Much better heron v ravenous beastie graphic

When I did this story on an Indian cyclist beating off a ravenous tiger with his trusty bicycle I used a Googled pic from a 1930s ad campaign by Raleigh Africa. This featured a smiling African guy outpacing a lion.

I love these old bike ads. They’re so evocative of why cycling is so great. Well, perhaps besting a chasing predator is not exactly why most people get into cycling but many of the 19th and early 20th Century bicycle ad posters were classics.

In fact, many are genuine ‘works of art’ as they were produced by masters such as the much parodied midget artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. If there’s a demand for such imagery (get commenting below!) I’ll do some scans of the great cycling posters.

In the meantime here’s a poster from Raleigh India which, had I realised I had it last week, would have been a better illustration on the ‘man fights off tiger’ story:

I’ve got tons of archive stuff from the early days of cycling. I’m not a collector as such, it’s just that I’ve been the editor of UK bike trade mags for nigh on twenty years and I’ve acquired bike history bits and bobs along the way. The tiger pic is from a Raleigh Centenary calendar produced in 1987. I’ve also got bound copies of bike trade mags going way back when and daft stuff like Sturmey Archer tankards.

When the famous British company went pop in 2000 I was in at the death throes, reporting on the American business guru who sold the company down the river. These stories – 37 of them! – were carried on a primitive version of, often almost in real-time. I vividly remember attending a stormy creditors meeting and then reporting on it seconds afterwards by dictating to a colleague over the phone.

At the time, this sorry saga looked like a typical British industry disaster. As it turned out, Sturmey was bought by Sun-Race of Taiwan and now the product line-up is immensely strong and – shock, horror – the quality control has never been better.

Outpacing a predator on a hub-geared bike would now be so much easier thanks to superior Taiwanese engineering tolerances.

Masiguy moonlights in fetish cycling gear

He claims he’s just been to Taiwan and Japan but can reveal that Tim ‘Masiguy‘ Jackson has, in fact, been Rasmussing around in the Netherlands with Bio-racer, a custom latex clothing specialist.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, and here’s the pudding:

Full-size pic here.

The photoshoot for a rubberised clothing ad includes the first known photograph of Jackson not on a Masi bike, although, if you look closely, Jackson can be seen mouthing the words ‘Masi…must ride Masi’ through gritted teeth.

The god-like figure on the chariot is, of course, David Bernstein of The Fredcast. Why’s he so mad? One of Jackson’s fellow riders has ridden off with Bernstein’s latest item in for review, a Garmin 705 GPS unit.

Both Bernstein and Jackson are members of The Spokesmen podcast and it’s believed they were enticed to the Netherlands with the offer of “ja, boys, you can take home as much kinky cycling clothing as you like.”

The deal was nearly scuppered when Jackson refused to wear the Bio-racer branded socks supplied by the Dutch clothing company. However, Bernstein saved the day when he said he’d wear two pairs for the shoot, leaving Jackson free to wear a pair of SockGuy ‘I’m a bike fetishist’ socks underneath the slinky black booties seen in the photo, biggerised here.

Jackson, 65, has 12,318 pairs of SockGuy socks.

World peace thanks to bicycle kit

Oddly comforting, isn’t it? World peace was guaranteed by a hex wrench and a bike lock key. Until recently, these were the tools needed by the custodians of the British nuclear bomb deterrent, reports BBC’s Newsnight.

Until the early days of the Blair government the RAF’s nuclear bombs were armed by turning a bicycle lock key.

There was no other security on the Bomb itself.

While American and Russian weapons were protected by tamper-proof combination locks which could only be released if the correct code was transmitted, Britain relied on a simpler technology.

To arm the weapons you just open a panel held by two captive screws – like a battery cover on a radio – using a thumbnail or a coin.

Inside are the arming switch and a series of dials which you can turn with an Allen key to select high yield or low yield, air burst or groundburst and other parameters.

The Bomb is actually armed by inserting a bicycle lock key into the arming switch and turning it through 90 degrees. There is no code which needs to be entered or dual key system to prevent a rogue individual from arming the Bomb.

Want to play guitar music while the key turns? Learn chords and stuff here. Need to learn how to bivvy? Great book here.

Pavement riding is for non-cyclists, yes?

The Cornwall pavement (sidewalk) cyclist who killed a man has not been jailed. He has learning difficulties and the judge thought there was little benefit to society of a jail sentence in this case. has the story. The Daily Mail headline is: “Killer biker admits ‘furious cycling’ after causing death of father of four.”

There was a lot of media coverage about this case when it got to court and now the sentence has been passed there will be more mainstream coverage. As the CTC points out in its weekly ‘Newsnet’ email, there have been just two pedestrian deaths caused by cyclists since 1999. Naturally, this is two too many. However, 90 UK pedestrians are killed by motorists each year. Not on the roads but cars driving on to pavements. These deaths get local media coverage but rarely national. Society as a whole turns a blind eye to deaths caused by cars, as has been the case since the age of mass motoring.

The Daily Mail piece ends with a quote from the killed pedestrians partner:

“Mothers tell their children that the pavement is safe – but the truth is, it isn’t.”

Sadly, far too many cyclists ride on pavements. Some go too fast. The great majority would not consider themselves cyclists, they just ride a bike (er, on the pavement). Some pavement riding cyclists are a real menace but not as deadly as pavement drivers, not something the mass media points out.

I think it’s relevant here to repeat the short story from ex-Python Terry Jones I carried last month. This is from ‘Fairy tales and Fantastic Stories’, well worth shelling out for. I’m guilty of breaching copyright if I repeat the full text of Terry Jones’ story so I’ve extracted long excepts instead. You’ll still get the gist of the polemic.


There was once a devil in Hell named Carnifex, who liked to eat small children. Sometimes he would take them alive and crush all the bones in their bodies. Sometimes he would pull their heads off, and sometimes he would hit them so hard that their backs snapped like dry twigs…But one day, Carnifex got out of his bed in Hell to find there was not a single child left. ‘What I need is a regular supply,’ he said to himself. So he went to a country that he knew was ruled by an exceedingly vain king. He found him in his bathroom…and said to him: ‘How would you like to fly?’ ‘Very much indeed,’ said the king, ‘but what do you want in return, Carnifex?’ ‘Oh . . . nothing very much,’ replied Carnifex, ‘and I will enable you to fly as high as you want, as fast as you want, simply by Continue reading “Pavement riding is for non-cyclists, yes?”

Podcast interview: Belt drives on bikes

Over on I’ve done a number of news stories on carbon synchronous belt drives for bicycles.

At Eurobike Orange showed prototypes of its belt-driven MTBs and city bikes. At Interbike, Spot, via Carbon Drive Systems, created waves at the demo days with a fleet of belt-drive singlespeeds.

Before Interbike I spent some time at the UK HQ of the Gates Corporation, exclusive manufacturer of the PolyChain carbon synchronous belt drive. This is in Dumfries, Scotland.

After signing non-disclosure forms and taking a tour of the factory’s pristine PolyChain manufacturing unit, I interviewed David Arthur, a senior engineer at Gates, and Michael Bonney of Orange. Some of their words made it into a double page spread magazine article on belt drives. I also produced this video:

However, at the time I didn’t do anything with the audio interviews. I’m putting that right here and now. Subscribe to get the podcast here from iTunes or get it as an MP3 download here. Bonney and Arthur spend eighteen minutes discussing the benefits of belt drives on bikes.

For the most part, belt drives will be most useful for city bikes but Bonney also discusses how DH MTBers are already finding belt drives make them go faster. And Arthur makes a plea to British Cycling: evaluate these 99.4 percent power efficient belt drives for use on track bikes.

Perhaps with belt drives this chain-snap wouldn’t have occurred?: – Watch more free videos

Mind you, the chain snap – which occurred in training on the Manchester track – didn’t seem to hold the rider back. The riders, including Jody ‘Snapper’ Cundy, went on to win the world title in the Team Sprint.

Video spotted

Virgin names 11 best global bicycle cities

No surprises, really. Amsterdam is listed as numero uno. Portland, Oregon, freewheels in at number two.

The best bit is that Virgin Vacations has bothered to compile the list in the first place. The Virgin announcement of the top eleven has links, YouTube videos and informed commentary.

The Virgin story was spotted by Pascal van den Noort of VeloMondial, the global bike conference.

Pascal is a well-placed bicycle advocate, and not just because he lives in Amsterdam. He reports that Rome is soon to do a Paris, with a free/low fee bike rental scheme. 20,000 Velib-style bikes could be in place in Rome by mid-2008.

Phoenix to ride/rise again

Newcastle Phoenix is a British Cycling ‘Go Ride’ club, a club for 6-18 year olds. I’m one of the coaches at this club. On November 24th we’re moving from Newcastle’s Town Moor to Blakelaw Park. We’ll have a lock-up bike storage facility, a safe place to leave all the Kona cyclo cross bikes we’ll be riding.

To publicise the move I’ve created this mash-up slide show movie. I say create, I should really say uploaded to animoto and then let those guys do all the MTV-style graphics.

Click on the arrow to play the movie. For photo nerds like me, Animoto is manna from heaven. It’s simple to upload pix and then have the site create a really cool video, along with a sound track you can load yourself or choose from Animoto’s ‘music lounge’. I never thought I’d ever say this, but Animoto makes mincemeat out of Apple’s slideshow and movie apps. In fact, Animoto is more Apple than Apple.

Pix by me and Dr. Brian Smith.

And here’s one I did earlier. It’s a dad-and-his-boy bike tour in Luxembourg. Check out the donkey eating the SDG saddle on the Dahon Hammerhead.

Man fights off tiger with his bicycle

Think you have a tough commute? Spare a thought for 35-year old Balaji Vithoba Kohde of Mangrud, India. On Monday evening, on his pedal home from work, he was attacked by a tigress.

The Times of India called Kohde a “21st century Tarzan.”

Rahul Sorte, a forest ranger, said: “Kohde was caught unawares when the tigress suddenly appeared on the scene. He managed to protect himself with his bicycle.”

Using a heavy steel Indian bicycle as a defence against a fast predator is a good plan. Outrunning a ravenous beast is not the best of ideas, although Raleigh’s African marketing division had different ideas in the 1930s…

“The end of Top Gear as we know it?”

The BBC’s petrolhead programme plugged pedal-power last night. The show staged a ‘commuter challenge’ through the gridlocked streets of London. No shock, really, but the bicycle – a Specialized – won.

In an attempt to find the quickest means to negotiate the virtually gridlocked streets of the capital, we organised a race. Starting in West London, with London City Airport the target destination, our presenters introduced their weapons of choice:

James made the case for the car. Unfortunately, the car in question was the massive new Mercedes GL500, which, at 17ft long and 6.5ft wide, is surely the king of the Chelsea tractors. Next to arrive was a Lycra-clad Hammond, who would be travelling by bicycle – a state-of-the-art, £1,700 bicycle, admittedly, but a bicycle none the less.

Next, we wheeled in the Stig, armed him with an Oyster card and told him to use public transport. Finally, Jeremy arrived and announced he would be using the river – and a 225bhp racing speedboat.

In a shock result that could spell the end of Top Gear as we know it, the bicycle came first, then the speedboat, then the Oyster card, and finally the car. Ahem.

This isn’t the first time Top Gear has shown that bikes are faster than cars. Here’s a downhill challenge between James May and MTBer Gee Atherton: