Medieval street planning makes for interesting pathways among modern bikers in London. Certainly Romans did not consider the potential for collisions with cars when they laid down their streets. Those 14th century twists and turns also left me rather leery of renting a bike here, although I didn't have the time to do so in any case. But as I walked and bussed around town with my family I had many opportunities to see dozens and dozens of cyclists and just as many bikes chained and locked everywhere. This is no surprise of course given that I not in car-centric America, and Britain had been pushing bike commuting already as a further traffic solution to its jam-packed island.
And the city center was packed, especially at train stations. The busy rush of thousands of commuters and travelers herding themselves to different platforms, shoulder to shoulder, pulsed with noisy energy. Amid them one bicyclist stood out, his bike's wheels breaking the geometry of the crowd at King's Cross. This biker was having a heck of time with his bag, soft drink, pack and bicycle!
Throughout our walks I saw many styles of bikes, including this whitewashed classic with matching seat and dynamo. Will it's contrast with London grays make it more likely to get ripped off? Or, is it too unique to permit an easy getaway?
Topping off all the cycling lanes and related sign-age in London is its bike sharing program, undoubtedly sponsored by a bank. Methinks the cycling culture and bankers are an unlikely pairing but these bike stands are omnipresent. I needed an account to rent one of these, which I saw many times over the four days we spent in town. Most of the time the bikes, like leaves missing from a winter limb, were being used (hopefully rented and not stolen). The rental program is complemented by steep fees to drive cars in the city during business hours.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
In the future I will have a brief stay in England, and of course I'm hoping to borrow or rent a bike a couple times. Hopefully I won't kill myself riding on the opposite side of the road, especially if I have the nerve and impulse to take a photo while riding. I've prepared for this contingency by bending an L-bracket into a U-shape, which in turn is easily secured to handlebars with a pipe clamp. Once affixed to a handlebar or wheel fork, a quarter-inch screw then fits through the bracket (along with a few washers to take up the space), making it a mini-camera mount that fits just about anywhere. My Sony digital camera will capture any rides I manage to get in, which I then hope to post here! The downside to this low-tech approach is lots of vibration and wind in the microphone. While we have recently upgraded to a Canon FS31 camcorder, I don't think I'll be strapping that one to my bike anytime soon. Another approach I could take would be to purchase an FPV camera (a mere 30 bucks) that could conceivably be attached to the wheel bolt for a low to the ground view. Stay tuned my avid readers for more video!
Monday, December 20, 2010
This video, which I first viewed on www.bikehacks.com, represents the wonderful culmination of creativity, production and fun, which in said combination is all too lacking in contemporary society if you asked me. The welding, bolting and wheel-truing here are the antidote to thumbing one's PDA so constantly...
Friday, December 17, 2010
Google Books is a treasure trove and there is no shortage of titles on bicycles within its vast dBase confines. One tome by Velox (a pseudonym) is worth quoting for its anachronistic formality, because it's, well, sort of funny:
Whether velocipedes are only the ‘toy of the hour’ or are destined to become a permanent adjunct to our civilization and everyday life or not, no one can doubt their extending popularity, or that there exists a widespread desire to know how to use, and the best for construction for, the new wheel-horse of the period.
Well said, Velox! I thought of riding my own “wheel horse” today but I’m not sure if I was doubting whether my "bike" (as we tend to call them today) was the “toy of the hour” or simply was put off by snow on the ground! HA! More on this 19th century book later...
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
With some trepidation of the 22F temperature I decided to ride into the office this morning. I remain surprised at how effective my new Brooks shell is in keeping out the wind and cold. Tee shirt, turtle neck, fleece and shell kept me entirely warm, and the shell’s diaphanous hood under my helmet kept my head perfectly comfortable as well. High tech effects! My heavy leather mittens and neoprene face mask also shielded me well, so save for my brow I was quite warm on the 4.5 mile ride…which according to my new wireless bike computer took 21’24” averaging 12.5 mph in light wind.
My return trip was a bit faster (but .4 miles shorter as well), and even as I stared down a million snowflakes as they pushed into my face. The snow was unanticipated. Fortunately I took a break from my various analytic tasks at the ‘ole desk and looked out the window…and it was really coming down. So, I quickly changed and hopped on the Trek. No slippy spots at all, but I felt a touch jittery in the arms as I imagined spinning out in spots.