Statistics & Damn Statistics
I would like to throw a little light on the understandable confusion regarding the DfT’s cycling statistics that you discussed in the December issue (Mole, A to B 39).The recent change from showing a decline to a rise in cycle use, as I understand it, is related to the emphasis put by Government statisticians on trunk roads.With the tremendous rise in traffic over the last few decades it’s not surprising that cyclists have been forced away from congested trunk roads onto smaller roads.This didn’t mean that there were fewer cyclists, just that there were fewer using trunk roads.The recent change has come about by the statisticians being convinced of this displacement and a change in the emphasis between data sets.
The optimism that Sustrans has relates to our own statistics gathered on the National Cycle Network.The biggest rise here (around 18% last year) comes on the traffic-free sections. Sustrans has been trying to convince the DfT that such cycle journeys should be included in the national figures, but we have not yet won that argument, so the national statistics still fail to include trips made on dedicated cycle routes.This is a shame for several reasons, and the issue of funding you raise is potentially significant. It also means that the increase in cycling that we are witnessing on traffic-free routes is not adding to Government figures, which one would have thought would be in its own interest, and that the more cycling is transferred to such routes (though I would emphasise that a lot is actually new and inexperienced cyclists) the less the rise in cycling is officially recognised.
Senior Press Officer
That’s a very polite way of saying the DfT is concerned that cycling might be mistaken for a serious mode of transport and thus attract funding from road construction. Suspicious folk that we are, we tend to assume that Sustrans’ figures relate mainly to car-born leisure cyclists, but ridership surveys do not seem to reflect this. According to Sustrans, 41% of cyclists on their routes are there for ‘utility’ purposes and 35% are making a car-replacement journey. Only 13% used a car to access the Network. (Eds)
Double Your Lumens
With reference to the article on the Lightspin dynamo (A to B 39), I have been running two x 2.6w Lumotec Oval lamps from a Lightspin dynamo.Two lamps seem to work better on a trike – one mounted on each kingpin and illuminating immediately ahead of each wheel. They also turn around corners like a handlebar-mounted lamp, which helps on twisty lanes.
I checked with Werner Stettler of Lightspin, and he said that the dynamo would cope, but to please limit the top speed to 30mph to avoid overcooking the electronics. I left the lights running all year because, as you say, the resistance is minimal. Never had a bulb blow.
A great solution if you want really powerful lights with minimal rolling resistance. And according to Simon Korn, the Brompton importer for the Netherlands, the Lightspin can supply a single four, or even five watt bulb, although as far as we know, these sizes are not available in the UK. However, Simon tells us the Lightspin will not reliably supply these higher outputs when driven from a small tyre. Something to do with the curvature of the sidewall apparently…(Eds)
Which route would you take during the rush-hour? The A16 near West Deeping
I thought I had better write to you and inform you of a vicious crime that took place today. My wife and her friend both cycled to work today, on the footpath. A policeman quite rightly stopped his van to tell them to cycle on the road.The fact that they were on the path alongside the A16 between Market Deeping and West Deeping is no excuse for their behaviour.They should have been on the road, risking death and not endangering the (non-existent) pedestrians.
It is nice to know that crime in this area is so low that the police have nothing better to do. In fact the crime rate is so low, the policeman had time to drive back again just to make sure they were still on the road. I mean we can’t have cyclists being safe can we?
We contacted the local highways authority to check the actual status of the path and they couldn’t believe the story.The A16 (a designated Red Route) is not a road you cycle on at 9am unless you are a) stupid, b) desperate or c) bloody minded.
When the law punishes innocent people like this and – quite frankly – puts ordinary respectable citizens in fear of their lives, it comes into disrepute.We would have no hesitation in cycling along this lonely rural footpath and would ignore any police request to rejoin the A16. (Eds).
Bikes by Air
There’s no point in taking the ‘legalistic’ approach when carrying a folder by air (pages 8 and 11, A to B 38).This will head straight for conflict and you will loose! The airline can charge you a kilo rate of 1% of the First Class fare. I was quoted £350 for a single flight from Singapore to Heathrow with a 30lb ‘cumbersome’ bicycle.
Arrive early and choose your check-in desk carefully. Male personnel are less prone to histrionics [! Eds], more prepared to bend the rules, etc.With a folder, just make sure that it is packed so that, if a weight is placed on top of it, the parts that graunch together are protected. Properly covered in a bag, I have never experienced a problem.
Cumbersomes or recumbents are ‘oversize’ and ‘fragile’ items. All the airlines have a system for this, which usually involves hand-carrying (i.e. pushing) to the aircraft. Do not deflate the tyres, merely making them soft is enough.The reason is to make the cycle more stable – nothing to do with exploding at altitude. Sometimes you will be required to removed the pedals, or turn the handlebar, but packing is self-defeating. In a naked state, special care is ensured. Many airlines carry ‘sports equipment’ such as cycles, surf boards, diving gear etc for free, subject to space, but you must declared it in advance.
If travelling to or via the USA, you now have a baggage allowance of two items each weighing 32kg. And if you’re flying Business or First Class, the interpretation of the baggage limits will be very flexible. But since 9/11 you will have to clear your cycle through U.S. Customs and then personally take it to any connecting flight… quite a task!
Finally, since 9/11, quite lowly mortals working at the check-in have assumed God-like powers, which can go as far as not allowing a person on a flight. A calm, non-confrontational approach is best, and if possible, arrange things in advance by email, and carry written proof.
No Trikes Please
The Di Blasi folding trike - not for bridleways
In the conclusion to your review of the Pedicab (A to B 39) you say ‘…even the Lynch-powered machine is legally a pedal tricycle… so it can go anywhere a bicycle can go’.This is incorrect – it cannot legally be used on public bridleways, where bicycles can go. Cycling on bridleways was legalised by the Countryside Act 1968, an Act which specifically permits the use of bicycles. But unlike all other highway legislation, which says that ‘bicycles, tricycles and pedal cycles with four or more wheels’ are carriages under the law, the Countryside Act only allows two-wheeled cycles on public bridleways.
I have had a bee in my bonnet ever since I bought a Longstaff tricycle, and have been more concerned since Sustrans started designing its network on the assumption that bridleways could play a useful role. Unfortunately, those who cycle on three wheels, (whether through choice or to cater for a disability), now have to avoid certain sections of the National Cycle Network, because Sustrans didn’t negotiate with the landowners for permissive cycling rights for three-wheelers on the bridleway sections. Sustrans knows of this problem, but does not consider it worth addressing.
I appreciate that one has to be a bit of a nerd to know these legal details, but as an enthusiastic reader of A to B, (including the nerdiest bits), I wanted to draw your attention to your error, so that multi-wheeled cyclists do not accidentally trespass on bridleways.
As a footnote, you may notice that the definition of a cycle does not include unicycles. As a result of this legal definition, single-wheeled cycles do not count as ‘carriages’ (or vehicles in modern terms), and so are not caught by any highways legislation on vehicle use. So feel free to use your unicycle the wrong way up one-way streets, ignore all traffic signs, ride at night without lights, etc. Perhaps A to B should review a unicycle – small in volume, and easy to take onto a bus or train? I regret to say that I neither own one, nor possess the skill to ride one.
We’re often asked for folding trikes, of which the Di Blasi is a rare example.We don’t think much of their bikes, but the trike looks rather neat. At 21kg (46lb), it isn’t light, but the claimed folded size is 113 litres (3.9cu ft) – smaller than most bicycles. Concept Edge, tel: 0208 9925352 (Eds)
Our Greatest Joy
Thank you for another brilliant magazine – every article was fascinating! Regarding electric bikes (Editorial, A to B 39), it may only be because we live on an in-village section of Sustrans Route 6, but we’ve seen half a dozen electric bikes in our small village alone (plus one that is used to get to work).
A few weeks ago I was cycling Lincolnshire’s quiet country lanes without any difficulty (albeit on an AnthroTech recumbent trike), yet today I’m having difficulty even walking, due to arthritis of one kind or another.This makes me so worried that at some point I won’t be able to cycle any more, giving another good reason for you to keep telling us all about the benefits of electrically-assisted bikes, trikes and load-carriers.
We none of us know what may hit us quite suddenly and possibly take away our greatest joy in life. So please do keep giving us something positive to think about, rather than old age and increasing disability.WE certainly appreciate it, and who knows how many of us will need some assistance in the future!
Electric Bike V Hatchback
Your defence of electric bikes (Editorial,A to B 39) is strongly supported by my own experiences. Due to advancing age and living in a hilly area, I had reduced my utility cycling to ‘ideal’ conditions only, with a resulting loss of fitness and increased car use. But I was missing cycling, and I finally overcame my feeling that electric-assist might be considered cheating.
I found A to B a ready source of information and purchased a Giant Lafree Lite.The effective mudguards and occasional use of the electric-assist meant that inclement weather, headwinds and shopping loads no longer put me off, leading to a marked increase in cycling and fitness.The Lafree also made it possible to use a large cycle trailer for the recycling run and the ‘large waste’ disposal I’d been carrying out for 54 working neighbours since retirement.This was formerly done with my hatchback!
The trailer has completely replaced these car journeys, even where hills are involved, and in the first four months the car has covered just 79 miles, whilst the bike has done 1,135 miles, making the car virtually redundant.
Would those who oppose electric-assist cycling wish to deny me your advice, and prefer me to do that 3,000 miles a year in my car instead?
I have just returned after spending two months with my Brompton in Tournon-sur-Rhone, France. It was nice to be there, but not such a nice trip. Just as I was leaving Valence Ville, my folding left-hand pedal dropped off on the road, when all the ball bearings escaped! This took place at 18.10 hours. I photographed the pedal at 18.16 and still managed to get to the station a mile away, and catch the 18.38 train!
I would like to know what you consider to be the best folding pedal? I need one because the bike is awkward to carry on public transport with a pedal sticking out.
You won’t find another folding pedal that combines the lightness, ease of use and compactness of the Brompton design. Some people get through them at quite a rate, but we’ve never broken or replaced one in some 30,000 Brompton miles (admittedly spread over four bikes and pedals). When the bearing gets a bit loose, start injecting oil at regular intervals.When it gets very loose, pick up a rebuilt exchange pedal from a Brompton dealer before something goes wrong. (Eds)
Not the Best
My wife owns a SolarTracker SLB electric bike – a special model with 20-inch wheels introduced for riders of smaller stature. She’s a volunteer helper at Age Concern and once, sometimes twice, a week, is a DJ/night leader for hospital radio in King’s Lynn, which necessitates riding home very late at night. She does the twenty-mile round trip into King’s Lynn several times a week and at first was delighted with the bike, but now we’re not so pleased.
When the bike experienced problems in the first year, she was charged labour and for replacement parts. On Day One the cones, cups and balls in the front wheel were damaged, and within eleven months the rear tyre was – quite literally – worn down to the canvas, but only on one side…The dealer fitted a new £20 tyre and claimed the unusual wear was due to road camber! The battery connection system was abysmal – a brass pillar protruding through the bottom of the battery box, making contact through the weight of the batteries! The arcing as the batteries bounced up and down was burning the contacts away.
Soon after, one of the batteries failed. A replacement set would have cost £140, but I found a cheaper source of larger batteries at Screwfix [www.screwfix.com].This increased the range, enabling her to visit her mother 27 miles away, recharge there and return home.
The machine is too low-geared to realistically pedal-assist, but it’s too heavy to pedal now anyway. My wife recently arrived home exhausted because the batteries had failed, due to water getting into the battery box. No sooner had I sorted this than the new rear tyre had worn out even faster than the first. My wife has now done nearly 4,000 miles.
We’ve been a bit suspicious of the SolarTracker since the importers refused to let us test one, although we did manage to borrow a bike for a morning (see A to B 21).There are lots of similar machines – most are adequate for light use, but if you expect to ride any distance, you really have to spend a little more. In our experience, the Heinzmann, Giant Lafree and (arguably) Powabyke Commuter are the best options for more serious use. (Eds)
I’ve recently come across a ‘Minifold’ bike. It measures little more than 36 inches in length, has a cast aluminium frame, and tyres and wheels from a Raleigh kids bike circa 1960. I suspect this is an expensive and sophisticated prototype – the wheelbase is too short, and the ride terrible. I think it has a Swindon connection, possibly from the Vickers aircraft factory. If anyone has any information, could they please contact me at Cyclecare Purton.
Tim Whitty, Cyclecare
The Hagen Variable-diameter Chainwheel - similar to the Deal Drive
I was interested to read Michael Bartlett’s letter about the Azip bike with its automatic transmission (A to B 39). I logged on to an American cycling website a few years ago and the contributors were quite scathing about the Azip, ‘…a $200 bike for $400’. As for the automatic gears, they work by centrifugal force causing weights on the rear spokes to travel outwards, this being linked to the derailleur mechanism.Thus, the gear ratio is determined by speed alone. As one person on the site said, ‘Great for cyclists from Florida rest homes’.
Generally speaking, bike autotrannies need to be sensitive to both speed and throttle opening, ie pedal force. It can be done! On Tomorrow’s World a few years ago, there was a device that worked on the chainwheel, composed of a lot of little sprockets on spring-loaded arms, such that they were pulled inwards under chain tension, thus effectively reducing the radius of the chainwheel. Now, with this on the chainwheel and an Azip arrangement on the back, we might have a worthwhile arrangement.
My other half, who isn’t a keen cyclist, has a bike called a ‘Real Breeze’ with a more sophisticated Shimano auto system, linked to a computer-type speed sensor on the rear wheel and powered by a lithium battery changing a hub gear via a solenoid. Unfortunately the Florida principle applies to this, too – don’t even look at a hill, unless you want to override the auto. In which case, why bother…
All very true. Shimano has recently introduced a 3-speed automatic with some degree of tuneability and a power feed from the hub dynamo, but still no torque sensor.The chainring device sounds like the Deal Drive, developed by Michael Deal of Bath University a few years ago.We thought this was a great idea, but it doesn’t seem to have gone any further. (Eds)
Shorter = Faster
With regard to the Zero folding bike test (A to B 39), if you had told me a few years ago that 150mm cranks were for children, I would have agreed entirely. Now I would have to disagree. It started with some German recumbent builders putting on short cranks (down to 110mm) as a way of reducing the size of the fairings, to improve the aerodynamics, but they discovered that they were going, if anything, better with the short cranks, even on their training bikes without fairings.
This has caught on in the recumbent world, and I now run 150mm on all my bikes. It is better for your knees, lighter, and the higher RPM is easier on the transmission, and your heart and lungs.You should also get more power when going flat out. Small really is beautiful!
We were amazed by this revelation, because (certainly if you have longer legs) standard cranks can feel on the short side, suggesting that longer ones might give more power. Even if you are not looking for maximum performance, it’s worth noting that shorter cranks and a higher cadence (spin rate) might help to alleviate knee damage. Any more observations received with interest. (Eds)
Zinc-Air or Magnesium-Air?
The Magpower cell. The magnesium plates can be seen protruding from the top. The breathable membrane on the surface is kept saturated with salt water from a reservoir in the base.
Recently I stumbled upon a web site showing an electric bicycle powered by a zinc-air fuel cell [see www.powerzinc.com].The company claims a range of up to 200km (120 miles), with a recharge time of five minutes. And zinc is environmentally benign compared to some of the other substances that power electric bikes.
Assuming this isn’t vaporware, could this be the Holy Grail we e-bike enthusiasts have been waiting for? Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find much information on cost, nor about how one goes about ‘re-charging’ the fuel cell exactly. Long live A2B!
Toledo, Ohio, USA
This is not quite as practical as it sounds. Apparently zinc-air cells are difficult (but not impossible) to recharge, so this system uses a replaceable battery cassette that gets shipped back to the works and rebuilt. Hence the five minute recharge claim – a bit cheeky that one! You can imagine that the energy required to post the heavy battery back, rebuild it and post it out again must far exceed the energy content of the thing.
We think the magnesium/air fuel cell shows more promise – you put in salt water and magnesium plates, which gradually dissolve, producing electricity and milk of magnesia, which can be safely disposed of. Apparently, the reaction usually produces hydrogen too, but this rather unnerving tendency has been suppressed.To recharge, you just slot in new magnesium plates every now and again – a genuine five minute affair.We’ve been trying to persuade the Canadian manufacturers, Magpower, to let us do Land’s End – John O’ Groats with one of these – so far without success. For details, tel: +1 604 940 3232 (Eds)
The Final Word
In which you get your say… briefly
Inspiring . Brilliant . Informative, humourous magazine . Only a large premium bond win affords such pleasure . As much fun as riding a bike… well almost . Fun, lively, informative Interesting, informative, witty . I especially enjoy folding bikes and technical matters Especially like info on trailers and how to make the most of our public transport fiasco . Love the pro-public transport stance . Balance of articles is about right . More on accessories, racks, lights, brakes, pedals and clothing . More on the latest battery developments please Too many [sic] electric rubbish and too political, Iraq etc . Excellent, but don’t go too electric please . Please do another test of load-carrying trailers . Glad you appear to have given up the word ‘cumbersome’ [conventional diamond-frame bike] . More off-road and folding hybrids . I’m 74, and find the shiny cover tends to slip off onto the floor when I drop off