Vietnamese teens go wild over home-grown scraper-bikes

According to the AFP news agency, Hanoi in Vietnam has spawned a home-grown scraper-bike sensation:

An exotic and colourful new urban species has invaded Vietnam’s crowded city streets, turning heads, slowing traffic and making a lot of noise — the feather-boa bicycle bandit.

Teens have beautified small two-wheelers with glitter and plastic flowers, giant silk butterflies and teddy bears, Christmas tinsel and paper parasols and, yes, feather boas, in an anything-goes creative arms race.

Youngsters have rigged blinking lights, MP3 players and batteries to the frames to blast techno and hip-hop down previously tranquil tree-lined streets, earning them both amused smiles and reproachful looks from their elders.

Californian artist Bradford Edwards, resident in Hanoi, said:

“It reminds me of rococo decorative architecture — but mobile and with a rockin’ sound system.

“I’ve seen lots of kitsch in Vietnam, but what I like about this is that it’s young, home-grown and wholesome. It’s third-generation kitsch, handed down from grandpa to dad to the kids, who’ve taken it and blended it with Western street culture, but with this heavy-glitter Vietnamese thing.”

Pix and longer story here.

Will you be 100,000th viewer of this TdF vid?

Last year I put out the video above. It’s had 99,419 views on YouTube. It will soon be my first vid to break through 100,000 views.

Billed as the ‘Best Tour de France footage ever filmed?’ it’s a collection of rushes from the IMAX movie with the production name of ‘Brainpower’ but which morphed into ‘Wired to Win’ when it was released to IMAX cinemas.

The YouTube footage is just a couple of minutes of fuzzy stuff, there’s nine minutes of higher quality material on the podcast site, on iTunes here.

The rushes footage isn’t from a trailer, it contains movie editing timecodes.

It also contains rider footage that never made the movie. Guess who was cut?

National Work from Home Day…the downside: no cycling commute


Tomorrow is National Work from Home Day in the UK. It’s an initiative of Work Wise UK, partners of which include the TUC, CBI, British Chambers of Commerce, BT and Transport for London.

According to Workwise UK, an estimated five million workers across the UK will not go into work. Hopefully, those who eschew their bike commute will go for a pleasure ride instead.

I work from home every day. My commute is from the bedroom to the home office, a distance so short even I don’t try to cycle it.

I miss the cut and thrust of daily cycle commuting. When I was a student (younger, stupider, poorer) I purposely lived 10+ miles from uni so I could train into town. When in a hurry I would wait for a bus. Not to hop on, but to draft. A bus service from Whitley Bay shoots into town via the motorway-style Coast Road at 60mph, not stopping until it reaches Jesmond, a distance of about seven miles. I’m older and wiser now, I no longer draft buses.

I prefer caravans. I drafted one near the A66 on this weekend’s Fred Whitton Challenge and I couldn’t resist taking a pull until it peeled off. I didn’t get that long a ride but it was enough to get me up to a speedy bunch. Following the fast lads is potentially as dangerous as drafting a caravan, partly because you could smash into a faller or – my biggest fear – cause the fall yourself, but mainly because you bust a gut to keep in the group. With a finishing time of 7 hours 16 minutes, I shaved 40 minutes off last years’ time so taking a pull clearly has its advantages. Mind you, as the Fred is 111 miles through the Lake District, with 14,000ft of ascending, there’s not that much opportunity for drafting.

But I digress. Back to National Work from Home Day. Work Wise UK shows what life could be like every day, if more people would only ditch their cars.

Phil Flaxton, chief executive of Work Wise UK said: “With fewer commuters, the roads are clearer and public transport less crowded than usual. Stress levels have fallen, pollution levels are down and CO2 emissions reduced. People are happier, have a better work-life balance and ultimately will be healthier.”

The RAC Foundation, a supporting partner of Work Wise UK, calculates that 25 million people in the UK commute to and from a fixed place of work, of which 18 million people go by car. The Eddington Report predicted that if recent trends continue, by 2025, congestion will waste around £22 billion worth of time in England alone.

You can buy a lot of bikes with £22 billion, some of them with carbon disc wheels…

Great use of Google Earth by Brit bike shop


Evans Cycles, the biggest independent bike chain in the UK, is spending bucket loads of cash on a series of rides centred on their shops.

I’ll be on this weekend’s road ride starting in Gateshead. I love the way the Evans website includes a KMZ file so you can click to zoom around the route in Google Earth.

What I wasn’t expecting – and thought was really well executed – was the Evans and Ride It branding on the Google Earth maps. There’s also branding for the ride sponsors. Top marks!

Call me Mr Grundy

Alwinton 2 - Version 2

Yesterday I stepped into ‘dead men’s shoes’ as I was inducted into the Pickwick Club. This was founded in 1870 and is the world’s oldest bicycle club. It’s also the world’s oldest extant Dickensian association.

Members – who wear club ties and straw boaters – are given sobriquets, all taken from characters in the Pickwick Papers. At yesterday’s luncheon I was told my sobriquet. I’m now Mr. Grundy. There are only a finite number of characters in the book so to become a member you go on a seven-year waiting list and when an unfortunate member shuffles off this mortal coil, in you jump.

Charles Dickens wrote that Mr Grundy was no singer, which fits me fine.

‘Mr. Grundy’s going to oblige the company with a song,’ said the chairman.

‘No, he ain’t,’ said Mr. Grundy.

‘Why not?’ said the chairman.

‘Because he can’t,’ said Mr. Grundy.

‘You had better say he won’t,’ replied the chairman.

‘Well, then, he won’t,’ retorted Mr. Grundy.

My guests for the induction – L to R – were: Bill Davies (my father-in-law), Al Reid (my dad), David Goodwin (my Newcastle riding buddy), Phil Liggett, Phillip Darnton (chair of Cycling England), and Tour de France tome author Graeme Fife.

Not present at yesterday’s fine meal at the New Connaught Rooms, near Covent Garden in London, was my sponsor, Bob Chicken. He’s currently in Madeira and won’t be reading this entry….but, thanks, Bob!

Wanna a 24ct gold-plated bike?

And not just any old 24ct gold-plated bike, a 24-ct gold-plated bike from the trendy-as-fcuk micro-brand, Charge Bikes.

A one off Charge Plug – worth a bit more than the usual £399 – is being given away in a competition over at a UK site flogging cycle insurance.

But we *are* Holier than Thou

There was an eye-opening piece on yesterday, all about the soaring success of folding bikes on trains.

Apparently, there are too many of the origami specials and fellow passengers want them banned in rush hour.

And we thought we were part of the solution…

Anyway, the gist of the comments from train commuters – echoed, in all quarters, by motorists, hating the fact we can weave in and out of traffic jams – is that cyclists are smug and sanctimonious.

Well, it’s hard not to be smug when you’re on the only form of urban transport that has any likelihood of getting you to a destination on time.

Sanctimonious? Well, cycling does have a patron saint, the Madonna of Ghisallo. She’s been looking out for non-motorised two-wheelers since Pope Pius XII made her patroness of cyclists in 1949.

But, with a university degree in religious studies, surely I can dig out a better bike-based deity than a minor Italian saint? And I can. Catholics can keep their mountain-side patroness but I’d like to propose that heathen cyclists should adopt a full-blown God.

Let me introduce you to Taranis, a British Celtic sun god. His symbol is a rather modern looking spoked wheel. It’s meant to represent the solar wheel ie the sun. If he were knocking around today I reckon Taranis would favour a carbon-fibre spoked wheel.

Don’t you think Taranis, as pictured at the top of the page, looks a little bit like Yehuda Moon? I love the way he’s triumphantly signing that bikes will always beat cars through city centre traffic. Or something like that.

The image of Taranis at the top of the page is from the Gundestrup cauldron, 200 – 100 BCE. The image of a mould for an applique figure, thought to be Taranis, again with a wheel – although it could also be a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, too – was found in Corbridge not a million miles from central. Pix from

Schools Minister gets on his bike

Children, Schools and Families Minister, Kevin Brennan MP today visited my kids’ school on the first day of Bike to School Week.

St. Catherine’s RC Primary School of Newcastle upon Tyne has just 240 pupils but up to 30 kids attend my Go Ride and unicycling clubs. And St Cat’s is the first location outside of America to have been provided with cycle parking hoops by Kryptonite.

Kevin Brennan MP visits St Cats26
Mr Brennan opened this new cycle parking facility and then watched pupils getting cycle training for riding on roads – Bikeability training – as well as racing, Go Ride coaching. He also met teachers who have bought bicycles on the Government’s Cycle to Work salary sacrifice scheme. The visit was rounded off with a demonstration of unicycling by the school’s one wheeled wonders. I could be mistaken but I don’t know of any other primary school in the country to have a unicycling club.

Here are a bunch of pix from today (see, the sun shines on the righteous):

Bikeability bike checking:
Kevin Brennan MP visits St Cats7

Bikeability training by Cycling Solutions Ltd.:
Kevin Brennan MP visits St Cats19

Press photographers getting unicycling shots:
Kevin Brennan MP visits St Cats22

Unicycling flicks:
Kevin Brennan MP visits St Cats54

Kevin Brennan MP has a go on British Cycling’s Go Ride cycle coaching course:
Kevin Brennan MP visits St Cats47

British Cycling’s Go Ride regional manager Jon Bateman explains Go Ride to the Minister:
Kevin Brennan MP visits St Cats38

The full Flickr set can be found here. There was one shot I didn’t get: the Minister on a unicycle. The local press photographers got the shot, but I was propping up Mr Brennan at the time and didn’t feel it appropriate – or safe – to let go and grab my camera.

Boris bikes into Ken’s job


According to the BBC’s politics editor, Boris Johnson is the most likely winner of London’s Mayoral contest, counting for which has just started.

Nick Robinson said: “insiders on both sides now expect – Boris Johnson [to be] elected mayor of London later today.”

Boris is one of London’s most high-profile cyclists. With his bumptious charm and mop of blond hair, he’s certainly the most recognisable.

Bizarrely, cycling has been centre stage in this election, with the three main candidates fighting over who will provide the best cycling facilities for London. Incumbent Mayor Ken Livingstone got the Tour de France to London and pledged a huge cash investment for cycling infrastructure in the Capital.

Not to be outdone, the Conservative and Lib Dem canidates – Boris and Brian Paddick – said they’d do even more.

In effect, cycling is in a win-win situation. Whoever actually becomes Mayor, cycling will not disappear off the agenda.

Ken Livingstone is not a cyclist but he did an awful lot for cycling. This was partly political: he relied on support from the Greens in the London Assembly and they’d only stick with him if he supported cycling.

Having Boris Johnson as Mayor of London will be a great ride for all concerned. He’s a hugely entertaining figure, well loved by almost everybody (Livingstone isn’t a fan). He will make sure cycling gets even better in London, largely because he cycles everywhere and there will be some self-interest in improving conditions for cyclists in London.

But there’s also a growing understanding from all sides of the political spectrum that pandering to motorcars in city centres is tantamount to urban suicide. On Monday I cycled through heavy rain in London and was able to get to a number of appointments on time. Folks in cars – and buses – were stuck in logjams. Junction after junction in the West End was jammed solid during rush hour. The rain made the gridlock even worse than usual.

Ah, but the underground must have been travelling freely in such atrocious conditions? Yes, if you could get into a station. Many were closed for ten minute stretches because passenger numbers were exceeded. Travel conditions in London are not expected to improve. London’s population is expected to swell by an additional one million in the next ten years.

If London can’t get a lot more people on bikes, it will become a nightmare to transit the city. Ken Livingstone’s target is 5 per cent of all journeys to be made by bike by 2012. In truth, the percentage will be need to be a lot higher, if gridlock is to be averted.

Mayors in other major cities now get this.

Yesterday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg caused a big fuss by daring to suggest motorists needed to be reined in. He said: “The last thing we need to do is to encourage people to drive more.”

Here’s the transcript:

REPORTER: Mr. Mayor, earlier this year, Speaker Quinn had proposed a sales tax free week and also a $300 renters rebate. I was wondering if either of those things are in the budget?

MAYOR: Neither is in the budget. I think as- its going to be hard enough to make sure we don’t hurt anybody with cutbacks that denigrate- that degrade the quality of living in this City. At the same time, don’t make the taxpayer’s situation any worse. I thought it was fascinating- Shelly Silver, I thought very responsibly, came out against this idea of a summer break on gasoline taxes which would help Chavez and Kudafi and people like- other people like that. I don’t know why anybody would want to do it. It’s fascinating because his presidential- favorite presidential candidate’s on the other side of it. So you know, they just split in terms of what they think. I thought Shelly Silver was- was right and Obama was right. McCain and Clinton were wrong. The last thing we need to do is to encourage people to drive more and to take away the monies we need for infrastructure in this country. And that’s what reducing taxes does.

REPORTER: Could you elaborate on your opposition to giving drivers a break from the gas tax and how-

MAYOR: It’s about the dumbest thing I’ve heard in an awful long time from an economic point of view. I don’t understand why you think there’s any merit to it whatsoever. We’re trying to discourage people from driving and we’re trying to end our energy dependence. You don’t do that- and incidentally, and we’re trying to have more money to build infrastructure. All three of those things go- fly in the face of giving everybody 30 bucks a year. The 30 bucks is not going to change anybody’s lifestyle. The billions of dollars that we would otherwise have in tax revenues can make a big difference as to what kind of a world we leave our children.”

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 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…