It’s the start of the Christmas repeats

Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman has been shown on British television every year since 1982. Nobby Holder is wheeled out every year because of Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody from 1973. Could the bicycle world’s equivalent be last year’s wonderful composition commissioned by Specialized?

The US bike company commissioned experimental musician – and cyclist – Flip Baber to produce a short orchestral piece to accompany an animated rear cog. And, yes, the road and mountain bike used for the twanging, banging and plucking were from the big squiggly S.

Flip Baber – aka Johnny Random – was commissioned to write the Christmas card piece in November last year.

He said: “”I recorded all the takes at different points during one day since there was construction going on near my studio. The next day I edited the sounds and took the best takes and then everything was interpreted and composed within about 4-5 hours, including the mixdown.

“I came up with some really far out sounds in my bike recordings, but couldn’t use them on this project because they were either too dissonant or weren’t easily recognizable as ‘bike’ sounds.”

The ‘happy holidays’ card and music still lives on the Specialized website. The piece is a glockenspiel-free rendition of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ from ‘The Nutcracker Suite.’

The glockenspiel and clarinet melody was created with spokes. The cello and violin pizzicatos were created with plucked derailleur cables. The tingly triangle was a bash on to a disc brake.The percussion was a medley of shifting, coasting, finger over turning spokes, chain pulls, braking, clipping into pedals, back-spinning, and air pssssing out of tyres.

This isn’t the first time bicycles have been used in a musical composition. In 1980 Godfried-Willem Raes first staged his Second Symphony for ‘Singing Bicycles’, an “open air event scored for a minimum of twelve cyclists with their own bicycles.”

0870 24 24 602

Telephone voting for lottery comp opened today. Call and cycling could win.

Four schemes are in the running for a winner-takes-all £50m lottery payout. The 79 projects that make up the Sustrans’ Connect2 bid are in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The other three schemes – Eden Project, Black Country redevelopment and Sherwood Forest – are all English and localised.

Voting has been taking place on the People’s Millions website but at 9am this morning telephone voting opened. The voting is tied in to an ITV series that has aired all this week after the 10 o’clock News.

Voting is restricted to one vote per phone number, so switchboard numbers will only count once. Even if hundreds of people vote from extensions through one switchboard, it will only count as one vote.

The maximum call charge from a BT landline is 10p, calls from mobiles and other operators may be higher. No profits are made by ITV or Big Lottery Fund from the calls.

The number to call to lodge a vote for Sustrans is 0870 24 24 602.

All voting closes at 12 noon on Monday, with the winner announced on the Ten O’Clock News on Wednesday.

A statement from Sustrans said: “We really do need every vote because we are up against strong competition and advertising by some competitors. Please do pass on the phone and online voting details to everyone you know.”

Use iCal or Google Calendar? Get Bicycle Dates 2008

A bunch of bikey dates have been added to an online calendar which you can subscribe to. Once you’ve added it to your iCal calendar or Google Calendar, all new dates and date changes are handled automagically.

There’s a Google button on the left. If you’re not already a Google member pressing this button will prompt you to become one.

Flick through the months on the calendar below and you’ll see 2008’s trade and consumer shows, major events – such as the Tour de France and the bike disciplines at the Beijing Olympics – and lots of other notable stuff. It’s by no means a complete list of every bike-specific date, but could get there…with your help.

Please email missing events, and their dates and URLs. Thanks.

Here are some other ways to get the data…


Google ics.

Plain old web view.

Mac iCal.

4cms tall? You’re needed for a micro Critical Mass

There are roads, petrol pumps, train stations, airports, harbours and town houses. But no bike paths. Exactly what kind of retrograde conurbation is Lego City? It’s no Plastic Portland.

Lego, the Danish plastic extrusion company founded in 1934, produces a large themed play range called ‘City’. In this City, the company has found space for a recycle truck, a street cleaner and a corner cafe, but there’s no bike shop.

In a City playset titled ‘Community workers’ there are three cyclists out of 31 minifigures. But where’s the cycle infrastructure for these cyclists?

The roads feature single carriageways with pedestrian crossings but there are no dedicated cycle lanes, not even a splash of white paint.

The service station has petrol pumps and a car wash. But in the whole of Lego City there’s not a Sheffield stand for love nor money. Covered cycle parking? Forget it.

If ever a community needed an active bicycle advocacy group, this is it. Lego City is crying out for a micro Critical Mass.

The Lego Group produces over 306 million miniature tyres each year, more than any other tyre manufacturer in the world but not enough of them are bicycle tyres.

Lego is clearly missing a trick here. Denmark is extremely pro-bicycle, so why is the country’s most famous export so poor at providing decent cycling infrastructure for its City minifigures?

Visit Denmark says: “A bicycle is perhaps the ideal way of getting around Denmark….Denmark’s provision for cyclists ranks among the best in Europe. The Danes are a nation of cyclists and pride themselves in an outstanding network of cycle lanes and paths.”

Perhaps the way to go will be for anarcho-bicyclists to create their own infrastructure, their own Plastic Portland? Amazingly, it’s possible. Lego Factory is an online bricks ordering tool with a downloadable program to create bespoke lego creations and then offer them for sale to all via the Lego shop. Members have created barber shops, internet cafes and Dutch-style townhouses…but’s there no bike shop yet. It’s criminal! (As luck would have it, Lego Factory members have created jails…).

Grand Theft Auto: Lego City

Lock it or lose it

Or lock it and still lose it?

At the weekend I witnessed a bike thief busting into a great number of locks. In truth, he wasn’t a thief, I’d asked him to demonstrate his lock-busting techniques for my camera.

I’m writing an article for Cycle, the CTC magazine, on how to protect your pride and joy. I’m not going to reveal any of the results here, that has to wait for the mag to come out, but I witnessed at first hand why it’s critical to ‘fill your lock’ with bits of bicycle.

If you use a shackle lock, make sure it’s a tough, short one. Get down low and lock the frame via the chainstays and bottom bracket. Use another lock to secure the front wheel.

This video from Dutch TV shows a reformed bike thief at work. He’s using simple tools and brute force.

Using similar tools I was able to replicate his results. At the weekend I was shocked at how a meaty, expensive lock with a Gold Sold Secure rating could be breached in seconds even by a weakling like me. Some other locks were impossible for me to crack, but they could be snapped by my pretend thief, who was meatier than me.

And a bottle jack takes no strength whatsoever, although I saw it defeated by the defence given above. Don’t scrimp on your bike lock. A hardened steel shackle with a shaft diameter of at least 16mm cannot be cut with street tools and offers effective protection when used defensively: don’t just secure your top-tube, that leaves too much space for a bottle jack.

The fear of bike theft is a huge disincentive to would-be bike purchasers. Actual bike theft is a huge disincentive for existing cyclists.

In today’s Daily Telegraph there’s a report about the growing problem of bike theft in China. Nobody wanted to nick Flying Pigeons but the latest breed of Chinese bikes have street value, so walk.

Up to four million bikes were stolen in China last year. To counter this, all new bicycles in Beijing will be given registration numbers from this weekend on. The numbers will be logged with the names and identity card numbers of their owners. Could a bike tax be far behind?

‘Missing’ Interbike video is found by Fred

David ‘TheFredcast’ Bernstein’s twitterings reveal that he’s now “uploading audio and video versions of The Spokesmen #24 (the lost episode) from Interbike 2007.”

That’s the episode filmed at Interbike and which brought on bike bloggers in quick succession. Get the video here.

The video, which also starred David Bernstein, is already available online.

Happy Birthday RSA

Ridley Scott Associates was 40 years old last week. It was founded by Geordie Ridley Scott, director of Blade Runner, Alien and Gladiator and currently working on ‘Nottingham’, a Robin Hood remake.

Scott’s break into the big time came in 1973 with what became one of the all-time classic TV adverts, a delivery boy freewheeling down a cobbled northern hill.

However, the director’s first film was ‘Boy and Bicycle’ (1965), starring Scott’s father and Tony Scott, his brother. This was shot on a budget of £65 using a 16mm cine-camera, borrowed from the Royal College of Art in London, where Scott was a student.

The film follows a boy as he decides to play truant and visits various locations around a northern seaside town on his bicycle. The film was on YouTube last year but was taken down. However, a short snippet has reappeared:

The full short can be found on the DVD of Scott’s first commercial movie, The Duellists.

The Hovis ad featured the cycling talents of Carl Barlow, then 13, now a 48-year-old fireman.

He said: “It was pure fate that I got the part as the Hovis boy. I was down to the last three, and it turned out that one of the two boys couldn’t ride a bike, and the other wouldn’t cut his hair into the pudding bowl style – it was the Seventies after all. As the only boy who could ride a bike and would cut his hair, I got the part.”

The ad is also famous for its soundtrack. In Britain at least, Dvorak’s ‘New World’ symphony – rearranged for brass – says ‘Hovis’ and ‘good, old, plain Northern values.’

Ruhr valley to stage a Reclaim the Streets dream event

Dortmund will be the place to be in 2010. 60kms of the A40 Autobahn is to be closed to cars on Sunday June 20th.

Here’s the Reclaim the Streets advice on ‘How to sort a street party’.

1 Get together with some like-minded people. Possibly your friends. Work on a plan of action. Sort out different roles, jobs and timescales. Imagine. What’s possible?

2 Decide on a date. Give yourselves enough time. Not too much – a “deadline” is a great motivator – but enough to sort the practicals: materials, construction etc. You may need money.

3 A 12-lane freeway? Choose the location. Your street, the town centre, a busy road or roundabout, a motorway! A separate meeting place is good: people like a mystery, bureaucrats don’t.

5 Music! Sort out your sound system. A party needs music – rave, plugged-in, acoustic, yodelling – go for diversity. Invite jugglers and clowns, poets, prophets and performers of all kinds. Ask campaign groups to come along and set up a stall in the middle of the road.

6 How will you transform the space? Huge banners with a message of your choice, colourful murals, bouncy castle, a ton of sand and a paddling pool for the kids, carpets, armchairs.

9 Have a street party! Boy in blue being calmed Enjoy the clean air and colour full surroundings, the conversation and the community Bring out the free food, dance, laugh and set off the fire hydrants. Some boys in blue may get irate. Calm them down with clear instructions. reports that on Sunday 20th June “motorists scything along the A40 autobahn towards Essen will find their progress impeded by a giant open-air picnic. A vast table, 60km long, will stretch all the way from the towns of Dortmund to Duisburg, and there will be music, food and dancing. All in all, it would probably be better to avoid the area. Mind you, there is plenty of time to find an alternative route; the Sunday in question is in 2010.”