Christmas Books Special


Jack Thurston is joined by a galaxy of stars from the world of cycling literature to pick over the cream of this year’s crop of bike books. Nominating their cycling book of the year are Feargal McKay, Ned Boulting, Herbie Sykes, Daniel Friebe, Tom Southam, Richard Moore, Max Leonard and Emma O’Reilly. Guy Andrews, founding editor of Rouleur magazine, is on hand with his crystal ball to look at what cycling books we might expect in 2015 and years to come.

Image credit: Sharkey / Flickr – Creative Commons

Come the E-Bike Revolution?


Electric bikes are a rapidly growing area of the bicycle industry, offering the promise of effortless two-wheeled travel. Professor Mark Miodownik of University College London tests a Smart E-bike (pictured, above) as part of an in-depth look at e-bike technologies, for both utility and recreational riding.

Plus Dr Rachel Aldred explains the Near Miss Project. As part of the project that’s a partnership with The Bike Show, we want your audio stories of near misses. You can record your audio account of a near miss using the free recording widget below – just click record and speak into your computer – or, using a smartphone with the free Audioboom phone app (remember to use the tag ‘nearmiss’). Those three questions again:

1. What happened?
2. How did it make you feel?
3. Were there any lasting consequences?

Touring tip #3: Pump me up!

As a young cycle tourist in the late 80s and early 90s I used to get a lot of punctures. Fortunately, at that time the charts were full of tunes featuring lyrics about pumping this or that up and I was able to pass the time while fixing punctures by singing them to myself.

Pump it up a little more
Get the party going on the dance floor
See cos that’s where the party’s at
And you’ll find out if you’re too bad

These days, the recording industry seems a lot less occupied with pumping stuff up. This is because good quality modern bicycle tyres mean that we’re all getting far fewer flats. Yet a puncture remains a minor inconvenience for which every bicyclist should be prepared. Commuter cyclists can always jump on a train or hail a taxi to get home, but if you’re touring, you’re on your own.

Besides a couple of spare tubes and a repair kit, it is definitely worth carrying with a good pump so that you can get your tyres back up to the correct pressure. A minipump is a nice thing to find inside a Christmas cracker but you will find it very hard work to inflate your tyres to anywhere near high enough pressure using a minipump. The best pump for the touring cyclist is a frame mounted pump. Because it’s mounted securely on the frame, it’s always right there so you can keep your tyres topped up as necessary and it frees up some space in your bags for carrying flapjacks.

Frame pumps have a reverse spring action that keeps them firmly wedged in the frame, either along the top tube or the seat tube. I would recommend using a velcro cable tie (the stuff sold to gardeners is the best value) to ensure the pump is even more securely fastened to the frame, just in case it’s dislodged. While some manufacturers recommend mounting on the seat tube, this takes up space that could be used for a water bottle cage. So it’s usually best to mount the pump on the top tube, thus:

Ellis Briggs Randonneur Tiagra Brunswick Green with Zefal HPX pump

The best frame pump is made by Zefal. It’s the HPX model, made from aluminium, not flimsy plastic. It can reach a tyre pressure of 160 psi. As a touring cyclist you will never pump your tyres to anywhere near such a high pressure, but it’s good to know you’ve a pump with plenty of power in reserve. In the unlikely event that any part of the pump breaks, replacement parts are available.

There are lots of other pumps, but this is the best one. For some reason it’s now called the Zefal HPX ‘Vintage’ Frame Pump. I am taking this to mean vintage as in vintage champagne (i.e. better than non-vintage champagne), not vintage as in old-fashioned or retro. Mind you, the Zefal company has an impeccable retro lineage, having been making pumps since inflatable tyres were invented. The company even employed Tour de France stars Octave Lapize and Eugène Christophe as technical advisors. Eugène Christophe is one the greatest cycle tourists ever to have competed in the Tour de France. According to Jock Wadley,

He said not the first time during my visit that he was not a rich man in the monetary sense but had a wealth of happy memories and good health to show from his racing exertions. He still rides a lot, is at most of the touring rallies in the Parisian area, but likes to take it easy. ‘I have suffered enough on a vélo,’ he said, but last year he did 115 miles in 8½ hours, with 12lb of luggage, stopping 10 minutes every two hours to eat biscuits, pears and grapes and drink a glass of Vichy water.

The Zefal HPX comes in four sizes for different sized frames. Make sure you get the right one. At £20 this pump is less than half the price of a bottle of vintage champagne and less than a quarter of the price of certain other top end pumps. It’s a bargain.

Selected tracks from Jack’s pumping teenage jukebox:

Pump Me Up – Trouble Funk
Pump It Up – Elvis Costello & the Attractions
Pump Up the Volume – M/A/R/R/S
Pump Up the Jam – Technotronic
Pump, Pump – Snoop Doggy Dogg

Road Test: London’s new cycle hire bikes

On 30 July, 6,000 bicycles will be available for hire on the streets of London. Registration costs £1 a day, £5 a week or £45 a year and the bicycles are free for the first 30 minutes, then a rising scale of £1 for the first hour, £4 for the first 90 minutes, £15 up to three hours. The bicycles will be distributed across 400 docking stations. So what are the bikes like? Continue reading

Cycle Show Round Up

I went to the Cycle Show yesterday looking out for the big themes that will help define cycling in 2010. I tend to glaze over in of the forests of identical crabon road bikes and hydraulically-enhanced mountain bikes, so if you want the latest on road and MTB, I’m afraid you’ll need to go elsewhere. Last year’s show proved that the fixed wheel craze had well and truly entered the mainstream with every bike company and their sister coming out with pared down ‘urban fixies’, some bringing the aesthetic of the flamboyant trick bike to the established form of the entry-level Langster and Pista. The fixed wheel bikes are still there this year but in much smaller numbers. What I found most interesting in this year’s show was the rennaissance of the hub gear, with Sturmey Archer leading the way. Continue reading

Fixie-Killer: Sturmey Archer S2C

Today was trade/media day at London’s annual Cycle Show at Earls Court. Among the most talked-about new exhibits was the long-awaited Sturmey Archer three-speed fixed wheel hub, the S3X. In the craze for all things fixed, Sturmey’s ancient ASC, a three-speed fixed hub that went out of production in the mid 1950s, has been selling for enormous sums on Ebay and for a few years now it has been rumoured that Sturmey would bring it back into production. The S3X is now ready to roll. Continue reading