Saturday, 26 December 2009
Imperial Winter Series Boxing Day Race
Average speed 23.1
Sunday, 20 December 2009
Imperial Winter Series Race 3 - Saturday 19th December 2009
Average speed 23.6mph.
Friday, 18 December 2009
The Helmet Debate Drags On
"Cycle helmets would be expected to be effective in a range of accident conditions particularly the most common accidents that do not involve a collision with another vehicle, often simply falls or tumbles over the handlebars and also when the mechanism of injury involves another vehicle glancing the cyclist or tipping them over causing their head to strike the ground."
It would, I suppose, be genuinely astonishing if it were found that helmets were of no use in protecting the head in any circumstance. I have a clubmate who found his particularly helpful when caught unawares by a descending carpark barrier. I sometimes have wished I was wearing mine in the kitchen when my head has contacted an open cupboard door.
The TRL report expressly says it does not deal with the vexed question of risk compensation, whereby people's behaviour changes as a consequence of seeing themselves or others as less vulnerable. Nor does it deal with the questions whether the wearing of helmets should be encouraged or mandated, but its conclusions probably mean that we should not be expecting any change in the Highway Code's advice to cyclists to wear a helmet (accompanied by a vulnerable looking cyclist cowering in the gutter).
Whether this report will provide further impetus to motor insurers to blame cyclists for head injuries because they have not worn a helmet remains to be seen. What I will say is that in no case yet has a Court determined that a cyclist both ought to have been wearing a helmet and that it would have made any difference. No deduction for contributory negligence has therefore been made by a Court to date. Cyclists and their lawyers should bear that in mind when a reduction is suggested.
I have already expressed my views on contributory negligence here. Nothing in the latest paper changes my view. It is so much more important that people cycle than that they cycle with helmets and the Australian experience demonstrates that you cannot encourage both. It is so much more important that accidents are prevented than that we are forced to look to personal protection to hope to minimise their effect.
So when we see a famous footballer taking his children out for a bicycle ride let us applaud him for getting on a bike and not attack him because he has chosen not to wear a helmet.
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
The trouble with cycle lanes
I can now confirm that not all accidents are reported to the police. I shall not bother [edit: actually I shall; I will try to report by email and see if the Metropolitan Police now make reporting easy]- the last time I was taken out on a roundabout and ended up in hospital the police agreed not to prosecute the motorist if she went on a course. I will report it to CTC's SMIDSY campaign instead.
Sunday, 13 December 2009
The week that was
When Westminster councillor Angela Harvey spoke to The Times last week to support a proposal to allow traffic wardens power to fine errant cyclists she told them that:
“We’re always getting little old ladies who are knocked down and abused by a cyclist, who leaves them on the ground as they ride away. The police are the only people who have the ability to enforce this issue, and they just aren’t taking this seriously enough. There are more of our officers on the street than there are police at any given time, so it is a sensible solution.”
Meanwhile BBC news reports a recent study which has confirmed what we all know, that mobile 'phone use amongst motorists is common-place. Motorists now appreciate that the risks of a penalty are negligible and use hand held 'phones no less than they did before legislation banning their use.
Ms Harvey seems to me to be a bit like the sherriff in the lawless frontier town who does not dare to tackle the bandits with the shotguns, but instead urges her deputies to deal with the kids with the pea-shooters. Let's exaggerate the harm done by the pea-shooters and turn a blind eye to the death and destruction threatened by the untouchables.
Saturday, 12 December 2009
Imperial Winter Series Race 2
Average speed 24mph
Saturday, 5 December 2009
Imperial Winter Series - Saturday 5th December
For a full account of this (and many other) races see Lance Woodman's blog.
Average Speed 24 mph.
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
Such a 'free for all' would though require a hierachy of vehicles, with motorists giving way to cyclists and both giving way to pedestrians such that in a collision the driver of the larger type of vehicle would at least bear the burden of demonstrating in a civil case that the accident was not his fault. I have described this as akin to the system prevailing in some European countries. This is of course a simplification of a complex piece of comparative law which I may attempt in a future post. The burden is harder to shift in some countries and in some circumstances than in others.
Finally, I am gratified that a number of people have been kind enough to express appreciation of my last post.
Friday, 13 November 2009
Cycling against the car culture
Last year (2008) 2,538 people were killed in the
Friday, 18 September 2009
Ronde Picarde Saturday 12th September 2009
With a bit of lucky timing at the Eurotunnel, we made it this year from home to the sign on in Abbeville in 3 ½ hours, which meant I got there at 1958 French time, 2 minutes before the advertised closing time. Tents were already being taken down, the guy checking the electronic tags had turned his laptop off and the bags of goodies had plainly run out. However I got the bare essentials minus sufficient ties for transponder and number, and headed west into a glorious sunset to the usual cabin by the golf-course.
There I assembled the bike, tied the number on using dental floss and inserted into my rear bottle carrier the sawn off tonic bottle which was all part of the plan to avoid last year’s disaster at the water station.
The following dawn saw me up having breakfast and going easy on the coffee in an attempt to avoid a stop behind a hedge later in the day. In the gathering light I made the 15 minute ride back to the start, caught up by part of a large group from the
At 0804 we set off for the mad dash out of Abbeville with the speed soon picking up to 30 mph as we blasted southeast. However as we reached the first roundabout outside Abbeville the riding became very hairy. The lead vehicles slowed to below the pace of the peleton and we all bunched up behind, with the foolhardy picking past the strong, my speed dropping from 32 mph to 12. Once past the roundabout the pace picked right up again. There was a high speed crash as we zoomed through Epagnette to Eaucourt. Then the sharp turns as we left the main road and the delay getting over the narrow bridge before we wound up again as we headed south towards where I had expected the first hill. However this year we diverted from the route of previous years and headed straight to Bellifountaine avoiding the worst of the hill and gradually separating out into large groups.
As we went south to Oisement a strong wind made itself apparent especially after we had crossed the motorway for the first time and headed northwest. The wind must have been heading somewhere out of the Northeast. The echelon spread left across the road, with the first handful of riders, and then strung out in a long line all on the far left. Fortunately there were motorcycles everywhere warning oncoming traffic to get off the road. The wind strengthened and riders desperately tried to get shelter from each other, which was the probable cause of a sudden crash right in the middle of the peleton alongside me.
Speed remained high and I hit 30mph again on the descent down to the seaside town of
Heading back to the coast we were back into a strong crosswind. Again there was a string of riders along the left side of the road. However close I was to the side of the road someone would come further to my left to try to take shelter from me. I couldn’t seem to find shelter for myself and gave up just before Cayeaux and headed through
The next group came by shortly before the bifurcation came up. This group was fine to begin with and I was even spending a fair bit of time at, or at least towards, the front of it. At the water sation my sawn off tonic bottle served its purpose well, I picked up two bottles one went into my makeshift holder, the other into my back pocket. There was welcome relief from the wind provided by the
I was on my own for nearly all the remaining 20 miles. I was passed by a pair doing a 2 up that involved riding side by side taking it in turns to be in the crosswind. As I got to the last hill I spied a large group behind and decided I would try and keep ahead of them. By now there was a tailwind so I time trailed back to the finish.
After the pasta, beer and chips at the finish, it was time to return to Virginie’s for the now customary
Total time this year was 05:42, good enough for Gold, but a disappointment after last year’s rather better performance. I came in 282nd, one hour behind the winner and 102nd in my age category. For the first time I had a slower time than the preceding year.
Still a great ride and as always thoroughly recommended.
Monday, 7 September 2009
Thames Velo Hillingdon Crit Saturday 5th September
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Etape du Tour Montelimar to Mt Ventoux Monday 20th July
to pay homage to Tom Simpson. It was a mild but very very windy day. I felt in genuine fear of being blown off the mountain. A manageable ride when you start at Bedoin with fresh legs but it will of course be rather different on the etape with a 90 mile warm up before the climb.
Monday turned out to be a hot day. Echoes of the 2007 etape there, especially climbing the first half of Mt Ventoux when the drink station could not come soon enough. Further up it was glorious with only a light wind, not the blow you off the mountain type wind of 2 days earlier. Overall a cracking ride on a cracking day. Took this photo from the mountain top finish looking down on a ant like line of cyclists.
Here are some (real) times:
Dimitri Champion 05:11:31 (winner)
Erik Zabel 06:48:44
Martin Porter 07:31:29
Chris Boardman 08:09:46
Brian Cookson 09:50:32 (BC President)
James Benning 09:50:41 (Clubmate)
There is now a full report on my club website
Monday, 22 June 2009
Gran Fondo Sportful Sunday 21st June
Sunday, 7 June 2009
Highclere Castle Cyclosportive Sunday 7th June
I read the debate about the value of cyclosportives in the cycling press with interest. My view is that anything that gets people out on bikes is good and there were certainly plenty for this impeccably planned event.
Thursday, 4 June 2009
Surrey league Handicap Race Thursday 4th June 2009
Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Hillingdon 4th Cat Crits Tuesday 2nd June 2009
Monday, 1 June 2009
Safety in Numbers for Cyclists
Sunday, 31 May 2009
Chiltern 100 Sunday 31st May 2009
Postscipt: just opened my goody bag and was interested to find bottles of ecological chainlube and degreaser. I will definitely give these a go.
Saturday, 30 May 2009
DfT Consultation on safe roads
My contribution was as follows:
"Good as far as it goes but it lacks any proposal to educate motorists to give adequate room to cyclists. This requires them to understand that overtaking a cyclist is a manoeuvre that needs to be executed like overtaking any other vehicle and will usually necessitate changing lane. Close passing of cyclists and aggression towards cyclists who take appropriate space on the roads are major deterrents for cycling. The more cycling there is the more likely targets based on injuries per distance travelled will be reached."
Now is the opportunity for us cyclists to make ourselves heard. Cycling in this country is reasonably safe in statistical terms, but far too many tragic and unnecessary deaths are occurring. A significant barrier to popular cycling will be overcome when it can be demonstrated to be no more hazardous than driving a car.
Friday, 29 May 2009
A30 Crooked Billet to Clockhouse Roundabouts
Maidenhead 10 mile TT 28th May 2009
Tour of Wessex 24th May 2009
We headed for the coast via the army firing ranges around Lulworth. I struggled with a few others to keep in contact with the group up to the clifftop. The bunch stopped at this feed, so I did, but I was too slow and by the time I had refuelled etc., I could see the group heading off into the distance and gave chase. For a long time they remained ¼ mile ahead but then they slowly vanished into the distance as we skirted Wareham. After a few lonely minutes, Mr White Assos kit came by towing three others and I suggested a through and off to catch the group. This eventually worked and we were all back together by Winfrith Heath, though the price of the chase was that I was now knackered. I first cracked on the hill out of Milton Abbas at mile 70. I managed the first steep part of the hill but had not appreciated how long it carried on after the left turn. I was one of four dropped on the hill and it was several miles before I could do any share of the work.
We four regained the group by the simple expedient of not stopping at the third feed. I hung on the back for a few miles. However I have not been doing enough long rides and was tired. As the road pitched up again at around mile 80, the one rider behind me overtook and I was dropped again but this time alone. For the next hour I was entirely alone save for a hail of acknowledgment when I passed two riders who had punctured. The last of these regained and passed me indicating that he wished to ride alone.
It was not until mile 98 that the next group finally came by. They were slower paced than my earlier group and were about right for me until in the last couple of miles they upped the pace for the dash to the line. I couldn’t go faster so was dropped for the third time. I pedalled gently to and then through Somerton, for the first time on this otherwise perfectly signed course, not quite sure where I should be going. Oddly the finish was not well signed and I had to ask twice to find it. Anyway I crossed the line at 05:45 for the 112 miles, managing my first Gold at my fourth Tour of Wessex attempt.
This is one of only a handful of UK cyclosportives that comes with my wholehearted recommendation.
Fred Whitton 10th May 2009
Photo courtesy Kirkstone Inn
I feel fortunate to have survived this year’s FWC. This feeling has nothing to do with hills or distances but to my misreading of the one-way system in Ambleside. It is also meant literally. Once over the bridge in Ambleside I thought it was a one way gyratory all the way around and spent the short time available, without slowing, looking to the left. Wrong. I emerged into the path of a car from the right. We all sometimes make mistakes and this was a serious wake-up call. It reinforces my belief in 20mph limits in built up areas to lessen the potential consequences of such folly.
The family came with me this year for a weekend in proper countryside. We enjoyed the usual fine food at the usual Staffordshire pub on the way up. It was a huge disappointment that the Lake Windermere Ferry was closed. By the time we got to the sign on, in Coniston, the heavy rain on the M6 had given way to late afternoon sunshine, ideal for playing hide and seek with my daughters in the grounds of the Hawkshead Youth Hostel and admiring the nearby lambs.
Those staying in the hotel with me included teammates Mike, Alan, Dan and our supporters, Paul and Joanne. Teammates Derwent and Ruth had made separate alternative arrangements as had our club coach and cheerleader Dave and Betty. Most of us got to the Queen’s Head in Hawkshead for pre-ride nosh, booze and merriment, reminiscing about Fred Whittons past and the days when club runs would go from the Maidenhead Pondhouse to the pier end at Weston-super-Mere.
One restless night later, my best hope of a drive to the start opted for a lie-in, dreamily pronouncing the route to the start to be all downhill. I therefore set out for the warm up ride at 0715, aiming for the 0745 start that had been decided upon by Ruth, Mike and me at the Queen’s Head. It was thought we would get the 8 o’clock group without the risk of being dropped on the first hill.
It was sound logic as Mike’s chain misbehaved at the bottom of Hawkshead Hill, so Ruth and I twiddled up without him. He hadn’t quite caught us by the top so we relied upon his steely descending skills and, sure enough, he was back with us in good time to witness my near demise in Ambleside. We found a man in red and black to draft while we relaxed and enjoyed the views of Lake Windermere. Once we turned onto the climb on Holbeck Lane we opted for a lower pace and let him go, though I was reunited with him later as we rode in the same group to Honister. Not far into that climb a train came by powered by a team from Richmond CC. I suggested hopping on board but by the time I looked back neither Mike nor Ruth were with us. The guys from Richmond were strong – they went on to get cracking times- and we picked up a sizeable group, though quite a few dropped off on the upper reaches of Kirkstone. I struggled but (though it may not look it in the photo) just kept contact as we reached the summit Inn where Paul and Joanne shouted support and two Richmond riders stopped to collect drinks.
I only managed 36 mph descending Kirkstone, so lost the group, but was starting to gain when the terrain flattened. I was in luck as the two Richmond riders flew by and I stole a tow back to the bunch. We did a slightly shambolic through and off to the A66 where several groups coalesced for a 30mph run down to Keswick. I opted for the outside line as I deemed it madness to ride in the gutter dodging cats’ eyes at that speed.
The group stuck together through to Honister, the first steep climb and hairy descent. At the summit a chicken passed nonchalantly in front of my wheel and I couldn’t resist asking the marshal why. The group was blown apart but then the first feed at Buttermere was just round the corner anyway.
I headed up Newlands on my own. The day had started cool but dry and I was at Newlands when I got the first taste of things to come. The road had been wetted by some recent drizzle and was distinctly slippery. Over the top the weather brightened and Paul, Joanne, Dave and Betty were all there on Whinlatter to cheer us on. Both Paul and Dave ran alongside giving a frightening impression that they might push me up the hill.
I did the undulating stuff near the coast alone or in small groups, the sun came out and I felt quite warm. Coldfell however lived up to its name this year though we were cheered by the bagpipes. Shortly before the first feed I caught up with Dan. Soon afterwards Dan, Alan and I were all at the Calderbridge feed together. I left alone but soon caught up a group as we headed to Hardknott. As we got there one of them said he wouldn’t get past the cattle grid because of his cramp. I wish he hadn’t because I am convinced that in my case cramp is a largely psychosomatic condition. Thus far it had been a largely windless day but as I started the climb a sudden headwind came from nowhere. I managed the first hairpins just fine. Someone was standing by the side of the road on the less steep middle section offering cups of water. As I declined, I suffered an acute cramp in both calves. He largely broke my fall but I ended up with my left hip in the stream by the side of the road and my bike and legs lying across the road in the path of the frustrated Rover driver who had been pursuing me up the hill. I lay there, a helpless obstruction on the road for about 30 seconds, before I could even uncleat. I got up stretched my legs, walked a bit and somehow remounted but the cramp came back before the final steep hairpins so I got off and walked those rather than risk another fall. By now the road was starting to get wet and cars were spinning about. I found it an effort to walk those hairpins and was nearly mowed down by a backward slipping car. I hopped back on for the final section of the climb and felt a bit of a fraud as people clapped and cheered and said ‘well done’ as I reached the summit.
The storm clouds continued to gather and the hail started as I descended Hardknott making an already technical descent somewhat hairy. On the final hairpin I started to slide so just released the brakes and went for it. I managed Wrynose without sliding or cramping on the way up. For the descent the hailstones which had been falling had settled unmelted onto the road adding an additional challenge. Once I descended there was heavy rain from there to the finish.
Having dibbed my dibber I found my family sheltering under the Sports Centre eves looking a bit disconsolate. Concern was expressed about how we were going to get out of the mudfield so I was encouraged to collect my certificate smartly so we could go. I was soaked through and didn’t argue. A quick shower at the Youth Hostel and a pizza in Lancaster preceded the long drive home.
I had aimed for sub-8 hours and not to walk. I comfortably achieved the former target with a finish time of 07:27. That made up for the fact that I did not achieve the latter.
As always a terrifically organised event with cheerful marshals in all the right places and good food at the feeds. Definitely the top cyclosportive in the UK. At this time of year I always feel I may have done my last Fred Whitton, but is it conceivable that I could manage a better time and no walking? We’ll see.