Archive for June, 2008


Jun 04, 2008

Wearable feedbags: the latest way for Americans to scoff on the move


The Onion News Network has drop-dead funny audio podcasts and incredibly piercing video news spoofs, too. It’s well worth subscribing to in iTunes so you don’t miss a single episode.

I like to store them up on Apple TV and watch a bunch of them in one swoop.

This one had me on the floor:

New Wearable Feedbags Let Americans Eat More, Move Less



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Jun 04, 2008

Cycling backwards from the tipping point



US academic Bill McKibben has a thought-provoking opinion piece in Environment360, a new online eco magazine from Yale University.

McKibben is the author of The End of Nature, published in 1989, regarded as the first book for a general audience on global warming. He is a founder of 350.org, a campaign to spread the goal of 350 parts per million worldwide. Carbon dioxide, that is.

“The question for environmentalists is going to change from: ‘Are we doing anything about global warming?’ to ‘Are we doing anything near enough about global warming?’

“There’s at least the possibility…for five meters of sea level rise this century. Which is another way of saying the end of civilization as we know it, since there’s not enough money on earth to defend our coastal cities or the fertile plains near the sea — the places where the world mostly, you know, lives — from that kind of rise.

“It’s like having high cholesterol — if you radically change your diet, it will fall. But you’ve got to do it before you, um, die….

“There’s only one possible way to make change on that scale: an all-out World War II style effort to convert our economy away from carbon and towards — well, towards conservation, towards buses and bikes, towards wind and sun…

“If we’ve got a chance, the science now has to drive the politics — not the other way round. In a very real sense, it’s a contest between human nature and nature nature to see which will blink first. Physics and chemistry don’t bluff and they don’t bargain — they just are. If there’s a way out of this box, therefore, it’s up to us.”

350 logo

The 350 concept probably resonates with lots of people who read this and other bike blogs. With my industry hat on, I think 350 would be a pretty darn good idea for a bike name, or whole range even.

McKibben describes the 350 ethos thus:

“350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth.

“We’re planning an international campaign to unite the world around the number 350, and we need your help. We need to make sure that the solutions the world proposes to climate change are to scale with the level of crisis that this number represents. Everyone on earth, from the smallest village to the cushiest corner office, needs to know what 350 means. The movement to spread that number needs to be beautiful, creative, and unstoppable.

“What we need most right now are on-the-ground examples for how to take the number 350 and drive it home: in art, in music, in political demonstrations, in any other way you can imagine. We hope this project will grow tremendously in the months to come, and it helps all the more if people can see the great things others are doing already. We will connect actions all around the world and make them add up to more than the sum of their parts – but we don’t have all the ideas and all the inspiration. We need you to act on yours.”

There’s an audio interview with McKibben here:



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Jun 03, 2008

Ask Annie, she knows


Anne Fisher, a senior writer at Fortune magazine, has a column called ‘Ask Annie’. The current topic - syndicated on CNN.com and currently one of the most read stories of the day - is all about the rising price of petrol and how this impacts on car commuters.

The answers she puts forward include working from home “in bunny slippers” through to catching the bus once in a while.

And, of course, cycling to work. There has been an avalanche of such ‘think bike’ stories in the mainstream US press of late. Cycling seems to have come in out of the cold. It’s still seen as a fringe, sandal-wearing activity by many but it sure is cost-efficient, and in credit crunch times, that’s a headline grabber.

Newbie bike commuters quickly learn to love cycling to work for reasons of fat-busting and fun but penny-pinching is a good introduction. And Annie Fisher ends her piece with a corker of an economic argument:

“Of course, it isn’t practical for everyone to bike to work, but before you decide you can’t, consider these figures, from the American Automobile Association: With gas prices where they are now, the annual cost of owning a car and driving it roughly 15,000 miles is about $14,000. It costs about $120 a year to maintain a bike - or, if your employer is footing the bill, it costs nothing.”



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Jun 03, 2008

Get Quickrelease.tv on your cellphone


This site is now available in a mobile-friendly, text-only format here.

With billions of WAP-enabled phones around the world it makes sense to be mobile-friendly.

I’ve always had a softspot for WAP. Of course, most modern phones have web-browsing capabilities but for when it’s just text updates you’re after, the WAP versions of RSS-enabled websites are quicker and slicker.

BikeBiz has a great new mobile site but the old one was very nearly a top award winner in 2000.

WAP was in its infancy and there were just a handful of news websites offering a WAP service. BikeBiz.com was among them. I got the coding done by a very clever school kid and we were chuffed when the site came runner-up in the business technology section of the European Online Journalism Awards in 2000.

BikeBiz.com was also second in the business news category, beaten only by Dowjones.com. Joint runner-up that day was BBC.co.uk.



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Jun 03, 2008

US motorist crashes into Mexican bike ride




A US citizen crashed into a US-organised Mexican sportive on Sunday. The riders were 15 minutes into the 34km ride between Playa Bagdad and Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas.

Driver Juan Campos, 28, was charged with killing Alejandro Alvarez, 37. Campos was said by police to have been drunk and asleep at the wheel when he ploughed into the cyclists. Pix of the crash and Campos are now on Flickr.

In stills at the start of the video above, cyclists and bicycles are seen flying through the air. A helmet from one of the cyclists is also seen in mid-air.

UPDATE: TV station KVEO.com has filed this report on the crash and its aftermath:



Bizarrely, at the end of the report - which interviewed one of the injured riders - the TV reporter said the injured cyclist would “hit the road again soon.” She also said: “Miraculously, one of the riders was killed but several others remain in the hospital.”See full transcript below.

The horrific image of the crash has been seen around the world. There’s been much discussion whether it’s right to publicise the image. This commentary is the best on this emotive subject.

TRANSCRIPT FROM KVEO PIECE:
A horrific bike tour accident in Matamoros over the weekend leaves one Brownsville man dead and several injured. An amateur photographer captures an amazing shot of the accident as it happens.

The third annual bike tour - Matamoros-Playa Bagdad - started at 8 o’ clock Sunday morning. Hundreds of people, from little ones to adults, joined the 21-mile race. They thought it was a family outing, but little did they know, 30 minutes later, a man under the influence of alcohol ended the life of Brownsville resident, 30-year-old Alejandro Alvarez.

The picture you see on the screen was taken right as the accident happened. The car swerved around the police escort and ran over a dozen bikers. the bicyclists and bikes were thrown in the air from the sudden impact. Miraculously, one of the riders was killed but several others remain in the hospital.

37-year-old Julio Garcia was in front of the pack. He says all he remembers is peddling and looking at the car police say was driven by Brownsville resident, Jesse Campos, go toward the pack.

“I hit one of the guys and flew on top of those. I couldn’t see. Everything happened in seconds. Only thing that I can remember is I was sitting next to the road and I looked around I see guys thrown over there.”

The guys that were hit by Campos were his teammates from the Velocyraptors Cycling Team. The team has joined various races here in the Valley and it was the first time the team joined in the race in Matamoros.

“It was a good challenge to go across the border, just have fun that’s all, and have fun.”

Garcia says seven members of the cycling team including himself were hurt. Three are still at Valley Baptist Medical Center. He’s recovering at home with bumps and bruises. Garcia says the only reason he’s alive is because of his protective gear.

Two bikers remain in the hospital in stable condition; the other is in serious but also stable condition. As for Garcia, he says he will hit the streets again after he makes a full recovery, but he’ll be more aware of his surroundings.



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Jun 02, 2008

An hour of sweet goodness


Show number 31 of The Spokesmen round-table audio podcast was recorded earlier today and has just been published by David Bernstein.

Show notes and a direct audio click-to-hear thingy can be found here.

This edition features Fred, Hairy Harry, Waxed Reid, and Tim ‘Forbes star’ Grahl.



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Jun 02, 2008

Halt your kid in their tracks with zapper



Adult cyclists with child-like tendencies - always men, natch - have great fun applying the brakes of their mates as they’re riding along. Now, imagine you could do the same with a key-fob remote control and an infra-red controlled braking unit. What fun you could have!


bikestoppa_product

In fact, the brand new Bike Stoppa is a real device, available only online, at a price of £29.99, and is aimed at parents who worry about the braking abilities of their kids.

This is a worthwhile worry. Many kids’ bikes have pitiful brakes and it’s takes a wee while for children to master the art of stopping their bikes. Google News is chocka with stories of little ‘uns getting killed while riding their bikes. Some of these deaths might have been prevented had a parent been able to stop their child’s bike in time.

A quick-thinking adult, riding close to a child cyclist, could execute an emergency stop by grabbing hold of the child but the Bike Stoppa has an interesting extra feature. It applies a tyre-centred brake when the frame-mounted device goes out of range of the key-fob. This is about 30 metres. For parents with long driveways and an adventurous young child, the Bike Stoppa could be, ahem, right up their street.

The company claims there’s no risk of the child shuddering to a sudden halt and head-planting over the handlebars as the braking is progressive.

The device has a short lifespan because children can’t be kept attached to digital apron strings for ever but for certain applications - including maybe for children with learning difficulties or with disabilities - the Bike Stoppa could be of interest. Naturally, adult supervision would be necessary at all times. This is a last resort device, not the main means for a child to stop their bike.

When the technology is miniaturised and placed, secretly, on your mate’s bike the laughter will never cease.

Braking is a life-skill. Here’s the definitive online article on learning to ride a bike. Definitive? I wrote it, I can label it as I like…



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Jun 02, 2008

Great riding. Great weather. Great Glen.


LochTorffLandscape

Boo-hoo. Back at work. Wish I was still cycle touring. But these photos will keep me going until the next family bike trip.

We’ve just returned from cycling along Scotland’s Great Glen, the 70-mile geological fault line between Inverness and Fort William. Over four days of cycling we went there and back, using the dirt tracks and steeps of the Great Glen Way, a waymarked walking route. The fast-and-furious A82 between Inverness and Fort William is scenic because it skirts Loch Ness and other water features but the Great Glen Way is even more spectacular because it takes the high road, with jaw-dropping vistas down to the lochs.

ReidFamilyShotLochNess

On the return journey we backtracked along the towpaths of Thomas Telford’s monumental Caledonian Canal and then climbed to Whitebridge and the famous Falls of Foyers. After Fort Augustus we were on minor roads, some of them singletrack for long distances.

The Reidlets - Josh, 10, and Hanna and Ellie, both 8 - coped well with the unthinking motorists who use the minor roads as race-tracks. On their Islabikes they also coped well with the rocky descents of parts of the Great Glen Way.

The Great Glen Way stopped being promoted as a long-distance bike route in 2006, although cycling is still permissible because of Scotland’s access laws. The southern half of the route is easy enough, it’s on the canal towpath but the northern half is tough going, especially for kids carting pannier bags. Some of the descents are steep, rocky and sandy in places. Looking back now it’s amazing we got the kids down some of the descents.

We did about 32 miles each day. This might sound a lot for little kids but they’ve done 50+ miles a day in previous tours. 32 miles on rough stuff was an enormous ask for the kids and we arrived at our pre-booked B&Bs much later than we had planned for.

The route might have been tougher than we had expected but the fabulous weather brought out the very best in the landscapes and we were treated to postcard-perfect views of Highland highlights such as Ben Nevis, Neptune’s Staircase and Urquhart Castle.

It was still sunny when we left Inverness yesterday. Half way in to the six hour train journey it started raining. Our ride home was a wet one, but at least it hadn’t rained on our hols.

GreatGlenWaySign
I was using Arkel pannier bags for the first time. What stunning bags! I wish I’d had this kind of equipment on previous tours.

EllieLakeside
Ellie enjoying elevated views down to Loch Ness

frogLaggan
Wildlife spotting is easy on a bike tour, and so is wildlife hugging. The frogs en route must have been glad of our passing

EllieCaledonianCanalFortA
The Caledonian Canal towpath from Fort Augustus is well-surfaced and, of course, wonderfully flat

HannaDescendingtoLochNess
Hanna descending to Loch Ness

ReidletsNessie
The newest of the Loch Ness visitor centres has a revolving statue of the world-famous beastie

satmap2
This was my first long distance test of the SatMap GPS device. This features genuine OS mapping and was a joy to use. As well as being able to show the kids a little blue dot showing our current position, using the joystick in map planning mode I was able to accurately answer the perpetual question: “Are we there yet, dad?”…No, not for another 2.3 miles, kids… And all while riding along, no fumbling with paper maps.

Freeloader2
Long days in the saddle meant the SatMap would potentially run out of juice. Using the famously fiercesome power of the Scottish sun - ha! - I kept the SatMap going for the last half an hour of each day by using the Freeloader solar charger. The add-on Supercharger solar panel fitted perfectly on the pannier rack, held in place with a Velcro strap and clips.

Glenfinnan1
Naturally, it wasn’t all cycling. We also took kid-friendly side trips. This is a funny shot taken by Josh on ‘Harry Potter Hogwarts Express’ steam-train journey from Fort William to Mallaig. This might be one of the world’s most scenic train journeys but this chap had seen enough for the day.

routemap
We rode Inverness to Fort William on the way down and Fort William to Fort Augustus on the way back. This was all on the Great Glen Way. From Fort Augustus we took to the roads, from Foyers to Dores to Inverness.

More pix here.



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