Friday, 26 November 2010

Bus Bully

Attended my first Bike Friday this AM. Joined 30 or so other cyclists who came from various parts of Manchester to present a letter to a representative of the GM Passenger Transport Executive detailing the Friends of the Earth's response to the Local Transport Plan (LTP3). It was very cold but nice to go for a coffee and warm up after the photoshoot (should be in the Evening News on Saturday). I met Coco from Cycling and Working in Manchester at long last and chatted to a nice bloke who also works in healthcare and has some experience setting up a Bicycle User Group. Hopefully a useful contact.

I had arranged to meet my wife in Manchester for brunch after the ride. On my way to our rendezvous point I cycled down Lever Street from Piccadilly. Approaching my left turn into Dale Street the lights were red and a bus was stopped in the bike box signalling left. I approached with caution down the inside cycle lane and reached the lights as they turned green. I made eye contact with the driver and swung left into the bus/cycle/taxi lane. I was quickly up to 14 mph and as the lights shortly ahead at Oldham Street were red I just coasted toward them. Next I know the bus driver was behind me, leaning on his horn and screaming at me out his window to get off the road. I was cycling in  primary within the bus lane but the lights were red for gawd's sake. These went to green before I needed to stop and after crossing the next junction with Tib Street (where Dale Street becomes Church Street) the so called 'professional' bus driver overtook me with less than 30 cm clearance. He got about 3 seconds ahead and then had to stop at the High Street junction where the lights were already at red. Needless to say some words were exchanged before I cycled ahead of the bus as the lights went green. The beautiful thing was the traffic was now at a standstill and so while the bus was well and truly blocked I happily filtered along to meet my wife at The Printworks. The annoying thing was I didn't get any details of the idiot. It's events like that which make me wish I was still using the headcam regularly. Never mind!

Start at the yellow marker and continue to the red for a breakdown of the encounter

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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Winter Preparation

Last year I took a tumble on some black ice while cycle commuting to work - the iced banana episode. Apart from this I loved my winter commute and arrived feeling alive and refreshed at work. Because I work shifts I cycle at silly times so it is inevitable I will be on the road in the crappiest winter road conditions. I decided to do my best to prepare for this years challenge and hopefully avoid any further such incidents. 

Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded tyres
I cycle a variety of side and main roads and previous conditions were a mix between ice, black ice, slush, snow (powder and compact) and clear tarmac. A quick bit of Google research to see which tyres were best suited came up with Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded tyres. These can run at different pressures and are OK on tarmac alone - essential for the variable conditions we have in the UK. I ordered some last night from Bike24 in Germany as I couldn't find any in stock in the UK. 

Now the decision is should I get some body armour as well?

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Heart Rate Monitoring

The Polar FT1
Basic but does everything I need it to
I have lost 17kg since I started cycling without really trying. I would like to lose more but have been finding that difficult to achieve over the last 9 months or so. I think my appetite has increased so despite being more active I have reached a plateau (either that or I find I can eat and drink what I want and not put weight on!). So I have joined a gym.

Getting out on the bike is something I love doing but some other varied exercise can only make the cycling easier and being that much lighter will also help. Never one to do things by half I now have a personalised gym plan and aim to attend three times per week. To make it useful I have been given heart rates to aim for while doing various exercises, so while not essential I thought this was a great excuse to get a heart rate monitor. 

I wore it out on my normal cycle commute the other day and was amazed at how quickly I went from resting heart rate (56bpm) to moderately active (75bpm) to very active (140bpm) and more importantly how quickly I returned to my resting heart rate after arriving at work - less than 2 minutes so quite chuffed. Will be using it at the gym today for the first time so will find out how I do using different muscle groups and movements.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Thank Evans

I am not a great fan of cycle helmets. I took one on my Pennine Cycleway trip but rarely wore it. I found it uncomfortably hot over long periods and ended up with sweat running into my eyes - not pleasant or safe. My wife thinks helmets make all the difference and would rather I wear one despite my reluctance. For the sake of marital harmony I decided to get one with big vents to avoid the heat/sweat issue and so at the end of July I bought a Specialized Propero from Evans on Deansgate, Manchester.

All was happy with my purchase until yesterday when I pulled it from my pannier and in doing so slightly depressed the adjustable retaining band with my thumb and it broke in two! I was very surprised by how little force caused this to happen and was dismayed because it cost £70.00, had never been dropped and was well looked after. 

I attempted to source a new retaining clip from Specialized but was told they do not provide parts for helmets as "... it's a safety item and any tampering could lead to the helmet not working correctly and to serious injury". Fair enough I suppose but was a little put out by their offer to replace the helmet via their crash replacement service for the princely sum of £32.00. It hadn't been crashed and I felt there must have been a fault in the manufacture of this helmet at the very least and maybe in the design of the retaining band. 

I contacted Evans to see if they would exchange it. It was 3 months old and I no longer had the receipt so after a phone call and confirmation they would accept my CC statement as proof of purchase I made my way to the store to plead my case. I was ready with quotes from the Sale of Goods Act (1979) about satisfactory quality but these were not needed. They couldn't have been more courteous and I left the store with a brand new helmet within five minutes. The guy had never come across the problem before but was happy to exchange it.

Great service that will result in further business from me. Thanks Evans.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Traffic Beater

Started work the other day at 09.00hrs rather than 07.30hrs as per normal. The traffic heading into Manchester was standing or crawling for the whole mile and a half where I follow the main road. It was wet and miserable weather. Don't normally commute in such heavy traffic and I loved it!

I whizzed past the cars at 15-24 mph and was at work within 15 mins as per normal. The weather was no hardship either and the drizzle just helped cool me down. Part of the route takes in a bus lane and I was the only user. I stopped counting cars passed when I reached 50 - most of them with only one occupant. Madness!

To celebrate I have just commented on this local newspaper article about the Council fining drivers who use bus lanes. The article suggests drivers feel "...they are forced to use the bus lane...due to the sheer volume of traffic". That's all right then. Congestion? Never mind just drive down some road you are not allowed to use and most other motorists respect. Despite this the article is reasonably impartial, giving the Council view as well as the motorists. The replies though are definitely anti bus lane. As a cyclist, I am no great fan of cycle or bus lanes but felt honour bound to add some balance and give a cyclist POV.