Rucksack vs pannier for commuting

When I first started cycling into town, I used a rucksack. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I already had a rucksack, so it was easiest to just use this for cycling. After a few years, I was tired of carrying a heavy weight on my back so bought some panniers. It was a great relief to get the weight off the back and onto the bike, and I’ve never gone back to rucksacks, unless I can help it.

Cyclists -backpacks

Looking at cyclists in Oxford, there seems to be a rought 70/30 split between rucksacks / other-bags and panniers.


If you can tell such a thing, the more ‘serious looking commuters’ are more likely to have panniers. The more ‘casual looking cyclists’ are more likely to have rucksacks. In a way this is what you would expect. When I started cycling, I use a rucksack for convenience, but as I spent more time cycling, you start to think of investing in better equipment – panniers and pannier rack was one of the first investments.

Read more

Ortlieb Back Urban Pannier Review

The Ortlieb urban pannier is a sturdy construction of waterproof materials. It has a 20 litre capacity and even can be adapted into using as a rucksack.

ortlieb-panniersThe bag is well made and looks quite good. As commuting bags go, the coffee linen material is quite stylish.

Ortlieb panniers come with quite a high price tag – £65, but as a compensation it is well made, although I’ve only had a few weeks, it gives the impression of being long-lasting.

With 20 litres capacity, you can fit quite a lot of shopping in there. The above photo was taken with just a laptop inside. It looks a little floppy.

I use a pannier back for commuting into town. I often fill it up with shopping so am looking for a robust pannier bag, that you can also sling over your shoulder.

Height: 42cm
Width: 23cm
Depth: 17cm
Weight: 850 g
Volume: 20 Litres
QL2.1 mounting system for racks with max. 16 mm tube diameter
Full with shopping.

Attachment to panniers


To attach to the panniers there are fixing hooks which slide onto the top of the pannier. When you lift up the bag, it automatically unlocks these hooks. That is quite ingenious and useful for a quick getaway. The downside is that sometimes these locks stop the bag sliding onto the pannier in the first place, and you have to make a quick adjustment.

Read more

Congestion in the bicycle lanes


Since the end of the racing season, I’ve been paying a little more attention to the other aspect of cycling – Commuting. If you like dividing cycling into different tribes, I’m proud to be a member of most cycling tribes. Commuting has a very different mindset and rhythm to racing.

Congestion in the bike lanes

Since students have came back to Oxford, you notice a significant rise in the number of cyclists in the city. Cycling into town around 9am, and you get caught up in cycle lane congestion. As cycling problems go, cyclist congestion is a pretty good problem to have.

Needless to say, if every cyclist converted into a car,  there would be fundamental gridlock on the narrow streets of Oxford.


People streaming into town. And shorts in November, what is the world coming to!

Read more

Overtaking cyclists

Motorists often give too little space when overtaking cyclists. It is potentially dangerous and an unpleasant experience. Often is just a combination of impatience and unawareness. But, once you have been a cyclist yourself, you would always approach overtaking a cyclist in a different manner.

Car overtaking on Oxford High Street very close



Big buses. Very often cars/ buses pass so close that if you put your arm out and signal right you will hit the vehicle. lorry-overtake

Beware of lorries turning rightcyclists-buses-pass-with-care

Cyclists – Pass with Care! – Buses overtake with Care!

‘Narrow Lane Do Not Overtake Cyclists’

How much room should you give a cyclist?

The Highway code states:

“give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211-215)”

Highway code

“As much room as a car” leaves some discretion, but, I would have thought three feet would be a good minimum. My grandma used to think the law was enough space for cyclist to fall off, without hitting the overtaking car. The highway code doesn’t quite say that but it seems a good rule of thumb.

Also the Highway code states:

“Motorcyclists and cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road. Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make.”

This is an interesting one, as sometimes, if you deviate less than one foot from your line an overtaking car will beep aggressively. True, you should be looking over your shoulder, but, if a small deviation from line causes consternation, it is probably because the car is passing too closely.

Urban roads and Rural Roads

It is common for cars to pass closely on urban roads, but at least speeds are lower, and often cars are more ready to slowdown. It is a bigger problem on fast rural roads where cars can be doing 50-60mph + and motorists don’t have the mentality to be ready to slow down. 50mph speed limits can become like minimum targets. If a motorist comes across a cyclist, they are loathe to slow down so just keep on ploughing on.

Speed of overtaking

There is a big difference between a car overtaking close at 20mph and a car overtaking close at 50mph. There is also a big difference when a lorry overtakes you and it is so close the drag pushes you around.


SPACE from carltonreid on Vimeo.

3 Feet Rule

A car giving plenty of room to a young kid on Cowley Road (look how close the child is hugging the kerb). I wonder if the cyclists was wearing lycra, helmet and fluroescent coat, the car would have given less room?


Some countries have toyed with the idea of passing a law that motorists should leave 3 feet when overtaking. If this was the case, 80% of drivers would break the law everyday.

Doesn’t giving Cyclists Room mean an increase in congestion / time wasted?


I’ve lost count of the number of times a motorist has impatiently overtaken – squeezed through a gap which wasn’t there and then had to slam on the brakes because he’s approaching a traffic jam. There is a certain karma to then be able to undertake them whilst they are stationary in a traffic jam. But, you would think, people would look ahead. Squeezing through gaps which aren’t there rarely get you any quicker anyway.

Generally, cars should give more space, but all rules need some discretion. As a motorist I find it quite easy to give space to cyclists because I always think empathise with the cyclist that I am overtaking. I would give the cyclist as much space as I would want myself.

I really don’t understand why cyclists get such a bad press in the media. When I think of the 100,000 miles I’ve driven in the past 10 years – how much time have I lost by waiting for a good opportunity to overtake. It is completely negligible. Furthermore, I enjoy the process of slowing down and giving space – because I know the cyclist will appreciate it.

It’s just a matter of perspective – Get mad because you have to wait 5 seconds, or take a bit more time and get to the back of the traffic jam in a calmer state of mind. Life isn’t rocket science!

But Cyclists don’t wear A Cycle Helmet / Cyclists don’t pay road tax

  • Would you want to run-over a pedestrian because they don’t pay an obsolete tax, no one pays?
  • Would you run over a pedestrian just because they are not wearing a safety helmet – to teach them a lesson?


External link

Guide to cycle lanes

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

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

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.

Read more

Cyclists and red lights

Mention cycling and red lights and many people will immediately see ‘red’ for want of a better expression. In 2013, over 4,000 cyclists were issued with fixed note penalties for jumping red lights.

Red light jumping is also prevalent amongst motorists. In 2006 the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said 43,500 fines were issued for drivers caught jumping red lights (

Given the emotive nature of the issue, some may be surprised to learn that red light jumping is less prevalent than people’s perceptions (like the people who tell you ‘all cyclists never stop at a red light’). This is partly because ‘bad behaviour’ sticks in the mind much more than following the rules.

According to TFL between 1998 to 2007, 4% of pedestrian injuries were the result of red light jumping by cyclists.  Whereas 71% occur when a car driver jumps a red light and 13% when a motorcyclist does. (CTC) Which shows that cycling through red lights does put others in danger, at the same time highlights the fact most road casualties are the result of motorised vehicles.


Waiting at the lights


On your marks!

Read more

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.


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


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.

Read more

Cambridge, hills and races to come


I’ve been training fairly hard since the start of the year. The miles keep clocking up, and I’m starting to do a little bit more intense efforts now. At the weekend, I was away in Cambridge. The best weather of the year – and I end up taking two days off the bike. Typical.


Though it wasn’t quite off the bike, I did take my commuting bike and plodded around Cambridge, I couldn’t face walking around a city – I would feel bereft without a bike and walking is too slow! I’m coming to realise I need a bike, a bit like a coffee addict needs their morning cappuccino.

After a few rides around Cambridge, I became rather envious of the great cycling infrastructure they have there. No wonder it is the most popular place in the UK to cycle. As a biased Oxford person, I generally think Oxford is better than Cambridge, but, it turns out, not for cycling.

I could never move to Cambridge, full-time though. The best hill climbing training is the bridge over the railway.

Training philosophy



With many miles in the bank, it’s a little tempting to get carried away and really start hammering yourself into the ground, but it’s a long season for me and I’m conscious of holding back – training hard, but not 100%. I’ll take inspiration from Paris-Nice, which currently seems to be a gentle winter training camp, with a little flurry in the last 10km. Still professional cycling is back on tv, and that’s the main thing. I don’t know how I survived the winter without images of the French countryside and Carlton Kirby waxing lyrical about the best way to make Paella.

I can’t resist Hill intervals

If I was very strict about training, I would probably be doing more level three and endurance stuff. But, despite trying to hold myself back a little, I can’t resist doing hill intervals. For a bit of a change, I’ve been choosing some long gradual ascents of around 3% – which take around 6-10 minutes. From the village of Hughendon, there are three different roads up towards Speen and the top of Whiteleaf Hill. It’s good to do hill climb intervals, which aren’t completely eyeballs out, but a bit more measured for the time trial season.

Early season targets

Looking forward to Circuit of Ingleborough at the weekend. My main early season target is the Buxton Mountain Time trial. It is a good excuse to up the intensity and do lots of hill intervals before early April. I will be riding the first two events of the Cycling Time Trials Classic Series, and hopefully more.

TT bike update


When I got my time trial bike last summer, I wasn’t sure if it was any faster. It left me thinking that’s an awful lot of money for a new colour of paint. But, I’m growing to like the bike a bit more. I went out for a so called recovery ride today. Two hours, averaging 18.5mph. It was about 55% of FTP power, so I guess it makes it a kind of recovery ride. The thing that stood out is that the bike is really fast.

Rules and practical advice for roundabouts

When in Dublin, I was surprised a friend had no idea about the basic rule of roundabouts. He cycles into town everyday, but didn’t know at roundabouts you are supposed to give way to traffic coming from your right.

I only noticed because at one roundabout. I waited, and he just cycled on into the path of a car causing it to slow down. He was actually surprised to learn you were supposed to give way. Maybe he spent too long in Paris, where it really is ‘first come, first served’


The Basic Practical Rules of Roundabouts


Roundabouts in theory

  • Give way to traffic on the roundabout. Only join, when it is safe.
  • If you are taking last exit or effectively turning right, you should signal right and ideally be in the right hand lane.
  • The highway code states that cyclists can stay in the left hand lane, even if taking last exit. If you do stay in the left hand lane it is important to signal right, until before the last exit where you signal left to turn off the roundabout.

Read more