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Friday 29 October 2010

Cheap, Utilitarian Transport

Once again, I have been inspired to post here after reading an article on another cycling blog, this time Lovely Bicycle!  Velouria outlines the choices she would make on a certain budget ($500), whether to purchase a new bike or restore a vintage bike.  I found myself broadly in agreement with her, but I thought I would present my own take on the same idea, with a few changes and prices in Pounds Sterling.  Suppose you have a budget of around £250.

Velouria advises a Raleigh Sports, a good solid choice.  In the UK at least, Raleigh sold a number of 3-speeds which were essentially re-branded Raleigh Sports.  These include the Transit, the Caprice and the Connoisseur


Raleigh Transit


Raleigh Connoisseur

Both of these bikes are essentially Raleigh Sports, and would only set you back around £50 or so on eBay.  There are plenty available so shop around, ladies’ and gents’ versions are easily found.  Ideally, try to find one which comes with a rear rack

These bikes come with ISO 590 mm wheels, which are labelled as 26 inch but are different to the 26 inch wheels and tyres (ISO 559 mm) you will commonly see in shops.  The tyres and tubes will be best replaced with Schwalbe Delta Cruisers, a pair will set you back £28 but they are worth it.  For the rear brake, replace the pads with KoolStop Salmon pads, which will set you back £11.  For the front brake, replace the hub with a drum brake hub (£45), or for a little bit more a drum and dynamo hub (£63).  If your existing front wheel has 36 spokes, the rim can be re-used, if not you will need a new 36 hole rim (£25) and spokes (~£10).  Depending on your level of mechanical ability, you can either build the wheel yourself, or take the rim and hub to a bicycle shop offering wheel-building (such as Edinburgh Bicycle Co-Operative or Bicycle Doctor) who will provide spokes for around £10 and build the wheel for around £15.  They will also be able to give the bike a service and install any other upgrades you are not comfortable doing for a nominal fee (around £30).  In Manchester, IBIKEMCR offer free workshops from time to time where you can learn the skills to do these jobs on your own.  A brake cable for your new front wheel will set you back around £8.  A battery rear light such as this for £5 and a B&M dynamo front lamp for £36 will finish off the bike nicely.

Total (with all mechanical jobs done at shop):

Component Price
Bike £50
Tyres £28
Rear brake pads £11
Dynamo & brake hub £63
Rim £25
Spokes and build £25
Brake cable £8
Rear light £5
Front Lamp £36
Service and Installation £30
Total £281

By doing the mechanical work yourself (or by finding a friend who can do it for you), you could have this for only £236.  This may seem like a lot of money for an old bike, but it is worth remembering that the vast majority of new bikes do not come with lights, mudguards or chainguard and usually have derailleur gears.  However if you prefer new to old, for only £300 you could have a brand new bike of similar spec, which could be perfected with a Sturmey-Archer dynamo/brake hub for only a little bit more (and selling the original front hub would recoup some of those losses).

Thursday 28 October 2010



I spotted this bike parked up at UMIST near Piccadilly station a few days ago.  The manufacturer is Dutchie, I have noticed their site a few times when I was searching for a bike, before I lucked-out with the DL-1. The bike comes with SRAM hubs, which I have mentioned before are some of the more expensive internal hub gears, hub dynamos and drum brakes out there.  The rear hub is a 3-speed with coaster brake, and the front is an i-Light dynamo hub supplemented with a caliper brake.  This particular bike sells for just under £300, which is cheap when you look at the cost of the SRAM hubs and factor in the included accessories and the lugged-steel frame. 


Once again I am puzzled by the choice of the SRAM dynamo hub over the cheaper Sturmey-Archer dynamo hub with drum brake. There may be some kind of behind-the-scenes bulk-discounting by SRAM to influence this decision.  Still, it is quite a lot of bike for the price, always nice to see more of these kinds of practical, utilitarian vehicles being made available to the public.

I hope it didn’t end up getting stolen, the owner seems to have fallen into the trap of “If I can’t take this bit off, no-one can.” All you’d have to do is remove the fork momentarily to defeat the lock.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Canadian Road “Justice”

Another gem has been brought to my attention today via Copenhagenize.  Today is it the site Road ‘Justice’ a Canadian site which is almost a parody of the type of motorist we all encounter from time to time, the type of motorist who is often pandered to by foolish politicians such as Philip Hammond and by articles written in the Carnival of Indignant Windy Bell-Ends.  Rather than just write about it here, I decided to write to the site owner and congratulate them for their painfully accurate lampooning of this particular viewpoint:

Dear Sir,

This site is a brilliant, painfully spot on parody of the sort indignant and self-righteous motorist we have all encountered from time to time.  I love the standard clichés about "More bicycle trails and fewer bicycle lanes," which this kind of ill-informed motor-centric person often spouts.  I mean it is obvious that these "cycle trails" will either never be built or will not serve any useful transportation need if they are.  I also love the standard line about how bike lanes are "taking away road space from motor vehicles," as if motorised vehicles have exclusive rights to the road. It is depressing how many people believe this is the case, isn't it? I also love the standard fallacy that increasing road capacity will reduce congestion. Sadly we have politicians who end up implementing doomed road widening and traffic flow "improvements," which inevitably just lead to a greater volume of congestion. I mean, nowadays we know that by reducing the capacity for private motor traffic in dense urban areas we can decrease congestion, as it makes more realistic, ethical options such as walking, cycling and public transport become viable, right?

Very clever to cash in on the anti-ethical, anti-environmental sentiment which often runs through the minds of the right-wing, self-centred motorist you parody here.  Some people seem to really resent that others may have made a transport choice which is better for everyone, in a multitude of ways, almost to the point of seeing it as a personal attack on them and their lifestyle choice. 

The whole helmet thing is pure gold too, after all most careless drivers don't believe that they should have any duty of care to not kill people when driving their fast, dangerous, heavy vehicles around inappropriate, dense urban locations.  They often believe it is the cyclists' duty to be as defensive as possible, making every concession to their wholly inappropriate choice of city transport.  The captions of the photographs capture this ignorant sentiment perfectly.

You seem to have the whole angry, self-important, militant and simple-minded motorists' viewpoint satirised here very well. I can't help but worry that some people might take the site at face value, maybe you should be even less subtle in your clever lampooning of this viewpoint.

Yours Sincerely,


I wonder if I will get a reply…

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Democracy fails in Toronto

Brought to my attention courtesy of Copenhagenize. This idiot is the new mayor of Toronto. In this video he makes his ignorance obvious to all. Luckily we aren't yet at this stage here in the UK, but worryingly we aren't that far away from it either. I have heard of similar comments being made by Conservative councillors.

Friday 22 October 2010

1951 and 2009


This is a picture of a 1951 Raleigh DL-1 I found as part of a set here.  The set is very good and really shows off the bike at its best.  I was amazed to see how similar the 1951 version is to mine (especially with those Delta Cruisers).  The main differences are the rod-actualted stirrup brakes it has rather than the rod-actuated drum brakes mine came with.


Here is my 2009 DL-1 for comparison.  It is nice to see that with the DL-1 not a huge amount has changed in 58 years.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Spotted in Manchester

One of the things I have noticed since starting this blog is how many interesting bikes I see parked up around Manchester.  I have recently been noticing a lot of vintage bicycles around, in addition to a few interesting new bikes.  When I can do so without looking too abnormal, I take pictures of the bikes I see around town.




A Raleigh “Conniosseur,” spotted at Sainsbury’s in Fallowfield.  By the look of things the bike seems to be very similar to the Raleigh Sports.  I think it goes together well with the Tourist in the middle picture.


A very similar Raleigh to the one above, this time branded as the “Transit.”  I doubt modern Raleigh would name any of their bikes the “Transit.”


A Batavus BUB parked outside Piccadilly station.  One of the few bikes I have ever read about at the prototype stage and seen come to market, it looks like quite a comfortable ride.  One was given away as the grand prize in the LGRAB summer games.  The frame design was inspired by a paperclip.


A well looked-after rod-brake roadster, a Humber according to Sheldon Brown, identifiable by the unusual fork:


Curiously, I think I may have once bid on this very bike on eBay, before it got a bit too expensive for me.


A huge double top-tube Pashley Roadster, with my Tourist to the right for scale, and a Pashley Princess to the right of that.


I’m guessing whoever owns this bike is incredibly tall.

There are some very nice old and new bicycles around Manchester.  There are plenty of crap-heaps too, but they are less photogenic.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

The Quiet Route

After my recent post about cycling to Rochdale during rush hour I found myself needing to return to Rochdale once again.  This time it was a Sunday however, and the weather had been dry for about a week.  As many of you will know, leaving the Manchester in most directions is at least slightly uphill.  Oldham Road is no exception, forming a long but gentle climb until you reach Oldham.  On this day however, the slight incline was also supplemented by a strong head-wind and by the time I reached Failsworth I decided to take refuge on the Rochdale canal.  Things began to look up immediately after that.




The ride was very pleasant after this point, with the trees and hedges along the canal providing escape from the wind.  Due to the dry weather, I was able to get to Rochdale in a time comparable to my previous road trip.  I made the return trip via the same route later.  The ride back is even better because all of the locks are heading downhill.  When I re-joined the road at Failsworth, amazingly the wind was now in my favour.  This combined with the slight slope and a bit of luck with the traffic lights allowed me to maintain a solid 45-50 km.h-1 (30 mph) for around 4 minutes without even feeling put-out by it.  It was the first time I have managed to spin out on the Tourist, an extra gear would have allowed me to go even faster.  I got some curious looks from motorists as I comfortably cruised along at the same speed as them.


I took this shot of my shadow as I was nearing home in the late afternoon sun.  I was reminded of it by a recent post on A Grim North.  When the weather permits, this is the best way to cycle to Rochdale.

Saturday 16 October 2010

Cambridge Trip

As many of you may have noticed from an earlier post of mine, I have recently been to visit a friend in Cambridge. Whilst I was there I was shocked at how prevalent the bicycle was as a means of transport. Based on what I saw I'd guess a modal share of 10-12% which is unprecedented in the UK of the 21st century. This is despite a lack of any real pro-cycling intervention, sure there are painted cycle lanes and ASLs as in Manchester, but there is no proper infrastructure. The main differences are that everyone cycles, so motorists expect to see cyclists more and there is more cycle parking around because of the demand. The popularity of cycling in Cambridge could be due to the affluent university culture, or perhaps due to the number of historical buildings which have prevented the spread of car-centric traffic planning such as the wide, fast modern roads you see in Manchester.

Pairs of bicycles locked together in gardens and outside terraced houses are a common sight in Cambridge.

Traditional English roadsters from the era of rod-brakes are a very common sight.

Every available object is covered with locked bikes. Bikes left leaning against walls and locked through their frame were also a very common sight.

Pashley bicycles are very popular in Cambridge, although the Princess outnumbers the Roadster by around ten-to-one.

The Raleigh Twenty is also very popular here. Cambridge definitely has the highest usage of internal hub hears and mudguards I have seen in the UK, which is odd considering the reputation the UK has for its lack of rainfall.

Obligatory touristy photographs.

Re-assuringly, Cambridge isn't all picturesque.

What I have learned from looking around Cambridge is that you don't necessarily need to invest in cycle infrastructure to get people cycling. It can also be done by not increasing the capacity of motorised traffic the roads can accommodate, making it a pain to drive. people will see that there are better options and take them. People always say that cycling could be a lot bigger if there was the political will to build things such as segregated Dutch-style infrastructure. The political will to do this is always absent. Cycling can also be encouraged by doing nothing to increase road capacity or traffic flow, letting motorists create gridlock and subsequently finding a better way to get around. There isn't the political will to do a lot of things which would make life better, but I genuinely believe that there might just be the political will out there to do nothing to make it better.

Friday 8 October 2010

Egalitarian Bicycles

In 1896 Susan B. Anthony said, “The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world.”  She was most likely referring to the pneumatic-tyred,“Safety bicycle,” the design of which is the template for almost all modern bikes.  The “Ordinary,” bicycle now commonly referred to as a penny-farthing, was considered too dangerous for ladies to ride at the time.  Large-wheeled tricycles existed before the safety bicycle designed for women, but these were not practical utilitarian machines and at the time bicycles in general were used as toys by the affluent, or as an example of conspicuous consumption nowadays more commonly expressed through expensive cars.



Unwieldy women’s tricycle (above) and amongst penny-farthings (Below).

With the advent of the safety bicycle and the continued fall in the price of bicycles, women could ride a much more practical and utilitarian machine whilst still keeping their legs covered by a skirt.  The popularity of the safety bicycle with women brought in a new era of practical attire, a newfound level of personal mobility and the freedom it provided.  The men of the time were not all happy about this, it was feared that the bicycle “Would disrupt the delicate sphere of the family unit by allowing the woman to travel beyond her previous limits without the surveillance of a knowing husband nearby.” 

Nowadays it is hard to imagine that this was still going on as recently as the time the safety bicycle was introduced.  It is definitely worth remembering the egalitarian effect the safety bicycle had.

Thursday 7 October 2010

Greater Manchester Transport Plan

You may not have heard about the public consultation regarding the latest Greater Manchester Transport Plan, probably because local authorities like to keep consultations low-key to avoid having to take ordinary people’s views on board.  You may see this as a bad thing, but just take a moment to think about who you perceive to be the “Ordinary person.”  If it has managed to escape your attention, the plan can be found here

The report makes the usual references to cycle infrastructure and trying to create a modal shift away from the car.  The cycle plans are largely vague and involve opening up parts of the public right of way network to bikes.  Interestingly there are also promises of a “Core cycle network implemented locally,” allowing users to “Cycle with ease, convenience and safety.”  I am slightly concerned that the people writing this believe that the bits of existing cycle infrastructure in Manchester believe that they are also easy, convenient and safe when in fact they are difficult to use, inconvenient and actively dangerous.  Generally the report acknowledges the benefits of producing a pro-cycling culture but the proposals go nowhere near far enough to produce it.

The report mentions marketing several times, both to encourage people not to make pointlessly short car journeys, not to kill or maim anyone whilst making those pointlessly short journeys and to consider cycling, walking or getting a bus.  I get the impression that a large part of Manchester’s Local Transport Plan will take the form of billboards and local radio ads.

Interestingly the report suggests the installation of better bicycle parking at Metrolink stations to encourage multi-modal transport whilst ignoring the elephant in the room; the replacement of bike-friendly trains with bike-hostile Metrolink, such as is currently underway on the Oldham Loop railway line.

The most interesting part of the report for me was the statistics for Greater Manchester:

  • 70% of journeys into the city centre in the morning rush are made by public transport, walking or cycling.
  • 33% of households in Greater Manchester have no car.
  • 48% of Manchester households are car-free.
  • Morning rush-hour travel into the city centre by car has decreased by 15% over the past 10 years
  • 80% of cars observed on “Key,” commuter routes have a single occupant.
  • In the satellite towns around Manchester (Ashton, Rochdale, Stockport etc) the car is used for 60% of journeys into town.
  • 15% of people commuting by car travel less than 2 km (just over a mile).
  • 30% of people commuting by car travel less than 5 km (just over 3 miles).
  • 30% of Greater Manchester’s carbon dioxide emissions are from transport.
  • An estimated 2,000 people per year (50,000 nationally) will die prematurely in Greater Manchester due to the effects of air pollution from transport.
  • 9,000 people were reported injured by Greater Manchester motorists last year.
  • 794 of those were killed or seriously injured.

The plan does include provisions to increase or maintain car dependency, such as widening the M60 westbound to increase the volume of congestion and introducing various hard-shoulder running schemes at various parts of the motorway.  It also suggests allocating city centre parking for short stay use only to encourage people to use other transport modes, I would suggest removing town centre parking at street level entirely and either widening pavements or introducing Dutch-style cycle infrastructure, but there is no reference to anything like this in the report.

Lastly, the report acknowledges that as the safety of the road network has increased (apparently), the main cause of incidents is now driver behaviour.  Sadly they plan to deal with this with re-education and marketing.  Perhaps ASBOs could be used to exclude these people from driving in Greater Manchester instead?  If you want to respond to the consultation, the form is here.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Rush Hour Ride

Yesterday I decided to visit Rochdale after work. I set off at about 17:15 along the following route (give or take):

View Larger Map

The sheer volume of traffic meant it was easier to keep pace, so for large sections I was riding at 25-45 km.h-1 or 20-30 mph (Yes, on a DL-1, they are faster than you'd expect) and I was amazed at how poorly motorists deal with a cyclist who is travelling consistently as fast as they are. I understand Jobysp's frustration now, as he must encounter this kind of behaviour much more frequently (as he seems to usually commute on a roadie). Numerous times I was overtaken unnecessarily only to filter past at the next set of lights. Several of these overtakes were on narrow, blind sharp corners on the route between Shaw and Newhey. One guy nearly even crashed into an oncoming car just to get past me when I was comfortably travelling near the speed limit. I arrived in Rochdale at 18:45, although the last 5 km took me about half an hour due to my desire to explore.

I enjoyed being out in the cold crisp air, shame about the motorists though. If you live in Rochdale, commuting in to Manchester on an upright bike could be viable, although be prepared to encounter some stupidity.

Monday 4 October 2010

Cambridge Train Station

I will write in more detail about my recent trip to Cambridge shortly, for now I wanted to share these pictures taken outside of the train station in Cambridge:






It was hard to believe I was still in the UK.  Compare this to the bicycle parking facilities at the Manchester train stations and consider that the Cambridge urban area has a population of 130,000 and the city of Manchester (excluding Greater Manchester) has a population of 464,200.  Puts into perspective just how big cycling is in Cambridge.