Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Yellow Vest With Speed Display

The Speed Vest is a high visibility yellow cycling vest, with reflectors and a large inbuilt speedometer display, which broadcasts the cyclist’s speed to following traffic.

The inventors Brady & Mykle pitch this vest worn over your cycling jersey as a road safety tool, supposedly impressing drivers by demonstrating that any cyclist can ride at 10mph to 15mph.

No. Drivers stuck behind cyclists are not going to enjoy the reminder of how slow they are travelling. Road safety? Not really: Vehicles approaching from behind the cyclist, have plenty of time to judge the difference in speed, and the biggest factor is visibility, for example; lots of red flashing lights on the bike.

The Speed Vest, would serve the biggest road safety offering, if the speed readout was on the front of the vest, and drivers waiting to pull out of a junction, could use the speed information e.g. "10mph" or "25mph" to help decide whether to pull out in-front of the oncoming cyclist or not. This would be very useful because some drivers regularly misjudge the oncoming speed of other road users.

Popular Cycling Vest

This product could be hugely popular, but who is going to buy it?

  • Men.
More specifically; men competing in the Great Unspoken London Commuter Race.
What more tantalising a motivation, than a Speed Vest 100m ahead, reading 15mph while your own speedometer reads 18mph. Think; red flag to a bull, and hare to a greyhound.

In London’s apparently competitive and aggressive society, it has to be one of the most harmless and fun games going. Like most games, it is ultimately pointless (professional footballers take note!). Can you imagine the scene as one hurry-on Harry pursues the next speed target ahead, in a silly but effective stress-burning ride home.

If the inventors manage to start producing this for the mass market, I guarantee it will absolutely fly off the shelves! These boys are due a trip to Dragon’s Den!

Various designers have been muting the concept of wearable technology for a while now, but that seemed mostly ridiculous; like parading down the catwalk with a radio on your head. However, here is a genuinely usable idea, which if released, will create a market for something we did not know we needed.

View the official Speed Vest site.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Roads Closed For London Freewheel

Cyclists of all ages made their presence known this Sunday, as an environmentally friendly yellow snake made its way leisurely passed some of London’s major attractions.

Around 50,000 cyclists enjoyed an ideal cycling environment; 100% free from motorised transport, experiencing only the sound of celebratory horns and excitement, and only the taste of cleaner air.

Perhaps if oil prices continue their natural escalation as fossil fuels diminish, the sight of a car-less London is a very real possibility in the not-too-distant future.

London Freewheel

The first London Freewheel was developed by the former Mayor of London; Ken Livingstone and Transport for London (TfL), to promote the transport mode of cycling in the capital. Since the first London Freewheel in 2007 was a roaring success, it was no surprise that Sunday's cycling event was hugely popular once again.

This year previous sponsor Hovis was replaced by Sky Sports for the 2008 London Freewheel.

Hub locations fed the main route with a keen supply of bright cyclists from the Emirates Stadium, Victoria Park, Clapham Common and Ravenscourt Park.

The main route at 12km (7.45 miles) long, offered London’s bike riders enviable views of the capital highlights such as;

  • Houses of Parliament
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Tower of London

Olympic Cycling Presence

Boosted by Britain's Olympic successes on the world stage, ambassadors for UK sport supported the event, including Beijing heroes; Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Ed Clancy, Jamie Staff and Shanaze Reade.

Bike rental firms helped quench the massive demand for everything two-wheeled, and if the Freewheel event is an inspiration for non-cyclists to try eco-power in the capital, the option to rent a bike in London, is always available.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Part III - Bicycle Security: Conclusion

Concluding this three part guide on the topic of avoiding bike theft, which started with; Part I - Bike Theft Choices, this article also looks at bike parking locations and decisions.

Statistics show that, depending on who is consulted;

“A bike is stolen every 71 seconds in the UK”

“A bike is stolen every 65 seconds in the UK”

Neither choice makes for happy perusal. The fact remains that stealing bikes remains a low risk and high reward combination for thieves. The Metropolitan Police are not interested in the problem and it is largely treated as a paperwork exercise.

The cycling adage of “strength in numbers” seems not to apply to public bike racks. London's selfish individualism is exposed in this respect, where no-longer can you rely on reserves of have-a-go heros, to tackle the bad guy busting a lock in 17 seconds.

Many “official” cycling tips advise that bikes be left in busy public areas, in clear view of passers by. Personally, I disagree, based on the fact that everybody does exactly that; passes by.

Where to leave your bike?

Professional criminals will ultimately steal something if they really want it, and bike theft centres on desire. If you lock a desirable bike in a public place, the bicycle thieves on patrol will eventually see it. So an underrated logic is; don't show the bike thieves the bike in the first place.

The traditional idea is that if you leave a bicycle in a secluded room, the bike thief has an uninterrupted opportunity to go to work on the locks. True, but as we've seen, a public spot is not much deterrent anyway.

Personally I'd feel happier locking my bike in a store cupboard or locked garage, because no attention is being drawn to the bike while it is hidden away.

Alternatively, I've had office jobs where the (conventional) bike has lived next to my desk at work. Aside from the benefit of having a permanent security guard (me), the bike became a talking point and encouraged others to cycle to work, whilst also reminding the employer that the need for secure bicycle parking is genuine.

Folding bikes then, have a huge advantage in terms of security because they need not be left unattended, and can be stowed pretty-much anywhere convenient; under desks, on shelves, completely off the thief's radar.

London bike theft

Stepping back to ask why bikes are stolen, aside from international criminal gangs who ship stolen bikes abroad, it brings the simple domestic mechanics that we the riding public are willing to buy stolen bikes: Sometimes we are duped, sometimes we are suspicious, and sometimes we irresponsibly turn a blind eye.

It doesn’t matter if the story is; “it’s second hand…” or “clearing out my old gran’s house…” it is inexcusably obvious that a bike worth £500 being sold for £50, is stolen. Short-sighted buyers who help perpetuate the demand, receive a severe dent in karma-phala and a path strooned with guilt-ridden punctures.

Open question: Where do you lock your bike during the day?

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Part II – Stolen Bikes: Prevention

Following on from Part I – Bike Theft Choices, part II concentrates on actions to prevent bike theft.

Consider things from a bike thief's point of view; perhaps driving around in the inconspicuous white van, or concealing tools in a jacket pocket, a known hot spot is checked for today's pickings. The criminal will select one or more owners to upset, based on logical considerations such as:

  • Which bike is easiest to sell-on quickly?
  • Which locks are easiest and quickest to break?
  • Which bicycle has the fewest variety of locks defending it?
  • Which one is going to cause the least hassle, in terms of identifiers and uniqueness?

Locking securely

Use a small U-lock and secure it to the bike in a way which minimises the empty space in the centre of the U-lock. If you can fit your fist through the centre of the U-lock, then so can a thief position a hydraulic device which will snap open you lock almost instantly. Give the thief no room, and you bike is suddenly much more secure, compared to the next bike, which has an oversized U-lock swinging leisurely about the bike frame’s top tube.

Quick release wheel skewers and seat post fixings offer easy access for bicycle thieves wishing to asset strip the bike for parts. Even to replace one wheel + tire can cost you over £100. Make more work for the bike burglar by fitting traditional fixings that at least require a tool and more time to undo. Worth considering are also Pitlock skewers or Pinhead components.

It’s common sense, but bikes get nicked while left unlocked outside the local corner shop, even for just a minute. This is very appealing to an opportunist thief because not only do they get your property, it doubles as a quick getaway vehicle too.

Don't just lock it; lock it TO a fixed anchor such as railings, a Sheffield stand, lamppost cycle hoop, M stand, or security ground anchor.

Avoiding bike theft

If the lock passes through the frame and a wheel, but nothing else, it may deter opportunists but will not stop the bike being thrown in the back of a van for subsequent lock breaking, at the thief’s leisure.

If possible, point the keyhole of your lock towards the ground, this will deter bike thieves from pouring glue in to the keyhole to make it redundant, forcing the bike to be left at that location, upon which the criminals can choose when to return.

Do remove valuable accessories like lights, detachable speedometers and bike bags. Most products are designed with quick-release fittings for this purpose.

If you are using a motorbike-style chain, lock it so that any excess chain is wrapped up tightly, and not flailing around. If left loose, the perpetrator can position the chain in the position he wants it, for the easiest break. It's all about making their life difficult.

Now read Part III - Bicycle Security: Conclusion, which includes where to lock your bike.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Part I - Bike Theft Choices

Knowledge and informed decisions are the two things that will reduce the risk of getting your bike stolen in London. Here is a three-part guide to beat the bike thieves.

Part I considers the strategical choices made which lower the risks of becoming an inconvenienced statistic.

Security Choices

Do not believe the hype. - Lock manufacturers proudly ascribe gleaming approved and tested ratings, from the likes of Sold Secure and Thatcham, but these are not accurate, as a number of YouTube examples will demonstrate.

The point here, is that no bike is 100% immune from being stolen, no matter how many reassuring “approved” stickers garnish the lock's packaging.

So rather than buying a highly desirable steed then fighting to keep it out of the criminals' stained hands, there are some aspects to consider when buying a bike for use in London:

  • Mountain bikes are a very popular product for dodgy criminal transactions.
  • Popular brand-named models are easy for criminals to sell-on.
  • Traditional mudguards are “functional and practical”. Thieves want “desirable and nickable”.
  • Drop handlebars also appear to be less attractive to thieves.
  • Folding bikes have the advantage that you can carry them with you, thus not leaving them exposed to the preying eyes of passing opportunists.

Buying a Bike Lock

In theory, the more you spend, the better the lock. As demonstrated above though, do dispose of the security promises (e.g. safe for five minutes sustained attack), along with the packaging. That said, a good expensive lock is more of a deterrent than a limp inexpensive lock. There are some types of locks to be avoided in any case:
  • Combination locks – Cons: As useful as a chocolate kettle. Pros: MAY stop the bike from being blown-over in the wind.
  • Cheap wire locks – Cons: Easily cut, and sometimes easily picked too. Pros: Slightly more useful than securing your bike with string.

Tracking-Device Deterrents

Immobilise is an excellent free service in which true owners register their property online, and if it is stolen, can sometimes be recovered by the Police. Specifically for cyclists, there is also: ImmobiTag.

“ImmobiTag is a radio frequency identification device designed specifically to be embedded into a bike's frame. Each tag contains a unique serial number that can be read by all UK Police forces, allowing the bike’s details to be matched with the registered owner through the Police national property database.”

However, the biggest asset from your £14 tag, will actually be the warning sticker placed on your frame, presenting your beloved bicycle as; “more hassle than the other bikes” from the thief’s perspective, and lowering the chance of it being selected for thieving in the first place.

Now discover real actions that can be taken when locking your bike, in: Part II - Stolen Bikes: Prevention.

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