Sunday, April 30, 2006

Bike Shopper pannier

I love my Ortlieb Bike Shopper! Kim and I have each had one for shopping and use around town for almost five years now. One of them started to come apart after a year or so, and it was replaced for free.

It's essentially just a big black bag with a zipper and a zip-loc type closure at the top, so it's waterproof too. There's one zippered pocket inside for keys or whatever, and long shoulder straps for carrying while off the bike.

One of the most convenient things about it, though, is that the clips you use to clip onto the bike can also clip right onto a shopping trolley, as seen here at Marks & Spencer in Marble Arch!

Electric police bike

We were in Primrose Hill watching the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery practice the other day see pictures on Flickr, and among the heavy police presence was this chap on an electric-assist bike! He was friendly and posed for this picture. He said that the Met has two of them, and he apologised for the white battery pack not matching his silver bike.

I'm not quite sure what purpose they serve, since a fit officer on a decent bike can surely get up more speed than on the heavy electric Eco-bike.

The bike also had some interesting branding from the IPMBA, or the International Police Mountain Bike Association, which I haven't come across before, but which seems to do a good job at promoting emergency services on bikes.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Smith, and Weston, and Me

I spied a couple new Community Support Officers in Primrose Hill this afternoon, so naturally, I took a picture. Being all comunity focused as they are, one said hello and asked me if I liked their bikes.

I didn't particularly, but I was interested in who makes them. He said "Smith and Weston, the same that makes our guns."

Okay, first of all, it's Smith & Wesson (as any good Clint Eastwood fan knows). But not only are these guys not allowed to carry guns, neither are most Metropolitan Police officers.

This guy went on to tell me about the important work they do patrolling the royal parks and in communities. I didn't ask what, then, his partner was doing in Primrose Hill's chichi flower and nick nack shop. I'm sure it was just community outreach.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Reasons to love Oddono's

Reason one: they make the absolute best gelato I've had outside of Italy.

Reason two: Basilico, our fave pizza delivery in London, delivers their stuff in 2-flavour tubs

Reason three: they now have a stand on Oxford Street ouside Selfridges consisting of a massive three-wheeled work bike!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Hampshire ride

Did a lovely ride today, using a route from Nick Cotton's excellent series of English cycle routes. This one was called "From Whitchurch to Kingsclere via Hampshire lanes and Watership Down" from 24 One-day Routes in Dorset, Hampshire and Isle of Wight.

The ride started and finished in Whitchurch, which is just an hour on a fast train from Waterloo (but £18 return on a holiday? pure madness!). All the directions from the book were spot on, with a few exceptions where signs have been replaced. There were a few stints on busy A-roads, but nothing terrible, but the vast majority were on very VERY quite country lanes. Some were really lane-y, with high hedges on both sides and a gravelly hump in the middle - but there were also lots of very smooth paths that could have been mistakened for Dutch cycle paths if not for the presence of horse riders and absence of road markings.

Mostly really rural, with the odd bit of 1950s ugliness on the outskirts of bigger towns like Overton and Whitchurch. But that was more than compensated for by the giant country houses and thatched cottages! Lots of springtime animal scenes, too, with tons of ducks, horses, rabbits, cows, and lambs. I made sure to get lots of pictures of these for Gemma.

Despite the title of the ride in the book, Watership Down never made itself evident. I had a look at the map afterwards, and know exactly where it was, but it would have been nice to have known about it at the time. I'm telling myself it's where I got a good picture of the hare standing up on its hind legs...

The weather was the only downside of an otherwise perfect, lovely ride - it stayed very wet for most of the three hours or so I was riding.

I took the clunky Minolta along, and I've published a bunch of photos on my flickr photostream.

Carradice Barley Saddlebag

I've been hankering for a good bag for daytrips for a long time (ever since I got my Raven, actually). I've usually ended up using my Ortlieb shopping pannier (okay, but no structure thus very floppy) or an Altura rack bag (which my Tubus rack doesn't accommodate well, requiring a web of bungees to get it to stick).

So last weekend, I ordered a Carradice Barley. Carradice is a venerable English company that specializes in cycle bags and other cycling bits.

I got a chance to test it out today, and it's fantastic! It fastens on very securely, with leather straps that fit perfectly through the mounts under my Brooks saddle and around a wooden dowell inside the bag; and another strap that fixes the bag to the seapost. My initial concern was that my legs would hit the bag when I pedal. It turns out that my thighs do actually touch the bag on the downstroke, but it in no way hampers movement. Strangely, it feels quite comforting to have it there - being able to feel it replaces my compulsion of reaching down to make sure my panniers are still there.

The seven litre capacity is perfect for a day's ride. Today, I packed a big bag of DIY trail mix, a couple bananas, my toolkit, some tissues, and my big Minolta digicam - and there was plenty of room left over. There are two side pockets, into which I put my saddle cover, a bunch of faux fig newtons, and some Frusili bars. I wasn't sure how I'd use the side pockets since they don't close as securely as one might like, but it turned out that the loose-ish flaps do hold stuff in, but it's easy to pull goodies out without unbuckling, while riding!

Inside the main compartment, there's a drawstring that closes up the opening some, but not all the way. I'm not tremendously keen on this feature, but it works okay. It would also be nice to have some compartments inside for keys and change; I ended up hanging my housekeys from the plastic loop using a mini carabiner.

And despite what I'd read about the cotton duck fabric many of the Carradice bags are made from, I sort of doubted that they'd actually be waterproof. And I got ample opportunity to test my skepticism today! For much of my ride, it was very wet, but the bag kept everything bone dry. The bag itself never got a proper drenching because of its position behind me, and the mudguards kept it protected from below. I remain optimistic for my next full-on drenching, though!

This bag is a design departure for Carradice - most of their cotton bags are black - but if they start producing other bags to match this one, I could be pursuaded!

View more pictures on my flickr photostream .

Thursday, April 06, 2006

LBS parking relocated

I've been quite pleased about the cycle parking at London Business School, and I made my own little contribution to the facilities by writing some cycling directions for the LBS website (see post Cycling directions to LBS are up!).

When I arrived today, I found that the main cycle park was torn up for unrelated construction, and there was a series of signs like this:

It turns out that they've temporarily relocated the main cycle parking facilito to the courtyard facing Regents Park - it couldn't be a lovelier spot, but it's much less convenient than the regular place. It's also a bit awkward to navigate the narrow passage filled with bikes!