Sunday, December 9, 2012

Jumping on the Mule Train

(Left to Right: Philip Shrimpton, Dave Hill, Kenny Rhame, Patrick Shrimpton)

In 2009 the concept of 'The Mules' emerged during the completion of the Annual MS 150 Houston to Austin Charity cycle event in America.
That year was significantly different.
For the first time ever, day one was cancelled, because of extreme weather conditions.
Despite that four of the regular  MS 150 Riders (above) which included my brother Paddy and I, were shaken but not deterred.

After spending months of trying to get people to sponsor us, we felt that we would be cheating our sponsors if we only completed the shorter second day.
 All of our backgrounds were connected with risk in its differing forms so we felt well placed to properly assess the conditions. 
Our conclusion was that we decided to ride.

It was not totally reckless, we knew that we would be fully supported and able to monitor the weather systems...... closely.

We did  receive some 'well meant' criticism from some quarters - suggesting that we were mad, and these comments were noted.
If it were not for them the Mules may never have evolved.

For out of respect for those views, it was decided that we should not to ride in our team colours, but as a quartet of like minded fellows.
These events were catalogued in an early blog (Renegade Riders) 
As we cycled towards Bellville we discussed many things as we dodged tornado's, including the values that made us get up that morning.
Amongst the subjects was the idea of making our own team, something that reflected our values and made us different.
We all had experiences of local cycling clubs where the emphasis was on personal improvement and competitive development.
Where riding in the 'Red zone' seemed to be semi compulsory and the desire to chat was negated by the need to maximise your oxygen intake, or to put it in Yorkshire Speak....You were blowing out your Arse!!!!!.
We wanted people to ride for fun and kinship to enhance personal development and present competition as being something you did against yourself.
With our objectives sorted the only thing that was missing was a suitable name.

At that time I was a fledgling blogger and the name of my site 'Travels with my Mule' seemed to resonate with us all.
Paddy suggested we call ourselves Travels with my Mule.

2009 seems a long time ago now.
From that quartet in 2009 our ranks have swelled.

Paddy organised Jerseys, Bibs, beers holders (Very Important) a SAG Wagon and was instrumental in bringing people together in the Houston area of Texas to ride as a team, train as a team and drink beer as a team.
More importantly to partake in Charity endurance rides.
They set up a great social scene with organised monthly social gatherings.

Paddy also set up a website which provides links to all that we are 'about', including a direct link to this blogsite.

To a lesser extent I went back to Yorkshire and sold the concept to friends and work colleagues where we too were able to form our own more modest group which has grown in stature and in numbers.
We followed the US template with charity events throughout the whol;e of the UK and frequent social gatherings.
The name Travels with my Mule was soon recognised as a bit of a mouthful so we now just call ourselves 'The Mules' both in the USA and UK.
A name that has been uttered by many MC's now where people no longer say
'Who are they?'

As we have grown the Mules have taken part in more varied local and international rides which have supported local and national charities on both sides of the Atlantic, We have also organised endurance social rides for our members exploring terrains in far flung places.

In order to keep up our momentum and to ensure that others dont miss out and our able to  join our Mule Train we are becoming affiliated to our respective cycling bodies in the United Kingdoam And the USA.

The US Mules have already become part of US Cycling Registering as 'The Mules International Cycling Team'.
They even have their own recognised Cat Riders performing in the Mule Livery.
Paddy naturally was nominated as president but he is ably assisted by Ivonne the team Secretary
(Steve and Ivonne)

Ivonne and her Husband Steve are new members to the team and have ensured that the wave of enthusiasm continues to build.
Such is the progression of the US Mules that they are now able to actively get involved with local charities who want to host ride events to raise money. One such charity being 'Cycle for little Heroes'
In the UK we have just had our first AGM and have appointed officers to form a committee.

Being from 'Up North' in England the we are seen as people who like 'Committie meetings' which has been the 'but' of many comedians over the years - including Monty Python.
I think we are portrayed as being unsophisticated, illiterate yet full of our self importance, with  committee meetings being held with the same reverence as Christmas.

Ours was very amusing and Full of Christmas Spirit......'Famous Grouse', 'Chevas Regal' and 'Highland Park' to be precise.
We have now formed 'The Mules Cycling Club' with myself as Secretary, Duncan Collins as Chairman and Karen Gooding as Treasurer.
The rest of the hard core riders are now committee members.
Tomorrow we will look to be registered with British Cycling and actively boost our own Membership.

Whether Anglo or US Mule our goals are the same.
To promote cycling to all members. To do so in such a way that is inclusive, supportive and encourages participants to enjoy the sport and achieve their own personal goals. As well as promoting a healthier greener lifestyle we are also dedicated to raising funds for various charities through the various events we undertake.
If you want to know more about joining either check out the website.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

War on Britains Roads

In the light of recent high profile cycle/car exchanges with Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish both coming into contact with motorised vehicles, the lovely BBC decided to highlight this issue in a documentary inappropriately titled 'War on Britains Roads'.

As a cyclist comuter and car driver I found it great entertainment, when really I should have seen it as thought provoking.
'BBC' - Thank you for entertaining me, whilist at the same time alienating me from my other road users.

British Cycling has described the BBC’s ‘War on Britain’s Roads’ programme, which aired on BBC1 on Wednesday evening, as a ‘missed opportunity’ to paint an accurate picture of what cycling is like on Britain’s roads; to publicise the work that is being done by government, cycling organisations and other concerned parties to improve conditions; and to take a look at European examples of how our roads could be.

The documentary told the story of an alleged ‘war’ between cyclists and motorists, through the lens of a number of cyclists using helmet-mounted cameras; interviews with cab drivers and lorry drivers and through a moving interview with Cynthia Barlow, Chair of Roadpeace, whose daughter Alex Jane McVitty was killed by a left turning cement lorry whilst cycling to work in London in June 2000.
British Cycling believes that the documentary failed to give a balanced picture of cycling on UK roads and distorted the relationship between cyclists and motorists, through its almost total concentration on accidents, near misses, violence and conflict between cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.
“the overall tone and story of the programme is an inaccurate portrayal of how people cycle and drive on the roads. The majority of people who cycle or drive do so in a safe and careful manner."

Ruth Jackson, British Cycling Campaigns Manager said: “There were some good aspects to the programme, Cynthia Barlow’s story in particular was very moving and she made some excellent points on how cycle safety can and has been improved.
But the overall tone and story of the programme is an inaccurate portrayal of how people cycle and drive on the roads. The majority of people who cycle or drive do so in a safe and careful manner.”

Prior to the programme airing Chris Boardman joined many voices from the cycling world in criticising the programme’s sensationalist angle, Tweeting “Here's an idea, I'd like to make a program on what cycling CAN be in this country, any takers...?” on 4 December.

Jackson continued: “This was a missed opportunity and we join Chris Boardman in asking for a programme on what cycling can offer the country,” alluding to the examples of major European cycling centres such as Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Utrecht, with infrastructure and legislation which provides the ideal opportunity for cycling to flourish.

The programme portrayed cycling as a dangerous, stressful activity, concentrating solely on collisions, near misses and aggressive behaviour caught on camera and posted on YouTube. Jackson, however, point out that “statistically, cycling is much safer today than it was 20 years ago, and it is as safe as walking. There are so many benefits to cycling including improved health, improved environment, less congestion and great value for money.”

The programme concluded by attempting make its protagonists see things from each other’s perspective. However in its summing up, it failed to address the work of government, cycling organisations and other interested parties in improving conditions for cyclists and other vulnerable road users.

Jackson concluded: “What would make the biggest difference for cycling, which the programme didn’t address, is strong leadership from government including putting cycling at the heart of policy.”

For me the highlight of the programme was Lewis the cycling Vigilante who was out there head camed upwatching the interaction
Whether it be a cyclist or motorist behaving like a prat he filmed you and told you about it.
Mostly in such an un offensive way that even the most ardent firebrand might listen.
His work can be seen on Youtube 'Tradffic Droid 360 News'
Maybe he should have produced the documentary

On the subject of Road Safety there is a new device on the block and I kinda like it
Its called Blaze which sounds a bit like some comic book hero.
If it can offer the same sort of protection.... I dont care what they cakk it.

The BLAZE Bike Light is a completely new innovation for urban cyclists. It’s a damn good bike light, but it also tackles one of the biggest causes of cycling fatalities - being caught in the blind spot and vehicles turning across an unseen bike. 
Statistics confirm that 79% of cyclists are hit when they’re travelling straight ahead and a vehicle maneuvers into them, largely due to their small footprint and position on the road. BLAZE tackles this.

BLAZE is a front light with super-bright LEDs, but it also projects the symbol of a bike down onto the road ahead of the cyclist. It’s adjustable, but ideally about 5m in front. It alerts road users ahead of the cyclist of their presence, helping to prevent them turning across their path (especially the big ones like buses and trucks!). Making the cyclist more visible and increasing their footprint on the road.

 Another common accident sees drivers pulling out of a side junction into the path of a cyclist, the bike can be right up close but overlooked due to its position; being tucked in closer to the curb.  BLAZE's flashing symbol ahead of the bike warns drivers (in time) that there's a cyclist approaching, and stops them pulling out.  The same applies to pedestrians, people often don't hear a cyclist coming and step out in front of the bike, warn them you're coming through!

Check Blaze Out