Thursday, 28 October 2010

Cycling tip du jour, Thursday. Surprise a pedestrian.

I tried this on my way into work this morning:

Ride towards zebra/pedestrian crossing. Spot pedestrian loitering, showing some intent to cross.

Come to gradual halt before you reach the crossing. Nod, even smile encouragingly at pedestrian to let them know you have actually stopped for them, and they can actually cross.

They get to other side of road.

This actually becomes rewarding as the pedestrian is first astonished, then normally thankful, and more often than not, you get a nice smile.

Don't go overboard though. The pedestrian does not want to be hugged or kissed.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Cycling tip du jour: using your bike as a washing line

In this kind of weather, you can get soaked pretty quickly. So what should do with wet clothes?

Easy. Hang them up all over your bike. You'd be amazed by how many hooks there are on your bike - handle bars, back rack, main frame, even pedals. By the end of the day, assuming your bike is actually in doors somewhere (e.g. at work) you should have much drier clothes.

Tip - make sure you have other clothes to change into. I'm not recommending running around naked at work. Though I must confess I haven't tried it ...

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Save the Hackney rabbit!

I often cycle past this, and it invariably cheers me up. The Hackney Road is generally a horrid road to cycle along, and this kind of art helps make it feel a lot nicer. It's also by quite a well known artist, ROA. Some more examples of his excellent work can be found here. (also at the Londonist site). We now hear the council want to whitewash it. I've signed a petition via the Londonist website to spare the wabbit. You may want to too.

Cycling tip du jour - fixing a nut underneath your mudguard

The nuts and bolts holding on my mudguards seem to fall off like leaves from an autumn tree. It's got more common since I've been pumping up my tyres harder - and I rattle around like a marble in a tumble drier. I was baffled as to how on earth I could insert and tighten a missing screw right above my rear wheel - without taking off the whole wheel.

Source: the local data company
The lovely guys at Cavendish Cycles (134-136 New Cavendish Street) showed me how:

  1. Place bike on bike stand, or turn upside down. 
  2. Let out air from tyre. 
  3. Insert screw and nut and tighten using longish allen key or equivalent as there's now room to get at it.
  4. Re-inflate tyre. Ride off, feeling happy.

They also play 6Music in the shop, for which they should immediately get a gold medal for services to cyclists.

Curious fact: I can't actually find a website for Cavendish cycles. Perhaps they don't have one?

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Don't go in the bike lane. Bring the bike lane with you.

This is such an interesting idea - almost certainly completely impractical, but what do you think?

The bike lane that travels with you. Source
Thanks to @nextbikerider for pointing this one out.

Wanted to show you cute Halloween kitten too but clearly my internal editing system has decided that it's not relevant to the blog and should not be uploaded!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Does your bike feel like it's flagging? Time to give it some air.

My previous post was all about speed. I have a little update. I changed my front tyre last night as I happened to have a spare Schwalbe Marathon in my shed (long story). I finally checked what the make was of my existing tyres, and it turns out they're called Maxxis Detonators - or, as I now know them, pin cushions. They seem to absorb glass and nails as methodically and surely as a sponge soaks up water. The website does call them "training" tyres - does that mean they're not for actual racing or indeed road use of any kind? Anyway, off one of them came, and off the other one will come as soon as I can get another Schwalbe.

Pump it baby

But that's not what I want to talk about. Because at the same time I pumped up my tyres to very close to the limit recommended. I set off with a bit of trepidation this morning. It was definitely a "harder" ride and my rack and paniers were shaking and rattling like never before. But ... my whole ride was transformed! It was like moving from a scooter to a motorbike, or sludge to crisp snow. It felt like I was going about twice the speed with so much less difficulty. I realised that I'd spent the last two or three weeks with a nasty feeling of going through treacle.

Pumped up in the sun

So the moral - should you need it - is that it's worth investing in a really meaty pump and filling up those thar tyres!

With the sun shining, the canal looking lovely, and much more wind in my hair (well, helmet anyway) it was one of the most delightful rides of the year.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

What makes a cyclist go faster?

I had an odd experience on the canal a couple of days ago. (I know, this sounds like the beginning of a dodgy story possibly involving unsavoury characters, a heron, and a canoe). But read on, it's cycling related, I promise.

This is not the Regent's Canal! Source
OK, so in the very quiet bit just West of London Zoo, I see a long stretch of empty towpath. It's dry and I can go as fast or slow as I want. I decide to experiment with speed. (No, this is not, I tell you, a dingy tale of class A drugs and depravity). I'm on a hybrid Giant Zero, as regular readers will know. To you and me, that means it's a "normal" looking bike with straight handlebars. I think to myself - what if I kind of pretend I'm on a road bike/racer, and kind of squat down like they do on the Tour de France or this fellow in the picture going down a mountain?

A new feeling on the bike

It's interesting doing it because as soon as I lean forwards, I realise that I have to loosen up my shoulders, which I'd been holding very tight. I lean so my head is nearly on the handlebars, and all of a sudden it's a completely new feeling with my legs pushing in a different way. I look at the speedometer thingie, and see that I've suddenly increased my speed by about 4kph, and I still feel I've got more in me.

Position or wind resistance?

Clearly my bike's not designed for me to bike like that and I'm sure that if I kept it up for a long time it would get mighty uncomfortable. But then I start doing a bit research about speed. These seem to be the key ingredients for going faster:

What are the factors that make you faster or slower?

  • Fitness and practice. Clearly you need these just to get started on faster biking
  • Drag or resistance from tyres. This seems to be why some people swear by thinner tyres, pumped up to astonishing levels of pressure. It reduces the resistance on the road. But there seems to be some dispute about whether the actual width of the tyre really makes that much difference. The consensus from what I can tell is that pumping up your tyres high every day will make quite a difference
  • Resistance created by rider. This is where my experiment seems to come in - if you're bent down, there's less body for the wind to push against. This is apparently called a "racing tuck".
Just like me, he's got his head right down. Similarity ends there. Source

  • Weight of bike/rider. Again there's disputing how much of a factor this is, but clearly you're going to have to work harder to go faster if you're carrying around half a tonne of bricks in your panniers
  • Gears, pedals, "rotor rings" and suchlike. There's quite a lot of anecdotal evidence that upgrading your pedals, getting a more efficient set of gears and changing to "rotor rings" (don't worry, I'd never heard of them before either) might improve your speed
  • Wind drag on the bike itself. From what I can tell, the effect of this is pretty negligable
  • The type of bike you have. Mountain, Road, Hybrid, reclining, other. Some cyclists claim that there's about a 15MPH difference between when they ride their MTB and when they ride their road bike!
Take it easy though

I guess it should also be said that you're not going to be going very fast in the city if:

1) you're battling against a headwind
2) you're in a monsoon-like downpour
3) you're weaving between several bendy buses on Oxford Street

But these seem like an interesting start in terms of speed, and I'd be interested to hear whether others have views ... when you do want to go fast, how should you do it?

Further reading and links:

- Good archive thread with quite a lot detail in bikeforums
- Good review of what rotor rings look like and are on Bike Radar
- Long but reasonably interesting video about aerodynamics etc on Wonderhowto site

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

My blog's lost its mojo - can anyone help it?

Hi - I'm sorry to say that I'm going through another period of what we bloggers would call "blog doubt" if anyone had actually bothered to think up a name for it. I'll list a few reasons why I haven't updated recently, and perhaps you could then advise on whether I should:

a) stop the blog
b) make it change direction or focus
c) carry on regardless

So here's why I'm despondant:

1) I like updating on Twitter - more immediate and fast response. And very easy to follow a very wide range of views and opinion
2) I'm very frustrated by the way Blogger doesn't display comments below the post (is this just me being thick?) on the main page - only on individual post pages
3) Generally I  think visitors perhaps don't realise how easy it is to comment - it's not clear how you do it?
4) I hate the way when I send out an email of the blog post, it always sends out the full blog post, so those receiving it can read it all in email, rather than having to click on the link to go to the blog
5) I'm worried that I'm concentrating too much on the trivial banalities of cycling, giving little that's new to folk
6) To be honest, I'm a bit disappointed by the traffic to the site, had hoped for more (though thankfully we are seeing a steady increase)

all of this adds up to existential blog angst. I'm trying not to sound whingey - just interested to know what you guys thought, and which direction I should go in next ... KC

PS I've just thought of the irony of what would happen if no-one commented at all ... we'll see.