Thursday, 29 October 2009

Rush-Hour Cycle Lane - Don't you just love school holidays

This was the main A road into Blackburn this morning during the rush-hour. Who needs a cycle lane when the road is so quiet?

Plenty of time to take some autumn shots in morning light, brighter since the hour change.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Darkness

It approaches, creeping like a thief in the night, with gradual increasing intensity. September and October are twilight months for the commuter. The remaining light is enough to see by and the visibility is good enough for us cyclists to be seen if supplemented with high visibility clothing and lights. This coming weekend sees the end to that softly softly approach. With the change in daylight savings time by one hour, we are thrown abruptly into real darkness, when ambient light conditions offer nothing to the cyclist.

From now on we have to rely on street lights and lights from vehicles to help other road users pick us out on the road. With highly contrasting bright lights and reflections in a black road scape, especially in the wet, the difficulty of seeing cyclists is increased dramatically. To make sure you stand out get some high intensity LED lights that flash. UK law dictates you should have a steady red rear light, for which you can use a cheap LED light, but for maximum effect a quality unit with Japanese LEDs is best. High intensity LEDS at the front also help bring us to a more equal standing with motorised traffic.

Stay safe, and happy commuting.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Coniston in Drizzle

This is a picture from the ride at the weekend when we went out for a ride with the South Lakes Group of the Rough Stuff Fellowship. It's an organisation with an interesting history of getting places with a bike that you might not think possible or is the domain of hardened mountain bikers. The RSF pre-dates mountain bikes and has been getting off the beaten track since 1955.

Despite the drizzle and rain, it was a great ride with some peaceful and moody views along Coniston and up to Grizedale. Plenty of folk out too, which I suppose is the norm for Grizedale. More photos on the South Lakes Group site.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

"Sorry Mate

- I didn't see you."

If you ride on the road regularly, this is something that is likely to have happened to you. It happened to Mrs P this very day when a woman turned left into the local recycling centre and nearly took out her front wheel. It happened to me a couple of weeks ago in Staveley when someone pulled out without looking.

The close-shave, near-miss or other heart stopping moment where man and machine nearly collides with another man and machine is all too common and often the excuse is they didn't see us. For the cyclist, being the more vulnerable one in the encounter, this is to be avoided as the outcome is not usually pretty should a collision occur. It's also a problem for motorcyclists.

What can you do to avoid it? There are a number of things but the Cycle Touring Club want to do more to raise awareness and support cyclists. They have created a new website where you can report your SMIDY incidents and get help and advice.

Other SMIDSY resources:

Something's eating my handlebars

I must admit to being somewhat bemused by this statement, utterred by Mrs P, on return from her ride. My mind pictured some terrible chemical accident that resulted in some corrosive potion getting on her bike and, more frightfully, herself. The damage, it turned out, was not done on the ride but was evident before she departed, it was just the way it was disclosed that caused my alarm.

Sure enough when I looked, the right-hand side of her butterfly bar's foam has small gouges all the way round. Our shed obviously has rodent visitors who like nibbling on rubber and plastic. The little blighters! They also destroyed some roof-bar covers. We need to nip this problem in the neck before any more expensive damage is done.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Aldi Bike Light Review

Aldi recently offerred a twin set of front and rear LED cycle lights at £3.99. A set of lights at this price is a snip but, like most things, you get what you pay for. So what are you getting for your four quid? Not a lot, it has to be said. The lights come in plastic sealed packaging is probably more durable than the lights themselves.


Included are two mounts and batteries. The mounts are of poor quality with nuts and bolts that don't fit particularly well and require tools to fit. Basic spacers are provided for fitting to different diameter bars and stems. The rear mount is for a seat post only not frame. The lights are fixed to the bike by sliding their clips into the holders on the mounts. This clip on the rear of each light is a nice touch since it can be used to attach to a rucksack or clothing.


The lights themselves are three LED units running off two AAA batteries. Both lights are of similar design and cheap construction with a hard plastic seal, which probably doesn't so I wouldn't anticipate continued operation in wet weather. They are basically a back plate with batteries either side of a central circuit board holding the four standard low power LEDs and the switch sensing circuit. These are not high power high intensity LEDs and consequently the light output is relatively weak. The battery contacts are also flimsy. On one set they didn't make contact with the circuit board so the lights didn't work. The lens cover snaps onto the back plate to close the unit, it's clear on the front and red on the rear. The units are are small, which is a nice thing about these lights - they are easy to pop into your pocket.


The lights work by pressing a small rubber button on the back of the light. Two modes are available, flashing and steady. The front uses cheap light-green LEDs rather than the better white LEDs more commonly found in lights and torches these days. The rears use red LED's. In operation, these lights fulfil the basic legal requirement for UK Road Vehicle Regulations but are not very bright. They certainly don't emit enough light to see by and only sufficient to be visible in the right conditions. For winter use in traffic and bad weather, these lights are inadequate to be seen by. Battery life is indeterminate - I haven't used them long enough to find out.


These lights are cheap for the money and it shows. They are suitable only to be seen by on traffic-free routes, cheap back-ups or, at a push, getting back from the pub. As a get-me home option, probably OK for the summer, but for busy road riding on winter nights, steer clear and get something safer.

Supplier: Aldi £3.99
Quality:          2/10
Performance: 2/10
Value for money: 4/10