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.
A great example is the website for my neice’s recently launched baking business Olivia Infield Cakes.
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.
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.
The key is the dimpled handle which allows you spin it around really quickly.
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.
Ruptured 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.
Nearly 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
Heading towards the Pacific coast, over the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
In parts of the USA you really need to watch your gas. I think this is somewhere near Durango
I had no problem getting my big bike through Chandelier Tree in northern California
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
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
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.
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.
Ha! 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.
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.
I 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.
More 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.
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.
And if you just want to let people where you are going next the the Cyndicate system is for you.
But by far the most impressive sight I have seen are 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.
I’m not generally a fan of National Days, for instance Trivia Day and National Dress Up Your Pet Day. But I am prepared to make an exception for National Biscuit Day which occurs this Sunday 29 May.
For me, biscuits will always be associated with drinking tea. Because, as that memorable slogan from 1978 for Rich Tea biscuits put it, “A drink’s too wet without one”.
And some might say that biscuits are too dry without tea. Although that didn’t stop my brother munching his way through whole packets at a time as a teenager.
If you want to explore tea, biscuits and cake in more detail, have a look at the quintessential British blog nicecupofteaandasitdown. Their mission statement reads; “Well I think we should all sit down and have a nice cup of tea, and some biscuits, nice ones mind you. Oh and some cake would be nice as well. Lovely.”
Thanks to last year’s Daily Mirror quiz, we know that the UK’s favourite biscuit is the Chocolate digestive.
According to Amy Lloyd, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel, “The ritualistic nature of eating biscuits with a hot drink appeals to consumers, demonstrating how ingrained this occasion is within British culture but emphasising the need for the biscuit category to expand beyond the tea-drinking audience.” Biscuit sales soar as recession drives people to ‘comfort food’. And this is certainly true for my regular visits to my elderly parents.
This is a controversial topic that has seen many articles on either side of the the debate. One was triggered by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal announcing that scientifically, biscuits taste better dunked in tea.
Who can resist a chocolate finger?
For the pro-dunkers, expert advice can be found at biscuit.org. Key advice includes avoiding dunking embarrassment by ensuring your biscuit will fit inside the diameter of your tea cup.
There are even more articles on the search of the perfect dunking biscuit. According to teadunking, the plain digestive biscuit is the favourite. Whereas TV chef Jamie Oliver’s top three are Hobnobs (plain and chocolate) and Ginger Nuts. But according to scientific research reported in the Daily Mirror, Rich Tea is the King of the dunkers.
Then again, a survey of 3,000 dunkers in the Daily Telegraph ‘proved’ that Chocolate digestive is nation’s favourite dunking biscuit.
As with so many things in life, you have to make up your own mind. And I’m going with the Ginger Nut for the perfect combination flavour and firmness after being dunked.
Chocolate cookies run Ginger Nuts a close second in my book
The pencils only rule at the British Library means I have become closely acquainted with the ancient art of pencil sharpening.
Having tried many different types over the years and found them all wanting, I finally splashed out on a KutsuwaRS015BK.
The previous designs were either too blunt or too flimsy to produce a properly sharp nib. Or they broke off the end of the pencil lead just as it was on the point of being ready to use.
Kutsuwa Co., Ltd. was founded in 1910 as a stationery wholesaler in Osaka, Japan. In 1965, they started to design and manufacturer its own branded products. The model I chose came in a range of vibrant colours as one might expect from a Japanese manufacturer, but I went for the boring black model.
It is still early days, but so far I am very happy with the way this machine produces wonderfully sharp pencils, easily and quickly, as well as collecting the messy cuttings in a waste box.
So the lesson learnt here, once again, is if you want a good pencil sharpener you need to pay that bit extra.
Perhaps I should have researched this topic more thoroughly before spending my money. The Pencil Revolution contains many reviews of sharpeners. Or I could have read The art of sharpening pencils on Mathew James Taylor’s blog. Where I would learnt about the standard point, the chisel point, the needle point, or the bullet point. Although I definitely wouldn’t have chosen his favourite rather disturbing sharpener below.
I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover the ultimate sharpeners on the Manufactum website, as they specialise in goods made with traditional manufacturing methods and materials. They include the beautifully simple Dux Dual Pencil Sharpener Aluminium and the outrageously expensive but indestructible Caran d’Ache Steel Pencil Sharpening Machine.