Is Cycling in Worthing Fun Any More?

I just got back from a night ride at just after 10pm. I’ve gone out riding at about 9pm every other ride since the covid bike lane was removed (every 4 days). Today was the day that the “national lockdown” ended and we went back into the local tiered system. I wasn’t expecting to see a significant difference considering how laxly people took the so called lockdown over the last month, but I actually did.

It was a pretty shitty ride in general, the ground was wet from earlier rain, and I know that even with full mudguards and a belt drive on my e-bike, bikes aren’t designed to deal with dirty water. But then when I saw more cars than I expected, and I went past the local bank to see parked cars back where there had been bollards for the bike lane just days earlier, I felt a wave of sadness wash over me.

I kept on riding towards the bridge, defiantly in the middle of the ex-covid lane, still complete with bicycle logos on the ground. I got over the bridge before any cars came along in the same lane. The other one was free so that makes sense, but then coming to the roundabout was when the second realisation hit me. I looked and saw the bollards were gone, and at the same time I got honked at from behind to get out of the way of the real vehicle. I felt rushed so I went around the roundabout, but as I was doing so, I was considering how much better it felt with the terrible infrastructure that was now gone. Yes, it took longer to get across. But I felt far more protected by temporary infrastructure designed by people who don’t give a fuck about cycling than I do when it goes back to nothing at all.

Once you get used to some infrastructure, no matter how badly designed it is, it becomes incredibly hard to go back to having nothing. Especially as removing the covid lanes gives the drivers a mandate to be even less respectful towards people on bikes than they were before.

How late do I have to go for a ride to be free of cars? 10pm? 11pm? I just feel like I’m done riding on roads with cars, and I’m also done with riding on paths packed with pedestrians and unleashed dogs. If nothing changes, I don’t really feel like I’m enjoying riding my bike enough to do any more than the bare minimum of riding for exercise and running errands. Unless something huge changes, I don’t see myself doing any big rides for quite a while.

Maybe we should invest in one of those Wahoo Kickr Bikes and just ride on Zwift instead.


Two Months Car Free

Batavus Personal Bike: my daily driver

It’s been almost 2 months since I got rid of my EV and went car free. Because of the current situation I haven’t really had to go many places yet so it’s hard to give a real assessment of how practical it is, but it’s definitely a case of so far, so good.

I think at some point, the lack of electric buses, taxis, Ubers and EV car rental is going to start annoying me big time. That is inevitable. But so far it’s been fine. Generally, we get our groceries delivered weekly and that’s usually enough to avoid going to the local convenience store during the pandemic.

I haven’t had a “summer break” from Covid like most people seem to have had. I knew it was going to come back strongly as soon as I saw the Tories phasing out the restrictions. I’ve been careful the whole time as I was told to shield pretty early on as a precaution. Once my employer required me to come back to work towards the end of the furlough, I refused and quit. I knew I was in a good situation to live off my savings for a while, just as long as the pandemic doesn’t go on for years. And I wasn’t prepared to put myself in a really unpleasant situation that was worse than when I was initially told to stay at home. Especially at a time when it was clearly accelerating again with an even worse government response than in the spring.

The Smart EQ ForTwo was a fun car. But ownership is not the future.

I have had to make one essential trip which was easy enough by bike. Other than that, I’m going walking or cycling for fun and exercise and that’s really it. In the event that I have to go further than the 5 miles I can comfortably go on my non-ebike (because I can’t leave my e-bike anywhere) maybe I could buy an e-scooter or something like that. But even then you might not be able to bring it with you depending on the destination. We desperately need e-scooter storage lockers everywhere, in addition to the secure, indoor bike parks that are essential for growing cycling as transport.

I think it’s too early to say how this is going to play out. The covid and climate crises have the potential to change the way we do things massively in the coming year. Tesla is getting closer to self driving robotaxis seemingly every day, with other companies also making strides. It may be that by the time covid is over, car ownership will be steeply declining. That would be the ideal scenario, but we just have to wait and see.

I think even if nothing much changes, it will still have been the best decision for me. Even though I feel like a second class citizen without a car (which is very much by design), I also feel like I’m back to doing what I’m meant to be. And that feels great.


Bike Tech is Still Unbelievably Boring

The types of innovations that excite me in cycling are things related to reliability, durability and sustainability and cargo. I don’t really care about aerodynamics, weight reduction or high end materials. They’re not relevant to 99.9% of people and they are usually anything but sustainable.

Good things are happening. You just need to look at Riese & Muller, Urban Arrow, Tern, Gocycle, Bosch, Yamaha, Rohloff, Pinion, NUA Bikes, Nicolai and many others to see that. But all the good that is being done is being dwarfed by the stagnation and lack of useful innovation happening elsewhere.

Look at Specialized’s website for example. Every single model they offer is fitted with derailleur gears. They ditched their urban brand Globe many years ago. That was the only good thing they’ve done in my opinion. Everything else has been innovation in the wrong areas. Yeah, the Levo is a great electric mountain bike, but EMTBs aren’t going to free us from cars. They’re just fucking up the world more. Allowing more people to fuck up the countryside than ever before. And driving their bikes out there with their big SUVs.

It’s not enough for belt drives and gearboxes to still be niche in 2020. We need them to be mainstream if we’re going to get rid of cars from our urban and suburban areas. People want bikes that need a simple service once a year, like a car. They want tyres that don’t need inflating once a week, like a car. Schwalbe seems to understand that. I’m very excited about their new Aerothan tubes. But it definitely feels like most of the industry doesn’t get any of this. The U.K. cycling media most definitely doesn’t based on what I’ve seen. They approach everything from a performance perspective. If we’re going to see an urban cycling takeover, it’s not going to be anything to do with them.

But at the end of the day, it always comes back to the car culture. As long as bicycles are not treated as serious vehicles in a society, people will not be willing to spend the money required to get all of the benefits of the type of bike tech I support.

I’m tired of being met with a sea of rusty old derailleur equipped bikes at every bike park. And even at bike shops, seeing nothing but derailleur bikes in 2020. We desperately need change now. As much as I love Shimano, they are hugely to blame for this current situation we’re facing. They need to stop making derailleurs for non-race bikes and strongly push manufacturers to make the shift to gear hubs. And they need to come out with a gearbox, as has been rumoured, that really pushes the bike industry in a new direction.


How I Would Turn Honda Around

I don’t have a lot of love for the traditional automotive industry any more, but I do have a soft spot for Honda. They don’t mind doing some risky things and they don’t take themselves as seriously as most other brands out there.

We’ve just seen that they decided to leave F1 at the end of 2021. They say it’s due to needing to switch to EVs faster than they thought. It was clear for a long time that their projections were incredibly off, so I’m not surprised they got a nasty shock. We don’t know how much Covid has to do with it. Whether the pandemic sped up the decision making process or gave them clarity. Maybe they even saw Tesla battery day and said “oh shit, we have to commit 100% right now”, although I very much doubt that.

The incredibly conservative motorsport media seem to think that Honda can now just buy out a team in FE and it’s problem solved for them. While they could join Formula E and I would personally like to see them do so, it wouldn’t be anything more than a marketing exercise. So here is what I would do if I was running the company right now.

1. Buy or merge with Yamaha Motor

The motorcycle industry is not going to thrive in the upcoming decade. In order to survive, they need to switch focus from powerful fossil fuelled machines designed for leisure use, to practical electric scooters and micromobility products. We know they’ve already been collaborating on battery tech, so a merger or acquisition would be a logical next step.Yamaha have the ability to be very innovative. We’ve seen that in many of their research projects. The two companies combined would complement each other very well in my opinion.

It would also give Honda an entry into the incredibly important e-bike market, which will be absolutely crucial in the next ten years. I also think one of the two companies should acquire the Stroke leaning cargo bike. Cargo is clearly going to be the most crucial of the e-bike segments, and that company is literally asking to be acquired. Someone needs to because it’s a great design that needs to be in the hands of consumers.

Yamaha’s ground breaking pedal assist bike from 1993

2. Immediately pull out of all fossil fuel motorsports

The day after Honda announced they were pulling out of F1, Indycar announced that they were going to introduce hybrid engines in 2023. We don’t need to get into the pathetic timeline for something they should have had years ago. We all know it’s a joke. I just don’t understand why Honda have committed to this. I think it must come down to either the relatively low cost of Indycar, or perhaps they signed a contract a while ago and want to honour it. That’s the Japanese way.

Any fossil fuelled race series they compete in, they should immediately stop. That means MotoGP, WTCR, GT3, Super Formula and Super GT. Although I would hope they’d find a way to make Super GT sustainable, because it’s the only fossil powered motorsport series I still enjoy.

3. Keep being weird

The Honda e is in my opinion the coolest car in the world. It’s not the best car in the world, but it’s the coolest. And that matters. Make it the centrepiece of your brand and replicate it in all your future products. Not just cars. Make them fun and make people smile. Honda does that better than anyone else. Just think of Asimo for example.

4. Immediately end all research and development relating to combustion engines.

Sell the existing models only as you develop EV products. This perhaps should be number one, but it basically goes without saying. And I guess it also should be mentioned that any model currently produced that is sold in hybrid and fossil only versions should immediately stop production of the non-hybrid version.

I think if Honda do something along these lines then they can survive the massive transition that’s gathering pace. But they haven’t got a day to waste. We’re still in the early days of the electric takeover. If they get caught with only the Honda e available when the market really goes crazy then they’ll be in big trouble. I think the key thing for them is just to be different and fun. If they try to do what Tesla are doing then they will cease trading long before anyone in the mainstream business press could possibly imagine.