Did London Beat Copenhagen

Someone on a cycling forum posted a link to this website which boasts about a new cycling facility in Copenhagen for cyclists who stop at red lights.

Leave it to Copenhagen. While other bike geeks fight over guerilla-painted bike lanes, or shine them on the street with laser gadgets, or dream of floating them in mid-air, the City of Copenhagen and the bike advocacy group ibikecph installs a simple, low-tech fix that makes riding in the famously bike-friendly city even easier.

In the picture above is what i’m calling the cyclists balance beam. It’s being put in by a company to help cyclists get going after being stopped at a red light. It means you can stay in the saddle and move away quicker.

London had these years ago. Back then we called them railings and their primary design was to protect pedestrians at crossings. They went all the way around crossings apart from where you could cross. They had a few issues, it kept pedestrians in and meant they had to cross at specific locations, drivers felt because pedestrians where not going to be running free they could drive faster and cyclists got crushed up against them!

Cyclists in London have been using these railings to balance on whilst stopped at red lights. Although we didn’t have the bottom section for our feet, we managed alright with just our arms holding us up 🙂

But over the past few years the London councils have been removing these. And it’s because of the reasons above. Major Boris Johnson wants to make the streets and roads a nicer placer to be, by making pedestrians feel more open to the environment and vehicles slowing down (year right) and hopefully less deaths from cyclists being trapped between the railings and vehicles.

These will only work for safety reasons at segregated cycling facilities. Copenhagen I hope you are listening, the UK did this first 😛

The Return of the Genesis Day01 Alfine

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I have mentioned several times in several places that I’ve had issues with the bike I bought for commuting, the Genesis Day01 Alfine. I thought I was buying a bike which would be easy to maintain, it had hub gears and a thick chain which would be easy to clean and disc brakes for better braking in the wet and they don’t need much tweaking.

It turned out that the bike didn’t quite live up to expectations. I tried to work around the issues, fix them my self and on several occasions took the bike to a bicycle shop for them to fix it.

Unfortunately the bike turned out to be a nightmare. The issues continued and seemed to be unfixable. Or at least it would appear to be so after 7 visits to a bike store in less than 6 months.

The main issues where with the brakes. They needed constant adjustment, every 50 miles, to be kept at a point where i could actually stop if i needed to. The rear brake had an issue where the caliper would make a clicking sound and then the pads would release from the rotor and I would not be able to brake any more. Very disconcerting and I would not want that to happen to the front brake!

I had a few niggles with the Versa shifter as well. The barrel adjuster is very easy to flick without you noticing. Do it several times and the gears are all messed up. Which means when you set off the gear might change and the freewheel will basically be on for a few nanosecond whilst the gear changes, this however is not good when you are setting off and putting nearly all your body weight onto one pedal. It resulted in a few sprained ankles!!
Unlike other drop bar gear changing system I have used, it isn’t possible to change down a gear whilst braking. There is a very small lever which you change down with but it’s not possible to hit that whilst braking. Not a massive deal as you can change gear when stopped but add that to the issue with the barrel adjuster and it’s just a pain!

So a few weeks ago I wrote a letter to the Evans store I bought it from, explaining the issues I had and what had been done about them and what hadn’t worked etc. I put in the letter that I would like to return the bicycle to them because the bicycle is not fit for purpose under the sales of goods act. I also copied in the head office, the letter was passed onto customer services the same day and I got an e-mail from them, letting me know they where looking into it.

A few days letter I had booked one of my other bicycles in for a service at Evans West End and normally when the bicycle is ready to be picked up they give me a ring. But this time they e-mailed me. I had never given that store or any of the others my e-mail address. I had put it in my letter. So clearly they have a database of your details, and every time you make a purchase in store over £50 they ask for your postcode and name.
I didn’t think it would be easy for them to decide on whether to take the bike back from me and refund me the money. But a few days later I got an e-mail from customer services explaining to me that they would refund me the full amount paid (including accessories like;  pedals, mudguards and tyres) and they would send the bike off for inspection.
I suspect that them being able to see how much I have spent with them in the past had something to do with it. Evans is a chain of shops I use regularly out of connivence, I’ve always had good service and I suspect the issues I have had have been down to a fault which is unexplainable.

I’ve been without the bike for a week now. And when I spoke to the manager of the store that I bought it from, he said that they (Evans) tried to contact Genesis about the issues. I laughed as I suspected what was coming. He said that they where completely uninterested in the issue and wouldn’t even look at it. It’s supposedly being sent to Madison (which owns Genesis) for them to review.

I’m aware that others have had issues with the brakes on the Genesis Day01 Alfine, I think that most of those have been reports of the front fork shuddering whilst braking which can be fixed with some spacers on the caliper to position the pad over the rotor properly. But if anyone has an issue like mine, I strongly suggest thinking about following a similar line of action.

I’m not going to let this affect my ‘relationship’ with Evans, I will certainly continue to use them but I won’t recommend getting a bike made by Genesis, their customer service is poor! Which is a real shame for a British company!

I am now looking for a new bike. A single speed / fixed wheel bike with the ability to take full guards and a rack. Currently got my eyes on the Pearson Touche and the Condor Tempo. I did ask on twitter if anyone had any ideas about a frame which meets my requirements and the following were suggested by several people; Cotic Roadrat, On-One Pompino and Kinesis Decade Convert 2. Unfortunately they didn’t quite meet my requirements or the frame isn’t geometry isn’t what I’m looking for but thanks to those who suggested some bikes 🙂

How to do digital overlays

There has been a boom of cyclists that have started to take to the roads with video cameras. As one of them, I try to come up with and promote ways that we as a group can make our videos better. One thing that is missing from the videos is speed, and with wide-angle lenses it can often be very difficult to judge from a video just how fast a cyclist is actually traveling.

I’ve made a few videos where I have digital read outs on the video and I often get questions asking about these when I make them.

A cyclists who goes by the name VeryMadMart has made a java application that takes the files recorded by a ContourHD and the TCX files recorded by a Garmin GPS unit and puts the data on the video frame by frame with some nice graphics.

Essentially the application just needs a .mov file and a GPX file to make the overlay, so you don’t have to use a ContourHD and Garmin device.

The hardest part of doing this is trimming the video and editing the TCX XML file to match. Essentially most of the time the video and data will be slightly out of sync. I have found the best way is to use the latitude and longitude found in the XML and search that on google maps, it gives me an idea of where I’m looking at and I usually cut the start of the video to a side road or similar where I can easily match it up ‘exactly’ on the google maps. This minimises the delay from video to data to within a second in most cases.

This isn’t the only way cyclists can do this. Vholdr, the owners of the Contour brand, have released a version of their camera with GPS inbuilt to it. This makes for another way to get some information about your ride and match it up to your camera. How this works with a site like youtube I don’t know. But upload the footage on to the Contour website and it looks like the whole thing is automatic and a nice map and data is displayed next to the video.

Digital overlays and speed readouts isn’t just a gimmick, in the case of a collision the information will be vital. GPS positioning will back up what your camera says and gives you an accurate speed just before impact! No more ‘I was doing about 15mph officer’
How many motorists can do this? I bet less than 1% can!

For more detailed information on the steps involved and to download a copy of the java file, please visit VeryMadMarts website.

Genesis Day 01 Alfine – Braking issue

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been having issues with the brakes on my Genesis Day01 Alfine bike. I’m not the only one, I was first made aware of a potential issue by another owner. Fortunately for him, his bike was fixed by his local bike shop but unfortunately for the rest of us he was unaware of how the issue was fixed.

The issue seems to be caused by the non-standard disc rotor. The brakes are Tektro Lyra’s but the rotors are Shimano CL rotors. This means the brake pads don’t sit perfectly over the disc when you put them on. Unfortunately this is hard to see and is noticeable after some use and the dirt on the disc brake shows where the pad runs.

The front brake is an interesting one. As with any steel fork and a disc brake, there is some flex when you apply the brake. But what i experienced was far from some flex. The brake pad overlapped the edge of the disc by quite a bit. At least 1cm of the pad was running on the rotor arms. This meant that there was a constant shudder when you used the brake, due to the pad gripping on the rotor arm and the brake experiencing more friction at that point. This judder traveled through the forks and into the handle bars, it was disconcerting but did not affect performance in a manner which was bad.

The rear brake was the one with a problem. For some unknown reason, I would pull on the brake and feel it bite, I would start to decelerate. Apply a little bit more pressure and all of a sudden the brake would just let go and you would stop decelerating. I couldn’t get my head around it, I looked into how mechanical brakes worked, did lots of reading in books and online but could not figure out why the brake would suddenly let go.

Back when I first found out these issues, I contacted Genesis to try to get some help with this issue. Unfortunately they where not much help and said that it was natural for steel forks to behave in this way.

It came to the point where I could take it no more, and I took my bike back to Evans and got them to look at it for me. They saw the issue straight away and added some spacers and longer bolts onto the brake attachment thingy majig (can you tell that i don’t know what it is called?). This meant that the pads no longer rubbed on the rotor arms and braking was smooth and powerful.

The problem with this is finding the issue in the first place. It’s hard to see this issue when you are putting the bike together in a work shop. And testing it is impossible without taking the bike out on the road. This is because pulling the brake whilst the wheel spinning in a stand will nearly always stop it but what we want to test is how it acts when there is more weight behind the bike.

I did notice the issue with the front fork when I test rode the bike but as with all disc braked bikes, beading in is always the excuse.

Fortunately for me, the braking issues are resolved and the brakes are sharper than ever. Hopefully this is read by other users of the day01 and they can easily get it resolved.

The curse of the Genesis Day01

Back in mid 2010 I remember seeing some photos from a bicycle show where Genesis was showing off their 2011 range of bikes. The Day01 Alfine caught up eye straight away. Hub gear, disc brakes and bright orange, what more could you want for a commuter bicycle?
I was in the market for a new bike, i had been commuting on a carbon racer for some time and I didn’t want that to continue through another winter.

One day in September I went into my local bike shop to buy a new tyre for one that got shredded only minutes before. Further into the shop was the Genesis Day01 standing out from everything else with its orange paint. Unfortunately the frame was too small for me, but I ordered in a bigger frame in for a test ride.

A week later and I was back at the shop and took the bike for a few spins, it had a great ride and felt very different to my racer. Definitely something I could use for commuting. It was an easy choice and I parted with my cash for a great looking bike. I added some mudguards and Kevlar lined tyres for a bit more but definitely something needed for high mileage commuting through London and it’s suburbs.

First day of commuting on the Day01 and everything was going well. Until I was about 2 miles away from my house and I got a nasty p*nct*r* and the rear went flat. As I was so close to home I decided to walk it back and change it after I had eaten my supper and wasn’t in a rush. Little did I know how hard it was going to be. At first I had issues getting the rear wheel off. I had undone the wheel nuts but due to chain tugs and the tension on the chain I couldn’t get the chain off either of the chain rings.
A few small turns of the chain tugs and I was easily able to get the wheel off. A quick change of the inner tube and a check of the tyre for anything left over. Everything was fine.

The hard part was putting the wheel back on. Getting the chain tension right and the wheel aligned in a position with the disc brakes took a lot of time. But when I had finally done it there was only one thing left to do, put the gear change cable back in. I put it in perfectly but when I went to change the gears, the cable was put under too much pressure and it snapped. BALLS!!

Next day I popped into the bike shop and asked if they could sort it out for me, half hour later it was ready to be picked up and I continued my journey to work.

All was going well with the bike. A fellow owner of a Genesis Day01 noted on a forum that he had issues with the brakes. I contacted Genesis about this and explained that I had noticed an issue with the front brake which made the forks shudder under the slightest load. I understand that with a steel fork and a disc brake mounted where it is, there is loads put onto that fork and it can stress and flex but I would not expect it to do so at the level i was applying. I’m actively looking into this issue and hoping to resolve it soon, luckily it doesn’t affect heavy braking.

The date is November 02 2010 and i’m taking a usual route to work where by I cycle through Croydon town centre. The conditions are damp and there are leaves on the floor. I have cycled this many times with no issues but today was going to be different.
As I went to cross the metal guttering, my front wheel passed over a wet leaf at the same time and I  lost the front wheel. The bike just went down and I slid a few meters. Certainly not comfortable but I was able to get back onto the bike and continue my journey with ease.

Back on December 16th 2010 I was commuting home through snow, this was going to be my last commute home for a few weeks as I had the rest of the time booked off for the christmas break. But what I didn’t realise is that it was going to be my last ride for a while due to something else.
I don’t want to say too much as the case is still on going, but it ended up with me on the bonnet of the car.

It took my LBS a good few weeks to get the parts and fix my bike, they had issues sourcing a hub and a rim. It seems the standard Alex rim used on the Genesis is hard to get hold of.
I got my bike back last week and I did some good mileage on it last week. But come Friday I was having some issues with my rear brake, an issue which had cropped up before and something I wanted to sort out.

You can feel tension in the rear brake when you pull the lever, but if you keep pulling you will feel the tension go and the bike stops decelerating.  This is a real issue when you are trying to turn right, it makes it impossible to indicate. I thought I had found a fix for this, which was to change the position of the fixed pad, by moving it closer to the disc I found it solved the issue, but only for a short amount of time.

Anyway, I took it to Evans in Victoria, London and their mechanic had a look at it, he thought he had solved the issue but he hadn’t, he also found that a spoke on the rear wheel was broken. Which would explain why the rear end felt a bit funny through some corners.

The bike is now booked in for a service at Evans west end, London and hopefully all these issues will be resolved and I don’t have any more bad luck with it!

Hi-Viz, the new helmet debate.

Hi-Visibility clothing is designed to make you stand out. The bright flourescent colours absorb UV light and output it in a light form that is visible to us. Hence why during the day, they stand out but at night, it’s a different story.

With every Tom, Dick and Harry wearing Hi-Viz on a bicycle, does it actually make you stand out?

When cyclists talk about hi-viz, we normally refer to yellow jackets. These things are normally too heavy and thick for day use, which the hi-viz is designed to work in. Reflective strips of tape make you stand out in the dark. Are these jackets actually effective at making you visible or is hi-viz the new helmet debate?

A recent study in Australia shows us which one is true.
The study was conducted on a closed road circuit at night where driver participants of various ages were in a specially equipped vehicle and bike rider participants wore various combinations of clothing.
Due to hi-viz working off UV radiation, the hi-viz is useless at night due street lighting and headlights not producing UV radiation. The results showed that flourescent colors did not provide a significant improvement on black clothing at night.

Due to many cyclists thinking that Hi-viz makes them stand out at night, they could be putting them selves at risk if their clothing doesn’t contain reflective material.

Even when the cyclists wore a reflective vest, the drivers said it wasn’t as clear as reflective 3M scotchlite tape on their ankles and knees. This is thought to be down to the torso of a cyclist mostly being still and the ankles and knees are more often than not moving.

Whilst there aren’t many studies out there about Hi-Viz and its apparent safety features for cyclists, I don’t think the study in Australia is one to be sniffed at. It certainly makes more sense that reflective tape on a cyclists ankles will be more attention grabbing in car head lights rather than a vest which won’t get as much light.

I’m not a fan of the Altura NightVision jackets and similar jackets because during the day they are too thick for wearing and at night the reflective tape is often covered by a bag.
And as the study shows, the opinion from drivers, is the hi-viz doesn’t work at night and reflective tape is much better situated on the leg where it is moving more than the torso.

ProViz came up with the idea of using a strip of lights on their jackets and bag covers to make yourself more visible. I’ve yet to see one of these in the real world so I can’t comment on how well they work.
Some cyclists over at CycleChat have been talking about self illumination to make your self morevisible, that is pointing an LED light at yourself rather than the other way. To clear results have yet been seen but it can’t hurt trying.

My personal feeling on hi-viz is just go with out. With over 70% of cyclists wearing it, you really don’t stand out whilst you’re in it. I would much prefer to spend the money saved on Hi-Viz on some reflective tape and a good set of lights for my bike. I use my lights during the day to make up for the lack of hi-viz.

A Guide To Helmet Cameras

Helmet cameras are becoming popular with cyclists. For evidential purposes and down to videos of cyclists just having fun. With the increase in users and more people watching the videos, i get asked regularly about my set up and what cameras i recommend. It’s time for me to create a detailed list of what cameras are out there and which camera to buy.

There are lots of things to think about when buying a camera, the most important being how much you want to spend. But lets not forget about; video quality, size, weight, waterproofness, battery life, battery replacement and the list goes on.

Something which is often overlooked but very important is storage and editing of footage. If you choose to go with a HD camera, then you will want to make sure your computer is up to scratch with editing the footage. The company that make the cameras should be able to supply you with the information you require on minimum system specifications for their camera. Look at how much storage space you will require if you want to keep some of your videos. HD recordings will take up a lot of space.

My top 5 list of helmet cameras to buy.

  1. Veho Muvi
  2. ContourHD
  3. GoPro HD Hero
  4. Drift HD170
  5. VIO POV 1.5

Veho Muvi
The camera which came out a little over a year ago which has made helmet camera’s popular and affordable is the Veho Muvi. It can be picked up for around £60. You are limited to about 1h30m max on the battery and due to the size of the camera it can be very discreet. The camera it’s self isn’t waterproof, but a special case or good positioning can sort this issue out.

A copy of the muvi is the MD80, and can be picked up at a fraction of the price without losing much quality.
There are a few copies of the muvi, a few are good but most are bad. Look out for the switches on the side of the camera, if they are buttons then avoid the camera!

I have to put the Muvi at number one because of the sheer amount of cyclists that use it and its cheap price for great quality.

ContourHD
The ContourHD is my camera of choice, i have the old 720p model and a 1080p model. Both very much worth the money and hopefully my reasons for choosing it will be outlined below.

The ContourHD pretty much covers every base with what you need from your camera. Superb quality, good variety of mounts for all situations, water-resistant, replaceable battery, rotateable lens, two lasers to line up the perfect angle and a button configuration that is very easy to use without looking at the camera and using gloves.

Things to know about behind the scenes with the camera and the company, vholdr have set up a community where you can upload your videos and a decent forum where questions are answered by other users. Differently worth checking out. There is some software which is available to edit and upload your videos, and change the quality and various light settings.

A key thing for me, was how the camera looked when mounted on the helmet. The contourHD appears to be bullet like and fairly flat, with a red recording light that is visible from the front and the side. This was a big factor for me when choosing it over the gopro HD Hero.

GoPro HD Hero
This is definitely the best camera from a picture point of view. The features and accessories are similar to the ContourHD, in fact there isn’t much difference between the GoPro HD Hero and the ContourHD. They are both amazing cameras, offer great options, deliver great video and are easy to use.
The two downside’s for me with the GoPro are the shape of it and you’re not able to rotate the lens. It’s square and looks ridiculous when you put it on top of a helmet. Rotating the lens means that you can still get the perfect angle when recording but having the ability to mount the camera in strange positions and angles.

One way around this downside is to mount the camera somewhere on the bike, where other oddly shaped things are mounted. MrOrigamist on youtube has done just this, mounted on his stem i believe, it gives a really interesting perspective that no one else currently uses and it looks great. So it’s only downside may not be relevant if you’re not actually going to mount on your helmet.

Drift HD170
Another HD camera here with some different attributes. Similar to the ContourHD the HD170 lets you rotate the lens so that you can get the perfect angle where ever you are mounting it. But where it lacks in laser pointers, it makes up for it with a screen which you can use to watch playback and check your angle. It also comes with a little remote clicker which you can use to start and stop recording.

If I’m honest i think the screen and remote are gimmicky. In day-to-day use I wouldn’t use either of them. A big problem for me is the buttons and their spacing. Due to their close nature and quite small size, it would be hard to operate the camera whilst it is on your helmet with gloves on. This was the main decider for me no to get a Drift HD170.
Apart from that the camera is just as good as the ContourHD and GoPro HD.

Vio POV 1.5
The Vio POV is an expensive option for a helmet camera, but it’s a damn good one. I doubt it’s the camera for most people anyway. It’s a 2 piece unit, a camera and a recording unit (DVR) these are connected via a cable. You will need to find a place to store the DVR whilst you are cycling, this is easy if you have a back pack. The DVR has all the buttons you need and a screen to go with it. On the screen you can watch recordings or the live feed. This gives you an easy way to check the recording angle without taking the camera off or going back to your PC.

The VIO makes it onto my list due to the technology it uses, the better lens and CCD recording chip means the image quality (whilst not HD) is truly amazing. The camera will also be much better in low light when compared to the cameras listed above.
The ability to upgrade the camera or DVR separately is also something that is attractive, especially if one breaks.

Conclusion
The muvi is the best value for money and one of the most widely used cameras among commuters (including clones). The HD cameras in my opinion are the best way to go. The quality they provide means that number plates and actions of cars are clearly visible. But the price jump between the Muvi and the HD cameras is huge, and if you don’t want to spend that money but want better quality then don’t disapear, as there is a gap that the companies have filled.
GoPro, Drift and several other companies have cameras that are in the non-HD range and are of still good quality with good features. If you want one of these, then i will suggest checking out the footage of that camera on youtube or similar.

This is just a list of my top 5 cameras i would recommend. I will do a detailed list of all helmet cameras i know about.

Cyclecraft

I was reading through a copy of Bradley Wiggins’ In Pursuit of Glory in Waterstones Torquay, when I overheard a gentleman asking a sales assistant if there was a book on how to cycle safely on the road. Of course they came over to where i was standing, the sales assistant had a quick look and could see nothing. They then walked over to the driving section and the assistant said that all they had was a copy of the highway code but it’s section on cycling isn’t great. He proceeded to state ‘I’ve been working in bookstores for 15 years and I’ve not once come across a book which teaches you how to cycle’

I put the book down and walked towards the computing section to have a quick scan over a few books there. The gentleman was walking in my direction and I decided to approach him and see if I can point him in the right direction. I stated that i was a cyclist and I had overheard that he was looking for a cycling book and that I might be able to point him in the right direction. He said that the book was for his son, who wanted to start cycling to school but having been out with him, he was scared that his road sense was poor and he was often on the wrong side of the road. Just as I thought, he needs a copy of Cyclecraft but waterstones hasn’t got it. I let him know the title and author and that it was available on amazon.

I gave this man this information, without even having read this book. I gave him some advice from comments i had read from other cyclists i know that have it. It certainly does sound like what he was looking for but when i thought about it, i really should read this book before i give people advise about getting it.

A few days later I was in Watersones Exeter when I was again browsing the cycling section and Cyclecraft was there, strange then how the other branch had never heard of it. I picked it up, had a quick flick through and I had to buy it. I consider my self to be a good cyclist, with good road sense and I have taken onboard plenty of advise from other cyclists about cycling safely. It turns out that a lot of their knowledge could have come from this book, it certainly is a cracker and there is plenty of stuff to learn from it.

Cyclecraft provides a guide to safe cycling both for adults and children. It contains practical advice on how to ride a bike confidently and safely in modern traffic conditions; The following areas are covered, including: how to get started; choosing a bike; basic skills; sharing the road with other traffic; advanced techniques for cycling safety on busier roads and faster traffic; advice on carrying children and goods and riding with others.

It works with bikeability in teaching you what you need to know and in what stages. It’s great for a whole spectrum of learning, beginners to advanced users. A must buy for any cyclist that plans on using the road safely.

Airzound

New bicycles bought from a shop by law have to come with a bell, bells are ok on towpaths and at slow speeds. The problem with them is when you get to higher speeds. Pedestrians and car drivers won’t hear a bell in time to react or know where it’s coming from. This is where the Airzound comes into play, an air horn for bicycles, it blasts out a loud 115 decibels at full volume.

Why is this useful? In some occasions you need to make people aware that you are there and what better way to do it than to make an awful loud sound which could be mistaken for a truck horn. People certainly will take notice of you and hopefully react.

I’ve been using mine for several weeks and have found it very useful to warn drivers, cyclists and pedestrians of my presence.

See the Airzound website set up by Thomas Etherington with reviews and information on how to mount it to thicker road bar handlebars.