Friday, January 28, 2011

Does There Have to be a Point?

A little while after I'd switched to my multi-modal commute, I got talking to some businessmen on the train.

In one of those odd coincidences that happens occasionally, they turned out to be salesmen for a software product I'd once implemented.  After catching up a little on developments in their company, and at my former site, talk turned to my cycling.

"So, how many miles do you do?"

"Today, it'll be about 30 - I don't get the train all the way."

"30? Wow, what are you training for?"

"Er - well, nothing."

"No? So you're doing all that cycling every day?"

"Yeah, I like it."

"But not for anything?"

"Well, just enjoyment, I suppose."

"Oh, er, right."

You see, I ride a road bike, (although in the last couple of years, I overwinter on the Brompton) and I do wear bike specific clothing (but not on the Brompton, it's only 7 miles round trip, after all).  People tend to think that that means "training".  However I do those things because they make an hour or so on the bike each day comfortable, and mostly fun.

I do longer rides on Sundays as well, although again, these have little point beyond seeing how far I can get before the Mrs. Monkey crossness threshold is breached - there's a premium on covering a decent distance in under 3 hours, or simply seeing a new place in that time.  If there has to be a point to being out in the beautiful countryside around Cheshire, I think I'd rather not know about it. 

I can't rule out the possibility of working towards something, an event, or perhaps another tour, but for now, I don't really mind whether my cycling has a point or not.  The only cycling goal I've set this year, and one that I've not missed each year, on balance, since I started riding, is to have fun.

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Well, There are Lots of Trees, but Where on Earth is the Wood?

If ever there was proof that Britons are irrevocably wedded to the car, it's this article, on the BBC Website.

The article muses on how at risk cyclists are from the pollution produced by motor traffic. The solution? Simply measure and publish the pollution measurements so that cyclists can choose "when and where to cycle".

The assumptions made show just how staggeringly car centric our country is; that the pollution from motor traffic is, effectively, beyond mitigation, that cyclists (and presumably pedestrians) would not be commuting (like the drivers) and so can pick and choose the time of their journeys (having nowhere important to be on time), and that the "solution" is simply to get everyone out of the way of the cars, trucks and buses.

Still, it's one problem that Philip Hammond's electri-magical cars can actually solve, I suppose.

Unless you cycle near a power station.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

From Kitsune Noir: Kafka, Redesigned and Reconsidered by Peter Mendelsund

More "re-covering" - these alternative Kafka covers are wonderful - I liked Metamorphosis in particular.

Follow the link to read the full article.

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From Surly Blog: Preschool Commute - Thy Name is Troll

Whilst we're talking of Winter, here's a nice pic from the Surly blog, featuring their new do-it-all bike, the Troll.

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From Good: How to Winterize Yourself for a Bike Commute

The bike commuters here at GOOD are a spoiled bunch weather-wise. While much of the country shivers, we're basking in seventy degree winter weather. We applaud you two wheeled commuters braving the single digits.

We found this Streetsfilms cold weather pedal pushing primer quite helpful. From proper clothing layering and headgear—balaclava anyone?—to full fenders and frequent chain oiling—these Chicago toughs have you covered. 

Got more winterizing tips? Share them in the comments below. 

Read more at Good

Copenhagenisers will hate it ("OH NOES, LYCRA") but if you're a realist commuting outside of the bike friendly parts of the world during winter, this has some nice links for you.

As for me, I cut my commute down, and travel by Brompton. As it's only 7 miles a day, "normal" clothing is the order of the day - I increase the number of pairs of socks I wear according to how cold it is. I also highly recommend sport specific gloves - in my case, specific for horse riding, as my warmest are a pair of Sealskinz equestrian gloves.

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From Whatever: TWSBI Diamond 530 Fountain Pen

The TWSBI story is a reasonably well known one among fountain pen afficionados (I don't account myself one of those, although I have a users interest in them) and is an interesting study in the use of modern communication to develop and market a product. The pen pictured above was developed with a huge amount of input by members of the Fountain Pen Forum, as TWSBI's next product, the V700 pen will be.

The Diamond 530 also fits into the idea of the "Self Repair" manifesto I posted in December - it's designed from the ground up to be user serviceable and adjustable, even shipping with the tools you need to dismantle and re-assemble it!

The TWSBI Diamond 530 is generally well regarded, and TWSBI themselves are also, largely because of their responsiveness to consumers. The linked article focusses on the company's origins, and the development of the Diamond 530, with a link to a more comprehensive review of the pen.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

From The Cycling Silk: Transport Policy again

The Department for Transport has just laid before Parliament a report entitled Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon; Making Sustainable Local Transport Happen. It includes the following information:

"According to the Retail Price Index, the cost of buying a car fell by 29% in cash terms between 1999 and 2009, while general RPI inflation over the same period was 29%. However, the cost of car maintenance, petrol and oil, and tax and insurance all increased markedly faster than general inflation. The "combined" cost of motoring (covering purchase price and running costs) fell by 11% relevant to the general rate of inflation. Over the same period rail fares rose by 43% and bus and coach fares rose by 58% "

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From Naturally Cycling Manchester: Conversation with local postie & his bike…

Today I was in Didsbury … despite the rain, cycling was still the most straightforward way for me to get there, and how glad I was I did cycle!

As usual, I went to park Vita outside the library. As I dismounted I looked up and who do I see? My old work’s postie on his bike! After few “Hello! How are you?” he noticed that my bike is a Pashley and smiled saying “The RM bikes are Pashley!”… I smiled back and said I know!!

As he seemed able to spare a minute or two I asked him what was happening to the RM bikes in Manchester  (as I have been interested in the whole shenanigans), as I heard in Milton Keynes RM has phased out its bikes fleet already. He said that they were going to do the same in Manchester, but when it came to it they THEN realise that not only did they not have the money for it (doh!) to replace one bike with one van but that they just didn’t have the space for it!

Remember this?

42 Brompton bikes in a car space - (c)Brompton

Interesting piece on Naturally Cycling Manchester about the Royal Mail delivery service and bikes.

Ditching bikes has always seemed to be a backward step, to me, particularly given the inexorable rise in the cost of fuel (in general, oil is not getting easier to find, or cheaper to extract), and the potential for yet more speeding vehicles in residential areas. Despite that, the space implications at RM depots themselves hadn't occurred to me, but is blindingly obvious now I think of it.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

From Good: To Cut Emissions, Cut Parking Spots

When it comes to reducing auto emissions, new research says, "If you don't build it, they won't come."

According to findings in a new paper (PDF) from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, Europe's Parking U-Turn, several major European cities have had tremendous success regulating car emissions simply by eliminating the places in which cars can be parked. Hamburg, Zurich, Paris, and London have all cut spots, lessening auto emissions as well as spurring residents to seek out alternative transportation methods, like walking or biking.  

photo (cc) via Flickr user bee-side(s)

Read More at Good

No one's told Eric Pickles this, I'm guessing.

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From Bike Commuters: DZR GMT-8 Urban Cycling Shoe review

Read More at Bike Commuters

An interesting looking bike shoe (SPD compatible!) reviewed over at Bike Commuters. Despite their assertions to the contrary, I'm not convinced that the laces won't be a problem, but these look like a decent bet for anyone that really wants to ride clipless pedals and have that sought after "regular shoe" look off the bike.

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Alarm Tones

When you have an earlier start than your partner, the choice of morning alarm can be a source of some discontent.

I used to wake up to Jean Narcy's "Bravo Eddy";


Unfortunately, the rousing chorus of "La la la"s at the begining caused Mrs Monkey to awaken too, something she was a bit unhappy about at 5am.

So my alarm more recently has been the Tour De France theme, from Channel 4's coverage back in the '80s and '90s;

This works pretty nicely - not too strident at the beginning, and does get you in the mood for the morning commute. Is it really appropriate for the Winter months though, where my riding is curtailed to a 3 mile bimble to and from train stations on the Brompton?

Mrs Monkey's choice, given her dubbing of the Brompton as "that clown bike" would undoubtedly be this;

What I'm actually using is the main theme from Suspiria, by Goblin;

It has pretty much everything you want from an alarm tone - gentle chimes to start, becoming gradually louder, with sinister whispering and a feeling of creeping dread should you not stop the alarm and get up in time. Or maybe that's just me.

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Lost Myths: A Rumbling Deep in the Bowels of the World

Caption 2

Read the rest at

The best Lost Myths in a while, I reckon - the tale of Leviathan, the Whale God.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

From Good: New Jalapeño Bred Specifically to Hold More Cheese

Scientists at New Mexico State University's nonprofit Chile Pepper Institute recently announced that they had successfully bred a brand new, medium spicy, extra large jalapeño, specially optimized for "increased cheese payload."

Read More at Good

Surely this is what Science is for, no? Breeding food for increased "Cheese Payload"?

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From Kitsune Noir: Shepard Fairey Interview with Gestalten

You might not know his name, but you've almost certainly seen his work, or work inspired by his style.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

From Surly Blog: Ted and the Troll

A close up of a trailer corner, on Surly's "Ted" trailer. You can see the rest of the trailer, and the Troll by following the link above, of course.

"The corners feature threaded M6 bosses for bolting on corner stakes or sideboards. We’ll likely offer these accessories in the future, but don’t wait for us. Go to the hardware store or dig around your garage or basement, and make some stuff. Don't be scared. You can do it."

It's a typical Surly design - solid and simple, with standard parts & sizes that you can build up with readily available bits.

Also in the article is their "Troll" frame, built up into a bike - a disc braked, steel dogsbody of a bike, it looks great in what looks to be a similar army green to my LHT.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Yehuda Moon: Custom caps from Walz Caps - cotton, wool, and cold weather

Who would have thought that you could meet so many interesting people just by starting your own cycling cap business? We may be small and we may be young, but we have met a lifetime's worth of fantastic people and we are pleased as punch to start collaborating with a few of them.

For collaboration number one, we would like to introduce Rick Smith and Yehuda Moon. We first stumbled upon the comic strip when we noticed that Yehuda Moon- the idealist, dreaming, shop owning, bicycle advocate- was wearing a very familiar cycling cap. After reading a few of Rick Smith's comic strips, we knew this was something we wanted to support.

Read More Walz Caps

Some nice, custom "Yehuda Moon" cycling caps from Walz, in cotton, wool, and the very practical wool with ear flaps.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

From Quo Vadis Blog: Habana: the new artist series

Quo Vadis Habanas are well regarded notebooks, along the lines of the ubiquitous Moleskine. (But without the variation in paper quality that seems to plague the Moles).

These "artist special edition" versions are rather nice, although I'm not a big fan of Mr. Haring myself.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Uncle Pat Approved

I think the UCI have missed a trick with their new wheeze for pre-approving bike components (at the bargain price of £10,000, or thereabouts for a sticker that says that the commissaire can't rule your geometry too outlandish).

Taking a tip from Bike Snob NYC, I've created this, featuring the noble visage of Uncle Pat McQuaid (FOR IT IS HE) to adorn the components that pass the rigorous check clearance testing and measurment processes.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pavement Parking in Merton

A nice piece on the anti-social habit of pavement parking, over at Cycalogical.

Pavement parking is rife in some parts of the village I live in, although there it's pretty frequently done in a way that leaves you sidling past the offending vehicle, and would have wheelchair users and those with prams or baby buggies diverting to the road. Why these drivers think this is ok is beyond me.

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Velo Orange: Posters

These are really lovely - I particularly like the one with the mustachioed dude.

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Utility Cycling: Cargo Bike Designed for a Dog

Read More at Utility Cycling

I love this home built dog carrying bike. My own dog is far too skittish to be carried like this (he's be off chasing a bus before we'd gone two miles) but a chap can dream, eh?

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Bicycle Design: Simeli dress guards and other links

Read More at Bicycle Design

There's a distinct handcraft feel to Bicycle Design's post, headed by these crocheted skirt guards (Mrs. Monkey is a dab hand at crochet, although mostly she makes monkeys in fezes. I'm not complaining).

Don't forget that there's more handcrafted bike goodness at Rocket Fuel style ( including a new line of musettes, fantastically handy cloth shoulder bags that can now look stylish too. If you're unconvinced, I sing the praises of the humble (and not so humble) musette here;

Also, if you've not seen Bicycle Design's 2010 roundup, find that here;

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Sports Scientists: 2010 Year in Review

Looking back on 2010:  The Year-in-Review series

Well, 2010 is finally winding down, and while we've had a quiet few months here on the site, it's been anything but quiet in the sports world.  We've missed much of it, while Jonathan welcomed a new addition to his family and the floor fell out from under my feet, but better late than never, we'll use our review to cover the stories we've missed.

This is a rather old post now, of course, but on the off-chance that you missed it, Sports Scientists have a round up of 2010 on thier site that's well worth reading. The review posts follow the linked one.

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