Monthly Archives: June 2011

Disappointing Oxford

With a son currently at University in Oxford we are now fairly regular visitors.

Each time I come away disappointed. For a City that has a fair few people using bikes to get around the facilities are appalling.

Just one example. So far as I can see the University Colleges spend more money on signs saying Bikes will be removed and on registration stickers than they do on places to lock your bike up. You see some beautiful courtyards that have allowed car parking for a very select few people yet almost nowhere for all the students to park their bikes.

Isn’t it obvious that it would be better to spend money on Bike stores instead of signs saying no bike parking?

Isn’t it obvious that with very limited space and tight access it would be better to provide parking for 10 bikes than one car?

Why isn’t there a ban on private cars for a much larger area in the centre? The pavements can’t cope with the numbers of pedestrians and the cyclists are dodging around the pedestrians and cars. There could be a simple permit system for delivering and  collecting students possibly arranged through the park and ride system. Alternatively, congestion charging for the whole area inside the ring road.

This is a city that is packed with Students and Tourists yet far more space is given to a small number of private cars to the detriment of the whole community (visiting as a tourist would be so much more attractive if you could walk around the University sights in a car free environment). Or how about offering cycle tours of the city to take in all the sights in a less tiring way – impossible with the roads as clogged with traffic as they are now.

Why are the cycle routes in and out the city (we see most of the one going out to the A34 at Peartree) so bad? On and off the pavement, from one side of the road to the other, sometimes shared with pedestrians, sometimes with buses. Incredibly inefficient and confusing.

A historic city full of students and tourists is an obvious and easy target for mass cycling. It would be a tremendous boost for the key industries in theCity Centre (University and Tourism).


Son time

On Saturday I took advantage of one son choosing to go and watch cricket with our exchange student (traveling by train & foot) and Jane being at work to sort out some time with our youngest son.

So we rode into Leicester for lunch & some errands.

So much is said about the need to spend time with your kids but so little about the how. So often the focus shifts onto some event rather than a process. One of the things I love about riding a bike to places with someone is that it shifts the whole priorities from the destination, the thing to the whole process, the journey. It allows the time to become a shared experience rather than a delivered performance. You are both engaged rather than passive. By demoting the importance of the destination everything can become more relaxed and flexible.

So we changed our plans a few times, adapted to how we felt and so spent far better quality time together than if we had rushed in by car, done the “jobs” and rushed home again.

In one sense it is strange how often something that is cheaper, less organised & less purchased is actually better.

It was also great that over the last few days the two older sons have said they want to spend more time riding bikes before our summer holiday and want to get to feel confident about riding into and around Leicester. Freedom, flexibility and exercise are the reasons that work for them.

Also interesting that neither have made it a priority to learn to drive a car. No not due to unfair parental pressure, we have offered to pay for driving lessons, although we have not insured them as learner drivers on our car (the extra cost of £2,000 pounds a year is far beyond our willingness or ability to pay).


Bullitt cargobox basics complete

Yet another update following More Bullitt cargobox progress. This time with pictures 🙂

Side View with lid on
2011-06-25 17.44.13
For security it slots under the batten at the handlebar end. There will be a shed shackle coming through the lid near the front for a padlock.

View from the front with the top on.
2011-06-25 17.44.30

View from the riding position, lid off
2011-06-25 17.46.06
Note that the protruding screws are just while the glue dries. I will add a vertical division just in front of the headset to stop things falling off the shelf. I will also be adding a substantial post to support the shackle for the lock. At the end I will add a rubber seal to stop water and rattles.

View from the front, lid off.
2011-06-25 17.45.51
I had to bolt the left side of the curve as you look from the front to get it to bend in far enough (I also had to use a more substantial post for that side due to the tension needed to pull the ply in tight. Once the glue is dry the bolts will be removed and it will be sanded/filled/sanded smooth.

While I am not going to win any prizes for the quality of my woodwork it should lo0k ok when filled and painted. However, I am more interested in the practicalities and I have high hopes in that area 🙂


More Bullitt cargobox progress

No pictures (cos it is dark and raining at the moment) but I made some more progress on building the new cargobox for my Bullitt Cargobike (see New Bullitt cargobox progress 🙂 for an earlier update).

The part I am most pleased with (the curved front) is nearly complete. Then it is just the lid to make and I am just about done.

Unlike my initial ideas the top is going to be completely level as I didn’t want to take the back up any higher and if I had lowered the front it would have meant there was no storage space above the front wheel. However, the top will be a single sheet of marine ply that overhangs the sides to it should be completely watertight.

The tricky bit has been filling the gap at the front above the forks. It has to keep out of the way of the steering stabiliser, the brake hose and the mudguard. Fortunately the front overhang should keep the rain off and mean it is somewhat hidden from view.

Hopefully I can make time tomorrow to finish building it so that I can start painting.


New Bullitt cargobox progress :-)

My new cargobox is making progress 🙂 Here are 3 pictures to show the base, lower front, back and sides fitted (just partial fittings so far).

A few snippets on the plans to finish it:

  • The front is going to be curved for aerodynamic reasons 🙂
  • It will have a full size lid that can be locked on (it will slide under the lip of the back with grooves for the sides).The small storage area in front of head tube is for spares & tools plus wiring harness for re-Charge battery. It also means the head tube will be fully enclosed so that it is easier to strap long loads like projector screens on the top.
  • At the moment I plan to fit 2 water bottle holders on the outside of the box back, but wonder if there is some other good use for this space.
  • I have ordered marine gloss paint (orange and black)
  • All the places where it touches the frame have rubber padding (old inner tube).
I was pleased to notice that the Brooks mudflap on the front mudguard has kept the underside beautifully clean 🙂



Brompton folding bikes.

I watched the program “Made in Britain” on British manufacturing on BBC 2 last night and it was mostly pretty good.

The exception being the promotion of BAE who in my opinion should be shut down immediately. We should neither be selling arms nor should we allow companies as corrupt as BAE has been proved in the courts to continue in business.

However, the spot about Brompton Bikes was excellent. So I went and looked on their website. There are a lot of options available and the British website does not give huge amounts of detail.

So I recommend this Video Configurator as it clearly explains all the options. At the end you end up with a list in $ which you can then go and put on the British form to get a bit of a shock (particularly when you pick lots of nice options as I did). My dream Brompton looked like this:

  • 01 BIKE STYLE : M:M Type
  • 02 GEARING : 6/-12: 6 speed 12% lower(+$220)
  • 03 MUDGUARDS/RACK : RA: mudguards/rack(+$165)
  • 04 STEEL/TITANIUM : Ti: Titanium(+$730)
  • 041 COLOR, MAIN : RL: Raw Lacquer(+$160)
  • 042 COLOR, FRT/RR : : Titanium
  • 05 SEAT POST : : Post Standard
  • 06 TIRES : TYM: Marathon Reflective(+$35)
  • 07 SADDLE : BRKM: Brooks B-17 Men’s(+$95)
  • 08 LIGHTING : HDSON: Hub dynamo(+$485)
  • 09 FRONT LUGGAGE : FCB+OBAGB: O-Bag black(+$315)
  • 10A B-BAG : : N/A
  • 10B EAZY WHEELS : EZW: Eazy Wheels(+$35)
  • 10C COVER/BAG : COV: Cover with bag(+$45)
  • 11 RACK SACK : QRBAG: Rack Sack (+$95)
  • 12 Suspension : HSU: Hard Suspension

I have not dared to work out the UK price. But it would be a very nice bike and very practical for trips to and around London. Realistically though I could easily cut the price a lot by dropping the Titanium, choosing a standard colour, going for cheaper lights and probably choosing the 2 speed option.

One thing is sure. I can’t see myself choosing a folding bike that isn’t a Brompton. For multi-mode travel it is the best.

For a good review see i b i k e l o n d o n: Practical Town Bike Reviews; the Brompton M2L.


Bike store fully open

We have built a new bike store in our garden. It is very simple, all we have done is bridge the gap between the small existing shed and our new workshop.

Essentially the Bike Store is just a roof between 2 sheds and the back fence. We bought the roof as a unit 5m x 4m with the 10mm roof panels and mounting extrusions. All we needed was to put some roof beams up. I have been able to reuse lots of bit of wood that I had lying around from our move here last year (all the flooring came from IKEA shelving units from our garage).

Tonight I was able to do jobs in the workshop and under the bike store despite heavy rain. One of the jobs was to connect the 3rd water butt to the guttering. The rain was heavy enough to collect some 150 litres of water just while I was working (a future task is to connect the 600+ litres of water storage for automatic watering of the vegetable patch – which I am also going to enclose in a netting cage).

I have also sorted out storage for various bike related bits. So now there are a couple of bike trailers, one trike and various wheels and tyres hanging from the roof beams.

I am delighted with the outcome. Compared to buying bike storage lockers I have a much larger and more versatile space. I can store big recumbents (3 recumbent trikes, one of which is a tandem) that there are no standard lockers available for.

Now we can get rid of the huge trailer that has been used as a bike locker for 7 years but which does not fit on our drive (been stored at a neighbours at the moment). That is mostly waiting for me to find the key to the wheel clamp (oops!).

The end result is going to make it easier and more pleasurable to use our different bikes and to make that change in a cost effective way.


Rain realities

Just been for a short ride (about 5 miles) in heavy rain. Was thinking about a few realities of rain:

  • Rain seems 10x heavier from within a conservatory style roof or inside a car
  • Excellent mudguards (fenders) massively reduce how wet you get riding in the rain. Plus the rain you get on you is much cleaner than what comes off the ground.
  • A fixed gear bike is fantastic in heavy rain, still runs silently and you know there is no maintenance needed when you get home.
  • Bullitt proof tyres and wheels make riding in the rain much less of a worry, you can’t see the potholes so you need to trust that you can get through them.
  • Car drivers are more stupid than normal in the rain. They will make no allowances for reduced grip and reduced visibility. Try to ride where they are not. Fortunately many car drivers seem worried that their car will leak and so will go home early and stay there.
  • Until you have ridden a bike in heavy rain with a high quality waterproof, breathable jacket designed for cycling you will not believe how different it is to anything else.
  • Your skin is waterproof. If it is warm enough then shorts are great for riding in the rain.
  • The best way to find it easier to ride in the rain is to ride in the rain.

On not choosing to be a victim

Today is supposed to be my day off but I went to a conference instead (It was excellent by the way: Isabel Clarke on “Getting to the Simple Heart of the Complex Problem” organised by the East Midlands group of the Association of Christian Counsellors).

It would be easy to play the victim and say “I don’t get time to take my day off”, sadly as a group Ministers are far too good at doing that).

Instead, I will be taking tomorrow off (thinking of taking our exchange Student from Minsk to Ironbridge) and I am reclaiming time today.

Even when there are things we have to do during our “time off” there are ways we can avoid being a victim, if protecting ourselves (and our families).

For me the answer today is to turn the journey into a day off in itself. So I had a nice ride to Hothorpe Hall this morning and now on the way home have called into Wistow Bistro (at Wistow Rural Centre) for a nice coffee and cake.

By cycling to the conference I gain time for me, I save time by not needing to exercise separately, I help my diet and am more likely to be healthy, plus I have an excuse to visit a nice cafe. The extra time over driving also stops me from losing too much time from my day off. As Jane needed the car today for her Mum it also humanises our lives by allowing us the extra quality from not having to earn a lot more money in order to pay for a second car.

Don’t let others make you a victim of an unhealthy, unsustainablke, danngerous transport system. I find I am a lot happier for resisting being made a victim by using a car.

[Update] I found another way home from the Wistow Rural Centre. I was heading for the A6 and crossed the canal. As I did so I thought “that canal must go to Leicester”, so I turn onto the tow path and followed it all the way to the City Centre where I followed the route to Abbey Park and then home. It added about 8 miles extra to the route so altogether I did 50 miles. But it was very pleasant as I was not in a hurry.


Planned route Syston to Hothorpe Hall, Theddingworth

Tomorrow I am off to a Counselling Conference which is at Hothorpe Hall, Theddingworth. The conference starts at 9:30am but fortunately having planned the route I have discovered that it is less than 22 miles away, so I’ll allow 2 hours which means I won’t be in any rush. I will be riding in semi lycra (ordinary shorts over padded undershorts and a cycling specific top) and will change when I get there.

I am going for direct rather than completely quiet.

I figure the Melton Road will be stopped solid in the rush hour, which means I can go straight along it passing all the cars. It saves me at least 10 minutes compared to the cycle route, even if it is slow due to the traffic.

I’ll go straight through the city centre, which I haven’t bothered to try to plot on Google Maps. Then  the A6 has a (poor) cycle lane which will get me to the turn off for Great Glen and it is quiet roads from there.

Weather forecast is reasonable (might be a bit damp on the way home).

Someone remind me why anyone would choose to drive across Leicester instead of cycling.


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