Do you live in a cycle-friendly city?

But how to impartially evaluate that? Based on perceived year on year improvement, or worsening? Or by the number of cyclists you see on the roads? 

Here’s another ranking of cities to celebrate those actively promoting cycling. While the FAQs seem to suggest a scientific approach, I am not exactly sure how they capture or evaluate some of the data used to arrive at the rankings. Still, an interesting study nonetheless. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the vast majority of the top 20 are in continental Europe.

I think it would be interesting to see more detail on those that didn’t make the top 20, and get some clues as to what they might improve to climb the rankings. 

A summary video by GCN here

And link to the Copenhagenize list website here


Mumbai, India – more traffic than you could shake a stick at

I was in Mumbai yesterday. 

Now there’s a city I wouldn’t dare cycle in, though some brave souls do. 

Given the traffic is so heavy and slow, the commute time by bike is probably equivalent to that by bus or car. 

Life expectancy would be significantly shorter though…

This man deserves a medal. Or even better, a helmet and some lights!

Velobrico Workshop: 1999 Colnago Tecnos Soft Paint

After looking for a number of years, an opportunity presented itself and… I just bought my first Italian bike!

Here’s the photos from the advert, mostly looking complete and in sound condition. 

The Tecnos is a steel framed road bike, made by Colnago in the second half of the 1990s and I understand to be the lightest steel frame they ever built. The tubing is made by Columbus, with a special alloy, made only for this bike. 

I presume this was one of the last frames to be made in Italy before work was outsourced to the far east. The frame is painted in Colnago’s Art Decor style, a somewhat psychedelic, vivid paint scheme, done entirely by hand. It’s really something special. 

On getting it home, for once I managed to contain my excitement and took some close-up photos before I did anything to it, though I was itching to get to work!

Non-original saddle. 

The bell really adds to the look, and the reflective tape on the head tube. 

A little cable housing rub on the head tube. 

Damaged chrome on one fork leg, not good.

Rims are sound and true, no cracks. 

Really nice lug work. 

Lovely brakes. 

The other fork is fine. 

Some pretty spectacular paintwork. You either love it or you hate it!

The paint was a surprise. I expected it to be glossy, but it’s actually a matt, soft, slightly tacky finish. Quite unusual and I have never seen this before. 

Chain rings are good, no shark teeth. 

Quick release put in the wrong way round. 

Cleats that don’t work with my cycling shoes. 

I spent the rest of the day washing it, removing stickers, the bell, the saddle bag, the lock, and various bits of sticky tape. 

…and servicing the gritty and grimy rear derailleur, cleaning the chain, adjusting the saddle, brakes, installing some new Michelin Classic tires and switching out the pedals to Ultegra SPDs for a test ride. 

Some blue grease, to go with the blue frame ūüėĀ. 

As there’s still some more to do, I’ll keep the photos for another day, but I took it for a shakedown ride on Sunday and it greatly exceeded expectations. 

My overwhelming first impression was how smooth it is. Very little road vibration, smooth shifting, everything is tight. At speed it just flies with very little effort. Gearing ratios are little odd, and didn’t give us much range as I would’ve expected for a triple chainring, though climbing was no problem. Steering is very precise, without being twitchy and nervous. I had never ridden Campagnolo before, so the shifting took a little getting used to, but it has a good, positive, clicky feel.

It’s amazing how well this 18 year old bike rides, a real cracker.

Watch this space for updates and photos of the finished project!

Velobrico workshop: SRAM X4 rear derailleur 

A while back I picked up a trashed Specialized Hotrock kids bike. The frame looked sound but everything else was pretty far gone. 

This bike would need far more workshop time than it’s replacement value, so it’s owners rightly binned it and moved on. But it’s a decent size for my son’s next bike, giving me enough time to fix it up before he can ride it.

Among numerous other issues, the derailleur hanger was bent, chain broken and derailleur was in a sorry looking state. 

Looking past first appearances, a number of components, including the derailleur, looked salvageable. 

I straightened the derailleur hanger with a pipe wrench plier and then set to the derailleur itself. 

It’s pretty straightforward to service a derailleur, remove, clean, degrease and regrease jockey wheels then reinstall. But it’s a bit of a dirty job, so rarely gets to the top of the DIY service list. 

Like with most things, putting it back together again is considerably less intuitive than taking it apart!

After getting it completely wrong, I removed the jockey wheels again and correctly rerouted the chain, using the smallest cog and chainring to give enough slack to work with. 

Some adjustment to the derailleur cable and a liberal dose of WD-40 on a rusty chain and cassette later, and we’re good to go!

Total bench time, maybe 40mins on a rainy Sunday afternoon?

Oh yeah

Finally the wait is over. I bought my first Italian bike. 

And what a bike! 

Can’t wait to pick it up…

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: San Francisco to Tiburon, CA, USA

I had a lot of travel with work this month, so what a good excuse to go for rides in exotic places. This time it’s San Francisco! ‚Äč

Not the ideal city for cycling you might think, given it’s hilly, but in reality that’s no issue at all.

I mentioned it before, but this is the first time I tried Strava Local, where a few rides were suggested of varying difficulty.

We opted for a “medium ” difficulty ride, particularly given we brought no cycling gear at all. I’d be doing this ride in full-on tourist mode. Jeans, trainers and backpack!

My buddy found a bike rental place very close to our hotel, downtown near Union Square, called “Blazing Saddles” (like the movie). They only had “supermarket” bikes, but all in good working order, disc brakes, triple chainrings, basic suspension and 700c “off-road” fat touring tires. The bike I was given had a suspension seat post, which I asked to be replaced with a standard seat post, fearing it would annoy me on the ride.

Blazing Saddles had a very slick operation and very quickly and clearly explained everything we needed to know, provided maps, ferry tickets if needed, and adjusted the bikes to fit. In Europe this would have taken three times longer, but in the US this sort of thing seems a well oiled machine! (no, I wasn’t paid to say that)

We headed off onto Market Street and out west towards Panhandle, climbing up some gentle hills before stopping at a small neighbourhood breakfast place near Ashbury. SF was still waking up, so very little traffic to contend with at this point.

Lots of cyclists (full-on lycra posse) passed while we were having breakfast, presumably starting out on the same route. So I guess there is a good weekend cycling culture here after all.

After our fill of granola (muesli), fruit juice and latte macchiato (coffee is every cyclist’s best friend – even unsuitably dressed tourist cyclists), we headed off in earnest.

Weaving through small streets and past pretty wooden townhouses we soon reached Panhandle, then Golden Gate Park, where by now a few joggers and families were enjoying the sunshine.

Before long we passed a beautiful waterfall, banks of colourful flowers, a windmill (?!) and reached… the Pacific Ocean!

Arriving under cloud cover and a fresh wind, in 10 minutes this morphed into clear blue skies and warm sunshine. The climate is very changeable here, but this glorious spring weather stuck with us for the rest of the day (hello sunburn).

The water was way too cold for swimming so we dipped a toe, hung around a bit, then headed on.

We rounded the headland to the north, climbing a small hill and onto a coastal path winding through light forest before reaching a golf course and the road back inland towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

After figuring out which side of the bridge was for pedestrians and which for cyclists, we headed over this iconic landmark, then looped underneath it on the north side and continued to Sausalito along some quiet roads.

These quiet country roads would feature for the rest of our ride, with beautiful views of the San Francisco bay, and huge banks of various spring flowers and the strongly perfumed clouds of scent coming off them. Magical stuff.

We continued north, saw a Lacrosse game in action (a first for me), and came to a crossroads. While studying our now crinkled and sweaty map, a lady came over to us and offered her assistance. She suggested we visit Mill Valley, which we hadn’t planned to do. Feeling energetic, we took her advice and headed east, following vague (forgotten) directions.

Steep, narrow, winding roads followed and we probably caused some nuisance to the drivers looking to pass us (American pick up trucks are HUGE and ubiquitous), but all were patient and friendly.

Feeling (looking) hot and lost, a driver volunteered directions, which sent us down a back lane and into some stunning Redwood forest. Sadly I was so blown away I didn’t take any photos…!

We looped back and continued north, heading to Larkspur for lunch. By this point, I guess we had ventured beyond the range of your average tourist, and at a traffic light another lady driver inquired what we were doing, and found us very brave (foolish) to be heading up our intended hill.

Foolhardy as always, we continued and found the climb (Camino Alto) to be pretty gentle after all. Easily done on our supermarket bikes.

At some point I picked up a tiny eight-legged hitchhiker.

We continued after lunch and circled the peninsula to Tiburon, which by now was teeming, to await our ferry back to SF.

We started all the way over there…

At this point my friend revealed he had never ridden more than 20kms in a single ride!

No fuss, no stress. What a legend!

So in summary, we enjoyed a sleepy city, powerful ocean, infinite views, beautiful spring flowers, towering dense Redwoods, small town America, friendly and curious locals, rolling Californian countryside, bustling marinas, a cool glass of local IPA, a ferry ride past Alcatraz and a sore bottom from a wide saddle not intended for hundreds of miles.

What a day!

I feel very fortunate indeed to have been able to enjoy this. A great experience that I can highly recommend.

Thanks California – you were awesome!

Check out our ride on Strava here!