Will Olympic success have a trickle down effect?

British cycling enjoyed another golden fortnight as Team GB topped the cycling medal table at the Rio Olympics with 12 medals, six of them gold. The Brits have now exerted a period of sustained dominance, coming out on top in London 2012, and also four years earlier in Beijing. How does this high profile success at the elite level impact on cycling as a whole?

Path to success  

The success of British Cycling over the past decade is the result, first and foremost, of the hard work and dedication of a small number of elite athletes. It has been made possible by considerable investment as UK Sport poured money into those events with good medal prospects. A third key factor has been the ruthless pursuit of the aggregation of marginal gains, a concept popularised by Sir Dave Brailsford, formerly performance director of British Cycling and now general manager of Team Sky.

The idea that making multiple tiny improvements in diverse processes can add up to a large gain is now applied in all sorts of different spheres (including the classroom), and has been re-hashed by shelf-fulls of self-help authors. It’s not all that easy, however, to see its application to the everyday cyclist.

Does Olympic success benefit everyday cycling?

The number of people cycling in the UK has grown rapidly over the period of Olympic success, but proving a link between the two is not straightforward.

British Cycling and its principal supporter, Sky, are keen to demonstrate a link between elite performance and participation. This report, published post London 2012, shows strong evidence for increased participation by existing cyclists, significant uptake by newly inspired cyclists, increased consumer spending, and support for better cycling facilities across the country. This last point is an important one, as public support for better cycling infrastructure will be key to sustained growth.

The ambition to benefit recreational cyclists, as well as those who race competitively, can be seen in British Cycling’s campaigning work. The recently launched #ChooseCycling Charter calls upon local authorities to sign up to a three-point pledge “which will help transform Britain into a true cycling nation”.

There are some who see this widening of their remit by British Cycling as treading on the toes of other organisations who have long been campaigning on similar issues. It is to be hoped that all those who share the goal of increased participation in cycling of all types can work together to good effect.

Feeling inspired?

If you’ve been inspired by Froome, Wiggins, Clancy and Trott then check out some of our other blogs for help and advice on all sorts of topics, including buying a second hand bike, group and social rides, and whether cycle training is for you.

 

Changing lives with bicycles

We love cycling as it adds to our sense of freedom, independent mobility and sustainability. For people living in precarious circumstances, these same qualities can make bicycles a life-changing asset, by improving access to basic essentials.

Critical Mass to Calais

Last year Critical Mass organised an event which saw eighty cyclists ride seventy miles through London and Kent and on to Calais. On arrival at the “Jungle” camps they left their bicycles and tents for the use of the migrants who live there. Julian Sayarer, one time record holder for fastest circumnavigation by bicycle, was one of the participants. In his account of the ride, he explains, “Bicycles, judging by the constant stream being pedalled from the Jungle to Calais, are an invaluable aid in lives that have already been made unbearably difficult”.

The camp sits just beyond a motorway bridge a five-mile round trip from the distribution centres. Bicycles make daily movements manageable to access aid, services and asylum offices turning an exhausting and dehumanising five-mile walk into a swift ride.

The Bike Project

London based The Bike Project receive donations of second-hand bikes, fix them up in their workshop, and then donate them to asylum seeking refugees in the capital. Beneficiaries are encouraged to attend the workshop to get actively involved in the process and learn basic bike maintenance to improve self sufficiency. The Project also provides cycle training to women refugees in an all female environment to open up the benefits of cycling to as many refugees as possible.

London is a city that is rich in opportunities. A bike can help people reach the many resources that London has to offer: charities that can feed them, lawyers that can aid their application process, home office appointments, healthcare, education and much more. If they are lucky enough to receive status, a bike can help them find employment.

Anyone wishing to help can find out more here. You can donate a bicycle, money, or your time.

Elephant Bike

Another UK based charity transforming lives with bicycles is the Krizevac Project, through its Elephant Bike initiative.

The charity employs youth offenders to strip down and refurbish unused Royal Mail delivery bikes, building skills and gaining qualifications in the process. The bikes are then put up for sale at www.elephantbike.co.uk. Each bike purchase funds the shipment of a second bike to Malawi, where they provide sustainable transport and create employment opportunities.

Qhubeka

These type of initiatives may seem far removed from elite-level cycling, but the two worlds come together in the form of Team Dimension Data, who ride in support of the Qhubeka project, funding bicycles to change lives in Africa. Qhubeka is an Nguni word that means “to move forward”. The charity believes that mobilising people with bicycles can create access to education, healthcare and economic opportunity. Find out more here.

 

A guide to buying a second hand bike

This post will look at how to buy a second hand general utility bicycle, as opposed to a high performance road machine, or vintage collector’s item, which is another kettle of (more expensive) fish.

London bikesBuying second hand can offer the chance to get the best possible bike for your budget, and for London commuters who may have to leave their bike locked up in public there’s also a school of thought that pre-loved bikes are less attractive to thieves.

Talking of which, it’s important to take all reasonable steps to avoid buying a stolen bike. BikeRegister, the national cycle database, has some excellent advice to prevent you from unwittingly supporting bike crime.

So what else should you look out for?

Where to buy

Gone are the days of scouring the classifieds in the local paper. Online equivalents such as Gumtree and Craigslist can harbour the odd bargain still, as can E-Bay, but shopping for a bike without being able to test it out in person is obviously fraught with risk.

Look for listings with plenty of detail and good quality photos. It’s always preferable to have the option to collect in person, rather than having the goods posted out to you.

A better bet might be the classified forums of popular bike-related websites, such as BikeRadar, Singletrack, or (for fixed gear and single speed) LFGSS. The forum communities are self-policing and will weed out anything that doesn’t look right.

Better still would be to buy a second hand bike from a local bike shop, as any reputable shop will have given their bikes a full service before sale, and will be more likely to be able to deal with you sympathetically should any issues arise.

What to look for

To avoid a bargain buy turning into a two-wheeled money pit, it’s important to check for common problems before parting with your cash. If you don’t feel confident in your ability to make a full assessment then take someone along with you who does.

  • First of all make sure you get the right size. A bargain priced bike that doesn’t fit is a false economy.
  • Wheels should be true – meaning the rim doesn’t appear to wobble as it rotates – within a mm or two. Badly dished wheels are expensive to fix, or may be beyond repair, and make it impossible to set the brakes up effectively.
  • The frame should be straight and free from dents. Any signs of cracks or bends are a deal breaker.
  • Check that the seat post is not seized in the frame, as you’ll need to adjust this to your height.
  • Make sure that the forks turn smoothly in the frame when you move the handlebars.
  • Look for any play (looseness) in the bottom bracket and cranks, and in the headset.
  • Check that the brakes are working, and that the cables run smoothly and aren’t frayed.
  • Check that the gears operate correctly, and again, that the cables run smoothly.
  • If possible, having conducted some basic safety checks, take the bike for a test ride.

Learning a little about bike maintenance, and showing your bike some regular care and attention, will save you even more money in the long run.

Happy shopping!

A nifty new app for puncture roadside rescue

Imagine you are a cyclist with a puncture. You don’t have a spare inner tube or you can’t fix the puncture yourself. You don’t know where you can find a bike shop – maybe they are all closed at the time –  and you are going to be late for an appointment…

Wouldn’t it be great if you could hail someone just around the corner to come to your rescue? Well, now you can with the Kerbi app for iPhone.

With Kerbi, if you’re a stranded cyclist, simply ‘hail’ a repair provider via the app, allowing mobile bike mechanics, bike messengers or other expert cyclists in the area to respond directly to your request. You can then choose a repair provider from the quotes you receive, with secure cashless payment upon completion.

Check out the video and homage to The Bourne Identity!

For bike mechanics, Kerbi provides a new route to market for their skills. The “receiver” for Kerbi is another app called Street Stream. Street Stream was originally set up as an app for couriers (including bike messengers). Customers put same-day delivery requests on the Street Stream website and couriers can quote. Now bike mechanics (and bike messengers) can get alerted to stranded cyclists with a puncture and submit their price for getting a puncture sorted. Street Stream takes a small fee per job (£2) – the rest is the mechanic’s to keep and they can charge whatever the market will bear.

In future it will be possible to do more than just punctures, including a whole host of bicycle repairs.

If you would like to check out Kerbi, it’s available on the app store here.

If you would like to be a Kerbi agent, providing repairs, you can download Street Stream here and follow the registration instructions.