Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Using a bike pannier as a shopping trolley: the B&W International B3 Bike Bag.

Normal pannier bags are great on a bike or trike, but they do have one major disadvantage.  Once they leave the bike you will need to carry up to two panniers using a thin strap that cuts off the circulation in your fingers. Cyclists' rooms in the five star hotel de luxe or youth hostel are always a long way away from the entrance up two or three flights of stairs in another time zone and by the time you get to the room you have numb hands and claw-like fingers. I realise that one can attach a carrying strap and sling them over the shoulder, but the panniers get mucky and wet. Carrying them then can lead to domestic strife. We once went by bicycle to the Mannheimer Maimarkt (a regional Ideal Home/travel/DIY/agricultural show). I carried a pannier bag over my shoulder in the halls to transport  pamphlets and anything else we could scrounge. When we returned to the bikes I realised that the inner, wheel-side of the bag was very dirty. The panniers were used several times a week and had picked up greasy road dirt. This had transferred to my shirt. I was not a happy camper. I was not popular with her indoors either. 
I am impressed with the B&W International B3 Bag. This is a pannier bag equipped with two wheels and a telescopic handle. It would solve the hotel/hostel baggage problem when touring. We would probably use it primarily as a shopping trolley. It can be filled in the supermarket and then attached directly to the bike/trike.  It weighs about 4lb for a closed volume of 35L. This is about 1lb heavier than two Ortlieb Backroller Bags (40L volume). However this extra weight will not make much difference to the total weight of you, your bike/trike and the contents of the bag.
    A disclaimer I have not used this bag. I have just read a description and looked at specifications.  The company has not paid me in any shape or form to publish this note. The photographs are reproduced by permission of B&W International.

    Monday, May 11, 2020

    Pop up Cycle Tracks

    It has been suggested that air pollution is a multiplier for Covid-19 (1) . The internal combustion engine is a major contributor to air pollution in built up areas. Now obviously at the moment mass public transport is not a favoured method of getting about, so the British government has suggested private cars, cycles and feet as a means of getting to work in the present instructions for a loosened lockdown. Cycling and walking have the advantage that participants take exercise and improve their health. There are thus a number of initiatives to improve cycling safety and allow social distancing by widening  cycling and walking lanes in cities all the world using pop-up  lanes: Berlin and 133 cities in Germany, Milan, Oakland CA, Paris and Bogotá, just as examples (2).  These will be open at least for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic. This could obviously go for some time. Epidemologists have suggested up to two years, but predictions are very difficult, especially about the future. Maybe we will have a world where cycling numbers resemble those of Copenhagen after the pandemic is over, but don't hold your breath.  The forces against cycling are many and powerful. In 2016 in London the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association attempted to block the construction of the Embankment cycleway on planning grounds (3). The opposition to cycleways in Berlin is described in (4).

    1) https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/20/air-pollution-may-be-key-contributor-to-covid-19-deaths-study
    2)https://www.rtl.de/cms/pop-up-spuren-fuer-radfahrer-in-berlin-weniger-platz-fuer-autofahrer-4537989.html - use a Translator App
    3) https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/10/london-taxi-drivers-lose-high-court-challenge-to-cycle-superhighway
    4) https://www.tip-berlin.de/bike-friendly-city-the-reality-of-cycling-in-berlin/ 

    Thursday, April 30, 2020

    The digital SPEZI Germersheim 2020 on your PC

    We were very disappointed that the real actual SPEZI has been cancelled. We have been going since before 2005. I was looking forward to talking to HP Velotechnik and having serious discussions about the Gekko trikes we have bought recently. I am not alone in missing SPEZI. We took the trikes for a run over the border in Baden-Württemberg on Sunday afternoon and a passing Hase Pino captain shouted, "We'd rather be at SPEZI." He left with a traditional Mannheim cyclists' farewell, "Next year in Germersheim!"
    A popular event even ten years ago
    Social distancing was never going to be easy
    Serious discussions

    There's a digital SPEZI exhibition with a link from https://www.specialbikesshow.com/welcome-to-the-spezi.html under a big green button until the end of May. When you click on this you are transferred to the German website: https://virtual.spezialradmesse.de/virtual-spezi-2020.html#top.  If your German is not up to much it's a bit awkward, but… The first thing you will notice is a overhead photograph of the bus station in Germersheim which is used as a trike/bike demonstration arena during SPEZI. The German instructions tell you to "NACH UNTEN SCROLLEN", i.e. Scroll down. Do that! You can watch a short film of the Hase-Bike team singing "Happy Birthday" to SPEZI. This was to be the 25th SPEZI. I don't suppose the video will make the charts, but it sums up the friendliness and informality of the event. At the bottom of the page there is a blue banner with a number of boxes. Clicking on these leads to the "AUSSTELLERN" - the exhibitors, the "VORTRAGEN" - the lectures, the FANSHOP and a galler of photgraphs from the first ten years of the exhibition. Click on AUSSTELLERN to find a page showing the exhibition hall with box entitled "NACH UNTEN SCROLLEN". Do that and scroll down the page to see a list of all of the exhibitors who were taking part, at least up to the date when SPEZI was cancelled. Some of the exhibitors have contributions in English. They are well worth looking at. Each exhibitor has a box with name upon it and if you click on these they turn blue. The box then displays a lower box entitled "MEHR". Click on this and you are transferred to the exhibitor's contribution. (Much of this information is actually published in the lower part of the english language page.)

    AUSSTELLERN (Exhibitors) with english language videos

    AZUB has an image film showing a AZUB Ti FLY X full suspension trike with all 26" wheels racing round a forest. This has no commentary. For me it looks like an interesting trike to scare oneself half to death. I must admit AZUB would be on my list of folk to contact if I came up on the lottery. Course, I would need to buy a lottery ticket first and I suspect I'm too mean.

    Bernds  the German folding bike company shows a film about cycling around the Bodensee (Lake Constance) which perfectly understandable without German and very jolly to boot.

    HP Velotechnik has a film by the Laidback Bike Report discussing the new range of Gekko trikes.

    ICE (ICLETTA) distributors of ICE trikes, TerraCycle recumbent accessories has a gallery of ICE trikes underway. The company sells lots of weird trike gear and clothing for trikes that is probably the answer to many of those problems that seem unsolvable.

    Podbike has a short film about this unusual velocar, narrated by the owner of the company. 

    RadicalDesign is showing a film about a Brompton folding bike carrier bag that you can use as a rucksack to schlepp the bike. The rucksack can be folded and used as a daypack when it's not carrying the bike. The film also shows covers for velomobiles, special covers for use on cargo bikes and a tadpole trike garage.

    Santana's film shows how to disassemble a Santana tandem to pack into the company's flight case.

    Utopia a manufacturer of ergonomically designed bicycles, pedelecs and recumbent bikes, cross frames, trailer, and accessories has a film in English about the company showing how the bikes are manufactured. It looks at the beginning like it might be in Spanish. It is in English with Spanish subtitles.

    Velo:RE has a film about making belts from cast off bike tyres.

    Ventisit makes padded seats for recumbent seats and also lots of other non-cycle seats. Once I have uploaded this blog I am going to write to the company and buy a new seat for my Gekko.

    VORTRÄGE (Lectures)
    There are two lectures in English. „Cycling without age“ is about an organisation that takes older folks out on Rickshaws. The other is a lecture about the Sun Trip 2018 –  12.000 km through 10  countries in 100 days using muscle power and Solarenergy. Initially it's a film of a lecture but they then show a film about their trip. Great stuff. These characters are to be admired. They built a back to back tandem trike where the captain steers and pedals and the stoker uses a rowing rig. We, my wife and I, had a reputation for mild eccentricity in the company I worked for, because once we cycled over the Alps to Lago Maggiore. In comparison to these two we were just making an adventure out of going the baker's round the corner. 

    The shop shows a number of souvenir articles. You can browse through these and if you want a description in English, then cut out the descriptions and paste them in Google Translator. If you want to buy something and I must admit, the Swiss cowbell strikes me as a good solution to the problem of cycling on mixed cycling/walkers' paths. The walkers will notice you are there. However the pries shown include postage and packing within Germany, but not abroad, Drop the organizers a line in simple English and tell them what you want. They will then inform you of the increased costs for postage abroad.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2020

    A digital SPEZI online

    Next weekend 25-26 April should see the SPEZI Special Bike Show in Germersheim, Rhineland Palatinate open its doors, but like the rest of Europe, Germany is in lockdown due to the Corona virus and large gatherings of people are verboten. It was hoped to hold this year's show in August, but this is not possible. The organisers are offering a virus-free exhibition online as a website with information from the exhibitors and filmed lectures. The lectures will only be shown online on 25 and 26 April, but the „exhibition“ will be online until 31 May.

    The website is offered in three versions: German (spezialradmesse.de/), English (www.specialbikesshow.com/and French (www.salonduvelospecial.com/). There is a slight difference between the websites in that the pre-publication information about the German site mentions ein Shop, but there is no information about a shop or a boutique on the English and French language versions. (Just to explain modern high German uses a lot of English words even when there is  an adequate German word.) I suspect the organisers are offering souvenir mugs, pencils, cloth shopping bags and the like. In addition however there is mention of a new Liegerad-Trikot (recumbent cycling shirt with a front pocket). I have written to the organisers about the nonappearance of the shop on the English and French websites. The problem arises because of the difference in shipping costs. The shirts can be sent abroad but not at the price shown in the website. The shipping costs will be higher, but if you wish to purchase a shirt you may do so. The organisers will write to you to enquire if you are prepared to pay slightly more for shipping. You may as well need to pay customs duties if the shirt is sent to a country outside of the EU. 

    Monday, March 16, 2020

    Corona Virus COVID-19 and SPEZI - the Special Bike Exhibition

    The German authorities have reacted well to the threat of the COVID-19 virus and have recognised the need to slow the spread of the disease. One emphasis is on "social distancing", i.e. you keep well away from others just in case they are suffering from the disease. This has led to nonessential meetings by clubs, etc. being cancelled. 
    Just as examples: 
    • All of the Heidelberg University Hospital public lectures, coloquia, symposia and the like have been cancelled for the present or at least postponed.  
    • The Mannheim Maimarkt, an Ideal Home and Agricultural Show that should have started at the same time has been forbidden by the Mannheim City authorities for the first since WWII. It is a large show with up to 340 000 visitors and 1400 exhibitors. It goes on for eleven days.  The Maimarkt is however of little interest to cyclists, though of considerable importance for the regional economy.  
    • The ADFC (German Cycling Club) has cancelled its programme of regular meetings and all local cycle tours.
    However SPEZI should have taken place in six weeks time. SPEZI is a major cycling exhibition held in Germersheim, Rhineland Palatinate. Actually for us SPEZI is the major cycling show. It is the world's largest show for recumbents, recumbent tricycles, quadracycles, folding cycles, tandems, family cycles, velomobiles, transporters, electrical bikes, special needs bikes, adult kick scooters, child and load trailers, customised designs and accessories. SPEZI has been postponed until August. The SPEZI organisers hope that by that time the illness will have passed its peak and we can all attend the show.  Keep an eye on the SPEZI website: https://www.specialbikesshow.com/welcome-to-the-spezi.html

    A view of the main SPEZI hall in Germersheim in 2015

    Wednesday, March 11, 2020

    Is the Netherlands a paradise for cyclists?

    From time to time I spend a modest amount of time watching "Tim's Trike Trips" on YouTube. Tim cycled the Ronde van Nederland - Tour of the Netherlands  in 2018. The 1400km route follows the Dutch border all the way round the country and follows the North Sea in the west. It crosses the Afsluitdijk, the 19-mile (31km) dam that encloses the IJsselmeer. The cycle route on the dam is closed at present because of maintenance work on the dam and will remain closed until April 2022. In the Netherlands cyclists are considered to be important members of society and so the Rijkswaterstaat (Dutch Water Authority) has laid on a free bus that will take 15 bikes and 25 people across the dam  in both directions. There is a slight fly in the ointment. The maximum size of bike allowed on the bus is 0.8m wide and 1.90m long. However the Dutch authorities recognise that others ride larger vehicles - trikes for example and offer an additional service to carry wider or longer cycles. One needs to contact the Rijkswaterstaat at least two days before the service is required to book a special vehicle. This is amazing, in my opinion.

    Tuesday, October 29, 2019

    Climate. Are we scuppered? Part I

    I suspect we, i.e. the human race, are scuppered unless we can initiate some drastic changes in our life style and chances are not looking good. If we look at possible changes in motorised traffic, i.e. the motor car that we will have to make to reduce carbon dioxide production seriously it is going to be the equivalent of pushing a pea up Mount Everest with one's nose while blindfolded.
    Can we give up the car or at least cut down on its use? I have my doubts. We live in a small German town that is flat. There are two or three hills in the town: bridges over the autobahn. You'd think an ideal spot to cycle or even walk. There are adequate pavements/footpaths as long there is room to get past, but it is a local habit to park with two wheels on the pavement/sidewalk to keep the road clear, but of course blocking the walker or the pram pusher. A goodly proportion of our neighbours drive round to the supermarket and bakers around the corner which is less than five minutes walk away. When we walk across town I count the number of pedestrians and cyclists and the number of cars, most of which have one person riding in them. I deliberately do not count the cars on the road connecting the two sections of bypass which we cross. In spite of this I normally see 50% more cars than walkers or cyclists. It is going to be difficult weaning people off the car.

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