Posts Tagged ‘Boris Bikes’

The key to preventing bike thefts

October 31, 2013

I’ve had an idea how manufacturers could help prevent thefts of their bicycles. It’s not going to happen now, but I think it could happen in the future. To explain, I’m going revisit the recent past.

A few months ago I wandered into a shop which sold only electric bikes. The owner’s enthusiasm for his products was tempered by a smugness which I thought was unwarranted. Thanks to his bike’s motor, he could get from his shop to central London within 10 minutes – but then so could I, and I can enjoy the exhilaration of riding a bike rather than the tedium of operating a clunky electric machine. He pointed out all the bicycles in his shop were fitted with a disabling system (which I presume contribute to their two grand price tag). It’s basically a small electronic card that fits into a slot on the handlebars and it functions in a similar way to a car key: without it, the bike won’t start. He said that as a result of the disabler, he had only one bike stolen in the past seven years. Well, none of my bikes have a special electronic key, and I haven’t had one nicked for more than a decade. Maybe knowing where you can’t safely leave your bike unattended is more worthwhile than having an expensive anti-theft device.

I doubt electric bikes will sell particularly well in the UK over the next few years. Apparently they’re the coming thing in China, the Netherlands and Germany, but these are countries that each have had their own cycling cultures for generations, so I suspect a lot of long-term riders are converting to electric when age or its attendant infirmity or injury prevents them from using regular bikes. Countries such as Britain that have recently caught the cycling bug may take longer to convert. Here in London, some of the Barclays hire bikes will go electric for a trial in a hillier part of the capital, and I imagine they will prove popular with the more, shall we say, leisurely rider who doesn’t want to sweat it when the road heads upwards. But realistically, how many Londoners would end up spending the price of a decent second-hand car on an electric bike of their own if they could use one for £1 a pop?

The disabler, though, is a useful idea. I wasn’t aware that such a facility existed – and neither, I suspect, did the thief who threw the shopkeeper’s bike into the back of his van, otherwise he wouldn’t have taken it. Surely what we need is a gadget that can fit onto the next generation of ordinary, pedal-powered, mass-market bikes; that way, every thief would know about them, and its presence would act as a disincentive to theft because the bikes would be much harder to sell on without that “key”. But what would that thing be?

I think it already exists. It’s the electronic groupset. Take the battery out of the slot for Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 and my Ridley Excalibur is not much use. Yes, you can still ride it in whatever gear you left it in, and I’m not suggesting we all buy expensive, Di2-equipped carbon bicycles to go down the shops or get to work. But the prices of electronic groupsets are coming down as their popularity increases, which means, like all kinds of consumer goods, it is probably only a matter of time before they make it into the mainstream. So maybe we could one day see an ordinary commuter bike that a thief couldn’t easily sell on because the bit that makes it fully operable is in the pocket of the owner. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

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Hostility on Kensington High Street

October 25, 2013

Rim brakes versus disc brakes. Electronic gears versus mechanical. Froome versus Wiggins. Sometimes, when the entrenched opinions and fierce debates of competitive cycling get too much, I long for a time when cycling was, for me, simply a means of getting about. Surely I would encounter fewer angry exchanges of deeply-held views if I went back to simply being a commuter. Then I disabuse myself of this notion by venturing into the realm of cycling advocacy and cycle safety. A spleen has not truly been vented, it seems, until it is tackling the merits of, say, a shared-use pathway.

Unusually, I found a cycling advocacy blog last week that actually made me laugh, albeit unintentionally. It goes by the wholly unbiased and open-minded title Two Wheels Good, Four Wheels Bad, and the post that gave me a chortle was about the proposed Cycle Superhighway.

It seems council officials are resisting Transport for London’s plan to build a two-lane segregated bike route along Kensington High Street because it would reduce traffic flow to one lane on part of the road and supposedly create an obstacle for pedestrians wanting to catch buses. These could be valid reasons, or they might be excuses from intransigent councillors, perhaps refusing to be ordered about by a much larger body. What’s interesting, though, is Two Wheels’ insistence that Kensington High Street is a “hostile” design for cyclists, and that the Superhighway is the best way to remedy it.

“Kensington High Street is a shopping street,” Two Wheels Good fumes, “not a distributor road, so why on earth should it have two lanes of motor traffic in each direction?!” Well, I’ve lived a few minutes away for almost 14 years, and I’ve found it one of the more pleasant main roads in Zone 1 to cycle on, partly because of its width and relatively low traffic levels. And isn’t it precisely because it is a shopping street with slower-moving traffic that makes a dedicated two-way cycle lane unnecessary?

What amused me is that as I was thinking this, Two Wheels made my point for me with a series of photographs.

kensington high street empty road

“It would be difficult to come up with something more hostile to cycling if you tried,” the blog states, even though the photos clearly show the opposite: the road is wide, there are lots of empty spaces, and cyclists are easily negotiating their way around parked vehicles.

kensington high street cab ahead

kensington high street passing cab

kensington high street walking bikes

“Also important to note is the two separate cases of Barclays Cycle Hire users that felt the road, in it’s [sic] current layout, was too dangerous to use and wheeled/cycled on the pavement instead.” It’s also important to note that he didn’t appear to actually ask them why. Maybe they just like cycling on the pavement. The trio walking their bikes may be tourists. They could’ve been lost. Or maybe they just got bored of cycling around.

Who knows? Certainly not Two Wheels Good. It seems to me that he just doesn’t like the road because it doesn’t have a segregated path and nothing will change his opinion. So yes, there is hostility on Kensington High Street. But its presence is behind the camera, not in front of it.

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #11

August 5, 2011

5 DOWN 5,000 green bottles
Cycling does funny things to colours. Yellow is generally the colour of cowardice, but in the two-wheeled world it’s the hue of a hero’s vestment. Similarly, green means young or inexperienced, which is in stark contrast to the status of elder statesmen Robbie McEwen, 39, and 38-year-old Stuart O’Grady, who are both reportedly on the verge of signing for the seemingly inappropriately-named GreenEDGE (and, by the way, if no sarky blogger has dubbed the incipient Australian team GreyEDGE yet, then The DYNAMITE! Files would like to be the first to do so). But there can be no doubt what the same colour indicates to the good people of Wiggle and Gatorade: following the traditional marketing definition, “green” means producing lots of plastic rubbish nobody really wants or needs and shamelessly attaching it to an eco-friendly endeavour, which is what the two companies did in a prominent double-page ad in Cycling Weekly. Apparently you can own one of 5,000 specially-created bottles if you buy some of the aforementioned energy drink from the online retailer, but they “support” the Sky Rainforest Rescue project so that’s OK. Slightly muddled thinking there, but what do you expect? If you read the first sentence of the blurb below the jerseys, they also seem to think that the Tour de France is still going on…

4 UP Keepcup
On the subject of green issues, Keepcup plopped into the recycling bin of The DYNAMITE! Files’ consciousness this week. “We love bikes,” boast the Australian makers of the reusable coffee receptacle, pointing to their ingeniously designed delivery bicycles. Hopefully, then, the bike-loving caffeinistas will eventually get round to designing a version of the Keepcup that actually bloody fits in a bottle cage, instead of being jammed awkwardly at the top (as pictured above). One slight bump and you might experience what accident investigators might call a latte/tarmac interface. Messy.

3 DOWN Cycling Active
It’s been a week of intriguing questions. Will Sky now have Mark Cavendish on its roster next season? Has Christian Vande Velde ever got lost while riding the Tour de France? And how many miles can you cycle in an hour? The last poser was tweeted by Cycling Active magazine on Tuesday, and – you’d never guess – the answer appears to be that the number varies according to the person, the terrain and the weather. CA’s next possible request to its readership: tell us your favourite length for a piece of string. Or vote for your top temperature.

2 UP powerBIKE
They cannot fight it. At some point, every average wannabe-pro will surrender to the distant thud of David Guetta luring them to their local gym. And it is here, among the baggy shorts, sweatbands and non-wicking fabrics, that they shall face their most daunting challenge: prove you are superior to your fellow spin class attendees by wearing the dorkiest outfit in the room. With his shades and his aero helmet, the chap pictured above is clearly the King of the Spinners – but he is also taking gym snobbishness to teeth-clenchingly unbearable levels by recreating the experience of riding a cobbled Classic. The pedalling version of the now-ubiquitous Power Plate can recreate the juddering sensations one might usually associate with the Muur or the Koppenberg, and the makers claim you get a better workout than an ordinary spin bike because the rider’s muscles are working to counteract the vibrations. Which may be true, although a shonky, second-hand aluminium Ribble and a crappy road surface would be a more cost-effective way of doing the same job as a powerBIKE (RRP: £2,995).

1 UP Bare heads
Fantastic news for the helmet-averse: a poll of 1,427 doctors in the British Medical Journal has revealed that most medics do not want to see crash lids made compulsory as they fear it would put people off cycling. Natasha Austin, 24, of Maida Vale, concurs in the vox pops at the end of the London Evening Standard‘s story: “I don’t wear a helmet and I use Boris bikes. If it were compulsory I might cycle less because then you would have to carry it around.” Now, as one of the few remaining impartial media outlets on the World Wide Whinge, The DYNAMITE! Files wishes to avoid getting into the thorny issue of compulsory helmet usage. But Natasha, sweetheart, a helmet weighs less than the keys in your pocket, and you could always strap it to your bag. You also have to walk to get to your Boris bike, and you may be unable to park it at your destination, which means you are experiencing more hassle on a regular basis than most cyclists do. So don’t think of it is a helmet – treat it as your own personal Crown of Indifference, a proud symbol of how nonplussed you are by minor inconveniences, and wear/carry it with pride.

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #1

April 8, 2011

5 DOWN Puns
There was a keen sense of anticipation in The DYNAMITE! Files’ famous soundproof bunker last Friday when we tore into our pile of morning papers hoping to witness an orgy of inventive punnery accompanying photos of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Boris Johnson riding the latter’s titular two-wheelers – so you can imagine the intense disappointment when we discovered no one had plumped for “joke pedallers”, “political Raleigh” or “Last Traction Heroes”. In fact, the only pun deployed was – wait for it – “I’ll be bike”, which was used by no fewer than five publications. I’ll be bloody bike! He’s not a bike! Neither of them are! It doesn’t even make sense! The headline should, of course, have been “Faster la Vista, Boris!” But nobody asked us, did they?

4 UP Sponsorship opportunities
Oh, cruel fate! Friend of this blog and all-round nice chap Will Hayter drew his action-packed daily diary of the Absa Cape Epic to a premature close after hitting a ditch and taking a very nasty tumble on last Friday’s 143km-long stage. The DYNAMITE! Files wishes him a speedy recovery, but having seen the wince-inducing footage of his wheel-mangling smash, it can’t help wondering why 12 sponsors would want to associate themselves with such a painful misfortune in the clip’s closing frames. Coming soon: You’ve Been Framed bike crash special, sponsored by [NAME OF WHEEL MANUFACTURER DELETED FOR LEGAL REASONS].

3 UP Wood
Another week, another groundbreaking material surely destined to usurp the carbon stranglehold – and unlike fancy-pants nylon fused by the magic of lasers in a 3D printer, this one is made from those dull, useless bits of scenery you usually ride past, or “trees” as they’re commonly known. For just £4,500, the discerning cyclista is invited to own an Audi-branded wooden bicycle equipped with SRAM Red, which you will no doubt agree is, er, truly unbe-leaf-able. Photographic evidence of two or more of these bikes actually being ridden would be a novelty, if only to make a quip about them being a splinter group.

2 DOWN Lycra
Prepare to overhaul your wardrobe, chums, because the death knell of the cyclist’s fabric of choice was sounded on Monday by no less a clothing authority than a features scribbler from the London Evening Standard. The reason? Apparently Rapha has brought out a pair of jeans which you can’t actually buy at the moment. “Lycra – your days are numbered,” the scribbler concludes, and who knows what outdoor activity will be the next victim of her withering fashionista’s eye? Possible target for the autumn/winter season: those long, thin shoes maniacs use to slide down snow-covered mountains. And the sticks! Those silly sticks! Dahling, they’ve just got to go!

1 UP Emoticons

Poor old RoboFab. The mighty mandroid, known by his adopted human name of Fabian Cancellara, got into a horrible pickle after appearing to be less-than-gracious about the manner of his defeat at Sunday’s thrillingly unpredictable edition of the Tour of Flanders. The pre-race favourite said his rivals rode “only to make me lose” and Nick Nuyens’ victory “has no value” – but as he later explained: “Interviews are not coming out like always I be thinking to say things. Specially now what’s around sounds not me. Lot get lost in translation.” Yet while the subtleties of the Fablish tongue eluded the gentlemen of the press, there could be no misinterpreting the stark binary language of the emoticon on the Swiss cyborg’s back (pictured above) which reflected his fans’ reactions to the race as it unfolded. He’s caught Sylvain Chavanel (AMAZED FACE)! Oh no – he’s cramped on the Muur (AMAZED FACE)! Now Phillipe Gilbert’s gone on the Bosberg (AMAZED FACE)! Fab’s attacked with four kilometres to go (AMAZED FACE)! But Nuyens has got it (AMAZED FACE)! Finally, Team Lay-O-Pard have found a use for that clumsily-pronounced “o”.