Thursday, 29 December 2016

In The Wild: Freddie Grubb Ravensbourne

St Mary Axe, The City of London -- December 2016

(Not built by THE Freddie Grubb but by a new start-up who, rightly or wrongly, have adopted the name.)


Monday, 19 December 2016

In The Wild: BSP Oma Confort

If there's ever a bicycle guaranteed to make even a confirmed bicycle junkie do a double take, it may well be this:  a Dutch bicycle in Pepto-Bismol Pink.


Gresse Street, Fitzrovia, London -- July 2016


Friday, 25 November 2016

#Coffeeneuring Challenge: The 2016 Edition

The 6th Annual Coffeeneuring Challenge: Yay, I finished! Autumn of last year is a complete blank for me so presumably I didn't even attempt this wonderfully traditional challenge, and I know I did not complete in 2014.  So I am quite surprised and pleased that I did succeed, on 7 separate occasions, in riding my bicycle at least 2 miles for the pleasure of a hot beverage. 

I have finally figured out why this is such a tough thing to do if I'm riding with Adam. It's all down to the "spirit" of the challenge. See, Adam does not drink hot drinks. But the problem is more than that. We are both "tourists" and love nothing more than spending the day together out on our bikes peering at everything. However, Adam is not a coffeeneur at heart. He does not see the point of stopping -- or 'interrupting' -- a perfectly good bike ride for something as trivial as having a drink.  Drinking is for hydration and drinking from his bottle on the bike while on the move is perfectly adequate and sound good sense to him. Stopping is inefficient. He does it for me but I have to pointedly and directly request it. Hints go right over his head. Yet, how many times have we ended a ride only for him to say "Oh no! You didn't get to log this as a coffeeneuring ride!"  If I didn't know him (and his honest heart) so well, I'd suspect Coffeeneuring Sabotage.  

So this year, knowing that one week of the 7-week challenge would see us in the Netherlands where we would be cycling together every day, I devised a strategy:  get him cold enough and/or present our plans each day as ambitious enough that some kind of proper sit-down stop would be not only (1) welcome, (2) sensible, (3) enjoyable (even for him), and/or, if push came to shove, in some way (4) absolutely necessary.

Fortunately, the weather during our Amsterdam sojourn was fully co-operative! 

But I am jumping ahead to the second part of my 2016 Coffeeneuring Challenge.  

Without further ado, here are my 7 rides in chronological order. 

RIDE #1
Destination:  Chilterns Gateway Centre (National Trust), Whipsnade Road, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, LU6 2GY, UK
Date: Sunday, 9th October 2016
Hot drink of choice: Plain Black Tea with Milk (score: average, say 3/5)
Total mileage: 23.8km
Bicycle: Riley the Enigma

Bike Friendliness: 

Quite good. There are bike racks but it is perfectly okay to keep your bike with you and lean it against a table or wall within your line of sight.  This is a popular stop for cycling clubs.

Other Observations:

This was a beautiful morning and it was nice to see so many families out early to enjoy the great outdoors. Lots of dog walkers and kite flyers. After enjoying my hot beverage, I freewheeled into Dunstable to visit Adam's daughter and her fiance in their new, first home.


Sunday, 20 November 2016

Notes From Amsterdam (Part II)

Wednesday, 16 November 2016


We are told it will rain off and on (mostly on) all day today. Oh, and windy. Gusts of wind. Those isobars are packed tight today, weaving and waving their lines towards us from the west. It's November though -- what else can you expect? We cycle north through the city, through Chinatown, pausing in Niewmarkt to remember our first visit here one extremely clement March. Then we roll straight onto a ferry over the River IJ and roll straight off the other side into pleasant suburbia (mostly land reclaimed in last 50 years to meet the demands of a rapidly expanding Amsterdam) and hence onto a wild natural Polder Oostzaan. Why this wilderness? Water management. (Everything is all about the water. Always.) Headwinds. Marshland birds. More herons than you can shake a stick at. (And at one point, somehow, we inadvertently literally did. Nerves of steel, those herons. Be still now, indeed.) I love polders. Musings on wide open skies... my mother spent her childhood in south Texas, loved wide open spaces... my father grew up homesteading in the Bitterroot ranges of northern Idaho and hated them... the two years in the 1970s we lived on the prairies, my father yearned for mountains. My sister-in-law from the prairies felt claustrophobic for years in western Oregon. Me, I'm comfortable with either. Both. I love the drama of Big Sky Country. And the Netherlands definitely qualifies. Look down at your feet, below sea level. Look up. The sky is the limit. Anyway. I like wild, empty polders! And the sun is peeking through. Lunchtime brings us to Zaanse Schans, a residential area of Zaandam that looks like a theme park but is the real deal and oddly enough not a 'protected' site (although it is listed on the European Route of Industrial Heritage). Tasty salads and coffee in a bistro run by a family with very American accents. The bikes sit unsecured outside the window. (Adam has left the key to his chain in the pocket of his other trousers!) Then back through Zaanse Schans and across the Wijdewormer to Neck then through the sprawling town of Purmerand and down long straight avenues to Edam. Edam is a "protected townscape" and very pretty, verging on twee. They really ought to pedestrianise the village centre though. A brief sit down and then... it's dark. Magic along the unlit Purmerdijk -- a night ride! Our little blinkies are next to useless. But there's no traffic, just the sound of the wind in the reeds and dry grasses bordering the canal. A few wiggles through industrial estates to make you think you're back in the UK (cycle here? inconceivable!) and then we are on a southbound train... Approximately 40 miles in total.




Saturday, 19 November 2016

Notes From Amsterdam (Part I)

Preface

I wish I could have a video cam strapped to my head every time we leave the apartment. So many amazing everyday stories here. I have in fact taken very few photos. I'm just gobbling it all up with my eyes and (hopefully) brain. Not to mention, it's hard to take many photos when you have to take gloves off to do it. After a while, cold hands get faster and more efficient at slapping down the photo bug impulse.

Oh and.... autumn is so beautiful here. The backdrop to every scene is a blurry watercolour in every shade of grey, with great splashes of fallen leaves in vivid yellow, orange and gold. Add reflections from rivers, canals, lakes, marshes and puddles and it's like moving through a liquid painting.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Today it was just above freezing and pervasively damp. But there's no such as bad weather, just bad clothing... and some days that's even true. We cycled to the Novagraaf offices (a reccie for tomorrow) then through a beautiful forest, over the Amsterdam shipping canal, round Weesp (pretty but, well, nothing special as Dutch villages go - I can't believe I am saying that), then through a wonderful nature reserve where some kind of native but rare deer has recently been re-introduced, around through Naarden (which is beautiful and charming and unusual with its forts and starflake-shaped canal system), had a wonderful lunch at Het Hert (I walked in thinking "I want an omelette and a bowl of really hot soup" and that's exactly what I got), where we warmed up and dried off (or steamed gently by the radiator, if truth be told), then ventured out again only to find it was raining in earnest. Heigh ho, off we went to Muiden (or Muider, I'm not quite sure) where there is a huge, moody impressive castle dating back to 12?? called Muiderslot (I do have that part right) that is not open November-April but the village (whatever it's called) is the prettiest, most postcard-perfect place you'll ever see. We cycled along a pretty canal on a road closed to cars, then alongside a motorway, then along the Amsterdam shipping canal for a very long way (which brought back lovely memories of the Fridays' Lowlands Tour just over a year ago) and then a superb commute-hour route across the eastern part of the city to the Amstel. Which meant home. 33 miles in total. Hot shower, feet up, drink to hand... Life is good.



Saturday, 20 August 2016

An Oldie But Goodie: Raleigh RSW 16

Here's another Luton & Dunstable Cycling Forum Recycle Project story...

One Saturday afternoon last month, Adam disappeared into the depths of our shed looking for a longer seat post for Petra.  He began removing various bicycles and boxes of parts from the shed and laying them out on the lawn. My mind on Petra, I took little notice. I am so accustomed to seeing lots of 'junk' from the shed -- all of it donated, all of it received without inspection -- that it was several minutes before my eyes focused in any meaningful way, only for them to land on something that made me dash for my phone. 


I know nothing about Raleigh's RSW range but I knew instantly this was not another run-of-the-mill "let's see if we can transform a sow's ear into a silken purse" sort of refurbishment project. 

A few minutes later, I had uploaded a handful of photos to the Vintage Bicycles UK group on Facebook. And within 24 hours, this little beauty had a new home. 



Saturday, 13 August 2016

(Not So Much) Cycling in Provence: Relaxing in Vaison-la-Romaine (Part 2)

One of the aspects of cyclo-touring that can make or break your enjoyment is getting your clothes washed and dried so you have the right kit at the right time. 

In case we thought we were the only cyclists staying in le Beffroi, spotting this from the street swiftly proved otherwise: 


Our own system was rather more discreet: 


Day 2 dawned hot and sunny yet again. Time to find out what this town is really famous for. 


Tuesday, 2 August 2016

(Not So Much) Cycling in Provence: Relaxing in Vaison-la-Romaine (Part 1)

In a slight departure from normal service, this post doesn't cover much in the way of cycling -- except for Adam's epic Sunday morning!

I awoke when I heard Adam's voice. What was this he was saying?  

"I'm going to do it."

Instantly, I knew what "it" was. We hadn't discussed it at all but, really, realistically, how can "it" not be on the mind of any cyclist visiting Provence? 

"It" being riding up Mount Ventoux. 

I was still living in a migraine fog. Adam, on the other hand, was pumped up and raring to go. He intended to ride over to the mountain, do the ascent and come back before the heat of midday. So we had an early breakfast -- one that, technically speaking, meant he was actually going to do this epic thing in a fasted state. 




Friday, 29 July 2016

Cycling In Provence: The Rhône Valley Outbound

Saturday -- the first 'proper' day of our holiday - dawned a little on the grey side. This was a blessing somewhat, as I had a migraine (triggered by a phone call that jolted me out of a deep sleep the previous evening). On my personal scale of 1 - 10 (with 10 being "shoot me now" and 5 being the threshold for "no longer able to pretend to function, must lie down in dark room"), this was running only about 3-4, so "bearable" but it certainly was casting a pall over my morning. 

Breakfast was disappointing in its lack of protein but the coffee ("American", our host said proudly) was strong and I drank two cups. 

Our bicycles had been stored in the garage overnight. It didn't take long to pack up and be on our way, with the plan being to find a grocery store on the way out of Avignon to supplement our meagre breakfast and buy provisions for a picnic lunch. 

First stop, however, was the chemists (pharmacy) around the corner from our B&B, where I bought extra-strength paracetamol + caffeine tablets to try and keep me going. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Cycling In Provence: Getting There

The alarm went off at 4:15am on Friday, 3rd June. Having prepared the bikes well in advance and then packed up everything but our toothbrushes the night before, we were out the door in time to catch the 05:13 train to London St. Pancras. Admittedly, I did not feel awake yet, even though I had downed a cup of coffee and then experienced the thrill of freewheeling a loaded Brompton down the 'black run' of Cutenhoe Road. 


Brompton? Yes, we were off to France for a week's cycling holiday on folding bicycles: me on Lucy my 3-speed Brompton and Adam on his heavily-modified early-1980s era Bickerton

All packed up ready to board the Eurostar service from London to Avignon.


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Cycling In Provence


We have just returned from 8 days in Provence. We took our folding bicycles (Brompton for me, Bickerton for Adam) since Eurostar is still imposing prohibitive restrictions on travelling with full-size bicycles. As it happens, though, touring with small-wheeled bicycles worked out very well for us. 

I will do fuller write-ups on our travels each day as I sort through 1,500+ (!!) photographs, but here are a few highlights: 


Food

It is of course a stereotype that French food is wonderful, but that reputation is well earned. We ate like kings every day. After the first 4-5 days, we began telling ourselves "must not eat so much today" but it was really hard to resist when the menus were so enticing. 


Sunday, 22 May 2016

Brompton Touring Mods - Part II


A few weeks ago, I set up Lucy the Brompton with everything I believed would be needed to transform her from a multi-modal commuter into a "Short(ish) Distance Touring Bicycle That Folds". 

Trying out the kit revealed a few further changes were necessary, notably a support for the Carradice saddlebag. I have an original Bagman Sport support frame but for convenience for the kind of trip we are making (including being required to take all the luggage off, fold the bike and put it into a bag while on the EuroStar trains), I decided to try the SQR system which fits to the seat post rather than to metal loops on the back of the saddle -- which isn't an option for me anyway having ditched my VeloOrange leather saddle in favour of the Selle SMP Dynamic I prefer for distances longer than a commute. 

I fitted the Carradice SQR today and I think it's a winner. The system was easy to fit and will keep my Carradice Barley saddlebag away from the backs of my legs as I pedal. The metal frame also has a nylon web handle attached to the top, which will come in handy when the bag is off the bike. 


Saturday, 14 May 2016

REPORT: Bespoked The UK Handmade Bike Show 2016 (Bristol)

I really enjoyed attending the Bespoked show in 2014 when it was held in London. When I heard it was returning to Bristol in 2015, I pretty much assumed I wouldn't ever be able to attend again, or at least not easily. But at some point late last year, I made the decision to try to go this year so I put a reminder into my calendar for January to book tickets and a hotel, then another reminder 12 weeks before the event to buy advance train tickets. 

And so Adam and I made a 3-day weekend out of it and attended the show on Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. 

I apologise for the quality of these photos. I made the monumental mistake of not double-checking that I had a memory card in my camera before leaving home and then discovered the battery was dead and of course I'd not checked whether the spares were in its case. All these photos were taken on Adam's and my mobile phones, which were not always up to the job.

Links to exhibitors' websites are included where possible - just click on their names. 

THE VENUE

The event was held this year in the Engine Shed next to Bristol Temple Mead train station. This venue could not be more of a contrast from the Lee Valley Velodrome where the 2014 show was held! The Engine Shed is beautiful and historic... and a much more intimate space. 



THE EXHIBITORS

Yes, the venue was small (by comparison with the velodrome) but it was, as the saying goes, perfectly formed... and jam packed with stunning bicycles everywhere you looked. So let's dive right in and have a look. 

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Summer? A Taste And A Test

After a prolonged cool and damp spring, this past week has brought Proper Summertime Temperatures, i.e. 20C degrees! That's 70 in Fahrenheit. (Normal service resumes tomorrow: cool and unsettled with thunderstorms, which means showers, including hail I have no doubt.)

Today is the climax of our mini-heatwave, with temps of up to 27C expected.  This presented me with an unexpected (and very welcome) opportunity to set up my Brompton according to the plan I had devised (on paper) for our South of France trip next month. In addition to prepping the bike, I have also kitted myself out according to plan, anticipating similar temperatures in the Avignon area. 


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

It'll Be Worth The Wait....

Just a quick note to say, yes, I went to the Bespoked show in Bristol last weekend. A full report with an insensible number of photos is in the works but we've had a death in the family early this week which has, as you can imagine, pushed blogging down my list of priorities. 

Do check back in a few days. Meanwhile, here's one of my favourites from the show:  

2008 custom build by Darrell McCulloch of Llewellyn Bicycles in Perth, Australia. Ridden regularly in the UK and looks as good as new. 


Monday, 28 March 2016

RE-BLOG: London Cycle Infrastructure Safari next Saturday, 2nd April 2016

from the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain website: 

London cycle infrastructure safari, with Ranty Highwayman - 2nd April



Superhighway Embankment London

The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain will be joining the Ranty Highwayman on a cross-London Infrastructure Safari, on Saturday 2nd April.

The ride will start at Tower Gateway, where the eastern end of east-west Superhighway meets CS3, at the junction with Royal Mint Street - location here. Meet at 11am!

The ride will take in the east-west Superhighway itself, the north-south Superhighway, and Superhighway 5 at Vauxhall. The ride will finish with a look at Vauxhall Walk, and a visit to a pub. More details on the Ranty Highwayman's facebook page.

The full trip is expected to be around 10-15 miles - with regular stops to examine the new infrastructure, as we go, and for lunch and coffee.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Operation Body Swap: RESULT

Yes, it's done! And yes, it is a complete success. 


Lorelei is the London Town Bike, on the road the whole of this past winter. She's a pleasure to ride and completely reliable, having needed not so much as a brake cable adjustment in the past five months. 

Petra is the Modern Retro Road Bike, on the road for the past two weeks and just a dream to ride. 


Saturday, 19 March 2016

Review: SHOWER'S PASS Rogue Hoodie


In my search for a new waterproof jacket this winter, I had a look at the current offerings from Showers Pass. While in the end I went with a Craft 'cycling specific' waterproof jacket, I also bought a second jacket intended for more general purpose use off the bike but also suitable for casual cycling: Shower Pass's Rogue Hoodie.

The Showers Pass website describes the Rogue Hoodie thusly: 

A street wise, bike friendly, and fiercely weather resistant technical hoodie, the Rogue Hoodie is like your favorite sweatshirt, in a flattering women's cut. The Rogue features a 3-layer waterproof softshell Artex material: the cozy fleece lined fabric wicks sweat away from skin, while the outer fabric and waterproof membrane keep wind and light rain at bay (seams are not sealed). 

An employee favorite here at Showers Pass, we wear the Rogue for fall and winter bike commuting, hiking, camping, on the slopes and around town – over a T-shirt when it’s 50 degrees, or layer up a few wool baselayers for colder conditions. Bike friendly features include a slightly dropped tail to protect against tire spray, longer sleeves with wrist gaiters, reflective accents, and a large back pocket with light loop.


The reference to Artex material meant little to me. ((Isn't Artex a material for covering walls?) My expectations to be honest were fairly vague and low:  basically a sweatshirt type jacket with some kind of weatherproofing. Not truly waterproof and certainly not breathable enough for 'spirited' prolonged riding, but cosier than your usual cycling waterproof jacket (most of which aren't designed to deal with chill as well as wet). 

I've got to say, this jacket has confounded and exceeded expectations in every way. I'll deal with specific features shortly but firstly I want to try and categorise this jacket, as I've never worn anything quite like it before. 

Sunday, 13 March 2016

#Errandonnee 2016 Challenge: Ride 12 (Sunday London Ride)

Errandonnee #12
Date: Sunday, 6 March 2016
Errand:  Sunday London Ride
Category:   Social Call/Ride
Destination:  Hyde Park Corner, London, to Fatboys, Trinity Buoy Wharf, London 
Distance: 37.3km (23.4km on ride itself + 13.9km getting to it and back home again)
What I learned/observations:

The day dawned (or, more accurately, the darkness gradually lifted on an extremely foggy morning) and we were out the door by 7.30am to catch a train to London to join friends for the long-running Sunday London Ride. We were shocked when our calculations suggested that we haven't been on one in three years!


We decided to use the new East-West Cycle "Superhighway" aka Crossrail for Bikes to make our way from Blackfriars towards Parliament Square. I am disappointed to find that this brand new, not yet finished, cycling "superhighway" is woefully inadequate. I don't know when the plans were drawn up but bi-directional provision within the width of one car lane is simply not good enough. After years of dangerous over-capacity, the Tavistock route has been upgraded to one full-width lane in each direction -- and that's not a so-called "superhighway"!


Saturday, 12 March 2016

#Errandonnee 2016 Challenge: Rides 7-11 (The Herald of Spring)

Date: Saturday, 12 March 2016
Steed: Petra the Puch Princess
Total Distance: 19.4km

Overall Lesson for the Day: I love doing business with local people, whose names I know. 

Errandonnee #7
Errand: Haircut
Category:  Personal Care (2)
Destination:  Charisma Hair & Beauty Salon, Caddington, Bedfordshire
What I learned/observations:

Not a lesson or observation as such but I realised this morning that Kay, the owner of Charisma, has been cutting my hair for over 3 years. At intervals of 3-4 weeks, I probably see her more frequently than anyone else I know who does not actually live with me! (Which is fine, because she is lovely.)


Friday, 11 March 2016

#Errandonnee 2016 Challenge: Ride 6 (Life Behind Bars)

Errandonnee #6
Date: Thursday, 10 March 2016
Errand:  London Commuting
Category:   Work (2)
Destination:  Fitzrovia, London, W1
Distance: 2.3km
What I learned/observations:

Had a guy in a sharp suit and trenchcoat in the Tavistock cycle path this morning -- on his scooter. I can't see I'm too pleased about mixing dissimilar vehicles in the same space but I suppose it's better than having motorised scooters in the cycle lane as is allowed in the Netherlands. And given the choice of footway, cycleway and roadway and considering his overall speed, the cycleway no doubt made the most sense to him. (No photos of him, unfortunately.)

Malet Street between RADA and Birkbeck College.

Bedford Square, where the cycle countraflow is officially on the footpath.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

#Errandonnee Challenge 2016: Rides 4 & 5 (Urban Night Riding)

Errandonnee #4
Date: Monday, 7 March 2016
Errand:  Evening Commute from Office to Train Station
Category: Work (1)
Destination:  St Pancras International, London
Distance: 2.3km (each way)
What I learned/observations:

I often wish I had my camera to hand when I'm commuting. From time to time, I do stop to photograph things that catch my eye, but these have tended to be on my morning commute and therefore in daylight.

Tonight saw my first attempts at taking photos in central London from a moving bicycle. In the dark. With gloves on. Of course there were 3 bad shots for every half-decent one. Good thing I took quite a few!

I quite like the area I work in (Fitzrovia). It's a buzzy mix of old and new, not at all 'sterile' like the City. 

Liberated from her usual bike stand (just out of sight to the left).
I intended to take a photo of Lorelei at the stand, with the glorious Charlotte Street Hotel behind,
but a couple was standing there having a rather heated debate (in another language)
so I unlocked in a hurry and moved a few yards away.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

#Errandonnee 2016 Challenge: Ride 3

Errandonnee #3
Date: Sunday, 6 March 2016
Errand:  Luton & Dunstable Cycling Forum Ride
Category:   Social Call/Ride
Destination:  Luton to Shillington and back
Distance: 44km
What I learned/observations:

1. Amiiee is one heck of a strong rider. She rides an old-style mountain bike with 21 gears and uses just one. She only rides her bike once or twice a year -- usually a 20+ mile ride with the Forum, nothing else. She wears a mixture of gym kit and streetwear, with a borrowed cycling jacket over the top. And almost without exception, she does these rides after a hard night on the tiles, while all her mates are asleep and/or nursing serious hangovers. I just couldn't even.



Monday, 7 March 2016

#Errandonnee 2016 Challenge: Rides 1 & 2

Errandonnee #1
Date: Saturday, 5 March 2016
Errand: Go to my Quiet Place to Study for my Exam
Category: Education (I propose changing "Work/Volunteering" category to "Career/Vocations")
Destination: Thompson Close, Harpenden
Distance: 4km
What I learned/observations:

Some days, the portability of the Brompton trumps* all other considerations.


Errandonnee #2
Date: Saturday, 5 March 2016
Errand:  Collect Fresh Raw Milk from Local Man With Small Herd of Jersey Cows
Category:   Non-Store
Destination:  Crabtree Lane, Harpenden
Distance: 1km
Steed: Lucy the Brompton
What I learned/observations:

1. Timing errands in between hailstorms can be tricky - but is so worth it.

2. Also, mid-way through the day is not the ideal time to realise you should have worn (or carried) waterproof trousers - see point 1.


*And so we mourn the loss of a perfectly good word, forever spoiled by one of the most horrifying personalities ever to seek public office.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Something Rather Remarkable

I've just been browsing through the tandems on UK Ebay (as you do) and stumbled across something quite unusual -- 

Wire sculptures of riders on bicycles. No, not just bicycles but a wide range of human-powered wheeled vehicles, from city bikes to BMX bikes to tricycles to recumbents (and recumbent trikes) to tandems to velomobiles. 

Have a look for yourself HERE

Here's a sampling of views of a few of my favourites. 

the tourer

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

When A Bicycle Can Do MORE Than A Car

This recent post by Edinburgh Cycle Chic has attracted a lot of attention. It features just one example of being able to fit more onto a bicycle as cargo than could ever be shoe-horned into your average passenger car.

We have a few examples in our household too, featuring our own Circe Helios.


The Helios easily handles the weekly shopping trip for a household of four adults.


Sunday, 28 February 2016

Madison's iceBike* Event: Practical Discoveries

Sorry for the radio silence. I am now back on the bike and "back in the game" after a bad bout of dermatitis. I hate when these things strike: it takes all my mental energy and focus to keep on top of treatment and in control of my feelings (frustration + sleep deprivation = despair). 

Never mind, my life is no longer a prison of itching and pain. Yesterday was one of the first 'nearly normal' days since 2nd February -- so Adam and I went to the iceBike* Show in Milton Keynes. 


iceBike* is an industry show held by Madison, one of the largest distributors of cycling brands in the UK and supplier to many bicycle wholesale and retail businesses. The show is open only to trade for three days and is then open to the public over the following weekend. It chiefly functions to inform shop owners and managers about new products and upgrades and launches, so they can plan their purchase and inventory decisions for the coming year. Because Madison handles so many brands, the range of products on show is quite extensive, including brand new products coming out of years of research and development that have not yet been made available to the public. 

For us, attending the show felt much like viewing an exhibition. 


Tuesday, 26 January 2016

This Is How We Roll (Behind The Wheel)

Dear [owner of family-run business supplying fresh fruit and veg to central London restaurants]

I have had to have words with one of your delivery drivers this morning and am writing to let you know about it in case you would like to have words with him yourself.

This driver looks quite young, wearing a blue and white striped short sleeve shirt today. His delivery was in Windmill Street but he left the van on the corner in Charlotte Street. The time was approximately 9.15am.

Firstly, he reversed into a place to leave his van to make a delivery, but the space he reversed into was not a parking bay, although he managed to get the rear bumper and possibly rear axle of the van over the line into the end of the parking bay behind his van, in which a small car was already parked. In reversing alongside the kerb, he very nearly knocked me (standing on the pavement to lock up my bicycle) over with his side mirror. I moved out of the way so wasn’t hit, but then he brought the van to a stop, the mirror was exactly next to my bike with no space in between, so I could not get in next to my bike to lock it. I had to wait for the driver to make his delivery and return to the van. When he did, I told him I wasn’t happy with what he had done, having caused me to jump out of his way to avoid being hit, then parking illegally and preventing me from going about my own business. He replied to the effect that he was “over the line” in the parking bay – I pointed out the van was not in the parking bay, only the rear of it!

He then put his mobile phone to his ear, turned on the engine and began to pull away. I shouted at him through his closed window “Put that phone down!” He rolled his window down. I told him that, his parking transgressions aside, driving while using a mobile is illegal. He said he “wasn’t on a call”. I said “It doesn’t matter, you have a phone to your ear and cannot be in full control of your vehicle…. And, you have not put your seat belt on. Also illegal.”.

He did then put the phone down and put his seatbelt on, and drove away. 

To be fair, he was calm and co-operative (and in those respects a credit to his parents) but I am not his mother or the police and shouldn’t have to tell him how to behave. You however as his employer should, I think, have a word with him to ensure he takes care in future not to endanger other people, to use his seatbelt NOT his phone when behind the wheel, and generally to behave like a trained and skilled professional driver. There is also your insurance liability to consider, should he be involved in any incident while on the phone or driving without wearing his seatbelt.

Kind regards

....

It is so rare to get the chance to have a conversation with a driver – any driver, whether he’s cut you up or not, whether he 'communicates' only with a rude gesture or not – that I felt this worth sharing. 

My main ‘take away’: Sadly, this low standard of behaviour behind the wheel is so prevalent and pervasive, drivers simply do not have any understanding that they are failing, much less how or why.

P.S. I did actually send this e-mail to the business concerned. It bounced back from all three contact e-mail addresses on its website.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Singled Out

Image credit: APA 

The other day I was cautiously making my way out of the NCP multi-storey car park (with its impressively abundant and popular bicycle parking areas) behind London St Pancras International train station, when I was hailed by a man entering the car park on foot. 

I stopped. 

"You really shouldn't cycle here", he said without preamble. 

"Really? It's not prohibited," I responded. 

"Cyclists go too fast. We've had so many people have the life scared out of them by cyclists coming through here."

"Well, it wasn't me who startled them. There are people who aren't considerate of others, in all situations. I am always careful, so please don't tar me with that brush."

"You shouldn't cycle here, you really shouldn't", he said again, shaking his head in a scolding fashion. And then he turned and walked away. 

That was the end of the conversation, such that it was, so I called "Bye" to his retreating back and pedalled off. 

As I did so, I found myself musing....


Sunday, 17 January 2016

Studded Tyre Miles Count Double

Did I mention snow in yesterday's post? Well, somebody must have heard me, because we awoke this morning to this: 

Barely Dawn.

Since I needed to go into Harpenden today and the forecast suggests temperatures are going to drop below freezing the next several nights, meaning potentially icy conditions for the morning commute, it was obviously the right time to put the studded tyres on the Cross Check. 

Somewhat to my amusement (because this is nothing unusual), it transpired that my ready-to-go spare winter wheelset had, erm, been cannabalised in various ways for other projects. There was in fact no "winter wheelset" but there were two studded Marathon tyres available. So Adam paid penance by wrestling the everyday Marathon Plus tyres off, and wrangling the new studded tyres into their place. 



Saturday, 16 January 2016

Revisiting The "What To Wear" Winter Challenge


   
London cycling

Two of my very first posts after starting this blog covered my experiences and recommendations for clothing and accessories to keep yourself comfortably dry and warm enough to cycle through the winter. The commuting version is here, and the road cycling version is here

Three years on, my commute has changed so that it is, in fact, mostly road cycling -- with a 10-minute ride at the London end that can be done in pretty much any kind of clothing suitable for light exercise (comparable to walking) in whatever the weather conditions are on the day. The road cycling component of my commute (25-30 minutes inbound, 35-40 minutes outbound) however poses challenges in terms of temperature and moisture control. 

Cycle to Work Day, September 2014
(only a 3 mile ride to the train station,
so I tended to just half dress for the office)

I have been doing this new 12-mile roundtrip road commute for 10 months now. This is my first winter and I have wondered how "deep" into the winter I would get before feeling the need to take a few weeks off (perhaps six weeks at most... if I'm lucky) through the very worst of the winter with a view to restarting in the spring (early March... if I'm lucky). 

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Re Blog: The Ultimate Indicator of a Bicycle-Friendly City (from Copenhagenize)

© Colville-Andersen. All rights reserved.

How can you tell if your city is cycle friendly? It won't be anything you hear people say, it's what you see them do.

(The answer may surprise you!)

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Unravelling -- or, Each Road Has A (Main If Not Only) Function

Two topics I have on my 'wish list' to post about are "Presumed Liabilty" and "Priority (or, who gives way to whom?)", with my takes on what others (far more knowledgeable than me) have written elsewhere. But not today. (Sorry if that's a teaser!)

The item that caught my attention over my morning coffee today, however, was an article titled "Channeling the Flow", by Bez over on the Beyond The Kerb blog.

The issue of course is the seeming inability of UK local authorities and traffic/road planners to understand why the Dutch do what they do. In the Corbridge case covered by Bez, a road treatment that is very common indeed in the Netherlands has been adopted -- because "if it's Dutch, it must be good" (er, not always!) -- but in wildly inappropriate circumstances. Observers (and video evidence) are now confirming there is too much traffic on the road in question for this kind of layout to work and it has in fact rendered the road less attractive (and safe) to cyclists, not more.

Lessons should have been learned from previous 'experiments' of this nature in the UK!



The problem is that design is being driven (if you'll pardon the expression) from the wrong starting point. Whether this kind of road layout can work or not in any given location is not a question of traffic volumes (which can and do fluctuate) or space -- it's about Function. 

As a first-time visiting cyclist* to the Netherlands last year, it's the clear delineation of function that struck me as the key to the "success" of growth into a "cycling nation". Much about Dutch infrastructure surprised me -- and at times even confused me -- but this underlying feature was, to me, glaringly obvious. 

We cycled many miles on roads with exactly this treatment -- but it worked

on the Molendijk, outskirts of Rotterdam

Saturday, 9 January 2016

2015 Review

I'm trying something different this year: here is a slideshow of photos I have selected as highlights from last year. Most are cycling related -- including cycling in France, Belgium and the Netherlands -- but a few vintage cars and vintage aircraft get a look in too.

A few of these photos appeared on previous blog posts in 2015 and no doubt a few more will feature in future posts.

You can also click through to the Flickr album for details of what, where, who and when. As for how and why, ask by posting a comment!

Enjoy!


Created with flickr slideshow.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

A New Leaf

Greetings and Happy New Year!

I don't do "New Year's Resolutions" as such but there's no denying that the slower pace and longer nights do seem to create the right atmosphere for reflections and ruminations. 

The blog has been one of the areas I've been contemplating.  Somehow over the past year or so, I began to see this is a growing collection of articles. While I wish I had the brainpower and turn of phrase to produce beautifully constructed essays with illuminating insights into life, the human condition and the future of civilisation -- even if only insofar as cycling infrastructure is concerned -- then, failing that, I seem to have set myself a mission to write 'definitive' product reviews and drool-worthy ride reports. 

I am not succeeding in this mission. And it strikes me that I have taken my eyes off the ball. All I ever really wanted was to express myself, to share my experiences and occasional Eureka moments in my own individual way. That's what the "voice" in Velovoice was supposed to be all about. 


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