Posts Tagged ‘electric bike’

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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The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #14

August 26, 2011

5 DOWN GreenEDGE
Imagine what you could do with 20 years of planning and a projected budget of 14 million quid a year: put a jaunty hat on the moon, perhaps, or stage Siegfried and Roy, live from the lost city of Atlantis, with giant, laser-eyed sabre-toothed robot tigers. Or, if you’re Australia’s nascent cycling project, cobble together a website that resembles a Powerpoint presentation for middle managers being delivered in an out-of-town Ramada Inn, and fill it with meaningless business-speak gobflappery. “The edge never stands still because we don’t allow it.” “Be first. Be best. Inspire. Give back.” “The edge in cycling is green.” GreenEDGE: the cutting edge of spirit-sapping dullness. GroanEDGE. Fingers crossed that all-round good fella Stuart O’Grady, a man not averse to partying shirtless with a bottle of vodka in each hand if David Millar’s fascinating autobiography is anything to go by, can liven up proceedings when the team is officially launched…

4 UP “RadioSharck”
On the subject of uninspiring teams, the knacker’s yard of American cycling’s elder statesmen briefly enjoyed the vaguely predatory moniker “RadioSharck” on Saturday thanks to the Spanish channel responsible for writing the TV captions for the Vuelta. Sadly, it was back to RadioShack for the next day’s results, with all the teams’ names replaced with their logos to prevent another butterfingered typing error. Spoilsports!

3 DOWN Garmin Vector
Standing by a Flemish road last year waiting for a race to pass, The DYNAMITE! Files made a reasonably amusing quip about Plastic Bertrand. It is not necessary to relay the comment here; suffice to say, it was greeted by a confused silence from our British chums, followed by a swift admission that they had never heard of Belgium’s most famous musical export. So having learned the hard way that Planet Cycling is sometimes unaware of wider popular culture, this blog would like to offer a small piece of advice to Garmin: please don’t hail the benefits of your new power-measuring gizmo as “similar to going from 2D to 3D”. Because 3D is a rubbish technological wheeze which is turning punters away from cinemas, while the Vector – regardless of what one thinks about the expense of power meters – looks like it will be totally amazeballs in its compactness and ease of fitting. Hope we’ve been of some help, fellas.

2 NO CHANGE The London School of Economics
The world of numbers is a confusing one for this humble, word-loving blog. On the one hand, it’s probably a good thing that bike-related sales experienced a 28 per cent increase last year, and that cycling now generally seems to be a “sustainable trend” in Britain. On the other, the report by the LSE which identified this “step-change in the UK’s cycling scene” was commissioned by British Cycling and Team Sky’s paymasters, and it was written by a cyclist from the seemingly unconnected field of “innovation and productivity”. So if someone cleverer than The DYNAMITE! Files could take a look at Dr Alexander Grous’s report and tell us if its findings stand up or if it’s a load of PR flimflammery, we’d be much appreciative. Cheers.

1 UP The Valparaiso Cerro Abajo
This item was going to be take issue with renowned cycling-basher Matthew Parris, who had another pop at cyclists yesterday (here’s a screengrab of his column if you’re not inclined to shell out for the privilege of going behind the Times paywall). But, frankly, Spain’s annual Tour de Motorways has set the tone for a dull old week, and it would be nice to end it with something exciting instead. So we’ll simply point out to Matthew that scoffing at “lurid spandex garments and absurd minimalist crash helmets” is a bit silly when you’re riding past them on an electric bike (translation: a mobility scooter for the able-bodied) while wearing a frigging pith helmet or a Bertie Wooster-style tweed hat. And now, having dispensed with that minor irritant, let us savour the thrills contained in a clip of an obscure downhill race in Chile called the Valparaiso Cerro Abajo, which was tweeted by that notorious adrenalin junkie, er, George Monbiot on Wednesday. This must be the only race in the world where stray dogs are a routine part of the course. Totally barking. Enjoy!