Journal

Q&A with Josie Dew

I was given a copy of The Wind in My Wheels when I first got into cycling just under a decade ago. A travelogue which detailed the experience of the English touring cyclist Josie Dew. 

At that time, I had read numerous cycling books but mainly about professional bike racing. I found Josie’s book inspiring and it gave me a different perspective on the bike.

Although a caterer by profession, Josie frequently takes long cycle tours and then writes books about her trips, full of humour and human observation. Sometimes putting herself in mortal danger - all in the name of adventure. 

1987, her first time abroad by herself, Josie clocked up 7000 miles in six months riding through Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Faroe Island, Iceland, Lapland, Finland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Switzerland and France. 

By September 2005, Josie had cycled through 48 countries, including circumnavigating Great Britain and Japan. Enduring “locust invasions, tree-climbing goats and ogling Arabs” in the Sahara. Across Katmandu, The Himalayas and “the chaos, rats, dhal and dubious water supplies” of India. 

She has cycled around Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Around Hawaii ("lots of palm trees"). Through Mexico's Baja peninsula, down the west coast of the USA, Hong Kong, China and the Baltic States. She got pregnant and kept cycling until she went into labour. 

I could go on … 

I have wanted to get Josie on the journal for a long time and I am very pleased to be able to share this with you. 

Many thanks to Josie for her time and for providing images. 

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"That's my Cycle", Wall in India, 1989 

Which are your favourite stretches of road to ride on locally and what is it that you like about them?

Some of my favourite local roads to ride are the lanes around Didling – quiet, scenic, lots of sheep and close to the foot of the always impressive South Downs. And one of my best local rides off road is the South Downs Way: no motor traffic, high up, great views of the sea and the Weald.

The same question for roads anywhere in the world?

Northwest fjords of Iceland, Scottish Highlands, north coast of Hawaii’s Kauai, west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, fjords of Norway, parts of Austria and the French Alps, Japan’s Okinawa archipelago and the Netherlands (for its incredible network of bike paths).

What is your most memorable moment on the bike or involved with cycling

Lots of memorable moments - one being going into labour while out on a bike ride when pregnant with my first child and trying to cycle home before giving birth.

Do you approach riding, or ride your bike, differently now to when you first got into cycling?

I approach cycling slightly differently now as I generally have children attached!

In the north of the Sahara desert, Algeria, 1985

What is your favorite piece of cycling kit (either something you currently own or have in the past)?

My Exposure lights – at last I feel drivers can actually see me.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

If I could, I would go back to a time when cars were few and far between (or non-existent).

Are you the type of person who likes to have a plan? Or do you prefer to wing it?

As for plans – I tend to be spur of the moment. 

Monument Valley, USA. Cycling across America, 1992.

Have you faced many challenges bringing up three children in a rural area without a car? 

When my first child was 1 I got my first ever vehicle (rusty camper van) as both my parents were ill in hospital 20 miles away and because of where I live (rural - not train service no bus service) I bought the camper as I couldn't cycle down a busy A road for 20 miles with a baby in the dark winter nights to visit them. I still have the camper and use it only on the rare occasions when I can't get to the place I need to get to on the bike with 3 children.

Do you have any cycling pet hates?

Being overtaken on my bike too fast too close or overtaken on a blind corner.

Cotton cap or helmet? 

These days helmet.

Rough Road, Utah. USA, 1992. 

Which three words best describe you?

Cycling writing mother.

When were/are you most happy?

On the move, on the bikes with my noisy offspring.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?

If the amount of cars and trucks and vans on our roads metamorphose into bikes it would be heaven!

Japan, 1994.

Bike Path near Zandvoort, The Netherlands. Cycling the North Sea coast with offspring, 2016.

Bike Path near Breskens, The Netherlands, 2017.

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A View of Spring

March 2018 was interesting.

Nice clear days plus some snow filled ones.  We made some developments on the Mamnick showroom extensions in Sheffield with Simon. I watched Rowan at Hunk Print melt frozen pipes with his heat gun (between printing t.shirts). I discussed pocket-square designs with Steve (Dry British) down the pub. We did a little Yomp with Fliss and Ian from Campbell-Cole (and their dog Fred) and in contrast, a little pub-Yomp with Ben through snowy parks, over frozen ponds to watch the footie on a Sunday afternoon. 

All these people play a part in Mamnick in one form or another. 

All images taken by Thom Barnett 

 

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The Independent Mind - Part 2

“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.” AA Milne

 

Perhaps geniuses and prodigies are born knowing how to think for themselves, but most of us have to learn how. And unfortunately many never do. Perhaps it’s because they never had the right teacher at school or met the right friend to show them. Or perhaps because thinking for yourself isn’t easy.

To think properly requires an understanding of the subconscious biases of the human mind. To then make conscious compensations to avoid falling into the countless traps of fallacious thinking.

An example of one such trap is the common belief fallacy; “most people I know hold the same belief, therefore it must be true”. In many cases it may well be true of course, but a cursory look back at history will show an endless list of things that whole societies and even civilisations believed to be true that we now know are not.

Evolution by natural selection, arguably the greatest single idea in human history, provides the explanation. If you doubted the common belief of the tribe that tigers were dangerous and decided to find out for yourself instead, you probably wouldn’t last long enough to have any children who might inherit your way of thinking. In this way natural selection favoured credulous thinking and over time we evolved towards many aspects of herd behaviour.

While this evolved natural tendency of accepting what everyone around you thinks without question or evidence provided a shortcut to survival to our ancestors, in many situations of the modern world, it is unreliable and lazy at best. And fatally dangerous at worst.

A look at the common beliefs in the political ideologies of the 20th Century serve as a sobering warning to the extent of this danger counted in the death and ruined lives of hundreds of millions of people. Communism and Fascism both presented visions of human society that gained popular following because of irrational, biased thinking that led to common belief fallacies that in turn led to the horrors of the Gulag and the Holocaust.

Another example of cognitive irrationality is confirmation bias; the natural tendency to cherry pick arguments and evidence to support and confirm your existing beliefs and opinions. The more emotive a subject or the more you feel the belief is part of your identity, the stronger your confirmation bias tends to be. Over a wide range of subjects - from belief in God and abortion to taxation and wealth redistribution and onto military intervention and disarmament - there are people equally convinced of their opinion or beliefs on both sides of a given debate who have little understanding of the argument from the other side. Often their confirmation bias is so strong that they have no understanding at all; they have simply never listened to it. Instead they have shouted over it and attacked the person making the argument. This is, in itself, another example of a logical fallacy known as ad hominem - attacking or insulting the person making the argument or casting doubt on their character or motive rather than engaging in the argument itself.

Which brings us to the potential downsides or costs of thinking for yourself - it sometimes leads to disagreeing with your friends. If it is a ‘blue touch paper’ topic of conversation, you risk falling out with them. Picking your battles carefully and deciding which friendships matter are sensible and serious considerations.

You can have the same disagreement with yourself too when you challenge your own heartfelt preconceived ideas and beliefs. This can take you towards an existential crisis if you are not prepared for it. There is no doubting that thinking for yourself can be a risky business.

A final note to add to the cost ledger is that there are no shortcuts. You have to first understand at least some of the many ways in which your human nature works against you, then correct for them and finally, and most importantly, practice.

But this is where things swing strongly in favour of taking the risk and putting in the time and the effort. With practice you realise that because it takes time to listen to both sides of an argument, measure the evidence and form an opinion, there is no shame in not having an opinion until then. You free yourself from the expectation to have opinions on everything and to pretend to know more than you do.

The benefits to independent thinking include (but are in no way restricted to) taking responsibility, learning more, improving yourself and bringing yourself closer to the truth. Arguably the most valuable benefit though is the liberation that the honesty that comes with it brings. By thinking for yourself you free yourself to learn who you are.

 

Antoine Ventouse 

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Yomping and The Independent Mind

YOMP is a term used by the Royal Marines to describe a long distance march carrying full kit. It is thought to come from the acronym of Your Own Marching Pace. It is in this sense that it reflects the Mamnick ethos to do things your own way.
Dressing, bike riding and thinking are Mamnick’s main interests. Here is a brief Yomper's guide to each.
Dress your own way
“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” Orson Welles
Street fashion tribes have been around for a long time. Teddy Boys, Mods, Rockers, Skins, Punks, Casuals, Goths... the list goes on. Fastidious followers of these fashion fraternities have rarely dressed their own way. Instead they dress by the tribe's numbers - styles, colours, labels, pieces, combinations that their tribe has collectively decided are acceptable or unacceptable. They learn the rules and in the rules they trust.

The Yomper prefers mixing his clobber up and winging it over group-think. He trusts the mirror not the collective. Vintage, high street, independent or high end labels. Bespoke tailoring, fine knitwear and Goodyear welted traditional shoes one day. Cords, chinos or denim, full grain leather walking boots or classic trainers (depending on the terrain) and wax cotton jacket or high performance waterproof (depending on the weather) the next. They like to keep themselves thinking about the clothes they love and to keep others guessing.


Ride your own way
“Ride as much or as little, as long or as short as you feel. But ride.” Eddy Merckx
So many cycling tribes, so much boring waffle written about them. Hipster fixies, Eroica retro geeks, Strava segment chasers, Sportif warriors, training zone obsessed racers, ‘the rules’ roadies, mountain bikers and their countless sub-tribes, middle aged men who are 3 stone overweight on £5,000+ bikes lighter than those the pro’s ride and wearing kit that costs almost as much. (That last one isn’t really a tribe, but it’s definitely a thing.)

The Yomper's bike could be new or old, cheap or expensive (but never stupidly expensive). The frame might be from a prestigious marque or from a little known frame builder, fitted with a matching groupset or a mixture of components from different decades. Whichever way, it will be set up well and well looked after; a reliable steed that will take them over varying terrain on their epic adventures. Some Yompers prefer to ride alone for the simplicity and the solitude. Or perhaps because they haven't yet found kindred spirits to ride with. Some ride in groups but the numbers are usually small. Alone or on a group ride, the Yomper's concern is having a good time and not what other people think.

Think your own way
“Take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more happiness, truth, beauty and wisdom will come to you that way.” Christopher Hitchens
So many people prefer not to think for themselves. They take the safe, easy path and go with the majority. To confirm their opinions, they read and watch only the news that best fits their biases. On both social media and in real life, they like the safe sound of echo chambers with people who know what they like and like what they know and who enjoy the comforting feel of lazy pats on the back. To consider alternative opinions, arguments and evidence and seek the truth is too much like hard work. And it would mean risking being out of step which is not for them.

The Yomper knows how to think. He knows his cognitive bias from his rational thought, his science from his pseudo-science, his correlation from causation, his anecdote from evidence, his facts from his feelings.  He doesn't care for the safety of the herd - he values honesty and the truth over being seen to have the 'right' set of opinions.
Antoine Ventouse 
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