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An Interesting Infographic

August 22nd, 2013 by Mick Allan

Staying safe on bike ridden roads.

A guest post by Tora Saxon of National Accident Helpline

It is difficult to estimate how many people were encouraged onto their bicycles following the Olympics last year, and equally, how many people are benefitting from the recent government investment in cycling around England, but it’s certainly a lot.

Following the ever increasing number of cyclists on the road, the number of accidents has inevitably risen, reiterated by the increasing number of claims National Accident Helpline are seeing year on year. Therefore, all you cyclists out there need to be extra careful on your small framed, two wheeled vehicles – that cycle lane ain’t big enough for the both of us…

As documented in the infographic, 92% of all accidents involve another vehicle, whether it is another cyclist or an engine powered vehicle. Here are a few tips which will aid you whilst trying to survive on the roads:

Bicycles are the least visible vehicle on the road, so whether it be daylight or not, then some sort of reflective gear on your person or your bicycle is well recommended!

Even though your competitive nature might be forcing you to bomb it as soon as the lights go green, let other vehicles go first. Be aware of your actions, signal and let motorists know what you are doing.

Hopefully we’ll be seeing more and more cycling lanes due to the investments – so use them! It’s much safer to adjust your route to incorporate more cycle lanes.

Wear your damn helmet.


Gosh Tora, I don’t really know where to start with this. The infographic is jolly interesting but it strikes me that you’re talking very much from the point of view of a motorist. Or at least from the point of view of someone who lives in a society which accepts the car/motoring culture as the ‘norm’.

Cycling is not in itself a dangerous activity. On the contrary, it’s widely known that the positive health benefits of cycling outweigh the dangers by a factor of 20 to 1. The rise in cycling commuter numbers has, of course and inevitably, led to an increase in cyclist KSI rates. In the UK cyclists have an entitlement, a right, to use the roads. Car drivers have responsibilities. They also require qualifications and licenses. Cyclists are entitled, motorists require permission. And, lest we forget, cyclists were here first. Cyclists have every right to use the roads, to go about their legal business without the ever present threat of car violence. So your ‘advice’ that ‘cyclists need to be extra careful’ really grates. Your plea needs to be directed, not at cyclists but at the drivers of the motor vehicles which pose the danger. You say that ‘bicycles are the ‘least visible vehicles on the road’. Again, your advice, such as it is, would be far better directed at motorists. When you pass your test to earn the privilege of driving on our roads it’s made clear that drivers have a duty of care to other road users. Drivers should be driving in such a way as to expect the existence of cyclists. Driving in the distance they know to be clear. That means looking out for other road users, bollards, errant peds and even cyclists.

Your next piece of ‘advice’; ‘to let other vehicles go first’. Where did you get this from? It’s not in the Highway Code and it’s not to be found in the guidelines of The National Standards for Cycling (Bikeability). I fear you might have made this bit up.

Urging cyclists to wear flourescent garb, reflectors and helmets shifts the burden of responsibility away from those responsible for the danger onto the victims of that danger. It’s like telling everyone to wear camo and bullet proof vests when theres a mad man running amok with a gun. Or, and forgive me for stretching the analogy, expecting women to dress down and not go out after dark to avoid being raped.

Please. Tell it to the perpetuators of car violence – not the victims. Wear a damn helmet? Really? Go ahead and find me a single shred of evidence that cycling safety helmets have any measurable efect on cycling KSI rates. I can predict with a high degree of confidence that you will not.

If people are being knocked off their bikes it’s not because they’re riding bikes in traffic it’s because drivers aren’t taking enough care. I know this to be true because I ride and I drive and the world is full of idiots who don’t give a damn about others on the road or the quality of their own driving.

If your attitude is representative of the views held by the general motoring population and/or the people who make up the UK insurance industry – I despair. It’s no surprise that cycling is such an unpleasant experience on British roads.


Bespoked Bristol and me

April 17th, 2013 by Mick Allan

I was at the first annual Bespoked Bristol, the UK’s version of the NAHBS (North American Handmade Bicycle Show) and named it as my favourite bicycle show of all time. And I’ve seen a few let me tell you. And I exhibited (the Cyclorama book) at the second annual Bespoked Bristol after which I declared it better than the first and still the best bicycle show of all time. This year was even better, a subtle change of exhibitors including the very welcome addition of The Brompton Bicycle Co. who seem to go from strength to strength … to strength (BTW – their new brake levers will be available ‘in a few weeks’ I was assured. Yay). In the first year, and the second (and at the European Handmade Show held in Germany four years ago) I wandered the hall for hours in thrall to the assembled loveliness. Round and around I went, inspecting the lugs and mitres, paint finish and components, as if searching for the holy grail. These bikes are the cream of the crop. The very best that you can buy. There were a few more ’showstoppers’ than in previous years, blatant attempts by exhibitors to capture the attention of the media/visitors. And, actually, my favourite part of the show. Donhue had his wicked looking draft speed racer – the like of which we haven’t seen since the seventies. (as ever – right click and ‘view image’ to see full size)

Donhue draft speed racer

What appeared to be the most technically advanced Bakfiets in the world was present with this extraordinary front suspension incorporating the first bicycle ‘hub centre steering’ set-up I’ve ever seen (it crops up occasionally on show/custom motorcycles). Very awesome, if a bugger to keep clean – and I enjoyed the irony of such an over-engineered front end on a ‘utility’ bike. It didn’t have a rear mudguard either. Tut!

Blingy bakfiets

a brown bike


Beirdy weirdy


My highlight of the show – I was really chuffed to have an opportunity to shake the hand of Paul, of Paul’s Components. He was, by all accounts, taken aback and somewhat overwhelmed by the fandom and hero worship he felt from the British crowds. Nice. I didn’t take so many pics this year, partly because trying to get a clear shot was a nightmare with the sheer number of droolers present (I couldn’t make the press day on Friday), but mostly because, about two hours after I arrived, I ran out of any desire to see another bike. In a moment of profound realisation, standing there amongst the throngs and with some of the most finely crafted and beautiful bikes on the planet, I realised… that I was bored.

I hadn’t seen that coming at all.

I love handmade bikes, don’t get me wrong, and I’ll definitely be there next year. It’s not you Bespoked Bristol, it’s me. What I wanted to see wasn’t present at Bespoked. What I wanted to see was not elitist, posey, hyper expensive bicycle shaped jewellery. Without me even knowing it I’ve moved on. What I wanted to see was ‘usefulness‘. None of the bikes at Bespoked are going to persuade a non cyclist to take up cycling to work. None of these bikes are the answer to the problem of how to transport kids to school. I want solutions to everyday folk’s everyday problems.

This feels like my Damascas moment.

I am really excited by a bike which was sent recently from Barcelona. It’s sort of mass produced (once they get going and hit some production numbers) it’s heavyish, slowish and (relatively) cheap. I’m riding it home tonight. Watch out for the review. This. Is exciting. This:


Windcheetah’s on the move…

March 26th, 2013 by Mick Allan

The Windcheetah has an enviable reputation in Human Powered Vehicle Racing circles. Designed by Mike Burrows in the early eighties it was the first high performance recumbent trike in the world. There had been other high speed machines, streamliners such as the Vector, but none before the ‘Speedy’ had such an enthusiasm for going around corners. Ballantine had one, and famously claimed that a Speedy could out-corner anything. And it could. Smaller and lighter than anything else on the road, a Speedy can make short work of a Porsche in a switchback. The only downside of the machine’s joi-de-vivre is a high bill for front tyre replacement! The ‘Speedy’ has won races and broken records all over the world, including a LEJoG for a faired machine which still stands. (As per usual – right click and ‘view image’ to see full size)

Andy Pegg - Window cleaner, recumbentist.

Demand for the Windcheetah, first from friends, then other BHPVC members and then the wider world meant that Mike was devoting more and more time to making Speedies, but Burrows never wanted to be a bicycle manufacturer, and so he licensed production to good friend and Speedy fan Bob Dixon. Burrows went on to design bikes for Giant in Taiwan, his own long-tail cargo bike the 8 Freight, and a whole bunch of racing bikes. Bob meanwhile manufactured and sold Speedies to customers all over the world, did a bunch of development work and evolved the design, but now, after being located in Cheshire for almost 20 years Windcheetah production has moved north to new premises in Lancashire. It’s entering a new phase.

New AVD Windcheetah

Karl Sparenberg and his company Advanced Velo Design Ltd. based in Darwen, have recently taken over responsibility of producing the iconic recumbent tricycle on behalf of designer Mike Burrows and has outlined his plans for the future.

“The Windcheetah has always been regarded as the most uncompromising high performance trike on the market and in pure performance terms it would be hard to improve on Mike’s classic design. However, the workshop relocation offers an opportunity to overhaul and improve the Windcheetah manufacturing methods, which in turn will bring improvement in engineering quality. With this in mind we have invested in new jigs and production tooling to improve the consistency and quality of the product. The Windcheetah will remain a hand built product , manufactured in the UK to very high engineering standards.”

Sparenberg’s commitment to continue manufacturing in the UK is unusual at a time when many specialist cycle manufacturers are outsourcing production of frames to Taiwan and China .

New AVD Speedy

“A major part of the appeal of a Windcheetah is the superbly engineered chassis built by artisan engineers. Our customers know that when they order a Windcheetah it will be a hand built machine, manufactured up to a specification and not down to a price. An increasing number of customers also appreciate our policy of sourcing as much as we can locally. From an environmental viewpoint it would be hard to justify having our frames made in Asia, importing them to the UK for assembly and then shipping them back to our markets in America, Europe and Australia. It isn’t possible to source every component in the UK but where possible we do. The chassis is such a fundamental element to the character of the Windcheetah it would be unthinkable to outsource its production. We’re very proud to be a UK company manufacturing a UK product ”

We’re big fans of the Speedy around here. I’ve owned three of them (including, separately, numbers 002 and 003) and Jim still owns 007. Although it’s changed in detail over the years, (the chain doesn’t run down the left hand side these days). it’s a testament to the soundness of the original design that it has remained fundamentally unchanged since it first hit the road.

Windcheetahs are very special. They are iconic, legendary, revered even, and they are held in such high esteem for good reason. Riding a Speedy – flat out, hanging out of the seat to keep the inside wheel down whilst clipping the apex of a curve – should be on every cyclists ‘101 things do to before you die’ list. Nothing else comes close.

Pedal Powered Wedding Transport

October 18th, 2012 by Mick Allan

My working life has changed a bit since the desk was absorbed into the Get Cycling office. Instead of my lonely little office out in the sticks I’m now surrounded by humans, which took a bit of time to get used to. One of the upshots being that occasionally one of those humans leans over and asks me to do something.

Last weekend that something was decorating this! It’s a lovely thing.

(though Caz did do most of it… TBF)

Wedding Rickshaw
Wedding Rickshaw Bike
pedal powered limo-shaw
Pedal powered wedding limo trike
Note the 'high security'.
Note the ‘high security’ cable tie around a lamp post!

So if you know a Yorkshire based cycling couple (or non-cycling couple for that matter) who are making wedding plans – you know where to send them!

Almost makes me want to make an honest woman out of Caz, though I expect I’d have to do most of the pedalling…


September 18th, 2012 by Mick Allan

Or Sharkbike in English…



no guts no glory

Book Review: Just Ride.

August 30th, 2012 by Mick Allan

Just Ride cover

I’ve been a fan of Grant Petersen for a very long time. I first became aware of him when he was head honcho at Bridgestone bikes. I even worked for a short time in a Bridgestone Bicycles dealership;  Hollywood Bikes in LA. Petersen continued to extol the virtues of steel as a frame material when the whole industry seemed hell bent on abandoning steel for oversized aluminum. Bridgestone bikes featured lugged frame and fork construction long after everyone else had adopted tig welding. What Petersen was trying to do was retain some of the features he valued, but in the fickle trend-led world of mountain biking Bridgestone bikes eventually became thought of as old fashioned, behind the times, obselete. I don’t know if this was the reason that Bridgestone (giant Japanese manufacturing conglomerate) stopped making mountain bikes and shut down their US operation. Probably.

Thankfully Grant Petersen went on to found Rivendell Bicycle Works. Which kinda picked up where Bridgestone left off. Rivendell bikes are steel, their frame tubes brazed together using lugs of various degrees of fanciness. But this is merely the cornerstone of Rivendell’s ‘velosophy’. Rivendell Bikes are the antithesis of the super-light-weight close-clearance carbon-fibre race-bred bikes which dominate the high end of the bicycle industry. They are also the antidote.

To modern eyes these bikes look old fashiooned, and they are, but it goes way deeper. These are not superficially retro styled bikes. Petersen recognised that lots of people were riding the wrong bike. Wrong in size, but more often wrong in type. The equivalent of everybody riding around in the bicycle equivalent of a Formula 1 car.

His occasional ramblings on the excellent Rivendell website have been condensed into an excellent book; Just Ride, A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike. As someone with a pretty clear set of notions about cycling this book was a revelation. Firstly he changed my mind on a bunch of subjects. As a self proclaimed seeker after the truth this was ‘interesting’. (it’s hard to be rewired so profoundly at my age). It also put in to words a few ideas which were already coalescing in my mind – his chapter on clip-in pedals smacked my right between the eyes.

And I disagreed with him on a bunch of stuff (Woo. Big deal you say? For me, sad old bicycle anorak who finds mistakes in every bicycle magazine or book I’ve ever read that’s quite a big deal), but he’s not wrong. We simply hold different views. And I loved it. Reading a book whose subject matter is so well thought out, so thorough and resolved. A radical and serious book by a true expert. It’s just about the best bicycle book I have ever read. There is not a single word of BS in the whole thing. Not just a book to read to understand Petersen’s philosophy, I understand my cycling better having read it, and I thought I knew it all. My only criticism? It was too damn short.

If you ride a bicycle I urge you to read this book. It might just challenge everything you think you know.

I sent Grant a copy of Cyclorama, I almost wish I hadn’t because his book is so bloody brilliant I feel embarrassed to have him read mine! What I really do wish is that I’d read his book before I’d written Cyclorama. That tells you something huh?

Mr Petersen and his publishers have kindly allowed us to reproduce an extract from his book in our Bike Culture section, here – The Shoes Ruse

There are lots more book reviews in Cyclorama’s Bike Culture archive here.