I’ve bought a bicycle.

Sorry about the ‘one sentence paragraph’ there. It’s a writing practice I despise deeply, but I wanted to give you a chance to reflect upon this seemingly mundane happening before launching into any descriptions, whys or wherefores. The main thing to understand is that I’ve not had a bike since 1996, when my beloved Raleigh Bomber got nicked out of the back garden.

I loved that bike: my Brother had let me have it after he bought a mountain bike that year. He’d painted it black with what appeared to be Hammerite, replaced the handlebars with some decent ones (the original Bomber had curved bars IIRC), and fitted some awesome Mud Dawg tyres to it as well. The result was a mean-looking Industrial Black Bike that looked as if it had been built by Nitzer Ebb out of tractor parts shipped in from the Ukraine.

It was a shockingly impressive bike in a Mad MAx kind of way, even though the gears didn’t work, and I was very upset when I discovered it missing, but never bothered replacing it.

Anyway, I decided to spoil myself. I’d been agonising over buying a bike/not buying a bike for the last three years, and so had a pretty good picture of what I wanted.

Firstly it had to be inexpensive. A truly decent bike will cost over a grand, and I didn’t want to spend that much in case I rode it a few times and got bored with it. I don’t often get bored with things I buy because I put a lot of thought and prep into my purchases, so I tend to use something to death once I have it. The other thing is I rarely buy anything anyway unless I have a specific use in mind for it.

Secondly, I needed one that could go on roads and canal paths, but not necessarily a mountain bike. I discovered that a ‘hybrid’ was the way forward. I wasn’t fussed about going fast, racing, impressing my friends with it or riding up and down mountains.

My Brother recommended the Carrera Subway as a cheap bike that would do the job for a little while. I figured that if, after a year or so, I sort of got bitten by the cycling bug I could always ‘upgrade’, but for now that subway seemed like a good bet. I rarely go for pro gear unless I know I’m going to be using it for Something Serious, and instead tend to go for things that will gove me scope to develop my skills wihout breaking the bank. This is why I didn’t go for a £1000+ Nikon body for my first digital camera, and why I won’t be bankrupting myself to buy a Nissan Skyline for my first car either. Money’s not the sole issue: wasting it for bragging rights is just idiotic, but by the same token I wouldn’t expect a pro cyclist to have a Subway as their main competition bike, or even for someone who’s main hobby is cycling.

So, off to Halfords this arvo, and the first Bike I see is a black Subway, in the sale, in my size. Half an hour later it’s been put together, and I’ve also splashed out on a helmet, a lock and some lights.

Riding it was easy enough. I don’t think it’s possible to forget how to ride a bike due to the nature of kinaesthesic/muscle memory. I was a bit wobbly at first, but once I got going I remembered how much fun it was to cycle everywhere when I was 17 and living in Surrey. We used to go off out to the countrysidey bits, or round Horsell Common, or down St George’s Hill where Very Rich People live (not sure if that’s possible now). It was dreadfully smooth, and a little like flying.

I called El Bro to inform him that I’d taken his advice. There was one bit I was confused about:

Yeah, anyway, about the bike. There’s something I need to know…
EB: Shoot.
DS: You know the gears, right?
EB: Right.
DS: I have a gear lever thing on the left, and one on the right. Why do I have two?
EB: [I’m sure I hear the words ‘aww, bless!’ come out there] Well, one does the front gears, the other does the rear gears. How many do you have on the front?
DS: Er… I… Um… Don’t. Know… Shimano?
EB: Well, if you use a big cog on the front and a little one on the back, then it’ll be really hard work. If you use a little cog on the front and a big one on the back you’ll pedal like mad and go hardly anywhere*. Just stick to the middle one at the front for now, and change gears on the back one.
DS: OK, gotcha.

I couldn’t help but feel like a non-technical manager who’s out of his depth with web technology. In short, I have a bunch of stuff to learn now, about riding, cleaning, maintenance and so on. This is always good. Tomorrow I’ll be buying mudguards, panniers and a little bike computer so I can put a number to how fast and far I’ve been.

*not sure if I have remembered that correctly. If it’s wrong, it’s me not remembering correctly!

General update #55378008

The flat’s fixed, and has been for a fortnight, but clearng up afterwards has been a pigache and no mistake. I’m finding dust everywhere stll…

Work’s fine, and I’ve done rather well on the tests, scoring ‘Advanced’ on Javascript, a good score in VB and a crappy one on ASP. The last was because, being self taught, the average ‘Teach Yourself’ book doesn’t cover a lot of the advanced stuff. Ironically, it was just the day before that I started reading through the 70-562 Microsoft Certification Textbook, and had to stop and do something else.

I am, however, starting to suffer from ‘Project Fatigue’, a condition where I just want to do some bloody work without having GANTT charts and having to estimate to the nearest half hour how long every single damned thing is going to take me to do. What PMs often don’t understand is that a dev needs to fully understand the nature and all the implications of  a change in order to give an accurate time estimate, and also be able to anticipate any ‘bumps in the road’ along the way, and that’s not always possible when confronted with an alien system and bunch of stuff you’re not 100% familiar with.

Worse, many seem to think that websites just ‘happen’ by people somehow ‘drawing’ things into a browser and hitting ‘Save’: many don’t understand that HTML, CSS, Javascript and jQuery, ASP.NET controls, Java, SQL and databases are very different things, and that in an enterprise setting the guy who makes the paragraphs line up and paints things colours often doesn’t have control over the fields that are displayed on a page or the fact that a form doesn’t work.

Oh, and another thing, simply ‘believing in yourself’ does not make you an expert in Velocity templating, nor does it give you a thorough grounding in Java, the API (‘application programming interface’ – the magic programming words and stuff needed to make something do what you want it to) for the content management system, or the command line syntax required to restart the Tomcat thingumajig. It certainly doesn’t bequeath unto a neophyte the mysteries of whatever that ‘ant’ thing does.

It takes study and experimentation, and longer than a morning.

Goddam Apache servers, Tomcats and ants. It’s different world, that non-Microsoft stuff. I mean, wtf is a ‘Bean’ for Gods’ sakes? Couldn’t they just call it a ‘reusable object’ or something?

Ms Rhapsody has fished out her old Java textbook. I hope it helps.