Tonight my friends, the future of bicycling in the UK is held in the clever gentle hands of two men…two visionaries that stand humbly midst the rows of craftsmen and women, midst the collective genius and artistic wonderment that is Bespoked Bristol, Yes, ladies and gentlemen we have witnessed the moment of change that i for one will forever remember, today midst the wonderful artistry and diligent precision, midst the splish splash of well judged colour and the spingle spangle of stainless stuff, two men rose above the lineout, soared above the snowy peaks, climbed out of the morass of arse high, chinsy bollocks and displayed not just balls and dedication, not just a finicky weld and a well chosen colour. This year my friends, two men showed free thinking and a modern relevance hitherto unseen. …..Bespoked Bristol 2013 was the year when two beautifully designed self built cargo bicycles were exhibited, Were they exhibited by gentlemen with amusing accents?, were they visitors from Denmark, France USA or Holland, no my friends, this year at Bespoked Bristol 2013 a curator from the St Ive’s Tate Gallery and a motorsport engineer from York showed bicycles that not only oozed class and imagination, but also gave us a glimpse into the bicycles that we might be riding in a few years. They cleverly produced, lovely looking machines that showed innovation and a burst of creativity that could shame the belt drive from another f**ing fixie. Its horses for course i know, people will always want to ride about swiftly and look as cool as diggady on a featherlight lovely, i like it all, but it’s all getting a little John Constable…., personally i like a bit of Monet, perhaps even, if i can be so bold, a little William Scott.
If Bespoked Bristol is a demonstration of all thing good and progressive in the world of Bicycles then these two gentlemen has upped the game for everyone..and to the good of everyone. A bicycle that can replace that de rigueur second car is a revolution in thinking. These two lovely gentlemen actually built bicycles that even at a one off price of perhaps 4 or 5 thousand plus pounds can save you money. Think on that when your weekend crotch rocket is delivered and you only get to ride it a few times a year cos you’re too busy doing mundane stuff like shopping or taking the kids to school.
So hold the front page, it’s official that ownership of a delectable handbuilt bike could actually save you money in the long run, for Bespoked Bristol, that has to be a first (excluding Really Useful Bikes own showings in 2011 & 2012).
So within the glory that is Bespoked Bristol, with the dozens of delectable bicycles with craftsmanship layered upon a little more craftsmanship, two gentlemen and their bicycles stood out for me, and i hope other attendees too..within a myriad of creative geniuses that Bespoked Bristol gives a platform to, two beacons of men shine brighter than the rest, innovative, forward thinking and most important of all, these two men have created bicycles that are very relevant to you, me and the world around us, two brilliant solutions to the simple conundrum that is how to move faster than walking pace, and with more stuff.
Praise be to Matthew Renwick and Dan Titchmarsh for building the bikes, thank heavens for Phil and Tessa for giving us Bespoked Bristol, a gallery from which to gaze upon such bicycling beauty.
The world of the bicycle in the UK is a changing, Bespoke 2013 marks that moment. The bicycle is not just art, not just an expression of individualism , it’s transport too, it once gave freedom, it changed lives, with innovation and free thinking the bicycle can change society again, perhaps not with £5000 price tags but it’s a recognition of the mood, of the exciting new world that has the Bicycle at its local heart. This is what makes Really Useful Bikes tick, it’s a simple progression to a less complicated way of life, affected by modern living but not bowed down to it. The Bicycle when facilitated for (another issue/topic there) and used everyday is a very very beautiful thing.
Some of you will no doubt remember the advice - quoted in the headline of this post - of the 2011 Understanding Walking and Cycling Report .
do not base policies about cycling on the views and experiences of existing committed cyclists. These are a minority who have, against all the odds, successfully negotiated a hostile urban environment to incorporate cycling into their everyday routines.
One’s a currency, one’s a transportation device. Not much in common there..
But they both help you spend money locally…simple as…
In the world where Globalisation is currently changing the lives of bare footed folk the world over, we in the UK have clutched Globalisation to our bosom for centuries now, you could say we invented it, or perhaps that was the Romans, perhaps the Greeks. whoever it was that started trading between the continents it only became possible locally because of the bicycle. people (women too, shock horror) began to move goods between villages and town, just 150 years ago we just had the horse, and only then if you were wealthy or fortunate. So the invention of the Bicycle was a big deal, then came the steam car, the petrol car changed the game, and encouraged by successive governments and big industry the car took over, even in the last 10-15 years the concept of ‘out of town’ has for some folk, made stocking the cupboard a car centric activity.
So as petrol costs rise, congestion increases, and the car park space becomes increasingly illusive what can we do to spend our pennies and fill our cupboards without the car, well, a rack equiped bicycle can carry quite a bit, bit pannier or a specially designed bicycle like a Donky (www.donkybike.com) or a sturdy upright bike with a good rack like those designed by Gazelle (www.gazelle.nl). The bicycle now means that when a walk to the local shops is too far with shopping bags and frankly a bore, it helps you travel that little bit further away, chicken food, cement, big bags of dog food are all possible on the right bike. 2 slabs of beer, no problem.
The Bristol pound (www.bristolpound.org) is trying to improve your access to local produce and suppliers too. It does 2 things, first highlights traders that are part of the pound network, these traders will by their nature be innovative, free thinking traders with a knowledge and love for their product. Whether its a corner shop, a cafe or restaurant, bike shop or fluffy jumper emporium it will introduce you to the finer delights of something perhaps not experienced before, and also perhaps give you a better shopping experience with more interesting products..
What both do very well is to help invest local money locally. The bicycle helps you move away from the larger shopping centres and towards your own nearer neighbourhood,, spending Bristol Pounds ensures that your money circulates locally, no luxemburg tax havens for the £B.
So next time you need something, instead of jumping in the car,force yourself to jump on your bike and cycle to your nearest little shop, it might be a nice one , it might be a run down one, if it takes the Bristol pound even better..but everyone local wins when you shop by bike, Bristol becomes a little more local when you spend with the Bristol pound.
Local is the new Global, its a whole new local world out there, and a good one too, it will be even better if you invest your money where your home is.
Happy riding and spending…
(remember to chain your bicycle up too…you can buy nice ones with the Bristol pound, just check the list http://bristolpound.org/directory )
My activity on wordpress has been lamentable of late. I have added a few blogs on the Really Useful Bikes website http://reallyusefulbikes-com.mysmartercms.co.uk/blog/ but its just time isn’t it.
I tweet a few inane tweets and keep an eye on the slightly slightly skewed world of UK cycle as a form of transport..a fact that seems lost on most people, yes you can go to the shops on a bike if you’re facilitated for… https://twitter.com/bikes4transport
and share snippits of developments in the Cargo bike world and some product info on facebook. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Really-Useful-Bikes/113425212005842?ref=hl
Lots going on in the cargo bike world, new 20 inch wheels bikes launched (2 this month) and a natty, useful and stylish front loading compact Italian bicycle has become available.
Lots of good stuff.
So Sunday was a glorious day, not just for the yellow disc in the sky, shining great heat and sunlight upon the great and the not so great or good but it was also the day of the Brompton world championships…held at blenhiem palace yearly, this year it has formed the mainstay of a 2 day festival of cycling….
What a day we had..i awoke at about 6 to a glorious sunrise, made my peanut butter sandwiches, fed the chickens to keep them quiet and was picked up promply at 7 by my good friend Mr Gary Lovell, enthusiast and lover of Brompton and dutch bikes and a good all-round level head on the use of bicycles everyday…We arrived in oxford in good time, R.U.B conspirator and co-founder Mark Forster had entered for the Brompton Marathon which kicked off at 9. After a quick expresso he headed off to the start line slightly worried about his tyre pressures…that was the 2 stage race preparation he had planned for his bike …the first bit of race prep was to remove two huge bags of his travel stuff, stage 2, think about tyre pressure…we fitted marathon plus’s a few months ago after Mark had suffered a few punctures, not uncommon with the little wheels…so tyre race trim was to pump 100psi into them….but no track pump was available so 80 psi ish had to suffice. The lack of more elaborate race prep is might have contributed to the lack of a winners cup, or perhaps it was something else……it could have been the stopping to assist fellow brompton eer Dave Haliday with mending a puncture or it could have been the lack of an aerodynamic hat but that’s what sensible bicycling is all about… and what’s so jolly nice about this event, good people ,simple pleasures and a bit of a jolly jape feel to it. We saw Dave H a bit later joining the championship race (morel of the story appears to be hot weather and instant puncture repair patches do not mix), the other moral of the tale seems to be, if you want a brompton to be fast and funky, fit folding kojaks and carry spare tyres/tubes, if you want no hassle, then fit marathon plus’s…(free fit onto loose wheels when you buy tyres and tubes from R.U.B).
So that was Mark off and riding…gary and i wandered around the much larger than last year exhibits/tents..the Warlands guys were very chatty as ever, they also sell the Scottish built Paper bicycle, deal a lot with hub gears. as do we, they are great for Brompton of course …so a very good shop if you are near Oxford..We saw the fat bloke who isn’t actually that fat from 3 sailing blokes?! (i could be his stunt double if he put on a few pounds) and that Will Mellor doing a channel 5 thing about championships….? The chap from Schwalbe was very interesting. he had tyres cut so you could see then in cross section and for those baffled by the science around puncture protection strips it was ace….it might be my age but i had to take pictures….i do like schwalbe tyres..good style, great range and reliable..i’ll do a separate blog bit about it, tyres are an underated bit of the bike…not enough thought or money goes into choosing a tyre..As Mark on his Brompton knows, the right tyre can make or break an ownership…the dreaded shed effect can happen if you get too many punctures or if your bike is not comfortable enough, tyres can make or break your bicycle relationship.
Then we met the very lovely Betty and her equally lovely colleague from www.velo-re.com lovely ladies who know the value of a nice watch and make belts and wallets from old tyres, bags and other ‘scrap’ materials. I will treat me to a belt i think…individual and very nicely made..i think i’m a 700c man….perhaps a Brompton tyre belt for your 5 year old..
From there we met stolen goat, nice young chap with a very new business…some nice prints and clothing…onto Milk bikes then, mark is a great chap..a kindred spirit, he builds lovely bikes with practicality, commuting and style in mind..www.milkbikes.com a small scale manufacturer, he has the ideas and functionality that is lacking in so many of our mass produced everyday bicycles.. next door to Milk were the wonderful Paulus Quiros, whose bikes might not carry a weeks shopping…but oh my they are a lovely thing to behold…and from South Wales too..we need to make the most of our local Industries and they are out there if you look… they had a nuvinci hub mountain bike there…a hub which we have built into a few big dummies and works very well…a great hub for cargo bikes..a good reason to visit Bespoked the Bristol handbuilt show in 2013 is to see both Paulus Quiros and Milk and more of our home grown builders..
There was an energetic American showing his Bromfoot, http://www.bromfoot.com/ it looks a good product but what was great was to see a Burley Travoy trailer out in the wild, we sell a few and it’s great to see one being used and very successfully too….and nice foldable unit with a Brompton…it came all the way from the USofA and it facilitated his trip, which is what all of R.U.B’s products set out to do…
So that is a potted history of our day, Mark conquered pain and adversity from the previous weekends skateboard injury, attempted to save travel guru Mr Halliday from deflation, Gary met few old friends, i met a few newish friends, saw TV stars, lots of sweaty Brompton riders and drank a little bit of cider, it was just like a day back in the big smoke……
Bromptons are great, this Brompton event is developing into an interesting day out with a very nice vibe…We had a good time, so do i enter for next time?….i might just check to see if they have defibulators on site…better get in quick though, entries are strictly limited..
Transporting children (plural) by bicycle.
Are you bike riding parent? With one child? ..the decision to extend your family could have huge implications for your bicycle as your favoured mode of transport. That second child, might take a bicycle for local transport out of the picture because it’s very difficult to fit two kids on a bicycle. Small front stem mounted child seats like the GMG yepp or tipp minis, can give some breathing space but once the 2nd child is 22kgs or too chunky for the front seat…your cycling might have to take a back seat..no pun intended.
That can be a real shame, especially if the ride nursery/shops/work/childminder is just far enough away and suits the way you life with your first child. the bike can be ideal for transporting kids, the shopping and for local transport in general. The money saved on not having to have a 2nd (or 1st) car makes a big difference (£3000 to £6000? pa) and it’s not all about the money…
So …the sudden realisation that having more than one child will restrict your bicycle riding might be a shocker to you…help is at hand, you can carry two or more kids safely on a bicycle if you have the right bicycle.!
Options are limited but there ARE options…three things might still stand in your way…
Obstacles to ownership.
Have a think about these
Storage space for the larger bicycle,
Available Funds, you will need at least £1000+ to buy
Your surroundings, (hills/your fitness, availability of cycle paths and barriers/obstructions).
With those issues lodged in the back of your mind, read on…
You do need to bear in mind that a bike built to carry two kids is going to be a larger than normal. If it’s a Dutch bike it will also have mudguards, lights, hub gears (essential for everyday use) and a rack so it will be heavier than you might be used to….but two kids will be heavy on their own, so be ready to adjust your expectations regards weight. This might get you to think/worry about balance and the potential wobble induced crash or stopping and spilling your family onto the road. …this is where folk tend to think about trikes…trikes are good but are limited by their weight and width. Well designed 2wheelers are more manoeuvrable and easy to balance IMO. Good design keeps the balanced point low.
Bicycles made for three or four!
The most ‘conventional’ bike would be the Velonom, a conventional style bike but with a longer rear rack means that two seats can fit directly to the rack, its good too that when kids are older they can still ride directly on the rear rack, they might want a cushion….Velonoms are not too heavy either..(But it’s all relative.).
The Workcycles FR8 is a bike that you can squeeze two or three kids on, not newborns but a very versatile and secure bicycle from an American in Amsterdam. Two classic style dutch seat fit the rear and a small saddle can fit securely on the frame behind the handlebars. A very nice feature.
2wheels good, 3 wheels bad?
Well not really, but trikes are wide, generally heavy, great for flat areas and are obviously very stable when stopped. They have a box infront to place the kids. 2 wheeled bikes also have a box, wooden, wicker or plastic that can take 2, 3 sometimes 4 kids and normally in front of the rider. This ‘kids in front’ sensation is odd for the first 60 second solo ride, (just don’t look at the front wheel..try it) then the 2nd ride with a kid is more confident and the odd looking design starts to make sense. The kids in front is great, you can communicate, you can see them, they can move, they are involved….it’s a different experience and a great one…the UK designed 8freight has a box behind and is arguably more normal, definitely more sporty to ride.
So, 2 wheeled ‘box bikes.. What’s available now for a growing family
The bakfiets.NL, literally a wooden box on a bike…simple and solid the first mass marketed box bike, it’s the bicycle one moved the box from three wheels to two. Accessories rain tents, cushions all available..
The Gazelle cabby, designed as a modern child carrying bike for Gazelle by Van der veer designers, the same people who designed the Quinny buggys. It has brackets to fit maxi cosi’s seats for newborns, a collapsible rain tent and low wide step over height, The box folds flat to help with storage, good child straps and a cushioned seat. Its a very competent design.
The Danish Christiana company famous for its trikes now has a 2 wheeler, it’s a nice design, and has a factory electric option too, for when those hills are just too big pedal you and your family up. Bear this in mind when you buy. If there are big hills on your routes from home, think ahead.
If you have a lot of hills, the only proper electric box bike is the Urban arrow, with a motor at the cranks its super stylish and super nice…not cheap but offers something really fresh. Available this year…
The new UK designed 8freight is a innovative box behind bike that is light weight and might appeal to the sports rider…its designed by Mike burrows the man Chris Boardman’s record breaking lotus bike, not many child carrying bikes can boast that pedigree, that’s due out this year too.. the child compartment is wicker and fits where the red area is in the pic.
There are other 2 wheeled bikes that can carry loads up front that can be adapted to carry kids…bikes like the German long Harry, The Danish Bullitt, so what this little article is here to do is give you hope, show you that there are options now to help you to continue using a bike even though your demands of pedal powered transport have increased. It’s the most exciting area of bicycles, not often that parents get to be part of the cutting edge of bicycle design, the next big thing.
Choosing the bike for you
With all bicycles, but with family or cargo bikes in particular you must test ride the bike, this is important and preferably ridden with the kids on board. Discuss your needs with the dealer and other users and be realistic about your environment, hills etc and your own initial fitness. If you don’t feel comfortable, there may be adjustments you can do, or it might be that the bike is not right for you. If you’re not comfortable on any bike then you will probably not ride it, simple as that…so don’t ever be ‘sold’ a bike like this, make sure you have the time and space to make up your own mind. Look at some of the cheaper ‘ebay’ options if you like, but just be aware that you will rely on this bike for your daily transport for a good few years… you really do get what you pay for..For all bikes read the reviews and blogs (check date of writing) but keep an open mind for when you ride the bike for yourself. Although many high street shops can service these bikes its best to find a shop that is sympathetic, hub gears and brakes are not loved by all shops, and because they are very low maintenance not many shops have experience of them. If you are not near the shop you buy the bike from, the specialist dealer may have someone in your area that they can recommend for servicing and support..i does not hurt to ask.
To conclude then, there are good bicycles out there that might suit your situation available now and there are also things to help make ownership possible. If you lack space there are storage devices are available that might help, if funds are low then finance via the cyclescheme or ACT workriders can help if you ride the bike to work and you fit the criteria. If the hills are a little steep, all hub geared bikes can have the gears tweeked for about 30 pounds. In time your fitness will increase to help hills get flatter, so give it the time. retro fit electric assist is available on some bikes (christiania ) if all else fails…..but think ahead small babies weight less than big toddlers. If you have hills, don’t ignore them.
All good shops will help you test ride the bikes, all shops will have their favourite so pick their brains, go ride their bikes and make your own mind up. There are two or three good dealers in the country including me of course, talk to them about these bikes, have a test ride, be prepared to have your expectations changed…
Rob Bushill from Really Useful Bikes, Rodford nr Bristol. 01454 319960 http://www.reallyusefulbikes.co.uk
Taking the dogs for a walk on a bicycle is infinitely better than taking the car.. I like cars but not for relaxing in… I would rather cycle and get some exercise with my pet…god know i need it…plus the speed of a gentle pedal is just right for most dogs to run alongside…….be careful where you ride though..be sensible but there are a few good things that can help make dog walking by bike a jolly pleasant thing to do.. …the right bike helps, MTB’s are not ideal but still possible with smaller dogs, some opt for a trailer. we opted for a basil bike crate (£20 +£5 fitting kit) and a bicycle with a frame mounted front rack (from about £35)…after a few dummy runs somewhere quiet we set off….Rudey realised that after a few high altitude escape jumps out, that the crate with its leopard print cushion was the best place to be….. we had a lovely time….i hope you enjoy our journey..