for reasons that now escape me, i once undertook to learn one of the martial arts. to be honest, i can't actually recall which particular discipline, but i believe it had more in common with judo than with karate. i have a vague notion that this may have been as a result of watching the david carradine series kung fu, naively believing that it was possible to deflect bullets with a shovel, or walk across rice paper without leaving any sort of trail. it all seemed well within the pounds of possibility, so every wednesday eve i'd drive from home to the scout hall alongside the railway line to spend an hour or so trying to avoid being walloped by blokes with black belts round their tunics.
you see when you watch these things on tv, not only does it look fabulously simple, but the principal character comes cross as indestructible. that's what i'd signed up for, but it's not quite the way the evenings' events transpired. those guys were not only quick, but pretty merciless to a complete newbie which i thought just a tad unfair. david carradine would surely have said sorry before throwing me unceremoniously to the floor?
needless to say, the lessons didn't last too long. aside from feeling in imminent danger every wednesday night, the cost of white jumpsuits, various coloured belts and travelling away for gradings started to mount up. i didn't know that when i started and at the time i worked most weekends. that made things awkward.
i must admit, i'm far happier undertaking tasks that i can teach myself. fame and fortune are mine in the realm of music, having taught myself to play drums. i confess i find it a trifle ironic that being self-taught, i have subsequently taught many others in the way of the paradiddle. and bicycles also come under the same umbrella. ever since i inadvertantly unscrewed the lockring on a five speed freewheel and covered the garage floor in very small ball bearings, i have learned the intricacies of the velocipede, usually in the most awkward of circumstances.
however, one of the fundamentals of riding a bicycle, particularly in the wilds of the hebrides, is the skilled ability to replace an inner tube on having suffered a puncture. more often than not, these will occur out near the atlantic coast in very wet and windy weather, and attempting to repair a punctured tube under such conditions is the very definition of pointlessness. though the rules mitigate against 'man satchels' stuck under the saddle, containing a spare inner tube, a tyre lever and perchance a multi-tool, i delight in my rebelliousness by doing so in spite of the velominati.
the one item missing from the above list is, of course, a pump, a device that ranges in shape and function from a less than portable track pump, to the tiny ninja pump from portland design works that currently nestles close to a pdw bottle cage on my orange colnago. however, before we enter into the whys and wherefores of a bicycle pump with the propensities of an eastern martial art, can i just point out that the little rubber clip that fastens the pump to its bottle cage mount struggles to fit neatly beside the bottle cage made by the same company. surely a momentary lapse of joined up thinking?
however, in practice, this is but a mere superficiality, and now i'm sorry i mentioned it.
the difference between the ninja pump and its peer group can be attributed to its rather nifty duality. like pretty much every bicycle pump on the market, this compact and bijou delight will cheerfully inflate any tube you care to mention via an integral adapter along its minute length. this securely attaches to presta, woods and schrader valves in a matter of seconds, just as you prepare yourself for the herculean task ahead. for, rather obviously, the smaller the pump's barrel, the smaller volume of air that can be transmitted at one go. the sales card to which the ninja was very securely affixed on arrival, contends that it might be simplicity itself to reach over 100psi, but i'd respectfully advise that you'd have need of schwarnold arzenegger's upper body physique to reach that pressure without cardiac arrest intervening.
with substantial effort from my puny muscles, i managed about 72psi before mrs washingmachinepost had to call in the paramedics. in truth, however, i carry the ninja soley to pump a tyre up sufficiently to get me home from mid-atlantic. but what of its duality, i hear you ask?
indeed, those clever folks at pdw have obviously taken into account those of us who have not recently won a mr or mrs universe contest, by adding the option of inflating a tyre via one of those dinky carbon dioxide cartridges. now, at this point i must raise my hand to inform that gas of any style or flavour scares me every bit as much as a boxed set of coronation street episodes. the only pump i previously owned that promised effortless co2 inflation, all but froze my fingers off by distributing a fine layer of dry-ice across rim, tyre, valve and fingers. unfortunately, none of it entered the inner tube.
the ninja, as you'd doubtless expect from a device practised in eastern philosophy, does things slightly differently by incorporating a shut-off valve into the process. by setting this valve to the closed position, threading a cartridge until the seal pops, it is easily possible to check that the pump is fully connected before opening the gas valve fully. though gas still scares the heebie jeebies out of me, this was pretty much simplicity itself.
despite my having the ninja concealed alongside a bottle cage on the downtube, for those inevitable kung-fu moments, it is easily small enough to be hidden in a rear pocket.
you can never be too careful in the coffee shop these days.
the portland design works ninja pump is distributed in the uk by paligap and retails at £22 including mounting bracket but excluding co2 cartridge.
friday 15 august 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................