I have written previously about the effects of risk compensation on road safety. A good example of this effect is the Munich Taxi experiment, where a fleet of taxis, half with ABS and half without were secretly monitored and the differences examined. It was found:
“Drivers of cabs with ABS made sharper turns in curves, were less accurate in their lane-holding behaviour, proceeded at a shorter forward sight distance, made more poorly adjusted merging manoeuvres and created more "traffic conflicts". This is a technical term for a situation in which one or more traffic participants have to take swift action to avoid a collision with another road user. Finally, as compared with the non-ABS cabs, the ABS cabs were driven faster at one of the four measuring points along the route. All these differences were significant.”
In brief, the increased safety offered to the vehicle operators/occupants by the improved brakes was compensated for by an increase in risk-taking behaviour by the vehicle operators.
I currently operate a “fleet” of three bikes, all of which have different types and combinations of brakes:
The DL-1 has 70 mm Sturmey Archer drum brakes in both the front and rear wheels. These offer reasonable stopping power and supreme durability, requiring almost zero maintenance. Sturmey Archer drums offer good modulation, with light braking being easily controllable and hard braking available if you need it when you really squeeze the levers.
The Sturmey Archer drum brakes; front (top) and rear (bottom)
The Brompton has calliper brakes front and rear. These were presumably chosen because they offer reasonable stopping power and reasonable durability whilst minimising weight (which is an important consideration for a folding bike, unlike a full-sized transport bike). A peculiarity of the Brompton is that the rear brake seems to offer more stopping power than expected, whilst the front feels weaker than expected. The callipers offer similar stopping power and modulation to the Sturmey Archer drum brakes, but are exposed and thus require more maintenance.
The Brompton calliper brakes; front (left) and rear (right)
The Yuba Mundo has a more exotic brake configuration; a rear V-brake and a front 185 mm Avid Juicy hydraulic disc brake. This combination was chosen because the original front V-brake did not offer what I felt was appropriate stopping power or modulation for a loaded Yuba Mundo. The rear V-brake is adequate; offering a lot of stopping power but poor modulation, with a small amount of brake lever travel the brakes make the transition from doing hardly anything to slow the bike to locking up the rear wheel. The front disc brake offers an extreme level of stopping power, which is ideal when the bike is loaded. It also offers good modulation for when a small amount of braking is required. When the bike is unloaded/lightly loaded, it is able to stop incredibly quickly.
The Yuba Mundo front hydraulic disc brake (top) and rear V-brake (bottom)
Whilst I use all three bikes regularly, I rarely use different bikes in quick succession. A few weeks ago, I returned from a 30 km ride on the Yuba Mundo to pick up some wheel building parts which I dropped off at home. I had to pop back to work immediately afterwards and took the DL-1. When I approached the first set of traffic lights I experienced risk compensation first hand; after riding the lightly-loaded Yuba Mundo over a few hours I had become accustomed to riding faster and braking later for a given set of road conditions, and I had to brake very hard on the DL-1 to stop in a space which the Yuba Mundo would have been able to stop in easily. This is why I worry when I hear about engineering-based safety enhancements such as ABS in cars, they improve the safety of the vehicle’s occupants but this is often at the expense of everyone outside of the vehicle.
I’ve had a few mechanical problems with the bikes this past week. The right hand pedal of Brompton has an aluminium outer cage, which I managed to snap whilst riding last week. Luckily replacement pedals are readily available and quite cheap. I expect that I must have hit the pedal on the ground one too many times, and the metal gave out suddenly whilst I was riding.
A steel outer cage would not have failed quite so suddenly (if at all), and there would have been a negligible weight penalty compared to the aluminium part.
On Saturday evening, I had my first puncture on the DL-1 (and my first puncture at all in over a year). An industrial staple had worked its way through the tyre on the ride to a friend’s house and when I came to leave it had gone flat. When I got it home I attempted to patch it, but after applying the patch I kept found another hole. I decided to go to Bicycle Doctor for a replacement tube, intending to patch the old one to keep as a spare. However, after patching 6 holes (some of which were close together enough to use a single patch for) I found 3 more and decided to bin the tube.
Sadly, my front lamp mounting bodge-up also snapped this week. The aluminium reflector bracket I had re-purposed (admittedly it wasn’t designed for anything more than a reflector) snapped whilst I was riding over the high-quality road surfaces found in Stockport. Thankfully I ordered the proper Brompton bracket online last week, and it should be with me shortly.
Before the bracket snapped
Temporary solution until replacement bracket arrives from Brompton, this current solution slightly interferes with the front brake
Remains of reflector bracket
With most bike components I’d rather have durability over miniscule weight savings. The puncture was the first one in over a year, thanks to choosing practical tyres designed for durability over lightness. For non-competitive everyday cycling, why worry about a few extra grams here and there? Obsessing over bicycle weight can lead many people to make terrible decisions when choosing a practical everyday bike.
In contrast to my previous post, I thought I’d post about some of my more pleasant recent experiences whilst out and about on the DL-1. After my appointment with the Rozzers this morning, I went into town to continue my search for a pair of nice wool gloves. When I returned to my bike I bumped into a lady I had met at Critical Mass some months back. I recognised her bike and asked if I had seen her at CM and she complimented my bike and asked if I was the person who wrote this blog.
Later on I overtook a man on a mountain bike. He caught me at the next set of lights and proceeded to ask about and pay compliments to the DL-1. He said he used to work in The Netherlands and remembers seeing similar bikes there.
Over Xmas whilst I was travelling to Rochdale on the canal, an man walking his dog seemed very pleased to see an old-looking asked me if the bike had previously belonged to my grandfather. He seemed surprised when I told him the bike was less than 2 years old (it was pretty filthy at the time).
When I got off the bike and pushed it along the pavement once outside a church on Oxford Road, I was approached by one of the punters who remembered the days when bicycles like the DL-1 were a common sight in this country. He told me about the very similar bike he once owned.
On several occasions I have been engaged in conversation about the DL-1 by train guards whilst transporting the bike on the train, many of whom remember similar bikes from their youths.
This is one of the best parts of cycling, you don’t interact with people and your surroundings in the same way in a car. These are the kind of experiences which give me hope for the cause of taking back and re-humanising our streets.
I was initially taken in by the pitch of “Cycling is sport,” that most British cycle shops sell their customers. My first adult bike was a god-awful sub-£100 “Full-suspension” (Y-frame) mountain bike from Halfords. I wanted it so I could avoid spending £35 a month on bus fares getting to my crappy part-time job and for general transportation. Despite the fact that I wanted a bike for transportation, my own perception of cycling as being either mountain bikes or racing bikes combined with the fact that the bike shops generally seemed to only sell mountain bikes and racing bikes meant that I decided to buy a ridiculously inappropriate bike for my needs. Surprisingly, despite its best efforts, I rode the thing for nearly two years. As crappy as that bike was, I learned a lot about the mechanical side of bikes from it (unsurprisingly).
When the spindle inside the bottom bracket snapped I had no idea how to do that kind of repair and I was painfully aware of how low-end my bike was. I was slightly better off by that point and decided to spend a bit more on a new bike. This time, I went to the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative and took a look around. What I saw were almost exclusively either mountain bikes, racing bikes or “hybrid bikes.” Once again, with the help of the sport-focussed sales people, I left with a hard-tail mountain bike, a rear rack and a crud-catcher mudguard. I had made a marginally more practical choice; a rack and less suspension, but still an impractical choice for my needs. Despite its limitations, this bike was a revelation about spending a bit more but getting value for money.
I rode this bike for 18 months and slowly made modifications to make it less of a mountain bike and more of a road bike. When I started reading about cycling in other countries (where it isn’t actively supressed by transport policy) and got the Yuba Mundo, I saw the limitations of the mountain bike for practical everyday cycling. By then I was aware of immensely practical bikes such as the Pashley Roadster, but I had just bought a Yuba Mundo and another bike seemed excessive. I started using the Yuba for almost all of my riding; it was much more comfortable, it had proper mudguards to keep me clean and dry and the upright posture made riding much more enjoyable.
Eventually I sold the mountain bike to someone who uses it as it was intended and I bought the Kona Africa Bike. I saw it as a “Yuba Mundo without the Mundo” and enjoyed riding it immensely. Longer trips were uncomfortable, but for the vast majority of my riding it was fine. The hub gears, coaster brake, basket and chain-guard were a revelation, and adding a front drum-brake made it even more practical as a transport bike. I wanted a roadster, but the price was off-putting and having not test-ridden one, I didn’t know what I was missing.
I was lucky enough to find my Raleigh DL-1 on eBay, being sold by a retired Raleigh employee. I was happy enough with the Kona and Yuba, but the price was irresistible. I put in my bid and was very happy to win. The bike had almost all of the utilitarian features I had wanted (or would have wanted had I known of them) since I bought that crappy Halfords mountain bike. Adding the remaining features hasn’t required too much effort:
This was the main draw of the bike for me, the geometry of the English Roadster, now commonly referred to as a Dutch-bike, (because they copied the same design and really made it their own whilst we lost our way, which as an Englishman I find quite sad), is a perfect trade off between the efficiency of the racing bike posture and the basic human desire to be comfortable.
I cannot oversell mudguards. Once you have ridden with them you won’t go back. Getting rained on isn’t usually fun, but getting filthy water sprayed up from the road by your wheels is much worse. Groundwater is still there after the rain and mudguards will keep you dry. It is insane how few people I see with mudguards in Manchester, where it rains on more than 1/2 of the days of the year.
Not really a big ask, obviously needed if you want to carry anything on your bike. It is surprising how few bikes come with racks, and how many bikes I see used as transport but lacking a rack. A backpack will do in a pinch, but is less than ideal. The weight in a backpack moves with your body, wasting more of your energy than if it is on a rack and moving with the bike. Sweaty back is never nice either.
A chain-guard will keep the oil and crap from your chain off your clothes. A chaincase will keep the water and crap off your chain and keep your clothes clean. Seems fairly logical to me.
Permanent Dynamo Lights:
Quick-release lights are a the norm when using batteries because the lights will work away from the bicycle, making them attractive to thieves. Dynamo lights are less useful to thieves because they require a dynamo. Permanently attached dynamo lights are hard to steal, of low value to thieves, always available and never need fresh batteries or re-charging. The combination of B&M lights I have fitted to my bike use a capacitor circuit (referred to as a standlight) to provide a few minutes of light when stationary, and a light-sensor so that they switch on automatically when it is dark. As a bonus, this feature also works when going through tunnels. The dynamo is conveniently sealed away in the front wheel hub. The dynamo rear light is a new addition, ordered from Dutch Bike Bits.
Internal Hub Gears:
1-Setting off and climbing hills
3-Long flats and down-hills
All sealed inside the rear hub. Clean, sealed away from the elements, durable and low-maintenance. One day I might swap it out for a 5-speed hub with a bigger range, for those big up- and down-hill stretches.
Effective, sealed away from the elements, durable and low-maintenance. Drum brakes are long-lasting and unaffected by the weather. I find their lack of popularity slightly odd.
The original tyres which came with the bike were fine, but I decided to replace them with more durable, puncture-resistant and grippy Schwalbe Delta Cruisers. As a nice bonus they are also cream-coloured giving the bike that extra touch of class.
Ping bells don’t produce a particularly loud sound. The ding-dong bell common in the Netherlands and Denmark is both loud and polite-sounding.
A Leather Saddle:
Brooks make the best saddles I have ever used. Whilst they do require a bit of upkeep, they are well worth it. I have enjoyed cycling on mine (after my arse got used to it) and would heartily recommend.
All of these features add up to a bike which is easy to just hop on and go, no special clothing and no need for showering facilities at the other end. It is the ultimate in cheap, fast and enjoyable end-to-end personal transport.
For the first time I have depended solely on my bike for transport at Xmas. In previous years I have walked or used public transport to get to where I needed to at this time of year. This year was different.
On Christmas Eve I went to visit my Dad in Pendlebury. I took the DL-1 up there and my odometer rolled over to 10,000 km total just as I was arriving. I got the usual accusation of madness for choosing to cycle there “In this weather.” Obviously he hadn’t noticed that all the main roads were completely clear. Pendlebury is uphill from the city centre, so the ride home is always fun. Traffic was very low by the time I left and so my speedy ride back was most enjoyable.
On Christmas Day I went to visit friends, one of whom was receiving a bicycle I had been working on as a gift. This meant taking the Yuba Mundo to allow me to tow and carry my trifle and other Xmas stuff. The towed bicycle itself was an old Universal 3-speed utility bike. The bike has fractional 26 inch (590 mm) wheels with non-steel rims allowing the brakes to actually stop the bike, and a pleasing upright posture. I hope it is being enjoyed by its new owner.
On Boxing Day I went to Rochdale to visit my Mum. Due to limited public transport options I decided to take the DL-1. By the time I had gotten to Failsworth, the wind made the snow-covered canal towpath look quite appealing. By maintaining a minimum speed of 20 km.h-1 wherever possible (Also the towpath speed limit) I was able to keep the bike under control on the compacted snow. The ride was most enjoyable. I was grateful to receive a B67 Saddle from my Mum for the Yuba.
Rochdale canal in the snow on Boxing Day.
Today I was going to get the train home due to the poor weather, but upon arriving at Rochdale station the industrial action taken by Northern Rail employees meant that there was a huge queue and I was unlikely to get a ticket in time. Thankfully I was able to hop on the bike and make my own way home. The rain meant the canal was not really an option today, so I rode my usual route home on the road. I saw a handful of other cyclists, all using the pavement. This was despite the fact that the roads were clear and the pavements were covered with ice; perhaps a sad indicator of the pent-up desire for segregated cycle infrastructure here in the UK. Despite the rain it was quite a pleasant ride, the rain even got some of the salt and grit off the bike.
The new saddle needed to have the underside Proofided and the top Proofided and polished off before it was mounted on the Yuba Mundo. Proofide is recommended for all Brooks saddles by Brooks, but it is not included with the saddle. The recipe is secret but it looks and smells like old lard, leading me to think that it might just be old lard.
Before Proofide application.
After Proofide application.
When I warm up a bit I’ll take the Yuba for a spin to see how the new saddle feels. Has anyone else done much cycling over Christmas?
If you work office hours you may have noticed that it is dark during almost all of your free time. If you want to cycle during your free time this means you need some lights. This year I am fortunate enough to own more bikes than this time last year (when I only owned a single bike, a hybridised mountain bike at that). This has the added advantage of giving me more experience with different kinds of lights, experience I am happy to share.
Battery lighting I have used falls roughly into two categories; lighting for you to see with, and lighting to ensure you are seen by others.
Lighting to be seen by is sufficient to discharge your legal obligation, in well lit urban areas it will also be enough for you to get by. A popular example of lighting to be seen by are Knogs, also known as “Hipster Cysts.”
The Knog lights are basically only as effective as the £2 blinkies you can get from Tesco, but do not require you to attach a mount to your bike.
Unlike lighting to be seen, lighting to see with used to mean halogen lamps. Halogen lamps are bright and produce a lovely warm light but because batteries run out, ideally it is best to use a more efficient method to produce light with batteries. At present this takes the form of LEDs. Halogen lamps powered by batteries are still available and may even seem like a good deal, but any money you save will be paid for with batteries and often shoddier build quality. Currently I am using Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative’s Revolution Vision set:
The front lamp is a 1 watt LED with a re-assuring aluminium exterior. The beam is relatively wide for an LED, although the light it produces is a cold blueish-white which is harder to see by than the yellow of a halogen bulb. The lamp also has a flash mode for when you are more concerned with being seen than with illuminating the path ahead. Replacement mounts are available for the front lamp making it easy to share one between several bikes (as I do with my Yuba Mundo and Raleigh Twenty). The rear light comes with 4 flash patterns in addition to the steady state flash. Sadly replacement mounts are not available for the rear lamp, although the EBC catalogue currently residing in my bathroom suggests the rear light has recently undergone a redesign which may filter through to the shop stock soon.
I also have a permanent rack-fitted light/reflector on the Yuba Mundo which is useful if I am caught out after dark:
Dynamo lighting is generally powerful enough to fall into the “to see by” category (apart from the rear lights for which being seen is the only purpose). Back in July I purchased my first ever dynamo lamp thanks to some advice from LC. I had owned a dynamo hub for a while before that, but I was initially more interested in the drum brake and the possibility of using the dynamo to charge my phone. The lamp I ended up with is a Busch and Muller Lumotec Retro (with standlight and switch):
Shown here on the bike before I installed the new tyres, also conveniently doubles as a reflector to make the bike street-legal.
Because the dynamo provides an effectively inexhaustible source of power, halogen lamps become feasible once more. Whilst they are less durable than LEDs, they do produce a warmer, yellowish light which I find easier to see by, and the brightness is generally greater than that of my LED battery lamp and the beam is cast wider which enhances my visibility to others. The lamp includes an LED standlight, which on its own is about half as powerful as my battery-powered LED lamp. This is designed to ensure you remain visible even when stationary or at very low speeds.
This dynamo lamp is couples with a battery-powered permanent rear light which I originally considered replacing with a dynamo equivalent. In the end I decided to keep the existing light due to its low power consumption compared to a front light. So far I’ve had a few hundred hours out of the pair of AA batteries which came with the bike.
At present I do not have any experience with bottle dynamos, although Ian at Lazy Bicycle Blog has one on his new bicycle and seems positive about it. I am currently considering adding a bottle dynamo and lamp to the Yuba Mundo. I have become accustomed to the superior light level produced by the lamp on the DL-1 when riding in total darkness and after spending £4 on batteries a few days ago, the initial outlay doesn’t seem too bad anymore. It will also free up the battery lights for exclusive use on the Twenty. Whilst I am happy with my hub dynamo I favour the bottle dynamo approach on the Yuba Mundo because of the disk brakes. The only disk-brake compatible dynamo hubs are Shimano’s, and they use Centerlock mounts for the rotors. This would mean replacing my rotor with a Centerlock version (at an extortionate price for a piece of metal) or buying an adapter which may cause further problems.
Depending on the type of riding you do I would advise using dynamo lighting over battery lighting, at least for the front of the bike. A dynamo front lamp will be bright enough to illuminate the way when riding in total darkness. Whilst the initial outlay may seem high, the level of illumination provided is significantly higher than a £25 pair of LED lights, the battery won’t run out at an inopportune moment and you won’t have to continuously spend money on batteries. If most of your riding is on well lit streets and you are happy to have lights merely to be seen, cheap LED blinkies should suffice.
In October I rode to Rochdale during rush hour. Yesterday I made the same journey again, although this time due to the time change and the time of year it was dark the whole way there.
http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=m13+9pt&daddr=53.53199,-2.1332+to:53.59452,-2.08843+to:rochdale&hl=en&geocode=FTbNLwMd9vnd_ykXLfGHjrF7SDGq0LzJ2ucO1g%3BFVbVMAMdMHPf_ymzGt_vaLd7SDFgiJnWnvkMEw%3BFZjJMQMdEiLg_ymDSBNfi7h7SDEAfl9FvGIQEw%3BFeAeMgMdig_f_ymrsz3rjLh7SDEnZdog216Img&mra=dpe&mrcr=0&mrsp=2&sz=12&via=1,2&dirflg=w&sll=53.580277,-2.155037&sspn=0.120055,0.308647&ie=UTF8&ll=53.580277,-2.155037&spn=0.120055,0.308647&t=h&output=embedView Larger Map
The route was the same as previously but the change in conditions led to a pronounced increase in the douchebaggery of motorists. Thanks in part to sport-cycling lobbies I cycled in the only viable manner, vehicularly, due to a lack of any useable infrastructure. Sadly, lobbies such as the CTC represent members who are largely interested in preserving their right to the road for those Sunday club rides. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be able to go on Sunday club rides, but for a hobby/sporting lobby to inform government policy on something which is primarily a mode of transport is really very detrimental to cycling. Imagine if the government listened to the lobbying on the FIA on motoring matters, we might have an F1 circuit in every city but private motor vehicles would not even be allowed on public roads (which would be great).
On the ride there I was recklessly endangered by motorists numerous times, the worst of whom overtook me at a set of lights which had turned amber as I was riding through them. The driver of MJ51 HXC sped through the same set of lights after they had turned red and then overtook me with mere millimetres to spare. I happened to catch him at the next set of lights and firmly but civilly challenged him about his behaviour. He wound down the windows leading to the following productive exchange:
Me: You nearly killed me back there, that overtake was really dangerous.
Neanderthal: You were riding in the middle of the fucking road.
Me: I have every right to ride in “The middle of the fucking road.”
Neanderthal: Do you want me to fucking punch you?
Me: Yeah, I’m sure you’re going to do that.
Neanderthal: I’ll get out of this car and fucking knock you out.
Me: Sure, go on then, I’m sure you will.
[Neanderthal Drives off]
If it were not for the recent experiences of The Cycling Lawyer I would have reported the incident to the Police. Seeing as cyclists now know that the Police aren’t interested in upholding the laws which are designed to protect them, I decided to allow the exchange to become less civil. What is most worrying to me is that his defence for his reckless driving was that I was riding in the middle of the lane, which I am allowed to do by statute. He is merely licensed to use the roads based on his ability to behave appropriately and he should behave as such. The Police and CPS could do with reminding of that fact too.
The other main reckless motorists were a Ring and Ride driver who overtook extremely dangerously and another bad overtake by a private vehicle. Someone tried to cut me up whilst coming to a stop at a set of lights, they tried to squeeze me towards the kerb. This occurred at a very low speed so I decided it would be safe for me to refuse to give in to this bullying and they were forced to stop and before finishing the cutting-up manoeuvre to avoid scuffing their paint. One of the most annoying incidents was at Big Lamp roundabout in Shaw:
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
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After going through the above ordeals I was understandably a bit less forgiving than usual. Roundabouts are inherently anti-cyclist, tackling them is very difficult for many cyclists because of the speed required to get through a roundabout in relative safety, combined with the observation that almost no-one in any vehicle seems very sure about what they are supposed to do on a roundabout. I was attempting to take the second exit when two lanes of cars waiting at the next road decided that because I was only a cyclist they would attempt to forcibly steal my right of way. This has taught me a new cycling top tip which I may not have discovered had it not been for my pre-existing exasperation; Screaming, “For fuck’s sake!” at the top of your lungs is necessary and sufficient to stop motorists from stealing your right of way on roundabouts.
At around 10 pm I made the return journey. The lack of cars made the return trip an absolute delight, I was tired but made better time than on the way there. It seems obvious now that the solution to Manchester’s traffic woes is to remove private motor vehicles from our roads. When I got home I noticed my day total on the odometer was 59 km, pretty good for a work day.