Saturday, 26 February 2011

Cycling CO2 Emissions

Alert: Breaking News

Some of you will have heard about or even read the Daily Mail's latest cycling related article. It is frankly quite worrying. Worrying that so many people choose to buy this absolute crap. Still one comment on the online article really made me sit up and take notice. 

Did you know cyclists are a source of global warming? Apparently a "...sweaty deep breathing cyclist is proven to give out more CO2 than a modern and efficient small car...". Good Lord! All those fossil fuels we must be using up while not actually consuming much more than food, water and oxygen. How can this be? Maybe it is the chain lubricant and rubber for the tyres? I would love to know because the science is really beyond me. Can anyone explain?

Anyway, thank you Andy McNathan of Belfast for making us all aware of this. (Full comment below)

Bikes are a scourge. They should pay compulsory road tax, 3rd party insurance and require an annual test to check on the condition of brakes etc. The cyclists should be forced to take a proficiency test including the full Highway Code and should face large fines for failing to wear hi-lux clothing, helmets and displaying proper lights at all times. They should also be compelled to display a number plate so that they can be caught for the many crimes they commit. Frankly, given that a sweaty deep breathing cyclist is proven to give out more CO2 than a modern and efficient small car, bikes should be banned altogether.

Friday, 25 February 2011

15 cm From Death! - update

After my recent brush with death, I decided to contact the company and see what response I would get rather than report the matter to the police/HSE, at least in the first instance. I suggested the incident could be used positively to highlight how vulnerable cyclists are compared to HGVs and so improve driver training. I had a few return emails and the assurance they would discuss incident at a senior level and get back to me. They have now got back to me and I am not satisfied.

They tell me:
...our drivers undertake thorough training, their performance is regularly assessed and they must adhere to company policy and procedures. We invest time and money in our workforce to ensure the highest standards.

We have completed a detailed interview with our driver. He confirms that he tried to make every effort to leave as much of a wide berth as possible to go round you on this very busy A road. Our driver is a cyclist and motorcyclist himself and appreciates the difficulties you both sometimes face...
So, they already have great training standards, the driver went out of his way to avoid me and the road is to blame. That's all OK then. I'll see what the police and HSE have to say on the matter.

Back On The Bike

My girl, AKA The Golden Child, was doing really well on her balance bike last year and I had plans to wean her off the stabilizers and have her pedalling on two wheels as well. No such luck. One fall as she came to a stop and found a pedal in the way of putting a foot down put paid to any such fatherly ambition. She then lost interest in the bicycle and would rather scoot everywhere.

Wanting to encourage but not push too much I resolved to leave cycling to Summer 2011 but a weekend trip to CenterParcs was too good an opportunity to miss. I can now report the bicycle is a favourite means of transport again. Now when do I ditch the stabilizers? 

Having fun at CenterParcs

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Facility Of The Month - February 2011

A new feature to Middle Age Cyclist - The Facility Of The Month. This award is given to the most thoughtful, innovative, eye catching, progressive or amusing facility found that month by me.

This month Bury town centre is the lucky recipient under the heading of Innovation. It won for its groundbreaking, modern design feature of having absolutely no painted markings at all. This not only saves money but encourages cyclists and pedestrians to be more aware of each other by its forced 'total share' ethos. Well done Bury.

Summer Cycle Tour

Well, I have decided on my Summer Cycle Tour destination. Not for me any transcontinental crossing, multi border hopping, bicycle assembling, phrasebook requiring trip. No. I'm going to keep it simple, low carbon and cheap. I'm going to Wales (maybe I will need a phrasebook then?).

The plan is to get a train from Manchester to somewhere in south Wales, probably Cardiff, and then cycle very generally north, camping each night at wherever is convenient and attractive. No final destination and no set route, so unlike on the Pennine Cycleway, this will be a journey where each day will see me making a choice of which way and how far to go, influenced by; weather, craic, legs, bike, camping, culture, kit, alcohol, hills, people, clothing and many other factors i'm sure. However, as I do like having something tangible to aim for rather than just 'North', I am also going to visit a few of the 48 Welsh BCQ checkpoints along the way. Some days I might manage four or even five and on others I might struggle to get one. I won't give myself a target to achieve as I intend them to add colour, history and variation to my journey rather than force me on each day. As the trip nears the end I will head for a town with a reasonable rail connection and make a return home to normal family life.

As I said. Simple, low carbon and cheap. And I still get to see a foreign land very much unknown to me. Brilliant eh?

View BCQ Wales in a larger map

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Manchester Cargo Bike

Anyway, on to something less morbid instead. 

I never thought I would see a 'cargo bike' with child on the streets of Manchester but here it is. If I see it again I will try to get some better footage and will even attempt to find out about the practicalities of its use on the tough streets of a not very cycle friendly city.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

15 cm From Death!

A whole day to myself. I had arranged to cycle to some friends, meeting up with my wife and child there for the weekend. I thought I was never going to see them again. Worse 5 seconds of my life for a very, very long time. 

It is a Hargreaves Services Lorry. Pretty sure the registration is NJ09 GVU.  I intend to take it further but don't really hold out much hope. We'll see...

Monday, 14 February 2011

I have received an acknowledgement of my complaint from Hargreaves Services and should have a more detailed reply by the end of the week.

There has been quite a bit of discussion here and here about this incident if you want to follow it.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Spot Of Brunch Anyone?

At the end of last month I went along to the inaugural meeting of an initiative in Manchester called Wheelers Brunch. It has been set up by Lorenza who writes Naturally Cycling: Manchester and is designed to appeal to cyclists who are not lycra attired, gel quaffing, speed freaks but rather those cycling as a means of everyday transport while wearing everyday clothes. 

Now, while I am no lycra clad road warrior, I do ride in clothes I wouldn't otherwise walk around wearing, including; vivid breathable tops, Ron Hill tracksters, a helmet (to keep wife happy) +/- a hi-viz/reflective jacket so to be honest I wasn't quite sure how I would fit in. But hey, I believe cycling is a viable means of local transport which I want to encourage and while I do like doing longer rides plus some off road stuff my most frequent trips are commuting to and from work and going to the shops. I also like the cycling blogs written by people who I knew were going so it was a chance to meet up and....I enjoy food!

What did I have to lose? Alright, I did kind of imagine walking in to a group of wool wearing, scarf wrapped, bearded communists with multiple piercings all who stopped listening to the group manifesto and just stared and stared and stared at me till one comrade eventually stood up and guided me the door whispering in my ear "we don't have your kind here. I think you need to leave". But that was just my own insecurities and wild imaginings coming to plague me. I actually had a great time, especially considering I had not met any of the people there before and I don't really do group things very much at all. 

We met at Odder on Oxford Road in Manchester and after some initial stilted conversation and introductions we migrated to a space larger enough for the seventeen (I think) people who turned up. I sat next to Lorenza and had a lovely chat (for she is a lovely person as far as I can tell). The food was good, the group conversation flowed pretty well and I was soon looking forward to the next brunch meeting. I didn't really learn anything new, or contribute anything substantial but it was great to be in the company of some like minded, interesting and personable individuals. I hope the group goes from strength to strength and I for one will certainly be brunching again (shifts allowing!).

If this is news to anyone and you are interested in coming along to the next meeting then it will be on Saturday 26th February, venue yet to be decided but somewhere in the Manchester area. More information and a sign up to a mailing list here. Go on, we're very friendly really.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Crap Cycle Lane

I have cycled up and down this road (the A56, North Manchester) many, many times so take it for granted somewhat. However, I thought this was a fine example of a crap cycle lane to share. This junction was 'improved' last year and us cyclists got some fresh green paint to go with the general widening. It just shows what lip service is paid to cycling infrastructure in this country the existing cycle lane which went all the way to junction was actually terminated just prior to the refreshed section. You can see the old (admittedly poor) cycle lane in the still image courtesy of Google Maps. Still, another box ticked somewhere, for something or other no doubt!


Pre 2011 (courtesy Google Maps)

Friday, 4 February 2011

Using A Cycle Cam

First of all I want to make clear I think cycling with a 'video' camera (AKA 'bulletcams', 'cyclecams', 'helmetcams' and 'headcams') is just a tad geeky and maybe even a little sad. However, I am also sometimes a little geeky (although rarely sad) so it kind of fits.

I have been prompted to write this post after a question from Andrew about my cam' as well as reading a  few recent blog posts by Nigel at 4 Wheels Good 2 Wheels BetterTlatet and cyclingjim at The Low Fidelity Bicycle Club and a recent BBC news article all on the general theme of cyclecams.

I first thought of getting a helmetcam while preparing for the Pennine Cycleway ride in 2010. I had visions of making a great little web movie to demonstrate what I wonderful time I'd had and some Point of View (POV) footage would constitute just one element of my movie masterpiece. I also knew some cyclists were using cams' in the battle with other traffic and after a few close calls I'd decided to join them. The final justification for the purchase was my brother and I could use it while skiing (hence calling it a helmet rather than cycle-cam). While I did have a great time on the Pennine ride I didn't even take the cam', never mind made a movie and I haven't been skiing since I got it. I do use it while cycling locally and find it cathartic to replay and post some of the crap driving I came across. Such are the plans of men!

My ContourHD cam
So I bought a secondhand ContourHD bullet cam from eBay for about £160.00. I chose this one as it has good reviews, is self contained, robust, weatherproof and has a variety of mounting attachments. I didn't use it on the Pennine ride mainly because I found the charging and memory issues too much of a bind. With an 8Gb card I can record for about 120mins and the battery gives a similar length of time before it gives out. So on a 6 day trip I would obviously need to download the footage and recharge the battery frequently. Both things done via the same USB lead which requires a laptop or similar device plus regular mains electricity access - something I was not prepared to countenance. 

Using it locally is not too problematic as I am able to recharge it at home, save any files I want to hard drive and then format the card. It records files in the MOV format and I have found these very cumbersome to edit. I've tried the Contour edit software (very basic), Windows Movie Maker, Adobe Premiere Elements and AVS Video Editor and struggled with them all. It is not my computer or the software but I think related to the codecs the MOV files utilize. I have hit upon a nice piece of free software called MPEG Streamclip from Squared5 which allows speedy viewing of a file as well as trimming and saving the required section but have given up trying to edit sections together for the time being. 

The mounts advertised for the cam' look impressive but not all come as standard. I got a vented helmet mount as an extra and it wasn't very good. While the mount could be secured tightly to the helmet, the camera moved on the mount and so picked up any vibrations. The mount and camera also stood quite proud of the helmet and so I ended feeling a bit like a Borg while I was cycling the streets of Manchester. Not a good look! The mount was also easily broken which is what happened in the end. I found with my current helmet I could achieve a much sleeker look with no vibration by strapping the camera directly to the helmet and so this is how I use it at the moment.

The camera does capture some good wide angle footage, is simple to use and quite weatherproof. I am generally happy with it. Would I recommend getting a cyclecam far all cyclists? Not at all. Would I recommend the ContourHD? It's good but there are a growing number of devices available and it really depends on what you plan to use it for. Horses for courses I believe is an appropriate expression!

So the main ups and downs of cycling with a cam' as I see it are:

The ups
  • illustrate the generally atrocious conditions on the roads i.e crap cycle lanes, facilities, potholes, etc
  • show nice scenery and great cycling to amaze your friends, colleagues, family and blog readers
  • capture idiotic driving behaviour to amaze your friends, colleagues, family and blog readers
  • secure video evidence to potentially enable prosecution of some of the above said behaviour
The downs
  • You look like a geek
  • Time consuming (charging camera, editing footage, uploading to web, mounting cam' adequately)
  • £££ outlay (varies)
  • Something extra to remember when cycling
  • Limited power and memory for longer journeys
That kind of covers it really. If you want to ask questions feel free to do so. Thanks for reading.