Categories
Miscellaneous

Why Are There So Many Bike Brands? And Why Are None of Them Selling The Bikes We Need?

Specialized, Trek, Giant, Scott, Cannondale, BMC, Cervelo, Bianchi and hundreds of others I could list. What’s the difference? Well, if you’re looking for any kind of road or mountain bike, honestly not much. There are differences, but they’re so subtle that no normal person would notice. Put it this way, even professionals who basically live on their bikes have to ride whatever their team’s bike sponsor provides. Mark Cavendish has won on all sorts of bikes for example on road and track.

If you walk into your local bike shop, they are likely to carry one or more brands. If you’re looking for a road, hybrid style or mountain bike then you’ll find one to suit without going to another store. They all use the same components, generally either SRAM or Shimano. The only differences will be in geometry and any number of gimmicks, for example the Lefty fork from Cannondale, or the specialized Future Shock suspended handlebar design. They’re not things that will make huge differences. The frame and rear suspension linkage designs on mountain bikes do differ, but again, unless you’re a very serious rider, it won’t matter.

I don’t like agreeing with Lance Armstrong particularly, but he was right when he said that when buying a bike, just go with whatever brand you like, and which colour you like. Because they’re all basically the same.

While this is true for road and mountain bikes, it isn’t the case if you want something else. If you want a folding bike, there is an enormous variance in folding mechanisms for example. Brompton being by far the best in my opinion.

If you want a bike for commuting, I’d personally recommend a Dutch style upright bike and for those, you’ll have to go to a specialist retailer or online if you’re in the U.K. As we’ve lost our minds and sold mountain bikes as commuters for some reason I can’t fathom.

When you get to e-Bikes, it gets more complicated as the different motor systems actually do make enough of a difference to the point that you might want to do your research, and then figure out which dealer you need to visit. And if you want something really special, such as a belt driven, full suspension urban e-Bike with full fenders and wider tyres, then Riese & Muller are there for you.

Simply put, the mainstream bicycle industry has lost its way completely and the only way to buy the types of bikes that in my opinion, most people would benefit from, you have to go to niche brands. That cannot be right.

The types of bikes that are popular in the Netherlands, where cycling is a normal, daily activity that almost everyone does are upright bikes with chain cases and heavy duty luggage racks, and cargo bikes which are incredibly useful and will be indispensable tools in fighting air pollution and congestion in our towns and cities.

We’re not going to solve all of the transport related issues we have in the U.K. with road bikes and mountain bikes. It’s not going to happen. Things need to change, and quickly. We need the infrastructure to be built first and foremost, but we also need to be seeing huge numbers of Dutch and cargo bike shops opening up.

Categories
Miscellaneous

The Quirks of Dutch Bikes, and Don’t Ride without Fenders

Yesterday I was fitting a new saddle to my Batavus Personal Bike, and because it was the second one I’d bought for this bike (had to take it to bike shop that time because it was so tight from the factory), I had a spare Ergon model. I’ll get back to that later.

Fitting the new seat, you have to deal with the Dutch style seatpost clamp, which allows the seat to slide side to side. This makes lining it up straight unnecessarily difficult. It’s the same thing I found with the Dunlop / Woods valves. The Dutch have a way of making everything so practical, but at the same time have this little quirks which contradict the overall Dutch cycling experience in the country.

Perhaps the reason they get away with it is because everyone in the Netherlands takes their bikes to the shop for maintenance and to inflate the tyres, but I can’t imagine that’s really the case. It’s something I think they really need to address.

As far as the spare Ergon saddle, I thought it would be a good idea to fit it to my brother’s single speed commuter bike. There were two lessons learned from this. Firstly, the seat clamp on that bike was so much simpler. You just have two bolts underneath the clamp, and the way it’s designed forces the saddle into a straight line. There’s no chance of it being off to the side, which makes it so much easier.

The second thing I noticed was that the clamp was really dirty. The bike hasn’t really been cleaned thoroughly ever, so all those days commuting in the rain, the tyres flicked up the dirt into the area. Something that would not happen if you run with fenders. Yes, on a road bike it maybe doesn’t look so cool but on an urban bike, the hassle just isn’t worth it. At least not for me. And fenders just look cool anyway. It’s a no brainer.

Categories
Miscellaneous

My letter to West Sussex County Council regarding bicycle infrastructure

This was sent in November 2017 (and lead to nothing as you would expect). WSCC now appear to be focusing more on cycling short distances and discouraging people from driving fossils on those trips especially. But sadly this just extends to telling people to ride bikes and not installing any infrastructure that would give them a real incentive to change their habits.

Hi, I just want to ask about cycling infrastructure in the county and specifically in Worthing. My opinion is that this area is incredibly unfriendly to cyclists in terms of road provision and design. The only area I know of that makes cycling feel enjoyable and safe is along the seafront from West Worthing to shoreham and beyond.

But it is not enough, and I’m worried that cycling is not going to be prioritised in the way it should be in the coming years. We need to be able to get on our bikes and be able to go anywhere without even thinking about cars. Segregated cycle lanes, totally independent cycle routes and other similar ideas would be huge for our area. They would cut down on unnecessary short car journeys, massively reduce congestion and most importantly clean up our air and at the same time reduce our carbon emissions. Not to mention, people will be outside and exercising. Even if they’re riding an electric bike, it’s a massively more efficient way to move people around than driving gigantic diesel powered SUVs with only one person occupying them.

Thank you for considering this.

Chris Till

Categories
Miscellaneous

What’s the Actual Solution for Sustainable Suburban Travel?

Considering most people’s commutes and daily errands are easily eBike compatible distances, even in big countries like the US. It’s quite obvious that we’re utterly failing in tackling our desperate climate and air pollution crises.

Not only would it be far cheaper to incentivise cycling and eBikes, electric kick scooters etc, but we would get rid of traffic, be healthier and happier. We’d take an immense amount of strain off of health services (who as we’ve heard, are overstretched and struggling).

It’s so bloody obvious, and yet we’re having to campaign for segregated bike routes. Why should we campaign for common sense? Why the fuck should anyone do that?

It’s becoming clear to me that electric vehicles of the non-autonomous variety are not going to solve much. We can’t get them into widespread use quickly enough when we consider how quickly the climate crisis is accelerating.

We can’t wait until 2025 for the other manufacturers to make EVs in significant volumes. Tesla are different because every car they’re building can instantly transition into being a RoboTaxi. No other car can, so they are effectively useless. And that’s new EVs. Let alone new fossil cars (including hybrids).

We also have a ridiculous situation with the sizes of cars ever increasing, the roads staying them same, while still encouraging people to cycle. Anyone think that makes sense? I talked to people at work about commuting by bike. They thought I was mad. When I asked if they would do it if there were traffic free routes, they said they would. It doesn’t get more clear than that.

The British Cycling survey that I participated in and that was just released showed that even ‘hardcore’ road cyclists don’t feel safe on the roads. How can you expect people to take up cycling for the first time in that kind of environment? I took several years off from cycling when I was younger. When I returned to cycling, I remember I was scared and had to slowly build my confidence back, starting on quiet roads. And I was an experienced rider with years of road riding in my past. So I can’t even imagine how it would feel to a complete novice.

So what do we do? For a start, instantly transition into spending all money that would be allocated to new roads into new or upgraded micro mobility infrastructure. Instead of simply patching up potholes so they can quickly wear out again, use the opportunity to redesign the entire road layout and incorporate cycling into areas previously thought too narrow. Make more one way systems in towns and cities. If the cars are autonomous, they’re not going to get confused and annoyed like us stupid humans anyway (if you’re anything like me). And if you’ve got half the road dedicated to micro mobility, then chances are we’re going to choose bike or scooter anyway.

We also need to improve public transport with electric buses. We need good quality cycle hire schemes for when you’re not at home and don’t have your own bike with you. Then of course there’s trains, trams, subways, high speed trains built alongside motorways (so they don’t destroy the countryside further).

Something you see in Denmark and Japan especially are bicycle “multi storey car parks”. Secure, paid bike parks in all urban areas, business parks etc that treat bicycles as real vehicles. Not cheap, disposable, rusty pieces of junk. These are essential in my view. People will probably scoff, but like I said, why should you campaign for common sense? When things have been proven in other countries, you just go ahead and implement it yourself.

We also need to reduce our populations to sustainable levels with common sense proposals to do so. We need to build up rather than out in our cities. We can’t all live in big, detached houses filled with crap we don’t need. We need to embrace tunnels more than we do now. I don’t agree with everything The Boring Company is doing but generally they are on the right track. Hyperloop is the holy grail when it comes to allowing us a way to continue global tourism into the long term without destroying the planet. But we don’t know how far away that is, and I’m getting away from the suburban focus of this post.

There are so many aspects of sustainability that go far beyond just transport. Maybe I’ll get into them in another post. But for now, please let me know if you have any other ideas for local transport. I might have missed something obvious.