepressably smiley, possessor of excellent music taste and co-author of Another Dinner is Possible, is also a qualified nutritionist. She’ll be running a four-week food and wellbeing course here during March, Tuesday evenings from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.
As a Community Interest Company (CIC) we have to report each year to the CIC regulator. It’s a way of explaining how we’ve tried to benefit the community that we were established to serve, and it enables the regulator to check that we’re not doing anything that would be inappropriate for a non-profit. We’ve just submitted our report for 2013/14 and we thought you might like to see it.
“The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower.”
Robert M. Pirsig
Often I find myself sleepless at midnight, waking up in the dead of morning, or walking along the windswept coast; on holiday of all things, trying my hardest to summon up an explanation to the WHY of my mechanics, always failing, always grasping to find words good enough to communicate that pulling wrenches isn’t just… well, pulling wrenches… in our case, it’s a life choice.
I’m not talking about that “All I want to do is ride bikes” life choice, although that certainly crosses my mind quite often and if I’d have been serious about that from the start then I’d have aimed at becoming a professional paid rider. But society doesn’t pay you to pootle around on your touring bike drinking beer and coffee or ride centuries just for the hell of it whilst gorging yourself on cake, so that option’s always been out, and I’m quite happy with it that way.
Instead Roll for the Soul’s mechanics spend their days tinkering, working up a sweat and getting greasy in the workshop, all the while ruminating on the bigger questions that life poses to them: Where the hell did that small springy bit go? What does it all mean? Why is the world messed up and how can we make a difference?
There’s an in joke that you can’t work here unless you wear black or have tattoos and piercings (apart from Dave the barista, we let him in because he’s extra nice… though he does have a black leather jacket). It might be safe to say that we’re all black-clad anarchists at heart – although I, Ryan, am happy to put forth my opinion that Anarchy, as a political school of thought, needs a serious make over and re-branding effort – and that we fix bikes (or cook) for a living because it’s a conscious, spiritual and political decision.
Our staff come from a diverse set of backgrounds; street theatre directors, supermarket managers, sustainability advocates and researchers, activists, squatters, school leavers through to failed Master’s students right ‘up’ to PhDs (there’s nothing to say it’s hierarchical!), commune and on-site dwellers, co-op housing, and private home owners; many of those all mixed up in one or more people over time. We are, after all, a varied bunch.
But what ties us together is a wish to see positive change in the world, to make a difference and to not sully our souls doing something that doesn’t contribute to our community. And so, we fix bikes.
I don’t need to talk about the positive economic, ecological, health and social differences that one’s decision to ride a bike makes. That’s why we want more people riding more bikes, but it’s not why we wrench. We wrench because we appreciate and wish to practice three things: simplicity, quality and craftsmanship.
I’m willing to bet we may be the most philosophical bunch of grease monkeys you’ll chance to meet in Bristol. I lived in a horsebox on the Isle of Man once. It was my job to cut down a couple of acres of gorse in the midst of winter and chop logs for the people who provided me shelter and food in return. It was all very ‘Walden or Life in the Woods’. Henry D. Thoreau wrote:
“As for the complex ways of living, I love them not, however much I practice them. In as many places as possible, I will get my feet down to the earth”.
[Journal, 22 October 1853]
And I believe that’s one of the things that each of us is trying to achieve. Fixing bikes for a fair price, earning a fair living wage, and getting the occasional ride in is, in its own little way, ‘getting our feet down to earth’. A bike, especially a broken one, will very quickly get you grounded.
‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ doesn’t really have much to do with either of its eponymous subject matters but is a life changing book that I urge you to read and reflect upon seriously. Pirsig, who we started this newsletter with, has a lot to say on the issue of ‘stuckness’. Focusing on a seized bolt he demonstrates how simple problems can become seemingly insurmountable and throw your thinking out of kilter and give rise to a lack of true, simple, focus on the job at hand.
“The difference between a good mechanic and a bad one, like the difference between a good mathematician and a bad one, is […] this ability to select the good facts from the bad ones on the basis of quality. [S]he has to care!”
“….the basic fault that underlies the problem of stuckness is traditional rationality’s insistence upon “objectivity,” a doctrine that there is a divided reality of subject and object. [...] “You are the mechanic. There is the motorcycle. You are forever apart from one another. You do this to it. You do that to it. These will be the results.”
This eternally dualistic subject-object way of approaching the motorcycle sounds right to us because we’re used to it. But it’s not right. It’s always been an artificial interpretation superimposed on reality. It’s never been reality itself. When this duality is completely accepted a certain nondivided relationship between the mechanic and motorcycle, a craftsmanlike feeling for the work, is destroyed.
When traditional rationality divides the world into subjects and objects it shuts out Quality, and when you’re really stuck it’s not any subjects or objects that tells you where you ought to go, it’s Quality.”
If you don’t care then it is Quality that suffers. The presence of care and Quality within the individual is what craftsmanship IS. Pirisg purposefully capitalises his metaphysical Quality; arguing that Quality in itself is the basic building block of the world. Each and every one of us has Quality within us innately and one will still approach a lower case quality machine with upper case Quality if they care. And it is precisely this, precisely because we care, that we wrench. To do so otherwise would make no sense. To do so otherwise would be dishonest. To do so otherwise would not fulfil our souls.
“And that’s it / you treat each job like it’s special /
Care about your work / and be a professional /
There’s a right way to go about your job / and a wrong one /
I find this way is much better in the long run /
It ain’t about the dollar / or trying to go fast /
Unless you take pride in what you’re doing / it won’t last /
Craftsmanship / is a quality that some lack /
You got to give people a reason / for them to come back”
(Buck 65 ‘Craftsmanship’)
Offer Details: In celebration of Quality we are offering 20% off all workshop labour prices. Simply email, phone or visit the workshop mentioning this article to book your bike in and ask any questions. Quotes for work are always free. Workshop prices can be found here.
OFFER ENDS FRI 7th DEC! SUBJECT TO DIARY AVAILABILITY
Su Sokol is cyclist, activist and novelist based in Montreal and originally from New York. On Nov 27 she’ll be at Roll for the Soul reading from her recent novel Cycling to Asylum. Mike White, co-editor of Boneshaker Magazine, will introduce passages from the novel and will join Su (and you!) in discussion of conditions for urban cyclists in cities like Bristol.
On June 27 2015, the Tour de Force will start in Utrecht. It will follow all 21 stages of the 2015 Tour de France route, staying 7 days ahead of the professionals and finishing on July 19 on the Champs Elysees in Paris. This info session will tell you all you need to know about getting involved.
The evening’s are drawing in and the clocks are about to go back; you need a good quality pair of lights and that’s what this months that’s what we’re all about. Coincidentally it’s also the focus of October’s Workshop Offer: clearance lights at knock down prices and all others at 15% off; just nip upstairs to the Workshop see what’s in stock.
Last month we wrote at some length about mudguards. This month we address another passion: good quality lights for all! There are some real stunners in the line up too; from good quality commuters that will get you by quite safely to lightweight lithium wunderkids of the illuminated world and honkinly bright LED arrays for MTB’er before moving onto the mysterious world of the Dynamo.
Fitting lights to your bike is important…and also a legal requirement! We’re pretty damned liberal but on this subject we refuse to budge; lights are mandatory and not just because of the law. They make you and other road users safer and to not fit them show’s a lack of responsibility whilst also making cyclists look bad (just like the act of skipping a red light; more next month). Given that a budget set of safety lights is about a tenner (though we don’t recommend them, buy cheap buy twice) there’s no financial argument either; have a couple of less pints one week and buy some lights!
So…onto the technology.
For the past year and a bit we’ve been stocking and selling a whole shed load of Blackburn’s USB rechargeable ‘Flea’ models. Most of the staff run these lights and they’re pretty sweet! The Flea 2.0 Lightset is the perfect affordable commuter set. The front light kicks out 40 lumens and the rear is nice and bright. With a really neat and portable magnetic USB recharger and sturdy Velcro straps you can take these to work to charge and stash them in your pockets when you go for a night out; run time 5hrs for front and 12 hrs for the rear when flashing so you should only need to recharge them once every week or less. Usually these are £45 a pair; our remaining stock is £27; get ‘em whilst they’re hot. We’ve also got some single rear’s sitting around: £16.
We’ll be honest; we dig most of Blackburn’s stuff really (another Close Contender would be some of the offerings from very well known Cateye) so the next suggestion from us is the Super Flea…yep, same name, different game! These last just as long but this time give you 120 lumens; Ryan uses these front and rear and thinks they’re stupidly good. Like their smaller siblings they’ve got a handy power meter gauge so you’re never caught out and are just as portable but instead of just getting you seen allow you TO see and a lot of the time that’s really important; they aren’t out of place in dark country lanes and are bright enough that our grease monkey even uses them as a ‘get me home’ light should his main beam lose power whilst smashing through the woods. Oh, and the rear’s battery lasts FOREVER! Price? Usually forty quid a pop; you can have one for £25.
What else have we got on clearance? Stuff!!! Come up and take a look; but mostly set’s of nicely affordable battery operated commuter lights that are all half price; some even come with a free rear light!
Once the clearance stock is gone (shouldn’t take long; get up stairs now!!!) we’ll be experimenting with a few newcomers to the USB rechargeable market; we think that rechargeable light tech has gotten good enough now that there’s really no need for anything else; why keep buying batteries? The folks over at our primary supplier Madison have just re-booted their Infini and Electron brands. A good selection of all of these will be coming into store soon and we’ll be offering 15% of all of them AND any lights you want us to order for you personally until the end of the month.
What other options are there then? Not all of us are ‘only’ scooting back and forth to work each day; longer rides on the road demand a more powerful beam so as you can see ahead far enough to not slow you down. Off-road, winter is the time of the MTB night ride (there’s nothing quite like it!) when the trails take on a whole different feeling as your floodlights make everything a bit more 2D due to the shadows and you suddenly start performing drops and jumps that you would have baulked at in the daylight!
A couple of good examples for commuting and road riding first then: The Light and Motion F.650 packs an affordable priced yet wonderfully bright light at RRP£69.99, going up in price moves us to lights such as the Urban800 (a commuter or road riders dream, £120), both rechargeable, both super bright.
Hitting the trails? The Taz1000 would seem a good starting point if you intend to night ride regularly; 1000 lumen, great spread of light, USB rechargeable and £160. Dead reliable too, unlike what some call “Chinese Lanterns” (a catch all term for cheaper yet still powerful lights being sold on a popular bidding website) which sometimes fail after only a few rides: we have known people to get lucky and have them last though. Up from the £150 mark there’s a plethora of choice; if you’re serious about getting a top notch night light then pop on up; we can talk you through the options and brands and our 15% off should mean an excellent price. Many MTB’ers prefer to fit two lights; one of the helmet (preferred initial position) and one on the handlebars so that may be an additional budget consideration.
Finally then the ultimate utilitarian lighting setup: Dynamo’s. We love Dynamo’s and with good reason; they’re bright, provide free power, are a hell of a lot harder to steal than their portable counterparts and you can never forget them! Ryan’s Thorn Raven (the big black touring bike you sometimes see around) has such a setup and he’ll happily cycle back from Cardiff overnight on it in perfect ‘I can see’ happiness! Besides, being stuck down dark country lanes after your batteries die would suck. For longer rides, Audax’s that are going to start or finish in the dark and for your trusty commuter Dynamo’s are definitely worth considering.
Some options then: Commuters and those wanting to give such a setup a go can get any of Shimano’s offerings from £45 to £100 going up in consistency, immediacy and lower weight as you go up the scale. The folks over at Amba Marketing supply us with Supernova’s Dynamo’s. These are expensive bits of kit but the finish and quality is superb. The ‘InfinityS’ is super light weight for its class whilst geeks amongst you will love the switch-able ‘Infinity8′ which allows you to disengage the hub’s magnets when they’re not needed thus reducing the slight drag from the hub. Supernova’s lights are top-notch too and we’ve already had several builds using their rather lush colour matched anodized hubs and lights. Amba are also the go to people for all the Busch and Mueller products so you can pickup these trusty German bit’s of kit at a good price including their USB systems which allow you to recharge phones/laptops/etc via pedal power: perfect for longer tours.
If you’re going to the dynamo route then you’ll need to get us to build you a wheel; one of our specialities and we often have customers referred to us for Ryan’s legendary love of lacing. We can either build to your specification or are happy to advise. We keep a good range of quality Sapim and DT Swiss spokes in stock. There’s NOTHING like the strength of a hand built wheel so why not also get a rear wheel custom built whilst you’re at it? Upgrade today!
Ride safe, stay seen, fit lights.
Ryan and the workshop team
Offer Details: All old stock at up to 50% off. 15% off all new stock and each customer order subject to availability including Dynamo’s and Dynamo Lights. Building of Dynamo into wheel £35 plus parts.
OFFER ENDS FRI 7th NOV! ORDER EARLY TO AVOID GENUINE DISAPPOINTMENT!