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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.

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Miscellaneous

The Car Industry Doesn’t Sell People F1 Cars. Why Does The Bike Industry Focus So Much On Selling Racing Bikes?

I generally hate the car industry. I’m sure it began with good intentions, but it has evolved to be so underhanded and evil that they no longer have the ability to think about the greater good.

I don’t hate it. But it should be a tiny percentage of the overall bike industry.

But even I have to admit that the car industry does a couple of things right. And one of them is that they sell people cars that have practical uses. They don’t focus their entire industry on selling people sports cars when they need family cars. That’s obvious, you might say. And I would agree. But then walk into any standard British bike shop and look at what they sell.

95% or more of what they sell is the equivalent of car dealerships selling sports cars. The sports part of cycling is totally dominant in this country and most others around the world.

I get that when urban designers first began trying to push out the bike from towns and cities, bike shops probably were trying to fight back and sell bikes for daily use. But they must have realised it wasn’t going to keep them in business and switched to the now standard road and mountain bike sectors. But the real issue I have now is that times are clearly changing. People are realising the mistakes (to put it politely) of the past and that cycling is the key to our sustainable future.

But almost nothing is changing. The bike shops aren’t pushing in that direction. They’re just happy for cycling to continue being this tiny niche of selling leisure toys to mostly wealthy middle-aged white men, so they can keep driving their SUV to the hills or the trails to enjoy their hobby. No need to do anything about our car-ravaged towns and cities. No need to integrate bicycles into the public transport system. No need to build proper infrastructure or secure parking. No need to restrict car use whatsoever.

A great example of the problem is the YouTube channel EMBN (Electric Mountain Bike Network). It’s part of the GCN group of channels under the umbrella of Play Sports Network. It’s the only channel in the group to focus on e-Bikes. But 99% of the time they’re only talking about electric mountain bikes. There is no dedicated channel for urban e-Bikes. Just the occasional feature on the racing focused GCN. And even then, most e-Bike content is regarding electric road or gravel models. Not surprising for a British based channel, but they broadcast to the world and are very influential, which is a big problem.

Cycling is a sport. But like motorsport, it’s a form of transportation first and a sport second. And it’s about time the cycling industry got it the right way round. Our future on this planet is dependant on it.

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Miscellaneous

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.

Categories
Miscellaneous

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.