Friday, 3 April 2015

Volvo's Life Paint - Part of the Cycling Safety Solution?

What an amazing idea Volvo's Life Paint is.

If you've missed it, here's a lovely explanatory video:

The product is not yet on sale, but has limited availability at a small number of bike shops in the south east of the UK. The Swedish car manufacturer claims that the reflective safety spray can be applied to any fabric, making it glow brightly in car headlights, but is invisible in daylight. It even washes off.

What's not to like? I'd certainly love to get my hands on a can to test it!

But there's been criticism from some cycling safety campaigners, including the CTC and London Cycling Campaign, saying that cyclists should not have have to make themselves visible and that drivers should show more awareness.

Mikael Colville-Anderson from Copenhagenize Design Co has called the spray 'victim blaming' and started a petition against it.

As someone who cycled in central London most days for 5 years and regularly rides on dark country lanes, I have to say - boringly - that it's not either/or.

Cyclists need to wear and use whatever we can to make ourselves visible - we should contribute to our own safety. And I see too many cyclists riding in dark clothing and often with no lights on, who are almost impossible to see.

But drivers must also pay much better attention to cyclists and laws must be enforced.

If a smart idea like Volvo's Life Paint can be part of the solution, that's fine by me.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Look like a Peleton Pro for a tenner with Pegatin bike name stickers

It's pretty sad, but we cyclists do like to emulate the pros.

Just look at the number of overweight middle-aged men squeezed into lycra team jerseys riding £5k+ carbon bikes.

But here's a great way to get the ultimate pro peloton look for you bike for as little as a tenner!

British company Pegatin provide the name tags that go on pro bikes and now you can buy them for yourself, complete with country flag!

Now that's a much cheaper upgrade than a new set of aero wheels!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Gear Review: Shimano Ultegra 6810 Aero Brakes

I wrote recently about Trek upgrading my 2007 Trek Madone 5.2 frame for a 2013 5.9 replacement after finding a crack in the carbon. An amazing piece of customer service!

My only tiny caveat with the bike - and this is, quite literally, looking a gift horse in the mouth - was the Bontrager integrated brakes that came with the frame.

On the plus side, they're aero, which I presume means they have some teeny drag advantage. More importantly, they look cool, particularly the rear brake, which is hidden away behind the bottom bracket, rather than on the seat stays.

The main disadvantage is that the brakes don't work very well - in fact, descending Clee Hill in Shropshire was fairly terrifying and I thought I might have to bale out into a hedge at one point!

But there is now an answer: Shimano Ultegra 6810 aero brakes, which are available for £66 for the pair.

Here they are:

The main advantages, as well as that they look great (and match my 2007 Shimano crank arms too!), the price (the Shimano Dura-Ace 9010 are around £200 for the pair!) and fit snugly into the frame.

But the key plus point is that they work! My definition of a good brake is that if you yank it hard, your wheel skids - it can't grip harder than that - and that it doesn't leave your hands exhausted. So success on both counts.

It's a no-brainer upgrade for the Trek Madone and one that seems to be very common.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Cycling Safety Infographic

I'm a sucker for infographics - and a fan of cycle safety - so I was pleased to be sent this by 50cycles blog. As well as interesting stats and results from their own research, there are some useful safety tips.

50cycles is the UK blog of leading German electric bicycle maker Kalkhoff, but the results are equally illuminating for us mere human-powered cyclists.

Some stats that really stood out for me:

  • Over 700,000 adults in the UK cycle to work (25% of commuters in Cambridge!)
  • More than 19,000 accidents involving cyclists were reported in 2012
  • There were 118 cycling fatalities on UK roads in 2012

Monday, 6 October 2014

Has Danny Macaskill finally bitten off more than he can chew?

Over the years, trials rider Danny Macaskill has performed some amazing feats on his bike and made some incredible films. But his latest, filmed on his native Skye, really takes the biscuit.

In #TheRidge, Macaskill takes a genuinely death-defying ride along the notorious Cullin Ridge.

I have to admit, I watched much of this through my fingers, it's certainly not for the faint-hearted!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Trek - Incredible customer service!

I just wanted to update my earlier blog post about the crack in my 2007 Trek Madone carbon frame.

Just to re-cap: I discovered a tiny crack in the seat stay of my frame, remember that Trek offered a lifetime warranty on frames, contacted the shop I bought the bike from - Mike Vaughan Cycles, took the frame in, dug out the original receipt and was waiting on Trek's response.

That was just over a fortnight ago. Well, here's their response:

That's right, Trek have replaced my 2007 Trek Madone 5.2 frame with an unused 2013 Trek Madone 5.9 frame, worth £1,800!!!

That is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most amazing customer service I have ever experienced and, from what I've read, this is pretty standard practise for Trek. I have nothing but praise for the way that Trek and Mike Vaughan Cycles, in particular Ray, have dealt with this. Added to that, Mike Vaughan only charged me £24 to completely disassemble and reassemble the bike, which is incredible value.

So I just wanted to share a story about excellent service as people usually seem happier to moan about bad service.

It's an absolutely beautiful bike. I just need to make a few tweaks to the riding position, make sure everything's tightened and adjusted correctly and take it out for a test!

Update (August 31st, 2014):
Not that I've had the chance to go for a proper ride - 60 miles including Clee Hill in Shropshire - I'm happy to report that the bike is incredible. It's comfortable and yet it also feels far more stiff than the original frame in terms of getting power to the wheels. My only tiny caveat is that I think I will change the integrated brakes for Shimano's own aero 6810 versions, which I've read give a lot more confidence!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Trek Madone carbon frame crack...

I've had my Trek Madone since 2008 (although it's a 2007 model, I bought it in the end of season sale). It's a bike that, once it was properly set up, has been an old friend and has done many thousands of miles, without complaint.

Even if my head might be turned occasionally by younger models, this is a bike I want to keep for years to come.

But when I was cleaning the bike thoroughly before taking it on holiday to Wales last week, I noticed a tiny crack in the carbon frame on the drive side.

My first reaction was a despairing sigh...

My Madone dates from a time when the carbon stays were joined to aluminium dropouts, which does seem to offer problems as the two materials are likely to expand and contract at different rates.

Anyway, I took the bike away and had some fantastic rides around where we were staying, near to Aberdovey.

But I was getting worried that if I didn't do something about the frame it might fail spectacularly. Carbon frames can be fixed, but it's not cheap and the results aren't pretty.

But then a hazy memory surfaced: I seemed to remember one of the appeals of the bike when I bought it was that it came with a frame warranty. Sure enough, I went on the Trek web site and the it's true - Trek offer a lifetime warranty for the frame to the original owner!

Having returned from holiday, I've been in touch with the bike shop I bought it from Mike Vaughan Cycles in Kenilworth and they confirmed that the warranty would apply, subject to Trek signing off the frame and me proving that I was the original owner.

That's where I may have a problem. The bike shop don't have a record of the sale from 2008 and I've just moved house and all these kinds of vital paperwork are filed away in a huge pile of boxes. So it looks like I've got some searching to do...

Update (August 12th, 2014):
I've now found the original receipt and the bike frame has been taken in to Mike Vaughan Cycles, so fingers crossed!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Cycling the First World War Western Front

Back in 2010, my brother James and I cycled the 550 miles from the French coast to Zurich in Switzerland in a week, roughly following the First World War western front, through Belgium, northern France and Switzerland.

We did the ride to raise money for Leukaemia Research in memory of our mum, Shirley, who died in 2009.

With the centenary of the start of the First World War, and as a number of people have contacted me for details of the route, I thought I would re-post the original route, diary and video entries.

I've done a number of longer rides, including Lands' End to John o'Groats, through Germany and the Czech Republic and from Birmingham to Montpelier in France and this definitely ranks among my favourite.

Swiss Roll - Day 1, James and Matthew at Dunkerque
Matthew and James leaving Dunkerque

Here's the route:

Bike route 322271 - powered by Bikemap

And here's a video I put together of the ride:

Here are the daily routes and diaries:

Day 1 - Dunkerque to Arras
Route details
Diary and video

Day 2 - Arras to Soissons
Route details
Diary and video

Day 3 - Soissons to Sainte-Menehould
Route details
Diary and video

Day 4 - Sainte-Menehould to Nancy
Route details
Diary and video

Day 5 - Nancy to Le Thillot
Route details
Diary and video

Day 6 - Le Thillot to Basel
Route details
Diary and video

Day 7 - Basel to Grafstal (Zurich)
Route details
Diary and video

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Terrifying head cam footage of cyclist's head-on crash with car!

A cyclist from Essex has uploaded an astonishing video taken on his helmet cam of his head on crash with a car. He then flies through the air and, incredibly, lands on his feet!

The cyclist, who doesn't give his real name, but goes by the username 'cyclejack' on YouTube, says on the video details:

"The second time I rode into London in an effort to gain some fitness, rather than take the train, ended like this.

"I was traveling around 22mph through Romford. Drizzly conditions so I was being cautious around bends and roundabouts. I didn't expect this!

"I broke (it can just be seen on the frame before impact) but I had no chance of stopping.

"I'm not quite sure how I wasn't seen. I'm over 6ft and was wearing a bright blue jacket. If I was seen then it's a very bad judgement in my speed.

"After a very uncomfortable trip to the hospital in a neck brace and spinal board and various x-rays I escaped with just bruising. So I consider myself lucky. At the time the driver was apologetic and was informed by the police that I was recording my ride and seemed to admit fault. But when it came to my insurance claim against her she disputed it. Safe to say the video has saved me a lot of hassle and 3 weeks later the cheque has already arrived from the insurance company.

"My 4 week old Giant bike was written off but thanks to the guys at Cycle Store they put me one of the two they had left aside and I'm looking forward to getting back out there.

"I will say the condition of the cycle lanes are a disgrace along that road, along with many I come across. With the usual obstacles of parked cars, drivers edging out of junctions, pot holes, glass, drains - why would you cycle in a cycle lane?"

Just to stress, the cyclist is doing absolutely nothing wrong in this crash.

It's also interesting to see the original footage, compared to what the Daily Mail uploaded. Firstly, you can hear him swearing as they crash (which I can definitely vouch for when I've had far less spectacular crashes!), but it does show how awful the cycling provision is and how poor others' driving is...

Monday, 30 June 2014

Bicycle: The Film

A new feature-lemngth documentary, 'Bicycle', is set to tell the "story of cycling in the land that invented the modern bicycle, it's birth, decline and re-birth from Victorian origins to today".

The film is directed by BAFTA winner Michael Clifford (who I got to know on a film-maing course he ran at MAC in Birmingham) and award-winning producer Pip Piper and features interviews with the likes of Sir Dave Brailsford, Gary Fisher, Chris Boardman, Ned Boulting and Sir Chris Hoy.

Appropriately, the film is receiving it's world premiere in Bradford tomorrow to coincide with the  Grand Depart of the Tour de France in Yorkshire. It's then getting a limited release around the UK, details here.

I've not seen it yet, but having spoken to Michael and Pip about it and going by the trailer, it should be fantastic! I'm looking forward to seeing it in Birmingham.