Palma, Mallorca – urban bike sharing

On a recent holiday to Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain I was pleased to see even this small city (population 400,000) has an urban bike-sharing initiative. Bicipalma. 

Most of the bikes were of the “standard” step-through (col de cygne) type, often used for urban bike sharing, but there were also some with front suspension forks. 

Which begs the question:

What is the ideal spec for urban bike sharing?

To my mind suspension shouldn’t be needed. It adds maintenance complexity and weight that probably outweighs its usefulness in a city environment. 

Grip shifters seem to be ubiquitous on these bikes. Personally they are my least favourite shifting mechanism, but theoretically more accessible to “non-cyclists”, so if that’s true, then it’s a fair choice. 

I’m not sure these fairly flimsy baskets are a good idea. I can imagine them being quickly bent out of shape, making the bike look badly maintained and discouraging riders from using them. 

Mudguards/fenders are essential, but they should probably be sturdier than those used on the front wheels here, which can easily bend out of alignment and rub the tyre. The rear wheel mudguard/fender solution is better and offers some spoke protection, which doubles as real estate for reflective strips and advertising. 

I guess these bikes have hub gears – I didn’t see a derailleur. Hub brakes appear to be the norm, which seems a good, low maintenance choice that should have a good lifespan. 

The use of rear v-brakes here isn’t a great solution in my view. They might be cheaper to buy than hub brakes but require regular adjustment and pad replacement when used as often as these are likely to be. If not replaced regularly enough, they risk damaging the rims, requiring regular monitoring and mechanic time. Also loss of braking power in wet weather isn’t ideal in a crowded urban environment, so hub brakes would be best. 

Positioning of the rear LED cluster on the seat post also isn’t ideal. It should really be higher, larger and more visible, not obscured by the rear mudguard/fender. The bike with the suspension in the background has a better placed light, though they could arguably also be larger and higher. Go large and visible!

The station I saw had a number of open slots, so I assume some were in use (or permanently decommissioned). Again, as in San Francisco, I didn’t notice anyone using them while I was in town. 

So I guess the ideal bike-share bicycle must be: solid, low maintenance, reliable, accessible, safe and attractive.

The good news is, while not perfect, almost all the solutions I have seen so far meet most all of these criteria. 

What do you think could be improved on these bikes to make them more popular?

Velobrico Rides: London to Oxford, UK

I was recently in London for work, which was a great opportunity to catch up with a friend and go for a ride. 

We worked out 100kms (c.70 miles) as a decent target and he suggested this route, from London to Oxford. 

I didn’t bring my bike with me (lugging a bike bag to meetings and on the Tube just isn’t workable), but luckily his bike was exactly my frame size and he would use his backup – a fixed gear bike for 100kms of rolling countryside, brave man!

I brought my shoes, pedals, helmet and clothes, switched out his pedals, adjusted the bike fit and off we went. 

The first thing I noticed was that the brakes were switched from how mine are set up. They were front/right, rear/left, which caused some confusion until I got used to it. Apparently this is to keep your strongest hand on the strongest brake while signalling left? Though this doesn’t make sense to me as signalling right (across UK traffic) seems more important than signalling left. But maybe I’m missing something.

We cycled from east London to Liverpool St, put the bikes on the Metropolitain line and headed towards the western edge of London, to Ruislip. 

It was quite strange riding in traffic, crossing junctions and roundabouts (rotaries) on the “wrong ” side of the road, though once upon a time it was completely normal for me (memories of delivering newspapers on Sunday mornings in northern England…)!

We met up with some other friends on arrival and started the ride. 

How lovely the British countryside is (in good weather)! I had a good dose of nostalgia riding along country lanes, between sheep fields, past classic British cars, over narrow bridges, past wandering pheasants, through quaint villages and past (seemingly infinite) country pubs. 

We passed through the grounds of Waddesdon Manor, a beautiful stately home, with a curated estate. The best road surface we saw all day!

My friend planned for lunch at a cyclist-friendly country pub in a village called Quainton (yes really) where we enjoyed a pint of ale, some pub grub, chatted with some other cyclists and enjoyed the warm spring sunshine. 

We chatted about Brexit, the (then) upcoming triggering of article 50, the atmosphere in the UK around that, briefly about the terrorist incident at the Houses of Parliament. There’s a lot going on in current affairs and seemingly some anxiety about the short term future. But we also talked about coffee, bikes, food, family, friends and all that good stuff. 

In the restroom I spotted a vending machine selling this. 

For cyclists or something else 😂? 

We continued the ride, fuelled by cake, espresso, beer, and pub lunch, and arrived in the beautiful university town of Oxford by late afternoon. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos as I was distracted looking for the train station. 

Caught the train back to London, stopping at a shopping outlet centre where hundreds of Chinese, Indian, Arabic and African tourists boarded the train clutching bags with designer labels. Apparently the second most visited tourist destination in the UK after Buckingham Palace 😳. Who’d have guessed? 

Quite a bizarre combination – sweaty, tired cyclists and luxury goods-bearing tourists 😄. 

Back in London, night had fallen and evening rush hour had arrived. My friend took is on a quiet route that snaked through little side streets to east London, all but avoiding the congestion. We earned the next days’s full English breakfast.

Everyone had slightly different bikes (titanium fixie, steel tourer, aluminium sportive, steel canti-brake flat bar tourer) and varying experience levels but we rode at a pace that suited all, had no technical difficulties. 

There was no talk of KOM/QOM, no FTP, no HIIT, no BS. 

Just friends, the road, the ride. 

The big bike helmet debate 

Interesting article on the pros and cons in the Guardian today. 

This debate seems to go on endlessly!

Are disc brakes really dangerous??

It’s been a while that disc brakes have been seemingly considered dangerous, and are occasionally permitted and banned in professional road bike races.

Personally, I never really understood the cause for concern, and RJ the Bike Guy’s latest video does a really neat job of clearing this up.

Check it out.

Bike sharing in China

Similar to my post on bike sharing in China from a couple of weeks back, here’s one better researched, and better written, from The Guardian:

Bike-sharing revolution aims to put China back on two wheels

Clearly I was very lucky to be there under blue skies!

Love this story….

It’s a bit late for valentine’s day but I love this story…

Now that’s what I call infrastructure

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…


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…


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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