Now that’s what I call infrastructure

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I’ve been lucky enough to live in a few countries over the years, but it’s not until I came to Switzerland that I have seen bike infrastructure this good.

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You might say “bikes on a train? Nothing special”. But…

  • Every train has bike storage, and on most every carriage (local trains), not just the mail carriage by the engine
  • There’s 5 or 6 bike slots on this carriage, not cramped together into a corner by the door. Half the seats in the carriage have been taken out to make space for bikes.
  • There are huge bike parking facilities at most stations. Almost too big actually… Good luck finding your bike again (ugly bright colours are your friend).
  • Check out how clean the train is (and the bike). No clutter, no tangle of bicycles banging into each other.
  • This is an intercity commuter train between two major Swiss cities at peak time…

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Swiss people are, in general, affluent (certainly compared to the global average), and this choice is not motivated by cost savings, but by an enjoyment of riding.

For cycling to be an option as part of our daily back and forth, it has to be easy (and safe). In most cases, cyclists accept (sometimes unreasonable) compromises in order to cycle daily.

This is a great example of a society in which a “normal” person, rides from home down to the central station, pops her bike on the train, travels to another city, pops the bike off the train and then parks it at work.

Hers is the pink road bike in the picture above. She is dressed for the office, not for a cyclocross event.

Of course full lycra, SPD clip shoe commuter cycling on a full carbon road frame remains an option…

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These facilities are a great step in the right direction, towards keeping people heathy, safe and happy. That’s what our public institutions should be doing, and what we should be asking for.

Well done Switzerland.

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Tour de Suisse : Bern, Stage 8

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Completely by accident, my family and I happened to be in Bern on Saturday 20th June, so were lucky enough to catch a front-row spot to see a section of the Tour de Suisse.

I’d love to have a go on some of these bikes…

Some photos and video for you to enjoy below!

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What makes for the best commuter?

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Mountain bike, hybrid, road bike or fixie?

As far as I can tell, cycling in cities is becoming more popular. I have commuted by bicycle to work for the last 8 years or so, first in Paris, then in Singapore. Over this period, I have the feeling there are a slowly increasing number of people riding to work.

Cycle commuters seem to come in various flavours.

Some choose vintage road bikes that have seen better days.

Some use fixies or single gear with freewheel, with or without brakes, coloured chains, aero wheel discs etc.

Some use purpose built hybrids with mountain-bike style frames, often front suspension and larger than 26″ wheels with skinny tyres.

Some choose Dutch-style town bikes, usually with a basket somewhere and sometimes with backward pedalling brakes.

And some choose old mountain bikes, that have probably never seen a mountain…

I fall into this latter category and, for the most part, rode old, ugly mountain bikes to death work for much of the last 8 years…

I have had the good fortune to commute in countries where public transport is efficient and cheap, so cost was never a motivator.

For me the main incentive was that I enjoy riding, that it got me to work faster than public transport and that a little bit of exercise doesn’t do you any harm.

Cycle commuting is something that takes a little time to get used to. And in that time, one probably changes the route taken, clothes worn, equipment used, the bike itself and the attitude to other road users.

For me these choices were generally driven by the principle of “I don’t want to die”. Crashes aren’t nice. Everyone has had one (or more), and would like to avoid them as much as possible.

For a time, I commuted by 1980s road bike. It was exhilarating and fast, but it didn’t take long before I had enough close shaves to figure out it wasn’t sustainable. Also I find the dropped position on the handlebars limits visibility and comfort (on the neck), high-pressure 23mm tyres on cobble-stones are like riding a pneumatic drill, and 30 year old brakes and drop handlebars aren’t the best way to avoid getting splatted.

So while a 90s MTB isn’t the coolest way to get to work, it’s safe, comfortable and bulletproof.

That said, if you’re going to spend a lot of time riding, you may as well enjoy it. So maybe spend a bit of cash and get something decent looking instead…

So I’d say, whatever you’re riding, keep safe, and enjoy your commute.

What do you guys and girls commute on? What do you enjoy most about your ride?

Only in London…

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I realise that coffee and cycling make a great combination, but hadn’t realised just how far things had gone.

In fact, it’s apparently so popular that the Telegraph newspaper recently listed the 10 most popular cyclist cafés in the London area.

Surely once a stream of cyclists turn up anywhere, the non-cyclists quickly find a less lycra (spandex) and sweat-filled environment to enjoy a quiet latte…

In a new town but itching to ride? Check this out…

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A recent discovery for me is Strava Local. For those who don’t use Strava, or who haven’t seen this feature yet, it’s a collection of jogging and cycling maps for a number of cities around the world.

There’s a decent number of locations covered, but one hopes this will grow to include far more cities.

These routes were selected either for their historical significance, or their scenic nature and are a neat resource for someone in town for work, or for new arrivals to a city.

When you’re new to a place, it can take some time to work out the good spots to jog or to ride, so this is a great resource. Even if you know a city well, the guides often contain routes you never thought of.

Well worth a look.

http://www.strava.com/local

This Has Got To Be a First…

A condo, with an on-site velodrome. In Singapore.

Eccentrically brilliant. Even if those corners do look a bit tight… ;)

http://thewestwoodresidences.com/

Round the World on a Drainpipe

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Thanks to a very rainy 1st May weekend, we had the chance to explore the Luzern transport museum. Great museum for kids (and big kids), with lots of interactive stuff, planes, boats, trains and cars.

Among all that, they squeezed in a few interesting bicycles.

A racer from 1905

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A Swiss military bicycle. Apparently unchanged in design for almost 100 years… (must be heavy!)

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An early tandem from the 1930s

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They also had an early mountain bike (nicer but similar to some of my collection, Deore LX etc.) and an interesting bike which completed a tour of the world.

Ridden by Armin Honegger, this 1955 British Hercules completed a 149,000km round trip of the planet. Looking at this bike, Herr Honegger commands some serious respect. Nowadays, most people wouldn’t even ride to work the supermarket on this, so it just goes to show what is possible with simple technology.

No need for a thirty three gears, aero tubes, electronic shifting, air damper suspension and carbon fibre. This guy went round the world on a (well built) drainpipe with three gears and crummy brakes. Well done that man!

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