brand new bag

Own the city any way you can with this brand-new concept in urban mobility. Designed for speed and easy access, the EASTPAK Velow Collection lets you grab, stash and carry your stuff however you choose to get around. On the road: a stack of high-visibility features make this the bag to be seen with. Underground: the integrated metro card holder lets you tag on and off without even lifting a finger.

“Own the city any way you can with this brand-new concept in urban mobility. Designed for speed and easy access, the EASTPAK Velow Collection lets you grab, stash and carry your stuff however you choose to get around. On the road: a stack of high-visibility features make this the bag to be seen with. Underground: the integrated metro card holder lets you tag on and off without even lifting a finger.”

Riding a bike is better than walking because you’re sitting down. You also get somewhere to hang your handbag. This is a Faustian compact because – if you want to be reliable – you need a bag for your puncture tools.  Of course you could ride solid tyres…

…but for that to be practical, at least one of the wheels needs to be preposterously big, to eat up the bumps.

Handbags may be a stereotypically female accessory but really obsessing about what exactly you need to carry is more of a bloke thing; check – for example – Everyday-carry a US-based site where guys compare their penknives and wristwatches. I understand the term ‘guy’ can be gender-neutral in the USA, but guess they’re mostly men?

titanium toothpick?

Maybe it’s because worrying about whether your watch-strap matches your wallet, or the precise make and model of your cigarette-lighter is quite gay – that’s ‘gay’ in the ‘theatrical’ sense nothing to do with sexuality – that an alarming number of the featured pocket-dumps include knives – clearly meant for more than slicing malt-loaf – and firearms? As in… “I may be a detail-oriented hair-stylist but I have got a pistol”.

Eastpak – a noted luggage brand that began by supplying kit to the US military – have moved into the bicycle bag market – they must have been watching – Timbuk2, Crumpler, Chrome, etc. – apparently people use courier bags on the bus? Another symptom that we are unvanishing.

rugged

My dealer passed on an invitation to the launch party – he knows I’ll go to the opening of an envelope – where I was presented with a nice example in butch shades of black and grey, which makes coordination with shoes and handlebar-tape less of a headache. Like most Eastpak products it comes with a thirty year warranty which – at my time of life – is a lifetime guarantee.

practical

Two loops on the flap are meant for red lights but I channelled the roughty-toughty aesthetic by hanging my Lezyne, Micro Floor Drive HPG on with two Zéfal – Eugène Christophe – toe-straps in white leather. This not only makes me look vaguely like a firefighter, paramedic or security consultant, it also means I’m always carrying two extra toe-straps. Their original function may have been superseded by more practical downhill-ski spin-offs, but toe-straps have more applications than anything made by Gerber, Victorinox or Leatherman. I can also never make the schoolboy-error of going beyond walking distance without a hand-compressor.

bullet-proof military chic

Courier bags are useful because…

  • …you don’t have to worry about luggage security when parking, the bag goes with you.
  • …anything delicate is isolated from road-shock by the rider’s body.
  • …they work well when carrying only a tube, two levers, a little pump and a ‘D’ lock but can also easily accommodate £35 pounds of impulse-purchase groceries.

Just as the Dunwich Dynamo musette (still available while stocks last)

…is a reworking of the traditional throwaway item…

…the Eastpak Velow isn’t really a courier bag.

Couriers need – or used to need? – instant access to letters and packages with minimum fuss. The Eastpak Velow has two plastic buckles, and Velcro™, and a zip; not authentic but – unless you’re pushing parcels on piecework – much more practical.

The Velow has a pocket in the bottom for an ‘Oyster Card’ which I’d always assumed was something to do with seafood but is, apparently, some kind of bus pass?

blinkin’ silly

Historically there’s a big difference between the headlight – that came in without controversy in 1903 – and the red tail-lamp, a temporary wartime measure in the Great Patriotic War against fascism, which I heard was over, and that the good guys had won? You need a headlamp to see where you’re going. The faster you want to go the brighter your light needs to be. One of the nicest things about old-school, unregulated, bottle dynamos is the way their headlamps shine brighter as you speed up on a downhill.

Historically there’s a big difference between the headlight – that came in without controversy in 1903 – and the red tail-lamp, a temporary wartime measure in the Great Patriotic War against fascism, which I heard was over, and that the good guys had won?
You need a headlamp to see where you’re going. The faster you want to go the brighter your light needs to be. One of the nicest things about old-school, unregulated, bottle dynamos is the way their headlamps shine brighter as you speed up on a downhill.

“Stopping Distances.

Drive at a speed that will allow you to stop well within the distance you can see to be clear”

HIGHWAY CODE RULE 126.

It’s foolish to speed into darkness blindly assuming all obstacles will be lit. Wandering livestock, fallen trees, a person in a black coat who’s suffered a stroke and fallen while crossing the road; none of these are likely to show red lights. That’s what your headlamp, your eyes, your brain and your brakes are for.

Carrying a rear light is an encouragement to others to break rule 126.

Not to say shining a red light backwards is a bad thing under current conditions. Anyone who remembers the box shaped ‘nEver-Ready’ rear lights – clamped on your seat-stay, powered by two ‘D’ cells, whose mighty weight soon squashed the springs, so the bulb started to flicker and then went out – knows we are living in Light Emitting Diode paradise.

Contemporary battery lights are so compact, convenient, bright and economical, there’s no reason not to carry them. Just remember to turn the red one off if you’re going onto a railway platform. If your red light has standlicht carry a thick black sock.

When I see someone riding without lights – and of course the most important word in this sentence is ‘see’ –  I regret a theoretical nuisance and a real tragedy. The nuisance is that they’re relying on others to look after them, which we all try to do. The tragedy is that – without lights in the dark –  it’s much harder to relax and own the road. They’d enjoy riding more if they had lights.

Reader Peter Myers sent me this excellent piece of wildlife photography from Sadler’s Wells…

…an extreme example of the current fashion for winky lights. Note how – at 26 seconds – the flasher gives a hand signal – without looking behind to see if there’s anyone worth signaling to – and reveals a teeny on-off-on-off red light on his wrist.

Does his – I’m guessing it’s a man – risk-assessment include the threat of electrocution in a sudden shower?

I can see why someone might be too disorganised to keep lights on their bike,  but why the craze for half a light?

If you’re in a shipwreck half a light might attract the attention of the crew of a rescue helicopter and the blinking beacon battery will last an extra two weeks. The first signal a flashing light gives to others is ‘Help me, I’m in distress.’

On a bike a tail light isn’t so other people can see you. That’s what rule 126 is for. It’s to make it as easy as possible for others to judge exactly where you are. The second message from a flashing rear light is ‘I care more about saving pennies than I do about giving a consistent signal of my position. I’m too cheap to let you know exactly where I am.’

There might be an argument for a flashing rear – if you’re riding desert roads with 50 kilometre straights – so that someone approaching from behind knows, early that you’re on a pedal-cycle with a relatively low speed, but that doesn’t make much sense in EC1.

There might be some argument for a flashing rear but why would you want a half a headlamp? Why would you want the road ahead to be illuminated half the time?

I’ve a set of DiNotte lights purchased at considerable expense for going downhill in the dark on a streamlined bike. On their brightest setting you can bounce the beam off low clouds. If everyone used them traffic-riding would be tiresome but anyone can benefit from the experience of all other traffic deferring to your blazing presence. It’s not necessary to mount a laser on your front forks to own the road but the experience can build confidence. Confidence is essential.

There’s value in a super-bright headlamp but half a super bright headlamp is dumbest of all. A light bright enough to rob you, and anyone else, of all night vision followed by a little sample of darkness.

The narrator of Ralph Waldo Ellison’s 1952 novel ‘The Invisible Man’, an unnamed African American man who feels himself completely overlooked, squats a forgotten basement apartment, robs electricity and illuminates his cell with 1,369 bulbs. A symbolic reaction to social exclusion.

It’s traditional for cycling magazines to publish features on lighting in the Autumn but the time for voluntary night riding is just coming in. Enjoy your travels. Show a steady light and don’t act like a victim.

priority

Whenever I see a person riding after dark, on an unlit bike, wearing a crash-hat. I can only imagine them in a cycle shop, with a limited amount of cash, facing a tricky dilemma…

I just can’t help it.
Whenever I see a person riding after dark, on an unlit bike, wearing a crash-hat. I can only imagine them in a cycle shop, with a limited amount of cash, facing a tricky dilemma…

Helmet?

Lights?

Lights?

Helmet?

I know it doesn’t happen that way but my only reaction to the – oddly common – combination of timid and reckless, is to envision a small-scale retail drama, late on a Winter’s afternoon, gathering dark, urgent incidental music, tension, jeopardy…

…resolved as the un-illuminated, basin-head plumps for Expanded Polystyrene rather than electric light.

We’re in this together

Two independent witnesses say they saw Shane Warne run into a bike after an altercation with the rider at the junction of St Kilda and Toorak West in Melbourne, Oztralia. The consequence of this? The Mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle announces an intention to crackdown on hoon cyclists. Aren’t you glad you don’t live in Melbourne? Sympathy to readers who do.

Two independent witnesses say they saw Shane Warne run into a bike after an altercation with the rider at the junction of St Kilda and Toorak West in Melbourne, Oztralia. The consequence of this? The Mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle announces an intention to crackdown on hoon cyclists. Aren’t you glad you don’t live in Melbourne? Sympathy to readers who do.The rider involved – who remains anonymous – sent his account of events, and pictures of the damage to his machine, to ‘Cycling Tips’. He describes how – in rush hour traffic – he overtook Warne who was encumbered by a grey Mercedes Coupé.

As the traffic was stationary I unclipped my right foot and squeezed through the small gap. The driver in the car on my right, the Mercedes – possibly concerned I might damage his car – yelled out to me. Once I was through the gap I moved back into the centre lane, stopped and looked back at the driver, who was still yelling, to hear what he was saying.

“What are you doing? You don’t own the road! Get out of the way” he yelled repeatedly. I shook my head and probably yelled something similarly inane back. Now even more agitated the driver continued to yell, “you don’t own the road”. I looked more closely and recognised him as Shane Warne, laughed and asked, “What are you doing?” and began to get ready to clip into my bike to continue the ride home.
But before I could the driver lurched his car forward forcing my bike wheel and almost my leg under the front of his car. Dumbfounded at how overtly aggressive the driver had been and aware that we were now holding up the traffic, I pulled my bike from under the car and attempted to continue riding. My wheel was jammed against the frame of my bike and the chain was tangled so I had to carry it to the footpath to fix it.

The part of this account that doesn’t ring true is…

“I shook my head and probably yelled something similarly inane back.”

In the circumstances wouldn’t we expect him to have remembered exactly what he said? The omission suggests that either he’s ashamed to admit to his contribution or – if he really can’t recall –  that he was out of control when shouting at the chubby Spin King. This doesn’t excuse Warne’s – alleged – criminal behaviour.

In ‘Homage to Catalonia’ George Orwell wrote…

“I have no particular love for the idealised ‘worker’ as he appears in the bourgeois Communist’s mind, but when I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on.”

The cliché that people in cars and people on bikes are natural enemies is false, but where there’s conflict between individuals who have chosen different modes I’m initially inclined to side with any pedallist over a sofa-jockey; another habit is to try and avoid tiresome, and risky escalation of trivial disputes.

I live in a hard news area, the local paper frequently features stories of people shooting at each other, knifing each other, using baseball bats to settle minor arguments, setting each other on fire. Readers of the Hackney Gazette with a any sense of self-preservation endeavour to treat strangers politely. Round here dumping your bad feelings on others in a careless way may have dramatic consequence. This environment has been a great benefit to my traffic riding. It turns out that – in awkward social situations – practicing emotional continence really works.

In the moment, in the rush hour on St Kilda Road, it wasn’t really the bike rider holding up Warnie’s car, it was his fellow-travellers in four-wheeled motors.  Motorists – victims of motor-dependence (MDVs) – tend to lash out at other people – parking attendants, bike-riders; they’re more likely to stoically accept their real problem, the person in the car in front doing exactly what they’re doing. ‘The World would be a better place with fewer people like me in it’ is an existentially problematic idea.

To be safe travelling on a bike you need to make sure other people are aware of your presence. You’re not in control of how they react to this. It would have been better if Warnie had looked at the rider and thought, “If I get a bike and do a few miles this Winter maybe I can play one more season?” instead of ranting about the ownership of the road. How much sweeter if the guy on the bike had expressed sympathy for Shane’s predicament?  “Sorry mate I didn’t mean to upset you? Actually I do own the road, but we can share it. That is a nice car. Are you having a bad day?

When an MDV gets angry and aggressive they’re trying to export some of their disappointment at the way their life has turned out. If you reply in kind you’re giving them what they want, the chance to blame somebody else for their frustration. A  repost that is calm, fearless, humane and generous, not only reduces the chance of risky escalation; you’re also giving them the opportunity  to grow.

It may not be a coincidence that Warniegate happened while the Tour Down Under was taking place and – for the very first time – the reigning champion of the Tour de France is a simple son of The Lucky Country. Fear of – anger at – people on bikes are symptoms of progress. Being a threat is a step forward from the anachronistic status of vanishing tribe waiting to vanish.

How ever badly they behave, how ever much they try to drag us down toward their own unenviable state, the primary victims of motor-dependence are the losers stuck behind the steering wheel. Challenge bad behaviour where you can but be kind to those less fortunate than yourself. It feels good.

What not to wear?

One of the many pleasures of riding around is checking out the others. Some make it look pleasurable and easy, others look miserable? Learn from both. When someone says –  ‘this is how to ride a bike.’ What they almost always mean is – ‘this is how I ride a bike and it works for me.’ They may have useful wisdom but it’s their wisdom. Whatever you do – or don’t –  know about cycling, you are the expert on your own life.

One of the many pleasures of riding around is checking out the others. Some make it look pleasurable and easy, others look miserable? Learn from both.

World’s most popular shoe for cycling.

When someone says –  ‘this is how to ride a bike.’ What they almost always mean is – ‘this is how I ride a bike and it works for me.’ They may have useful wisdom but it’s their wisdom. Whatever you do – or don’t –  know about cycling, you are the expert on your own life.

Beware of dogma, manifestos, dopey lists of ‘DO’s and ‘DON’T’s. They change every few years anyway. Riding a bike is much too young to have developed anything like a classical form. There are principles. There are no rules except this one and only.

You may ride in cycling shoes,

tougher than you

in street shoes,

actually she does own the road

in any shoes,

photo/mixte communications

or in no shoes at all.

You may ride in any kind of clothes, or none,

.

in normal clothes with office shoes,

could you vote for a man too dumb to use mudguards?

in tan brogues and attire so very normal

it meets fancy dress coming in the other direction.

You may wear cycling shoes with smart clothes.

could you marry someone who doesn’t have at least one bike with mudguards?

You may wear cycling shoes with any kind of clothes BUT

warning: this image may cause knee pain

if you’re going to dress for efficiency, footwear comes first. Never ride wearing clothes designed for cycling efficiency with anything other than shoes, made for pedalling, on your feet.

There are two reasons to wear cycling clothes. The first is to enable faster and/or lazier progress. Reinforcing your feet is the most important part of this. The second is because you want to resemble a cyclist. Anyone who cares will look first at the vital interface where biological power turns mechanical.

Consider evolution, only a theory but let’s run with it anyway. Once-upon-a-time your feet – articulate structures of multiple bones and joints – were flippers for swimming in the sea. Then they adapted for grasping branches and peeling fruit in the forest canopy. Finally they became delicate systems of balance, enabling bounding progress across the savannah.

On a bike you’re making brutal industrial power with the biggest muscles in your body, this is delivered repetitively, with no need of finesse, through the soft and subtle medium of your feet. Reinforcing your feet into rigid levers strengthens the weakest element of the system, which makes the whole transmission more effective.

Running shoes are designed to absorb energy. On a bike there’s no impact. Cycling shoes transmit energy. If you ride hard in shoes not designed for cycling you will soon destroy them. Cycling shoes save money.

Riding a sports bike with soft shoes on is equivalent to playing table-tennis in boxing gloves, it’s difficult and makes you look foolish.

Just say – ‘No’.

There are no other rules.

What do we want? update

Bikesalive have called a repeat of the action featured last week. It will be at Kings Cross, at 18:00, next Monday, January 23rd.

Last month Transport for London were waiting for the current trouble – over the assumptions underlying the way the streets they administer are laid-out – to blow-over. They’ve now cracked and propose to redesign their crass ‘cycle-super-highway’ modifications at Bow Flyover. They’re asking for our input.

Announcing a change to works completed less than a year ago can only be interpreted as an admission that their last attempt was badly wrong. Bow Flyover is at a critical location, on the boundary of Inner East London – where cycle-traffic is booming – and Outer London, where conditions for cycle-travel are at least as difficult as anywhere else in the whole country. The outcome of the conflicts this discontinuity produces will have national resonance. Proximity to the imminent festival of running and jumping only increases the significance.