Category Archives: work/life

Jump electric hire bike

The future of cycle hire is bright – really bright

This morning on my daily commute to work, pedaling hard on my Brompton bike, with its muted shade of blue, I spotted a really bright red bike across the road.

BlueBrompton

My ‘boring blue’ Brompton.

On closer inspection it turned out to be a brand new Jump electric cycle from innovative taxi company Uber.

Jump electric hire bike

A Jump bike in all its red glory.

As my eyeballs started to recover from the searingly bright red colour, I started thinking about how business like these really need to stand-out in order to be noticed by their potential customers. A rival to Jump is the Lime E electric hire bike scheme which started in San Francisco and launched here late last year.

lime-e-bike

The Lime E bike is also very eye-catching.

Based on non-scientific observations during my commute, I would say the lime green colour is slightly less noticeable than the red of Jump. And I wonder if potential hirers might be put off by the unfortunate similarity to Limey, the term of insult historically used by Americans about Brits.

The bright yellow Ofo bikes although very visible, failed after just a few months proving that although the market is growing it is also unstable.

ofo-bikeBright yellow, but not successful in the UK.

The original bike hire scheme in London is now called the Santander Cycle Scheme. And I first experienced it nearly ten years ago My first ride on a ‘Boris Bike’. Luckily for them they don’t need to be as noticeable as they can only be hired from fixed locations, unlike their ‘free roaming’ competitors above.

Santander hire bike scheme

The first bike hire scheme in London, incorrectly known as Boris Bike.

Update:
I was interested to read a comparison of Jump and Lime E in the Evening Standard on my way home last night, Uber vs Lime: London’s dockless electric bikes are put to the test.

The coolest names are the best

Regular readers of this blog will know I live in Eastbourne, basking in the delights of the  ‘Sunshine Coast‘.

However our weather doesn’t always live up to expectations…

Sunshine Coast

As residents of Eastbourne we are very aware of our much cooler and trendier neighbouring town of Lewes. There are too many hip aspects to list in full, but here are a few:

  • Lewes is probably most famous for its anarchic Bonfire Night. Held every November 5th, with five competing bonfire societies marching noisily through the town, and the burning of controversial effigies.
  • It has had its own brewery since 1790 in shape of Harveys Brewery. They produce a beer in honour of Tom Pain their local celebrity revolutionary and founding father of the United States.
  • They print their own currency in the form of the Lewes Pound, designed to help support the local economy.
  • It has an internationally recognised opera house nearby at Glyndebourne.
  • The local football team founded in 1885 is now owned by the fans, and in 2017 became the first in the world to introduce equal pay to the mens’ and womens’ teams.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when the logs I needed for my wood burning stove turned out to come from a Lewes company called Just Log It.

JustLogIt

Which on further investigation turns out to be a subsidiary of Just Cool It.

Just-Cool-It-Logo

Which on goes to reinforce Lewes’s status as the King of Cool.

Lewes
The town is so pretty, old and curious – all tile-hung cottages with the whiff of hops on the air from Harvey’s Brewery – it could be an exhibit on Antiques Roadshow. But don’t be fooled. The town is full of Marxist lecturers from Sussex University. They like to burn effigies of David Cameron at their famous/infamous Bonfire bight. The Headstrong Club has been revived. And they still print Tom Paine’s scorching pamphlets at a press on the High Street. The revolution may still come.
Let’s move to Lewes, East Sussex: ‘Once a hotbed of radicalism’  From the Guardian Newspaper

Bonfire night Lewes

Putin_effigy

Lewes Pound

Tom Paine Ale

 

The shoelace is dead – long live the Hickie

Hickies lacesA while ago I wrote about the shoelace knot that never comes undone, but it seems my efforts to learn this amazing knot may have been wasted.

According to Gaston Frydlweski and Mariquel Waingarten, the inventors of the Hickies Lacing System, no one will ever need to learn to tie a shoelace again.

This inventive way of keeping shoes on your feet was launched via a Kickstarter campaign in 2012. And they managed to raise over $150,000, six times more than their initial target.

Since then the company has sold over 2 millions sets in 45 countries, and continues to grow.

Call me old-fashioned, but I’m not quite ready to ditch my trusty old laces for this futuristic replacement. But I do admire the founders for persevering with their 20 year dream of improving how you lace you shoes.

Hickies patent US D686909

 

 

Cooking up a beautiful website without a techie in sight

Back in 2014 I wrote about the revolution in website building. A few years later, and it is now even easier and cheaper to build your own website.

A great example is the website for my neice’s recently launched baking business Olivia Infield Cakes.

oliviainfieldcakes

As you can see, Olivia is a very talented cake artist, but she is not a techie. I suggested she try using Squarespace to build her website. And after a few hours of work she produced this simple, but very professional looking site. It was a bit of a challenge for her, but because she knew what she wanted the pages to look like, she was able to work towards that goal using the built-in tools.

To get an up to date review of the 10 best website builders go here: Best Website Builders
I signed up with them, here’s my review..

According to the author Robert Mening, the top three are SiteBuilder, Wix and Squarespace.

Best website builders 2017

 

 

 

SpedDial

Speeding up my Brompton folding with SpedDial

Brompton from aboveI have been commuting to work on my Brompton for over three years now. Farewell Boris Bikes – hello to the Brompton folding-bike experience. I have written a few blog posts about my experience (15 learnings from a year of Brompton cycle commuting in London), and little ways I have tried to improve the bike (The safest thing on my bicycle is my Mirrycle).

This time I am experimenting with an improved Hinge Clamp Kit from SpedDial. I had already created something of a bodge solution using springs and plastic metal.

I came across the invention after recently joining the Brompton Hacks Group on Facebook. A post from SpedDial creator Stephan Bianchi piqued my interest. The link to his website included a video demonstrating a much improved version of the Brompton clamp.

SpēdDial Folds Fast from Stephan Bianchi on Vimeo.

The key is the dimpled handle which allows you spin it around really quickly.

SpedDial

I expressed my interest to Stephan and he explained he had sent a batch to Brilliant Bikes in Chobham. I rang them to order a set, but they hadn’t arrived. Soon after I received an email asking if I would like to test out SpedDial for them. I jumped at the chance, and a couple of days later received the little package below in the post.

Below is my amateur attempt at improving the clamp.

And here is the shiny new SpedDial replacement

So now for the big question… is it any good? And the answer is an emphatic yes. Actually it is brilliant.

It solves several problems:

  • It stops the metal bracket from twisting and blocking the fold
  • Using the finger dimple makes turning the knob much less fiddly
  • It saves time. I have set mine to just four turns from closed to open.
  • It prevents the bolt from falling out
  • The same lock nut gives you a predictable fold, so the handlebars no-longer fall on my leg.

Walking back to health one step at a time with my EvenUp

Evenup LogoRuptured Achilles tendon is a phrase redolent with pain and anguish. In my case it occurred at the end of my regular Sunday evening friendly football match.

As I stepped forward to engage with an opponent, I heard an ominous tearing sound, much like when ripping up old tshirts for rags. I looked round to see where the sound was coming from, and discovered there was no one there. At the same moment my brain registered pain in my lower leg and I hit the deck. After struggling to my feet  and limping towards the touch line, my fellow team mates asked if I could cover the goal until the end of the match. I ruefully shook my head and slumped down at the side of the pitch.

hospital bootNearly a week later (thanks my local hospital losing my phone number) I was looking at an ultrasound scan of my leg. When I pointed my foot down, all looked well. But when I lifted it up, a gap was clearly visible. Fortunately the rupture was at the point where the tendon joins onto the leg muscle. So an operation was not deemed necessary. Just eight weeks of my leg being strapped into an orthopedic walking boot, night and day.

This was not good timing as we had a camping and walking holiday to the Scottish island of Mull planned for the following week. I soon discovered that I could not drive my car. My left foot was hitting the brake and the clutch at the same time with this clunking great boot on. I also found walking with my hospital loaned crutch difficult. The main problem was caused by the two inch difference in height between my two legs.

After some internet research I found out that although the ‘boot’ would fix my tendon, it could also result in long term problems with knees, hips and backs caused by limping. Further exploring uncovered a solution in the form of the EvenUp shoe lift. I immediately ordered one to arrive in time for my holiday.

evenup-shoe-balancer_2

As you can see above, the EvenUp is not a thing of great beauty, but it has transformed my ability to get around during the long recovery period.

I would definitely recommend it for anyone unlucky enough to be forced to wear hospital boot for any length of time.

Saving the planet one coffee at a time with my Keep Cup

Keep Cup logoSeven years ago I bought my first re-usable coffee cup for work. I was full of optimism and enthusiasm at the time Looking forward to a greener New Year with my Keep Cup December 2010. But sadly the reality did not live up to the expectation.

The main problem was the plastic which became increasingly tainted by coffee. I cleaned it rigorously and regularly, but to no avail. So after a few months I returned to using wasteful paper cups.

I diligently put the empty cups into our office recycling bin. But was shocked to discover that hardly any of them were actually being recycled. In fact out of the astonishing 2.5 billion paper coffee cups thrown away every year in the UK, a tiny proportion – just one in 400 cups is recycled. Apparently it is too difficult to separate the plastic coating from the rest of the cup.

Recently an Origin Coffee branch opened in the entrance hall of The British Library. In addition to their wonderful coffee and friendly staff, I noticed they also sell Keep Cups. But as well as the plastic version,  they also had the rather attractive glass and cork model below. After a few weeks of seeing it while  on the shelf my resistance crumbled and I handed over the £15 required to purchase.

Origin Coffee British Library

Origin Coffee British Library

I was glad to hear that many organisations are now working hard to find a solution to this wasteful situation. The race for coffee cup recycling solutions. But until they become widely available, a reusable cup remains the best approach.

I’m now a month into my Keep Cup, and it is remains crystal clear with no tainted coffee taste. So now I can enjoy my daily coffee, and feel good about it too.

KeepCup_Espresso_Small

Update April 2018

Great to see Waitrose supermarket chain deciding to ban paper coffee cups, saving an estimated 52 million cups a year across the UK. Waitrose to remove all disposable coffee cups from shops this year.

Waitrose coffee cup

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Touring

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle MaintenanceThe recent death of Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance reminded me of my epic motorcycle trip around the USA and Canada in the summer of 1980. I was travelling light, so it was my only reading matter, read in instalments along the way.

I still remember the parts of the book about motorcycle maintenance reflecting my own limited mechanical experience. Particularly the advice about not rushing any work on the bike. The philosophical sections were a more challenging read, and I really struggled with them.

So this is the perfect excuse for a rather self-indulgent blog post consisting of a selection of slides from my trip across USA and Canada. I have also added a few photos from a family trip to the southern states 37 years later.

Neil - USA and Canada by bike - 1980 (7)

A slightly blurry 1980 version of me, grinning from ear to ear, just before setting off around the USA and Canada on my newly acquired second hand Suzuki GS750

Neil - USA and Canada by bike - 1980 (16)

My first camp site with my trusty one-man tent near Kitty Hawk (the home of powered flight)

Camping in the sultry heat of Charleston South Carolina

Neil - USA and Canada by bike - 1980 (75)

Heading towards the Pacific coast, over the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Neil - USA and Canada by bike - 1980 (88c)

In parts of the USA you really need to watch your gas. I think this is somewhere near Durango

Neil - USA and Canada by bike - 1980 (121)

I had no problem getting my big bike through Chandelier Tree in northern California

USA trip Aug 2016 (210)

Looking older, but just as enthusiastic about our Minnie Winnie, which turned out to be quite a handful to drive compared to the Suzuki of 1980

USA trip Aug 2016 (255)

This time we camped in comfort with a shower, two double beds, an oven, a hob, a microwave and widescreen TV. But I still hankered after a tent, which we bought along the way

USA trip Aug 2016 (286b)

The open road circa summer of 2016, heading west towards Las Vegas on route 66. Actually not very different from how it looked in 1980.

USA trip Aug 2016 (102)

I literally rode around Las Vegas to avoid it on my 1980 trip. This time we went twice! And revelled in the absurdity of the place. Especially Old Las Vegas, known as the Fremont Street Experience

Thanks to a frustrating limit in Google My Maps, I have had to create four separate maps to plot my 1980 route.




The shoelace knot that never comes undone

Today there was an item on the BBC news about a scientific breakthrough in understanding why shoelaces come undone – Mystery of why shoelaces come undone unravelled by science.

FinishedSecureKnotHa! I thought. My shoelaces never come undone, thanks to a discovery I made about 15 years ago. The knot is called Ian’s Secure Shoelace Knot after the inventor Ian Fieggen, now known as Professor Shoelace.

As you will discover from his website, Ian is obsessed with shoelace knots. But it is the Secure Shoelace Knot (also known as the Seaman’s Shoelace Knot) that stands out for me, as it simply never come undone. It also prevents wear on the laces giving much longer life. So it saves annoying undone laces and having to buy regular replacements.

I strongly suggest you try this wonderful life-hack, and let me know how you get on. Here is a video with Professor Ian demonstrating how to tie it.

monkey-light-pro

How to be seen on the dark streets of London town

winter sun

Source LibreStock.com

The shortest day of the year is rapidly approaching. Winter Solstice is on 21 December to be precise. That means both my morning and evening cycle rides are in darkness or gloom.

I have taken several measures to improve my visibility to other road users, particularly car and lorry drivers, and of course those suicidal pedestrians with eyes glued to their smartphone screens.

altura-night-vision-safety-vest-cycling-giletI have recently replaced my Altura Night Vision Safety Vest Cycling Gilet, after leaving one behind on a cancelled train. And I’m confident it takes less time to be noticed than to say it’s name. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have seen people about to cross in front of me, stop, and do a double-take as the bright orange and yellow of my Gilet sears into their consciousness.

I have upgraded my rear visibility by adding a Blaze Burner light to the standard Brompton one. I’m still really happy with it despite some initial production problems. In fact I’m still running on my first battery charge after three months, which is pretty impressive.

 

fwe-20-lumen-front-tlight-black-ev244783-8500-2More recently I have added an additional front light which is designed for being seen, and not for showing the way ahead. In fact Evans describe the FWE 20 Lumen front light as the “definitive bright back-up safety light, taking up very little space on your bars but making sure you’re seen at night”. The 20 lumens is surprisingly bright, but the small form factor means it has run out of puff after just one week.

A couple of weeks ago I also replaced my reflective spoke clips, as the old ones were starting to lose their shine.

brompton-spokes-at-night

I think they look pretty good on my Brompton, and help when crossing T junctions.

Should I be doing more?

When I am out on the mean and dark streets of London, I wonder if I am doing enough to draw attention to myself. I have seen quite a few fellow cyclists who are outdoing my humble effort by a quite a margin.

Here are four examples:
The Lumos helmet means you carry all your lights on your head, instead of scattered around your bike. So you don’t have to worry about them being stolen or the hassle of taking them off to charge or the change the batteries. It also includes left and right indicators with a handlebar controller. Yours for just 179 US dollars.

Lumos helmet

And if you just want to let people where you are going next the the Cyndicate system is for you.

cyndicate

This realy can save lives

Posted by Cyndicate on Thursday, April 28, 2016

 

But by far the most impressive sight I have seen are Revolights.

revolights

They look pretty spectacular in the photo above, and even more so in the video below.

But when you actually see them on the road they are truly stunning. Sadly they don’t currently make a size to fit my bike, and they cost 199 US dollars. A tad more than my admittedly less awe inspiring reflector spokes above, but maybe I should start saving.

Monkey Light Pro Wheels

I haven’t actually seen any Monkey Light Pro wheels from Monkeylectric on my rides, but they do take attention seeking to the next level.

monkey-light-pro

Have you seen anything brighter on your travels?