Archive | November, 2013

Seven types of London cyclist – which one are you?

17 Nov

This post is for everyone who cycles in London, because if I’ve learnt one thing doing so it’s that there are certain types of cyclist  – and you need to learn who owns the road.

Speed racer1) Speed Commuter (you know the type)

Bike: £3000 S5 Cervelo

Cycling attire: Clad head to toe in full sponsored club kit, invariably wearing sunglasses despite the grey skies, usually carrying a bottle of high five energy drink mounted on his expensive carbon frame. On the way up Box Hill – yes.  Trying to get through Vauxhall roundabout in one piece – no.

Cycling style: Shoots off before the lights have even turned yellow and sprints like Wiggo at the end of a Tour de France time trial. For all of two minutes, that is, before he’s stopped at the next traffic light.  (I say ‘he’ as it is rare to encounter a Speed Commuter of the female variety.)

Miranda Upright Ambler2) The Upright Ambler (opposite of the Speed Commuter)

Bike: £100 second hand Dutch bike from the Brick Lane Market.

Cycling attire: Generally female, sporting a wicker basket on the front of her upright bike containing handbag, papers, dog, flowers etc. Often clad in sensible shoes and helmet. Tends to look like she belongs in the Netherlands. Has a bell.

Cycling style: The Upright Ambler is in no rush and will sit patiently behind the bus or motorbike, blocking the way with her basket in case anyone wanted to squeeze through. I quite like the Upright Ambler, though. She brings an aura of calm amongst the frantic, noisy traffic. And I’m dead jealous of her basket.

Single Speeder3) Single Speeders

Bike: Specialized Langster – looks second hand but has had a decent chunk of cash thrown at it.

Cycling attire: Single Speeders are mostly found in the east. They don’t need to worry about wearing lycra to avoid their trousers getting shredded in the gears, because their jeans are all but skintight anyway. If they’re wearing a helmet – often they’re not – it’s a trendy rounded steel coloured one sitting atop of thick rimmed glasses. They’ll probably have a satchel on their bike, coloured socks and plimsoll shoes.

Cycling style: Tuned in. Single Speeders look pretty friendly, but you’re wasting your time trying to talk  to them – they’re oblivious beyond the Indi music in their headphones.

High vis4) Super High Vis

Bike: Specialized Allez – entry level road bike on sale at Evans. c £400.

Cycling attire: We’re talking ankle and wrist reflector bands, flashing lights everywhere, bright yellow gloves and full fluro clothing.  I massively back all efforts to make London safer for cyclists  but sometimes this level of hi vis could end up causing, rather than avoiding, a crash.

Cycling style: Cautious.

Boris Bikers5) Boris Bikers (I’m sorry, but these are the worst kind)

Bike: The beast that is a rented Barclays Bike. £2 an hour.

Cycling attire:  Boris Bikers are an occasional cyclist so they have no helmets, in appropriate clothing and oversized bags bulging out of the undersized basket.

Cycling style: Often European and on the right (wrong) side of the road. Probably lost so making abrupt movements to change direction or hovering hesitantly in your way. Total liability. Don’t get me wrong, I do think Boris Bikes are a fantastic initative.  I just think they should come with some kind of safe cycling info, like a radar fitted into the bike with a loudspeaker that blares whenever they’re on the wrong side of the road/pavement/precariously close to a bus/taxi/other cyclist. Actually, I think I have got Boris’s email somewhere…

Brompton rider6) Brompton Bike Riders

Bike: M3L Timeless Classic – because they really will use it forever. A pricy £1200.

Cycling attire: An odd mix of office or day wear, mixed with some cycling apparel as they aren’t quite immune to the lure of lycra and high vis. Their outfits say ‘Hey, isn’t it convenient that I can hop off my bike and simply fold it up before I pop into the office. I don’t need to bother with all the extra bike kit.’ (Oh, except for my fluro waterproof over the top of my shirt. And the cycle clips for my suit trousers so they don’t catch. And the special bag on the front of the bike where I put my laptop and my newspaper).

Cycling style: In training. Because did you know, there is actually a Brompton world championships held every year in Oxford (and my good friend Vicky Taylor held sixth place in the female rankings for quite some time – more from her later).

Parent Child bike7) Parent with Child

Bike: Solid ride with precarious child seat (and possibly trailor) attached. Halfords finest.

Cycling attire: Anything. I’m too nervous to notice. I’m sorry, but the sight of a small child gazing out of a safety seat on the back of Mum or Dad’s bike just makes me so anxious. I get horror images of the bike falling over, or a bus coming to close to outstretched toddler’s hand… ahh. I admire them for their green, fit way of commuting but I still think if it was me I’d have a carseat in jeep, avoiding rush hour where possible.

Cycling style:  Careful. They are carrying the world’s most precious cargo.

There are, of course, plenty of ‘normal’ types who cycle to work (like me and probably most of you). We wear an appropriate level of lycra without being overkill, want to get there on time but aren’t agressive at the lights, know our road rules, make ourselves seen without being a beacon and keep a careful distance from other vehicles. But unfortunately, we’re not enough of a spectacle to make this post.

So cyclists – who am I missing?


Who says you actually need to ride somewhere to have fun?

14 Nov

Team FT at CyclebeatSometimes, pedalling your heart out while going absolutely nowhere is all you need.

So I discovered today when a team of five colleagues from the Financial Times took part in Cyclebeat’s City Bike Battle. This was a 40 minute spin class with a difference: firstly, it raised funds for the brilliant charity Hope HIV, which supports children in communities ground down by poverty and AIDS, and secondly, it was a competition. A giant leaderboard – The Beatboard – at the front of the class ranked each team throughout, calculating average energy output and speed. I’m not even sure what the prize was, but I damn well wanted to win it. Team FT hadn’t turned up looking resplendent in lycra for nothing.

If you’ve ever done a spin class you’ll know that cycling on a stationary bike in a dark, hot room while the trainer barks instructions to lead the peloton or sprint to the top of the mountain requires 1)  immense imagination and 2) serious determination to keep returning. But – having the ability to see just how far, fast and efficiently you’re cycling (while going Team FT at Cyclebeatnowhere) and how you rank against the other cyclists adds a whole new dimension. Discovery number two of the day: cycling stats are addictive. Not the distance and elevation kind, but the energy output and power kind. During the class you can see your individual stats on your bike screen and how you rank against others on The Beatboard. Afterwards you’re emailed full stats which of course you immediately share and compare. The result? Some healthy competition with yourself and other teams to get faster, stronger and more powerful. Ace.

Cyclebeat has a brilliant setup. We had to have two women on each team – ladies, good excuse to get involved! I had four rejections before finding another willing female for our team (thank you Hannah Bishop). You can hire cycle shoes with the right kind of cleats (SPD, not Shimano like mine) and the studio has lovely new bikes, great facilities and fun instructors. They’re currently running an intro
offer of £20 for 20 days and I for one will be giving it a go. Suddenly the fact that the imminent bracingly cold winter will require indoor Victorious Team FTcycling only, is somehow quite appealing.

Oh, and did Team FT win? Well yes, we were the top of our class. We’re not worrying about the two teams that were faster than us in the session before, because you can’t beat an invisible opponent and anyway, we’ve still got a spot on the podium… As Hannah said, “Putting the ‘I’ in ‘FT’ – F.I.T.”. Too damn right.


Cool kids wear lids: the world’s first flat-folding helmet

5 Nov

Morpher Helmet

How many times have you wished you could stuff your helmet in your bag rather than carrying it around while your bike is locked up? Many times? Me too.

Which is why I was delighted to hear about the Morpher Helmet, a lightweight creation that folds flat to fit in your handbag or laptop bag.

As well as being convenient and functional, there’s an important safety message. The helmet was designed by British Inventor of the Year Jeff Woolfe OBE, whose helmet saved his life in a horrific cycling accident some years ago. Inspired to make cycling safer following this experience, Woolfe created the Morpher Helmet to encourage all cyclists to wear a helmet. Woolfe has some frightening stats: despite the fact that more than 90% of cycling fatalities happen to riders who aren’t wearing a helmet, 93% of cyclists on hire bikes and 26% of people on their own bike don’t wear one.

Despite being just a prototype, the Morpher Helmet has already won three innovation awards.  It’s patented worldwide, exceeds all relevant safety standards and  made from recyclable materials. The flat design will allow people to buy from vending machines near bicycle hire docks. Initially aimed at cyclists, it will later be made for other sports including skiers, skaters, snow boarders, hockey players and horse riders. See more in this video.

Impressed? The team are now inviting people to get involved, help fund the project and be one of the first to own a Morpher helmet, which they hope will go on sale early next year. You can find out more on their website and support from as little as £5.