Why I dig the Donky!

The Donky bike…what is there to say about this reclusive, low profile, affordable cute little workhorse.

Let’s start with some background… it’s the brain child of two men who saw that little urban bikes could be a help to so many, they wanted it to be owned by lots of people not so much for the profit that might be made, but for the impact it could have on individual lives and on cities as a whole. They teamed up with another, a production guy and the Donky was born. We have had inputs too, They have asked for our opinions, we gave our support and inputs and can confirm the Donky is here to stay and a future classic.

So what makes the Donky bike special?
It’s small, it has strong 20 inch wheels and a small footprint, the racks turn so you can make it narrow when it needs to be narrow, the idea is you can park it in the house hallway, in the flat or easily in an outside store.
They made it handy, with removable racks either end, on a square section beam, you can swap the racks about, make your own rack, ride it with one rack or none, stick a kid on it, put your dog on it, or two…its the best, most versatile little load carrier there is i think.

They made it reasonably priced…other very nice urban bikes from Milan or Barcelona, Germany too, cost around £1000 and you need to get them here.. The Donky Team worked hard to build a bike that would sell for £400, and that’s why you can buy one for £500, the £400 target could not be done, its a low volume bike (at the moment) and building bikes isn’t cheap. So you have a very handy bike for £500 and that isn’t bad. (now you might look at one as say it looks a bit low end….BUT, the frame is a gem, the components work, they don’t say nick me and it makes the Donky affordable for many more people, with the prospect of upgrading as time goes on. (we pimp Donky’s by the way 🙂
They made it handle well and ride comfortably, it will take a good range of people sizes and you can ride one around town for sure but further afield too. Don’t let the small wheels fool you, it’s a nice ride..
It uses simple but effective components, a 3 speed hub gear won’t let you down or give you big bills, the V brakes are simple kit you find everywhere and that anyone can help o look after, It has a centre stand that does the job, a nice riding position, a integrated frame lock, in fact it’s a little like a Dutch bikes odd mutated nephew.

Like all my reviews i try to be objective and honest, for example i think the original racks are heavy and clumsy…and that’s about it for negatives, there are new racks coming out, and we make other options too but its not such an big deal, (the racks work fine, which is the important thing) but find one, ride one, make your own mind up, but if you need to nip about town, fancy doing more shopping by bike, want to carry a dog about, tight for bike parking space or just fancy some fun about town with a practical edge, The Donky is a great little UK produced bike, a gem, and bloody good value too.

Begv4fGCQAAZ7sD phone pics pre NYC 2054


Available to buy and try at Really Useful Bikes.co.uk



Electrically assisted Urban Arrow from Amsterdam.

Two wheeled box-bikes are great, whether it’s for kid transportation or business, for dogs or shopping. Great fun to ride and a functionality that was before unknown from a bike. Amsterdam is flat but parts of Bristol and Bath have hills which do not exclude the boxbikes as an option but its always a factor to concider… Electric assist has been added to bakfiets in particular with varying degrees of sucess. A purpose built box bike has been needed for a while ,now we have it, and it looks good too.

Urban Arrow Photoshoot from Eelke Dekker on Vimeo.


Really Useful Bikes will be stocking this bike in the spring, test riders welcome. We give you transport options, this is a very good one.. prices about £3000.
Preorders taken.

Quality dutch bicycles for the less tall.

Two things about the dutch are undeniably true.

Firstly they are a little on the tall side…..

secondly they treat bicycles as a proper part of life rather than a toy so that their young adults range of bicycles has proper bicycles in.

So this means that tall people can always find a bicycle to fit…70cm frame anyone? but also that if you happen to be a little less tall you can still find a bicycle that has hub gears, hub dynamo, luggage racks and sensible ergonomics. The bikes below all have 26inch wheels which are found on most bikes in the UK (the dutch tend to use a 28inch wheel) and all have 43/44cm frames so will fit a human with a height of  about 4′ 5″ and upwards, the smallest frames size in the Heren and dames Gazelle range is 49cm and suitable for a person 4’9″ to 5’4″  

Four bikes in the Gazelle catalogue look very good options for smaller adults looking for a ride. They are 43/44cm frame sizes and ‘trendy’ accent colours aside they are basically larger adult spec bikes in a smaller size if you get me…quality and equipment is the same.     

 The links for the bikes are below.  prices are from £350, give me a call or drop me a mail if you fancy a test ride.


if you go to http://translate.google.com/# cut and paste the links it will translate them for you…  

dull brakes tradition!

Brakes…we all need them, V brakes, disc brakes, cantilever brakes, these we all know about, drum brakes we probably associate with a car…but Sturmey Archer and SRAM still make drum brakes for bicycles and they work ok…One type of brake that is perhaps not so known about in the UK is the Roller brake….made by Shimano ,the Japanese giant that brings you the biggest range of cycle components on the planet…they make components for all styles, abilities and price points of the cycle world.

One of Shimanos product categories is ‘comfort’… it basically has all the dull boring sensible cycle components in…with tedious design qualities such as low maintenance, annoying features such as protected internal mechanisms and unfashionable enclosed braking systems for consistent working in all weathers.

I am sure you will agree that all these yawn inducing qualities do make the ‘comfort’ range of Shimano components very dull indeed. These components are designed so that you would hardly know they were working beneath you, it is as if the clanking of the gears, the squeaking of the brakes, the constant adjustments that all bike riders need to perform regularly, the need to be actually moving to change gear has been designed out…. Shocking..

Shimano’s ‘comfort’ range turns a bicycle from an enthusiasts tool into a practical vehicle, almost as mainstream practical as a Ford Mondeo , Volvo or VW golf…ridiculous…we all want Ferraris and Alfa Romeos for bicycles, of course we do……these components from Shimano are so sensible and so ‘practical’, that manufactures rarely show them in public…. A shiny Alfine internal gear hub might be paraded on a concept show bike or tucked away on a hybrid but always with disc or v brakes….…(it will not take a roller brake) its as sensible as some UK manufacturers feel comfortable going…Shimano keep the ‘comfort’ range pretty low key in the UK seemingly embarrassed that a product so easy maintained bears the Shimano name..

So then, roller Brakes…. they slow you down, ..now that in itself is dull….some slow you quicker than others…but you fit them and forget them* ….(you need suitable wheels). roller brakes are kinda modern looking,  sometimes almost invisible (hardly a selling point) they need a squirt of roller grease every now and then applied through a small hole with a rubber cap on…even that’s not very adventurous, where’s the 90 pound workshop service in that…!!?

If you have made it this far without wondering what time tea is, then you might loosen your cardigan a little, tap out your pipe and read on…

there are three main models of roller brake available in the UK…all by Shimano, unusually for such a dull product, the roller brakes perform really well…

First up is the entry level roller brake..the IM 41…cheap at 30 pounds ish..this neat little unit slows you down nicely…durable and works the same in the rain as the dry and will not wear your rims out…no stoppies with this unit…no headaches either.

Next up is the understated IM50,  it’s priced at about 40 pounds to buy, much the same look as the IM41 but with a more noticeable round cooling fin to dissipate the heat that can get generated by braking surfaces on a long down hill stretch.  All brakes generate heat…heat is the byproduct of friction so its always going to be an issue with any brake, V brakes are cooled by the air stream, as are disc brakes, but because roller brakes are enclosed, protected in a metal shell, they need a way of cooling down, this is achieved by means of a heat sink or round cooling fin to dissipate any heat build up. Some cite overheating as the Achilles heel of the roller brake but it’s bad talk with an element of fact…if the brake over heats it will lose the lubricating friction, and the brake will be grabby and fade, so you need to keep the brake oiled…a squirt of roller grease every 6 months will do it…and if you have a heavy load to haul or huge hills to speed down regularly then buy the best roller brake you can afford…IM70’s are more than capable of stopping a big bike down hill and quickly without issue.Which neatly bring us to the daddy of the UK Roller brake world, that very same IM70, on some European bikes a super (almost sexy) spec roller brake is fitted (IM77) but for us in the UK at the moment the top spec available is the IM70.very good braking with this unit, the large cooling fin is round and looks a little like a disc brake ..which is a little cheeky of it…

you can even get models that to fit on a disc fork, utilizing the disc tab…it’s an alternative that not many know about…(you need a roller compatable hub) but great for a commuter mtb bike or a daily hack….or for bikes that do not want to see a workshop very often… about 50 pounds to buy an IM70..not too bad when it will last 10-15 years in normal use if neglected and un-maintained.

So there you have it, Roller brakes…doing braking with no fuss, almost unseen and asking for no thanks, a little bit sensible, a little bit too practical, a bit too brakey. …, too maintenance free to even warrant a salesman selling you them, …..just like a modern car, one that just gets you there with no fuss and in comfort.

Roller brakes are a well kept secret, we all know that ‘dependable’ and ‘practical’ are not an advertiser’s favorite strapline so roller brakes have their work cut out to get the recognition they deserve….…Roller brakes are modern technology to meet a need, the best braking system for daily urban riding bar none….so try some, Gazelle dutch bikes have them fitted to many models, workcycles too…you can retro fit them. don’t tell anyone, but i don’t think they are dull at all,  innovative and modern are the words i would use. They might not be poster material but roller brakes will be there for you when the latest 6 bolt hydro XLXT R2D2 is now the wrong colour. So break with tradition and consider something thats not touted in your face, not sold with this years colours and at a premium, but available in the shimano catalogue for a good price and is a real product for real everyday biking.

let’s hear it for the dull roller brake…hip hip…hurrah


* all mechanical things need looking after, a tube of grease cost about 15 quid and will last bloom’n ages…hub gears and roller brakes are great, give so much back for a little love.

see also https://reallyusefulbikes.wordpress.com/2015/03/26/not-no-maintenance-but-low-maintenance-roller-brakes-an-idiots-guide/

Xtracycle, a bike for all seasons, for many reasons.

You’ve found Xtracycle cargo bicycles, which is really the same thing as Xtra-cycle, Xtra Cycle, Extra-cycle or Extracycle but different. Xtracycle’s LongTail innovation is a hitchless trailer that evolves the bike rack, bike bag (or pannier or basket), bike trailer, passenger seat, and baby seat into one cargo bike or sport utility bicycle system. With a long wheelbase, balanced center of gravity, and versatile carrying capacity, your Xtracycle LongTail may open the door to car-free or car-lite transportation in your life. Load your LongTail with precious cargo: a week’s worth of groceries, or a picnic in your FreeLoader; your children, friends or lovers on the SnapDeck. A WideLoader and LongLoader enable you to carry, yep you guessed it, wide and long loads like surfboards, ladders, instruments or equipment. Be a daily bike commuter. Go out for a ride and end up at work. Be a weekend bicycle tourist. Re-imagine eco tourism: from a simple daytrip to an epic adventure. Travel the globe with the function of a Sport Utility Bike and explore trails, beaches, markets, neighborhoods, and parks. Ride to love. Ride to smile. Ride to feel sexy and healthy and to have fun. Welcome to a life of vitality, simple joys and a brilliant future.

taken from xtracycles own website http://www.xtracycle.com/ lots of products there that may one day be available here.  keep looking at out xtracycle pages and our online shop section for more details.

don’t forget, we can help you fit your extracycle here free of charge when bought from R.U.B.

free advice on donor bikes too….

why not have your xtracycle parts powder coated from £30 when bought from R.U.B.

Workcycles FR8 on Brooks website shocker..

Well i never! you could have knocked me over with a carbon road frame….. , there was i, browsing the web in a business like manner (no mucky stuff) , listening to a bit of Wynton Marsarlis from the command pod’s boom box , the brady bunch of  dogs happily snoozing at my feet, when i came across this on a website for Brooks, the venerable English saddle makers and purveyor of stylish but expensive luggage. You could argue that the pics is a bit old but it does give me a opportunity to once again bring up the wonderful workcycles FR8 in this blog.

As Really Useful Bikes is the only stockist in the UK to actually hold stock of the very capable and adaptable FR8, we like to remind you all of its comfort and build quality. We could also mention the fact that it can carry three children in safety, a heavy load in style, or just you and the sunday paper in pleasurable luxury.
For these reasons we love and stock the workcycles FR8. You don’t have to smother it in Brooks luggage, but we would love you to love one as your own.


The workcycles FR8 (pronounced Freight) available for sale and test ride from Really Useful Bikes nr Bristol. 01454 319960


workcycles fr8 cross frame


two of the five sleeping as one

two of the five snoozing

A bike for everything and everyone.

The Gazelle Cabby, my favorite ride at the moment.

The usefulness and fun of the bakfiets style bikes puts them top of my list, they were designed with children carrying in mind but we don’t have kids, we rent the Cabby to those that do have kids and they love it…its such a simple and fun bike to ride, makes you wonder why more people don’t ride them….