Thursday, 25 March 2010

I turned my 24-gear bike into a fixie for a morning ...

My chain is slipping. Whenever I accelerate hard, it slips, rattles, crashes, crunches. It's driving me nuts. I've fiddled about with all the settings, and relucantly realised it's because the spikey bits are so worn. But I also realised that on the lower two sets, and especially the lowest one of all, the wearing is less pronounced. So I decided this morning to stick to one gear the whole way - the lowest of the three, and the highest of the 8. And it became a "fixie". Without fancy pink tyres or those strange narrow handle bars. And it seems to be holding up.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Cyclescheme and a new bike?

I feel a certain amount of disloyalty saying this, but I'm thinking of buying a new bike. The problem is that my current one needs:
- new wheels & tyres
- a new chain and set
- a new seat
- possibly new brakes and gears

The time comes when you think - well, that will probably cost about the same as a new bike. But inevitably I'm looking at spending a bit more than just the cost of repairing my current one.

My requirements are:
- needs to be tough as some weeks I do 100 miles over London's pot-holes and along the fairly rough canals
- needs to be light and fast
- needs to be strong as I'll be carrying a child on the back sometimes and normally I have paniers
- I don't want to do too much maintenance as I'm a lazy fool
- I think I may be prepared to spend about £600 - with the Cyclescheme through work you can get the bike for about half that price

Doing a bit of research and consulting my ever-obliging and highly knowledgeable bro-in-law, I was thinking of a Chris Boardman hybrid. I got quite excited. But imagine my horror when I discovered that the sole supplier of Chris Boardman bikes seems to be Halfords. And wait for it - the Cyclescheme does not have Halford's as one of the preferred partners.

So I'm back to square one and the deadline is in about 5 days. Any ideas?

Monday, 15 March 2010

Helmets now compulsory for under 18s in Jersey

Interesting development in Jersey - they've changed the law to get young people to wear helmets. Here's a report on the BBC website:

Thursday, 11 March 2010

I had an accident this morning - and it's on helmet cam. I'm OK, by the way

I had a miserable commute in this morning. I was told by a van driver that I needed to learn how to ride a bike within 3 minutes of leaving home. Then this happened. I was riding along the very busy Bayswater Road quite happily. Suddenly, as I tried to accelerate after a light, my chain completely slipped and I was peddling on air. I completely lost my balance and knew I would crash. By some miracle, I managed to fall right on to the pavement and not the road (there was a taxi very close behind me) and I got away with a few grazes. It was shocking more than anything else and seems to prove to me that you should always have a well-maintained bike if you're messing around on the big roads. I suspect my chain is getting old and it's certainly making a lot of creaking.

Anyway - see what you think as I had my helmet camera on at the time.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

An example of poor indicating

I feel like a bit of a grumpy old man since I've been using my helmet cam - perhaps I should stop it. Anyway - I can't help showing you this van. It wasn't really that dangerous but it shows how important it is to indicate. I had no clue what he was doing or when and he kind of drifted into the middle of the road. It's on that really fast bit of road going down Theobold's Road towards Farringdon Road in London EC1.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Oyster card - tip

I know this is nothing to do with cycling. I took the bus at the weekend and tried to swipe my Oyster Card. It didn't work. After holding up the bus for about 3 minutes and getting a bit flustered, I used real money. The bus driver looked at my card and pointed out that there was a small cut in the card, which made it impossible to swipe. God only knows how it got cut, but it did, and now it won't work. Beware of cutting your card. If you're abroad and have no idea what I'm on about - the Oyster card let's you travel by bus and underground train - you can put money in it.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

The most dangerous part of my journey ... just got confusing too

I find that the little cycle lane which goes along the edge of Tavistock Square in WC1 is incredibly dangerous. Cars turn across the cycle path without looking - all the time.

Now, they're digging things up too. And it's just ... chaos. Pedestrians are meant to go over to the other pavement, but of course they don't. It makes for quite a comic ride. I recorded me going through it - and apologies for saying "cyclists, cyclists" so many times - I've gone a bit mad. But this might explain why.

Traffic lights - new evidence that actually we're quite law abiding

I blogged on Tuesday about how most cyclists in London now ignore red lights, unless they're going into the path of oncoming traffic (in other words, the principle of waiting at reds has gone, it's all just about expediency). But today I went to the exact same set of lights at roughly the same time of morning - and lo and behold - I counted 6 cyclists (including me) all waiting patiently for the light to go green. And we all waited the full time. There was one cyclist who didn't bother to stop at all, but still - the majority did stop. So bang goes my theory. Which I'm glad has gone bang. No video evidence today as I hadn't charged my little camera.

One other incident I can't help recounting. I had stopped at a pretty busy intersection (it's the one on Old Street where the pub called the Hat and Feathers is). I was vaguely conscious of a kid on a scooter in front of me, and another one, slightly older on one of those "surf scooters". Then I saw a guy in a big truck leaning out of his window shouting at the boys' dad, berating him, I think, for letting his kids go across one of the most dangerous junctions in London. To be honest, I didn't see the full incident, but I think the kids had been allowed to go diagonally across the square, with traffic waiting impatiently on at least 4 big roads. I think the other thing was that the Dad didn't really seem to be paying much attention to his kids behind him as he sauntered across. And that's why the truck driver was so shocked.

I found it noteworthy because I don't think I've ever seen a truck driver berate someone else for not being safe enough - but I sort of admired him for taking a stand. And also, being a Dad myself, it did make me worry about how safety conscious parents are. And as a cyclist (see note above) I'm also horribly conscious of the fact that cyclists do sail through red lights, green men, anything - so frankly, your kid is not safe crossing the road anywhere in London without heavy parental supervision.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

New canal-side cafe opens ... will it be used?

Very excited to see a new cafe on the Regent's Canal between Victoria Park and Islington. It seemed to be called "The Towpath". I'm guessing you buy a coffee or croissant and then ... cycle off? Or maybe stop for a few minutes. Perhaps not great if you're commuting, but you could see that if you're taking a leisurely stroll or cycle, it could be very nice.

Needless to say, I took some video as I went past.

Has anyone else spotted this, or indeed used it?

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The majority now ignore a red light. But should we hold on to the principle?

I was struck on my journey in this morning that unless there's a dangerous situation, the norm is now for people (cyclists, that is) in London to go through red lights. Cyclists do stop if they're going to get run over by traffic coming the other way - but when it's merely a matter of principle, we/they chose to run it. I know it's a pretty boring debate, well-rehearsed, but I was struck by it at these lights, and (you guessed it) I have a bit of video to show what I mean. Cue very badly edited, amateur shots with lots of traffic noise. For those interested in such matters, I'm heading West along Theobold's Road, coming up to Gray's Inn Road, WC1. I'm sorry if I sound like a prude - but I did just find it interesting to see that so many jumped these lights.

Monday, 1 March 2010

The dozy dog

You can tell I've got a new toy - yet another piece of video. Here's an encounter with a dog along the Regent's Canal - it was pretty funny as the dog just wouldn't move out of the way. The owner was very good about it - not saying "lousy cyclists" but "sorry, get out the way you dozy dog" (and I'm pretty certain he wasn't talking to me). You just have to slow down and wait in those circumtances. Great to see that I did actually use my bell - there's a "two tings" rule on the Canal to alert pedestrians that you're coming. I must be more law-abiding than I remember ...

The "two tings" rules of conduct are on the Waterscape website

The roundabout of death

This morning I risked the roundabout of death. Some of you may know it - it's a very very strange cycle path which runs along the edge of a roundabout on the edge of Victoria Park - intersecting Grove Road and the Old Ford Road. The main problem with it is that you're actually going the opposite way to traffic, and traffic does not expect you to be crossing their path just as they're trying to turn left off the roundabout.

Thanks to helmet cam, I took a shot of myself traversing it. It looks quite benign in the video as there were no cars coming either way - but hopefully you can get the idea of how dangerous it is.

Here's how you can find it
View Larger Map And here's my rather crappy video from my helmet. Again, apologies for the editing - still not quite there yet.

Don't be too shocked

Sorry, I was just fiddling about with the blog templates, and decided to give an outing to a different design. I quite like the comments being nearer the top - I know it's unlikely to cause many ripples in the online world, but hey, it's good to change things sometimes. If you're new to the blog, you won't know what I'm on about - I just changed the design. Welcome.