Sexist AND Ageist!
I really am rather disappointed to read that A to B feels it has to advertise for ‘young ladies’ to be available to act as hosts for the CYCLE 2003 show this Autumn, as per your advertisement.When I first saw this I thought it was a joke but on second reading, you are serious. Perhaps I am getting like Victor Meldrew, as I’m now in my mid-50s but I DON’T BELIEVE IT!
Seriously though, really – you must know that we don’t need to sink to the lowest common denominator when looking for pleasant, helpful and informative hosts at such an event (which is what is really needed, surely). I never thought that such a well written and commendable magazine would feel the need to be both sexist and ageist. Don’t you agree that smartish, pleasant, fairly/quite knowledgeable men and women of all ages would be much more appropriate as hosts at such an event?
Sex and Age,No Barrier!
Having seen your advertisement, I felt I should respond. I have 45 years cycling experience, 20 years of cycle commuting, and I currently own a Bike E,Windcheetah, Saracen ATB, Raleigh Randonneur and a Birdy Black, doing all my own maintenance. I am an early retired university lecturer, 54 years of age, with good communication skills, able to encourage cycling as a viable alternative mode of transport
In order to comply with the selection criteria in your advertisement, I have booked for a full sex change in August, although this may leave me a little tender if bike demonstrations are required. I intend to address the ‘young’ element of your advertisement by having my navel pierced and purchasing low-slung buttock cleavage revealing jeans, which should distract attention away from my greying beard.
Confused readers should turn to the bottom of page 42, issue 36. I have to own up for dropping this ‘advertisement’ in just as the magazine went to the printers. A ‘For Sale’ ad had been withdrawn, and it’s easier to drop in a few lines than adjust the line spacing right down the page. I should add that our normally vigilant proof-reading team didn’t see the offending lines.
The idea (in so far as there was an idea) was to provide a subliminal ‘feel-good’ message for the CYCLE 2003 show, but the ad had a bigger, and less positive, effect than anticipated. One very reasonable objection came from CYCLE, whose Michael Heal made the point that A to B is not taking a stand at the show, so what were we intending to do with the young ladies? In any event, why would we need a bevy of beauties when we have our own wonderful Jane?
This small ad caused more complaints (all from men, incidentally) than the full frontal nudity in issues 15 and 31 (both still available should anyone wish to research further). (David Henshaw)
While We’re on the Subject…
For some time now she’s been missing. In fact the last time we saw her was A to B 33. Where has that graceful lady flowing effortlessly from ‘A’ to ‘B’ gone from your cover? Has the poor woman gone in for a face lift or is she just another victim of the appaling state of the British transport system, and failed to make it to the publishers on time?
I think we should be told.
Our leaping lady was indeed removed from A to B 33 onwards – less quirky corporate image and all that.We’re quite prepared to change our minds, but would we dare put her back? (Eds)
Moving Swiftly to Virgin Trains…
Much as I like trains, British train companies are unfortunately heading the wrong way by eroding their natural space advantage by cramming more and more people into seats which are ‘ergonomically designed’, and therefore guaranteed to be uncomfortable for nearly everyone. Meanwhile, luggage space is shrinking to nothing. I can now get the same uncomfortable space more cheaply on a bus, or have the option to suffer it for less time (and often more cheaply) on a plane. And if you fancy insulation from other travellers, only a car can now provide it. Indeed, television advertisements for cars have started extolling the private personal space and comfort they provide compared to trains. I even saw one sick advert where a train has to stop at a level crossing to allow the ‘superior’ car to go past.
Recently my wife and I planned to take our recumbent tricycle tandem from Stafford to Edinburgh, but discovered this will not be possible because that route is now served by sardine-cans called ‘Voyagers’ which cannot take tandems or tricycles. My requirement may appear unreasonable because the cycle is almost 3.5 metres long and one metre wide, but it splits within minutes into two shorter sections making transport reasonably practical. I have carried it on buses in Saudi Arabia with hardly a raised eyebrow.
Even the cycle-friendly ScotRail is only able to accommodate cycles along the Far North lines in the summer by transporting them by road. Better than not transporting cycles at all, but it does rank alongside other crazy modern railway practices, like carrying train drivers to work by taxi over distances of more than 100 miles.
In Poland I still enjoy long distance train travel in carriages with compartments. My experience of First Class seats on Voyagers is that they’re no more comfortable than a long- distance bus. As for getting my tandem from Stafford to Edinburgh, I hired a van. It was against my principles, less convenient (I had to drive), and it contributed to air pollution, road congestion and the danger to cyclists. For all that it cost me less than the two First Class train tickets I had intended to buy, and it made me wonder if I can continue to justify my preference for rail over other forms of transport within Britain.
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Thanks for the Info…
I am shortly going to cycle the Trans-Pennine Trail and was looking for information about whether I could take my bike on the train from Rochdale to Southport and return from Hull to Rochdale. I found your site through Google, and just wanted to say how extremely useful it is. I have bookmarked the site and will use it again in future to research getting to the start of other long distance cycle routes. It has all the information I could possibly want all in one place.
For those who haven’t visited our web site, it’s full of information, including a comprehensive guide to carrying conventional bicycles and folders by National Rail, London Underground, ferries and privately-owned railways.Most of the information, covering the 25 key Train Operating Companies is also available as a leaflet published by Brompton, and available at all staffed railway stations. The A to B web site is at www.atob.org.uk (Eds)
Bus not Rail!
400 fewer cars - one of the Glastonbury specials fills up after the Festival
‘T in the Park’ (the Scottish equivalent of the Glastonbury Festival) operates coaches from both Edinburgh and Glasgow at ten minute intervals – very different to Glastonbury’s legendary traffic chaos, and coaches shuttling between Castle Cary rail station and the site. Simply another case of the Scots showing the English how to do something properly?
The Glastonbury Festival is three times bigger than T in the Park, attracting more than 100,000 visitors, most of whom arrive by car, causing utter chaos. But our public transport system does a remarkable job too:This year, 18,000 travelled by train to Castle Cary, then via the free connecting buses to the Festival. Our guess is that Castle Cary station could handle about 35,000 Festival-goers (a third of all visitors, in other words) given more trains and staff. Incidentally, the best route is train to Castle Cary, then by folding bike via quiet country lanes to nip in the back way, eliminating all queueing. If the organisers will allow us, we intend to provide a cycle route map next year. (Eds)
Bike Space Evaporating
I travelled to Normandy from Poole last week.With a limit of five bikes per train on the Wessex Electric services, and no reservations, there must already be problems, but the guards told us that with the new carriages there will be a maximum of two bikes per train, and only one if a disabled passenger needs the space.These carriages are coming into service next year and certainly raise concerns about family travel, for instance.
The guard could well be right, but the good news is that the older Wessex Electric trains will continue to run to Weymouth for the foreseeable future, and these account for half the services to Poole.We think the intention is to put the new trains to work on Southampton and Portsmouth services first. Either way, it’s yet another squeeze on limited bike space. Incidentally, South West Trains has failed to reply to our requests for information – not unusual. (Eds)
Vive la France!
With reference to Dave Minter’s letter in A to B 35. About this time last year I wanted to go to the Floriade display, between Haarlem and Amsterdam, but wished to spend a few days in Antwerp on the way. So I toddled down to Poole Station only to be told that they couldn’t sell me tickets either for the whole journey, or even from London to Antwerp. I pointed out that I had purchased tickets for Bournemouth to Paris a few years previously, so, ‘could I get the required service if I went over to Bournemouth station?’ Answer: ‘No, no longer’. ‘Where can I go then?’ Answer: ‘Try Bath Travel or Thomas Cook’. So, I did, but with equal lack off success; ‘We don’t do that any more’.
This confirmed my opinion that travel agents are probably infringing trade description legislation these days as all they seem to do is to flog packages of holidays without providing any ‘travel’ services. But I was surprised at Thomas Cook, bearing in mind that it produces the excellent European Train Timetable on a monthly basis (at £10 this must be the best value in the whole field of published material!). However, someone at Cooks did mention RailEurope.
At some stage I had obtained a quotation direct from Eurostar on a London to Brussels basis, but after one non-stressful phone call to RailEurope I obtained a ticket from London to Amsterdam (actually out to Antwerp where I alighted, but returning via Amsterdam, at minimal extra cost).
The astonishing thing was that the Eurostar trains both ways were identical to the ones in my earlier quote (dates and times) yet the overall fare through RailEurope was less than the Eurostar quotation for the London – Brussels section alone!
I was so amazed that despite the Europe thing and the existence of the channel tunnel, it had become more difficult to get such ticketing that I wrote to my MP, but she gave the predictable answer that these were private companies now and ‘what can you do?’
Anyway RailEurope got me sorted (tel: 08705 848848, web: www.raileurope.co.uk). I still had to buy a separate return ticket for the Poole to London stage.
RailEurope is a division of SNCF, the nationally-owned French Railway operator, and has vowed to become, ‘…the consumer preferred choice for buying SNCF and Eurostar tickets and the No. 1 UK seller of rail-based travel and holidays in Europe.’ Remember when the UK had a cohesive national rail operator too? French and German railways seem able to sell tickets to and from any European destination, but only London and Ashford in the UK… Maybe we should invite SNCF to run the British railway system too? Incidentally, Eurostar offers some great deals on its own network, such as London to Avignon for £69 in September or October: see www.eurostar.com (Eds)
My wife has been finding it too painful on her knees to tackle the hills around us recently, and we had begun to think about an electric bike, when a friend from our local Friends of the Earth group lent me his pile of A to B’s. After reading the favourable comments on the Giant Lafree, (and having already tried and rejected the Powabyke), we set off in search of one.We eventually tracked one down in Hereford and bought it after a brief trial. It proved up to the job of tackling our hills, but produced a horrible squealing of brakes on the way down. After the dealer tried without success to adjust the brakes, he replaced them with better quality Shimanos. Silence! Now my wife waits patiently for me at the top of each hill. She says it’s like being a child again, when all you had to do was get on the bike and go: no great effort and no fiddling with complicated gears. She did complain it made her face ache from grinning too much!
After showing it off to a group of friends on a family ride for Bike Week, one of them borrowed it to try up the impossibly long and steep hill that runs up to his house. It made it, and a couple of weeks later, he too is the proud owner of a Lafree, but he had to go to Hampshire to get one.
At a party last weekend, largely populated by bike riders, the bike was much discussed. It was admired, but there was a definite air of non-approval which compared with the cry of ‘Judas!’ when Bob Dylan also ‘went electric’ for the first time in the 60’s. So beware, buyers, prepare your moral case before admitting to your ownership.
Thanks to A to B for the detailed reviews and an amusing read to boot. So my beloved bike’s a ‘cumbersome’ is it?
Bob Dylan makes a rather apt comparison.The cycling world can be painfully conservative, but we’ve found the most vociferous antis are those who make 90% of their journeys by car, with a brisk workout by bike at the weekends. Somehow, that’s OK… it’s a funny old world.
No-one should feel defensive about riding an electric bike – particularly if they suffer from knee trouble. By the way, how about the acronym ‘sparkies’ or ‘sparklers’ for electric bicyclists? Cumbersome sparkies, folding sparkies, recumbent sparkies… (Eds)
End-to-End by Sparkie?
I am finding it difficult to obtain information on power-assisted bicycles in the UK. I want to go from Lands End to John O’ Groats. I was going to do it on an Aprilia Enjoy electric bike, but I don’t think it would have enough range, and when I rode it with the motor off (as I would have to do in the event of a flat battery) it was almost impossible to pedal, even up the slightest slope. So now I want to do it on a petrol-driven bicycle either like the Solex or Sachs. Here in Australia (and most other places) this is considered a bicycle. However in the UK it is something else, (I think they try to keep a straight face and call it a motor vehicle). If this is the case, how do I go about using one of these bicycles in the UK. I could buy one at home, in Europe or perhaps the UK.
In Britain, internal combustion-assisted bicycles are covered by motorcycle legislation, so you’ll need a helmet, insurance, MOT and road tax. Unless you have a particular enthusiasm for the genre, you really would be better off with a small moped.
The woefully inefficient Aprilia has now been withdrawn – a relief to us all. But could a better electric bike do the end-to-end? We think the front runner would be the Giant Lafree: (a) it’s easy to pedal unassisted and, (b) it’s light, with a light, compact battery.Three batteries permanently plumbed in (it’s more efficient that way), would give a daily range of up to 70 miles, assuming a ten hour overnight charge, but you wouldn’t want to carry much camping gear… (Eds)
Great Swinging Chaincases
When it comes to ‘evolutionary dead ends’ the shaft drive bikes by Zero and Aurora are much more likely candidates than the admirable Ezee Forza in A to B 36. Shaft drive has been rediscovered every few years since the 1890s and has always failed to catch on for exactly the same reasons. It’s heavy and complicated, gear ratios are virtually impossible to change and it has more friction than a chain drive. Chains also help to absorb road shocks, limiting the unwanted feedback from rough road surfaces to the pedals which has been a problem for shaft drives in the past.
The latest systems may claim to have conquered friction, though it’s hard to see how two sets of skew gears with their associated oil seals and bearings could ever approach a chain drive for efficiency.Weight is clearly going to be a problem, judging by the apparent need for anything up to four chainstays. Previous versions have at least contrived to make the shaft casing substitute for one chainstay. Perhaps Zero could also explain how a simple klaprad with fixed rear triangle ‘compares well with the Brompton in terms of folding’?
Some 1950s motorcycles put the chain inside a combined suspension arm/chaincase. Suitable for bicycles?
As usual, the simple answer to the problems of oily trouser legs, dirty chains and rapid transmission wear can be found in any Dutch cycle shop – the fully enclosed chain guard. It’s lightweight, removable for maintenance and friction-free.
If budding engineers still feel the urge to borrow motorised technology, here’s an idea I just cobbled together: 1950s motor scooters pioneered a light alloy casting forming the chaincase and the swing arm of the single-sided suspension. Eminently suitable for bicycles, and it could even weigh less than the chain and seat stays it replaces. For folding it could easily be made to swing underneath the frame, Brompton-style.
Dispensing with the traditional bottom bracket would leave ample room between the pedals for a multi-speed gear box. Is there any good reason why the output sprocket has to be concentric with the pedals? Variable gearing from the pedals to a separate sprocket could result in an ultra-compact chain drive with 18 or 20 teeth on both the chainwheel and rear sprocket. How about rear swinging arm bearings concentric with the output sprocket, for suspension without chain length variation?
We agree about the shaft-drive – the good old chain is still king, for all sorts reasons.We don’t know if a hollow swing-arm has been used on a bicycle before, but it sounds perfectly feasible and the chain would last forever. By the way, Zero isn’t responsible for the claim that their folder compared well with the Brompton – that slightly dubious quote comes from the first owner… (Eds)
In praise of Derailleurs
In your review of the Orbit Orion (A to B 36), you criticise manufacturers for cramming more and more cogs into the rear wheel. Personally, I’m a fan, but what I can’t understand is why they keep selling the front derailleurs to ordinary mortals (racers really do need closely spaced gears).
A nine speed cassette now comes with smoothly spaced cogs from 11 to 34-teeth – a range of over 300% which puts all hub gears to shame, and plenty enough for utility cyclists. Moultons and Birdys have been sold with such gearing for ages, but anyone rediscovering a ‘normal’ bicycle still gets bamboozled with more gears and controls than they’ll ever need, or possibly ever bother to work out.
I don’t believe that your wonderful magazine is ‘anti-car’ (I’m not sure if anyone actually is), but you are coming across as distinctly anti-derailleur – shame on you!
Our main argument against derailleurs is that hardly anyone understands them and uses them properly, particularly once two levers are involved. For most cyclists a hub system really would be better, and the SRAM and Shimano 7-speed hubs gives a range of very nearly 300%, albeit with some friction losses.Yes, a 9-speed derailleur (without front changer) can work well – we particularly liked the SRAM 9-speed on the Bike Friday Crusoe (A to B 25).There are some mild engineering arguments against – principally the rapid wear and (more controversially) reduced efficiency of the small sprockets needed on sub-24 inch bikes. (Eds)
You’ve occasionally published my anecdotes on fitting a Currie electric drive to my ‘workbike’ (now much improved since the importer fitted a decent hub: the original kept snapping spokes) and I thought my latest ‘mods’ might be of interest to readers.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a teacher in a comprehensive school.While my electric bike has caused some interest and fascination with the pupils, its silent approach has caused some problems when crossing the school yard to park.
I tried the standard cycle bell. Unfortunately this is so seldom heard these days that youngsters just don’t take any notice. I tried an enormous (biggest I could find) ‘ding dong’ bell, but with no better results. Finally I taped a Halfords air horn to the frame.This gets RESULTS!!
Now my approach to those blocking my path is a couple of polite ‘ding dong’s’, followed by an almighty ‘BLAAART’ on the horn.This usually results in lots of swearing, diving for the bushes etc, to the point where pupils now ask me to blast the horn just so they can watch their mates jump. But the important thing is that they’re learning to move out of the way, so I rarely need the horn. It’s a bit like Pavlov and his dogs really – they’ve learned to respond to ‘ding dong’ to avoid the pain of ‘BLAAART’!
With a veritable plethora of new electric machines coming on the market, perhaps you could comment on the security aspect of these bikes, in particular, the batteries. I seriously considered an electric cycle some months ago, but as it would have meant leaving it on a cycle rack at Surbiton station all day, I was a bit worried about having bits filched from it – the battery mainly.The only cycle with a battery that appears to incorporate a moulded-in handle (thus capable of having a security cable passed through it) is the Powabyke. Some others do appear to be locked in place, but this is not necessarily commented on in your tests, and neither is the security of said locking arrangements.
As for a folding bikes, it’s obviously best to carry it with you, but there are times when you have to leave it chained to something. Perhaps I am paranoid, but if I leave the Brompton unattended for any length of time I remove the frame clamps. Manufacturers should be persuaded to offer decent built-in security or discounted locks with new cycles.
West Molesey, Surrey
Batteries are generally quite well protected, with locks on all of the major machines, although not many would deter a vandal or thief for very long. But we think the Giant Lafree and Viking are the only bikes with cycle locks fitted as standard.One alternative is to buy a grotty-looking old Powabyke, but the only real answer is bike lockers, and these are starting to appear.We’re told that secure bike storage is being considered for stations in the Surbiton area. (Eds)
Mad Dogs & Englishmen
I have done some travelling with a folding bike in Taiwan and intend to go back soon. Has anyone discovered how to deal with the problem of semi-wild dogs? It seems that dog ownership has now spread to Asia, and the animals are breeding and living in the suburbs of towns along the coast lines. Packs of four or five will close in on a cycle in an alarming hunting mode. An airline brochure carried an article about this problem and suggested ‘forcing its head into the ground’. Fighting with wild dogs is surely out of the question?
We’ve recently received a sample personal alarm.Would this piercingly loud alarm make a practical dog deterrent, we wonder? See what you think – Radio Shack, Catalogue number 49-417. (Eds)
Browsing through Calderdale Council’s website today, I note that the following vacancy attracts a considerably higher rate of pay than that of a Calderdale Council Road Safety (including cycling) Trainer, which is £5.45p per hour:
Models – Post No ED098
£6.91p per hour (unclothed)
£6.59p per hour (clothed)
Applications are invited from persons interested in joining a pool of ancillary staff who are called on from time to time to support Adult & Family Learning at venues throughout Calderdale…Travel expenses would be paid…
We suggest Calderdale employs the unclothed models to teach road safety, thus improving wages and increasing attendance at a stroke. (Eds)
The Final Word
In which you get your say… briefly
The best – no doubt! Excellent magazine . A delight to receive and a pleasure to read The astutely critical tone is refreshing . Sensible and thoughtful . A wonderful read As welcome as the monthly pay cheque . Should be monthly . I laughed so much I nearly fell off my chair . Look forward to it . A treat . Don’t change anything . Some of the best things come in small packages . I don’t need a folder or electric bike, but I love your style How about an article on touring by electric bike? Could you cover Moulton bikes too? More on folder expeditions, improving brakes and adapting gears . More on rail and trikes All power to your cranks . Just keep churning it out . Shine on, crazy diamonds!