Challenging ride blog 2: What to take on really long rides

If you’ve caught the cycling Kit for long ridesbug then you’re probably looking for your next cycling challenge. Preparation is key on really long rides and here are some tips on what you should take.

How long is a piece of string

Let’s start by sorting out the elephant in the room. Those pro cyclists who whizzed round the Tour of Britain sometimes go out for 3 hour recovery rides and probably cover 100 km in that time. Their long rides are very different to our long rides. Moreover, the distance of a ride is only one indication of a ride’s difficulty; a very hilly route can throw a spanner in the works.

50 km / 3 hour ride

If you only normally cycle to your local shops, in the park or have short commutes into work, 50 km will be a good challenging distance to aim for (for comparison’s sake, a 3 hour ride if your route is short but very hilly).

  • Unless you are at a cycling sportive, you need to plan your route and figure out if you will come across places to buy food and water. If in doubt, take all the food and drink you need for the whole ride.
  • Choose either your fantastic memory, paper or a GPS device for navigation; or a friend who has one of these things.
  • Be self sufficient with tools: multi-tool, tyre levers and spare inner tube are the bare minimal. Don’t forget you need to know how to use them!
  • Always take a phone with you just in case.

100 km / 6 hour ride

You should have some experience of riding 50+ km with no trouble before trying this. It’s probably a good idea that you also have more experienced cyclists with you.

  • On top of what you bring for your 50 km rides, you should think about bringing more layers incase the weather turns. For a more dismal weather forecast, put a waterproof jacket and gloves in your jersey pocket or bag. For more mild weather, look into arm warmers, leg warmers and a gilet instead.
  • Either have storage systems on your bike, yourself or plan your food and drink stops very well.
  • A set of front and rear lights should make an appearance on your bike. Either the ride takes longer than expected or visibility deteriorates: either way, you’ll need your lights ready.

160 km / 10 hour ride

Now we’re talking! Let’s hope there’s something waiting for you at the end of this ride by way of celebration, be it a bottle of champagne, a crowd of friends and family or a homemade meal.

  • Everything from the previous category becomes essential for this kind of ride.
  • Hope for the best and prepare for the worst, plan your route carefully but also take note of options to cut the ride by riding a shorter loop or taking a train back home.
  • Sorry for another negative note but did you know there are cycle rescue services should you get a mechanic breakdown beyond repair?
  • You may have entered a sportive abroad for your first 160 km to make it extra special. You may want to think about taking out an insurance. You should also find out what the emergency number is in the country (for example, 112 is currently the pan European number for contacting emergency services).

Even longer rides

This is the point where we tell you to check with your doctor before tackling big, extreme challenges.

devils-staircase-2-resized

If you are just starting out with challenging rides and are setting yourself some ambitious goals, look up any of these: Audax, Trans Am Bike Race, Tour Divide and Transcontinental. Everesting is an odd one out where the logistics of route planning and refuel is simplified. For any of these, you will need to bring your determination, a sense of humour and possibly friends who can tolerate your singing.

Challenging ride blog 1: Planning

So in the spirit of ‘something for every cyclist’, we’re moving from a few weeks of Beginners’ blogs to a few on the longer, more challenging ride. (That’s not to say we suggest going straight from one to the other; just that the part in between is a little more self-explanatory.) Planning your first long, challenging ride might seem daunting but knowing someone with experience will certainly help with the planning, not to mention the ride itself. What follows are some straightforward tips to fast track your planning.

Route planning

We’ve published a blog on the basics of route planning already which you can find here. However, for a long ride through a rural area, there are other preparations which will help.

You will probably want to pass through villages rather than potentially busy towns to restock provisions. If you think you’ll be really strapped for time, look at passing through linear rather than clustered settlements where you can simply ride slowly through and shops, etc, will be on your route.

By: MindsEye_PJ

Then there’s the question of gradients. There are a couple of things you can see clearly on maps which indicate potentially flatter roads or cycleways. Most railways tend to follow flat terrain as trains don’t do too well on steep gradients. Look out for cycleways that run alongside railways if you’re after a relaxing, flat cycling experience. Similarly, if you spot meandering river on a map, look at the topography of the surrounding roads carefully. The river is either snaking between hills or through a canyon so nearby roads could be very hilly. On the other hand, it could’ve eroded the river banks to form a floodplain, making the surrounding landscape is as flat as a pancake. Applying year 6 physical and human geography in real life; stay in school, kids.

Refuelling stops

Jot down town or village names and the distances into the ride where you will find them. It can be reassuring (or vital) to know when the next refuelling stop will come up if you decide to skip or miss the nearest one.

If you are travelling by yourself then you may need to do more research if you want to leave your heavy bike lock at home. Use Google Street View to find cafes or pubs with outdoor seating so you can refuel in peace with one eye on your prized bike. At a pinch, you can always dig into some fish and chips outside the shop.

By: Max Froumentin

Contingency plans

Have a few contingency plans in the bag if you can. Are there train stations along the way and do trains run regularly around the time you expect to pass through? Is your ride a loop and, if so, can it be shaped like a figure of eight or butterfly shape? You can then decide along the way if you want to cut out a big chunk of the ride.

Do you have a supportive friend or partner who owes you a favour? Perhaps you can call them for a lift home in desperate times?

Keep your eggs in different baskets

This rings particularly true for multi-day rides. A good start is having more than one method of navigation, preferably include one that does not need any batteries. Perhaps consider riding in an area with plenty of road options so if there’s flooding or a landslide for example, you can always make a minor rather than a 30 km diversion.

Try to plan plenty of refuelling stops or if you are only passing through one town, make sure there are a few shops there or you’ll be in trouble if a shop doesn’t exist anymore or is shut one day a week exactly when you need it to be open.

All the tips in this blog are collated from experience and we hope our past misfortune can be your gain. As with anything, the more you practise, the better you get. We won’t let you go just yet as next week’s blog will be about what to take on your really long cycle rides.

Beginner’s blog 4: How to avoid a puncture

vittoria rubino failIt’s the cyclist’s scourge, the spanner in the works (if that’s not mixing metaphors). The moment when being your own boss, master of your own journey (not to mention time keeping) goes out the window. But take heart! There’s a surprising number of things you can do to prevent yourself falling prey to the dreaded P-word.

Puncture resistant tyres

Most tyre brands offer options with puncture resistance. They will have features to resist cuts to the tyre side walls and / or resist sharp objects penetrating the entire tyre tread. Depending on where you anticipate cycling, these might be worth investing in.

Check your tyres

Whatever tyres you’ve got, you will still find little flints or stones stuck in them from time to time. Remember that a puncture isn’t about damage to the tyre but to the inner tube inside it. So check your tyres regularly and prise out any flints or other detritus to minimise the chance of them eventually working their way through.

Check your inner tubes

The inner tube doesn’t normally get taken out to be checked on so if you’re changing your tyres and the tubes are coming out anyway, give them a quick visual once over. You may find some abrasive marks that haven’t caused a puncture yet but are a useful warning about debris that has found its way into the rim or tyre. You’ll be far better off sorting out the problem in the comfort of your home rather than by the side of the road on a cold February night.

Get skilled up on changing your tyres and inner tubes

Believe it or not, not changing the tyres and inner tubes correctly is a common culprit of repeated punctures. Do it right to avoid pinching or ripping the inner tubes; make sure there is no debris on the inside of the tyre or rim; check that the offending “puncturer” is out of the tyre and make sure you have the correct size inner tubes to compliment the tyres or vice versa. Treat yourself to our subsidised bike maintenance course here.

Line choice

Think about the common causes of punctures: sharp objects going through the tyres and pinch puncture from hitting potholes. You can avoid these by choosing the line you take on the road or trail carefully. Avoid riding through a gutter full of road grits and often unseen glass and other debris, and be better prepared to steer away from potholes by focusing your vision sufficiently far ahead.

Solid tyre

If there’s nothing to puncture, then it’s job done. Solid tyres is aptly named, they are solid unlike normal tyres which are pneumatic systems. The ride quality will normally be different though so don’t rush to get a pair and think they will ride exactly the same. Some brands are now calling the tyres “airless” tyres instead of solid tyres.

track pump gaugePump up your tyres

This is not guaranteed avoidance advice and probably only really makes a difference if your tyres are really under inflated. But without enough air in the inner tubes, if you hit a pothole, the tube will be pinched between the tyre and the rim. This usually results in a pair of small, clean cut slits on the tube, hence its nickname, the snake bite.

Don’t mention the word p***ture

Call us superstitious but mention the p-word and it will come for you. Don’t gloat about how you haven’t had a puncture in 10 months because you just might wake the sleeping beast.

Don’t ride your bike

100% puncture proof and 100% no fun.

Beginner’s blog 3: How to plan a cycling route

We’re all for cycling more often and more safely. At some point, you’ll need to plan a route and these pointers should help you find your way.

Goal, ability and realism

Have a clear goal for the route you’re planning. Are you looking for the shortest route, fastest route or quietest route? Do you need to cycle via certain locations to pick up shopping or avoid a closed bridge, for example? Perhaps you are planning a challenging ride in the countryside or trying to draw a dinosaur with your GPS?

Whatever you’re looking for, you should gauge your own ability and experience. Be realistic with the difficulty and the complexity of the route.

Distance, elevation and turns

You’ll be in for a shocker if you gauge your ride simply by the distance and ignore the elevation you gain. Your riding time can quickly double if you didn’t factor in the hills.

hilly elevationHow often do you have to make a turn along your route? Making more turns will slow your average speed down and you will have to accelerate after the turn so your use of energy is not as efficient as it could be. This is mostly applicable to urban areas. If you’re spoiled with a few options, consider taking the route with less turns.

Unless you have a GPS device to guide you (or an incredible memory), less turns means less chances of getting lost too. For a first time route in a city, it’s also much easier to stick to the route when the turns are at T-junctions that will force you to choose a direction rather than having to remember when to turn off into a side road.

Resources

There are four main types of resources to help your route planning: people, hard copies of maps / guidebooks, online maps / photos and mobile apps. Cross referencing between a few resources usually yields the best results.

  1. Find people who can help you:
    British Library map
    By: The British Library
    • In your circle of friends and family
    • In a local cycling group / club
    • Perhaps a stranger in the next village on your 1000 km touring cycle
  2. Hard copies of map / guidebook
    • OS maps are always a good bet although can have too much unnecessary info for cycling
    • Your local / transport authority may have a cycling specific map
    • There are plenty of cycling guidebooks with pre-planned routes and points of interests to look out for
  3. Online maps / photos
    • Sustrans has an online interactive map mainly of the National Cycle Network with useful keys for traffic-free / on-road sections and warnings for walking sections, steep hills and busy roads, etc.
    • Opencyclemap.org is a comprehensive website of National, Regional and Local Cycle Route / Network. It does mean the map will sometimes look a little cluttered but it’s certainly a good place to start to consider all your available options.
    • Google Street View is no doubt a game changer when it comes to accessing really useful information from the sofa. Use this strategically to check if the road is multi-lane traffic, if there is a cycle only contraflow lane or if there is a traffic island to stop right turns into side roads. Remember this isn’t a live feed so road layouts may have changed since the photos were taken.
  4. Mobile apps are great backups for when you are en route (although we don’t advise using your mobile while cycling).
    • OsmAnd is a great app with free cache maps (limited quota) so you don’t have to worry about your data usage especially if you’re abroad. It can also be used as a sat-nav with turn by turn directions and remain offline.
    • Bike Hub is an “old” app that was a pioneer of its kind and is able to route plan for you using a mix of roads and cycleways. It was relaunched recently in mid December. We haven’t checked out the new user interface and functions yet but keep an eye on this app as we expect to see continual improvement and bug fixing in the coming months.

Beginner’s blog 2: How to get your friends to start cycling

Cycling is great right? Some people just don’t know it yet. Their inner cyclists are dormant and all they need is someone to show them the way.

Offer to help them get started

Everyone has to start somewhere. Offer your help to get a non-cyclist get started, maybe pointing them to our last blog since beginner cyclists will have many questions. You can advise them on what type of bike they should consider and wUnicycleshat accessories they may need. They won’t necessarily need or want the same things you do so listen to what they’re saying. Go shopping with them; sometimes bike shops have too many options and can feel dauntingly teccy for the uninitiated. Plus the sales staff may be keen to sell something that’s not strictly essential so your experience will be valued.

Positive reinforcement

It works and you don’t need to condition your friends like Pavlov did with his dogs. Offer loads of  encouragement to reassure them that they can cycle. Ask them about their first ride and congratulate them on it. Or go on a ride with them to offer support and be their guide.

Arrive on your bike and with a smile

Cycling is satisfying, practical and basically fun. If you make a point of always arriving to meet friends on a bike, on time and with a smile on your face, they’ll start to wonder if they should give it a go.

Get from A to B faster (and cheaper) than them

There’s a range of travelling distances in cities where cycling is certainly faster than waiting for and using public transport. Time is precious so point out to your friends they could be spending a lot less of it waiting and not knowing when they might get to their destination. And not only will their journey be a knowable length of time but it will have cost them nothing into the bargain.

Subliminal messaging

There is a reason corporate companies spend money on product placement; it works! Maybe leave the odd glossy bike mag open on a page with a particularly irresistible illustraion. Perhaps slip in some cycling related puns in your texts. If you find out what works, let us know in the comments section!

bike crowdNot so subliminal messaging

Keep talking about cycling and how great it is. Send them bike-themed birthday cards (even if it’s not their birthday). Get a bike tattoo. Buy them a bike chain keyring or a cycle-themed tea towel. Whatever it takes! You’ll be running the risk of becoming a nuisance by now but don’t give up!

Alienate them

Team up with your other friends who cycle and alienate those who don’t. Occasionally forget to invite the bikeless friends to meet ups or maybe meet up with them but go off on your bikes and leave them behind. Or just exclude them from the conversation by using cycling lingo to bamboozle their non-cycling brains.

Disclaimer:

No one’s actually advocating any bullying here – we’re all nice people and friends are friends! But get past what may feel like fierce resistance, turn a non-cyclist into a cyclist and they’ll probably thank you for life (not to mention go on to spread the word themselves).

 

Beginner’s Blog 1: Common questions from beginner cyclists

The next few blogs we’ll be posting relate to new cyclists – So let’s kick off with some key FAQs.

If you’ve just taken up cycling (and hats off to you if you have – it is January after all), then you might be facing numerous  considerations. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

What type of bike should I get?Crowd bike

The answer depends on where and how much you intend to ride. There’s no point getting a mountain bike or BMX bike if you want to start commuting to work by bike on the roads. Similarly, it’s no good getting a road bike with skinny tyres if you also intend to use it for countryside escapes on trails where the surface can get muddy or gravelly.

How much should I spend on the bike?

Again, the answer depends on how much you are going to be riding. However, even if you are not going to be using it a lot, it’s inadvisable to aim for the cheapest bike your money can buy. Invest a little more and you’ll enjoy it more (and consequently use it more). But for under £350, you’ll get a good, reliable bike and that means the ride quality should be comfortable and the components shouldn’t wear out after a few rides. Second hand bikes will usually deliver great value for money; check out our blog for advice.

Do I need to wear lycra?

Absolutely not, plenty of cyclists don’t. Lycra is comfortable if the rides are longer and when the weather is hotter. But cycling in your civvies means you can hop on and off the bike with minimum fuss (and if you commute by bike, you don’t have to change before you get to your desk).

kryptoniteA cheap cable lock will do, right?

This is an area where it’s worth spending a little, but of course the cost of the lock should be proportional to the cost of the bike. Look for the label certifying locks that are Bronze, Silver or Gold standard and read our blog about how to beat the bike thieves.

How and where can I learn to ride?

With us of course! We are London based and work with selected boroughs who sponsors cycle training for those who live, work or study in the borough so that the training is FREE to you! There are other training providers around the country too to give you expert help to get you pedalling.

Is it not dangerous to ride on the road?

There are risks associated with everything we do and of course this includes every form of transportation from walking, cycling, driving to travelling on a plane. The National Standard for cycling we teach at our cycle training is intended to help cyclists to cycle more safely. There is training that’s geared to complete beginners as well as experienced cyclists. And of course, there are plenty of on-road routes that avoid busy junctions and bus lanes. If you’re willing to go slightly out of your way, you can pretty much get anywhere by bike in London, without needing to share space with HGVs and hurrying taxis. Again, our instructors can help with advice on quiet ways and route planning. You don’t know what you don’t know so when in doubt, get expert help!

Can we go on a bike ride together?

The answer is always yes. The question should be where you should go for a bike ride. Having a cycling buddy will be really appreciated by beginner cyclists. Experienced cyclists can usually learn something along the way too by helping beginners.

What if I am too slow?Penny Farthing Racing

Not all beginner cyclists are slow but we were all beginners once so if in a group, the slowest should be given due consideration. If you are walking and your friend has a foot injury, you’re not going to leave them behind, right? Always be aware of your surroundings and where your friends are during the ride to ensure you are not split up.

Am I asking too many questions?

You probably are but that’s how you learn from scratch. No one has all the answers to every cycling related question (though we’re doing our best!) so we should keep asking questions and keep helping each other.

 

 

Top 10 hills to avoid/visit in London

Some avoid hills at all costs, some long for them. There aren’t long mountain passes in London but you will find some seriously steep hills and there’s no question – they’re a tall order to conquer. For the purposes of this blog, the M25 is the boundary; all 10 hills are within this. If you struggle to ride up the approach to London Bridge then you should be prepared for a walk when tackling one of these. Click on the hyperlinks to see the technical profile of each hill.

Canonbie Road SE23

How do you know if a road is steep? How about looking at the houses that line the road? It is almost comical how steep this road looks. At the top, you will get a very rare, uninterrupted view of London in two opposite directions.

Points Hill SE10

Staying in residential areas but in Greenwich. The parked cars sometimes make it even more difficult when you have to change your speed to give way. Give yourself some serious points if you reach the top.

Blackheath Hill SE10

This one is the least steep on the list but the high volume of traffic makes it particularly challenging. Slow moving traffic will keep you warm with their exhaust but you’ll want to hold your breath.

Swain’s Lane N6

The infamous stinger of a climb in Highgate. It’s both feared and respected. The wall on the left side and the overarching trees are a little claustrophobic, that is if you’ve got the capacity to think about anything other than the pain in your legs and lungs.

Fox Hill SE19

Tucked away behind Crystal Palace, you will know about it if you live/cycle nearby. It’s got some brothers and sisters along the ridge but this one is the steepest of them all. The pain doesn’t last very long… but the test is if you can actually get over it.

Brasted Hill TN14

We are heading south, very near the M25 now. The start of the steep part tickles around 12% and with no respite, gradually work its way up to 20% at the top. From the bottom of the hill, you can see all the way to the top which is very intimidating.

White Lane RH8

A quiet climb next to Titsey hill. The gentle curves and greenery hide the finish from your sight. It gets steeper just as you think you are about to finish but mind over matter. There’s a hill climb race on this hill every year organised by BEC cycling club for anyone who wants to watch others suffer.

Succomb’s Hill CR6

The relatively busy traffic on this hill which takes you up to Warlingham will keep you wanting to go up it faster. When you see the S bends up the road, prepare yourself for the real stuff.

Bug Hill CR3

This is the least violent hill on the list (if hills can be called violent). It does get steep but the gradient changes very gently so no surprises and you will usually have enough peace and quiet to focus on your thumping heart and screaming legs.

Downe Road TN14

This one has a nasty surprise for you right at the end, before it lets you into Cudham. The majority of the climb is very manageable but the final ramp feels like the road engineers are saying “oops we made a miscalculation, let’s just finish the job quickly and join this bit straight up to that bit”.

 

Aaaaaand we’re over the top. Anyone else feeling exhausted just from reading about these hills? There are others that would be excellent contenders for sure (we don’t presume to be the ultimate authority). If you know of any gems that should be on this list, let us know in the comments section.

 

Top 5 cycling new year resolutions

locked bikeHappy New Year! Let’s make 2017 another cycling year! Read on for our 5 favourite cycling new year resolutions. There should be something for beginner cyclists, occasional cyclists and seasoned cyclists alike.

Get someone to start cycling

Spread the love! You might know someone who is considering taking up cycling for commuting or recreationally. Help them with the process of getting a bike and offer to guide them on a ride. You’ll be glad to hear that we’ll be publishing a mini series of blogs soon to answer some common questions from beginner cyclists. We also have suggestions for how to get your friends, family and colleagues to start cycling.

Climb a hill that’s defeated you before

You and your bike vs hills. Having 100% confidence that you can get over any hill makes route planning much easier so if you’ve been beaten by a hill, keep trying until you conquer it! If you thought London was flat, we’ve got news for you… watch out for next week’s blog “Top 10 hills to avoid/ visit in London”.

Plan and complete a challenging ride

If you are getting bored of cycling in your local area or your commuting route, how about challenging yourself with a long ride and perhaps a more taxing terrain? Part of the fun is planning the route (don’t overestimate your own ability!) Perhaps plan to ride with someone you know who is more experienced; they may be able to advise on route planning and help with directions or mechanical mishaps on the day. If you choose your partner wisely, you’ll probably even get a few words of encouragement.

Start cycling into work

Tired of waiting for buses and trains that are forever late or cancelled? Feeling the January tug of the purse strings (or waistband)? Tick all the boxes at once by switching to cycling in to work. Depending on your confidence and the length of your commute, cycle the whole way or consider replacing a particular leg of your journey. Most train and tube stations have ample parking for bikes or there’s the foldable bike option if you want to take it with you on the train. Don’t let the British weather deter you though; get some tips and inspiration from these blogs: How to love riding in the rain, Some inspirational thoughts on winter cycling commutes, A guide to winter commuting by bike

By: Federation European Cyclists'
By: Federation European Cyclists’

Cycle more often and more safely

Form a realistic plan and make your target to cycle more often. For example, look at using a cycle hire scheme to get around your city for meetings. Maybe you can commit to cycling in to work at least once a week to start off with. For the weekend, treat the family to a leisurely countryside cycle once a month.

You can take care of the “more safely” aspect by booking some cycle training with a company like ours. There are many cycle training providers across the UK so it shouldn’t be hard for you to find a National Standard Instructor to give you a lesson or two. The training is usually free or subsidised by the local authority and caters for every level of ability.

A guide to winter commuting by bike

Danish Bicycle History - Some Things Never Change

It’s cold, wet and dark. Why would you ever commute to work by bike in winter? Well there are a few things that you can do (or have) to make that cycle commute less daunting. Here are some ideas.

Lights

You should have a set of lights charged up; white for the front and red for the rear. If you are in an urban area with lit streets then use flashing modes to help you stand out a bit more.

Be considerate to other road users with your lights though. As a rule of thumb, if your front light is putting out 100 lumens or above, you should check the angle of your mount as you may be dazzling oncoming road users.

Visibility

See and be seen. Apart from having lights, you can also improve your visibility to other road users with reflectives. You will find reflectives on cycling specific clothing and bags. You can also find reflective ankle or arm bands.

Light doesn’t bend around objects or corners* so having lights and reflectives are only part of the solution. Your positioning is more important for seeing and being seen by other road users. All cyclists should consider getting cycle training with a qualified National Standard cycling instructor who can teach you about road positioning and more. We make no apology for the plug; the benefits of cycle training for cyclists of any ability are well documented. For London boroughs where we work, you can book your training session with us for free here!

*Light does bend on the astronomical scale by gravitational lensing as predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity but that probably has no place here.

Layer up

Layering up is the obvious preparation in winter. If you have a long ride, you should pay some attention to your layering set-up so that removing a layer mid-ride is an easy affair. Take a waterproof to work even if it’s dry in the morning; the Met Office can’t be 100% accurate day in, day out.

Cover up

When it inevitably gets bitterly cold, you will want to cover up as much as possible. There are cycling hats that can fit under the helmet and extend down to cover your ears too. A neck warmer is another good purchase as you can pull it up to cover most of your face. A pair of clear glasses is a bit of a luxury but works a treat in the hail or on eye watering descents.

Mudguards

We’re big advocates of full length mudguards. Even if it’s not raining, surface water will linger on the roads for a long time and, without mudguards, you’ll be wearing it all up your back. There’s an added benefit to the cyclist behind you too, in the form of avoiding an unwanted baptism by dirty water.

Black IceBlack Ice

You need to be aware of the possibility of encountering black ice in winter. If you’re “lucky” enough to go over black ice head on, the best countermeasures are: resist the instinct to brake, relax and keep steering straight. If you hit black ice on a corner… you’re in the lap of the gods, sorry.

Obviously, if you are not cycling on the road then you mitigate the risk completely. Assess the roads you ride on; are you in a rural area with sparse traffic or are you in a densely populated urban area? Unsalted rural roads will be peppered with black ice given the right (or wrong) conditions. The timing of your ride is also important; riding urban roads in the morning after peak traffic will slightly lower the chance encountering black ice.

Here we are, well into winter. We’re still commuting by bike so we’ll see you out there!

Diamond bike frame

Sorry if the title’s a bit of a clickbait – you won’t find an actual diamond covered bike here – but what you will find is the classic ‘diamond’ shaped bike frame plus some wonderful variations on the bike frame theme.

The modern bicyclebicycle_frame_diagram

We will leave the story of the origin of the modern bicycle for another day. Most people will recognise a Penny Farthing (known as the ordinary bicycle) which is not the safest option on two wheels: think high centre of gravity combined with stopping quickly and cycling up or down steep hills. So the need for a safer solution was clear. Through many iterations, we eventually settled on bike frames comprising a double triangle, hence the name diamond shaped bike frame.

Extreme variations

Modern technology, competitiveness and human yearning for pushing the boundaries has given us some very unconventional takes on the bicycle theme. The most famous ones must be the Lotus bikes and the Old Faithful.

Chris Boardman rode the Lotus 108 to victory on the track at the 1992 Summer Olympics 4 km Pursuit. He also broke the then hour record on board the Lotus 110. On the other hand, Graeme Obree built the Old Faithful from BMX tubes and bearings from a washing machine and went on to break the hour record on it twice.

Denise Mueller recently set a new women’s bicycle land speed record on board a specially designed bike. It still has the diamond shape but does look like a cousin of a chopper motorcycle. A closer look will reveal a range of suspensions, stabilisers and the double chainrings to give her a gigantic gear ratio on a fixed gear bike.

slingshotLess famously (some might say infamously) the Slingshot has no downtube, one side of the diamond shaped frame being replaced by a taut wire known as SlingPower technology (see pic). A quick search on the interweb reveals they are still selling bikes with this technology (though not massively popular so it must be an acquired taste).

Moderate variations

The triangle is a strong geometric shape which is why it features on bikes wherever possible. And you’ll find them in a lot of civil engineered structures too, as well as the humble corrugated cardboard. However, some commonly used bikes do away with the double triangle, diamond shaped frame.

The most obvious is perhaps the step through bike but fold up bikes and tandems have also done away with the diamond shaped frame for good functional reasons. Less commonly seen are recumbents and adapted cycles. Some of these may be heavier to make sure they are strong enough but none of them involves cycling 6 feet off the ground like a Penny Farthing, phew.

Consolation

To make up for the lack of diamond covered bikes in this world, there is a gold plated bike which was made by Ernesto Colnago for Pope John Paul II in 1979. Not many people would return a gold plated bike but that’s exactly what the Pope did after a year, stating that he wanted a bike with flat handlebars. Which Colnago duly delivered.