Archive for March, 2008


Mar 31, 2008

Sicko caught not having sex with his bike


Unlike a certain Scottish cyclist, a man in Ohio has been busted for having sex with a picnic table.


In the US news report above, a wonderfully rotund police chief explains exactly where and how Arthur Price got it on with his garden furniture.

The incidents occurred between January and March 2008.

Price admitted that he had sex with the picnic table when police questioned him. He now faces four counts of public indecency.

Last year, a Scottish cyclist was put on the sex offenders register for lubing his bike in a way not recommended in any traditional handbooks, a ‘life imitates art’ moment earlier echoed in this video:



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Mar 31, 2008

Is this the world’s shortest cycle lane?




Whitley Bay triathlete Karl McCracken reckons this 10-metre cycle lane in Gateshead could be the world’s shortest.

Sadly, he’s probably wrong.



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Mar 31, 2008

Cycling’s medal success makes mass media sit up and take notice


Arise Sir Chris Hoy, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Dame Victoria Pendleton, Sir David Brailsford, and Dame Rebecca Romero. Your nation salutes you.



There’s nothing like success to make Britain’s mainstream media report on sport. And that’s exactly what cycling success usually gets: nothing.

This time it’s different. Team GB dominated the World Track Championships, winning half of the gold medals. Even the dimmest sports reporter can now see that a golden glow is on the cards for the Beijing Olympics.

Critically, of the ten track events that will be contested in Beijing, Britain won gold in eight of them in Manchester.

‘Queen Victoria’ was on the front page of The Sunday Times yesterday and she’s now the blue-eyed girl of British sport but the whole British team has been lauded over the last few days.

Performance director Dave Brailsford - already a legend to other sports administrators - is being talked of in revered terms by reporters, wondering over his entrepreneurial gifts.

Should cycling win a hatful of golds in the Laoshan velodrome in the summer, it’s not fanciful to imagine that Brailsford, and many of his world-beaters, will be triumphantly honoured by the nation.



Counting chickens before eggs have hatched? Maybe, but never before has Britain had a bunch of athletes so well prepared for an Olympic Games.

Every meal, every gel, every scoop of maltodextrin, every watt of required power, every hour of the next 130 days has been planned out for Team GB’s riders.

No wonder that the British media is an awe of cycling.

And with BBC2’s excellent coverage of the World Championships - Jill Douglas, Hugh Porter and Jamie Staff were superlative - the public is getting a glimpse of what we’ve always known: track cycling is super exciting.

The UCI may have bowdlerised many parts of the sport but track cycling remains the thrilling spectacle it has always been. Riding the boards was invented in the late 19th Century to showcase cycling and it was then a mainstream sport, attended by tens of thousands of spectators.

The Madison event is so called because it was developed at New York’s Madison Square Garden, now a world-class sporting arena but originally built to house a velodrome.



Over the weekend, a number of non-bikie friends who know I’m into cycling have commented on their enjoyment of watching the World Championships on telly. New people are now watching. Britain’s successes have been reported on the main BBC news programmes, attracting viewers to the BBC2 coverage.

My non-cycling friends have all reported being “surprised” at how exciting the cycling was. Yet who wouldn’t be thrilled at watching slow-mo footage of muscular hunks almost bursting out of their skinsuits?

Ditto for the men. Boom-boom.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons the media has taken to Victoria Pendleton? She’s a slip of a thing, yet can power, prettily, around the track to beat women with traditionally trunk-like trackie thighs.

She’s certainly being groomed for stardom. Every other TV cutaway shot seemed to be of Victoria smiling, Victoria clapping, Victoria warming up, Victoria warming down, Victoria with her skinsuit peeled back to reveal a colourful sports bra.

Indeed, just as star footballers often have a second-unit camera following their every move, the BBC seemed to have dedicated a camera to Victoria. Perhaps there was a hope she’d get her kit off live on TV?



Before the World Championships Victoria was getting more media interview requests than the whole of the rest of Team GB put together. Gold medal success for riders other than Victoria evened out this anomaly.

In today’s The Times, Matthew Pinsent - an Olympic gold medal winning former rower - is glowing about cycling:

“Of the 18 events on offer at the Track World Championships, Britain won half. It’s a domination that no cycling nation has achieved before and sends a warning shot to all the others before the Olympics.

“In Olympic circles, people talk of the top four sports (athletics, rowing, sailing and cycling) in revered tones, but if the competition days in the Laoshan Velodrome in Beijing are anything like last week, there should really be only one sport to which the ultimate respect is paid. Never has an Olympic sport burst on to the scene in this country with such a calculated and deserved medal haul.

“…under British Cycling’s instruction, [Rebecca Romero has] become a world champion in her second sport in less than three years.

“Romero was infamous on the rowing team for never smiling or enjoying her training, but hasn’t been able to wipe a broad grin off her face since winning on Thursday. Rowing gave her an ability to train and push herself when she didn’t want to go farther — mainly because she didn’t want to do it. Cycling has taken all that and made her enjoy her sport, and it shows.”

So, Britain’s elite cyclists aren’t just world-beaters, they’re having fun on their bikes too. That’s a great message.



Pix are of my kids at Revolution track events.



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Mar 29, 2008

Rich Oz BMXer builds replica Beijing track in back-garden


Luke Madill’s back-garden BMX track - an almost exact replica of the track he hopes to race on at BMX’s inaugural Olympic Games - first made the news late last year.

But it has now been filmed and syndicated to news stations across the world. BBC Newsround has carried the footage, ITN has pumped it out as an ‘and finally…’ piece, and the video is available from Reuters:



Madill’s Sydney back garden is pretty big as his plaything is the first Olympic-sized BMX track in Australia. The track features an 8m-high start ramp - plastered with a Red Bull logo, not something that will be allowed in Beijing - and identical humps to the ones that will feature on the Beijing course.

Australia’s Olympic squad won’t be selected until May but with Madill currently leading the world ranking points for Australia he’s a dead cert for selection…especially as he’s sharing his back garden track with fellow BMXers in the Oz team.

“I’m happy for people to come out and check it out and have a bit of a ride (but) I mean, I get to ride it every day so it’s a lot more of an advantage for me than them coming once or twice a month,” said Madill.



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Mar 29, 2008

World-beaters endorse powerful go-nowhere bike




British Cycling - the national federation in charge of the all-conquering trackies at the UCI Track World Championships in Manchester - is endorsing an indoor bike that measures power. The Wattbike is not so much for Team GB’s trackies - they will use hub power meters on real bikes - but the machine could spot undiscovered talent.

Rower Rebecca Romero has shown that it’s possible to successfully transition to cycling from another sport and there must be lots of gold medal prospects out there who don’t even know their power-to-weight ratio is ideal for cycling.


The Wattbike - which made its public debut at the World Track Cycling Championships in the Manchester Velodrome and which was plugged by the BBC’s excellent trackside reporter, Jill Douglas - will be rolled out at lots of non-cycling expos and events.

Software captures data 100 times per second, and offers real-time feedback across 25 different parameters for users and coaches.

“We have designed the Wattbike so that it can be used by everyone, for everything” said Dusan Adamovic, Wattbike’s Technical Director.

“We believe it will work for school children and senior citizens, cardiac rehabilitation patients and Olympic athletes. Our aim has been to create the first indoor bike that accurately measures performance. We knew the bike had to feel like cycling on the road, both on the flat and when climbing. This is why we have worked closely with British Cycling throughout the bike’s development. We share their vision of cycling being about fun and fitness, for people of all ages and abilities.”

Peter King, CEO of British Cycling, said:

“British Cycling prides itself as an organisation that operates on the cutting edge, and in Wattbike we have the perfect partner. Together, we have developed a piece of equipment that will support us in everything from increasing participation to underpinning our World Class Pathways and International success. The Wattbike will provide a positive benefit to every level of the sport by linking indoor and outdoor cycling and helping us continue to make a substantial contribution to the health, education, participation and performance agendas.”

David Brailsford, British Cycling Performance Director, said:

“The GB Cycling Team have played an important role in the development of the Wattbike to ensure that it is capable of supporting and making a valuable contribution to our World Class programmes. The Wattbike is already assisting the GB Cycling Team in identifying our future stars and its potential in terms of indoor competition in schools and clubs can only be positive in terms of the number of young people coming into the sport in the future.”



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Mar 28, 2008

Zero bike content; 100% giggle fit


I’ve now listened to this multiple times and it cracks me up every time.


BBC Radio 4 newsreader Charlotte Green corpsed this morning during the Today programme. She got a fit of the giggles live on air while reading an obituary for Oscar-winning screenwriter Abby Mann. Presenter James Naughtie nearly succumbed, too…

I was only half-listening to the radio at the time when an awful buzzing sound came on. This was an 1860 recording of a French song, the earliest recording of a human voice. But it was so scratchy, a fellow presenter made a joke about it in Charlotte Green’s ear and her famous composure collapsed.

This will be all over the web, from all sorts of sources. The BBC is taking it in good humour and Green has won a whole set of new fans…

…since the last time she corpsed, in 1997.

While reading the 8:00am Today programme news, Green collapsed into giggles after announcing the appointment of Jack Tuat (pronounced ‘twat’) to the Papua New Guinea government.

“It’s an open secret that I have a ribald sense of humour. I knew immediately that I was going to have trouble getting through the next story, which to compound the problem was about a sperm whale.

In the few seconds before the voice piece ended, Sue (Sue MacGregor) repeated sotto voce, almost with a sense of wonderment, ‘Jack Tuat’. I caught her eye and from that moment knew I was lost.



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Mar 28, 2008

Go dark for Earth Hour tomorrow night


On March 29th at 8pm in your time zone, turn off your lights and conserve.

It’s a campaign by Earth Hour:



Not to be confused with Dan ‘Polar bears are gay’ Power seen in this viral vid earlier in the week:



A reminder about this Earth Hour campaign has been placed on the Quickrelease.tv iCal and Google Calendar. Sync your PC or Mac to this calendar and get daily agenda emails, dates on your cellphone and other fancy stuff.


Bicycle Dates 2008 can be loaded to your calendar program. Any changes or additions are automagically updated on your machine seconds after I make the changes on my machine. Once you’ve sync’ed to Bicycle Dates 2008 you choose which of them you want to highlight with alarms and auto-emails.

You can also set up Google Calendar so it emails you an agenda each morning so you don’t have to look at your PC/Mac calendar to know what bicycle events are coming up that day.

iCal meshes beautifully with the iPhone and now Google Calendar does too. Both cal programs also mesh with standard cellphones.

Here are some other ways to get the data…

XML.

Google ics.

Plain old web view.

Mac iCal.



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Mar 28, 2008

New comments feature


OK, I stuffed up. I’ve loaded a wonderful new comment system from Disqus but managed to ‘lose’ all the existing comments in the process.

Sorry about that. This ineptitude may not be on the same scale as gumming up a whole airport on its shiny new opening day but ineptitude it is.

Disqus uses avatars and your profile, and pic, stays the same on all of the thousands of other sites which use Disqus, including The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs and Fred Wilson’s Musings of a VC in NYC. Apparently, you can also load to Disqus, twitter-style, via email and SMS. Disqus is also compliant with OpenID, using single sign-on service Clickpass.

I still have a database copy of all your hundreds of comments and I shall place this on the site soon.

Hit the comments link below to start, or join, a conversation.



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Mar 27, 2008

Bicycle belt drives: more popular in America?


That’s one conclusion to take from the new video view stats from YouTube. Yesterday, with Google’s help, the world’s biggest Flash conversion outfit released YouTube Insight. This allows account holders to track detailed viewing statistics about the videos they upload.



Other video sites such as Vimeo can give me day by day breakdowns but not geographical ones.

I’ve looked into the metrics for my YouTube videos. Some that feature very English content, don’t get viewed that often in America. Perhaps SMIDSY (sorry, mate I didn’t see you) isn’t such a well-known phrase to US cyclists and that’s the reason the video of the same name has had almost of its YouTube views in the UK, and almost none in the US?

(I loaded the same video to Vimeo also, but added a better soundtrack…it’s had more Vimeo views than YouTube ones, but I can’t tell from where).


SMIDSY from Quickrelease.tv on Vimeo.

Using YouTube Insight, I can see that Americans are really interested in watching a video about bicycle belt drives, but there are a lot less views from the UK.



According to Tracy Chan, a YouTube product manager, uploaders can see how often their videos are viewed in different geographic regions, as well as how popular they are relative to all videos in that market over a given period of time.

You can also delve deeper into the lifecycle of your videos, like how long it takes for a video to become popular, and what happens to video views as popularity peaks.



It’s great to find out where your video is getting the most views from, but there could be a downside for YouTube.

According to Scott James of Unruly Media, publisher of the Viral Video Chart, the value of a YouTube hit may now be seen to be considerably lower than many may have assumed.

He said: “We reckon a lot of marketers with YouTube hits on their hands are in for a rude shock. A million views in the US, India or China ain’t worth a lot when you’re marketing a product into UK or European markets.”



Of course, most posters to YouTube aren’t interested in the quality they’re just after the width. But for professional users, YouTube Insight could cause a shakeout among what James calls low integrity seeding outfits.

He said: “Until now, they could drive cheap views from literally anywhere and no one would be any the wiser. Now, they’re going to have to figure out how to get a European viral in front of a European audience.”

Low integrity seeding outfits? What, even video viewing is now outsourced to Mumbai?



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Mar 27, 2008

How often should you replace your bicycle helmet?


1. After a crash.
2. At least every two years.
3. When salt has frazzled the straps.
4. When your helmet stinks so much it goes riding without you.
5. Before the fashion police arrive.
6. After too many suncreen smears




All the above are good reasons to upgrade, except perhaps for number six, although there’s a Vaseline vs helmet standard from Japan that examines “brittleness, swelling, softening and other damage.”

Japanese cyclists must think themselves to be an overly sweaty bunch because Japan is the only country to have a perspiration test for helmets. JIS standards for bikes are famously super stringent and Japan’s JIS helmet standards look just as tough.



Helmet replacement was a topic on the latest Spokesmen podcast and a listener has just emailed this comment:

“Do sweat and sunscreen really make helmets degrade? Granted, they’re only good for one fall, but they’re made of Styrofoam, a plastic that is very stable and long lived. Think of it this way, we’re telling businesses that we don’t want Styrofoam plates and cups going into the waste stream because they don’t degrade in landfills. Yet we’re supposed to believe that they degrade while sitting atop our heads?

“The admonition to replace your helmet every 2 years (as one of the catalogs recommends) strikes me as a marketing issue rather than a safety one. But even with that said, I still end up replacing my helmet every couple of years because the pesky straps and buckles wear out. If they didn’t, I’d probably still be wearing a Bell Biker from the late 1970s. Talk about stylin’!”

For what it’s worth, here’s my take on this issue.

Any third-party unguent has the potential to degrade expanded polystyrene. Lacquers and paints, for instance. Sweat and suncream probably won’t kill the protective qualities of a helmet but they’ll make it smell.

I stand by my comments made on the podcast that helmets should be switched regularly, because to do otherwise risks a fashion faux pas. It also pays to make sure you’re wearing the right kind of helmet. In some American states there are helmet compulsion laws which mandate that roadies cannot wear helmets designed for MTBers, and vice versa. (Only kidding).



It’s also worth noting that the hard-shell helmets of old are a lot more protective than today’s fancy, aerated ones.

But, deft marketing - Helmet-X is lighter, has more vents, is used by pro of the moment - has convinced people that helmets have progressed. This is true aesthetically, and from a comfort point of view. A mean-looking modern helmet looks superior to a Skid Lid and is nicer for your hot noggin.

But, if you truly craved top-notch cranial protection, you’d be better off with a 1980s helmet.

Surprisingly few of today’s helmets meet the tough Snell standards. CPSC-certification and CEN standards may look pukka but they are inferior to Snell. There’s a bunch of Chinese bucket helmets on the ‘certified by Snell’ list and a few from Limar. Specialized helmets are also on the dated-looking Snell website - alone among the well-known branded helmets - but check in the liner for the exact standard now used for each Specialized helmet.

The best thing about the more upmarket, up-to-date helmets – apart from their superior styling, lighter weight, and bucket-loads of vents - is the retention. Prior to the Roc Loc stabilisation head-clasper - now on its fourth generation - helmet fit was hit-and-miss. Retention devices are now commonplace and, anecdotally, appear to offer greater safety than older helmets, although studies show that some aero helmets, upon impact, defeat even the best retention devices.



The American pro-helmet organisation the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute believes the current obsession for vents and sexy helmet shapes, including ‘vent tails’ - is a Bad Thing:

“Unfortunately opening up new vents usually requires harder, more dense foam and squaring off the edges of the remaining foam ribs to squeeze out the most impact protection possible from the narrower pieces still there. Since we believe that rounder shells and less dense foam are virtues in a crash, we don’t recommend hyper-vented helmets unless you can’t live without the added ventilation…

“…better construction techniques don’t often mean better impact protection, just thinner helmets and more vents. In short, more money will buy you more vents, but not necessarily more safety…

“We believe that the ideal surface for striking a road resembles a bowling ball: hard, smooth and round. Round shells reduce to a minimum any tendency for a helmet to ’stick’ to the surface when you hit, with the possibility of increasing impact intensity, contributing to rotational brain injury or jerking the rider’s neck.”

Randy Swart, director of the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, believes even the toughest of today’s helmet standards are weak:

“There have been so few advances in helmet technology over the last decade, and there is so little incentive for manufacturers to plow money into research and development, that we would not anticipate helmets that could meet an ideal standard in our lifetime, and probably not in yours either.

“There have also been no major advances in lab testing equipment and protocols over the last decade. Old arguments about test rig designs have never been settled. No private or public lab is investing in research on major new systems for improving our testing. No new advances in designing better tests are on the horizon.

“Development of an international bicycle helmet standard is stalled. Europe has a different test rig that it considers superior and the US regards as unnecessarily complex. The US uses two different drop rigs that produce slightly different results and studiously ignores the problem because each rig has its champions who regard the other as inferior, and because nobody wants to invest in new rigs. The US uses 2 metre drop heights, while Europe uses 1.5 metres, resulting in helmets that are thinner and often will not pass US tests.

“In the absence of better standards, manufacturers are stalled in improving their helmets by two constraints: marketing and legal liability. They are convinced that they can’t sell a helmet that is thicker and therefore bulky looking. And their lawyers will not let them advertise that a helmet is ’safer’ or ‘more protective’ or even ‘designed to prevent concussion’ for fear that they will lose lawsuits when a rider is injured in that helmet.”

Helmets.org

Safer lids are also constrained by our litigious society, says the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute:

“If a manufacturer wants to offer a helmet with superior protection, it must build that same protection into every model in its line or face lawsuits charging that they failed to provide the use the most protective technology possible. And if a manufacturer has a new helmet that is much more protective, their corporate attorneys will not permit it to be advertised as superior in preventing injury because they would anticipate losing every lawsuit involving injuries received in that model. So helmet advertising is an exercise in creativity as marketers try to tout their products while never saying anything about their performance.”



I don’t wear a 1980s helmet. I prefer to sacrifice some safety for comfort and style. At the end of the day I’m a sucker for the deft marketing. I wear a Met Stradivarius, the “world’s first bicycle helmet below 200 grams!”

Pix are of me and my three kids wearing our super-trendy Met helmets. The CX pic of me was taken by Brian Smith.



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