Gazelle Cabby brakes. can you improve them?

Just a quick post about Gazelle cabby brakes, i have done a lot of work on Gazelle cabbys, the brakes are fine for the Netherlands but if you have steep hills or tend to ride on the quick side then you might want to stop a bit quicker than the standard brakes allow.

So i was asked the question recently, is it worth upgrading…here is my reply.

Standard brakes on the cabby are designed for the relative flat, the rear brake, an IM30, is too basic for riding anywhere other than the flat, the IM80/1 is a much better brake for the rear and easy to fit. the front brake is ok, and i don’t really think it worth upgrading, it might be the small wheel thing but upgrades are less impressive on the front, worth doing if you have the spare £40 + available but the improvements won’t rock your world. :-).
If you live somewhere hilly, we have converted the front fork to disc brakes and so far so good, a transformation but pricey.
Using low compression brake outer can also make improvements, but careful which brand you use…make sure it still uses a round steel case else it can pop the ferrels, don’t use anything looking like gear cable for the same reason), (Ashima for example, terrible stuff), Sram low compression outer has a good rep but difficult to get hold of..
also lets not use sledge hammer to crack a walnut, just make sure your existing roller brakes are greased, no grease (it can burn out the grease if you do a lot of hard braking) makes the braking snatchy or reduce your braking power, so regrease with special roller brake grease, (£15 a tube, last ages), on the flip side, if you have over greased (if its dripping out the bottom) then use brake cleaner and patience to slowly get the old grease out then start again..
the Gazelle Cabby is a great little bike that’s designed for the home market of the Netherlands, a few tweaks here make the Gazelle cabby the best cargo bike for a new family and the most easy to ride bike of the lot of them imo.
It’s a great price too…£1500ish at time of writing, that’s a lot of bike for a lot of jobs for not that much money in the grand scheme of things.
(these modifications and observations are also valid for other cargo bikes with roller brakes, Really Useful Bikes (RUB) offer these upgrades on all cargo bikes at reduced prices on new bicycle bought from RUB)
happy riding.





Bicycles for transport, a fender mind bender!

I was on the 10 past train from Yate to Temple Meads, waiting for the doors to close again, my lightweight coat and hair sodden by the sudden downpour from the journey to the station, i’m trying to make my own bicycle small and inconspicuous to the folk coming and going around me, rain and puddle water glistening on its panniers and mudguards, the guard skipping around it, trying to keep his staypress stacks clean. Each time the door open i see bicycles chained to solid things, i like to look, i like seeing these workhorses, locked and resting after transporting their rider to the station to begin another day of work. So there am i, gazing idly at these bikes, then from the blue. it struck me!!, that the majority of the bicycles i am looking at had no protection from the weather.

Now i am no stranger to a mudguard, i think they can look incongruous and its a skill to make them look sexy but i specialise in Useful Bikes and a big part of a bikes usefulness is their practicality, getting a wet arse or sodden shoes before a shopping session or a meeting is not cool, hence the bikes i sell generally have mudguards…

This is what shocked me! I reckon 70% of these daily commuter bikes did not have weather mudguards, no mudflaps, nothing, So there am i with a cheap sodden jacket (note to self, buy waterproof coat) but with dry arse and pristine brogues.

Had i not been riding a bicycle designed for the everyday, ( a Gazelle Esprit) i would have been drinking coffee in a business meeting with half of Yate common decorating my lower half.

Most of the bikes i saw were Mountain bikes, some exotic homegrown racer types and some pricey serious machines too. Sports bikes in the main, but people know they can fit mudguards don’t they? Surely after one sodden commute you would realise the need to protect your best workday threads from the mucky road spray?

Perhaps the riders opt for wet weather clothes, plastic trousers perhaps, over shoes…but then they would look like a cyclist, and the majority of the resting chained up bikes didn’t look like they would be ridden by cyclists, no disrespect to the owners but most of the bikes looked like beast of burden.

So why do these commuting bicycles not have weather protection? is it ignorance that mudguards exist? the thought that they’re not fashionable?  perhaps they bought some and couldn’t fit them. Perhaps a reluctance to spend on a bicycle that might get stolen? The fact remains that many bikes used for the commute are not really fit for purpose, if you get wet feet on the way to work, they are staying wet all day, and then perhaps you might have cold feet (see what i did there!) about using that form of transport again.

Bicycles used for transport are different beasts from the sports machines we tend to be shown in our UK media and our UK bicycle stores. What struck me, as i stood on the train with my Gazelle Bicycle, was the difference in culture and attitude we have from the Rest of Europe.

My bicycle was not the prettiest ( there are other Gazelles that are delightful to look at) but the function was the thing i needed for the journey, i didn’t want to be wet, i wanted to carry some stuff, i wanted to wear my own normal clothes and if it got dark before i got home (e.g. missing that 3.40 train back) i needed good lights.

Are my requirements different from the riders of the naked, unfendered bicycles i see chained up at the station? I can’t see that my basic requirements can be so different!  It’s akin to people visiting a car showroom and being shown a roofless convertible car as the standard offering! “you want a roof sir/madam?! we have a model over there with a roof,  but we can fit a one size fits all roof to this car!, and you want lights on your car too?” and your gearbox on the inside rather than hanging down in the dirt and rain??”  and so we can go on…., car drivers wouldn’t stand for it, yet bicycle buyers seem to know no different. Bikes can be cheap, but there’s a reason for that..everything can be cheap if you keep it bare bones..

If you want to commute by bike you need to ride a bike that’s been designed to cope with everyday conditions, have the features fitted that you need to keep you comfortable. It doesn’t have to be heavy, it will be heavier for sure than something without a rack, lights mudguards etc but these days with clever design and modern materials it doesn’t have to be noticeably heavier.

So to conclude..i was glad that day i rode my Gazelle Dutch bike, i appreciated the fact that it got me to my meeting with dry feet. I suspect that many riders that day did not. If you get wet feet on a rainy day, you need a good pair of mudguards…or a new ride. Think about what you as a rider need from a bike for transport, and don’t limit yourself to what’s in the shop down the road, look about and take time to chose, be prepared to pay a little more but a quality fully equipped bicycle will save you money in servicing (if it has hub gears and brakes) and there will be no add on spending needed. A good Useful bicycle will keep you comfortable for many years to come.

Perhaps when folk appreciate riding a bicycle with dry feet, we will see more bicycles at the stations.




Bespoked Bristol 2013, A landmark Show.

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.  

As Easy As Riding A Bike

Some of you will no doubt remember the advice – quoted in the headline of this post – of the 2011 Understanding Walking and Cycling Report [pdf].

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. It is necessary to talk – as we have done – to non-cyclists, potential cyclists, former cyclists, and recreational cyclists  to determine what would encourage them to make more use of this transport mode.

The Report investigated the barriers to cycling (and also to walking) in Great Britain. It did so, quite reasonably, by asking people who didn’t cycle why they didn’t, and what would need to change for them to consider a bicycle as an everyday mode of transport. One of their major conclusions –…

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The Bristol Pound and the Bicycle.

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 ( or a sturdy upright bike with a good rack like those designed by Gazelle ( 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 ( 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 )


Blogs, tweets and facebooking.

My activity on wordpress has been lamentable of late. I have added a few blogs on the Really Useful Bikes website 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…

and share snippits of developments in the Cargo bike world and some product info on facebook.

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.


A Brompton day out

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 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 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, 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..