Monday, 29 March 2010

Lana Discipline

So when do you claim a lane? (or, a Lana - I couldn't think of a famous "Elaine") Reading an article posted by SteveA, I was struck by how riding conditions and habits can vary from town to town and, more so country to country. I think the answer is, when you judge that there is no room in the lane for a car and a bike at the same time, and as a result it is safer to position yourself so that a driver does not try to squeeze in. But do you get that right? Who's to say?

I thought I'd illustrate with some examples from my current London commute along the Uxbridge Road, a major arterial urban road. Here's a place I definitely claim my lane, I'm going straight ahead. For those of you thinking "rubbish, that's a wide lane", it is two lanes. The pinch point is under the bridge, you can see it better looking from the Streetview on the other side of the road If you are truly fasinated, step back and forth along the road. Coming up to it, I ignore the cycle lane on the left hand side and ride the white line. The cycle lane sucks, throws you across left turning traffic otherwise forcing wait for up to two changes of the (long) lights if you really want to use it. So, I hit traffic speed and ride along.

Another bridge, another pinch point. But this time there are not two I position myself that bit more away from the kerb, but not blocking the lane. That way the enthusiastic overtakers are kept a bit in check (you can see that manoeuvre shaping up if you step back and forth. In my view, the cyclist in frame is too near the kerb but no big deal.

And finally, pinch point of a junction and lights Here, I would not normally claim the lane, in my view there is plenty of room here.

That's some of the three options. How would you handle them?

And time for a pet hate. Cyclists riding two abreast (mostly not even fast) just for convenience of chatting, without a thought for road conditions. You've got a right to be on the road, but some you can and some you can't.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Three Days, Three Bikes, Three Routes

So today it was the turn of my trusty commuting steed (I needed the panniers to carry cr@p home) and I tried the thrird way - cycle to Paddington and train to Hayes & Harlington. And, I have to confess that is the fastest route - 1Hr25, or 15 minutes less than yesterday all bike.

So, while I love them all, here's my assessment of the three bikes.

The Dahon. It folds, it has a single speed and a coaster rear brake so charmingly simple. You can take it anywhere, jump out of the small car or train and be on the road with the freedom of a bike in seconds. No security problems, you take it with you anywhere. On the flip side, it is slow - the 64" gear is a great general purpose ratio but....slow. Cadence to get to 18mph is high, nothing higher is practical. And, those rear wheel 178mm spokes are rare as hens teeth.

The LeMond. My full carbon roadie, like the Trek Madone. On this bike I feel like I can fly, climb every mountain (oops wrong show). Acceleration, speed, control, has it all. It's like the difference between a family saloon and a Ferarri. Yesterday's ride through the centre of town with a 15mph average was fun. But, that was in the morning. On the way home, roads were more crowded, kamikaze pedestrians in London were particularly tiresome. And the state of London roads did very little for my back which was painful. What that ride home did do was to confirm in my mind that on the roadie my safety is compromised on the commute. I had reason to be grateful that the brakes were Ultegra more than once, but I go that bit faster, and the brakes are that bit less efficient. So, at the boundary of incidents that ultimately can make the difference between life and death, your margin is reduced. Ah yes, carries nothing and I don't have a bell on it, either.

The Marin. Set up for urban riding, an MTB with no suspension, carbon front fork, disk brakes and slik tyres. Not much slower than the LeMond, often has full panniers that drag you back but has everything I would look for in a commuting bike. And those disk brakes really work when you need them - stopping is really more important than going on a London commute. And a socking great bell to grab the attention of dozy pedestrians.

So each has their strength and weaknesses, as I said I love 'em all. And, I've been fortunate to be able to take advantage of the "Bike to Work" scheme that let me buy the Marin & LeMond at half price or less. If I had to reduce to one? Much though I'd hate to do that, the Marin would win.
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Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Commute to Stockley Park

Here's the GPS trace from the ride, you can even see me stopping at the red lights.....

The amazing thing to me is how cycle is the fastest route, even over such a distance, with train lines that run, if anything, even straighter. 1 hour 40 minutes for the 40 Kilometres, door to door.

How long would it take by tube? Here's TfL Journey Planner of the trip:

Now that has no allowance for waiting for trains and buses. I can cut that down by maybe 15 minutes with the cycle assist, but even that clocks in at about 1Hour 45.

Who would have thought it, eh?

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Smug has its comeuppance.

I really like my Dahon and I confess to a degree of smugness - single speed, nothing to go wrong.

One word.


Another word.


Saturday, 6 March 2010

Carbon Vs Alloy bikes

I was just about to take over Steve's comment box with the story of how I compared and chose carbon, when I thought, why not start another blog? After all, that's just what I'm short of now. Don't expect regular updates, just occasional ones. But I often want to say things, frequently that' about bikes, and so....

Anyway, Steve is doing a fascinating series of articles about carbon composite structures, ultimately leaving aside the hype there is still an easy way to understand the difference.

It was just over a year ago, I wanted to replace my Bianchi Reparto Corse. That was an interesting bike, with a 124" top gear (!) it was fast, and liked to go fast like an Italian sportscar. But, it was a little too small for me (I'll explain why another time) and after 50 miles or so I would begin to feel it.

In the UK, we have a marvellous scheme that allows you to buy bikes with gross earnings before tax, effectively halving the cost. The year before I had bought my commuting bike, now I thought a road bike upgrade was on the cards.

So, I rode over to Two Wheels Good, an independent bike shop that - apart from being excellent - is also located at the base of a decent hill. We don't have too many of those in London - decent shops or hills. It's about 10 miles away from my home, so I was nicely warmed up. I first tried a top-of-the-range ally Trek, and very nice it was, too. Up and over that hill, great. Then I tried a Madone. Similar geometry, similar componentry. And, it felt like I was turbocharged. All of a sudden, the power at my feet was going straight on the road. That's one way to tell the difference, and I recommend it. However I was sold.

As it happens, and as a matter of some regret I didn't end up buying that bike there. Instead I came across the end of the Trek LeMonde fire sale, and picked up effectively the same bike for half the cost, ending up with the equivalent of the Madone for £600.