Sunday, 27 February 2011

Cycling on a motorway

On the way to the Wheeler's Brunch yesterday I went down an eerily quiet Ashton Old Rd. This was because the Mancunian Way is closed for the weekend. Big road closures tend to have this effect, they don't mean more traffic clogged up elsewhere they just mean less traffic is fed to the lesser connected roads. So on the way back I took a little detour and did my first, and possibly last bit of motorway cycling. It kind of felt like that scene in Ghostbusters 2 where they are walking down the abandoned subway lines. At any moment the totally empty road might suddenly fill with ghosts of R*nge Rovers blasting along honking their horns.

In this photo note how the beautiful February sunlight catches the hints of colour in the grey armco barrier, the grey tarmac and is further bolstered by the patternated staining on the grey concrete university tower. Its a shame that the sky chose to be so blue really. A good overcast grey would have really finished off the pallette.

Just in case you thought it might be odd to find some motorway going through a major city they have put some signs up to remind you. This is based on the same principle applied to cycle signage. Here they want cars to use the motorway, therefore = lots of signage to help you find it and use it. In most other places those people on bikes tend to get in the way a bit so avoiding helpful signage where possible will discourage them.

Some inconsiderate railway people have gone and put this bridge over the road. Next time they should be made to use some grey engineering bricks instead of those colourful reds ones or better yet make it out of concrete. And that stone detailing around the base of the arches is just showing off. Nobodies looking up there when they need to concentrate on which lane to be in for the junction ahead.
Cycling on the motorway is alot of fun, but I think I'll give it a miss on Monday when its open again.

*Update: Here's the plaque, made of concrete no less. This little spot beside Brook St is actually quite nice to travel through when the sun is out, hence the large number of pedestrians and a bike in the photo. Just a shame that most of the other similar spots underneath the Mancunian way are used for private parking. Thye do make good skatepark locations in other spots though.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Manchester Piccadilly on Fire...a bit

I did wonder why every other vehicle on Ashton Old Road was a police van, turns out it's because Piccadilly is on fire. Well a bit on fire anyway.

Thankfully little hindrances like a tunnel network inferno and subsequent road closures aren't a problem for bikes and pedestrians. The motorists that had to do u-turns and anyone delayed on the trains aren't having such a good morning.

At least 5 fire engines there when I went past along with the mobile fire station lorry thing they have. Can Imagine a fire in a cramped old tunnel network is about as noxious & claustrophobic an environment you can get.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Triumph Trafficmaster (Twenty Stowaway)

Back in October I got a couple of Raleigh Stowaways Triumph Trafficmasters. Neither were complete, but together they would make a single complete bike and another that could be stripped down and rebuilt in a new form. The seller I got them from has posted on the Raleigh Twenty forum in the past and has what can only be described as the greatest collection of folding bikes on the entire planet (or at least in England). 

These bikes are alot of fun to ride. They're fast and manouverable but still comfortable (apart from those crap saddles). The main difference in feel is probably the wheelbase. It's a few centimeters short of the wheelbase on a large wheeled bike which makes a difference for the cruising stability - or Longitudinal stability which in a nutshell probably means something like 'Does it go around corners?' & 'how easy is it to hold a straight line?'.

Oh yes and in typical Raliegh 3 speed fashion the gearing is too high, but really its based on the notion that if you need a lower gear to get up that hill then you should get off and push because then the gearing will be right for going fast down the otherside.
Both frames are a little scratched, but one of them is a bit more rusty than the other. So the least rusty bike got to live and recieved the missing bits it needed off the other bike, whilst the other poor bike found out that it could be reduced to the contents of a cardboard box ready for rebuilding. The plan so far is a hub geared/hub braked collapsible tourer with (if I can get some cheap) a set of butterfly bars.
Surviving original bike got to play out in the sun

Poor rusty bike didn't even fit in his temparary cardboard home
While we're at it here's a romatic shot of my brothers genuine Raleigh Stowaway with all of it's ever so slightly better features than mine, such as chromed mudgaurds and sheathed brake levers....oh and a mickey mouse bell.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Why bike registration is a bad idea....

......because some poor sod will end up walking out of Halfrauds with a numberplate like this on the back of his bike.

If the owner of this micra is anything to go by, then the embarassment of having a numberplate like this will be so depressing that you will take to the drink and end up with little comprehension of what colour the lights are or how they operate and have a total indecision of which lane to be in every 30 yards.

So there you have it folks. Bicycle registration would not only be waste of everyones time, but will cause drink-pedalling & depression. And my message to anyone who thinks it's a good idea....just think....when you buy your first born a shiny new bike for christmas - whats the wife going to say when her little darling exitedly rips open the wrapping paper and says 'mummy, what's CUM mean?'.

Ok, thats enough vulgarity, back to bike building in the next post!.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Visual & Mental Reasoning Test

 The test is to be completed by Mr. or Mrs. Average.

Existing cyclists or people who ride bikes please return to your respective holding pens and await the results. (or make yourself useful and go find a friend to take the test)

Dear Mr . or Mrs. Average you have 5 minutes to examine the attached imagery and complete the test.

Test begins.

Please examine the image above & take in the following scenario:
  • It is a pleasant February evening
  • Visibility is good & traffic is relatively light.
  • The image shows an AC 100/4 Terex Demag - 4-axle mobile crane, weighing in excess of 30 tonnes & travelling at approx. 20mph
  • The vehicle in question is being driven very professionally & will take great care when overtaking cyclists
  • This is the most direct route available to your destination consisting of a mixture of 40mph and 30mph roads.

The question:
If at any point in the future you decide you would like to take up cycling to work (or even the shops, a local restuarant or do the school run) - Would you:

A: Prefer continuous Dutch style segregated infrastructure on all A-roads so that your interaction with vehicles such as this is thoroughly minimised.


B: Prefer to cycle 'vehiculary' amongst traffic bearing in mind that you are statistically very safe indeed & of course the driver of this vehicle is exceptionally mindful of your presence.

Test ends. Pens down. Hand in your papers in the comments section below.

Class dismissed.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

3rd wheel

Mr.C of Manchester Cycling identified my rather obvious weakness for drum brakes recently and promptly flogged me a rather well built 451 wheel with one of Sturmey's finest in the middle. I did such an excellent job of bungeeing it to the rack (If I do say so myself) that on the way home I had to double check it was still there for fear that the lack of rattling meant it had fallen off.

Later in the evening as I wheel spun my way across a sodden field in Denton (everywhere is so utterly sodden at the moment!)  I came across Fantastic Mr.Fox just sitting there doing much about nothing. So I took his picture:

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A load of old cobbles... & tarmac

The state of Britain's roads is an unending source of material for journalists and complaining in general, especially after two pretty harsh winters but putting aside the apparently woeful ability of most councils to keep up with their maintenance duties there is another reason why our roads can suffer so much.

A significant number of our roads are the same roads and routes that have existed for centuries. They were never intended to carry the enormous capacity and shear weight of 21st century motor traffic and beneath them are the same cobble setts laid down for horses and carts or simply so that you had something solid to walk on instead of a muddy track.

I'm not a historian & certainly don't know much about when or how our roads and footways were paved. But I do know that from the seat of my bike I get to actually see the roads....and the potholes, undulations, cracks & collapsed drains. Something thats not possible from inside my car or on the bus. It becomes obvious that the massive pothole there and the sunken drain here isn't there because the council is failing abysmally at it's duties. (ok some might be). It's there because n+100 HGV's a day & n+150 Doubledecker buses and god-knows how many vans and cars are pummelling and tearing across a surface that simply can't cope with it.

The solution to potholes isnt more blobs of half-arsed tarmac or bigger council maintenance budgets. It's less heavy volumes of traffic in Town's and Cities.

Next time you're out and about have a look at the road you're using and you might be suprised just how thin and hastily tarmaced alot of our roads are. Peaking out underneath is the real bit of road, the bit built long before the motorcar. 

A better photo than these would have been from around 10 years ago when I remember Ashton Rd in Newton, Hyde was resurfaced. I was amazed at the time to see about a mile of asphalt get steadily skimmed off each day to reveal an entire road of hand-layed setts. Before then it had never even occured to me that the original  pavings were still beneath our 'modern' highways.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Nexus 8 - Laying back (Part 9)

Forenote: If you are a framebuilder, or frame connoisseur of somesort - look away now!.

I originally bought an extra long adjustable stem off ebay for fitting to the Hopper. But whilst it was sitting around waiting I thought I'd see what it would be like on the Nexus. The result was a bit of fun, but not really rideable on a daily basis on busy roads. The main problem being that the higher handlebars aren't compatible with the seat tube angle. It creates a strange kind of feeling where you feel like you are pedalling behind yourself. 

The solution (as Mr.C pointed out would be the case) is a slacker seat tube angle. i.e to have the saddle further back from the pedals. But thats not going to happen without starting over again with a vintage frame, or just buying a Dutch bike of some sort. The other option is a layback seat post. 

So £8 found it's way to an ebay seller and and I was the proud owner of a 'new old stock' 25.4mm layback seatpost to continue my Frankenbike Experiment.

The original seat tube angle on the frame is approximately 75.5 degrees. With the layback post the effective seat tube angle goes down to 70 and in the process makes the much taller handlebars viable.  The head tube angle was already around 70 degrees, so effectively the two angles are now parallel

This was originally just an experiment to see how it turned out, but it's so much nicer to ride that I knew I'd be keeping it setup like this after the first day's riding.

I'm under no illusions that this equates to the geometry of a classic Dutch bike, but it gives a nice mixture of the angles - which seems to work for giving that relaxed riding position but respecting the crappy vehicular context in which it's going to get ridden most days of the week.

Here's a little before and after animation, then a couple of random pics to illustrate seat angles because it's difficult to see what's going on without seeing the angles measured.

This is an aluminium Gazelle Touche, which measures at the same 70/70 that my bike is now roughly equivalent to.

Apologies to Amsterdammers for stealing & graffitiing their pictures. I'll make up for it one day by buying a bike of you.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The middle finger from Metrolink

This is what Metrolink think of cycle infrastructure.

The polite 'conversation' with the bloke prat on the right went roughly like this:

Me: 'Can I cycle up there?' ...(sarcasm went undetected, he thought I was genuinely asking)

Prat: 'eh?, erm...'

Me: 'How am I supposed to ride up there?'

Prat: 'Oh, erm....just go up the road' (points at the one way road with traffic coming down it)

Me: 'Oh, thanks Einstein, great advice....'

Prat & Prat: .....both walk off giggling.

This is the contraflow lane featured here on Mad cycle lanes of Manchester. It might have the most convoluted method of access ever, but as a means to get up to Piccadilly Gardens in the morning it's very useful. Not so much today though.

The Metrolink is owned by GMPTE, whose HQ is the building in the background to the left of the bridge (No.2 Piccadilly Place). However the system is operated under license by Stagecoach. So it's anyones guess who these two actually work for.

Sigh.....anyway, time for a cup of tea.

Edit for the folks at Skyscrapercity enjoying this post. When I took the photo I didn't realise the guy's leg had partially blocked the number plate (annoying). From looking at my car check & consulting my resident Ford Transit expert we think this might be MV58 XPR.(although I may have just incriminated some poor unsuspecting plumber from crumpsall). Oh & rudenames have been substituted for 'Prat' because I wouldn't want anyone thinking something silly like me just trying to get to work in the morning makes me a 'Militant cyclist'.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

On her Majesty's Service? ....that'll be 9.6p per mile

If you happen to be lucky enough (or unlucky) to be called up for Jury service then you'll be pleased to know that as a person travelling by bicycle her Majesty's Courts Service have arrived at a figure of 9.6p per mile as compensation for your journey to and from the court. God knows how they come up with these figures, but I suppose it was a bit of a suprise to me to even see it included. (it's not me doing Jury service by they way, it's someone else at my work).

Strangely you get the exact same mileage for a motorcycle as you do for a car, which seems odd to me as a motorbike is much cheaper to run than a car. So on that basis, why is the bicycle mileage less than a third?.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011