(Nearly) my first taste of Cyclo Cross

Early next year the fantastic British magazine Cycling Plus will run a piece of mine on my first attempts at cyclo cross. I nearly started today. There was a tasty little CX race in Killingworth, close to my home.

Sadly, my wife wanted me back at home quickly so she could nip off to attend a Christmas festival. I therefore had to live the racing through my children, and take pix for the mag piece. For Josh it was his second CX race. For Hanna it was her first ever race. They’re members of the Newcastle Phoenix Go Ride youth cycling club.

Pix here and here’s a slide show video of them in action…

Maybe I’ll start racing next week? I have the Jake the Snake. I have the carbon-soled Shimano MTB shoes and the mud-clearing cleats. I can’t wait to get lapped…

Craiglist bike sellers: fool Bike Snob with paint trick

Bike Snob NYC is famous for his critiques of fixies sold via web classifieds. He has a point, there are some truly awful paintjobs out there and some weird combinations of equipment.

But if trickle down technology could speed up a bit, Craigslist bike sellers could protect themselves from BSNYC’s barbs. Tech and auto blogs are currently going mad over a colour changing paint. Car owners will soon be able to switch paintjobs at the push of a button:

“[A] special polymer containing paramagnetic iron oxide particles [is applied] to the whip’s exterior; an applied electric current then adjusts the spacing of small crystals within the iron oxide particles, and therefore affects their ability to reflect light and change color. Essentially, vehicles could rock a default color when turned off, and then your imagination could go wild once you turned over the ignition.”

So, fixie owners who wanted to use future-tech to their advantage could choose a boring default frame colour for web listings but one that could switch to trademark garish awfulness once Bike Snob has passed on by. Just a thought.

Wear polite clothing to get noticed while cycling

Years and years ago I remember 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’ve produced a range for Quickrelease.tv.

If anybody knows who did the original jacket, I’d love to hear from you. Use the comments section, below. Commenter Rob points out there’s a hi-vis ‘polite’ vest from Justin Beattie, founder of the Give Cyclists Room campaign.

I’d also love to get Dr Ian Walker in one of these jackets. Dr Walker, a pro-bike blogger and British competitor in the World Wife Carrying Championships, is the academic from the University of Bath who, last year, used sensors and a video camera to measure how close cars passed him when cycling.

White vans – the fastest growing transport mode in the UK, according to Transport Statistics Great Britain 2007, gave an average passing distance of 1.26 metres. Cars allowed Dr Walker an extra 10 centimetres.

“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 wig to see if drivers give women cyclists extra room when passing. Apparently, they do.

A long-sleeved tee (One Less Car/POLITE) will be winging towards Dr Walker soon. He told Quickrelease.tv:

“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?”

Bike patrol officers have told me they are given a wide berth by motorists when using police bikes, wearing police kit, but as soon as they change back into civvy street clothes they go back to being targets again.

DISCLAIMER: The POLITE clobber is NOT police uniform. It is not meant to deceive. I’m not encouraging anyone to impersonate a police officer. See this comment regarding wearing clothing resembling a police uniform. As always, it’s a grey area. For instance, this Scottish stripogram ‘policeman’ was charged with impersonating a police officer but not for the clothing, for the truncheon ie having a weapon in the street.

I’ve created a print shop stocked with number of POLITE garments – including a black jacket and a long sleeved t-shirt (with One Less Car on the front). And borrowing the Howies idea of rucksacks emblazoned with a passing arrow, I’ve also added white-on-black arrows on two of the jackets. There’s a UK version and a rest-of-the-world version. The Trigema jacket retails for £57.29, or £53.90 for the POLITE jacket without an arrow. The One Less Car/POLITE longsleeve tee retails for £22.90. The One Less Car/POLITE long-sleeved tee is $30.90 in the US store.

Oh, and for November only, there are no shipping fees on all orders above 20€. Use voucher code XMAS07. If you chose GBP as currency, for all orders above £15, use voucher code XMAS2K7. For the US store, there’s free shipping until November 26th. Offer is valid for all orders above $25, please use coupon code HOLIDAY07 upon checkout. For all orders purchased from Canada, please use coupon code CADHOLIDAY07 upon checkout.

Just 9.3mph: that’s the average car speed in London

According to Transport Statistics Great Britain 2007 the average speed of a car in central London in the morning rush hour is just 9.3 miles per hour. This is only twice the speed of walking.

According to research published by Citroen last year, cyclists average 13-15 miles per hour.

And according to motorists’ GPS data collected by keepmoving.co.uk, Britain’s cities have some of the slowest car speeds in Europe.

Traffic speed in 30 cities across Europe was surveyed during a four month period from June to September 2007. Keepmoving.co.uk identified London as Europe’s slowest city and ranks six British cities in the top 10 slowest cities in Europe.

Alex Petrie, product director at Keepmoving.co.uk, said:

“To complete the study, large quantities of GPS data were collected directly from thousands of vehicles travelling throughout Europe. Examining this data has allowed us to calculate average speeds from the perspective of the road user, which provides a far more realistic benchmark over a far wider area, than by measuring road speeds at pre-specified locations.”

Keepmoving.co.uk is a company that makes its money from advising motorists of gridlock hotspots but, revealingly, a company statement plugged bicycle use:

“In London, it is quicker to hop on a bike, as cyclists at rush hour recorded an average speed of 14 mph and even a horse and cart travels at 7 mph.”

Pic from Manchester’s Loveyourbike.org. Click here for bigger version.

Thief uses getaway bike to steal 2-ton* aircon unit

It’s good to see bicycles used for everyday transport.

But David Earl Newsome of Greenville, Texas, may want to upgrade to a beefier bike the next time he takes a fancy to some heavy electrical equipment.

Greenville’s Herald Banner reports that Newsome has entered guilty pleas in District Court following his attempted felony on May 2nd.

Newsome was alleged to have stolen a two-ton air conditioner condenser unit from the Greenville Community Health Service Agency on May 2. An individual with the organization spotted Newsome and another man riding away from the building on Wesley Street on bicycles while carrying the air conditioner. The two men dropped the air conditioner and fled after being confronted by a Greenville Police Department officer.

Reports that Newsome has been eyeing up a Yuba Mondo Utility bike have yet to be confirmed.

However, for anybody else wanting to tow some serious kit, use this calculator for weighing up the pros and cons of cargo carrying.

Someone in reasonable physical condition can generally pull a 300 lb load at 10 mph (16 km/hr) on level ground if there’s no wind. A person exerting the same effort could pull a load of 600 lb. (275 kg) at a speed of about 8 mph (11-13 km/hr), and a 1000 lb load at about 6 mph.

* Note: as reader Marc points out, the two ton isn’t a weight, it’s an air conditioning measure.

Beating the Tube by bike

Continuing the discussions on isocrones and their potential benefits to bicycle advocacy, here’s an iscocrone map from the world of walking.

It’s a zone 1 Tube map of London which shows walking times between stations. It’s designed to get commuters out of the Tube a stop or two earlier than usual so they can walkercise to their final destination. The map was created in February by postgraduate students from Central St Martins College of Art and Design.

It would be a great idea to create something similar for cycling times. Mapped against walking, Tube times and car journey times it would be an argument winner. The classic Tube map is brilliant, but in no way spatially accurate, hence the need for the post-grad students to create an isocrone map. Here’s a spatially corrected Tube map.

The walk times on the Tube map look a tad ambitious on some sections, especially if you factor in rush-hour pavement crushes, Japanese tourists and errant, 4WD pushchairs. Cyclists, on the other foot, can predict their route times with a great degree of accuracy.

And cyclists are also big users of GPS devices. So, imagine a website for London which listed genuine travel times between major Tube stations, plotted via handlebar-mounted Garmin devices. A MySQL database skinned by a GPX-uploading front-end could allow users to submit times, which could then be averaged for times of day, weather conditions and so on. This would work for any city but cities with well-known public transit lines – London, Newcastle, New York, Paris – would be the best to plot against.

There are already loads of GPS-friendly Google Maps mash-up sites (but nothing quite like the idea above). The best include GPX and Google Earth export and snap-to-route capabilities. Here’s a bunch of them:

Motion Based (a Garmin-owned site)
Bikely (a Future/BikeRadar site)
Trip Tracker
BikeRoute Toaster

RouteYou.com has a nifty little YouTube video of how it works:

I use a Garmin Edge on my bike. Here’s a route I completed earlier this year.

I loaded it to MotionBased.com. It contains detailed info such as weather conditions, elevation, average speed and so on.

Mac users will love the GPS-uploading software from Ascent. This runs with the same GPX data as MotionBased.com but does it in a graphically superior way. The animation feature is especially cute, although you have to add your own eye-in-the-sky traffic chopper SFX: