4, November, 2017
For a notorious Velomobile sceptic, a four day trip to a Velomobile factory in the Netherlands, and a day hanging out with entusiastic Velomobilistes might seem like a bad idea. I suppose I did it because I get fed up with people rejecting new ideas without ever trying them. And it was an opportunity you don't get offered very often!
My friend John has two Velomobiles, which to normal people might seem excessive, but John is not normal. The good thing is that he always has a spare one, so when he suggested we go to to Holland for the annual meeting and time trial in the Intercity bikes factory in Dronten I allowed myself to be persuaded. He also does a regular video blog, so you can watch his account of our journey here.
The first disadvantage of a velomobile is that every journey has to start and finish at your front door, so we had to do a five hour evening ride to Harwich and then camp in some woods overnight to get the morning boat This was my first long ride in the Quest, which weighs about 38 kilos plus I was carrying enough camping stuff for the weekend. I have to say for a heavy machine it rolled nicely if the hills were not extreme. You certainly get a big advantage above about 30 kmh, below 20 kph the weight starts to tell and it becomes a grind.
Coming off the boat in Holland we were with fellow rider Ian in a DF - the vehicle of choice for afficianados. This weighs closer to 24 kilos and is a stiffer and more compact machine. He is used to travelling everywhere at high speed and obviously found it frustrating waiting for me, but since I was navigating he didn't have any choice. We rode 25k to a campsite with a cabin and then set off early the next day for the 140k ride to Dronten.
12, December, 2016
Pinion factory visit
A trip to the Pinion factory near Stuttgart for a training session and an introduction to their new product, the C-Line gearbox.
The company has two floors of a factory unit on an industrial estate, with production, assembly and shipping on one floor and design and sales on another. They employ only 22 people, as most of the elements of the gearbox are delivered pre-assembled.
Our day started with a talk where they gave us some background to the history of the company, the technology behind it and the production process. Then we were given time to test ride some bikes around the local area. I was particularly impressed with the Azub Ti-Fly, which is a full suspension machine with a Pinion P1.8 gearbox.
We were then given a tour of their production facility. Most of the elements of the hub are delivered pre-assembled, taking advantage of local suppliers working in the automotive gear industry - both Mercedes and Porsche have large factories in the area. That means they only have to do final assembly, packing and shipping. Since May 2015 every hub has been put through a specially built test machine which runs through every gear and uses high resolution rotation and torque sensors so that in two minutes it checks all the gears, measures tooth accuracy and quality, idling resistance, efficiency in every gear and torque of shifting under load.
In the afternoon we had a training session where we all learned how to change the cables.
The new C-Line gearbox has a new, compact body made of cast magnesium which is 33% lighter than the aluminium cover on the P-line. The Q factor on the C-line gearboxes are 8mm narrower. This is achieved by having a maximum of 12 gears as this means the gearbox case only has to accomodate 4 x 3 gear sprockets. It is also available as a wide range 9 speed for electric bikes or a 6 speed which is aimed at freight bikes. No colour options, it only comes in black, but it is considerably cheaper than the P-line.
28, November, 2016
Steve Olsen is an established designer with a new project - an off road bike that is designed for UK conditions. He will be at Bikefix on the 9th of December to talk about his ideas and to show off his latest machine which combines a carbon fibre frame, belt drive and a Pinion gearbox to make a machine for all conditions. Check out his web site at www.olsenbicycles.com
2, October, 2016
Mille du Sud 2016
For lovers of long distance bike rides the Mille du Sud is a classic. Starting in Carces in Provence the ride takes you 1000km through the Alps with a time limit of 75 hours. Naturally that involves a bit of climbing but the great thing about this part of the world is that the roads only ever go upwards for a reason, and it usually to get over a col. That means that there are steady ascents of 10 to 20 km, followed by similar descents; the longest was a glorious 50km.
An oddity of the Mille du Sud is that it has a different route every year, organiser Sophie says that its to keep it interesting for her, and there is no question that from Carces you are spoilt for amazing places to ride. This year the route went over the Col du Galibier, which at 2545m is a challenge, but like all the alpine passes the gradient is a pretty steady 9%.
26, April, 2016
Come HPV Racing!
We are arranging an informal one hour circuit race run for all local Human Powered Vehicle riders. Just turn up at Herne Hill Velodrome at 11am on May 8th and have a go.
Potential competitors without recumbent bicycles may be able to borrow one from us - get in touch. No previous experience necessary, just turn up and ride. #hpvhernehill
15, January, 2016
A better bicycle?
This is not a bike you can buy, so don’t bother asking the price. This is a sketch, or a concept. An exercise in imagining a future in which bikes might be better.
This is of course heresy, as it is widely assumed that bicycles have achieved some kind of perfection and that all that remains is to make them lighter, give them more gears and change the colour scheme. There is even a reactionary tendency which believes that peak bike was reached in 1975, or 1965, or 1895, depending on tribal loyalties, and it’s all been downhill since the invention of gears, or aluminium, or carbon fibre.
Mike Burrows likes to think that it might be possible to make a Better Bicycle, and “Gordon” is one idea of how it might be done. For a start it is light, and strong and has plenty of gears, as we have the right to expect. But there is no exposed machinery, as this is a bike to be used, not to be kept indoors and cleaned by your personal mechanic. The 9 speed gearbox from Pinion Drive is enclosed within the frame, running in an oil bath and shifting with a twist of the handlebar grip. The brakes and transmission are also fully enclosed, reminiscent of Dutch bikes which are designed to live below sea level, but the frame is made of carbon fibre and the entire bike weighs less than 11 kilos. Front and rear monoblades are stronger and lighter (do the maths!) and keep the structure simple and beautiful.
There are a few distinctive ergonomic innovations. Short cranks put less load on the body and enable the rider to spin the pedals more quickly. They also lower the centre of gravity make it easier to reach the ground when you stop. The bike has a low step through for ease of access, and distinctive handlebars which maintain an efficient but comfortable riding position.
This bicycle is technically advanced, which need not concern the user,who is not assumed to be an aspiring mechanic. All that's required to keep it in perfect condition is an occasional wipe with a rag. Gordon has not abolished punctures, which are life's way of reminding you of reality, but when you have to fix one yourself the mono-blades mean there's no need to remove a wheel. After a little practice it will take less than a minute.
Once a year you can take Gordon to your expert mechanic who, having checked it over and wiped it with a rag, will charge you an unfeasible amount of money. Not really, but we all have to live..
Is Gordon realistic as a mass produced product? Absolutely! Carbon fibre frames are almost mainstream nowadays and this one would be cheaper and simpler to make than most. Internal transmission systems are currently expensive and elitist but the economics of mass production would soon change that. And if bicycles were universally valued as the amazing problem-solving, life-giving machines that they obviously are, then something like Gordon would universally be considered an absolute bargain.
Charles Eames said that the role of the designer is to be a good host, anticipating the needs of his guests. From this point of view Gordon has settled you in a comfortable armchair and poured you a large gin and tonic.
29, August, 2015
Reflections on Paris Brest Paris 2015
There are other classic audax events but there is only one "Paris Brest".
Partly it is due to the international nature of the event. 6000 riders from all around the world; a continuous parade of happy and healthy people doing what they love best. Then there are the volunteers, a support crew of thousands who have given up days or weeks of their time to support us with food, beds, coffee and encouragement. Of course France itself makes a great contribution with its beautiful villages, well kept towns and smooth roads. And then there are the spectators, standing or sitting eating by the side of the road and supporting us with applause and appreciation.
There were times during the qualifiers when I questioned my motivation. I had done the ride once before, in 2007, and approaching it for the second time my mental state was quite different. There was much less nervousness, less anxiety that the challenge would be too much, more a feeling that it might be a pleasant way of spending three days.
The challenge is to ride 1200km within 90 hours, but I had no intention of trying to achieve more than getting in before the time limit, which is what I did last time. As it happened I kept going for the first 600km and arrived in Brest with time for a reasonable nights sleep. In this way I managed to avoid what for me is the most unpleasant part of riding this type of event - getting up in the dark. The third night I rode through until around 2am and had another good sleep.
I think that riding it on a recumbent bicycle might actually be described as cheating. It certainly makes it very much less challenging as it takes away almost all of the elements of pain and discomfort. It becomes just a long bike ride with an element of sleep deprivation that is not severe and is easily cured by a ten minute nap. Also the terrain is well suited to us laid back types as for the most part the hills are rolling and you can keep up a good pace. By the last 200km I was well warmed up and riding really well, which meant that I comfortably made it to the final control within 80 hours and felt as if I could of done more if I needed to.
Recovery takes a while. Plenty of sleep and some easy wandering around the streets of Paris with my new friend Tobit was an excellent way to ease myself back into normal life. The experience is addictive though, perhaps because of the extreme physical and emotional states you experience. I am already planning some more adventures for next year.
27, August, 2015
Eurobike 2015 - business as usual
Eurobike this year was the usual mixture of hard core bike business, flashy promotion and heavy marketing with a few innovative ideas sneaking in. I went for the demo day, which gives you an opportunity to test ride all the new bikes, and I spent a day wandering the show halls. Also ate a couple of excellent dinners.
Streamer fairing - old but still good
Paper Bicycle in hire bike mode. Apparently there are now several thousand of them out there.
"Onesey" for scandinavian bike touring. Also converts to a coat.
Tout Terrain pinion mounting system allows tension adjustment for belt drives.
The Leaf - a new urban/shopping trailer from Carry Freedom.
Monster truck family camping set up - just buy the lot and go!
Ortlieb have ahad their best idea since they invented their amazing QL1 pannier fixing system back in 1823. A rack top bag fitting system which makes all the rest of them look rubbish, because of course, they are. Simply adjust the width once for your rack and it simply pushes into place. See this video.
Co-Motion chainstay yoke - a very clever way of maximising tyre clearance for the latest generation of huge tyres. This one was CNC machined out of a big block of steel.
14, May, 2015
The best bits from Spin
Spin London is an exciting new show which presents the best of the new and most innovative products from the bicycle industry, with an emphasis on small start ups with an urban theme. We were running a big test track where you could try out all our bikes, and a few others. We were helped by Circe, who had a lot of tandems out on the track, Swifty Scooters, Tout Terrain, who brought some new models and 8 Freight - great for passenger carrying! The high bike from Dear Susan was undoubtedly one of the "highlights" but there was lots of good stuff from the worlds of fashion and coffee, and some great activities as well.
We liked Otto London, for cool rain capes, the beautiful womens knitwear from Findra in Scotland, Braasi bags from the Czech republic and the amazing cruisers from our friends OCD Connection. If you are looking for an organised cycling holiday, either guided or self guided, have a look at The Carter Company.
15, November, 2014
London Fez 2014
In 2004 four of us decided to ride to Fez in Morocco. Why Fez? Its in the south, its an achievable distance, there are good roads, dramatic scenery and much cultural interest on the way. Fez is also the largest traffic free urban space in the world, thats if you don’t include people and donkeys as traffic. That time two of us got as far as Algeciras. In 2010 Patrick Field rode the full route and in 2014 there were six participants, two of whom rode the whole way.
The ride takes a seasoned cyclist about three weeks but there are no restrictions on route or time scale. The ride is testing, but it is not a sporting endeavour, more a discipline. En route there are plenty of hotels, campsites and some opportunities for wild camping, and there are some beautiful places to visit and lots of good food. There are a plethora of public transport options both on the way out and for getting you and your bike home.
The nicest time to do it is probably October, as you can escape the northern cold and the summer heat and if you are lucky you will ride back into summer weather. There is also a yet untested version which could do the route in reverse in the spring.
Fez is almost due south of London, mountains and sea present natural desire lines with a few beautiful places making logical punctuation points. Crossing the channel to Caen gives an easy route down through Normandy, Maine, Anjou and then down the Atlantic coast to cross the border at Irun. From there a good road leads to Pamplona where good food and accomodation is plentiful. Through Castilla-La Mancha until it is time to cross the Sierra Moreno into Andalusia. Take the ferry from Algeciras to Ceuta, cross the border into Morocco then ride through the Rif nountains to Chefchouan and then to Fez. You can download the GPS file here
Who To Ride With
Riding alone suits some people best, but we are social creatures and sharing the experience has its own pleasures. Every group has its own dynamic and experienced riders will know when to compromise. Whatever you do, be self reliant at all times. Otherwise you may become the responsibility of your fellow travellers. Likewise you should expect them to be able to solve their own problems. Normally the larger the group, the slower, so be prepared to split up.
In France camping is often a good option and although some campsites are closed in the Autumn the municipal sites are often still usable. There are also plenty of reasonably priced hotels. Campsites in Spain are much harder to find, but hotels are very cheap, and there are possibilities for wild camping in the hills. I like to sleep in my hammock. In Morocco the easiest thing is hotels, but the locals are very hospitable and asking around can sometimes get you somewhere to put your tent and even an invitation home!
Eating and Drinking
Of course verybody has their own preferences but I would recommend French pastries, Spanish coffee and spicy Moroccan olive oil!
There are trains and buses to Tangier and Ceuta for ferries to Algeciras or Tarifa in Spain. You can get bikes on the buses in Morocco or you may prefer just to use the post or a courier service so you can get home unencumbered. From Algeciras there is a high speed train to Barcelona which connects to the TGV to Paris. There are also flights from Fez back to London.
My top tips
Buy the Michelin road map books of France (1:200 000) and Spain (1:400 000), about £12 each, and take the pages you need.
Get up early and stop for lunch when the French do; 12pm sharp. Have a long rest and then ride till dark.
See you in Fez!
2, November, 2014
"like cycling in widescreen"
We got undreamed of prime time exposure on Channel 4 as Guy Martin and his mate Jason Miles attempted to break the 24 hour tandem record on a faired recumbent sociable built by Mike Burrows. We get to see Jason wobbling and falling off one of the Bikefix team bikes. Guy declares it "lovely experience; a bit wierd, but loved it".
Mike demonstrates why a regular tandem won't hack it and then goes off to design a superior machine. Various technical problems have to be solved including how to eat and how to dispose of the waste products.
27, August, 2014
Ringing the Changes
Eurobike 2014 was all about gear changes, with a lot of fat tyres for fun. I went to the demo day, which gave me the chance to really try out some new technology. There was a long road circuit, some off road trails through the woods and a rudimentary "pump track" which all gave me a lot of fun.
Fat tyres were everywhere, and I mean FAT! I rode the Surly Ice Cream Truck which is described on their web site as "frisky and limber". To me it steered like a small tanker but it did seem to have the ability to create trails where none previously existed. ICE had their record breaking South Pole conquering machine to ride around. Rode surprisingly well!
I got the opportunity to ride the kind of thing I never get near, like super-light full suspension mountain bikes, but mainly I was there to try out the stuff we expect to be selling for the next few years.
Pinion Gears: my self imposed task was to ride a few bikes with the Pinion gearbox. It's mounted onto the bottom bracket - you need a special frame - which puts the weight in a more balanced position than a gear hub, and the range and steps are really impressive, but I needed to find out how it worked in real world conditions. As well as the 18 speed, which is designed for trekking bikes and has been around for a few years, there is now a 12 speed for mountain bikers and two 9 speeds, a close ratio and a wide ratio. I rode a 12 speed on a carbon bike which weighed as much a bag of cheesy wotsits, and almost immediately forgot I was supposed to be testing the gears. The changes are instant, the steps are close and regular and it seems to work well even under full load. Combined with its sealed construction and central positioning it seems like an ideal system for off road bikes and long distance machines. Its crying out for a decent chaincase though. Tout Terrain are offering the 18 speed on several models and the 9 speed on a new commuting bike, the Via Veneto XPress.
Rohloff Shifters: these are a Tout Terrain spin-off product; the Cinq5 ShiftR. If you havn't worked it out yet, the clever bit is inside the click box, which has a ratchet like a Shimano Rapidfire. The paddles on the handlebars waggle back and forth, right for up, left for down, and the clickbox ratchets the gears up and down. Its really simple and smooth to use, and makes Rohloff gears and drop handlebars a sensible option at last.
Nu Vinci: For some reason these have not yet caught on, but they appear to be quite amazing. A continuously variable transmission system operated by a twist grip. Its simple and it works. There is now also an electronic system called "harmony" which sets the gear ratio according to your cadence. Frankly this messes with your brain, but would be ideal for many commuter and utility bikes. It naturally starts in a low gear as as you pedal, you go faster, without your cadence changing. Its incredible! Probably only available on e-bikes though.
SRAM G8 hub gear: a bit of a disapointment. If you're a fan of Shimano, as I am, you won't be impressed with this, it's just a bit too clunky.
Star of the show for me was HP Velotechnik's Scorpion Plus. OK, a trike designed for people with mobility problems will never hit the cool buttons but to me it represents a massive and tangible benefit to human kind. So many people are going to benefit from this machine with improved health, mobility and independence, I was really inspired. I took two of them for extended test rides, both with the GoSwiss power assist, one with the standard seat and 26" back wheel and the other with the extra high seat and the 20" back wheel. I couldn't decide which one I liked most! More pictures here. My ambition now is to live long enough to need one. For now I am sticking to extremely low bikes that you have to crawl backwards into.
If you want to know how boring the rest of the show was, check out the road.cc website. Racing bikes are lighter and have more gears apparently.
Its bed time now. More pictures tomorrow.
6, July, 2014
A customers demand for the ultimate audax bike gave us the opportunity to do something we have wanted to do for ages, an upgrade of the Fujin SL2 using a Mike Burrows monoblade and pivotting handlebars in the Ratracer style.
The Fujin is a great bike but I was never completely happy with the riding position, of the three options available none of them get the bars low enough and tight enough in, there is limited adjustment and the pivoting version is rather heavy. Also the carbon forks don't have disc brake mounts, so you can have tiny sidepulls if you want the lightest possible setup, or fairly chunky aluminium forks for disc brakes. Fitting one of Mikes Blades means you can have a lightweight option with a disc brake, plus it improves the chain run past the front wheel. We found some stock carbon tubes which seem to be lighter and stronger thean the aluminium tubes Mike has used until now. Mike made one of his beautiful pivotting stems from the same material.
Since the bike is wanted for long Audaxes a dynamo hub was also demanded, so it is possible we have created the first bike with a monoblade and dynamo hub. We used the Son XSM in the version designed for ICE, and Mike had to make a special casting for the end of the monoblade. The result is pretty cool. Hope brakes are always our choice for this type of handlebar set up as you can use the little adapters to give a right angle hose run down the stem. Plus they are easy to set up and service.
We want to make some stock bikes using this configuration. Get in touch for a progress report.
15, June, 2014
Peace in the Ukraine
Ukraine is a huge country and an amazing place to visit. Don't be put off by stories of trouble, the Russians are very far away and the anxiety to be accepted by Europe just means you will get an extra warm welcome. Away from the highways there is little tarmac and no road signs at all, which makes navigation tricky. We had a Polish speaker with us to ask directions to the next village, otherwise it was a case of stopping a local and pointing to the next destination on the map.
Our journey started in Lublin in Poland and went through a succession of charming and elegant central European cities with some wild and remote country in between. We ended in Cluj, Romania, from where there are cheap flights back to Luton. For anyone wanting a less advenurous destination I would recommend Transylvania, good roads, easy communication, excellent food and good facililities.
I would recommend big wheels and fat tyres but the Circe Helios tandem coped admirably. With the new Packaway Frame it takes about ten minutes to dismantle the bike and put it in the bag. Putting it together takes about the same amount of time as you don't have to worry about fitting everything in. The bike survived both flights without any damage, although the Ukranian roads took a bit of a toll on the headset and gears.
Our friends had their Apps inspired Ukrainian Tractor tandem, which mde for slower but much more comfortable progress. Big wheels, an extra long frame and the luggage evenly distributed combined with with a very upright riding position for comfort and manoevreability. Years of tandeming experience have gone in to this bike.
28, May, 2014
Four seasons in three weeks
A nice set of pictures from Mateusz and Evas adventures in Norway...
1, May, 2014
17, April, 2014
The packaway tandem has arrived!
The Circe Helios tandem is now available with a frame which can be taken apart for easy travel. Two cunning joints on the top tube lock the bike together. Each joint is made of machined aluminium and is firmly clamped with two 8mm bolts. The bottom tube is an oversized sleeve which simply clamps around the existing frame tubes. The result is a completely rigid frame which takes 20 to 30 minutes to pack away, but will go into quite a small bag. Price is £550 on top of the usual bike price and it is available now. We can also get your existing Circe tandem retro-fitted for £650.
We have got our first frame and we will be testing it extensively over the next few weeks. The plan is to fly to Poland and then cross the Ukraine to Romania, taking advantage of budget airlines. Read the report of the trip.
6, April, 2014
Le Grand Depart
We gave Laid Back Rich a great send off from Bikefix on his round the world trip. A bunch of his friends accompanied him on the first leg of his trip and we had dinner in Harwich while waiting for the ferry. You can follow his progress here and he has more pictures here.
His bike was built by us. Its a Bacchetta Corsa with Rohloff hub, Marathon tyres and cable discs. He wanted a steel frame and maximum reliability.
24, December, 2013
I have had my WaW for two and a half years and it was getting pretty battered so I decided to make her look pretty again. Stuart wanted to get it done up in the classic Bikefix "roadcone" livery so I didn't have to pay for it.
Mateusz completely reinforced the underside and then spent days filling and sanding it. It was then hung up in the yard and sprayed it with several coats of primer/filler. Then there was several coats of gloss and a lot of laquer.
The results are pretty good I think! Just waiting for numbers and it will be at the first BHPC race on 13th April.
20, December, 2013
My Amazing Bike!
Last year I did all my audax rides on the Molerat, but this year I wanted something a bit more comfortable and easier to use so its back to my old Speedmachine. I was never completely happy with the riding position and I wanted to duplicate as close as possible the way you sit on a Molerat.
Changing the handlebars and raising up the front of the seat gives me a flatter profile and having my hands and arms tucked in should be a lot more aerodynamic. I like the curve in the tiller, it keeps everything out of your eyeline and should be a bit more aero.
The handlebars were a Burrows cast off, so I just had to find a way to fix them to the stem. A lump of square section steel was brazed on with a height adjuster underneath. I am also getting rid of the front mech and converting it to 10 speed with a 9 to 36 cassette. I was tempted by 11 speed but that would have needed a new hub.
Its got a Burrows Blade which improves the chainline and the aerodynamics. I took off the original suspension forks to save weight and reduce the height of the front boom, but the monoblade is very good at absorbing road shock and the whole bike handles very well. This one is actually aluminium with a fake carbon fibre sticker on it, although Mike now makes them out of stock carbon tube.
Its now light enough and fast enough to keep up round the Essex lanes on Sunday morning but still perfect for long distance touring. In October 2014 I rode it Fez in Morrocco and I am already planning some nice rides in 2015.
10, September, 2013
No news from Eurobike
I don't go to trade shows to be wowed by novelty. I am happy when my regular suppliers are doing a good job at improving stuff a little. But between the restrictions of the UCI and the desperate need to create new market “segments”, the bike trade seems to be caught in a bit of a trap.
Since the UCI have effectively prevented the manufacturers from doing anything useful to their bikes (they even have rules on where you can hold your handlebars and how far you can pull up your socks) they are a bit stymied on the innovation front. Shimano are even trying to make a virtue of it with their "you can have what the pros can't" ad campaign for road disc brakes.
The mountain bikers are being promised huge benefits from marginal technical changes that inevitably require the purchase of a brand new bicycle. So now 26" wheels are passe, 29" wheels sold them a few new bikes and now everybody claims that what everybody really needs are 27 1/2" wheels. These are apparently a massive breakthrough because they combine the best qualities of both the other sizes. Please don't ask me to explain, just visit the website of any large mtb manufacturer.
I mainly just go to visit my regular suppliers with one eye open in case there is something I need to know about. I loved the Biba bikes from Barcelona. They are coming to see me soon. HP Velotechnik are selling more and more expensive tricycles - they are offerring their Scorpion 26 with knobbly tyres for off road riding, check out their video. Power assist is very big for them, they now produce a machine that has a special category in Germany, a bit like a moped, which will allow you to have a motor which will take you to 45 kmh.
I tried out the Pinion Drive and was really impressed. It seems smoother and quieter than the Rohloff and the weight is centred on the frame, which makes good sense on a full suspension bike like the Tout Terrain Pan Americana. The main downside is the weight, about 2.5 kilos. Belt Drive bikes were well represented, the cost and technicality being outweighed in many peoples opinion by the quietness, cleanness and potential longevity. Time will tell as always.
Tout Terrain also had a new child trailer for 1900 euros with full suspension and weather protection for two kids. I am sure it will sell well in Germany, let us know if you want one! Next years Fahrrad S300 is higher spec and higher price, which I think will be good for many of our customer. most other models have stayed the same and continue to sell well.
There was plenty of nice luggage, new reflective (all over!) panniers from Ortlieb, lovely Rixen Kaul baskets in new colours and the full range of the new Thule luggage system. We have almost the full range of racks and bags in the shop now. My eye was caught by the Bikesuit, good for the laidback rider?
Recumbent manufacturers mostly don't bother with such a general interest show, but it was good to meet Han Van Vucht, the new owner of Challenge, who had a beautiful Chamsin and a Fujin SL2, both in red. Still can't decide if I prefer High Racers or Low. Hans is this week in Battle Mountain, with his wife Ellen, and with Graeme Obree, all trying to set a new land speed record.
The bicycle industry is doing pretty well from pedalling a combination of myth, ignorance, false controversy and empty promises. It seems as if the more cautious and risk averse they become, the more they prosper, so they have little incentive to change their ways. In the meantime, the mavericks and the the innovators keep doing their own thing...
12, June, 2013
Obituary by Tad Wise (The Woodstock Times)
Richard Ballantine, author, publisher, human power advocate and "cyclist guru" to the world, died peacefully at a hospice center in London on the twenty ninth of May; Sherry, his wife of 39 years and their three grown children, at his side. Richard, who had waged a long battle with cancer, was seventy two years old.
Hailing from a family of brilliant eccentrics including the first owner of an automobile in Edinburgh, anarchist Emma Goldman, the discoverer and life-long editor of Eugene O'Neill, [with] a member of the British Raj for one grandfather, and actor, sculptor, race-car driver EJ Ballantine for the other--Richard was also the only child of paperback publishing pioneers Ian and Betty Ballantine. He grew up between Bearsville and Manhattan.
It could safely be said that young Ballantine looked upon life as a series of adventures to be survived if possible, the first of many involving his being passed as an infant from the window of a burning apartment to a fireman on a ladder. Born near-deaf, Richard compensated by learning to read lips at an extremely young age. Separated from his father, once, in the dangerous confusion of New York City, he thereafter became the most organized and "emergency-equipped" individual imaginable.
When his father lost control of Bantam Books in 1952 and those " loyal to the cause" met clandestinely in the family penthouse apartment on 24th street to form Ballantine Books, Richard--aged 12--was obliged to give up his bedroom from 5 to midnite Monday thru Friday. Publishing was not a job for the Ballantines, it was a way of life--or more specifically a way of PERCEIVING and CREATING life, fast passed from parents to son. It was Richard's uproarious appreciation of Mad Magazine, for instance, which sparked a comedic revolution when that irreverent weekly was adapted into a hugely successful paperback series. It comes as little surprise, then, that of his many illustrative forbearers, Richard was most drawn to the anarchist writings of his great-aunt Emma Goldman, and that of the dozens of authors filing through his home, he became fondest of Marxist, C. Wright Mills. It was--in fact--on a motorcycle borrowed from Mills, that Richard effectively dropped out of Columbia and rode across the country and back--embracing a Call of the Wild he would never completely abandon.
I was four when my mother married Ian's brother, David Ballantine, in 1960. I became aware and ever-more devoted to Richard as he was proving himself a new centurion on the more radical vanguard of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) at NYU, where he and a flock of bearded friends seemed bent on burning the world, as it was presently configured, to the ground. But though rebellious, Richard was powered primarily--or it seemed to me--by an even more unstoppable sense of fun. Every time he turned up on Ballantine Hill it was with a new girlfriend in different old car. His favorite was an F-85 Oldsmobile, once stolen from him in New York. I remember him triumphantly arriving atop the hill in the middle of a blizzard having freshly stolen it back. Over the years this older cousin gave me my first serious bicycle: a Peugot ten speed; and my first guitar--a Stella steel string. Richard, who could tune a guitar precisely, only played and sang the blues herewith creating a memorable cross between Huddie Leadbelly and a lovesick bear. He was also the first person I ever saw dive (without injury) from Fawn's Leap into the Palenville gorge. Richard was a dancer on skis, over rocky Catskill trails, and on ever sleeker bikes. Assisted and enraptured by adrenaline I followed close behind.
Deafness provided Richard a concentrated clarity which could prove positively spooky. A drunken Bob Dylan once stuck a pistol into Rich's beard in the Espresso Cafe, the zen-like stare from its owner sobering up the poet laureate sufficiently to inspire a rare apology. Given a Jaguarundi kitten the size of his fist, Richard named the cat "Pepe." It grew into the fastest, wildest creature ever witnessed in The Catskills, and before being shot by a farmer, revealed a side of Richard nothing less than cat-like.
While supporting himself indexing non-fiction, and cutting his teeth co-authoring books with friends John Cohen (Africa Addio) and Joel Griffiths (Silent Slaughter), at about thirty Richard began work on a long manuscript about bicycles which--it was decided--would be published by the family. His mother, Betty (who happened to be one of the great line editors of her day) remembers being vaguely terrified. "Here was my son--hard at work on an incredibly involved book concerning a subject I knew absolutely nothing about which I was supposed to edit. Of course, upon reading it I was immediately put at ease--nothing less than marvelous! Precise, witty, chock full of energy...an editor's dream!"
The title was pure Ballantine. At once audacious but with a child-like simplicity: "Richard's Bicycle Book" appeared as a new, larger-than-usual "trade" paperback picturing the lean-mean author tuning a crackling-new machine on the cover. Yet it was not only Richard's research and writing, but his timing, which proved superb. The civilized world was reeling from the first oil shortage since WW II; cheaper, lighter, faster bicycles were just coming into production, Ballantine Books already lead the field in ecology books but this how-to encyclopedic omnibus bristled with a fearless eloquence placing its reader squarely on the brink of a self-powered revolution. Nor was Richard's rebellious spirit shy in announcing itself. Though an animal-lover you'd never guess it when RB advised how to take on a ferocious dog. Nor would his reader even begin to tolerate a polite, hat-in-hand deference towards the far larger, vast majority of motorists as Ballantine became the first to declare war on roads full of smoke-spewing behemoths sure to kill you if you let them.
Richard's Bicycle Book went through innumerable editions, incarnations and sequels, including an updated edition for the new century; its author would eventually create several award-winning bicycle magazines, his hands-on approach making him a favorite at bike shows, races, on commitees and as advisor for new designs. Teaming up with Richard Grant (and making spectacular use of an apostrophe) Richards' Ultimate Bicycle Book is easily the most handsome of the brood. But back at the very beginnings of fame, and providing most necessary ballast in maintaining it, love struck hard. I was accustomed to meeting a stream of interesting women attached to Richard. The newest, Sherry Rubin, seemed to step from the pages of one the family's famous Tolkien novels. Sherry was otherworldly to say the least--I might have made a comment something to this effect, when Richard turned and in that king-like manner pronounced very simply: "She's the one." And that, as they say...was that.
Circa '84 Richard and Sherry married and moved to London, beginning a new line, consecutively titled, Danielle, Katharyn, and Shawn--Richard's true education to begin. He became quite the puddle-jumper, writing, editing, and creating book series on both sides of the Atlantic. His full-on style enlisting a literate, highly adventurous readership willing to follow him from bicycling to rock-climbing, to sailing, snorkling and scuba, from aviation and space travel to actually living with wolves. Among his many publishing achievements Richard assisted his father with an 18 volume illustrated history of Vietnam and a 36 volume Air & Space series for Bantam Books, yet his greatest success and interest remained: the fervent promotion of self-propulsion. Having imported the first mountain bike's to the UK and creating a hugely popular fat-tyre race, RB maintained his "Godfather" status in the bicycle movement, writing columns for The Guardian--among many periodicals-- while chairing the first Human Power Vehicle (HVP) Club in the 1980's; the sanest of these alternative contraptions being the "recumbent" pictured above. Richard earlier helped start the London Cycling Campaign a bicyclist charity and advocacy group of 11,000 members. And--as proof of the pudding--neither he nor any of his English-based family have owned an automobile for well over a decade.
A later profound interest in T'ai Chi (assisting Richard greatly in "the inside job" of living with cancer) contributed to making his last years what he described as "the happiest of my life." An extraordinary marriage, a particularly tight-knit relationship with his children, a lengthy, old-fashioned handwritten correspondence with his mother back in Woodstock, all tended to shift the adventure inwards. In a rare visit to London last spring, I found a great calm had settled over the warrior-hero of my youth, while the ponderous speeches Ballantine males seemed compelled to provide the world with had all but disappeared. There were silences in our conversations now, glowing with a meditative warmth.
As I write Richards' body is being conveyed by cycle-pulled hearse among a cortage of motorlessly-moved-mourners to a memorial at the Golders Green chapel in London ...an epic farewell party thereafter to commence. To this stellar send-off I can't help but compare Richard's Great-Aunt Emma's death which came to her exiled and disillusioned in 1940--the year of his birth; "The Revolution" as she'd envisioned it having succumbed to virulent corruption; her assessment of her own life--a near total waste. While the Human Powered Revolution her great-nephew inspired is growing pedal, spoke-'n-chain stronger by the minute, surging into a deceptively mature and powerful force. Nor may I resist noting that structures Richard Ballantine once sought to topple must soon fall of their own unsustainable weight, while the Glory-Day of the life-sustaining conveyances his name will forever be associated with is a growing, living, breathing reality, right here; right now.
Richard is survived by his wife Sherry, their children Danielle, Katharyn and Shawn, grandchildren Alexander and Norah, his mother, Betty, cousin Lucy, and by a world of grateful cyclists.
Richard! Ride on!
17, May, 2013
The BumbleB has Landed
We had a visit from the Brompton BumbleB - "just call me Bee", he came to pick up a Krokodile for his otherwise entirely black and yellow Brompton. Nice finishing touch!
He is one of the founders of the London Brompton Club, who organise rides and social events around the capital.
He also has a blog here.http://www.bromptonbumbleb.com/
14, May, 2013
Brevet Cymru - how to not ride it
From the beginning I was in trouble. Couldn't even keep up with Marcus. Spent 150 km struggling. By Hay on Wye I was only 20 minutes ahead of the control closing and had pretty much given up. By then my only companions were a very wheezy man with a dodgy GPS who I followed in circles around Monmouth, and a man with a belly so big he could have had another cyclist stuffed up his jersey. Got lost. Rehearsing my excuses all the way. Best I could come up with was "too far".I had breakfast and carried on in the hope of getting to Llandovery but it just got worse and worse until at last my front wheel fell off. Jubilation! Huge relief that it wasn't just "a bad day" and I at last had something to blame. Manage to stuff the axle back in the monoblade and coasted down to the next village.Llanwrtyd Wells bills itself as "the smallest town in Britain". It has two shops, a pub and a couple of cafes. One of the shops was a sort of combined stationary shop and chemist. As I went in the bell rang and a couple of minutes later a nice man in his eighties appeared so I asked him for some epoxy glue. All he had was a sort of one-shot syringe which he wouldn't sell me because he said the syringe didn't work and the last lady he sold it to brought it back and complained. He said he would have to give it to me. When I asked to borrow a spanner he disappeared off for another ten minutes and after the sound of much crashing and banging came back with a tool box containing a perfect 20mm spanner. I got the axle out, covered it with glue, shoved it back in and went off for a cream tea.An hour later I was back on my bike and flying. About two hours late for Llandovery I got there in time to see the first people coming back. Had a good meal, read the paper and then had a lovely ride to the last control for a kip. Rode the last 36 miles in the morning with Patrick who had done the same Llandovery bale-out due to a cold. All in all a great trip even though it was my first DNF.marcus' story (he's quite dyslexic)Story outline:
great cycle on my way back now bristol
wales was standing
old people really friendly\
lots of people have a go on my bike
I followed the root like I was playing pacman
as I had put the route in my phone
but I didn't have all the information I need
I have gps location of the checkpoints but I didn't know what to do when I got them.
so I spent half an hour looking around the west end cafe for someone with a stamp. until patrick showed up and told me to ask behind the counter.
I biked on to the coast and started back, I was cutting it fine. as I was on the edge of the time limit, so biked until naked. (I think he means knackered)
I fell asleep, side road on the bike agenst a wall in a lay by, nice old lady sore me and called an ambulance for me. ofter a long talk me saying 'I just need to sleep please go and let me' thay insisted and Took me to hospital, said I could sleep there. Didn't have your number, and stewart did not have his phone. From the hospital I bike to cardiff. I stay tonight at my aunties. On to bristol is where I am now just about to get the train back to Penzance. I'll be more prepared next time, big sure that the organiza as my number, and I have theirs.
30, April, 2013
Spezi is the "Spezialrad Messe" the Special Bike Show, held every year in the small town of Germersheim on the Rhine near Karlsruhe. It is a feast of fun for anybody interested in the more innovative aspects of bicycle technology. We travelled on two tandems; we rode, we ate, we bathed and the weather was beautiful until we were close to our destination. We crossed three ranges of hills, the Eifel, the Hunsruck and the Pfalzer Wald. Much of the route can be covered on dedicated cycle ways and the the gradients are mostly steady. The winter this year was long and hard even in the Pfalz, which is a fertile vegetable growing area, so the normal fields of asparagus and lettuce were still bare and brown.
We had some odd encounters on the way. At Liege Guillemins station, itself an engineering masterpiece, we had our first encounter with the Douze, a new freight bike made in Belgium. And then at our first campsite we met a lovely Dutch girl touring on her recumbent with her dog.
The show was great, plenty to see and lots to ride. I have a new favourite bike, the Flux S800, and there were Velomobiles and tandems galore. The biggest shock I had was when I looked in the show guide and saw that someone was manufacturing velomobiles in Barnet. The mosquito velomobile is made by two brothers from France, one of them indeed living in Barnet where he works as a designer and craftsman. Almost every part of it is hand made including the cranks and the carbon fibre tubes. He even weaves his own carbon - he is a textile engineer "it ees eeasy for me!"
10, April, 2013
Bromptons Selling Vitamins!
Take the pills, ride the bike, get the girl!
4, April, 2013
Moulton Factory Visit
We were lucky enough to be invited to The Hall in Bradford on Avon where Moulton bicycles are built. We got a tour of the factory and rode a selection of their demo bikes around the grounds.
The Hall is a Jacobian stateley home built in 1620. It has been the home of the Moulton family since 1846 and was the site of the original Moulton factory in 1962.
Alex Moulton died in December 2012 at the age of 92. You can read his Guardian obituary here.
18, March, 2013
Brompton World Championships
The 8th Brompton World Championship, the biggest folding bike race in the world, has moved to Goodwood Motor Circuit as part of the Orbital Cycling Festival and is set to be bigger than ever.
The race, which together with the Brompton Eliminator and Brompton Sprint make up the acclaimed Brompton Treble set of events, will take place on the weekend of 27th - 28th July. Registration for the events, which in the past have sold out in a matter of days, opens at midday on 2nd April.
Goodwood Motor Circuit, famous for the Festival of Speed, has a bigger capacity than previous World Championship venues and organisers expect to see over 1,000 Brompton riders on the track. The Sprints and Eliminator will take place on Saturday and the World Championship on Sunday; camping facilities will be available for those wishing to be involved in both days and the event is expected to have a festival atmosphere.
Event organiser Katharine Horsman said:
“We are very excited to bring the Brompton World Championship and the challenge of the Brompton Treble to Orbital Cycling Festival. This is a historic racing venue and very fitting for a truly international competition.”
The 2012 race attracted over 800 registrants from 34 countries. Twelve National Championships are planned around the world for 2013, from Switzerland and Japan to Korea and the USA. The winners of these national events are rewarded with flights and entry into the World Championship.
With a Le Mans-style start, a fast 15km course and previous entrants including the likes of former Commonwealth champion Michael Hutchinson and four-time Vuelta a España winner Roberto Herras, the race is not for the faint-hearted. That said, the strict dress code of jacket, tie and absolutely no Lycra shows that the event is fun as well as competitive.
For more information on the Brompton World Championship please visit: bwc.brompton.co.uk
For more information on Orbital Cycling Festival the please visit: orbitalfestival.com
27, December, 2012
Over the water
We heard you can get a bike on the Thames cablecar so we had to give it a go. The cabins are supposed to be able to take two bikes but Marilyns Circe Helios had to go in at an angle and then it was still a bit of a jiggle before the doors would close.
The views are fantastic but it is all over quite quickly. It runs from next to the Dome to the Royal Docks which makes it a bit rubbish as public transport but good as a fun way of making a circular bike route along the Thames. The River Bus also is very handy for bikes. You can join them up and make a nice muti-modal tour of London.
3, December, 2012
Man or Superman?
Monza fast lap: 5.794 Km, flying start - first place Steven Slade, UK, in 5:37.889, average speed 61.721 Km/h
PRESS RELEASE - The WHPVA World Championships for human powered vehicles took place from June 10th through the 12th on the historic Monza race track.
It was the first time for Italy in the history of this discipline, which is really cycling, but free from the old UCI ‘limitations’. One hundred and ten racers from eight nations took part in six races in three days, despite varying weather and the necessary ‘learning curve’ of organizing the event. The event was organized by association Propulsione Umana-Human Powered Vehicles Italia with the support and under the liberal auspices of Politecnico di Torino, Università degli Studi di Milano and sports organisation UISP Comitato di Cremona - Lega Ciclismo Nazionale.
The HPV discipline, still virtually unknown in Italy, has captivated the attention of the 25,000+ visitors who attended the 36th edition of Festival dello Sport, which has now been organized by Unione delle Società sportive Monzesi for more than 3 decades and has hosted the HPV event.
As can be inferred from the rankings, one of the fastest riders has been, as nearly each time in the latest editions, Steve “Slasher” Slade. Steve is a gentleman of 54, lean with a quiet and dreamy demeanour, who can achieve incredible speeds on his 'Beano' machine, a front-wheel drive, fully faired streamliner with carbon fibre shell and retractable landing gear.
29, November, 2012
Batteries not included
“If string will do the job use string.” Mike Burrows
The Five-Bob data display. old school messenger chic
You will need…
- 1 Zip-tie
- 1 Bulldog clip
Zip-ties – AKA cable-ties – can be purchased in bulk from electrical wholesalers in various lengths and weights. If you’re too tight to pay cash-money for a supply you can find a pirate sign – for example “FILM UNIT” - cable-tied to a lamp-post and cut it down carefully. Cut the tie where it’s tail enters the head to leave the longest remnant possible. Alternatively a fine blade can be inserted into the head to lever the ratchet spring open and unlock the tie in one piece. String also works and can be transferred easily between a fleet of machines.
Bulldogs come in all sizes. They are available at stationers. Choose one that suits your application. Tie the bulldog clip to your handlebar stem, or any exposed cables where its contents will be easily visible on-the-fly.
That’s it. If the clip tends to rattle on the bars while empty you can make an acoustic damping system using a small section of rubber sheet – cut from failed inner-tube – secured with more zip-ties or double-sided cellulose-based, pressure sensitive adhesive tape (Sellotape). Use your data display to carry… route-summary information – road numbers, places en-route etc. shopping lists destination addresses flyers maps Works well with… a plastic bag for rain-proofing a head torch to read data in the dark.
Also works with Twenty-first Century bikes.
27, November, 2012
Yoga for Cyclists
Rudi Altig was a man before his time. In the 1960s, the German Tour de France bike racer known as the "yellow dwarf" was a yoga enthusiast. Before and after his arduous races he used yoga to relax his muscular body. Maybe he instinctively knew that yoga is the perfect foil for bicycling, a one-dimensional sport.
As a bicyclist travels through one plane, he or she repeatedly overtaxes some muscles and underutilizes others. Watch a cyclist coming toward you, and you can read the imbalances. Rocking side to side signals that one hip is compensating for the other's weakness or inflexibility. Hips are the core of movement for the cyclist. If the core is weak, then the upper body has to work harder, and this can lead to back strain.
Likewise, if a thigh or knee flares out from the bicycle seat due to weakness or chronic tightness, that side of the body is doing less work. The hips, thighs, knees, and ankles should all be on one track, pointing straight ahead. If these body parts are off track, cyclists run the risk of wearing down ligaments and tendons, and developing imbalanced muscle groups. And in cyclists, the quadriceps are often overdeveloped. To compensate for this, the hamstrings shorten, tighten, and thus weaken.
The posture a cyclist conforms to astride a bike also contributes to muscle tension and imbalance: A bicyclist's spine is in a constant state of flexion, hunched over the handlebars. In order to achieve overall flexibility and balanced muscle groups, a biker needs to incorporate balancing, counteracting movements, for example, backbends, which stretch and elongate oft-used hip flexors and quadriceps. A yoga practice can help restore balance, first by taking the alignment principles of yoga and transferring them to how you sit on your bike.
Thanks to Verity Bell http://www.kickstep.org/ for the photographs
27, November, 2012
Cycling Club Hackney
Cycling Club Hackney was founded in 2008 to provide a focus for cycling & cycle sport in East London for all levels and ages. http://cyclingclubhackney.blogspot.co.uk/ They have an active youth section to cater for young people between the ages of 8 and 18. All coaching activities are provided by qualified coaches who have attended good practice and child protection training.
Their club coaches are CRB checked and are qualified with up to date First Aid certificates. Club staff and helpers are volunteers. The club social ride is the Round Chelmsford which is usually in April and follows the country lanes around Essex to Little Baddow.
See the route here http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?msid=200704640536467780552.0004442e4f5b...
27, November, 2012
Not Just Drugs and War
Our friend Jawid rode from his home in London to his birthplace, Kabul, to remind the world that Afghanistan is not just drugs and war. He rode a Fahrrad Manufaktur T400 and raised money for the charity War Child (donate here).
Covering 9000 km in 3 months, he rode 300 km across Kazakhstan without seeing a single settlement, only desert and camels. In Kabul he was interviewed for the Persian language section of the BBC world service. He said he was amazed by the hospitality of people all over the world who just wanted to invite him to their homes and give him tea,
27, November, 2012
Cycle-touring is a long menu.
The options extend from taking the pretty way home after work, to crossing continents.
A tour may be a luxurious chain of gentle spins, the riding only included to reach a new bathing spot, or sharpen a new appetite and find the next venue for gastronomic indulgence. Or it can be relentless, covering distance visible from space in a handful of days.
On a bike you travel far enough to experience the big patterns. Half a day is enough to climb a mountain pass and descend to towns where a new language is spoken, yet all the time you're open to scents, able to greet people you meet and stop wherever you want. The simplicity of walking, while sitting down, with somewhere to hang your bags. One night you can sleep in undiluted starlight, remote from human noise, the next above a city piazza.
A tour can take you across a region - an excellent way to find places you'd like to come back and stay - or be based in a favoured spot, from which you can ride out daily to explore in detail. You can plan in advance. You can improvise by the hour. A touring trip can begin on your doorstep or you can box your bike and ship yourself to ride in distant lands.
What you choose to carry is always a compromise. If you're riding into the back-country you need to be self-sufficient, ready to survive wilderness emergencies. Everywhere else choose luxuries over essentials. If people are living there, all necessities of life can be found en route.
Touring is simple. Enjoy perfecting your style - your styles - refining the outfit you carry and the machine you ride, but where you go, who you go with, who you meet, what you see, hear, smell and taste along the way are more significant than any technicality.
27, November, 2012
Riding 1200 km in one go would seem to be beyond a fairly indifferent cyclist such as myself, but the Paris Brest Paris is an event that is both much greater and somehow more achievable than you might expect.
The format is crucial. The distance (1225km) and the time limit (90 hours) make this an event which although arduous, is within the reach of any regular cyclist. Mainly you have to want to do it, the rest of it is just management; of time, of your body, your equipment, your bicycle. You may not get everything right, but with planning and awareness, you can cover most eventualities. On the day, it becomes mostly a question of avoiding problems; don't get ill, don't ride off the road, don't get injured, don't waste time, don't get lost.
To qualify, you have to do a ride at each of the distances 200k, 300k, 400k and 600k. I had enjoyed the qualifiers in spite of the terrible weather conditions that everybody has experienced this summer. 200k and 300k can both be done in a day, but are long enough to give an idea of the thrill of Audaxing; it's the sense of distance covered and the places you can see while travelling using only the resources of your own body. Longer distances require riding through the night. I was particularly surprised by how much fun the 600k rides were. I had been quite afraid of this distance, so much beyond what most cyclists ever attempt, I had found 400k hard and expected the longer distance to be worse. It wasn't, it was just different. The distance allows a little more time for sleep, making it more like two long day rides, and the sense of distance adds so much excitement to the experience.
I did two 600k rides, partly to cover myself against failure in any of the other rides, partly to toughen myself up, and partly just because I was enjoying myself so much. The "Beast form the East" was a gruelling slog across southern England in a rain storm. I loved it. The "Daylight" covered Scotland from Edinburgh up to the west coast past Fort William. After "the Beast" this was easy, and the light, and the mountains and the sea, and the feeling of covering a landscape so varied and so steeped in history made this an unforgettable experience.
So a few short Sunday rides before the big event and I was feeling as ready as I think I could be. Only when you get to the start of the event you discover the scale of the operation. Its like a blockbuster film, or an army going to war.
There are 5300 riders, of all ages and backgrounds, they are a multi-national kaleidoscope of club colours, languages and cycling styles. Noisy Italians in their distinctive white club kit, boisterous North Americans, polite Canadians, young Swedes all in blue and yellow, motley Brits, and of course many French in their local club colours, many of them from towns and villages along the route. There are participants from more than 30 countries including riders from Russia, Jamaica, Japan and Finland.
Then there are the 1500 volunteers, whose contribution is as impressive as the riders, they serve full meals around the clock, at speed, to hungry and impatient cyclists. They provide beds, showers, mechanical services and support and encouragement - volunteers at the early controls might work through four consecutive nights, all for fun and for the glory of "Paris Brest"!
26, November, 2012
Cycling in Iran
I have now been five times to Iran. I am not a jihadist, my wife is from there. And its quite different from what you would expect. I have been twice with a bike, once with the Brompton. once with the Airnimal.
The Brompton was great for the city, very manoeuvrable, which is handy as the traffic jams don't have much space between the vehicles. If the traffic gets completely locked you can easily pick it up and carry it over cars. You can swing the back end underneath when you need to become an instant pedestrian for going up stairs, over crash barriers and through foot tunnels. The Airnimal had a big advantage with the fat tyres, as although the roads are generally pretty good, there are big metal drains across many side roads which can be quite exciting when descending at speed, which you do a lot, as the city is built on the side of a mountain. I took it with the idea of exploring the mountains, but as it was August and Ramadan it was very hot and there was nowhere to sit and eat, so travel was difficult. I contented myself with walking in the mountains instead, which is very popular and very well organised.
Both bikes were easy to get on the plane, but I didn't manage to try getting on a coach with either of them, which is generally the easiest way of travelling distances. I did put the Joey on the commuter train to Karaj without any problem, I took the precaution of bagging it up, which I was glad of as it was pretty full, but I doubt if anybody would have stopped me if if it was unfolded.
26, November, 2012
What can I do for the planet?
Here is your answer: a poetically and practically perfect activity that will create joy, alleviate alienation, connect you to nature. Yes, we can actually save fuel, reduce marine pollution, save millions of gallons of water and create rich fertile soil rather than parched earth.
Sawdust toilets don't smell. The human excrement is normally mixed with sawdust, coconut coir or peat moss to support aerobic processing, absorb liquids, and to reduce the odor. The decomposition process is generally faster than the anaerobic decomposition used in wet sewage treatment systems such as septic tanks.
Billions of humans suck nutrients and don't give anything back. You can make your contribution.
Stop wasting live water.
It's fun. Joyful. Sensible.
26, November, 2012
HPV racing is bicycle racing without technical restriction, a jeux sans frontiers. Any human powered vehicle is allowed and technical innovation is celebrated. Apart from the "Open" class, for which all participants automatically qualify, there are usually a few more restricted classes to give everybody a chance for glory. These vary a little from country to country but are usually;
- Semi faired - the riders outline can be seen from the side
- Unfaired, no bolt-on aerodynamic extras
- Multi-track - more than two wheels
In the UK we also have Sports Class for bikes above a given height, Street class for everyday bikes, and Juniors. There are usually about a dozen races in the UK every year with a World Championships in a different country every year. For most events you don't need to register in advance or be a club member, you can just turn up and race.
Human Powered Vehicles around the world...
The British Human Power Club - Join the club, see the race calendar.
23, October, 2012
You can learn too...
If you want to fix your own bike we want to help. For a start there is an excellent series of instructional videos at www.madegood.org. If you want to do a hands on course then regular classes are held in the basement at bikefix by the London School of Cycling, concentrating on basic maintainance, diagnostics and essential get you home repairs. For more advanced training there is Cycle Systems Academy, who have a London base and offer courses leading to a full NVQ apprenticeship. For advice on wheelbuilding there is an excellent resourse at Wheelpro including a spoke length calculator and a downloadable book to buy.