Originally posted on The Plastic Hippo:

Via Via

We now know that his name is David and that he is 48 years old and that he comes from Oxfordshire. David likes to talk a lot about “British” values such as democracy, tolerance, freedom, respect and equality as if these are uniquely “British” possessions. Sadly, David and his government are systematically dismantling the very values he wishes the rest of us to adhere to. Faced with the direst humanitarian crisis that Europe has endured in 70 years, David shrugs his shoulders, turns his back, shuts his eyes, sticks his fingers in his ears and shouts “la la la la, can`t hear you.”

View original 630 more words

Cycling from Aldridge to Westminster (not actually cycling there, that would be daft)

At the start of the Election Campaign, spurred on by the CTC ( the oldest road using lobby group in the UK) I sent an email to all the prospective parliamentary candidates for their views on five fundamental questions on cycling. Ok it was a pro forma document supplied by the CTC but nonetheless the questions were valid, reasonable and fair. They merely asked how the candidate, if successful would support cycling during their tenure on the green seats of the second highest house.

The questionnaire is available here

For those who haven’t access to the link here are the questions:

  • Ambition. Will you support measures to increase levels of cycling to 10% of trips by 2025 and 25% by 2050?
  • Funding. Will you support an average government spend of at least £10 per person per year on cycling?
  • Design standards. Will you support action to create consistently high design standards for cycling in all highway and traffic schemes, new developments and planned road maintenance work?
  • Safety. Will you support measures to improve cycle safety by strengthening road traffic law and its enforcement and revising the Highway Code?
  • Positive promotion.  Will you support the positive promotion of cycling, including cycle skills training, for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities?

Without being funny, these aren’t as hard hitting as a Paxo salvo, they aren’t even as hard hitting as a Dimbleby Bullingdon backslap and yet to date only one candidate has bothered to return an answer, for the record this was the Liberal Democrat Ian Garrett.

Perhaps my email was written off as an opportunity for me to score political points in line with my own political agenda but this would be wrong. I am exactly the type of person any of the candidates should be appealing to. I am a disenfranchised socialist. I earn an above average wage. I am over 50 and I care about my locale, the environment and cuddly animals. Quite simply I could, for any number of reasons, vote any way I choose. So, in order to narrow things down, I asked the questions on cycling as I care about it a lot.

As a cyclist, I have been a thrill seeker, a victim, a commuter, an advocate and an enthusiast. Cycling transcends all boundaries, it takes you to places nothing else can. You can get out of a wheeled box at your destination but only on a bike can you live the journey. As Jack Kerouac waxed lyrical about the last hairpin turn, or the road being the journey not the destination, he could have been on a bike, had he not been stoned out of his mind and unable to pedal. But each cyclist carries a little bit of Jack with them.

With so little to differentiate between all the Parties, it only takes something like the view on cycling to make the difference but none were bothered. Perhaps they all feel Wendy Morton is odds on for the seat and can’t be bothered. Wendy isn’t bothered about cycling, I understand she likes parachuting and so doesn’t need to reply, it would eat up photo opportunity time and there is a fridge being opened in Pelsall demanding her attention.

Cycling won’t go away, not even now Pendleton, Hoy and Wiggo have retired (technically Wiggo hasn’t retired but I will put a pound on him not being at the next Olympics). Cycling will become a more viable means of personal transport and yet the Media is allowed to vilify and marginalise cyclists. Increased road usage and congestion victimise the most vulnerable and yet the combustion engine is suffocating the life out of the city and do nothing for the health and well-being of their pilots. Those that try to buck the trend are seen as martyrs or extremists and their attempts litter the roadside in the form of ghost bikes marking their passing.

Something has to change, something has to be done to separate and protect. Investment is required to provide a safe and vibrant infrastructure for human powered transportation and legislation is required to ensure people are put before the profit. By not returning my questionnaire, these candidates are perpetuating an injustice that has gone on too long.

If they want me to put my endorsement behind their expenses, their second homes, the employment for all their relatives, not mentioning the lucrative advisory circuit then at least bother to respond to me.

Getting laid back on my bike

At Christmas I entered a sportive whilst worse for wear but duly set about a training regime to put me on course for a 65 mile bike ride. The training regime started a bout of bursitis which then mutated into a flare up of all my spinal complaints and now apparently my neck has degenerated to such a state that I need to take extra special care to extend its’ useful life.  I have now spent more than ten weeks getting needles stuck in me at my expense in pursuit of pain free existence.
I have always enjoyed the stranger sides of transportation. I had a rat bike (take a bike, take everything pretty off it, take the remainder and paint it matt black) I built a car, I drove kit cars and I supported the stranger sides of cycling. So my decision to invest in a recumbent bicycle wasn’t exactly a last ditch attempt to keep on the road but that desire was very high on the list.
I kept fairly quiet on the subject at the time, this was a decision I needed to make for me and I actually didn’t want any external input to dissuade me. I test rode a number of bikes and trikes under expert tuition from Kevin, the owner of DTek in Ely and from that moment I was sold on the idea. The positives were clear, no pain in my back, no pain in my elbow and no pain in my neck. The negatives were also clear. They cost a lot for what they are, they look strange and they handle differently. I wasn’t phased by this and I felt that  the purchase was justified.
I bought a second hand Challenge Furai from Kevin at DTek for a sum not far short of the Greek  national debt. The bike had everything I thought important, a bit of suspension to prevent all the bumps going through my spine, 24″ wheels to provide me with less distance to fall, subtle matt black and decent specced  drivetrain and brakes to make the experience all the more pleasant.
You know how it is when you are sold on buying something and the salesman make a glib, throwaway statement?  A statement that if you were less sold on something would trigger an alarm bell. You know how it is when all you want to do is press the buy it now button on the card machine and something starts a little beeper in the back of your mind, that you instantly override?  Well both occurred on that fateful day and I knew better.
The first issue was the statement that anything, even slightly dodgy, would be replaced as a matter of course, then during a phone call being told that the tasty Hope brakes were buggered and needed replacing. Replacing brakes doesn’t come cheap. Therefore anything aside from the brakes would have to be passed on or Kevin would be out of pocket. I understand business and I live in the real world, this is life.
And so I arrived back in Ely to test ride the Challenge Furai with a view to spending an indecent amount of money on securing it for my future entertainment. Only to be met with a throwaway comment about the tyres, being close on the limit of requiring replacement; good tread, cracking sidewalls but not bad enough to warrant changing. The test ride was brilliant, though shortened by the gale force winds. We were soon figuring out the best way of strapping it to my car.
On the journey back in those winds we stopped to check the bike. The rear tyre was flat, this was a surprise but I ignored it. I fixed the  flat and set about monstering the bike around the campsite, learning the subtleties of being a bent rider. The next day, the tyre was flat again. I bought another tube and continued the learning curve.
I managed maybe 35 miles on the Challenge doing the local safe routes before setting out on my first major ride last Thursday. I had got about seven miles into the ride and realised I had yet another puncture. I changed the tube but for what ever reason, the tube wouldn’t inflate. I only had one CO2 cartridge left (and stupidly no patches with me) and this wouldn’t last to mess about finding a leak and inflating the tyre and so began the long walk home. On this walk I then gained a front wheel puncture just by pushing the bike.
On my safe return home I decided to buy new tyres and new tubes ahead of my weekend away in Wolverley. Due to the last minute nature of this purchase only next day delivery would do and the only retailer I trusted didn’t have any suitable tyres so I bought what I thought would do. Imagine my joy at the timely arrival of the package and my unbridled dismay when the new tyres were completely the wrong size for my wheels.
Fortunately I have other bikes at my disposal and so the weekend hasn’t been ruined but I was so intent on spending the weekend riding my recumbent. 
And so the search for tyres began again. It appears that 24″ tyres aren’t that popular and 1.5″ width even less so. I can’t help thinking this fact was known to the retailer and glossed over. I haven’t raised this with him personally and I doubt I have the bottle or the reason to do so but for a while I was genuinely feeling I had been sold a dud   I have now bought some slightly wider tyres in the hope they will fit. If that fails, I will try and convert the bike to larger wheels but still wish I had had the tip prior to purchase, it may have changed my decision.
On the aforementioned fateful day, most of the time was spent trying to get the gears to work properly. The bike was very prone to ghost shifting and a generally lack lustre experience. Me being an expert on crap gear shifting soon had me making an attachment to my workstand  and checking the alignment of the rear deraillieur with my specially made alignment tool. After 5 degrees of alteration, the gears finally started doing what they should do.
Whilst all these niggles appear easily solved, should I have had to deal with these at all?

Thunderbug Trike (yet another project)

With a fair bit of trepidation, following my abject failure to finish the Midge project, I have decided to announce my latest and probably most absurd project to date (probably not as absurd as the Mad Max Volvo Pickup I was building which ended when I broke my back running out of talent whilst mountain biking on Cannock Chase)IMG_0048

So without further ado, here is the future of urban personal transportation, The Thunderbug Trike


All right I will be the first to admit it looks like a box with three wheels magically suspect in a vertical position but it is a start.

I have been tinkering with the idea of building a trike for a number of years but was always put off by the fact that using steel would make the trike weigh around 40lb and that aluminium was just too difficult to work with without specialist equipment. I have also been tinkering with the idea of using bamboo as a frame material as I have the tools to work with wood (or grass) and just about enough skill to get me through. Some may remember the plywood recumbent me and Connor built two years ago whilst I was convalescing from my road accident. Indeed the seat and rear wheel have been salvaged from the back of the shed as temporary props for the Trike.


Whilst the bike made very interesting riding, it did prove that wood would work and that I would be able to ride a bike again as up to having my second operation riding an upright bike was out of the question.

So fast forward to the present and the urge to have a go at a trike had reached the top of the pile of things I wanted to try and build. In the intervening years it appears that composite materials are now readily available in the home user environment. There is a wealth of information out there and a number of suppliers happy to provide no minimum quantities to enthusiastic amateurs. There is also a growing number of people building bamboo bikes and whilst the knowledge required is generally more guarded by those in the know, probably because there is an abundant number of hipsters willing to part with loads of money for their ‘boo bikes.

After researching what is out there and buying a number of books (including the excellent “The Cycling Zoo” by Steve Nurse and “Bicycle design” by Mike Burrows I decided on doing away with the typical bike frame in favour of a monocoque chassis, after all in my mind a trike has more in common with a car (or a three wheeler) than a bike and with the use of composites it made sense to build a monocoque utilising the inherent strength of the materials, the weight saving benefits and the simplification of the build by bolting the components to the tub. The more I thought about it the more it made sense and would allow me to dabble with new skill sets.

The design has come along and will be an amalgamation of natural and man made fibres, bamboo for the front wishbones, pedal boom, rear arms and seat, carbon fibre for the tub and supports, aluminium for the brackets and links. I have incorporated four link shock absorption on the rear ( I wouldn’t dare call it suspension but hopefully it will take the pain of the bumps away) and I have ovalised the bamboo to utilise more substantial poles without adding to the bulkiness on the lines. I haven’t seen this done before and there is probably a good reason for it but naivety is the mother of invention, probably.


So far I have manufactured the tub from plywood, the plan is to manufacture the rest of the parts onto the plywood model making any alterations required until it all looks right, then to use it as a plug for a mold to form a fibreglass chassis. This chassis will be used on the road to see what breaks and what doesn’t work before finally committing the design to carbon fibre. The bamboo parts will be well tested and if they prove satisfactory will make it onto the final product, if they don’t they will be replaced by readily available carbon fibre tube but that is all months down the line.

This afternoon was the first opportunity to mount things in situ on the jig (offcut chipboard) and already I like how it looks although I have let to puzzle out how to mount the front boom and wishbones in the narrow space available, it looked wider in Sketchup than it is in reality.

The build costs so far …. edit… I was going to put the build costs down but I just scared myself totting it up. I will keep a record and decide if I dare report it as the project develops..

“Roads were not built for cars” – Book review. Essential reading for cycle campaigners and a chance to unravel some myths and legends

Originally posted on I Do Not Despair:

I have written this review in two parts. The first is what you might call the “official review” which I have given to the ECF web site for our cycle campaigning community. It should appear on shortly. But reading it I discovered some interesting content relating to my past role at CTC, the UK cyclists’ charity which prompted me to add some additional reflections which I have added here in my personal blog.

The “official review”

Anyone wanting a comprehensive review of how our roads entered what we might call the “modern era” should look no further than this highly enjoyable read from British cycling journalist Carlton Reid. He has taken an investigation of the role cycling played in road modernisation in the late 19th and early 20th century and extended it to cover the origins of road construction, the engineering of cars and how this period…

View original 1,793 more words

Sorry is the hardest word to say

Two weeks ago I was involved in an incident whilst cycling home from work. It was way to close for my liking and forced me to act to avoid a collision with a single decker bus operated by National Express on the 997 route. The Driver was wholly in the wrong after completely misjudging the situation. He chose to overtake me with the full intention of immediately pulling in to the kerb to allow passengers to board. There was also standing traffic at the roundabout ahead and oncoming traffic approaching at a point where the road narrows. I suppose if you are going to try the impossible you should be applauded for your efforts and this chap deserved an ovation.
Due to the conditions mentioned above he wasn’t able to make a getaway and I drew along side his cab to express my dissatisfaction. To be honest I would have been happy with an apology there and then, we are human, none of us are perfect. ” Sorry mate ” would have made things fine, hopefully we would have all learned a lesson ( obviously when I said  we I meant him)
Instead of “Sorry Mate ”  I got told to “Fuck Off”, I then got treated to further abuse using the medium of mime.  I recorded the event which is very crudely edited here link The full version remains in case anyone wanted it.
To be fair my first reaction to this would have put me in the wrong, so my second reaction was to complain to his company. I believed that this would help the driver gain an understanding of what it like to be assaulted with a deadly weapon and that arrogance is a very unlikeable character trait. I also believed the person best placed to deliver these valuable lessons should be the ones who paid his wages.
Sadly this appears not to be the case. There will be no apology, I will never discover if the 997 bus route is a little safer or that temerity is no longer a requirement for operating a psv. I don’t know if I am a marked man in an “On the buses” style with every bus overtake  being accompanied with a fist shake and a wail of “I’ll get you Biker” 
I finally received a reply from National Express complaints department after numerous emails and after throwing my Twitter toys out of the pram last night.
It appears the complaints department is very busy and is running days behind. I was informed I wouldn’t be told of the outcome to protect the driver but they did at least know who he was. So let’s get this straight, his incompetence nearly caused an accident, his reaction was to abuse me and I don’t get my apology to protect him. That is utter bollocks. I don’t need his name, although he is licensed and should be prepared to state both name and number when requested. I just wanted an apology from him and an undertaking from the company that he would be retrained, briefed as required to bring his standards up to those expected in his position.
I don’t think I am unreasonable, after all I saved him from attending an inquiry or making statements to the Police and all that nasty stuff with the Press and the years of counselling. Mind you I am only a cyclist, I don’t count. I suppose he and his Manager had a good laugh at my expense whilst having a swift half in the pub before the afternoon school run.
As far as my complaint I hope it provided some entertainment as they tried a few three pointers from the printer to the bin.
I have learned a lesson here, don’t bother complaining to National Express just go straight to social media. Public image is everything. In fact don’t go straight to Twitter just ring the Police, although in my experience their system was based on the National Express set up, but at least the Police apologise when necessary.

My name is Aiden and I am a Cyclist.

There are very few situations in normal society where you are expected to look out for the incompetence of others and if someone else gets it wrong you are responsible for the result.

The victim is usually a very normal person going about his lawful business, cruelly interrupted by the inconvenience of killing, maiming or injuring a cyclist. After all cycling is an outdated mode of transport, only weirdo’s and perverts ride bikes (unless winning the nation a bag of medals at worldwide sporting events). Despite lip service being paid to cycling as a viable, healthy and sustainable transport method, these lips disguise a forked tongue. Getting more people on bikes without providing a safe infrastructure and legislation is akin to feeding Grouse in July.

How can it be right that you can use the sun as an excuse for running someone down? How can it be right that you can use the dark as an excuse for running someone down? How can it be right that you can confuse a cyclist with a pot hole? How can it be right to not stop because you thought you hit an animal. In fact it seems less politically correct to not stop after hitting a defenseless bunny that squishing a cyclist. Last year, or was it the year before, a taxi driver got away with killing a cyclist who was mounted on his bonnet. The taxi only stopped after colliding with a tree, no doubt the cyclist obstructed his view therefore causing the tree unnecessary duress.

Of course there are answers to the growing problem of the popularity of cycling. One would be to spend some money on the infrastructure to allow two differing societies to co-exist, after all a white line is scant protection when compared to 42 tonnes of lorry, even more ridiculous is allowing 13 tonnes of public transport to share that protective white line but it is pretty cheap when compared to concrete bollards or even a couple of courses of bricks.

You could scare the motorised road user with the prospect of getting bummed in the showers of a detention centre but in reality, there is a long queue for the soap on a rope in her majesty’s hotels and let’s face it killing or injuring a cyclist is pretty low down on the list of important stuff like bunnies and kittens (unless it is a policeman, or a saint, or someone who counts). As cyclists, by virtue of being on the road we are asking for what we get. Mr Clarkson (an employee of the British Broadcasting Corporation) is allowed to use taxpayers money to prove how worthless we are as a sub class but to be fair, he is also a racist, a sexist and a xenophobe at our expense, so at least he is a balanced bigot. However, even if his big fat tongue is firmly in his big fat cheek in his big fat head, there are people out there who swallow his bile, I know this for a fact, I have to use the road with them on a daily basis. We are told to set an example to our children, wear your helmet or your child won’t, eat your greens or your child will die of bursting, Pick on cyclists so that you can reign over the metalled surfaces on the United Kingdom.

The real issue is that cycling went out of fashion for a couple of decades, in those years the car came to the fore utilising a largely Victorian network which was never going to cope when cars caught on for real. At the same time important people realised there was a niche to exploit, with minimal outlay they could fleece “hard working families”, centralise industry, reduce public transport and all the support systems they relied upon. People had to travel further to earn their money and those earning the better money were better than those staying local and earning less. Pretty soon those working locally threw their bikes away and got cars to prove they weren’t shit. Soon after that parents decided that they would look cheap if the didn’t take their children to school in their motorised status symbols.

Of course the less spent on that road network the more money the important people made. Instead of investing in integrated systems, they did what they could to disintegrate them and increase their wealth. Then the gridlock, lack of freedom and general unhealthy nature of sitting in a box, bit them on the arse, this coupled with gold medals and national pride resulted in a resurgence of cycling for a reason. Suddenly commuting and cycling were cool and healthy and hip and the governments couldn’t really dissuade people from partaking or they would look like knobs. However as it is better to be a rich knob that a poor dude.They tacitly agreed with cycling but without actually doing anything to assist it. Therefore it is far better to demonise those that do, rather than vilify those that don’t. Rather than stumping up the cash or legislating to enforce improvement they choose to pillorise the victims of their inaction. How difficult would it be to force any new developers into providing a safe network as part of their planning proposals, or for any road renewals to include separate infrastructure for non motorised use? It wouldn’t be difficult it just wouldn’t be as profitable. There isn’t any money to be had and a healthier lifestyle and would reap less profit from the heath service, aside from in major trauma industry.

Anyway, tome over, This week appears to be road safety week, and it is working. The A34 wasn’t closed at Perry Barr, neither was the M6,. Those nice chaps at the West Midlands Police decided to tweet some helpful tips and Her Majesty’s Press at the West Midlands Beeb did an in depth report on cycling, worthy of Tom Heap from Countryfile, . Stay safe, stop and give way, wear your helmet, use your lights, not small ones mind, they don’t count. Not big ones mind, they blind law abiding road users, Use Goldilocks lights, they are the best, not too bright, not too dim, just right.  When you have finished, have a little nap, you are well safe in a bus lane, nothing nasty will happen as you have a white line to protect you.

Helmets; I wear a helmet, I regularly change my helmet and I have an expensive head, so I wear an expensive helmet. I have smashed two into oblivion. Well I smashed one and a Mondeo driver smashed the other but that is being obtuse. I am a fan of helmets, mine is a limited edition as used by a few of the world tour teams, It looks ace and makes me look amazing but I am the first to admit it would be fuck all use if my bus lane sharing 13 tonne mate decided to run me over. My first destroyed helmet didn’t save me from a broken back and my second didn’t save me from a destroyed elbow. Helmets don’t save lives, not having incidents saves lives. Not being put in situations; saves lives.

I will tell you another thing that saves lives, sticking as best you can to the laws of the road. This includes not jumping red lights, this includes stopping and giving way, it also includes using not mobile phones, not wearing seatbelts and not speeding. However these issues don’t count because decent law abiding citizens do them. Politicians, Police Officers, Solicitors, Media stars, Footballers, they all transgress these stupid outdated laws. Some even manage to tweet about these matters whilst driving, now that is proper multitasking.

I ask any of you who have got this far, to take notice of how many cyclists jump red lights tomorrow and how many car drivers blast through on red. It is the same offence, committed in a different manner and just as wrong in both instances. I ask you to observe how many cyclists ride without lights and how many cars drive on sidelights in a 40mph or above, or with fog lights on. How many bike riders are on their phone compared to motorists at the wheel or even those without seatbelts compared to those riders without helmets. Finally compare how many cyclists are breaking the speed limit compared to motorists, whilst also considering the prospective damage they could individually do. We all break the law so don’t get prissy when someone breaks a law you care about, this is called hypocrisy, so suck it in and lets get on with all arriving safely where we wanted to get to.

In this last paragraph I wish to announce that my omission does not absolve a wrong doing. If my lights aren’t bright enough, this isn’t an excuse to kill me. If I am not wearing a helmet it doesn’t give a reason to run me over. If I am not wearing hi visibility clothing it doesn’t absolve you from driving in a responsible manner. For reporters in the Coventry area, if you are hit from behind, you didn’t collide with a car, it HIT YOU and the burden of guilt isn’t on the cyclist for having lights, considered by an expert, to be a bit small, it is on the driver for being negligent. If the road narrows and you can’t overtake me, it isn’t my fault for your misjudgment. If you are really late for work and I am only doing 25mph in a 30mph, it isn’t my fault the important people didn’t provide a safe infrastructure for us to use or that you failed to set the appropriate time on your alarm clock. Get over yourself and leave me alone.