September 9th, 2009

Bike maintenance

Back in 1998, I bought a mountain bike. For a while, I used it to cycle to work, but I got a bit frustrated because I kept getting punctures from all the broken glass on the road. I think this mostly comes from beer bottles rather than broken car lights; for instance, my upstairs neighbours woke me up at 04:30 on Saturday morning when they were throwing their empty bottles out of the window to shatter all over the road.

So, when I bought my Brompton last year, I opted for Schwalbe Marathon tyres, which are reinforced with Kevlar. I've been impressed by these, so I've recommended them to several other people; 10 months after I started riding the new bike, I hadn't had a single puncture. Unfortunately, I've had a bit of a bad run of luck in the last week.

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Meanwhile, I was cycling home on Monday evening, and as I approached a few guys they started laughing. I initially assumed that they were mocking the bike, but then one of them said "I thought it was a car, bruv." Presumably that's because they saw the sweep of my headlight as I came around the corner, before they saw my bike, so that's a good endorsement; even if I can see where I'm going without the light, it makes me more visible to other people.

Tax relief

In the last few years, I've seen some adverts about completing tax returns, e.g. Moira Stuart sitting in an understairs cupboard. However, I've ignored them; I only work for a single employer, and they deduct income tax from my salary each month (PAYE = Pay As You Earn), so I don't have to do a tax return. I do my own calculations in Excel, to see how much income tax I'd expect to pay each year, then compare that to what I've actually paid: if the difference is less than £10 (in my favour or theirs), it's not worth disputing. (I also do another Excel file for National Insurance contributions.)

Meanwhile, I've also heard various people use the phrase "tax deductible", but I've never been quite clear on what that means. I think I now understand it, but I also think that lots of people misuse it, which leads to extra confusion. In particular, it turns out that I can claim some money back because I'm a BCS member. If you're a member of any professional organisations, this may apply to you too.

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