Put a sock in it

SockGuy socks: Police and Share the Road

I love these new socks from SockGuy. Both pairs are controversial. The Share The Road logo is seemingly benign: of course, cars and bicycles should share the road. But some motorists think such signs mean cyclists should ‘share’ the road by getting out of the way.

It would be great to think you could scare such drivers by pointing to your ‘Police’ socks but, of course, pretending to be a cop is punishable in just about every jurisdiction on the planet.

Wearing the word ‘Polite’ is perhaps the next best thing. Years and years ago a small clothing company produced a cycling jacket emblazoned with ‘polite’. When written in big, bold white capital letters on a black background the word made motorists do a double take. I’ve searched in vain for the originator of this idea so I produced a sweatshirt version:

I sent one to Dr Ian Walker, a pro-bike blogger and British competitor in the World Wife Carrying Championships. He’s the academic from the University of Bath who used sensors and a video camera to measure how close cars passed him when cycling.

“At the kinds of speeds and distances that cyclists are overtaken on our city streets, reducing the gap between cyclist and vehicle can have life-threatening safety implications,” said Dr Walker in 2006.

Dr Walker famously donned a blonde Brian May wig to see if drivers give women (or hippie?) cyclists extra room when passing. Apparently, they do.

Dr Walker’s ‘polite’ sweatshirt may also gain him a couple of inches, if you get my drift. He said:

“As we now have good evidence that drivers are sensitive to a cyclist’s appearance and adjust their overtaking based on what they see, there’s every reason to believe [the POLITE printing] could work to offer a safety advantage. However, I’d be very interested to hear what the police think of it! I could imagine them worrying about a backlash, whereby drivers become wise to cyclists wearing these and so effectively become ‘blind’ to police officers?”

Incidentally, the front of the ‘polite’ sweatshirt has a ‘one less car’ logo on the front:

If you like the sweatshirts, they are available on the UK and US Spreadshirt.com sites for £22.90 or $32.90.

24-hour-news monster got OMM wrong

There follows a fascinating press release from the organisers of the Original Mountain Marathon, the winter fellside endurance event that made world headlines last month. Most of these headlines were dead wrong and it was infuriating to watch the ‘breaking news’ delivered by the 24-hour news channels, including BBC News.

The event was portrayed as some ramshackle event for biting-off-more-than-they-can-chew runners, with thousands of the idjits spread over the storm-battered Cumbrian hills clad in shorts, t-shirts and trainers.

It took many hours for the news outlets to cotton on that these were experienced outdoor enthusiasts wearing the right kit and well able to take care of themselves, even in storm conditions.

The TV coverage – and following website and print media coverage – slammed the event organisers and came over all Health & Safety. The press release below – carried in full – has this killer quote from Peter Tyldesley, former Director of Countryside & Land Management at the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority:

“The OMM represents the last vestiges of a spirit of self-reliance that the British used to be famous for. We must defend those last vestiges at all costs.”


The event lived up to the expectations of the competitors in being one of the
most challenging Mountain Marathons in the world.

The Original Mountain Marathon (OMM) was founded 40 years ago with the concept of
holding a 2-day mountain orienteering race with two consecutive marathons of 26 miles
(42km) and a height gain of up to 8,000ft (2400m). It was the world’s first Continue reading “24-hour-news monster got OMM wrong”

Caught on camera not doing anything sick and deranged

Yesterday, while cycling near ‘the Ministry’ in Newcastle I saw a car with a strange contraption on the top. It looked a bit like a 1920s radio mast. Massive it was.

Upon closer inspection it had this bunch of cameras on top, including a 3D scanner.

When the car turned behind me into a side street I could eye-ball it was a Google Street View car. I’d heard that Newcastle and Gateshead was getting the Street View treatment but does this mean I’ll soon be able to see myself cycling along on Google in glorious 360° georeferenced spherical video?

Euro privacy laws means Google blurs all faces on the European Street View pix. Of course, I’d be a blur anyway. I reach Hoy-like speeds when out and about on my bike. I wish.

Others caught on Street View around the world have been shot leaving strip clubs, hitting their children, picking up prostitutes and doing other stuff they’d rather not broadcast.

Thankfully, I was caught riding my bike. Can you imagine the shame had I been photographed driving my car?

Thanks, if you bought the iCal/Google app


Wow, I had no idea so many of you were on Macs and wanted to auto-sync between iCal and Google calendar. The other day I posted about Spanning Sync, the nifty little app that works like a dream.


To promote its superiority over Google’s CalDAV, Spanning Sync is promoting itself with a win-win discount offer. After a 15-day free trial period, Spanning Sync usually costs $25 a year, but you can save $5 by using my discount code if you decide to buy it: WRBTS8

Sixteen of you have so far used the discount code. I’ve made eighty bucks. I thought I was going to make a big fat zero but I like the app anyway so I thought I’d give it a go.

I use it to create a sync-able Bike Dates thingy on Google Calendar. All of the major bike events for 2008 are here. Click to subscribe to the dates, if you use Google calendar.

Do you have a singletrack mind?


Got bikes on the brain? You need this tee.

It’s from Cardigan’s third biggest clothing company. And it’s only available for a week. Howies has a short-run fetish.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what goes on inside the mind of a biker. Two wheels, some cogs and a crank is all it takes to get their brain into gear (pun definitely intended).

If you ride a bike, then this is probably an accurate picture of how your brain works too. Don’t worry though, many people have gone on to lead normal, productive lives after cycling.


Thanks to Charles for the tip.

WADA works on new test for performance-enhancing drug

In May, Cyclingnews.com reported that pro racing cyclists have started to experiment with a new drug, Sildenafil. This is not currently on the World Anti-doping Agency’s prohibited substances list. It was developed to improve blood circulation but was later found to have performance-enhancement uses.

A 2006 study published by the Journal of Applied Physiology (JoAP) and reported in Science Daily claimed that the drug can significantly enhance performance at altitude in some cyclists. However, WADA is not thought to be in favour of banning Sildenafil.

The JoAP study tested 69 trained cyclists at sea level and in an altitude chamber stimulating 12,700 feet (3870 m) above sea level. No benefit was gained at sea level, but the Sildenafil group improved its performance over a six kilometre time trial at altitude by 15 percent over the group given a placebo.

WADA’s spokesman Frédéric Donzé confirmed that the drug is not banned in competition, but said that the agency is looking into the matter.

“WADA is aware of the high altitude study presented in Science Daily. WADA monitors this substance, as it does with many other substances, and is currently funding a research project on the performance-enhancing potential of Sildenafil at various altitudes.”

Should a ban be forthcoming, which commentators say is likely, WADA is working on a non-invasive testing technique. After races, the first three finishers would be lined up for a ‘visual’ test. Sildenafil’s commercial name is Viagra and WADA scientists believe it will be simple to see which cyclists have taken the drug.


Thanks to doctors Young and Smith for additional reporting on this story.

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Love these gloves. No, hate them


I’m lucky enough to get to a load of international trade shows and am expected to go gooey over the latest in composites frames and components. On the whole, I don’t tend to, although I’d not throw a Cervelo R3 SL out of bed.

However, in an ad in the latest issue of BikeBiz (I don’t get to see the ads before the mag is published) the above gloves from Knog had me reeling. Like all Knog products they’re drop dead gorgeous but these just shout “own me.”

Knog is an on-the-edge Australian company, with a wicked and warped sense of humour in their marketing. Girls kissing in a glove pic? Whatever next?

I’ve been reporting on the design-led company over at BikeBiz.com since 2003.

At the time I wondered aloud where the Knog name came from. Shakespeare, perhaps?

The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act III Scene I, A field near Frogmore

SIR HUGH EVANS: “Pless my soul, how full of chollors I am, and trempling of mind! I shall be glad if he have deceived me. How melancholies I am! I will knog his urinals about his knave’s costard when I have good opportunities for the ork. ‘Pless my soul!”

Nope. The name came from one of the first products considered for the Knog portfolio – a full face polystyrene helmet, a thing that protects the noggin…

‘Bicycle Day’ tripper dies at age 102

Proving that drugs and cycling can mix, Dr. Alex Hofman of Switzerland was the first to ingest LSD. After he did so – on April 19th 1943 – he got on his bike. April 19th is now known as ‘Bicycle Day’ to fans of psychedelic experiences.

Dr Hofman died on Tuesday at his home in Basel, Switzerland. He was 102.

The Swiss chemist had first experienced the effects of the lysergic acid compound, LSD-25, when he accidentally absorbed a bit through his fingertips. He later ingested 250 milligrams of LSD.

After his colourful bike ride, Dr Hofman wrote:

“I asked my laboratory assistant, who was informed of the self-experiment, to escort me home. We went by bicycle, no automobile being available because of wartime restrictions on their use. On the way home, my condition began to assume threatening forms. Everything in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if seen in a curved mirror. I also had the sensation of being unable to move from the spot. Nevertheless, my assistant later told me we had travelled very rapidly.”

Travelling very rapidly on a bicycle under the influence of drugs was never tried again…

Bikes not bombs

Kibbutz Be’eri is a great place to ride a bike. There are bike paths that wind through wheat fields and pass by eucalyptus trees. There’s a bike shop and a cyclists-friendly cafe.

But business is down right now. Is it any wonder? Kibbutz Be’eri is just 8kms from the Gaza Strip.

This tiny sliver of land, home to 1.3m Palestinians, is in the news at the moment. Hamas fighters and Israeli troops are at each other’s throats.

Yesterday an Israeli tank fired a shell that killed a Palestinian cameraman and three other people. Every death is shocking but, being a cyclist, I am somehow hard-wired to sit up and take notice when something bad happens to somebody on two wheels. The TV images of two teenage boys, killed as they were minding their own business, was personalised for me by the fact the lads were riding a bike. One was pedalling, the other getting a backie.

This is a normal thing for teens to be doing. In the UK you’d get a ticking off by a policeman if caught doing it. In the Gaza Strip you could be hit by an air-exploding tank shell. One second riding along with your mate, the next second lying in the road dead.

In the mid-1980s I spent a year in Israel. I did a lot of bike touring in the West Bank, something that would be impossible now. I rode my first mountain bike there, a Specialized Rockhopper specially imported by my bike-mad friend, Gil Bor, author of one of my favourite bedtime reads Bochner formulae for orthogonal G-structures on compact manifolds.

After university, in 1993, I went back to Israel to write the Berlitz Discover Guide to Israel. This was researched from a touring mountain bike.

Today, cycle touring in parts of Israel is tougher than it once was. Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports that bookings are currently 50 percent down at LaMedavesh (Hebrew for ‘Pedal’) bicycle centre at Kibbutz Be’eri .

LaMedavesh owner Erez Manor said:

“Today most customers are experienced riders who come alone. Families and children prefer to ride elsewhere.”

The forthcoming Passover holiday would normally be peak time for Medavesh. Manor thinks business will be well down but that a few religious people would come.

“They aren’t afraid like the non-religious are.”

Israel is a fantastic country to cycle through. In Quarto Publishing’s ‘Classic Mountain Bike Routes of the World’ (2000) I did a chapter on Israel’s putative long-distance bicycle route, the Israel Bike Trail, a dream of Jon Lipman of the Carmel Mountain Bike Club. Some of it couldn’t be ridden today because of safety fears.

The 850km Israel Bike Trail – modelled on the Israel National Trail, a hiking route created by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel – runs from Metula in the north of Israel to Eilat in the south.

Last week plans were revealed for lots of local links to the Israel Bike Trail. This new network of joined-up routes is being promoted by the Ministries of Tourism, Environmental Protection, Transportation, Finance, Culture, the Nature and Parks Authority, and the Jewish National Fund.

Getting more people on bikes is a good thing, especially if it helps the political situation. And it can.

US-Israel religious charity Hazon (Hebrew for ‘Vision’) quotes 19th Century politico Theodore Herzl, founder of Zionism, who said “the light bicycle that brings new life.” Light bicycles? Yep, we can all relate to that.

Hazon is the creator of the bi-annual Israel Ride, an organised ride across Israel, mainly attended by Jews, mostly from America, but Arab Israelis and Arabs from other nations also take part.

Hazon is a supporter of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, situated on Kibbutz Ketura in Israel’s Southern Arava valley. This organisation has a logo with its name in English, Hebrew and Arabic. It champions peace, saving the planet and cycling.

David Lehrer, director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, said of the Israel Ride:

“It brings together lots of things that the Institute is all about, the environment, getting people to see Israel in a way that they can’t normally see, you see it very differently than from a car seat. It’s bringing diverse people together – from the US, Israelis, Jordanians, Palestinians – a chance to learn from each other, a chance to see that we have more in common than separates us.

“It’s the opportunity to come together on an issue that concerns all of us and that affects all of us, the environment, the earth, and this particular part of the earth – only by working together, Jews and Arabs, can we protect our shared environment. Nature knows no boundaries.”

Hazon founder Nigel Savage said:

“This is what happens when the People of the Book become the People of the Bike.”

(People of the Book is an Islamic phrase to describe the Abraham-linked religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam).

Talking after the Israel Ride of 2005, Danny Ronen of Oakland, California, said:

“Me and Muatassim, a Palestinian, ended up staying in the same room together and spending time getting to know each other, and realizing that we are incredibly similar. Me being Jewish and him being Muslim is a non-issue. But you can’t build relationships without personal connections.”

It’s good to see that cycling isn’t just a sport, a form of transport, a means of keeping fit, it can also bring people together. Amen to that.

Map sourced from Walla, the Israeli equivalent of Google Maps.