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Miscellaneous

Why Road Bikes Should be Called Sports Bikes

Road bikes suck for commuting. They just do. They require huge amounts of maintenance, they’re uncomfortable, you have to wear special clothes, they generally don’t have built in lights, they’re magnets for thieves. They just don’t tick the boxes for most commuters.

In general, with a commuting bike, you want something that is reliable, durable, practical in terms of storage as well as built in lighting. Unless you’re commuting more than 10 miles, I wouldn’t even think about using a road bike. And even then, now we have e-bikes, you can have speed and comfort, so why would you ride something that’s going to be painful on your backside and your hands, is totally impractical and has a pretty good chance of being nicked.

I was watching an episode of Japan Railway Journal a few months ago now when I started writing this post and saved it as a draft. It’s an NHK World show about the incredible Japanese railways. In this episode, they were showcasing a special train designed to take road cyclists and their bikes from Tokyo out to the seaside in Chiba, the neighbouring prefecture.

The train was kitted out with everything a cyclist could want including dedicated hanging bike storage for every passenger. But as much as I loved the train and the concept, the thing I want to talk about is what they called the bikes on the show. They didn’t call them road bikes. They called them Sports Bikes. What a great name for them. The term road bike is a pretty stupid one really. We ride all sorts of bikes on roads.

When you talk about Mountain Bikes, you know what that term means. It generally means a bike for serious off-road riding for either professionals or amateurs with a serious interest in that type of riding. Sports Bike would be the equivalent for performance tarmac machines. I think that’s why Gravel Bike is also a better name that most of us previously thought. The more obvious the name, the better.

Categories
Miscellaneous

How To Get Worthing Cycling Without Doing Anything

Worthing council is famous for being unwilling to do anything to encourage cycling (aside from literally encouraging it). This is a special post for the powers that be over there. The definitive guide for getting people cycling in Worthing for the lowest possible price: free.

1. Introduce bicycle hire (including electric bike option) with docks everywhere. The Donkey bikes are good but no where near enough.

2. Introduce car free weekends.

3. When people realise the town is better without cars, ban private cars all the time.

You’re welcome.

Categories
Miscellaneous

The Paris Agreement Was a Failure. The Glasgow Agreement Will Be Even Worse

I remember watching that famous ending to the COP21 when Laurent Fabius hit his leaf shaped wooden mallet on the desk to signify the deal being accepted.

Al Gore was happy, and I was happy. I remember feeling emotional in that moment. Maybe this really would be the start of huge change to the way we live. But it wasn’t. Anyone who follows the up-to-date science knew that 1.5c was a fantasy, but we could forgive that because it showed real ambition. But it turned out that no one cared to live up to that. It was for show on that day, and nothing more.

COP26 however, is almost certain to be far worse. It will be a political affair, not a scientific one. The only job of the UK negotiators will be to get every country to agree on Net Zero 2050. A target that requires basically no government action for the next 20 years. It’s just a nice round date far off in the future. And you can be sure that the net zero target everyone agrees to will have all the loopholes you’ve come to expect. Wood burning? Of course. Shipping and aviation? You bet.

If you still have your hopes up for COP26, I would politely suggest that it’s time to lower them. All the way down. At least then you will be somewhat prepared for the bullshit that’s coming. You’ll still be angry when it happens. Such is the nature of being human. You can never fully prepare, but you can at least lessen the blow.

I’ve been thinking this way about COP26 for a while, but recently reading the book “A Chicken Can’t Lay A Duck Egg” really helped me to relax more. The realisation that nothing you do in the neoliberal political and economic system can save us from climate disaster really helps focus the mind. We have to change the system. That’s all.

Rich people buying electric yachts, electric helicopters, electric sports cars, electric private jets, eco mansions etc is not sustainable. The only way for them to be truly sustainable is to live small and live local like everyone else. We’ve all enjoyed the little things in life during the pandemic, and we have to make that a permanent lifestyle change if we’re to have any chance of having a future to look forward to.

COP26 has no intention of going in this direction. It’s up to the rest of us to make sure we do.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Build Bikes to Quality, not Price

I’ve written about cheap bikes before several times, but today I want to talk about why it makes no sense to build bikes down to a price which compromises quality.

A rusty old cheap bike in Worthing.

One of the reasons I love companies such as Riese & Muller is because they build the bikes they themselves want to ride. They use the best components they can find that will create the best bike possible, and whatever that amounts to, that’s the price you pay. That’s not to say you can’t make quality bikes for an affordable amount, but what people consider affordable needs to change.

For example, my Dutch bike from Batavus cost me about £600. For that amount of money, you get a workhorse of a bike that you can ride every day, and you don’t have to worry about it. Barely any maintenance is required and it’s the perfect short distance commuter for a flat area. You can get bikes that look similar for around half the price, and they come with derailleurs, lower quality metal components that will rust quickly, and things like tyres will be cheaper and more puncture prone.

You will be a slave to your local bike shop if you buy one of those type of imitation Dutch bikes, and you won’t enjoy your riding as much either. In the grand scheme of things, that extra £300 is not much, and most likely you will save yourself at least that amount because you probably won’t get punctures and you won’t need to replace drivetrain parts. I certainly haven’t done any maintenance on my Batavus in the 2 years I’ve owned it, and I’m not expecting to do much any time soon.

But beyond just the financial and ownership aspects, simply put, cheap bikes are not sustainable. The bike industry, and society would be so much better off if we increase the minimum cost of a bike significantly. You could still sell single speed bikes for less, because they’re so simple. But other types of bikes should really start at around that £600 mark if we’re going to have a sustainable cycling system.

It would also be very helpful for shops to have less cheap bikes coming back for parts and service. We have lost a lot of bike shops in the last several years and more quality bikes going out the door will help give these businesses a bit of extra breathing room to cope with the increased demand we need to see. It would also allow time to scale bike retail up to the kind of levels we see in The Netherlands and Denmark.

Eventually, we’ll get to where the Dutch are now. Average bike sale prices in The Netherlands are about 3 times higher than countries like the UK, and that’s no coincidence. It’s a result of treating bicycles as vehicles. The more respect is shown for cycling, the more money people spend on bikes. That’s the future we want, but we have to start by cutting out the unsustainable junk.