Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Our Cycling Cinema

The Cinema begins! 

It's been a while but we know so many people enjoyed the cinema that we did a little review, can only make us feel warmer than we do now in cold October! 

We arrived at Longrun Meadow just after four that afternoon to start setting up.  It was a beautiful late summer’s afternoon – amazing considering the previous day, which had been everyone’s idea of the worst weather possible for a Bicycle Powered Cinema: cold, wet and windy!  Thankfully today promised to turn into the perfect evening – warm, but not hot, so that plenty of people would welcome the chance to get on bike and pedal as they watched the film.

Sitting in the shade of the barn were a small group of local teenagers, who had no idea what was planned for that very spot for that evening – but once we told them, they started enthusiastically Facebooking their mates to invite them along.  Colin arrived and started setting up the bikes and was immediately accorded rock star status by the rather giddy girls – his ripped T-shirt and jaunty hat for some reason giving him a glamour he never knew he possessed!  The screen was put up in front of the barn; if the weather turned against us, it could be easily moved inside – but we were confident that this wouldn’t happen.

Having tramped up and down the designated ‘seating area’ to check for nasties like broken glass and found nothing worse than some dog poo and a few big stones, we emptied the car of its mountain of stuff: cans of fizzy, boxes of chocolate and bags of sweets, a fold-up decorating table and a couple of chairs, two bikes, a box of torches and another of empty jam jars.  My information point cum refreshment stall began to take shape as other helpers appeared.  High visibility vests were doled out and donned with varying amounts of enthusiasm; as a hi-vis vest virgin, I’m not ashamed to say I wore mine with pride.

After a brief briefing from Hannah, four marshalls left on their bikes for Vivary Park, to greet the hoards that we hoped would be massing at the bandstand.  Amy, Sean and I took turns to place nightlights inside the jam jars and space them out along the footpath from the bike sheds by the Castle Sports Centre.  It was already starting to go dark…
Boys from 6cycles getting into the spirit of things. 

Cyclists (and some pedestrians!) started arriving, just a few at first, and then the large group from Vivary Park.  Quite a few opted not to leave their bikes in the bike shed and put them under the barn instead, where they could keep an eye on them.  There was even what looked like a home-made quadricycle careering around!  Folding seats appeared, blankets and ground sheets, sandwiches and flasks.  The ice cream bike was doing a roaring trade and keen cyclists of all ages were already on the 12 bikes, powering up the generator, aiming for the magic number 14.5 which would mean that the film could be switched on.

After a brief welcome from Hannah and an explanation of the sciencey bit – how a Bicycle-Powered Cinema works! -  from Neil, Back to the Future was up and running.  Thanks to our eager participants, there was no break – Colin, Dereck and the other marshals made sure that all 12 bikes were kept going and that anyone who wanted to had the chance to cycle.  The atmosphere was friendly and as balmy as the evening - although for those of use not cycling, it wasn’t quite as warm as it might have been and by the end I was glad of my multiple layers.

Thank to all of you who came along and helped to make the evening such a success.  Here’s to the next time!


Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Off-Grid Festival by Bike

We planned to head to the Off-Grid festival on the Thursday, but looking at the weather, we decided a 20 mile cycle journey in the pouring rain was not probably not quite as fun as it first sounded. So we set off on Friday morning from Yatton. My wife and I headed down the Strawberry line (an old railway line turned cycle track) towards Cheddar. It's a great route as there's huge amounts to see, from dark, leaky train tunnels to the rows of cider apple trees lining the countryside. All along the trail are old stations, some of which have some interesting old features, such as old track from days gone by and station frontage that lies flat on the ground.

After some lovely flat cycle route, we arrived in Cheddar, where we stopped to take in the sights and have a refreshing pint before starting the long slog up the Gorge. We broke up the car dodging with a quick cave visit and plenty of stops for photo opportunities. Most of this did not involve any pedaling, so the journey took a fair while longer than we expected, but by early afternoon, we'd made it to Fernhill Farm.
The festival felt bigger than expected. With just 500 tickets we thought it would seem like a weekend at a campsite, but in fact it felt more like we'd stumbled into a self-sufficient village. It was refreshing to go somewhere that wasn't about excessive drinking and mainstream music, but instead about great ideas for low-impact living. After having a wander around on the Friday, we got stuck in on Saturday with lectures on no-dig gardening, planning for eco building, and Wetland Ecosystem Treatment (WET) systems (low impact waste water purification). One of my favourite parts of the festival was seeing all the conversions of various forms of transport from removals lorries to horseboxes into permanent living accommodation. But top of the list was the Buddhafield Cafe, serving fantastic vegan food and chai.

We reluctantly left on the Sunday as I had to be back at work on Monday morning, heading back the way we came. Of course, this time, it was all downhill! After dodging out of the way from one particularly dangerous driver, hell-bent on trying to overtake us every blind corner, my wife consoled herself by buying some decorations from the permanent Christmas shop in Cheddar. I went for the rather more obvious beer.
The Strawberry line was again highly enjoyable and the weather was great. We stopped at the reservoir along the way, which feels more like the sea, before slowly drifting back up to Yatton.

All in all, a great weekend. We are hugely grateful for the opportunity and are looking forward to going again next year with our new baby in tow!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Cycle to Sunrise Festival - Our Winners account

We recently gave away some tickets to Sunrise festival, our Winner Gary Bee cycled from Cheddar as part of his prize, read his brilliant account below. 

Cheddar, Somerset to Sunrise Festival! Nr Bruton, Somerset

It was Wednesday and tomorrow, Sunrise Festival was starting in a field near Bruton in Somerset. My friend was driving to Bath so i hitched a lift with him to Cheddar and decided to camp in the gorge there for the night.

We woke up in the morning, looked out the window and WOW! It was so beautiful, we drank tea and went for a climb up the cliffs to the top to look at it from above and admire the views...I can’t begin to describe how beautiful it is up there, here are the photos.

 I looked down the gorge at the road that swerves beautifully down to the village and thought how wicked it would be to bomb it down it on my bike and when we got back down to the van looked at the map to see how far it would be to cycle to the festival from Cheddar. It was about 22 miles. It was a beautiful sunny day. Game on!

I made a small bag of food and water, drank another tea and said chou chou to my friend as he headed off to Bath. Strapped my bag to my bike and off I went we had camped near the highest point in the gorge and the ride down to the village was fantastic!

Cycling at high speeds round the bends....weeeeee!! It was so cool...I would have been happy as Larry just to stay there for the day going up and down the gorge! But I had a festival to get to! So off I went.
At the bottom of the gorge was the village of Cheddar which had a lovely feel to it, there were caves to explore and some lovely old cottages and ponds, with the huge cliffs of the gorge to set the backdrop.

 I hit the main road on the other side of the villiage and headed to Wells.
The ride to Wells was rather pleasant; the road was smothered with the wonderful smell of fresh elderflower practically all the way! The ride was a nice steady set of rolling hills with a good view over Somerset and Glastonbury Tor sitting pretty on the horizon. I thought it would take a long time to get to Wells but when I was thinking i was maybe about half way there was the sign welcoming me to the city! Awesome!

I realised that it was going to be a lot quicker ride than i had anticipated, so i decided i had plenty of time to stop in Wells, be a tourist and have some lunch!
I decided to head straight to the cathedral as i thought there would be plenty of space and hopefully some grass around there to sit on so I cycled through the city keeping my eye on the spire as my guiding light.

 I ventured onward towards the spire but before we got to the cathedral I found a castle! wow! there was a castle in Wells! And it had a moat! A moat! It was very beautiful! And there were swans! But you had to pay to get in through the gate, and i didn’t have a battle ram or catapult, so I went on to the cathedral. There was plenty of grass there for me to chill out on for a while.

The Cathedral was big and Cathedral-like with a huge green in front surrounded by quaint little cottages. It was a great place for lunch!

I decided from Wells I would go via Shepton Mallet to the festival, and after a good hour of relaxing in the sunshine me and my trusty steed took to the road!
The road out of Wells was a bit new and wide with fast cars, which was a bit disappointing and I thought maybe it would be like that until Shepton Mallet but it was no more than a mile before being back on the windy country roads I love! There weren’t many hills on this bit of road and it followed up through a woody valley most of the way. It felt completely different to the first part of the journey between Cheddar and Wells which was quite open with good views; Wells to Shepton Mallet was more of a cosy ride through a valley. Both were delightful in different ways.

When I arrived at Shepton Mallet I decided not to stop but to carry on through onto the festival. I went through the town and stopped on a nice bench on the other side so that I could have a little water before carrying on. After Shepton Mallet the road opened up again and there was a nice steady downhill run for a few miles on the way to Bruton with views across the fields. Until now there were no hills that I’d found particularly challenging but in front of me there was a massive one! My legs wept! But I was up for it!! And with determination and enthusiasm I made it at least half way (!) before getting off and walking! It was steep and long!

But, there was a festival nearby and I knew I wasn’t that far now! (though I did wonder how many more hills like this there were on the other side of the hill before the festival!!) I finally arrived at the top of the hill, and, at the top of every BIG hill, you must never forget, there is a BEAUTIFUL view!! I looked back across in the direction I came...I could see for miles!! It was like a prize for conquering the hill!

I cycled a little further and came to a junction and decided to stand on a gate to see if i could see the festival from my hilltop view...and there it was!! Sunrise Festival!! YES!!! But there was one big valley between me and the festival! No problem!

 I decided to go freestyle and risk getting lost on the country lanes thinking that the contours looked easier if i went around the valley on the ridge of the hills, it felt good inside so off i went down some farm lane with an optimistic smile! And it turned out perfect!! There was one hill on that route but it was not even a fraction as challenging as the previous! I rode for another half hour getting a peek of the festival through the gaps in the hedge every now and then; getting bigger and bigger, closer and closer!! And HEY PRESTO!! TA DAAAAAA!! I arrived!!! SUNRISE FESTIVAL

Party time was about to begin!!! ....but that’s another story!!!

Many Thanks again for getting me to Sunrise 2011, Cycling Somerset.  The experience of cycling there has made it extra special and something I will certainly never forget! It was a wonderful way to start the festival!! And I want to do more adventurous rides now!! Thanks and thanks again!!


Would you cycle to a Festival,or have you done in the past? we'd love to hear from you. 

Friday, 10 June 2011

Get Bike Week off to a flying start with a free service!

Bike Week will soon be here (19th-27th June) and we've had a fantastic offer from local mechanic DC Cycleworks to get your bike in tip-top condition - free servicing for 20 bikes at your workplace*!

Ace mechanic Dereck Cutler will come to your workplace for a day or half-day on Monday 20th June and will service your bicycles for free while you are at work.  It's an excellent offer because a service in a bike shop would usually cost £25-30 per bike.

If you'd like to request Dereck to come to your workplace, please add a comment to this post, telling us:
  • Your name and contact details
  • Whether you would like Dereck to come for a full day or half day (see below)
  • The name and address of your workplace - please note this MUST be in Somerset only!
  • A couple of lines about why Dereck should come to your place!
We will do a draw from the entries received at 4pm on Thursday 16th June.

Here's the other things you need to know:
  • You must ensure you have enough people to take part in the servicing - a minimum of 9 people for a half day, 18 people for a full day. You will need to send us a list of  participants by Friday 17th June.
  • You must ensure you have an agreed space for Dereck to work in. This can be inside or outside, provided it is on a level surface and (if outside) can accommodate a gazebo measuring 3m x 3m.
  • *The way it usually works is that people all drop their bikes off to Dereck first thing in the morning and collect them in the afternoon. This is why it tends to suit workplaces as people are in one place for a long time. We will be happy to consider other venues (e.g. schools, clubs) where this is also the case - please contact us if you want to discuss.
  • Please make sure your proposed venue is in Somerset!

Dereck bringing a dodgy bike back to life!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Cycling Clothes for Women: Part 1 (Mountain biking)

This week, I had to face the fact that my trusty old mountain biking shorts are no longer trusty - just old. I'd been trying to ignore this fact to put off facing the ultimate test of endurance... trying to find some decent women's cycling clothing.

I can't understand why this is so difficult. I appreciate that the proportion of women mountain biking is small compared to men, but there are some of us out there and the popularity is growing. Yet the range of women's clothing stocked in bike shops seems to be incredibly small and almost always consists of the same 3 options:
1) Something in tight lycra
2) One pair of freeride shorts in black, size XL, that are basically mens shorts
3) Something with flowers embroidered on them*.

I don't think I'm particularly fussy. My requirements are:
  • Not Lycra
  • Not neon
  • Made of decent, hardwearing material
  • Fit properly (for women)
  • Distinguishable from mens shorts by something other than the addition of flowers
Thats still leaves a fair bit to play with, I would have thought, so why the dearth of options? There are loads more options for men, and they are far less picky than women! A quick look at Chain Reaction (large online retailer) lists 60 baggy short options for men and just 6 for women.

Ideally, I would prefer to try and buy from an actual shop than an online retailer if possible, but I haven't found anything local with a decent selection. I went along to Six Cycles' women's evening in Taunton last week to see if I could find something there. They are nice guys and had gone to lots of effort to make the place welcoming to women (free wine and nibbles!) but unfortunately the clothing range was still rather limited.

Until I uncover my Somerset Eden of women's cycling clothing, I think I'm going to have to stick to the online options. For any other women out there looking for some decent suppliers of non-hideous mountain bike shorts, I suggest the following:
Any other suggestions would be gratefully received!

*I had to laugh at Helen Pidd's review of the Apollo Haze women's hybrid in Thr Guardian a couple of weeks ago, in which she said "When it arrived, I thought they had sent me a child's bike by accident. How many grown women would really choose a metallic lilac number with tacky flowers transferred on to the frame?". I feel the same way about cycle shorts.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Bicycle helmet designs

I have to come clean - I am not a bicycle helmet wearer for everyday cycling.
I know this is a controversial issue, with strong feelings on both sides, but I generally come down on the side of feeling that learning to cycle competently and dealing effectively and vigilantly with traffic is the best way to maintain overall safety, rather than relying on protective clothing. Helmets may provide the "icing on the cake" in terms of additional security, but I've seen so many poorly fitted, useless helmets on people cycling like idiots, that I think in general terms it is better to focus on increasing cycling competency than helmet-wearing.

I'll admit, too, that I am also put off by the expense of replacing them, the fact that they are a pain to carry round with you once you are off the bike and the fact that, quite frankly, they look horrible. I wear them for mountain biking, but everyday utility cycling... no.

However, I was very interested to read in the paper this morning about a new design of flat-packable cycle helmet that is up for a Dyson Design award. Here it is, designed by French student Julien Bergignat:

Ok, so it is still a bit weird looking when on, but in quite a funky way!
In searching for these pictures, I came across a whole host of innovative and funky prototype helmet designs. Intramuros magazine in France even held a helmet design competion last year that received 164 entries! Here are some of my favourites from their website,

The helmet that doubles as a bag
Multi-coloured Manga hair style

A helmet with a rigid, lockable strap so you can lock it to the frame of your bike when you leave it

The Chic Option

Squeezes down to fit the wearer's head

The competition winner - a lightweight, aesthetic, adjustable design based on a resilient composite material

Of course, resilience to impact is an over-riding issue that hasn't necessarily been proven yet in these prototypes, but it does demonstrate that there are numerous creative ways we could be thinking about helmet design that might help overcome some of the barriers to wearing them, ensure a better (safer) fit and persuade people like me to add them to their everyday cycling attire.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Bikes and Trains (and folders)

This morning, 8 cyclists were chasing the measly 3 bicycle spaces provided on my usual train to work (the 08.11 from Bristol Temple Meads to Taunton).

It’s quite interesting to view the social dynamics of the bike-space competition. Should it be first-come-first-served, with those arriving on the platform first getting first dibs on the spaces, or should there be some sort of communal needs-based assessment with the most time-pressured individuals being granted priority? I must say it warms my heart when the latter happens, but it is a rarity as people travelling at that time in the morning (peak time) tend to need to be at their destination at a given time. I haven’t yet seen any all-out platform rage, as people stake their priority claim to a bike space, but I’m sure it must happen on some of the busier commuter routes, perhaps taking the form of bicycle-mounted umbrella jousting (see here for tips

A friend of mine, who regularly commutes with bicycle between Bath and Bristol, has taken to cycling in the opposite direction and boarding at one of the small stations before Bath as he has no chance of boarding at Bath Spa itself. Clearly the solution here might be to “man up” and just cycle the full 15 miles between Bath and Bristol but he’s claiming the 7-8 miles additional combined cycle at either end as justification!

Train companies don’t really like carrying bicycles as the longer loading times messes with their timetabling, but arguably providing less awkward bike spaces where you don’t have to perform bicycle origami to get them into the allotted space might speed up the boarding process. There is clearly a demand, evidenced by this morning’s 5 stranded cyclists and the fact that you can’t get a bicycle reservation on that train for anything short of services usually censored by a super-injunction.

The MBTA's Bike Train has half a carriage dedicated to carrying bikes

So what to do? Lobbying the train operators or your MP for change (find rail company details on and your MP on may generate the best results, but it’s a long-term solution. In the short-term, I was amused to find out about a range of “stealth” bicycle bags “ideal for sneaking on to trains and buses” as the website of one manufacturer claims -  They aren’t cheap and you have to dismantle your bike, but if you are a regular bike-train traveller it might be worth it – I’d love to see them in action. Several travellers on my train now have two bicycles that they use at either end of their train journey. Myself, having been left on the platform one too many times, eventually crumbled and invested in a second-hand Brompton. I might look like a smarmy git, but at least I can always get on the train. 

Smarmy git (aka my mate Ryan) demonstrating integration of rail and folding bicycle!