Sunday, 20 April 2014

Cycling in Innsbruck (or how I almost got knocked off my bike, head butting a bee)

I'm celebrating Easter in Austria. Which is slightly odd. Back in England I would have cranked up my blood sugar devouring Cream Eggs, and then gone about my day. 

However, Austria being a catholic country, means it goes bat shit crazy for Jesus, and bunnies and eggs. I've eaten my body weight in hard boiled, brightly colored eggs and wash it down with copious amounts of strong continental lager over the past few days. My blood has been replaced by liquid Milka and I've decapted a farm full of Lindt bunnies and hens. 

Needless to say, today I need to get on the bike, and get that chocolate circulatory system aworkin'.

Cycling in Tirol, one of the regions of Austria, is crazy easy. There are copious amounts of well designed and wonderfully executed bike paths. They are all signposted really well, whether they are segregated or road side The lanes are always given priority at lights and dangerous junctions. It really is a revelation. 

What's also pretty awesome are the things you find along the way, like this tool station which operates on trust. You don't pay, but simply put the tools back when you are done. And if you need a new tube for your 'rad-service', well look no further than the vending machines along the way. 

Without really realising I cycled 30km along the river Inn today, making the most if these excellent faculties. The inly incident came from a bee who decided to head butt me when I was traveling at 25kmh. Bam, right in the eye, causing a bit of temporary blindness and almost throwing me from my bike. I didn't mind. I was just happy to be out and riding. 

I wasn't the only one. In fact families, Lycra louts and normal people we're whizzing up and down the riverside route. Makes you think doesn't it? If every town priorities cycle paths, how many people would benefit?

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Left of the Lake - how to train for a 180km bike ride...

I'm planning on cycling 180km around Lake Geneva for my birthday. You can read more about this here.

But if you fancy coming along, or you have your own crazy 180km bike ride to plan for, then here is a training plan that I've put together. 

I've pooled some resources from various publications and the advice of an actual real-life professional, to give a realistic plan that will take you from 10km to 180km in 17 weeks. If you are already able cycle further, then come in later in the plan, progress in weekly increments to Week 4, and then stay there until the middle of July. This'll build up your endurance and consequently your speed. 

The plan works on the idea that you take a short ride on Monday or Tuesday, a slightly longer ride on Wednesday or Thursday, and a massive ride at the weekend. Work out your days so that you have at least one rest day between rides, and also make sure you eat right or this will be horrible. Remember, it's supposed to be fun. 

Anyway, here is the plan... 

If you want a PDF copy of the plan or you have any questions, then drop me a line.

See you in August! 

Goodbye Steel, Hello Wood! - bikes made out of things other than metal

So this morning I'm doing my usual flick through the old interweb, and I came across this post from Boske for a laminated wooden and recycled aluminium bike. Which is also a self assembled flat-pack kit. It's all very IKEA, but it looks like it could be gorgeous.

But this in turn got me thinking about the other amazing bikes that have been made out of items other  steel, aluminium or carbon. As you'd imagine, it's not the most extensive list, but heck, here we go on the world's smallest round up.

1 - The Cardboard Bike

Izhar is a guy with a passion. And he's a little bit nuts. He wants to build a bike out of cardboard, including a cardboard drive-train and cardboard guys. Spoiler alert: he only blooming achieves it, and the final bike is an epic testament to his dedication.

2 - The Wooden Bike

This project should really be renamed 'Two Men, One Shed', but it shows bonkers British eccentricity at it's best - a bike made from wood, which is both beautiful and fast!

3 - The Bamboo Bike

Heck, these things are three a penny now, there's even a host of Instructables up in case you want to have a crack at making your own. Or, you could just go to HERObike, and buy one of their kits... It might make a pretty good rainy day project. 

So what do you think the future of bonkers bike builders have up their sleeves? Will we live to see the day bikes are made out of recycled plastics, paper, maybe even upcycled car parts?! Heck, who knows, but as long as people are riding bikes it doesn't matter what they are made from! 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Cycling around Lake Geneva - early morning adventures...

So this morning I got rudely awoken by the guy downstairs. He was playing drum and bass before 6am for the second time this week. Now don't get my wrong, I love drum and bass, but it's no fun when you didn't get invited to the party. Yesterday I grumped out, and jumped about a bit. Today, I got on my bike.

Before dawn had broken, I was whizzing along the shore of Lake Geneva, passed a wobbly couple with a champagne bottle in hand and a few more 'all-nighters'. It was amazing... but it also got me thinking - it's only 123 days until I'm planning to cycle around the whole of Lake Geneva. In one day. 

Better start training then eh?! Over the next couple of days I plan to write up a proper training plan, so check back fellow crazy people. 

15km before breakfast...
...and back in time for dawn

Monday, 24 March 2014

Kickstarter is bad news for bicycles...

Inventors and entrepreneurs are the best thing since sliced bread. Which wouldn't have happened if Otto Frederick Rohwedder hadn't been so darn entrepreneurial, but anyway. Inventors and entrepreneurs have lead to some pretty exciting creations throughout the whole of history, which you can read up on at a library because I don't have time to go into it.

Anyway, one of my favourite inventions of recent years has been the 'crowd funding platforms', your Kickstarters, Kiva's and Indiegogo's, which get a group of like minded people with a little bit of cash, to fund a great idea that needs a lot of cash. Brilliant.

My friend Cara had her award winning film paid for with the help of crowd funding. Amanda Palmer funded a cracking album and talks passionately about asking others for help for TED. In fact Kickstarter and the like have brought a shed load of interesting stuff into life, and in turn stuck it to the corporate man by saying heck, we don't need you. That can only be a good thing.

But what isn't a good thing, is the frequency with which crappy bike ideas come up on Kickstarter.

Take this morning, I'm busy eating Weetibix and flicking through the Twitter feed. A few clicks and I'm led to this - a crowd funded glow-in-the-dark bike.

Don't bother watching past the first 25secs, as the hipster with the check shirt is lying to you. Apparently he's flogging you something new and innovative, which means you'll look like you ride around on a glowstick.

It's not new, it's not clever, it's just a bike that's been painted with luminous paint, which was invented in the early 20th Century. I guess that's why he's calling it "retro". Whatever. 

He's not the only idiot on Kickstarter, trying to "invent" something you don't need. There is the guy who "invented" the bike bell, because he couldn't possibly shout when someone walked in front of him and he had to brake AT THE SAME TIME...

Or this Greg who wants to sell you something to hold your sunglasses, but in multiply positions (of which I count two)...

Or this iPhone case/tool kit, that doesn't even contain tyre levers - because, you know, punctures never happen on a bike... (I particularly like the first 20secs of random opening shots in the video, in case you're such a doosh that you can't slide it apart)...

That's just a cross section of what's available to fund today. And that's what makes me mad. Last time I checked you could use a regular bell, put your glasses on your head or in a pocket, and carry a tool kit. If you can't, then maybe you shouldn't be allowed to ride a bike.

Cycling doesn't need gadgets. It's a lie proliferated by the bike industry that's now fed into crowd-funding. You don't need expensive gadgets or solutions for problems that don't even exist, or reinventions of products that have never gone mainstream because they are, well, shit. You need a bike, and the desire to go places with it. That's it. 

Kickstarter and other crowd-funding platforms can be pretty awesome, but let's be honest, not for reinventing your wheels.