Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Last snow ride (for now)

I went for a dogwalk / bike ride on Boxing day which turned out to be the last day of snow for now, it's all melted away completely with today's rain. Since I knew I'd be getting a lift somewhere else later on I took the Brompton. It's a very capable bike in the snow, mainly because it's very easy to put a foot down whenever needed and weighs so little, but you do have to watch out for the chain tensioner freezing up and skipping occasionally.

When it comes to the roads I'm kind of glad the snow is gone now, but on the flipside the clean compacted snow made all the paths around the river Tame and the canals very rideable. Whereas now that its melted these paths will be back to the unrideable filthy, muddy, gravel mess they were before. (ok - rideable if you want to get filthy on a mountain bike, but not rideable if you're visiting friends/family/shops/work i.e. anything practical and everyday).


Monday, 20 December 2010

"You must be mad!"

"You must be mad!" is what a guy said to me on a side street in Denton this morning as I cycled past.

"I could say the same!" I replied, whilst he carried on scraping the ice from his car.

Was a lovely ride in this morning. My outdoor thermometer said -9.5 when I set off, but I didn't feel the need for studded tyres at any point. I find slush is usually the main enemy in this weather but the colder temp meant slush wasn't forming.

Long johns, balaclava, big thick boots, leather gloves and you're good to go.

Here's a panda video from the Fallowfield Loop, apart from a couple of dog walkers I had it all to myself.

p.s. anyone know why they are called panda-shots?, I keep reading it, but don't know where the name comes from.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

A real kid's bicycle

This is my nephew's new bike courtesy of the wonderful world of ebay!. As you can see it comes from an era when children's bike were built as miniature versions of their parents utilitarian bikes with full mudgaurds, chaingaurd, and integral rack. But where they ever like that in this country?, I don't know. All I remember is BMX's grifters, choppers, budgies etc - all silly shapes and sizes, then when your legs were longer you would get an equally unfit for purpose mountain bike.

This bike is italian though, built by Bottecchia who are more famous for building racing bikes. To what extent they dabbled in making kids folding bikes I don't know, but we are glad they did because this little bike is light years ahead of the crap you'll find in your local Halfords today and its from the 1970's.

Maybe one day we'll see enough of a resurgance in cycling in this country for companies like Pashley to begin making proper childrens bikes that will last rather than chinese tat that finds itself in the tip once its one and only owner has out-grown it. (go to the tip any weekend and you'll see what I mean, the scrap metals bin is always full of kids bikes!)

Here it is next to my Nexus to show the size comparison. The seatpost is very long, so it can grown with the child. Oh yes, and it's lots of fun to ride it as an adult too ;-)

So my recommendation for anyone out there looking for a kids bike is to keep an eye on ebay rather buying a chinese plastic monster straight away, there are some really nice handmade, all-steel kids bikes come up and go for not much money at all.

The nearest I can see from a little googling to find a modern version are Puky Bicycles.

(photos are from a while ago, hence the lack of snow, frost & generally cold nastiness)

Friday, 10 December 2010

Poundshop Bargains

I'm sad enough to have noticed that the poundshops in Manchester city centre (at least the two in the Arndale) seem to have this year reached a bit of a threshold. They now stock more cycling stuff than car stuff and have started to stock some pretty decent useable items too.

For instance three things I've recently bought are a puncture repair kit, a kick-stand and a set of rack straps. The repair kit comes with alot more stuff than a normal one - the metal tyre levers being the best bit, one of the kick-stands will go on the Hopper and the straps fit perfectly on the Nexus rack and look alot neater than the thick old bungees I was using before.

A tiny victory for cycling I know, but not that long ago you would have struggled to find anything to do with cycling let alone a whole range of stuff. Chose wisely though,  most of what they sell is still crap! and what they have changes all the time.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Segregation over Integration

There has been a lot of debate about segregation recently. Notably on:

With all this ongoing I realised I’m not entirely sure what my own position is on the subject. I’d reckon most cyclists don’t know either. Dave Warnock’s post is along these lines – i.e. trying to find which sides of each argument suits my own position and thinking. I’d think that most cyclists would broadly agree with Dave’s findings, as I do, especially the point that waiting for segregation will mean I miss out on the benefits cycling can offer me today. But I do want every new piece of cycle facility to be aimed at reducing my interaction with motorised traffic and think segregation is the only way to go with cycling policy as long as its made clear that its decent, properly designed, continuous segregation that is provided. The obvious problem with that is that it would mean relocating road space from motorists to cyclists & walkers.

One thing that is never  mentioned is that integrationists are unbelievably outnumbered. Every single potential rider out there, who doesn’t ride because they fear the road can be considered to be a segregationist. If the UK implemented the facilities and rules that the Netherlands has (or even followed the route that places such as New York are following) then masses of these potential riders would begin to cycle. Why?, because the ratio between cost and perceived safety would be reversed. It’s nothing to do with sustainability and CO2, but entirely to do with providing Joe Bloggs and his family with an alternative way to get from A to B without fear. As soon as it makes more financial sense for the fearful to cycle instead of drive - they will.

Take a look at the Dutch. Dutch cycling policy isn’t about ecofluff and saving the planet. It’s a fiscal policy pure and simple. It makes financial & social sense to free your populace to be as mobile and time efficient as possible, whilst keeping them all healthy, fit, happy and richer.

Vehicular cycling is a reaction not a solution. I’m a vehicular cyclist, so is every other cyclist in the UK. Not through choice, but through situation. I have no other choice but to ride in heavy traffic and mix it with HGV’s, buses and 4x4's on a daily basis. The only alternative would be to get on a train, bus or car and immediately see my income eaten up by costs and my quality of life decline as I not only have less money but I waste time waiting for unpleasant buses that never come,  packed trains that get cancelled or sit in traffic getting fat.

Segregation as the Dutch have done is a solution not a reaction. It was done ‘in reaction’ to the influx of the motor car, but not as a reactionary measure to survive as vehicular cycling is. The Dutch implemented segregation to solve the problem created by motor cars and provide normal people with a way to get about without fear or unfair costs or being killed at every junction.

Currently for 99% of the UK population the perceived dangers presented by cycling so heavily outweigh any of the advantages that even popping to the shops on a bike is unthinkable, let alone doing their daily commute on a bicycle. None of those people enjoy paying out for a train ticket that rises in price each year whilst the service declines. None of them enjoy paying to sit on an uncomfortable noisy bus. Nobody enjoys burning money through the exhaust whilst sitting in start stop traffic for an hour each way every day. If these people had an alternative that would cost them nothing in fares or fuel they would take it. The only way to provide that alternative is with proper segregated cycle facilities on each and every major road in the country along whilst eliminating rat runs and making routes more permeable.

It’s understandable why some cyclists in the UK are against segregation. They see segregated paths as being a white line on an existing pavement, poorly dropped kerbs, no priority over side roads and so on. And rightly so, because this is what so many of the segregated ‘facilities’ are like in the UK. Here’s just one example from Manchester. There are thousands more. (having trouble seeing it?, I'll give you a clue, it runs down the righthand side of the Bull's Head Pub) Or how about this fine example from Great Ancoats

View Larger Map

This is shit. And does not, never would or never will get used by cyclists because not only it is more dangerous than being on the road itself, it’s also more inconvenient and unpleasant to ride on. The fear for existing cyclists that oppose segregation is that facilities like this will be built if people shout for segregation. It’s a genuine fear and even people who dream of having Dutch style facilities (me!) know that this is Britain and the cynicism is well founded.

Segregation isn’t about facilities like this, it’s about a fundamental shift in the way our towns and cities are treated by government and councils towards the Dutch method. I don’t believe it will happen, but I’m free to wish for it.

Properly done segregation isn’t about benefitting us existing cyclists, it’s about creating the only environment in which the other 99% of the population will feel safe to cycle. The trouble for existing cyclists like myself is that whilst the Dutch have spent 40 years building the most comprehensive cycle infrastructure on the planet, the UK has spent 40 years going in the opposite direction. We aren’t just 40 years behind the Dutch we are 80 years behind them and no living UK cyclist has got that much time to wait for segregation. Doing ‘A Hembrow’ looks increasingly attractive. In the meantime we can only try to do our best to improve the situation for cycling in Britain. For me that means suggesting segregated facilities at every opportunity and making it clear that they should be a certain kind of segregated infrastructure (not the shit kind).

This is why it's great to see Jim at the LoFidelityBicycleClub begin to setup a Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. I still believe the UK is much too far down the slippery slope, but at least this project might provide a focal point for those who don't see their own position represented by groups such as the CTC/LCC.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


 Found this photo from a while ago, it's up somewhere near Piccadilly Gardens
 Spot the problem.... :)

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Only Winter Cycling Accessory you need...

(along with hat, gloves, scarf, coat, double socks, boots)


.....Lofthouse's Fisherman's Friend!

It's no coincidence that the Dutch spend a lot of time outdoors (some of it cycling) and they have a serious appetite for liquorice (that's liquorice 'drop' not that squidgy crap).

Your morning commute will go alot easier with a Fisherman's Friend warming your noggin.

Maybe you tried these as a kid and thought they were vile, well our tastes mature over the years and I bet you'll like them now. Try you first one when your are stood outside in the cold.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Obligatory snow ride post!

I took an extremely roundabout route to the poundshop yesterday, taking in some of the Fallowfield Loop, Debdale Park and then exploring up King's Road which is a rough track which cuts through the Fairfield & Denton Golf clubs.

The compacted snow of the Loop is lovely to ride on, plenty of grip, just needs a little more concentration than normal.
Looking back up the Loop towards Reddish
 The ride gave me chance to test a Sachs drum braked front wheel I got off ebay. A bit squeaky til it was bedded back in (I don't think it's been used for a while) but nice and powerful feeling.
Drum brakes need to be used with caliper style brake levers not V-brake levers* so I fitted an old Sturmey Archer lever.
 I stopped at one of the bridges in Gorton and noticed a lad on his BMX contending with a double Whitevanman overtake. Good job it's a 20mph zone eh!?, shame that most 20 zones are still open to through traffic- i.e rat runs.

The Loop connects up nicely with Debdale Park and the reservoirs
This is King's Road (although it looks the same as anywhere else in the snow!). It connects Hyde road with Audenshaw and the only thing stopping it from being a busy road full of traffic is the terrible surface. I'm guessing it is unadopted, possibly owned by the golf club and its kept intentionally rough to to keep it empty. The surface is much smoother with a layer of compacted snow on top.

*See the comments - I may or may not be talking sillystuff - do whichever works for you!.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


I've got to admit when I looked at the little rubber knog lights in the past I wasn't too impressed, they were neither bright nor cheap and I just didn't see the use in them other than gimmickry. But this week I was spending £25 in Clas Ohlson and they have a christmas offer on where you get £5 off if you spend £30. So I thought I may as well see what the Clas Ohlson version of Knogs are like since they would only be costing me 99p. (£5.99 full price)

Well they are great!, really bright, simple and effective. They won't light your path on the Fallowfield Loop, but that's not what they are for. They are however, a piece of cake to strap on to the bike in all kinds of locations and just as easy to swap between bikes and that's the real beauty of them.

These ones are not the one piece rubber stuff that real knogs are, but the transparent plastic does mean the entire unit lights up and not just the led at the front, so there is a little bit of visibility to the side as well.

Pretty good for £5.99 99p.