Supercycle stars can be followed with web apps

Alan Shearer, Adrian Chiles and the other five riders on Sport Relief’s Supercycle 335-mile two-day bike ride from Newcastle to London are now just 100 miles from the BBC TV centre where they appear live tonight.

It’s great to see brilliant use of Web 2.0 features so followers can track their progress. On the update section of the Supercycle microsite there’s live GPS tracking, Twitter updates, Flikr photosets and YouTube videos, such as this one:

Shearer says his bum hurts, naturally, and both he and Chiles have hit the deck, but the riders appear to be going strong and the challenge should make good TV tonight.

Footballers are mega puffed after 90 minutes of play so any sporting activity longer than two hours is going to be new to Shearer. He’s always said he hates endurance events so it will be interesting to see if he sings the praises of cycling tonight.

If so, it could encourage others to try much, much shorter ‘challenges’: such as cycling one mile to the shops instead of driving there…

Ugandan telcon introduces pedal-powered phone recharger

The Monitor of Kampala reports that Asasira Buga, the chief engineer of Bugatech, a mobile phone repairing company, and businessman Goddie Odongkara unveiled a bike-borne phone recharging system in Kampala.

It’s made in Uganda.

‘Mobile power’ comprises of a dynamo, power accumulator and circuits where car chargers of any type of phone are plugged to charge.

Odongkara said: “After moving throughout the country, I discovered that many people in rural areas do not buy mobile telephones due to lack of charging systems. The idea will increase mobile telephone use among people.”
He said the system that can charge eight phones per hour of riding. Clearly, that’s a job creation scheme in the making.

The system reminds me that Europe and the US had such a charger way back in 2000. I reported on it at the time. Inventor Kieron Loy came to my house to show off his invention. Sadly, it never sold in bucketloads. When it was introduced in America in 2001, one was gifted to Dick Cheney.

One of the key reasons the charger never really took off was the relatively easy access to electricity. In rural Africa, the concept has a far greater chance of success. I wonder if the recharging is done on a static bike or some kid rides around the village all day?

Pedal power is much under-used, of course. But it could be harnessed for rotating a washing machine drum as per this video (which also includes a phone recharger option on the turbo unit):

TfL’s cycling viral: genius or rip-off?

STORY UPDATED: Watch this video short commissioned by Transport for London, and produced by The Engine Room (warning: spoiler below):

This is a rip off. The original ‘gorilla and basketball passes’ video was produced in 1999 by Professor Daniel J Simons in the US. It’s sold as a DVD instructional video by Viscog Productions.

TfL’s version of the video uses a bear instead of a gorilla but this isn’t perhaps enough to prevent a claim of plagiarism. It’s interesting to note that a YouTube version of the Engine Room’s video was deleted by YouTube following a complaint, although it’s now back on the site.

Now, to the content. Why did the ad crew – who didn’t contact Prof Simons to ask permission to use the idea – switch to a moonwalking bear? All that was needed was a figure to walk between the basketball players. Why wasn’t this figure a cyclist in black kit and wearing a helmet? Not weird enough? That would at least have made the content fit the brief.

This video will go viral – known as Black Swanning in the ad trade – but will it work on drivers? It might raise consciousness for a while but then the bad habits will kick in again. Cyclists are “invisible” to drivers not because drivers have lots of distractions and need to concentrate on just the route ahead, but because cyclists cannot squish drivers. It’s a brute force thing.

When a car smashes into a cyclist in the UK and the US this will be traumatic for the driver – and perhaps fatal for the cyclist – but the long-term ramifications for the driver are few and far between.

Not so in many European countries where the EU Fifth European Motoring Directive holds sway. For insurance purposes, motorists are automatically deemed to be at fault in “traffic accidents” unless they can prove otherwise. This has the very real potential of hurting the driver in the pocketbook, the reason why there was such an outcry when the British media thought the UK could be about to adopt the Fifth European Motoring Directive.

Writing in the Daily Mirror, columnist and author Tony Parsons poured scorn on the Directive and lambasted adults who cycle: “Bicycles are for children…[they are] like masturbation – something you should grow out of. There is something seriously sick and stunted about grown men who want to ride a bike.”


Cycling UK to Oz: so good we did it twice

Kevin Doye and Lowanna King have produced a spectacularly good video series on their bike tour from Oxford to Australia.

Here’s a YouTube teaser:

The rest of the series can be subscribed to on Undercurrents.

The couple didn’t travel with a film crew. All the two-person shots were done with the help of a tripod, hence a claim that the couple cycled much of the route twice.

The video series is being released in thirteen weekly installments and features footage of the couple cycling from the UK, through Europe and on to Pakistan, India, Iran, Singapore and Australia. The couple got married when they reached Sydney.

Paul O’Connor of Undercurrents said:

“Bike2Oz is a very inspiring series and makes us think if they can pedal to the far side of the world, then we should all be able to get on our bikes and ride to the shops or work.”

The use of a tripod and lots of backtracking to get wide angle scenic shots reminds me of a bike tour I did in Lebanon in 1994. As far as I can tell this was the first bike tour in the country since the ending of the Civil War. I later helped write Lebanon: A Travel Guide, the first English-language guidebook to the country for twenty years.

I filmed the Lebanon bike trip on a Hi-8 video camera loaned to me by Tyne Tees TV. The footage was never used because Tyne Tees didn’t commission a second series of ‘Chain Gang’, a magazine programme on bikes.

The Hi-8 tapes have been festering in a drawer for years but I watched them the other day and I reckon I could condense the footage into a smart little half-hour programme. I’ll load it to YouTube, iTunes and Vimeo. It was a rough trip. There were okayish hotels in Beirut and other cities but in the Beqa’a valley? Nada.

I’ve had fun watching my discomfort as I did a piece to camera from a bombed out villa where I’d spent the night.

Bike companies: want to book an end-of-part-one advert in the middle of the Lebanon programme or any video? Details here.

“How long have you been playing bike, Frank?”

The motoring media has been lovingly reporting on the Car Music Project, a band that plays music on instruments made from car parts. Composer Bill Milbrodt’s musical instruments can now be seen on TV ads for Ford. Milbrodt has been likened to the late great Frank Zappa.

But where Milbrodt plays car, Zappa played bike.

Zappa was way ahead of his time. His first TV appearance – sans his famous facial hair – was in 1963 on the iconic US chatshow The Steve Allen Show. Zappa was given 20 minutes of primetime to play two bicycles, much to the amusement of Allen and the studio audience.

ZAPPA: I believe that a lot of people have actually played bicycles from time to time. When they’re young they take a piece of cardboard and a clothes pin, attach it to the rear wheel and when it goes around it makes that noise and you’re playing a bicycle.

ALLEN: How long have you been playing bike, Frank?

ZAPPA: About two weeks.

ZAPPA: It’s similar to the effect of the uh, cardboard and the clothespin.

ALLEN: Like the uh, steel drums of Jamaica and uh, Trinidad . . .

ZAPPA: And you can also bang on the frame, and if you’re lucky enough to have a bicycle that has a squeaking seat, you can squeak the seat.

Spend less on advocacy, more on awareness

John Burke of Trek has committed a whole bunch of his company’s cash to bicycle advocacy. In this video I released last year, Burke urged other bike companies to do the same:

Globally, bicycle advocates (UK trans: ‘cycle campaigners’) welcomed Burke’s stance.

But not everybody agrees that funding advocacy is a panacea.

Yesterday I published a trade-specific video of a presentation to UK bike shops from US retail guru Jay Townley. Jay Townley has been in the bike trade for 51 years, in all manner of guises, such as bike shop worker and president of companies such as Giant and Browning.

Jay Townley told a room full of Britain’s best bike shops that the UK closely mirrored the bike business in the US. This wasn’t a good thing as he revealed that the US bicycle business has not kept pace with the growth of the US economy over the last eight years.

The total US bicycle market in retail dollars has stalled out at $6bn and has been essentially flat for the last three years. 2008 will see a continuation of this flat market trend:

“There is no factual reason to believe this will change in the near future,” said Townley.

“There is no imminent bicycle boom on the horizon. Unless the bike industry changes strategy there will be no real growth in the size of the total retail bicycle market.”

He complained that the US bike industry doesn’t pull together very well. It might not be able to afford a ‘Got milk‘-style* promotional campaign but it doesn’t even try. Instead, millions of dollars is put into pro bike teams, a marketing expense that influences enthusiasts, said Townley, but not a mainstream audience, which is where market growth will have to come from.

He said too much money is being funnelled into advocacy. He said fifteen years of funding advocacy programmes had resulted in no market growth. He would like to see money channelled into an awareness campaign instead, to influence new people to come into cycling. Obesity is at epidemic proportions but there’s no bike business campaign to explain the benefits of cycling to a mainstream audience.

Of course, he’s not totally against bicycle advocacy but he doesn’t want the bike trade to put all its eggs in one basket. And especially not now. In the US, the administration will soon change and so will Congress. Who, in Washington, is listening?

>Lobbying on Capitol Hill (and in Westminster) might leverage Government money into bike schemes but along with the delivery of infrastructure there’s got to a perception shifting campaign, too.

And here’s a good example of why. It’s by Andy Scaife of the bicycle recycling BikeRescue Project of York and was taken from the Moulton mailing list:

“Had a fantastic ride over some of the North York Moors last week, going for it up the 1-in-3s (33%) in a style not normally adopted by such a pootler as I. Needless to say, the Bob Jackson coped with it better than the rider, who suffered a ‘Cardiac Episode’ while driving the last half-mile home… Paramedics pulled me out of the van, and I’ve just been relased from the people workshop, back into the community.

“Anyway,the interesting bit was the reaction when I mentioned the possibility of getting back on a bike some time soon – the mere mention that I am a keen cyclist engendered the reaction from the ‘professionals’ that I was about to go run a marathon, or worse. The usual “Cycling is a strenuous athletic activity” perception. Wouldnt you think that the health professionals would know better? One Idiot consultant recommended I join a gym and go on a treadmill. My reply that I own about 30 bikes, and did not intend to go near a sweaty germ-infested gym got a look that clearly implied “Well dont come to me if you burst your aorta and fall under a bus, you smelly beardy”.

“Oh yes, and a nurse, when she read that i had just been cycling before the ‘episode’ (for that seems to be the correct name now), asked if I had been wearing a helmet! I can think of lots of replies now, but all I could muster at the time was ” I was driving, so maybe I should have been”. It was totally lost on her of course.

“We still have a loooooonnnggg way to go…”

* Funny Got Milk? commercial:

Vegan race team signs with bamboo bike maker

OrganicAthlete of the US has signed a bike deal with Calfee Design, manufacturer of the Calfee Bamboo Bike.

“The result is a team whose message of personal health and social change now manifests in the form of a green, renewable bicycle,” said a statement from OrganicAthlete.

OrganicAthlete is a nonprofit membership organisation which promotes elite level sport powered by whole, plant foods rather than animal products. An elite cycling team was formed last year and now has five team members on bamboo bikes.

Bradley Saul, founder of OrganicAthlete and a category 1 racer, said: “I’ve been riding a bamboo bike for over a year now. I can honestly say it’s the best riding bike I’ve ever had.”

With finely mitered bamboo tubing, Calfee Design binds the frame together with a hemp-fibre wrap.

“Bamboo is the darling of the sustainability movement – it is strong and renewable and beautiful. Also, since bicycle rely on people power, not petrol-power, the combination of green materials and green transport is irresistible. Add in the further multiplier of plant-based athletes and you have three layers of goodness for the planet rolling down the street,” said Saul.

Lock it or lose it

Or lock it and still lose it? I bought a bunch of expensive locks and watched two burly ‘bike thieves’ smash into them within seconds. But it’s possible to make life difficult for professional thieves: there are locking techniques that will make your precious harder to half-inch. [Note: I produced the video above for Northumbria Police in May 2009. A more hi-res version – suitable for iPhones, iPods etc – can be found on the podcast on iTunes or as a direct MP4 download].

I’d be a poor bike thief. I’m just not meaty enough. To break into a hundred quid chain you need to be beefy but, critically, you must also “want to bust into the lock like your life depended on it.”

This was the advice given to me by Mr X, a very strong, very determined gentleman from Essex (that’s him below) who claimed he could breach expensive locks in seconds. I recently bought a load of such locks – you may be using them on your pride and joy right now – and Mr X was true to his word. He used 42-inch bolt cutters to quickly smash into locks that are meant to be able to withstand determined attacks.

Watched by his partner-in-crime Mr Y (that’s him above), he took up to 42 seconds to breach locks that Sold Secure, a British security products standards body, claim offer sound protection for at least five minutes.

When I tried to cut into the same locks I failed. I pushed, I grimaced, I jumped up and down and used all my might, but not even with the big, heavy bolt cutters could I make much more than a dent in the expensive chain.

However, I was surprised at how easy it was for a weakling like me to breach a different – but still costly – lock using smaller, less conspicuous bolt croppers. The so-called armour over a thick cable was about as easy to cut through as the plastic casing. Even I could get into this lock within ten seconds. According to Sold Secure it should have held me up for five minutes, but by bending it to expose a joint I cut through this luxury lock like the proverbial hot knife through butter.

Am I giving would-be bike thieves tips and tricks to launch their careers? I don’t think so. Pro thieves are already out there using these techniques and ‘specialist equipment’. Wannabe thieves could Google themselves some techniques in seconds.

cctv bike theft Newcastle

Locks are there to foil the opportunist thief, and slow down the professional, but nothing (except bikes like this and this, produced for an ad campaign) can offer 100 per cent security.

If your bike is valuable – to a professional thief – the level of protection you’d need to carry to prevent it going walkabouts would make it unrideable.

Yet even with cheaper locks it’s possible to make life difficult for professional thieves. There are locking techniques that will make your bike harder to half inch.

But just as professional thieves can get past house security alarms, no bike lock is impregnable. Channel 4 newsreader and CTC president Jon Snow has had bikes stolen from the ITN building, even when they were well locked in a caged compound with a security camera keeping watch.

Ever been locked out of your house? Call in a locksmith and you’ll be surprised how quickly he can gain entry. Using a slim, specialist tool and some deft jiggling he can bypass what you thought were super-secure locks.

Professional house-breakers use these secret locksmith tools. Common or garden house-breakers use bricks.

A bike lock – even the most expensive in the shop – doesn’t guarantee security, it buys you time. If a bike thief scans your security and sees it will take more than a minute to breach your system, he’ll look for an easier target.

Use one or more of the security tactics below and always lock your bike close to other bikes. It allows the thief to see there are bikes easier to steal than yours. Tough on the poor saps who have their bikes nicked but that’s not your problem.

There are twelve measures you can take do to reduce your chances of having your bicycle stolen.

1. Don’t ride a bike.
This is a very secure option. If you don’t have a bike, it won’t get stolen. But don’t think this is just a bike problem, even £50k cars are stolen. No amount of security systems guarantees immunity from theft.

2. Ride a rubbish bike
Or one that looks rubbish. Thieves are on the look-out for easy touches, bikes they can steal easily. But they are also on the look out for bikes they can shift on eBay or down the pub or on the street market. Branded mountain bikes are the easiest to sell on.

So, keep your sexy MTB for your weekend warrior trips, cycle in town on a hack bike.

This can be a genuinely crap bike – rust is your friend – or a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Disguise a good bike with tatty tape on the frame tubes or these clever ‘rust stickers’, but to go the whole hog you’ve got to disguise the components, too. Could you really bear to take a rasp to your Shimano XTR rear mech?

If your rubbishified bike still has the basic shape and look of a mountain bike, it could still be nickable. One of the best security devices on the market is the drop handlebar. Thieves, on the whole, give these a wide berth. Nobody down the pub wants a touring bike, even if the front and back racks are state of the art.

However, there are some thieves who know what a good road bike is when they see one so the drop handlebar trick isn’t failsafe.

3. Marry your machine
Travel light, forget the lock, take your bike with you wherever you go.

This is a very secure option but can limit the places you’ll be welcome in.

A folding bike can increase your chances of slipping under the radar but not everybody appreciates the allure of a grime-encrusted bike, even one that concentinas.

4. Use a lock
Even one you can cut with a Leatherman is far, far better than no lock at all. Yes, blindingly obvious, but thieves are, by definition, sneaky. You can’t trust ‘em.

Here’s a sorry tale, repeated across the land every day: a law abiding cyclist nips into the Post Office “just for a second”, keeps a beady eye on his unlocked bike, turns away for a moment and then, poof, his bike is gone.

Locks aren’t just for long-term parking. Clunk click every trip.

There’s also a good case for locking your bike to an immovable object when it’s stored in a secure place such as your garage or shed. Fit a ground anchor and make the local no-goods sweat to get your prized possessions.

5. Use a good lock
This article shows that a determined, professional thief can breach seemingly impregnable locks. Such thieves are relatively rare. They could get into Fort Knox. There’s not a lot you can do to thwart a tooled up thief with time on his hands and just your bike in view.

Your bog standard bike thief isn’t beefy and equipped with long bolt croppers. He (nicking bikes is a male occupation) is more likely to be in need of a fix, desperate to sell your £400 MTB for a tenner, and will be equipped with basic tools.

This type of thief can be thwarted with almost any lock thicker and stronger than a thin cable.

Nine times out of ten, this would-be bike thief will pass by those bikes locked with meaty chains and u-locks and will attempt to steal those bikes ‘protected’ with flimsy locks. It’s simple to cut a cable lock, even those that look tough. Some have thick plastic sheathes that magnify the thin cable within. It’s very easy to open a combination lock, even without tools.

A cheap u-lock is tougher to crack than a thin cable lock. But even some expensive u-locks can be smashed in seconds with a small bottle jack. This is a specialist tool. A five inch hydraulic jack can be extended to ten inches, smashing almost any u-lock after just a few pumps, if there’s wriggle room, that is.

6. Be time sensitive
It pays to be security aware at all times but, if you live in a university town, there are certain times of the year when the bike theft figures go into overdrive. Basically, whenever there’s a new influx of students, there’s a ready market for ‘secondhand’ bikes.

At these times of the year, bikes are stolen hand over fist and it’s best to employ ultra secure methods of securing your bike. If you usually use two u-locks, a motorcycle chain and a Doberman, consider upgrading to three u-locks, another chain, two dogs and a security guard.

7. Think like a thief
Bike thieves don’t like a challenge, they’re not Pink Panther style cat burglars. They prefer easy meat.

Don’t broadcast obvious details such as the time you’ll be away from your bike. Locking up outside a cinema is a dead giveaway to a would-be thief. Ditto for railway stations, universities, schools and many workplaces. If you can’t lock up in a secure compound, park further down the street, away from the cinema/station/school, somewhere that overlooks a busy cafe, for instance. If a thief thinks you could be one of the patrons in the cafe, your bike is protected by a magic forcefield. Still needs to be locked, mind.

And always lock to a good, solid object. There’s a reason why Sheffield stands are hoops. Street furniture posts may look secure but could a thief hoist a locked bike over the top of the post? If they could, they will.

8. Lock everything
Specialist thieves thwarted by good locks attached down low and with few vulnerabilities can strip a bike of its components instead. Specialist tools required? An Allen key and wire cutters. That’s for half-inching the handlebars and stuff, for the wheels and seatpost all that’s generally needed is a palm.

Components attached with quick releases risk going walkies quickly. Consider switching to Pinhead skewers and seatpost retention devices. These ship with a special key which opens all the devices.

9. Add on the extras
Post-coding your frame (or, preferably, using Bikeregister-style chemical etching, and a visible, tamper-proof seal) or fitting a machine-readable chip the size of a grain of rice adds a modicum of security but, remember, all you’re trying to do is buy a few seconds and, as Tesco says, every little helps.

10. Look out for white van man
He’s not only a menace to cyclists when driving, he could be watching your bike. Pro thieves often track their targets beforehand. Your bike is especially vulnerable in the two minutes after you first lock it. A team of thieves may employ a target tracker as well as a cutter and get-away driver.

11. Leave your lock elsewhere
Huge meaty chains and beefy D-locks are extremely heavy, a disincentive to carrying. If you lock up your bike in the same place each day, leave a gert big lock in situ. Nobody will be able to take your lock (well, not without a great deal of bovver) and so it’s always there for when you need it. Use a lighter D-lock (and cable for the front wheel) for when you’re out and about, flitting from place to place.

12. Use two styles of lock
A key tactic – popular with couriers – is to lock with a chain and a u-lock. Even pro thieves may only carry one type of tool (less incriminating, if caught), and will be flummoxed by two different styles of locks.

Want to have a laugh at a thief’s expense? Watch this motorcycle nabber falling from a moving van to the accompaniment of the Benny Hill chase music:

A up-to-date u-lock with a 16mm thick shackle will be pick-proof, Bic-proof and largely impervious to hammer strikes, chisel attacks, pipe bending and cutting by anything other than workshop grinding tools.

But a twenty quid bottle jack, easily bought on eBay, can breach many u-locks in seconds. I know, I’ve seen it done.

The small bottle jacks – known as ‘stubbies’ – are specialist tools, not much use for jacking up cars. A stubby slips into a coat pocket and can ‘open’ a u-lock almost as quickly as the key holder.

But the thief needs wriggle room. A bottle jack can only be used on a u-lock where there’s space to squeeze in. Fill that space with frame, spokes and security post and the bike thief will choose to breach a u-lock with space. ‘Bad Bones’ slip on to u-locks to fill space but at only 2.5mm thick they can be easily cut. Kryptonite has a tougher lock stuffer. was given first view of the prototype:

An oil-actuated bottle jack can’t work at every angle: a thief will search to find a shackle lock with plenty of space to fit a bottle jack and jiggle it into position. It was instructive to watch our friendly ‘bike thieves’ at work: Mr Y could open shackles with his bottle jack when the conditions were right, but had to give up when the shackle couldn’t be jiggled into an accessible position.

“There, that’s how to lock a bike,” said a frustrated Mr Y.

So, use a short u-lock, fit it around the bottom bracket, not the top tube. Make it a tight fit every time.

Look for bike racks that make such locking tactics easier. The best Sheffield stands are those in an ‘M’ shape not a ‘U’. Lock at the lowest point of the ‘M’.

It’s best not to ‘fly lock’ your bike to post with a small sign on the top, the kind of posts advertising parking restrictions and the like. Bike thieves can wriggle locked bikes up and over these posts.

However, a young designer called Anthony Lau has created the Cyclehoop, a fitting that can turn these posts – and pretty much any slim lamp-post – into secure stands for placing your locks down low. These could be mass-produced and dotted all over cities. London is currently trialling Cyclehoops in some boroughs.

YouTube has lots of bike theft videos which demonstrate a variety of lock breaching techniques. There’s a famous one from the Neistat Brothers of New York City. They used a hack-saw, bolt cutters and – hilariously – an angle grinder to snatch their own bike in broad daylight: passers-by didn’t bat an eye-lid, allowing even slow and cumbersome lock-breaking techniques to be used at will.

This video has had 580,000 views.

Cheap locks can be breached by cheap tools, as demonstrated on this YouTube video of ‘Frits’, a Dutch bike thief:

Frits was interviewed for Dutch TV. He’s now renounced his former occupation and gave this advice to viewers:

“Buy a more expensive bike lock.”

Yes. But, don’t forget, spending more doesn’t always get you more security. Expensive bike locks tend to be breached with more expensive tools. The bigger bolt cutters can cost hundreds of pounds and have expensive jaws which need replacing every 30 ‘cuts’ or so. Such specialist equipment is a big investment – or can be stolen from building sites.

Some thieves operate in pairs, with one as the breaker, the other the look-out. Motorcycle thieves operate out of (stolen?) white vans and sometimes also turn their attention to bicycles, especially high-value ones. A white van can carry all sorts of heavy cutting equipment and is also useful as a shield to work behind.

Mr X and his mate Mr Y are lovely blokes. They aren’t thieves, but they’re concerned about motorcycle and bicycle security. Or lack thereof.

They’re both meaty and can breach hardened steel chains in just over half a minute.

I bought a box of locks and gave them to the lads. None of the locks lasted very long in their hands. The tabulated results are here.

In fact, on the some of the locks, it took longer to get past the pesky zip-ties on the packaging than breach the actual lock.

To breach the tough, expensive chains Mr X and Mr Y had to work at it, even with the 42” bolt cutters. When the chains snapped after 40+ seconds of hard effort the links shot apart in an explosive fashion.

It’s a brutal technique, hard to disguise. To deaden the sound of the ‘explosion’, and hide some of the tool, some pro thieves use a thick blanket.


Electronic radio indentification tags are the size of a grain of rice, can be hidden inside a bike’s frame, and, if advertised to a would-be thief with a sticker, can be a deterrent. In the UK,
many police forces use RFID readers to spot whether any recovered bikes can be easily repatriated with their owners. If you’re bike doesn’t come with a RFID chip – some do – retro-fit one from a company such as Mobitag. Then register your bike for £13.99. The tag database is linked to the Police National Computer. Bike and owner details are also registered on, a free national database. Even without tagging the bike you can register your bike details free of charge so now bikes stolen in one police area and found in another can be identified.

Cycle theft is a serious disincentive to cycling. According to a French study, only 25 per cent of cyclists re-buy a new bike after a theft, and of these 10 per cent buy a cheaper bike than they had before (20 per cent cheaper on average). A further 23 per cent won’t return to cycling at all.

The study reports that 20 per cent of stolen bikes were not protected with any form of locks. 90 per cent of those which were locked were secured with an easily cut lock. The moral is clear.

Many locks now come liberally plastered with ‘Gold’, ‘Silver’ and ‘Bronze’ logos supplied by Sold Secure.

Sold Secure was established in 1992 by Northumbria and Essex Police with the backing of the Home Office and is now an ISO-quality accredited test house for all manner of locks and ground anchors. It’s a not-for-profit company owned by the Master Locksmiths Association and charges lock companies a four figure sum for the testing of each lock. Each lock also attracts an annual fee payable to Sold Secure.

Sold Secure says its lock breaching methods are those commonly in use by thieves, with the information provided by police and insurers.

Sold Secure technicians attack locks with a tight-knit selection of tools. Depending on whether it’s Gold, Silver or Bronze being tested for, the tools include screwdrivers, junior hacksaw, pliers, stillsons, steel tube, ball-peign hammer, HSS hacksaw, punch set, club hammer, TCT hacksaw, freezing agent, cold chisels, 24-inch wrecking bar, scissor jack, slide hammer and lock picking tools. The tool set does not include stubby bottle jacks or bolt cutters. D’oh.

Sold Secure’s Gold standard is awarded to those bicycle locks which can resist a combination of tools for five minutes per attack. I was able to breach a Gold certified product with 36” bolt croppers in ten seconds.

Sold Secure says its tools are those that “a typical burglar would carry.”

Following complaints about Sold Secure’s testing regime, Trading Standards officers are currently testing a batch of motorcycle locks in an attempt to see whether they can be breached quicker than claimed by Sold Secure.

A Trading Standards spokesman said the “results of the screen testing will determine whether any further formal tests are carried out.”

The spokesman said any formal investigation would look at “whether the product is being manufactured to the same standard it was when the approval was given.”

Motorcycle security products have to pass the tougher Thatcham standards, and without accreditation many insurers won’t insure the motorbikes being locked.

Another standards body you may see on some locks is ART of the Netherlands. Sweden has its locks accredited by SSF and Germany uses VDS.

Lock manufacturers which export worldwide have to pay the testing bodies in each country. However, the better known lock companies have in-house testing rigs and break-in regimes that far exceed the subjective testing of some of the standards bodies, a fact that rankles with these manufacturers, forced to pay for ‘independent testing’ in order to sell into a market.

A version of this article first appeared in ‘Cycle’ (Feb-Mar 2008) , the CTC magazine. Subscribe to the weekly newsletter from the CTC via here. CTC offers Cyclecover Insurance. Tel: 0870 873 0067.

I now have a box full of cut and bent locks, a lesson in what can be done to even quite expensive bits of security equipment. Having seen lock smashers at work am I worried to leave my bike anywhere? Not terribly. Pro thieves are rare, it’s the opportunist thief we have to be most wary of.

However, even the pro thief can be shunted to somebody else’s bike if you use some of the tactics outlined above. What locks do I recommend? Anything is better than nothing but the locks I use are a Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit chain (this locks three kids’ bikes at their school each day) and, for me, two Kryptonite Evolution Minis. These are small enough to lock a frame to a stand (near the BB, remember), with the second one filling in any gaps so there’s no room for a stubbie bottle jack.

I also have a heavy Almax chain.

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Hello, Friends of Fatty. Here’s one of the voting links mentioned by Fatty. Thanks for your time.

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My home city may not be getting 12 two-wheeler superhighways and the local campaign group may be in a state of suspended animation but Newcastle is still a fine place to bicycle. Newcastle cyclists generally don’t cut through red lights like Londoners and aside from a few ugly pile ups here and there, Newcastle doesn’t have quite the same them-and-us, bike-v-car problems.

Newcastle also has the stunning, and bike friendly, Town Moor, the country’s biggest HomeZone and a load of scenic cycle paths on former waggonways thanks to the city’s industrial heritage.

The city has hosted top class MTB events such as the Nissan Qashqai Urban Challenge:

The race and ride scene is pretty lively, too. Of course, there’s Newcastle Phoenix, the utterly fantastic youth cycling club for which I’m a coach; August’s Great North Bike Ride, and there’s the Northern Rock Cyclone sportive, now one of the UCI’s Golden Wheel events. On 11th September Newcastle is hosting a stage of this year’s Tour of Britain pro bicycle race.

“On its first visit to the North East, [the Tour] will begin in Darlington and wend its way northwards past key iconic locations in the North East, with a planned stage finish in NewcastleGateshead.”

In 2002, Newsweek nominated Newcastle as one of the world’s top eight creative cities. No other British city was listed.

And it’s also a thriving digital city. In recognition of this, regional development agency One NorthEast (ONE) and The North East Regional Portal (TNERP) have created the North East Digital Awards 2007. These awards are “designed to recognise and celebrate digital advancement within the region in a unique and practical way. The Digital Awards will showcase the best of the region’s talent, and will help inspire those who haven’t yet joined the digital age to embrace the significant opportunities it offers.”

Which neatly brings me to the shameless plug. is up for three of the awards. The site will be judged by an independent panel but you – pretty please – can help influence the judges by voting for the site in the following categories:

Best blog

Best podcast

Best use of video

Building bikes: it’s not rocket science

Actually, it is. Sort of.

At the trade-only Core bike show, held in Northamptonshire earlier this week, Chris Hewings, European sales director of the American Bicycle Group, let slip that Litespeed was making the legs for the latest NASA Mars lander.

“There aren’t many companies that can work with such thin titanium tubes,” said Hewings.

Litespeed, now owned by ABG, was born in the early 1990s, growing out of Southeast Machine, a ti-specialist which made underground tanks for liquid gun powder for US government agencies.

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander, launched on 4th August last year and will land in the far north of Mars on 25th May.

It will use a robotic digging arm and other instruments during a three-month period to investigate whether icy soil of the Martian arctic could have ever been a favorable environment for microbial life. The solar-powered lander will also look for clues about the history of the water in the ice and will monitor weather as northern Mars’ summer progresses toward fall.

It will then go on a Grand Tour of Mars, notching up PB’s and palmares as it goes.