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Saturday, 30 April 2011

Yuba Running Boards


I’ve finally got around to installing a running board on the Yuba Mundo. Yuba sells their own plastic versions of these for each side of the bike, but they rely on the treaded bosses which are only present on the V3 frame. My running board was made with plywood using only a jigsaw, and attached to the bike using cheap hose clamps. Getting the shape right was as simple as holding the plywood board in place and drawing the outline of the rail onto it with a pencil. So far I have only added one running board so that I can still tow a 26 inch/700C etc wheeled bike easily if needed.


The board stops the Brompton from falling through the gap in the side-rail, meaning it can be carried lower down on the side rather than bungeed to the top. This lowers the load and means the Yuba handles brilliantly whilst carrying the folder.



It is almost as if they were made for each other.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

He’s Dead Jim

In response to CycleA2B’s Jim, I thought I’d present my damaged X-RD3 hub parts. Sturmey’s 3 speed hubs are usually tremendously durable and long-lasting, which makes the fact that I’ve managed to destroy part of one quite interesting & impressive. The hub has always felt a bit off, and as the DL-1 is second-hand. I imagine that a small amount of damage occurred to the internals of the hub before I bought it, which was made worse through use and led to this failure:



The planets which rotate around the axle were also similarly damaged:



The stripped off parts loose in the hub will have no doubt made things worse:


I’ve ordered new planets and a new axle from SJS Cycles, and I hope they are a bit less lethargic about getting it dispatched than they usually seem to be. Until then it’s Brompton or Yuba only…

Friday, 22 April 2011

Meta-Bike 2

On Sunday I went to the Fallowfield Loop (Thanks to Twitter henceforth known as the Floop), to help a couple of friends who are currently learning to ride for the first time. Having exhausted the possibilities open to them close to home, the Floop seemed like the perfect place to practice. Because the Floop exists, there is no train service to Fallowfield, so their bikes had to be taken there and back, courtesy of the Yuba Mundo:


The Twenty is attached to a rail made from old building supplies. I decided to turn the Twenty around after I had travelled for a few km, so that the heavier end would be better supported.


And here is the contraption being re-made in Chorlton, with a little help from Jonathan from the GMCC. Riding with two bikes on the back of the Yuba is a bit more challenging than one, but still easier than you might expect. I was able to ride this lot back into the city centre via Fallowfield with relative ease. Of course I had to use the road rather than the Floop because of the barriers which are presumably designed to stop wheelchair/scooter users from enjoying the Floop

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

New Sturmey Archer Shifter

Last week some of you may have noticed on Twitter that I snapped the gear cable on the DL-1 whilst I was out cycling. Luckily I was surprised to find that Evans carry the replacement Sturmey Archer cable I needed. When I installed the cable, I discovered that my shifter has also broken.

The trigger shifter which came with the DL-1 was always a bit dodgy, it was reluctant to stay in 1st gear on its own, and would shift into 2nd due to the spring tension from the hub within about 10 seconds unless I held it down. There are several different versions of the traditional Sturmey trigger shifter:


The traditional Sturmey shifter, with the most common style fascia


The same type of shifter with a slightly less common fascia. There are several other fascia types out there designed for this shifter

When mine broke, the need to hold the shifter in 1st became permanent. I like the look of the traditional Sturmey Archer trigger shifter, but this is the second broken one I have encountered, so I decided to invest in a different model.

The Sturmey and SRAM compatible Brompton shifter was an option, but it is not well priced and isn’t pretty. Image courtesy of The Bike List


I also considered the plastic shifter which is similar to the standard 5 speed shifter. I was put off because it looks a bit 80s to me and wouldn’t fit in with the aesthetic of the bike. Luckily, I remembered seeing the new 3 and 5 speed shifters Sturmey recently released somewhere online, and purchased one at the Chorlton green festival. It has the practicality of the plastic shifter whilst being appropriately nice looking.


The new shifters come designed for 22.2 mm bars (such as North Roads) and as bar-end versions, for both 3 and 5 speeds. The 22.2 mm bar versions can be unscrewed from its mount and used as a downtube shifter too. Unlike the trigger shifter, the new shifter locks firmly into each position, whilst also acting as a friction shifter in between “clicks,” meaning an improperly adjusted cable can be compensated for until you get around to fixing it. The whole of the shifter body and clamp is metal, and it just oozes quality.


Those of you familiar with such things may notice that the protruding cylinder of metal shown in the shot above is the end of the cable, making installation very easy. The even-more-nerdy may notice that it isn’t the usual Sturmey Archer cable either, but a common derailleur-type cable. This makes finding replacements easier in a country where derailleur gears are dominant for some reason.

It is very pleasant to have full use of 1st gear for the first time ever on the DL-1, and I am very happy with this new shifter.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Chorlton’s Big Green Festival

On Saturday I visited Chorlton’s Big Green Festival. I was asked by the GMCC to help out with a group ride from Oxford Road station to the festival, to help both novice riders who were nervous about cycling in traffic and also to help anyone else to find the way. When I arrived at the meeting point I met Mr Mad Cycle Lanes of Manchester on his recumbent quadricycle (a Brox Compact)  and a few others who were there for the guided ride, in addition to my counterpart from ibikemcr.

Some of the group seemed slightly surprised to be led on a group ride by two people dressed casually and riding non-sport-oriented bikes. I felt this was a good thing, as I am very much in favour of re-normalising cycling so that it isn’t perceived by the general public as a primarily sporting or dangerous activity. Further to this aim, I proceeded to eat my breakfast cookie during the gentle-paced ride to the Fallowfield Loop. There is a great write up about the experience of riding a recumbent quad down the Loop, and the unnecessary and openly discriminatory barriers which are present on the loop here.

Once at the festival, we proceeded to join in the bike parade, where I met another Yuba Mundo owner (a V1):


Which I managed to get a better shot of later:


Note the difference in the rack support tubes to the V2 & 3 Yuba Mundo

The festival had a wide variety of green businesses and causes to peruse, a great deal of which were bicycle-related, from the largely sport-oriented Cycle Logic to the utilitarian Practical Cycles and even a dance off between our local bicycle dance troupe The Spokes and their counterparts from Bristol, Les Velobici.

There were plenty of interesting bikes around too:


A Larry Vs Harry Bullit, as ridden by Mikael from Copenhagenize and Dave from 42 Bikes


A Birdy folding bike, one of the more credible Brompton competitors


The Dutch ID Fillibus at the Practical Cycles stall


And this lovely Gazelle, to show just a few

Friday, 15 April 2011

Rune Elvik’s Bicycle Helmet Efficacy Review

A new review of helmet research has recently been published by Rune Elvik in Accident Analysis and Prevention. The paper can be found here, although it may be behind a paywall.

The way that more mainstream media outlets report science is often interesting. Monday’s Science article about a new drug molecule demonstrating a 15% reduction in tumour mass in a specific type of cancer in rats all too often becomes Tuesday’s Daily Mail article about a new miracle drug to cure cancer. Quite often, if a story doesn’t fit the news narrative*, it is quietly ignored altogether. In the UK, the standard line from the mainstream press is that cycling is an extreme sport, like rock-climbing or sky-diving, and anyone who doesn’t use a helmet is either partially or fully to blame if they are killed by a speeding and/or drunk driver. Unsurprisingly I have not seen this new research mentioned in the mainstream press. picked up on the article, and ran a surprisingly scientific piece on it, although they did fall into the usual media trap of adding “balance” to science reporting, by quoting pro-helmet Professor Alistair Woodward, head of the School of Population Health at the University of Auckland. I am glad they consulted a relevant researcher rather than a non-expert as is surprisingly common in science reporting (look out for interviews with homeopaths being added to “balance” reporting on non-placebo medicine articles**). However, Professor Alistair Woodward was quoted as saying;

“Whether they cause the neck to bend more than otherwise, I suppose it's possible. If there is an effect [on neck injuries], it's much smaller than the protective effect from head injuries.”

Despite the paper, a review article of the body of research on the effectiveness of helmets rather than an individual study, stating that,

“When the risk of injury to head, face or neck is viewed as a whole, bicycle helmets do provide a small protective effect. This effect is evident only in older studies. New studies, summarised by a random-effects model of analysis, indicate no net protective effect.

In doing so, the article put the opinion of one pro-helmet man at the same level as an academic research review. It is hard to base too much on a single study, as there will be limitations in the design of any single study. This is why reviews of the existing literature such as this are a useful tool, they help to even out the limitations and biases of the individual studies. Sadly, because the review doesn’t fit nicely in the news narrative of “helmets are good,” it was felt necessary to include the opinion of one pro-helmet individual in an article about a review of the existing helmet literature.

The study was also picked up on by the New Zealand Herald (who interviewed Professor Alistair Woodward), who in the opening paragraph describe this review of the existing body of literature as “Contentious,” to immediately attempt to discredit the work, presumably because it doesn’t sit well with the existing news narrative. The pro-helmet bias in the NZ Herald piece continues, throughout, and culminates in the following bullet points at the end of the article:


* New research indicates wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injury in a crash by 43 per cent.” [Neglecting to state the paper’s finding that the increased risk of neck injury brings the benefit of helmet wearing to a net of zero]

“* Previous research found the risk reduction was at least 60 per cent.

* The new findings are disputed.” [Because the NZ Herald went out to ask a pro-helmet individual to dispute the findings, and treating his opinion on the matter as having equal merit to the research to the contrary in the paper]

Bike Biz also ran a piece on the paper, largely based on the NZ Herald piece, focussing heavily on the opinions of Professor Alistair Woodward, and describing Elvik’s review of the existing body of literature as “controversial.”

The review focuses on the effects of helmet use on cyclists in the aftermath of a crash, finding there to be no overall net benefit to helmet wearing cyclists over non-helmet wearing cyclists in the aftermath of a crash. It would be interesting to see some quality research into risk compensation; whether the crash frequency and severity of helmet wearing cyclists is different from that of non-helmet wearing cyclists. I wouldn’t be surprised if the inclusion of such research into a review such as this wouldn’t bring the benefits of helmet wearing down from net zero benefit to a negative benefit to helmet wearers. However, this is just my opinion.

As I have stated previously, I see helmet wearing as a choice and I don’t have anything against anyone who choses to, or not to wear a helmet whilst cycling, walking, cooking or driving a car. It is perfectly reasonable to expect individuals to make decisions based on their own subjective fears, whilst simultaneously I’d prefer governments to make policy decisions based on objective risk. As a politician, Norman Baker’s recent defence of his choice to ride without a helmet is setting a good example rather than a bad one, by making an objective decision to not wear a helmet based on the minimal risk involved in cycling, he is portraying cycling as the safe, normal everyday activity it should be seen as.

* For more on the interesting peculiarities of mainstream news, I recommend Charlie Brooker’s entertaining and informative TV series Newswipe

** For more on the distortion and mis-reporting of science in the mainstream press (and more science-related stuff), I recommend Ben Goldacre’s entertaining Bad Science articles, ironically published in The Guardian

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Ride Report: Bakfiets

This is my last ride report from my trip to Practical Cycles, where I was able to try out several cargo bikes I had never ridden before. I decided to save the best for last, the Bakfiets. This particular Bakfiets’ frame and box is also used as the basis for the Workcycles Bakfiets as seen on iamnotacyclist.


The model I tested had the rain-cover add-on attached. Designed to keep your cargo (be that animal, vegetable or mineral) dry, the rain cover does not impair the rider’s view or negatively impact the ride.


The seat-tube angle is very low, even by the standards of Dutch geometry. This allows the rider to fully put a foot or two down whilst stationary, which helps to balance larger loads, or loads which move themselves around. The slack seat-tube angle means that despite being able to put your feet down when stopped, it is possible to get a good amount of leg extension whilst cycling, allowing the rider to put a good amount of power down. It is nice to see this level of though devoted to frame geometry after seeing so many bikes where geometry seems to be an after-thought (I’m looking at you “hybrids.”)


Looking through the plastic rain-cover which forms a tent over the cargo box. 5 year old me would have loved riding in there, and I would probably still be partial to doing so. Seat platforms with seatbelts are available for seating up to four children, in up to two rows of two. Alternatively, the box can be emptied of these to fit in an adult, dogs or non-live cargo.


The Selle Royal saddle is likely aimed at novice or non-cyclists. I found it acceptable for my short test ride, but I expect experienced cyclists would replace this with a Brooks B67 or similar.

The choice of componentry is ideal for this kind of bike, it is low maintenance, durable and weather-proof:


The Bakfiets is fitted with durable Schwalbe Marathon tyres front (406 mm, 20 inch) and rear (559 mm, 26 inch)


Shimano Nexus 8-speed internal hub gears, and a Shimano roller brake. An upgrade to the much more powerful IM70s is available


A full chain-case is provided to protect the rider from the chain, and the chain from road filth


The front hub is a Shimano dynamo hub, and the brake is a Shimano roller, again upgradeable to the IM70


Dynamo-powered  Basta Pilot front lamp with automatic light-sensor switch


Battery-operated rear light attached to the rear rack, further expanding the load capacity


Frame fitted rear-wheel O-lock and dressguard


The steering linkages which run under the box allowing the rider to turn the front wheel with the handlebars as normal


The bakfiets also has a very wide and sturdy kickstand which clips to the underside of the box when not in use

It took me less than a minute to get used to the altered handling caused by the  front wheel offset, mainly because the offset of fairly minimal when compared to a normal bike such as a roadster. The handlebar is attached to a very steep tube, and the front wheel is only 20 inches in diameter to accommodate the box. This results in a stet up where the front wheel is only slightly more further forward than that of a 28 inch wheeled roadster with a slack headtube angle, such as the DL-1 or a Pashley Roadster/Princess.

The bike feels a lot lighter to ride than I expected, and easier to manoeuvre through doorways and such when not being ridden. The gearing offered a suitable range of low gears for accelerating & hill climbing with loads, with a good enough range to allow you to reach a good speed. The extended wheelbase produces a very stable and enjoyable ride, which despite the notable differences in design, feels instantly familiar to me as a Yuba Mundo owner. The ability to put your feet down whilst still having adequate leg extension makes the bike ideal for carrying children, where the desire to keep the bike upright when stationary needs to be balanced with being able to effectively propel the extra mass along.

The bakfiets is an extremely versatile bike, capable of hauling loads of cargo like the longtail Yuba Mundo or Surly Big Dummy, but with the re-assurance of having that cargo visible to you whilst riding. This is especially important for carrying passengers as it means parents can keep a watchful eye on their children, or adult passengers can more easily socialise with their chauffeur than on a longtail bike. The bakfiets also opens up possibilities for animal carrying which is less feasible on other cargo bikes, such as a larger family dog. When I have the space and money, I will definitely be getting one of these.

The Chorlton Green Festival is on Saturday, and the bakfiets along with the Surly Big Dummy, Yuba Mundo, BSP Seine, Circe Helios, Nihola Cigar Trike will be there at the Practical Cycles stall for test rides, along with the Zigo Child Stroller/Trike and the Civia Loring Town Bike. See you there.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Ride Report: BSP Seine “Motherbike”

During my recent visit to Practical Cycles I was able to test ride a number of bikes including the BSP Seine bike. I will be posting ride report for the Bakfiets later this week. Previous ride reports can be found here.


The BSP Seine is a modern-styled Dutch bike; it has the geometry and practical componentry of a classic Dutch bike but it is made of oversized aluminium tubing rather than lugged steel. It is aimed at a family audience, having two child seats in addition to a pair of small panniers.


The smaller of the two child seats is placed up-front, with the handlebar wrapping around the seat.


The larger child seat is placed above the rear rack, without preventing the use of smaller panniers


The bike has a very appropriate specification; hub gears (7 speed Nexus) and roller brake in the rear


Roller brake and dynamo hub in the front


Smart-brand light-sensing front lamp


Battery-operated light & motion sensing automatic rear light


And of course a frame-fitted O-lock and skirt-guard

The bike is also equipped with a full chain-case, mudguards, a steering stabiliser and a twin-leg kickstand. When I came to ride the bike, if felt instantly familiar. The geometry and swept back handlebar gives the bike a similar ride quality to the DL-1. The low step-through meant that the front child seat did not negatively affect getting on or off the bike, and it did not diminish the ride. The handlebar was tilted a bit low for me, but this can be easily adjusted to accommodate a range of rider heights.

The roadster-like handling characteristics make the bike extremely stable, which is ideal for a bike designed to carry children. It is definitely a much better option than carrying your kids the one mile to school in a Land Rover.

Zaynan from Practical Cycles will be at the Chorlton Green Festival on Saturday the 16th of April. Amongst the cycles he will have with him will be the BSP Seine, so head down there if you fancy a closer look or a test ride.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Re-painting the Twenty

Last year, after I got my Twenty a friend of mine, AC also decided she would like to invest in a Twenty too. She named it Beatrix and now blogs about her experiences with the bike. The bike was re-painted at the time, but the result did not stand the test of time well, I believe due to the lack of a final clear coat. She asked me to do the re-spray.

Instead of all-over blue, AC asked me to paint the mudguards and chain-guard white, and re-paint the frame and fork in the same blue. When I applied the first coat of blue, the old paint bubbled off on the main tube to reveal the old Raleigh decal. I decided to take the initiative and leave this old decal exposed in a Time Team kind of way, a trench in the paintwork showing the history of the bike. To preserve the decal, I masked over it and cut around the decal.

To get the paint to adhere to the frame well, I gave the whole thing a sanding with fine grit sand paper and applied several thin coats of blue, with light sanding in-between coats. The white on the mudguards was not covering the blue appropriately, and I decided to get a can of cream paint to go over the white. After painting the frame, I used a combination of masking tape and bin bags to cover all but a small section of the main tube near the decal, which was then painted cream to frame the original decal.

The frame, fork, mudguards and chain-guard were all sanded lightly and coated with several layers of clear enamel spray, and the bike was re-assembled.

Beatrix as she was, on the back of the Yuba with my old Twenty


Beatrix after the re-spray


The Raleigh head-badge has been stripped and returned to prominence


The “rustic” original Raleigh decal, framed in cream


The blue, white and clear spray used were from Halfords’ enamel range, the cream paint used was made by Plasti-kote.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Ride Report: Nihola Cigar Tricycle

During my recent visit to Practical Cycles I was able to test ride a number of bikes including the Nihola Cigar Trike. I will be posting ride reports for the other bikes I test rode throughout the course of this week and the next.


The Nihola Cigar has two front wheels, much like a Bakfiets tricycle.

The specification of the bike was generally sensible, dual drum brakes up front, controlled by a single lever (bicycle polo enthusiasts take note), Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres, a seven speed Shimano Nexus internal hub gear, mudguards, a partial chain guard and even a rear rack to add even more capacity. The trike also includes a parking brake, to prevent it rolling away on uneven ground


The front wheels have unbranded drum brakes in them, although judging by the hub shells I’d guess they were Sturmey Archers.


Shinamo Nexus 8-speed internal hub gear. 


The frame is re-assuringly well built, with the cargo box being well-attached to the frame in numerous places.


A frame-fitted rear wheel lock is also included to prevent the bike being ridden off whilst the rider nips into a shop.
The rear wheel has a V-brake which I find to be a bizarre component choice on a bike such as this, where there is less pressure to keep costs to a bare minimum. A rear roller brake would have made more sense in my opinion, although with dual drum brakes at the front, this is only a small negative.


Inside the cargo box is a child seat, suitable for two children, complete with seatbelts. The front portion of the box is clear, allowing the passengers to see where it is they are going. The box is capacious enough to allow a decent amount of stuff to be carried in addition to children, and the rear rack adds further capacity.

This was my first “two-front-wheels” tricycle experience, and it has been a very long time since I have ridden any other tricycle, so I was expecting it to feel a bit odd for me. As a non-driving cyclist, I am unaccustomed to having to slow down to take corners. However, after a few minutes I started to get used to the differences between this and a bicycle and I enjoyed  the fact that the tricycle required no balancing on my part whatsoever, meaning that very heavy loads would be more manageable. Overall it was very fun to ride after I'd gotten over the first few hair-raising corners

There were a few downsides to the tricycle, its size means it would require a garage or similar for storage, being wider than the average doorway. A reverse gear would also be a welcome addition for low-speed manoeuvring. Bicycle tyres are parabolic in profile because of the way a bicycle turns. Because trikes are less common, they tend to use bicycle tyres which will wear out more quickly due to the inability to lean in on corners. Square-profile tyres (as seen on cars) would be a good innovation for most tricycles, but in the meantime the super hard-wearing Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres are a good choice in the specification of this trike. I imagine that not trying to take the corners at full speed as I did will also improve tyre life.

I personally found the urge to lean into the corners to be difficult to overcome, but for someone who also drives and cycles or someone who doesn’t/cannot ride a bike, I can imagine the handling will feel quite normal, and this tricycle could be the right choice for them. The fact that the trike doesn't need to be balanced or propped up when stationary will be a big bonus for those carrying children.

Zaynan from Practical Cycles will be at the Chorlton Green Festival on Saturday the 16th of April. Amongst the cycles he will have with him will be the Nihola Cigar, so head down there if you fancy a closer look or a test ride.