Wednesday, August 27, 2008

London Cycle Chic?

Where will all these fashionable young things be when summer is over?

Riding through a wind-swept autumn in Primark’s finest, doesn’t cut it. For comfort, it is hard to beat clothing designed specifically for the task of cycling; the coats with extra tuck-under and ventilation zones with aerodynamic considerations. The cycling socks which keep you bone dry. The high-visibility colours which fight for driver’s visual attention, and reduce the SMIDSY potential.

The fashionistas may scoff at the predictability of purposeful bright road presence. If the flock is to be followed; “that’s SO last year, BLACK is the new yellow, keep up...” “ You look FAB at night… lights? oh no, they spoil the lines, darling…”

I agree that specialist clothing can be seen as a barrier to access. If people are hopping down the shops, normal clothes are great for that. There’s no logic in expecting people to wear special clothes and accessories, if it’s going to make cycling less attractive to the curious and the waiting converts.

On the other hand, if the ride is longer, or the comfort stakes higher, maybe it’s better to wear padded cycling shorts, of the Lycra or baggy variety. Plus whatever other equipment adds some tangible or useful benefits to the bike journey.

Of course, it’s great that cycling is getting positive exposure, as a desirable trend. But trends come, and trends go.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

RSS Feeds = Blog Theft

Having been around for two and a half years, this site; Cycling London, Urban Commuting by Bike, has gained some unwanted attention.

A few sites have taken to automated stealing of the original content, word for word. I spend the time creating, writing and editing the content, then they steal it instantly and publish it as their own.

It's quite disheartening, and Google don't have a grip on it yet. Which means that the bad sites often outrank the original source site, through underhand manipulation of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).

If you have a blog or website, do visit this site:, enter your url, and the useful resource will instantly sniff around for any dodgy sites which may have nicked your content and published it as their own.

I'm not going to link to the offending sites, as this would only help their SEO status.

So the point is; I've turned off the RSS feed for Cycling London. If this was useful to you previously, please contact me. In the mean time, email updates are available from FeedBurner here, and on the right side-bar.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

London Cycling Competition

Cycling in London offers an eclectic array of sites, visions and landscapes which are probably taken for granted if ridden past every day.

For anyone not living in London, there may exist a curiosity about what the tarmac pounding and green living actually looks like, in and around Old Father Thames.

A nice idea is to document what we see from the handlebars of London, and share it.

TfL are also running a little photo competition, incentivised with £600 squid.

So you really could be better off by bike. Ha!


“Photographs will be judged according to their originality, appropriateness and relevance to the promotion of 'cycling' and quality of photography.”

Entries will be categorised by London boroughs as follows:

  • Barnet
  • Camden
  • Enfield
  • Haringey
North East
  • Hackney
  • Islington
  • Waltham Forest
South West
  • Hounslow
  • Kingston
  • Richmond
  • Merton
  • Wandsworth
  • Lambeth
  • Sutton
  • City of London
West Central
  • Hammersmith and Fulham
  • Kensington and Chelsea
  • Westminster
South East
  • Bexley
  • Bromley
  • Lewisham
  • Southwark
  • Croydon
  • Greenwich
  • Brent
  • Harrow
  • Ealing
  • Hillingdon
  • Barking and Dagenham
  • Newham
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Havering
  • Redbridge
Final advice; state where your cycling photo was taken, and get consent if it features somebody.

See here.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Rent Bikes in London

Thinking of renting a bike? A number of London cycle companies supply bicycle hire by the hour, or by the day. This method offers a very accessible way to try cycling in London.

Motivations to rent a bike:

Sightseeing tourists seeking a healthier, more engaging way to tour London; by bike.

  • Drivers and train commuters investigating the feasibility of cycling, prior to joining a cycle to work scheme.
  • Cyclists in quest of something exciting and unusual, e.g. tandems, recumbent bikes, Nihola Child carrying bikes.
  • Short-term London residents, to whom it’s more economical to rent a bike.
  • Cycle commuters needing a replacement bicycle while their bike is serviced.
  • Parents organising a family day out, renting kids bikes, in ultra-safe, traffic-free, green spaces.
  • Businesses hiring bicycles during bike week to encourage staff to cycle.
  • Infrequent cyclists, who have no storage space.
  • Clever Londoners circumventing the hassle of train or tube strikes.

Where To Rent A Bike In

Bicycle hire companies and rates:

Go Pedal - Bike Hire

Bike Type: "Classic city cruiser".
Cost: from £19 per day.
Chrome mudguards.
Baggage rack.
Helmet and 'D' lock included.

Family Bike Hire
£7 per hour for kids bikes.
£7 per hour for full-size conventional bikes.
£12 per hour to hire tandems.
£15 per hour for recumbent bikes.

OY Bike - London Bike Rental
Bike Type: "yellow rental bikes".
Cost: £2 per hour,
with a sliding scale;
up to £8 per day.
Mainly available in West London.

Velorution - Folding Bike Hire
Bike Type: Folding bikes.
(Brompton / Dahon, etc).
Cost: £20 per day,
£15 per subsequent day.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Part II - Baggy Cycling Shorts

Continuing from Part I - Lycra cycling shorts; what if the aerodynamic efficiency of revealing Lycra attire does not appeal? Do you feel too much like Borat in a mankini?

Baggy Cycling Shorts

On paper, baggy cycling shorts shouldn’t sell: They are loose clothing which flaps in the wind, causing some unnecessary drag. However, it’s not all bad, on hotter days, such air intakes are a welcome breeze.

To go baggy becomes a compromise in favour of increased practicality, and possibly fashion criteria too.

Certain models are so well designed with subtle styling, that the shorts can easily be worn away from the bike, and blend-in with day-to-day functions very inconspicuously. Something which cannot be said, for joining the supermarket checkout queue in a curve-hugging Lycra bib.

For brands, try:

Downhill Cycling Shorts

These are designed for a very specific purpose; fast downhill mountain biking, where the emphasis is on rider protection. Strengthened areas include additional padding for the faller, and tougher materials for the endurance of the shorts. These additions are reflected in the substantially higher price.

Downhill cycling attire tends to be oversized, to enable compatibility with the significant body armour and pads worn underneath. This makes them heavy and solid. Great for their designed purpose, but not the ideal choice for daily bike commuting. Unless you live at the top of a mountain.


  • 661
  • Adidas
  • Endura
  • Fox
  • Race Face
  • Sombrio
  • Spyder

Best cycling shorts?

Considering the all above, what are the best cycling shorts? The answer becomes a personal choice comprising each individual’s priorities of; wind resistance (drag), fashion, practicality (e.g. pockets), comfort (e.g. cooling, padding), ride types (long-distance, or to the shops), and cost.

Looking around the cycle routes of London, it’s clear that there are many different personal interpretations of what order those priorities should reside in.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Part I - Lycra Cycling Shorts

Aside from the saddle, and frame ergonomics, cycling shorts are the most important clothing surface influencing bike riding comfort.

What are the best types of cycling shorts?

Starting at the lower end of the market, the term misleadingly describes plain close-fitting stretchy shorts, traditionally worn by colour-blind members of the 1980’s. £5 on such an item, will gain you an audition for bananarama, but not cycling comfort.


All true cycling shorts have strategically located padded areas for dramatically increased comfort. Pads made of chamois provide spongy compression, and moisture absorption. Often, a bacteria-retardant synthetic chamois is supplied.

Lycra Cycling Shorts

These are the classic look, which comes to mind when you say; “cycling shorts”.
Their figure-hugging design, benefits aerodynamic considerations greatly: Having loose material flapping about like a sail, is an expedient way to waste your energy.

Lycra is to spandex, what Hoover is, to vacuum cleaners. The popular Lycra branded material can offer strong compression which may reduce muscle fatigue on longer rides.

To emulate the stars of the tour de France, cycling apparel in team colours will shoot the clothing expense skywards. Paying a premium to promote somebody else’s sponsors on your legs, doesn’t make you ride any faster! In fact, by wearing race colours, it only adds to your embarrassment when a determined granny zips her shopper past your glucose-expended limbs.


Bib Cycling Shorts

Here the shorts are integrated with a vest to make a one-piece outfit. The benefits are in a secure fit: Less movement means less friction, which is a good thing for those parts doing the moving.

A seamless design will ensure smooth contact with the skin, and reduce any irritation. A higher number of panels will lead to a better fit.

As well as the positive aerodynamic properties, the bib cycling shorts do not rely on an elasticated waist to stay in place. This should result in increased comfort, and totally eradicates the issue of shorts slipping downward.


Lycra is great, but where are you going to put your keys? See: Part II - Baggy cycling shorts.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Car, Tube, & Bike London

Riding a bike in London could be considered a daunting prospect, by those who haven’t tried it. In reality, it’s very accessible to anyone seeking a more enjoyable and less stressed method of urban travel.Take three typical London journeys, by bike, by car and by tube. What’s a day in the life, like?

Tube Traveller

One trillion people use the London Underground every day, and most of them will be in your carriage. Upon raising your eyebrows at yet another inflation-exceeding price rise for your travelcard, you descend in to the tunnels of doom, to join the five person deep throng which awaits the already-full incoming tube train.

You let a few tube trains go, because a) nobody could fit on, and b) one bloke looked a bit like achmed the terrorist.

Once on the tube train, amidst the crush, you’re thankful it’s the morning cattle train, where the occupants’ strong eau de toilette is still potent, causing enough light-headedness to help blank-out the distressing journey. The hot afternoon return leg is a different story…

Car driver

You step in to your big investment, and admire the gadgets; sat nav, traction control, sports mode. You take a last look, because you won’t be needing any of them. The dashboard display reads mpg, average speed (eek!), fuel remaining, but wisely does not inform the cost per minute. Running this resource-hungry investment in London, needs its own accountant.

It is possible to fit 10 bicycles in to the road space a car takes up. London is not a new-town design. London was designed and built for horse and cart movements, we’ve been only tinkering with the roads ever since. You know that, and prepare for another crawl of frustrating traffic jams, clogged junctions, and parking nightmares.

Bike Rider

You set off and take an option on your route; perhaps a little detour by a canal, or through a tranquil park before returning to the roads. You take it easy and the wind keeps you cool, you’ve realised that wherever there are traffic lights, it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you pedal, the journey time remains reliably static.

You filter gracefully past long lines of traffic, and arrive at your very own green box at each set of lights. You never see the same red signal more than once. You look left and notice that vehicles are spending more time stationary, than moving. You look right and watch the crowds pour from the confined underground.

White-van-man supplies a compliment about your legs, an understandable release of frustration since he has been stuck in traffic for the last two hours, and on paper, should be going faster than you.

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