Monthly Archives: September 2010

My September cycling review

September has been a significant month for me and cycling.

  • I cycled all but one day in September.
  • I have now cycled 25 days in a row.
  • I have cycled over 260 miles for work. That is over £50 in expenses but by not driving those miles I have also saved the Leicester North Methodist Circuit £50
  • I have cycled something over 350 miles in total in September
  • Bullitt 01I got my new bike, a Bullitt Clockwork from LarryVsHarry. I love it and have not ridden another bike since.
  • I have explored quite a lot of Leicester by bike, plus some of the countryside to the east.
  • I accompanied my friend and boss when she did a 50mile round trip to Synod, an amazing increase over a previous maximum distance of 12 miles
  • This new blog has started to get going and now has over 20 cycling related posts and several readers
  • I have not once needed to go somewhere for work and not wanted to cycle
  • I have only used the car 4 times for work in the month (3 visits to Northampton, one trip to Loughborough Crematorium via Birstall).
  • I have been out cycling with Jane several times for shopping, parties or visiting Mum.
  • I have carried home the contents of a very fully shopping trolley from Asda in my Bullitt.

Most of all I have really enjoyed cycling this September 🙂


Brooks Flyer Special Review

Nearly a week ago I installed a new saddle on my Bullitt Cargobike. It is my first Brooks leather saddle and is a Black Flyer Special as pictured left.

Since then I have done about 100 miles on it and have used it every day in both dry and wet conditions, for rides from 1/2 a mile to 20 miles, in cycling shorts, jeans, chinos, & MTB trousers.

Three things stand out from this experience:

  1. It has been comfortable from the first ride. I found I did need to tilt the nose up by increments a few times to avoid slipping forward and off all the time. However I have not had any pain and have not had a sore or achy bum at all. The springs definitely work and with the fairly upright position on a Bullitt I am very pleased I chose this model rather than a B17 (same top but no springs).
  2. The shape and material mean that trousers never seem to rub on the sides. So I am hopeful that ordinary everyday trousers will wear out less quickly than before
  3. Until today it squeaked something terrible. I was getting quite fed up with it. So I searched the web and found some recommendations. I was uninterested in anything that used products not recommended by Brooks or techniques that might damage it. What I ended up doing is putting plenty of the Proofide recommended by Brooks (don’t buy it from them as other websites are much cheaper) on all the edges of the metal fixings and on all the bolts and metal joints. Then I very gently heated it with an electric hair dryer until the wax melted into the tiniest cracks and then left it upside down to dry. Since then it has been absolutely silent.

I wholeheartedly recommend the Brooks Flyer Special, yes it looks fabulous but far more importantly it is really comfortable, well worth the weight penalty. Plus it should last as long as the bike.


Slow or Wet?

Today I benefited from the work I mentioned in Discovering Cycle routes in Leicester « 42 Bikes. My new route to the Presence and Engagement course at St Philip’s Centre, on the other side of Leicester, was shorter, flatter and faster.

This morning was nearly dry (well wet roads but nearly no rain). However, when I left to come home just after 5pm it was raining hard. It had been raining a long time as there were huge puddles, in places right across a lane of the road (and fully across some cycle paths).

While I was very wet indeed when I got home it was still more comfortable to ride more slowly and thus be in the rain longer than to ride faster and get much sweatier. Also if I ride fast in waterproofs then my glasses steam up whenever I stop. However, I will be getting some better cycling waterproofs as I only have a fairly old and cheap jacket at the moment.

Fortunately my Bullitt’s rain cover worked flawlessly. I had a dry luggage box when I started home after it had been out in the rain all afternoon. By the time I got home it was still dry apart from a dribble down the cable between the front lights and the battery.

As to my sweatiness, it appears the first couple of miles of a journey are most critical for me. If I ride them more slowly at first then it massively delays the point of getting sweaty (a lot more than proportionally). Also when I start slow I surprise myself later when I discover that after a couple of miles I am riding faster and more easily than expected, must be to do with gently warming up.

Tomorrow is the last day of the course, I will have a much fuller load of stuff as I need to go straight from St Philip’s to our Circuit Meeting in Birstall so I am going to need to take more clothes, paperwork, books, laptop, …  So I am glad it does not look like it will rain.

I am a long way off achieving anything like cycling chic but maybe after a lot more practice I will improve. Moving down a waist band size of trousers has already helped and there is more of that to come.


Boris bikes and helmets

From Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest: Boris bikes and helmets:

My admiration for the work of Brake has just diminished:

I agree totally. Cycle Helmets are not a solution to road safety, in fact the evidence appears to be that they reduce road safety if enforced (due to the huge reduction in the number of cyclists which  includes the impracticality of hire bike systems such as Boris Bikes in London).

Brake does excellent work promoting road safety through fights for lower speed limits, compliance with existing speed limits and infrastructure changes. Unfortunately on the issue of cycle helmets they have flipped into blame the victim mode against the scientific evidence. See Copenhagenize articles on helmets for more references.


Pooley joins Britain’s women world champions

Emma Pooley has won the World Championships Time Trial! Whooo Hoooo:


Discovering Cycle routes in Leicester

Working out the best route for getting from A to B by bike in a UK City you don’t know is time consuming and tricky.

A good route by bike takes into account cycle facilities, road details, traffic conditions, terrain, distance and junction details like priority, width and surface.

To help me find a good route I use a number of tools.

First my Garmin 705 bike computer with sat nav which is excellent for finding a route via back roads but knows nothing about cycle facilities. So sometimes the routes can be quite circuitous. It’s judgement about what is a quiet road can also be lacking (it routes me onto the A6 south of Leicester City Centre far too often).

Second local cycling maps. Such as this (pdf) for Charnwood District. However, note how few of the bits of cycling facility connect up. Note that Leicester simply say “Leicester City Council is in the process of updating its online cycle map section.” (and have said that for a long time). That leaves the Sustrans map which includes more detail than most be is slow to navigate and getting it from the web browser to a usable format while cycling is not easy.

So I combine the Garmin with checking the route on Google Maps and matching with the knowledge I am slowly gaining. Sadly local knowledge is vital, finding the best cross city route is not possible without it. Unfortunately, while the map may say there is an on road cycle facility the reality on the ground is often very different.

For example the “cycle lane” along Melton Road from the A607 roundabout by Thurmaston Shopping Centre towards Syston town centre demonstrates the feebleness of British cycling facilities. This could be critical as a safe route to Roundhill College and to the Thurmaston shops as well as a key part of a route into Leicester. There are some bits where it seems you are supposed to ride on the pavement but the start and end are not properly marked and there is no dropped kerb or any safety protection when leaving/joining the road. The sections with a painted dashed line on the road have numerous problems:

  • cars are forced into the cycle lane at pinch points, or the lane just ends abandoning the cyclist at the most dangerous points
  • for most of the length there are no parking restrictions so the lane is frequently blocked by parked cars
  • there is no help at junctions which include 4 mini roundabouts
  • judging by the way the over 30mph radar controlled light flashes almost continuously nobody is keeping to the 30mph speed limit
  • the whole scheme ends before the bridge over the railway line before the town centre

From home going towards the city I have 3 main options:

  • 1 mile route along the Melton Road to the Thurmaston Roundabout at the shopping centre along the A607. It is quick and the big roundabout at the A607  has one bridge (correct side when coming north). I can either go south through Thurmaston Village Centre which is pretty quiet or left to go past the shopping centre and then south along Highway Road.
  • 1/2 mile down the Melton Road and then go the other way round the block to Highway Road (via Barkby Lane and Barkby Thorpe Lane). But it is very busy with cars as a rat run especially in the morning.
  • 1 mile west along Wanlip Road to the northern entrance to Watermead Park. The road is not very pleasant with lots of parked cars on the first section, plus HGV’s, pinch points. Plus going south there is no way to avoid the kissing gate at Birstall.

I cycle to Birstall a lot. Currently there is no alternative but to try every route option. Sadly they are all cycle unfriendly in different ways with hazards such as kissing gates, unsurfaced tracks, narrow board walks, people walking dogs. narrow cycle paths alongside cars doing 80mph, busy junctions and pinch points.

For a cross city ride today I followed the Garmin for about 8 miles to the St Philip’s Centre for the training course I am on. It was not too bad, but I think I can improve on it by going down through Thurmaston Village Centre and along the cycle path at the side of the A607 until I can cut through into Braemar Drive then allowing the Garmin to take over again.

Leicester has some web pages claiming to be a Cycle City. However, the infrastructure I have found so far falls far far short of this. Real action needs to be taken to:

  • fix existing cycle facilities (no kissing gates, properly marked on the road or pavement, speed cameras for on road sections, safe routes past pinch points, sign posting, some resurfacing).
  • Connect up the routes so that every community around Leicester has a safe route to the city centre. Every school should have safe routes to it.
  • Get everyone involved in planning for transport to go and see how cycling facilities are done in the Netherlands or Copenhagen

Essentially we need to upgrade our expectations massively. Leicester needs need high quality segregated routes with safe priority at all junctions, they need to be wide enough for bikes to ride side by side and  I suggest there need to be at least 8 routes into the centre with three ring routes (on the North side that would be at the Central ring, A46 and half way between). There then needs to be secure undercover parking all over the city centre and at every school, college & university.

Then we would start to see significant change in the traffic and pollution levels as people will switch to cycling.


Why people drive 4x4s / SUVs

Very astute and funny: Thursday Night Ideas – Why people drive 4x4s / SUVs.

Hat tip: Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest: Boris Bikes: sending a message.


Cycling is bad for the environment

Some good news (with a twist) for people fed up with cyclists, like me, claiming that we should all cycle as it is good for the environment.

At least one study has suggested that, in the long run, biking has a negative impact on Earth’s environment. Why? Avid cyclists tend to be healthier, so they may live longer than others, thus consuming more energy over the course of their longer lifetimes than if they had not taken up the activity and died earlier.

Never fear, cyclists. The argument’s author, Karl Ulrich, of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, is said to be a cyclist himself and surely doesn’t wish anyone an early demise. His premise is merely a way of pointing out the environmental impacts of older, larger populations.

via Buying Guide – Bikes – National Geographic’s Green Guide.

So you can save the environment by not cycling and so dying earlier.

However, I would rather you got to enjoy more life even if it is bad for the environment.


BBC News – New car park in Birmingham finds a space for you

There is now a solution to the age old problem of never being able to find a space when you go into a car park.

via BBC News – New car park in Birmingham finds a space for you.


A much cheaper solution than a multi million pound car park is to ride your bike! Parking is then easy. Of course if you want to pack in a lot of parking then build a proper bike park. You can fit a lot more bikes in a much cheaper building.

An example is on the right. 970 bikes and it looks nice!

This is in Alphen aan den Rijn and

This brings the total number of cycle parking spaces at Alphen aan den Rijn station to 2850. The town has a population of around 72000 people, so there are places for around one in 25 residents to park a bike at the railway station.

I wonder how much the Birmingham solution would cost for 2850 cars!


First cargobike?

On being first!

Bullitt at CostaMy LarryVsHarry Bullitt Clockwork is not only my first “proper” cargobike but I think it is proving to be much more significant than that.

It seems that for nearly everyone around Syston and wider Leicester it is the first cargobike they have ever seen.  I find this strange as we have seen, known and ridden a wide variety of bikes over the years. Have so few people really been to the Netherlands or to Copenhagen?

So far as cycle advocacy is concerned it appears that simply riding around on a Bullitt might be doing more to show an alternative to cars than I had realised as it is just so visible. Maybe to go further I need to get the childseat option and borrow a few children younger than our own to highlight just how good these are for family transport.

Flat White Coffee

Image via Wikipedia

Anyway after visiting someone this afternoon I realised that I was well on the way to the city centre. Well I was at least 2 miles out of 6 so it felt like I could pretend that it was nearly most of the way 🙂 So I popped in for a nice Costa Flat White after accidentally finding myself in Waterstones.

Of course if I had gone for that visit by car there is no way I would have ventured into the city at 5pm. The traffic was pretty slow which meant that I was about as fast as cars to the central ring road and from there left them way behind as I cycled straight to the bike rack outside Costa. They would have a circuitous route to a car park and then a 5 minute walk. Oh and of course they would have to pay for the car park and afterwards queue out of town while I enjoyed a gentle meander through Abbey Fields and Watermead Park 🙂

Even when I don’t need the carrying capacity of the Bullitt it is a great bike to ride in traffic. It is very confidence inspiring, plenty fast enough and very comfy (especially with my new saddle, more on that later).


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