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Mar 11, 2010

Cycling to Thong via Wetwang and Twatt



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butthole lane Google Streetview

Today sees the roll-out of Google Streetview to rural locations in the UK. Previously it was just an urban thing (here’s me on a bike from March last year). Now countryfolk can get all hot and bothered about being given the Streetview treatment. [NOTE: this posting originally contained lots of StreetView embeds. They have now been removed to speed up loading of the site].

Naturally, being able to use Streetview for pre-trip cycle-tour route-planning is going to be a huge boon, but for first day titillation how about taking a virtual tour of Titlington? This is a village near Alnwick in Northumberland. Titlington Training, sadly, is a horse-riding school.

The UK is stuffed with rude town names. And, with 238,000 miles of public road now available in Streetview, it’s easier than ever before to see if there really is a place called Upper Dicker. There is, and here’s a cyclist riding into town from, er, Lower Dicker.

There’s another cyclist coming down Butthole Lane, in Shepshed, near Loughborough.

The Butt in question has more to do with a borehole than a bottom but still local residents wanted to change the name to Buttonhole Road. Arseholes.

If you have a thing about undies, you’ll love this town in Gravesham, Kent: Thong.

Given the likelihood of signpost double-takes from non-locals, it’s good to know that Wetwang, near Driffield in Yorkshire, welcomes careful drivers.

Penistone is only rude if your mind works that way. Spell it out. Pen. P. E. N. Pause. Iz. I. S. Pause. Stone. S. T. O. N. E.

The Dog and Duck pub in Plucks Gutter, near Margate is not rhyming slang. And check out this Y-shaped cyclepath in Pratts Bottom, near Orpington in Kent (hat-tip to Jeremy Jacobs).

Heading to the Highlands and Islands this summer? Take a sneak peek at Twatt, a hamlet near Stromness in Orkney. Apparently, it’s a twitcher’s delight: the RSPB reserve of Loons is just 3/4 of a mile down the road.

Twatt Google Streetview

If you’re planning a bike tour of Devon, you might not want to have a cream tea in Crapstone.

Sticking to the scatalogical theme, Shitterton is a lovely little thatched-cottage village near Bere Regis in Dorset. Unlike other ’shit’ names in the UK, this place really is named after ordure. According to a crap website which specialises in this topic, Shitterton is named for the river Shiter, a “…brook used as a privy.”

Not on Google Streetview, but plain to see on the 25,000 OS map of the town is a sweetly-named bridleway half a mile from Shitterton: Butt Lane Hollow.

Lumbutts in Lancs, is just half a mile from Mankinholes. “If you’re in Mankinholes, you’ve gone too far,” chuckles town-name contributor Shaun Murray.

In Attleborough, Norfolk, there’s a Sluts Hole Lane so named for the Dutch word for sluice, not a nefarious Medieval resident. But, if it’s lady-of-the-night references you’re after, many Grape Lanes in the UK were once something far, far cruder. You have been warned…)

OK, it’s not rude but it’s funny. I came across this village sign on a ride the other day. Snods Edge no doubt has a perfectly acceptable Norse origin.

Snods edge, Northumberland

There are loads of other funny and rude placenames out there. Get digging and send ‘em in via the comments, below.



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Jul 22, 2009

Ice-cream to perk up your ride



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Viagra icecream

Ice-cream sellers the world over are known to be great marketeers - and often great rivals, sometimes even deadly – so it was no surprise to find that cooled dairy product vendors in Umag, Istria, used every trick up their rolled-up sleeves to entice passers-by to choose their chilled wares over those of their neigbours.

Redbull icecream

The frozen confectioners are sited close to each other near to the Sol Garden Istra hotel in Katoro, near Umag. Both had a Red Bull geleto, but only one had a Viagra concoction. No, I didn’t go for a Big V, I plumped for a Red Bull. Very tasty it was, too. Perfect for a post-ride pick-me-up. [I don't suppose the Red Bull is made from real Red Bull and it's impossible that the Viagra geleto has any bedroom benefits whatsoever].

We’re back in Blighty now: a lot colder than we were in Istria. Here are the last two pix from our bike’n'beach hols in Croatia: feet reflections on our balcony and the kids having fun in the pool.

Balcony feet

Reidlets in pool



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Jan 09, 2009

Monkeying around on bikes



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Tea brand PG Tips no longer uses real chimps in its UK TV advertising, preferring an actor and a glove puppet. Back in the 1970s, use of chimps was fairgame (see ‘disclaimer’ below) and one of the most famous ads was this one of the monkey Tour de France.



It features a cycling chimp crashing behind a car and then saying to a tea-pouring mademoiselle, ‘Can you ride tandem?’

Thanks to the non-pc wonders of Japanese TV and YouTube, there’s a whole load of apes-on-bikes videos. Most feature orangutans showboating with training wheels. Pah! Are there no videos of primates going ape on drop-bar road bikes?

Sure there are. Check out the bikes in this clip, the monkey bikes even have racks. These monkeys could commute to work. My next project? The Bike to Circus Book.



There are some more speedy simians in this video. It’s a race between a bloke on a unicycle and some flat-bar monkeys.



DISCLAIMER
Use of primates in TV advertising or for the amusement of a TV programme’s audience is wrong. Primate experts say it’s cruel to the animals concerned. Experts also say such imagery harms the cause of primates in the wild.



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Sep 18, 2008

Build your own energy bar



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It’s all about bites rather than bytes yet Techcrunch still mentioned this yummy-sounding start-up, Element Bars.

Create your own pack of edible performance enhancers by entering your personal permutation of optioned ingredients and, hey presto, 7-10 days later you get a box of bars.

If your tastes are out-of-the-ordinary - and potentially yukky- the bar-building wizard will give you a nudge.



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Sep 15, 2008

Scans reveal cabbies have brains



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taxidriversbrain

In a shock medical finding, researchers from the University College London have revealed that Hackney Carriage operators appear to have rudimentary brains.

Prior to this research it was believed cabbies operated their vehicles with zero cerebral input. Evidence for this was the habitual disregard for other road users, and the ability to spout right wing claptrap while braking suddenly to execute u-turns.

The BBC reports that the Memory & Space Group at London’s Welcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging scanned the craniums of London taxi drivers and, for the first time, found a tiny number of working brain cells.

The research - “Neural Substrates in Driving Behaviour” - has been published in the journal NeuroImage. Researchers noted how different tasks (route planning, dealing with unexpected hazards, running down cyclists) were associated with activity across different parts of the brain.

London cab driver Terry Savage said: “I ‘ad that Eleanor Maguire in the back of my cab once.”



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Sep 02, 2008

Soapy spy shot from Eurobike



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Charge Bikes had an utterly brilliant loveit/hateit stand at last year’s Cycle Show. It was a faux kitchen, the kind you’d see in a squat or a drug den or basically any student’s flat. Last year’s story here.

Nick Larsen of Charge Bikes is currently working on his booth in Friedrichshafen and has sent this shot of the micro-brand’s Eurobike effort, a launderette. Genius.

ChargeStand

Still to install is a lamp-post and a bike rack, to which the Charge bikes will be attached.



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Aug 21, 2008

Exclusive: sneak peak of British Cycling’s new bike



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The new edition of ‘Heroes, Villains and Velodromes: Chris Hoy and Britain’s Track Cycling Revolution’ by Richard Moore, with a new chapter on Team GB’s ultra-successful Olympics, has revisions on Chris Boardman’s ’secret squirrel club’ equipment store.

VelodromesBook

However, Moore’s book doesn’t contain the very latest equipment Team GB will be using at all future track meets.

Here’s the first spy shot of the new men’s bike, made in Britain by Pashley. The actual bike won’t be yellow, it will be painted black. Where other nations ride carbon fibre bikes, Team GB is now opting for steel and is eschewing aero equipment.

Performance director Dave Brailsford told Quickrelease.tv:

“Riders like Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton are now so much faster than riders from America and Australia we thought we’d sportingly level the playing field a bit. All Team GB athletes will be on this style of custom-built bike from the World Cup events onwards. It’s only fair.”

butchersbike

The women’s bike - also by Pashley - will feature a freezer compartment. John Conod of Pashley said:

“The plan was for Victoria Pendleton to dispense cold drinks and lollies to the Aussies as she lapped them.”

No33  derby fridge



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Aug 15, 2008

Anti-dope orgs to test for fresh air use?


Remember the fuss made over the arrival in Beijing of the US cycling team? They wore face masks in the airport arrivals hall, causing an unholy stink. The athletes have since apologised to their Chinese hosts but a press release reveals that USA Cycling is fixated on air.

“IQAir announced today that they were chosen by USA Cycling to provide all team members with ultra-high efficiency air cleaners. IQAir has been named USA Cycling’s official air purifier supplier to support their competition efforts in Beijing, China.”

“We’ve worked with USA Cycling to create the ultimate performance environment for their athletes,” says IQAir President, Frank Hammes. “These systems represent the most advanced air cleaning technology in the world. They operate at as much as 100 times the efficiency of the products people commonly see sold in department stores as air purifiers.”

Each member of USA cycling has been issued an IQAir HealthPro Plus. The HealthPro Plus is a portable room air purifier used by hospitals around the world to absorb particles as small as the SARS virus, MRSA, and tuberculosis. IQAir also designed special facility sized air cleaning systems for the popular USA Cycling Lounge in Beijing, the cycling team’s logistics center where athletes relax and recuperate between races.

Pat McDonough, Team Leader for USA Cycling, says that the team is already benefiting from their work with IQAir.

“Airborne particles and gases can cause lung inflammation and allergic reactions. This is what causes allergies and asthma in every day life, but it also inhibits absorption of oxygen,” says McDonough.
“These races are often decided by thousandths of a second. By giving our athletes the healthiest indoor air possible, IQAir is helping them to do their very best. It’s all about creating the ultimate performance environment.”

Oops. How long before WADA cottons on and creates a test to discover those athletes breathing in ‘performance enhancing air’?



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Jun 23, 2008

Design student produces $30 cardboard bike



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cardboardbike1

Bikes are usually shipped in cardboard boxes but could they be made out of the material also? As part of Sheffield Hallam University’s Creative Sparks exhibition of student work, product design student Phil Bridge from Stockport is demonstrating just such a theory. His cardboard bike is likely to garner a lot of interest from cyclists, and would-be cyclists.

Bridge reckons his bike could be mass-produced for £15 a piece, with the Hexacomb cardboard frame recycled and the metal components re-used on the next bike on the production line.

A cardboard bike - even one made with exterior-quality Hexacomb - may not pass CEN testing standards. These new EU standards are designed to test bicycles made with standard frame-building materials.

Bridge said: “The lightweight quality of the cardboard, combined with its low cost, means it is possible to create a bargain-bike that is also less susceptible to thieves.” (Er, might they not set fire to it instead?)

Bike theft is a major 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.

cardboardbike2

Bridge was interviewed on Radio Sheffield:

Will it go soggy in the rain?
“No it’s inherently waterproof at the point of manufacture and it’s been used in outdoors. In some instances it’s been used in housing and for advertising hoardings.”

Does it go fast?

“Not particularly, no. It was never designed to be a performance bike. It was designed for everyday use, so people riding it slowly to get from place to place - not the Tour de France!”

How long would one last?It depends on how much you use it. If you use it the way most people in England use bikes, it’ll probably last forever because it’ll be sat in your shed! Seriously, it’s designed to last for about six months of constant use.”

How do you see a cardboard bike being used?
“The idea was that it would be a sponsorship from a company who would produce these and get some advertising it. And once you’ve used it, you’d return it they’d give you another one.”

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For what it’s worth I love the idea of a cardboard bike. I don’t think it would detract from sales of ‘real’ bikes. Mind you, talking about flimsy bikes, they are already exist. Wally-Mart bikes already ship with cardboard cranks, and cardboard rear stays, and paper-maché derailleurs. I know this because I have to try and fix them every week on the Go Ride cycle training course I deliver at a local primary school.

Kids turn up complaining they have difficulty braking and changing gear. This is no real wonder given the tat their parents have unwittingly bought them. Genuine cardboard bikes would likely be an improvement on the dross I try - and generally fail - to make rideable.

Even when bikes are reasonably OK, parents fail to maintain them. Last week I had a girl on my course with a defective front brake. The v-brake had failed so one of the girl’s parents decided it could be made road-worthy with a dash of Duct tape.



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Jun 20, 2008

Beware the vertically-aware dog



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Josh being chased by a dog

An engineering teacher in Texas emails his announcement that he’s designing a dog scarer for cyclists. In some parts of the world this is a big issue. When global touring, for instance, you don’t want to be bitten by a dog. It could have rabies.

The sound of a bicycle humming along certainly seems to annoy many dogs. Richard Ballantine, author of the 1970s million-copy classic Richard’s Bicycle Book, loves dogs but his sage advice on how to kill one should it attack you is still sound: in short, ram your arm down its throat.

Should you treasure your arm flesh, he advised using a bicycle pump, but this was in the days when pumps were a great deal longer than today. One would assume only the smallest breeds of dog can be effectively seen off with a micro-pump or a CO2 cartridge.

Anyway, here’s the email, touted with the subject line ‘Bicycle Collisions with Canines’:

I am a high school engineering teacher working on a summer training project concerning dogs chasing cyclists. With a fellow teacher we are attempting to come up with a device that can be mounted on bikes and provide a sound deterrent to dogs that come at riders. We are trying to execute a one year course in 8.5 days and would appreciate any inputs such as: have you attempted to use any existing products (pepper spray, whistles, etc) to ward off dogs? If so what type of success or lack of did you obtain?

We are proceeding with a design  and have come up with the following as criteria for evaluating existing solutions to the problem of keeping dogs away from
moving bicycles:

1. Maintain a ten (10) foot horizontal dog exclusion zone around bike.
2. Package size small enough not to effect safe operation of the bicycle.
3. Package size light enough not to effect safe operation of the bicycle.
4. Capable of sustaining a four (4) hour duty cycle.
5. Creates no environmental hazards.
6. Creates no permanent negative pathology for canines.
7. Creates no permanent negative pathology for bicyclist.

The thing that worries me about such a device is the lack of an overhead deterrent. A “horizontal dog exclusion zone” presumes you won’t be attacked by a crafty dog leaping from a tree.



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