Archive | advocacy

Things I like about cycling #1. Conversations at the traffic lights

I was hoping to make, at least, one race this season – Burrington Combe hill climb promoted by Bristol South is often a favourite pre-national warm up. But, with no progress on the injury front, I mentally called a halt to the season.

In the past several weeks, I have been averaging one or two rides a week. A ride consists of 25 miles to Brill and back, with maybe one half-hearted interval up Brill Hill.

The one thing I’ve learnt from this season is that if you do one interval per week, you find that you get marginally slower and slower. It’s a bit demoralising; in fact, I was rather happy when my Garmin broke. It’s sometimes better to ride without a Garmin reminding you of the laws of nature. I might be able to mend the Garmin if I put my mind to it, but I have no inclination at the moment.

***

Social aspects of cycling catching up at the red lights

Yet a few days after mentally writing the season off, I was waiting at a traffic light in Oxford by Folly Bridge (with about a five-minute wait) when also patiently waiting in the advanced stop area was – non-other than Angus Fisk – the organiser of the upcoming Oxford University CC hill climb at Wytham Woods. The lights were so long; I managed to find out who won the recent Walbury Hill climb and also learn about a hill climb in a couple of weeks. It is not in the CTT handbook, so I wasn’t aware of it. But, it is an Open hill climb on a private road in Wytham woods (closing date Tues).

If you watch Inspector Morse et al., Wytham woods is a favourite scene for dead bodies to be buried. But not only does it make a good spot for a bit of murder mystery but apparently there is a fairly decent climb – 2.0 km or so at an average of 6% with a few steeper kicks and the odd speed hump thrown in for good measure.

It seemed such a fortuitous meeting that I couldn’t resist putting an entry in. An open hill climb in Oxford, organised by my old club Oxford University CC. I shall have to do, even if I ride up with one and a half legs.

Oxford University Hill Climb at CTT.

***

To celebrate this late surge of interest in racing, I went out for one of my weekly rides and promptly knackered my leg the worse it has been for 18 months. It’s the kind of pain where you don’t have to worry about whether you should try to ride through it or not. It’s put the bike in the attic time.

Still, I intend to try turn up for the Oxford hill climb, even if I do cycle up very slowly.

And don’t forget to stop at traffic lights, you never know who you’ll get to meet. You might even end up entering a hill climb.

2

The happy motorist

Yesterday, I was riding on a small lane from Bolton Abbey to Burnsall. It’s a fairly idyllic location and, as it was a recovery ride, I was taking it fairly steady. At one point a car came towards me on this narrow stretch and didn’t slow down even a fraction.

burnsall-path-1000

On the positive side he didn’t knock me over into the ditch. But, it was passing at speed far too close for comfort or safety. At this point it is all a familiar tail of woe – something most cyclists can relate to. But, a minute later I saw another car in the distance. Firstly, you start to fear a repeat performance, but this car came to a stop. It was quite a generous wait – because I still had a considerable distance to where he was kindly waiting.

In a spirit of mutual good deeds. I got out of the saddle, rocked from side to side and pretended to sprint to where the car was waiting. I may have been pulling a few Tommy Voeckler style gurnings into the bargain. When I got to the car, the driver was literally rolling around with laughter. He was mimicking my shoulder rolling and giving me a big thumbs up. I wish I could have taken a picture of his face, I’ve never seen such a happy motorist. He really thought it was funny that this cyclist was sprinting along to speed up his wait. (I wasn’t going fast at all.)

It just struck me the different attitudes you can meet on the road. For the sake of 3 seconds, the first car refuses to slow down and just ploughs through as if I was an invisible cyclist. The second driver was happy to wait an extra 15 seconds for me to arrive. But, it was the second driver who got so much joy from the whole experience.

***

Alas I’m back in Oxfordshire. Just as Yorkshire / Calderdale was getting very interesting.

It seems there are no shortage of really hard climbs around West Yorkshire / Calderdale area. I wish I had stayed in Yorkshire for a few more days. Since posting about Trooper Lane – readers have advised of more tempting climbs and routes.

For example:

3

Next time you’re stuck in a traffic jam

Next time you’re stuck in a traffic jam.

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 14.14.08

It’s no surprise people choose their cars. It’s safer than cycling or walking (though less than coach or train). But, importantly – it’s much cheaper than the train or bus.

Congestion on the UK roads have been estimated to cost up to £20 billion a year – and that’s before costs of pollution, costs of accidents e.t.c. But, congestion will continue to get worse. The recent temporary decline in car use, is almost certain to be reversed as we see rising population, falling petrol prices, economic recovery and a fall in the relative cost of motoring.

Continue Reading →

1

Guide to cycle lanes

Cycle lanes come in many different forms – the good, the bad, the ugly and sometimes the downright bizarre.

cycle-path-donnignton-behind

Cycle path Oxford

In recent years, the number of cycle paths in the UK have increased substantially. In theory, they have the potential to make cycling safer, more enjoyable and reduce friction between different road users. However, because of the haphazard nature of creating cycle paths, there often seems little continuity in design and implementation. It means we have cycle paths ranging from the good to downright bad and some just silly.

More than anything, we need road planners to be bolder in actually designating more space for cycle paths. We widen roads to make dual carriageways, often all we need is a couple more feet to create a really good cycle path. Also a good cycle path is much more than painting a white line on a pavement and hoping it all works out fine.

Segregated Cycle Paths

cycle-path-donnignton-4

Bi directional cycle path enables commuters to avoid crossing road and congestion.

This cycle path is separate from the road. It doesn’t conflict with pedestrians and is wide enough for dual way. This is an ideal cycle path for an inner city path. It is the kind of path which would encourage a huge range of new people to start cycling.

Continue Reading →

7

Changing attitudes to road fatalities

Following up from Road fatalities in the UK  this post looks at fatality rates going back to the 1920s.

Reading a book – the History of Time trialling by Peter Whitfield I was struck by some statistics about the level of road fatalities, during the 1930s and 1940s.

800px-Killed_on_British_Roads

Despite road traffic being only 10% of today’s levels. Road deaths reached nearly 10,000 a year. There were up to 1,000 road fatalities a year of children under 10.

Yet, despite these shocking statistics, there was a widespread acceptance of these deaths. Nearly all road fatalities were put down as ‘accidents’. It is quite a shock to learn that during the Second World War – 50,000 people were killed on British roads (Source: Time, Speed and Truth, P.Whitfield)  – This was a greater number of fatalities than the blitz (where 40,000 civilians were killed in air raids) Continue Reading →

0

Reducing the cost of cycling

Cycling can seem an expensive hobby. I am the worst culprit – just look at my product reviews Shimano Dura Ace Di2, AX Lightness saddle (69grams) e.t.c. Whatever branch of cycling you take up, it seems there is no limit to the amount of money you can spend. However, here’s a short reminder that it doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby. It’s quite possible to keep cycling very cheap.

1. Homemade mudguard flap

fairy-mudguard-500x376

50 years of mudguard flaps

 

A cut off bit from a washing up liquid bottle is the perfect size for a mudguard flap. It’s surprising how much a bit of super-glue and reusable plastic ties can do for your bike. This is the old make do and mend philosophy. Don’t just buy something new, try fix and adapt.

2. Make do with one bike

24 hour record holder (541 miles) Andy Wilkinson is a true legend of long distance time-trialling. He deserves more recognition than he gets. How does he do such impressive distances? Well, for a start he only has one bike – a basic steel frame; on this one bike he does his commuting, training and racing. He says that only having one bike enables him to really get to know his bike, perfect his position and enables him to do better races. For those of us who work on the principle that the optimum number of bikes is N+1 – this is truly radical, (but, how much money would I have in the bank if I had followed this advice) It is a reminder that you don’t need to keep buying a new bike in order to do better.

3. Make your bike last

wearing-dhb-jacket-commuting-bike

I went through a period of reviewing potential new commuting bikes – shiny single speeds, foldups, hybrid bikes, and lower end road bikes. But, when it came to the crunch, there seemed no point in spending money for only a relative minor improvement. My commuting bike has been going for 15+ years, and shows no sign of age; hopefully, it will last another 15+ years at least. It is true, a carbon fork would give a modicum of more comfort. Perhaps the braking power of disc brakes would improve performance 15% – but do I really need these? No. My commuting bike has already outlasted quite a few cars. When I try to work out the cost per mile of my commuting bike – it is incredibly low. My winter training bike cost £700 and has done (at a very rough estimate) 40,000 miles (0.0175 pence per mile). Is there any cheaper form of transport?

3. Homemade energy drink.

If you want to avoid paying £1.30 for every sachet of energy drink, why not make your own. Get some maltodextrin powder, fructose powder, a touch of salt, some orange juice and you have. Alternatively, you can just use ordinary table sugar. One simple recipe for a homemade energy drink. For 1 litre of energy drink, add:

  • 60-80 grams of sugar
  • No added sugar cordial
  • A pinch of salt
  • topping up with water

 

4. Avoid the fashion labels

rapha-outside

You can spend a fortune on Rapha clothing and the like. It looks good but comparatively expensive.

5. Buy from non-cycling shops

Often the cheapest place to buy cycling undergarments e.t.c is from non-cycling shops. Thermal underwear and wicking layers can be cheaper from clothes shops and other outlets. I got quite a few good thermal layers from Marks & Spencers – they do the job for winter training.

It’s the same with energy bars, often you can get same performance from much cheaper non-branded energy bars.  I often go to my local Pound Shop and buy six Fruesli bars or similar (12p per energy bar, and if you look at the ingredients, it’s effectively the same percentage of carbohydrates.

How did Graeme Obree prepare for his hour record? Marmalade sandwiches; I bet that is not part of Team Sky’s hour record preparation for Bradley Wiggins, but it did the job for Obree. You don’t always have to spend a fortune on energy bars to get the best nutrition.

6. Get aerodynamics for free

If you really want to go faster, then the secret is to make yourself more aerodynamic. At 40kmph, 90% of resistance against a bike is air resistance. If you look at some pictures of time triallists, you will see how they can reduce their frontal area. The secret to reducing frontal area is not spending £3,000 on a time trial frame, but, getting the body into most efficient tuck. Even a cheap pair of aerobars for £20, will make a huge difference to reducing wind resistance and give you a good bang for your buck. You can spend a fortune on aerodynamic aids, but many of the key improvements can be made with very little cost. Tips for aerodynamics.

7. Do you really need it?

So often I’ve bought something because it was well marketed and looks nice, but I don’t really need it. There are some accessories you need like a lock and lights. But, for some reason, I’m always gullible for the latest light, which is brighter than the last. So I have a whole shed of different lights and components. When I look at my shed, I’m embarrassed about all the things I’ve bought thinking these will be good, but they hardly get used.

8. Ditch obsession with low weight / expensive components

margina-gains-1g

A 1 gram weight saving really not worth making!

 

This is a definite case of the kettle calling the pot black. Is there a worse culprit for spending silly money on silly weight saving components? (marginal gains hill climb bike) Probably not, but unless you miss a major hill climb championship medal by 1 second, those 500g weight saving is not essential. Even a bike 1kg heavier is not the end of the world. If you look at time saved from weight loss on a bike – it is less than you might imagine. 1kg up the Rake is worth 2 seconds.

If you really want to save weight, eat a few less chips; that’s the really cheap way to loose proper weight.

9. Buy the complete bike

It is amazing the equipment you can get on a sub £1,000 bike. If you spend £1,000 on a road bike, the constituent parts would cost you roughly double. Therefore, always try to buy the best bike you can and resist temptation to add expensive parts which only marginally add to performance.

10. Go down a groupset

The main difference between Shimano Ultegra and Shimano Dura Ace is about £500. The main difference between Dura Ace Di2 and Ultegra Di2 is about £1,500. If cyclists had to do ‘blind testing’ of different equipment, would we notice the difference? Probably not. I appreciate blind testing is difficult for bicycles, but if we were really honest, we would often struggle to notice the difference.

12. Do your own repairs

bike-in-stand

Rather than taking it down bike shop, and getting someone to do it for you, you can save quite a bit. Though with my experience is an amateur bike mechanic, this may prove a false economy. Also, compared to motor repairs, I’ve always found bike maintenance to be very cheap.

13. Ride the bike

croissant-on-the-commute

Croissant on the commute – cheaper than filling up car with petrol

 

The real way to get value for money from your bicycle is to ride it around town. Save money on the bus, save money on parking and petrol. Or even use a bike instead of owning a car. If you use a bike like this, it will pay for itself within a few months.

 

Conclusion

Cycling can be a very cheap method of transport. It is only in recent years, that we have been increasingly enticed to spend more on bicycles and bike components. However, I’m the worst culprit. I just like spending money on bicycles. Many times, I don’t really need to spend the money, but what else are you going to spend it on which will give as much joy? The only thing is if you’re on a tight budget, just remember the 24 hour record holder – a relatively cheap old steel frame. At the end of the day, it’s the human engine and not the size of your wallet, which makes a cycling champion. And if you’re not in the world of marginal gains, cycling can be very cheap indeed.

2

Cycle deaths / casualties in the UK

A look at statistics for fatalities and casualties on the roads.

The past decade has seen a divergence between the rate of accidents for cycle users versus other types of users. Overall, road fatalities and casualties are falling, but cycle users are seeing a rise in the number of serious casualties

In the past 15 years, there has been a trend for cycling fatalities to fluctuate between 100 and 120. Serious casualties have seen a 31% increase.

Number of killed or seriously injured cyclists 2000-2013

2013 Overall Fatalities

Total fatalities

Significant fall in overall fatalities on UK roads.

  Continue Reading →

3

10 Reasons to commute to work

A while back – whilst in York, , I saw an advert encouraging people to cycle to work. – ‘It only takes 15 minutes to cycle to work – give it a try.’

So inspired by York’s cycling campaign here are 10 good reasons to commute by bike.

oxford-cyclist-scarf

1. Save Money

A good bike may cost £200-£400. But, it can last for years. You will save petrol, car parking / bus fares. It can easily add up. In Oxford it would cost £9 to park all day – if you can find somewhere to park. Bike maintenance is likely to be nothing more than a few inner tubes, and new chain and cassette every 3,000 miles. When you take your bike for a service, generally you don’t have to worry about spending hundreds of pounds like for a car.

2. Health

Cycling is an excellent way to get low impact exercise. If you do very little exercise, cycling will improve your aerobic fitness and help to avoid heart related health problems. If you don’t have time (or the money) to go to a gym, why not try cycling to work / shops. People may worry that cycling is perceived as a dangerous activity. But, the health benefits of lower obesity / lower heart disease e.t.c. far outweigh the risk of accidents. See: How How safe is cycling? – Cycling Statistics

 

3. Save Time

beating-congestion-donnington

For many short distance commutes through town, cycling can be quicker than driving or getting the bus. Many of our car journeys are less than 3 miles. If you try cycling, the time is often much quicker, especially in city centres. In commuting periods, you often get traffic jams and cyclists can both help reduce congestion and get there quicker. For me, getting to centre of Oxford, cycling is 5 minutes quicker than driving and 15 minutes quicker than the bus.

Also, a bike is more reliable than public transport, less likely to turn up late. Fate is in your own hands. Continue Reading →

3

Bike parking and bike racks

One of the (relatively minor) problems of cycling in Oxford is the lack of parking for bicycles. Popular spots tend to be busy, and this can lead to un-organised chaos as you try to find yourself somewhere to park.

There is some good bike parking provision. For example on Broad Street.

racks-of-bicycles

I used to want to get right outside the shop I was visiting. But, now I’ve decided I shouldn’t be so lazy. So I park my bicycle here and make use of the good parking facilities, and walk the 50m into Waterstones.

Abandoned bicycles taking up space

The problem of bike parking is exacerbated by the number of bikes that get abandoned. Students buy a £100 Ammaco from Cycle King, then don’t worry about abandoning it for eternity.

abandoned-rusty-bike

The council do have a policy of removing abandoned bicycles, but it is painfully slow. You can see the same rusty bikes for 12 months in a bike rack you want to use. Then finally a ticket is placed on them saying the owner needs to collect it, but then the council don’t come back for another 2-3 months. Often the ‘bike is abandoned ticket falls’ off, in the meantime! So you have to wait another 12 months to hope it will get retagged and retaken. I appreciate the council not wanting to take genuine bikes, but in this case, they are being a bit too generous to bikes obviously abandoned.

Useless Bike Parking racks

another-empty-rack

This is quite near y home in Temple Cowley. There is a big shopping centre, and big car-park. Very recently some brand new bike parking racks have been built. But, I’ve never seen a single bike locked in them. The reason is that the shops (and car park is 200m in the distance). No one is going to cycle 200m away from the shops to park and then walk back. It feels like the owners of the shopping mall had to meet criteria to build bike parking racks so they put it in the least unobtrusive (and therefore most useless place). They meet their criteria to build parking racks, but it is useless to anybody. When I shop I lean the bike against the windows of Sainsburys and lock the bike to itself.

Continue Reading →

4

Laws about cycling on pavements

Many people ask, but it is illegal to cycle on the pavement, unless there is a sign indicating a shared use cycle path. Cycling on footways (a pavement by side of a carriageway) is prohibited by Section 72 of the Highway Act 1835, amended by Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1888.(Highway Code)

cycling-pavement-shadow

Cycling on the pavement

Continue Reading →

33