Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In Which I Sing the Praises of Cloth Bags

Well, musettes really. I posted this on Cyclechat.co.uk a while back, and having done another post run using my musette at the start of the year, thought it might bear repeating here.


Small lightweight cotton shoulder bag, used for containing food and drink given to riders in a feed zone during a cycle race. The bag is designed so that it can be easily grabbed by a moving rider. The shoulder strap is placed over the head and one shoulder, the contents are then removed and placed into jersey pockets or bottles (bidons) are placed into bottle cages. The bag is then discarded.

I'm quite sure this is old news to those of you who've been riding for a while, but the musette (bonk bag, feed bag) is a great piece of kit for when you have things to carry that amount to too much to stuff in jersey pockets, yet not quite enough to warrant grabbing a messenger bag/backpack or panniers.

One of the things I quite often do on my Sunday ride is taking the post for the people who used to live in our house up to their new place. I can stuff the envelopes, catalogues etc into the musette, drop it all off, then the musette rolls up small for the onward journey - as any cyclist knows, half the fun of a "little errand" is figuring out what mileage you can add on after the fact. The musette is also small enough and light enough to take along on a ride where you might decide to stop off at the bakery on the way home, or similar, very handy for someone whose saddle bag and top tube bag are full of tools &c. (And I'd never get a loaf in either of those anyway...)

The musette itself can be the simple cotton bag described above, and there is, somewhere on the web, a guide to making them from old sheets - I couldn't find that for the purposes of this post, but did turn up this rather lovely page in which a lady had made one for her husband. If you're not up to making one yourself, the excellent Prendas Ciclismo sell a couple of styles of traditional cotton musettes for £6, whilst for slightly more, Urban Hunter offer a modern styled nylon musette, made by Banjo Bros for £6.95, and also sell traditionally styled cotton musettes emblazoned with manufacturer logos for £12.95.

The ne plus ultra of musettes is probably the Rapha Ultimate musette, which retails for a heady £60, and is as far from the simple cotton musette as today's carbon superbikes are from the bikes of cycling's early years. If you can afford to discard this one after emptying it, you probably have a team car to carry your stuff for you anyway.

I'm currently using LPR Brakes and Team High Road musettes, as these were what was available on eBay at the time I bought mine. Look to pay from around £3, depending on the team featured on the bag.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ban this Sick Filth.

There is nowtrage surrounding singer Duffy's appearance on a bicycle without lights or helmet (and not paying road tax neither, damn her eyes).

Of course, it's not just Coca-Cola corrupting the young of the country by showing inappropriate road behaviour that will be instantly copied by the impressionable. Look at this ad for the Nissan Qashqai;

In this piece, the owners of buildings are encouraged to turn them into giant marionettes to menace innocent car drivers. It evidently takes so many people to operate these that the streets are devoid of anything other than cars - imagine the effect on productivity when everyone stays in to operate their giant building robots instead of going to work.

And just look at the irresponsibility on display in this ad - despite clear lines of sight, these drivers recklessly drive into each other;

And not a single one stops to exchange insurance details.


Assuming you're not already slavishly imitating Duffy (because that's what people do when they see something on TV, right?) please do use lights when you ride at night - you're nigh on invisible without them, and in the UK it's against the law not to. As for wearing a helmet, look at the facts and make your own mind up.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In Which Buying Another Bicycle is More Difficult than Expected

I've been taking the train all the way to work a lot more than I do normally, and this results in a walk of around 3 miles each way, in total. (Two miles to the station, a mile from the station at the other end to work, and the same journey in reverse in the evening).

As any fule kno, 3 miles is a distance that any bicycle laughs at, so I've been seriously considering a folding bike for those days when 28 miles a day of riding seems a bit much.

Why a folding bike? In their wisdom, Britain's railway companies offer little in the way of carriage for full sized bicycles, and will occasionally make you reserve in advance, pay a supplemental charge, &c &c. (A to B magazine provide an excellent summary of train operators' cycle policies here). The rail part of my usual commute is handled by the excellent and pragmatic Northern Rail, who will carry bicycles on a first come, first served basis, so long as they do not block exits &c.

However, because my "long train" commute is at a later time, I can end up travelling with different train operators, and at busier times, so my chance of being "bumped" from the service increases. Here's where the folding bike comes in - almost all operators will carry folding bikes without restriction. Plus, of course, on my later commute, I can unfold the bike at the other end, and cycle to work, an advantage over using a full size bike to get to the start of my train journey only.

Having read around a little, I'd pretty much decided upon the British designed "Mezzo D9" which looks to be a nice bike with compact fold and what's claimed to be "a big bike ride". (I think this is at least partly to do with it having a steering offset (it has a conventional stem on the fork, as opposed to a steering column directly above the forks).

(Mezzo bike Video)

Of course, no plan survives contact with a bike shop, so I've now convinced myself that the battle to be my folding bike has been joined, between the Mezzo, and the Brompton. Your take on either bike would be welcomed, but I suspect the final decision will hinge (no pun intended) upon a test ride, to be undertaken some time in the next couple of weeks.

(Brompton Folding Demonstration)

Useful Links;
The Folding Society
A to B Magazine
Mezzo Bikes

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In Which Britain is Colder than Expected

An old picture to illustrate a topical condition.

At the time this was taken, the cold weather seemed quite the novelty, rather than the seeming never ending freeze it's become more recently. I spotted this frosted gatepost and chain whilst walking the dog, and stopped to take this snap. Unfortunately, the dog was quite keen to get moving again, and it's largely this that's robbed this particular image of its sharpness. I'd advise you not to look at the larger versions, which are increasingly blurry/impressionistic.

The picture was taken on a Nokia N82, which is a surprisingly good tool for quick snaps, not shown off to particularly good advantage by this example.

The cold has cut my cycling to the minimum - I've ridden a few days, but they're seeming to be very much the exception rather than the rule. This is at least partly my fault, as I've an aversion to riding in icy conditions that doesn't seem to be shared by some of my fellow commuters (if you've ever tried to keep 25mm slicks on track in freezing conditions, you might share my misgivings). On the bright side, (literally) both mornings and evenings are getting lighter - springtime, and hopefully some nice riding weather, is on its way.