No-gas future will rely on whole ‘nother kind of machine

Ah, the wonders of the internets. On his blog page, Reuters correspondent Erik Kirschbaum mentioned a 1979 movie called ‘Americathon’. I’d never heard of it but it sounded interesting because it featured an America that had run out of gas, forcing people to either jog or bike to get around.

I searched on YouTube and, true to form, found a trailer for the movie:

According to a number of film websites, Americathon is a 1979 comedy with bit-parts for Elvis Costello, Jay Leno, and Meat Loaf.

As well as featuring the radical concept of urban movement using musclepower alone, Americathon raised the issue of a bankrupt America. The ‘thon’ in the title is a reference to a national telethon, run by the president, to generate some cash.

Although there are some wild misses in the movie (such as Jews and Arabs forming a Middle Eastern bloc) there’s some prescient stuff, such as China embracing capitalism and becoming a global economic superpower; the collapse of the Soviet Union; an America with a devalued dollar and heavily in debt to foreign lenders; and the UK – re-named as Limeyland- relying heavily on tourism for income.

‘Americathon’ also featured an obscure Beach Boys track, ‘It’s a beautiful day’.

Amazingly, the lyrics to this song include:

The freeways there are jammed with all kind of folks on their bikes
With fastball surfers, their all doin’ their lefts and their rights

Roller skating, joggin’, or a fancy bike
You can get around most anyway you really like

The freeways are jammed now
The cars have disappeared from the scene

Cause’ gone to work or to play
They use a whole ‘nother kind of machine

Polystyrene deflects a bullet? Bunkum!

Bike helmets are great. They can prevent some injuries. I wear mine whenever on a bike but I don’t fool myself into thinking the darn thing will save my life should I be hit by a speeding car. Bike lids just aren’t designed for that sort of crash.

But stories about amazing escapes continue to pollute the mass media. Last year The Sun carried a story about an 11-year old girl who went under the wheels of a car. The newspaper showed the smashed pieces of the helmet which she believes saved her life. If her head was in that smashed helmet at the time her head would have been smashed, too. It’s far more likely that the helmet came off before being crushed by the car. Very few children wear properly fitting helmets. Most kid lids can be flicked off with ease, negating any safety benefits.

Smashed helmets are not evidence that heads would have otherwise been smashed: helmets are designed to break on impact. Properly fitted, they absorb some of the energy of a crash. At slow speeds.

Polystyrene cannot absorb the energy from a full-on car or truck smash. Nor can polystyrene deflect a bullet shot at close-range – or long-range for that matter. But that’s what this North Carolina TV station is claiming.

The headline is: “Father On Bicycle Shot at in Asheville, Helmet Saves His Life”

Investigators said the gunfire erupted…when Alan Ray Simmons was riding his bike with his wife and 3-year-old son. They say a man approached Simmons upset that he was riding with his child in a bicycle seat in a high traffic area.

Authorities said Charles Diez was the man who stopped Simmons. They said both men got into an argument and that Diez pulled out a handgun and shot at Simmons.

They said the bullet struck Simmons helmet, passing through the lining, but stopping short of hitting him in the head. Diez is being held in the Buncombe County Jail on a $500,000 bond.

Buncombe County? That’s appropriate. Buncombe County is the source for the Americanism for ‘claptrap’.

In 1820, Felix Walker, who represented Buncombe County, North Carolina, in the U.S. House of Representatives, rose to address the question of admitting Missouri as a free or slave state. This was his first attempt to speak on this subject after nearly a month of solid debate and right before the vote was to be called. Allegedly, to the exasperation of his colleagues, Walker insisted on delivering a long and wearisome “speech for Buncombe.” He was shouted down by his colleagues. His persistent effort made “buncombe” (later respelled “bunkum”) a synonym for meaningless political claptrap and later for any kind of nonsense.

Ice-cream to perk up your ride

Viagra icecream

Ice-cream sellers the world over are known to be great marketeers – and often great rivals, sometimes even deadly – so it was no surprise to find that cooled dairy product vendors in Umag, Istria, used every trick up their rolled-up sleeves to entice passers-by to choose their chilled wares over those of their neigbours.

Redbull icecream

The frozen confectioners are sited close to each other near to the Sol Garden Istra hotel in Katoro, near Umag. Both had a Red Bull geleto, but only one had a Viagra concoction. No, I didn’t go for a Big V, I plumped for a Red Bull. Very tasty it was, too. Perfect for a post-ride pick-me-up. [I don’t suppose the Red Bull is made from real Red Bull and it’s impossible that the Viagra geleto has any bedroom benefits whatsoever].

We’re back in Blighty now: a lot colder than we were in Istria. Here are the last two pix from our bike’n’beach hols in Croatia: feet reflections on our balcony and the kids having fun in the pool.

Balcony feet

Reidlets in pool

Istria, imagined by Sustrans

Tour du Istria

We’re not really beach-holiday fanatics. We like the seaside and swimming pools but only after some geographical exertions. I say ‘we’; that means the heads of the Reid household. The kids would love to stay in one place, soaking up the sun and bleaching from over exposure to chlorine.

Being born to active parents might be seen by them to be their bad luck but perhaps they’ll eventually come to appreciate the tough-love we give them. Today was another Reid family epic. It was only 40 or so kilometres but it was roasting in Istria and much of the morning’s route was on dirt tracks and even a fair distance on singletrack.

We were heading for the Sustrans-style Parenzana former railway line, a 70km bike trail that rises from sea level to 293m above sea level near Groznjan. We found the trail just before Buje but detoured up the long hill into town because it looked so imposing (and because the road down the other side of the hill was the quick route back to the hotel swimming pool).

While Ellie went into raptures over a flitting wall lizard by a fragment of a Roman statue; I was similarly taken by the Church of St. Servelus, made from lots of bits of Roman architecture.

This part of Croatia is stuffed with Roman settlements, Roman ampitheatres and Roman villas. Shame we’re leaving tomorrow; I’d’ve liked to have seen some more of the region’s history. The kids want to lounge by the pool. They win: one day only.

Parenzana sign, near Buje
Parenzana sign, near Buje

Ellie in front of St. Servulus church, Buje
St. Servulus, 16th Century church at the top of hill-town of Buje

Kids still have enough energy to attack
The kids might protest they’re tired when riding, but they soon recover their energy when dad needs to be splashed and soaked by the hotel pool

Reidlets go wild in Istria

Istrian bike sign

We’re in Istria, in the north of Croatia, guests of IRTA, the Istrian tourism development agency. It just so happens that a former road pro now works for IRTA and, as the person responsible for bike tourism to Istria, was willing to show us some local MTB trails.

Martin Cotar was the 2001 national road champion of Croatia and used to race on the Post Swiss team, a UCI category 2 team. OK, he might have been fast (and still races MTBs and runs marathons) but he wasn’t fast enough to keep up with Josh. The little tyke half-wheeled poor Martin all morning.

Josh loved the fact he was riding with somebody who’s raced against all the big modern greats of the sport.

Our route this morning was little more than a warm-up for Martin but, in the heat of a Croatian summer, it was taxing for the girls and they were glad to get back to the hotel after a morning sortie, and jump into the pools of the hotel. Josh could have gone on and on…

We’re staying in the Sol Garden Istra, a new 4-star hotel by the beach near Umag. We hired bikes from the sports complex near the hotel and Martin took us on a short loop taking in a coastal path (kids’ highlight: an unexpected nudist beach) and inland tracks through olive groves (kids’ highlight: breezy downhills).

Tomorrow we’re heading off on our own, using a 1:30,000 MTB route map of the region. We’ll be heading for a Sustrans-style former railway path. But one that climbs from sea level to 300m. That must have been one very slow train.

Ellie and Hanna on steep descent

Ellie and Hanna on steep descent

Hanna bridging the gap

Hanna bridges the gap from the gruppetto to Martin and Josh

Olive trees
Olive tree riding

Not an Istrian nudist beach 4
This pair of nudists got to the beach by bike

Martin Cotar
Martin Cotar, our expert guide, an influence on one 11 year old boy – Josh: “Dad, when I get back home I’m going to shave my legs.”

Back at the pool at the Sol Garden Istra 3
Pool time

Poles get the heave-ho from Nemo


No, this is not half a tyre from the extensive and eclectic Schwalbe range, it’s sort of an inner tube for tents. It’s the clever idea of Nemo Equipment. This US tent manufacturer was founded to market the AST concept (AirSupported Technology), although the company also produces tents with trad poles and with non-trad bamboo poles.

I came across them at the recent PressCamp in Sun Valley, Idaho. The Scott portion of PressCamp involved a real camp. We took a bunch of Scott CR1 road bikes along a rough dirt track to our base for the night: and found our Nemo tents already erected.

The Nemo tents with AST beams are frisky little things, pert in just 45 seconds. The air beams are inflated with integral footpumps.

Nemo says:

Pressurized air is an integral part of structures from car tires to basketballs, from spacesuits to the massive Millennium Arches building in Stockholm. AirSupported Technology™ is NEMO’s unique interpretation of inflatable structure for application in lightweight backcountry shelters. The advantages of NEMO’s AST™ compared to traditional tent poles include faster and easier setup, greater strength and wind resistance, smaller packing, the ability to bend without breaking and easy repair in the field.

ScottPressCamp 2

My mate Brian, a family doctor and youth leader, says his Scouts would love Nemo tents; they would have great fun running around deflating each others’ tents at night.

To that, Kate Ketschek, Nemo’s Director of Marketing and PR, says: “It would be easier and quicker to pump the airbeams back up afterwards versus trying to put all of your tent poles back in place. The set up is so fast and easy and less frustrating than traditional poles can be. I think it can be a great tool for introducing kids to camping.”

Nemo tents at night, Sun Valley, PressCamp09


The stunning PressCamp pix above are by the brilliant action-sports photographer Ian Hylands.

Put a sock in it

SockGuy socks: Police and Share the Road

I love these new socks from SockGuy. Both pairs are controversial. The Share The Road logo is seemingly benign: of course, cars and bicycles should share the road. But some motorists think such signs mean cyclists should ‘share’ the road by getting out of the way.

It would be great to think you could scare such drivers by pointing to your ‘Police’ socks but, of course, pretending to be a cop is punishable in just about every jurisdiction on the planet.

Wearing the word ‘Polite’ is perhaps the next best thing. Years and years ago 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 produced a sweatshirt version:

I sent one to Dr Ian Walker, a pro-bike blogger and British competitor in the World Wife Carrying Championships. He’s the academic from the University of Bath who used sensors and a video camera to measure how close cars passed him when cycling.

“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 Brian May wig to see if drivers give women (or hippie?) cyclists extra room when passing. Apparently, they do.

Dr Walker’s ‘polite’ sweatshirt may also gain him a couple of inches, if you get my drift. He said:

“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?”

Incidentally, the front of the ‘polite’ sweatshirt has a ‘one less car’ logo on the front:

If you like the sweatshirts, they are available on the UK and US sites for £22.90 or $32.90.

If the UCI ran the world…

…we’d all go to hell in a hand-cart. At today’s start of the Tour de France in Monaco it’s anybody’s guess whether some time trial bikes will be disqualified by UCI commissaires. The UCI said it would start enforcing its existing 3-in-1 aero rules from 1st July.

UCI commissaires will be out in force, blazers stuffed with tape measures and well-thumbed copies of The Practical Guide, the UCI tech bible.

The UCI says: “The Practical Guide will provide assistance in applying the UCI Technical Regulations, in particular Articles 1.3.023 and 1.3.024 relating to equipment used in time trials, the implementation of which has become increasingly problematic.”

Given free rein, the UCI would no doubt like all bike racers to compete on a level playing field, and the fairest way of doing that would be for everybody to ride the exact same model of bike. This is what happens at the Little 500 race in America. Riders race on singlespeed Routemasters little changed from the 1960s. It’s a fascinating event, but it’s a college event and the rules about clone bikes couldn’t be translated to the real world.

What the UCI fails to realise is that bike racing only exists because of innovation. Bike racing was founded by bike companies looking to expand the market for their wares. It’s the same today: why would any bike company sponsor a pro bicycle team if it were not for the commercial gain of selling products to us mere mortals?

The UCI is divorced from this commercial aspect of cycle racing. The UCI actively dislikes innovation. Yesterday, on Twitter, I suggested Andy Roddick might be a poorer tennis player if the world governing body of tennis happened to be the UCI:

Speed of Roddick’s serves are due to strength, technique & high-tech kit. If UCI ran tennis, it would be back to wood & catgut.

I followed it with “If UCI ran soccer, it would be back to pigs’ bladders for balls,” and then invited others to contribute. Many did. Add yours!

maddogmedia: “If UCI ran golf, guys in kilts would still be using sticks to smack rocks down rodent holes. And only white guys in kilts, too.”

Thomas A. Fine: “If UCI ran the Internet, I’d have read your “tweet” on Usenet news over a 1200 baud modem.”

pmshires: “If UCI ran … it would be backwards”

John Osborn: If the UCI regulated computers, we’d all be running Windows.”

BikeCrave: “If UCI ran Twitter, we’d be sending homing pigeons to tweet.”

Joe Parkin: “If the UCI ran the Tour de France there would only be kermis racing in July.”

Joe Parkin: “If the UCI ran Apple, we’d all still be listening to CDs through our Walkmans.”

Andy Gilsenan: “If the UCI ran the TV industry we would all have radios because the pictures are better.”

Mark Sauerwald: “If the UCI ran the internet, we would be wishing for the good old days of dial-up modems.”

Richard Young: “If the UCI ran beer, then we’d all be drinking pre-1516 Fartwell’s old P!ss.”

kathleen: “If the UCI ran American gymnastics Bella Karolyi would never have left Romania.”

Carl Gumeson: “If the UCI ran the auto industry we would ALL be riding bikes.”

maddogmedia: If UCI ran Motown, it would’ve signed the Carpenters, the Osmonds and the Monkees.”

Todd Larlee: “If UCI ran [American] football, it would be back to leather helmets with no masks.”

steyrshrek:  “If the UCI ran F1 they would still be racing horse and buggies with solid wheels, none of them new fangled pneumatic tires.”

Small but perfectly formed

My body has been back from Idaho’s Press Camp since the weekend. My brain has today joined it. Long-haul flying is bad for the planet, and not terribly good for one’s sleep health, either.

It might seem crazy flying half way across the world to see the latest products for the transport choice that boasts of zero-emissions. It is crazy. I feel guilty…but then I remember the riding.

Riding somewhere different opens your eyes to the ride opportunities on your doorstep. I hope. Apart from the short journey to school and back with my kids, I’ve done precious little riding since I got back from Press Camp.

And this is what I’m missing:

Press Camp 2009 from on Vimeo.

MTB and road action from Press Camp, Sun Valley Resort, Idaho. 20 journalists. 12 suppliers: Pedro’s; Smith Optics; Gore Ride On; Blue Competition Cycles; Gore Bike Wear; DT Swiss; CSG (GT, Cannondale, Sugoi, Mongoose, Schwinn); Saris; Lazer helmets; BMC; Hutchinson; Scott.