It doesn't matter what it is doing outside - with the right clothing and equipment, you can enjoy riding despite what the weather (literally) throws at you!
I am a Super Commuter because I like to ride my bike whenever I can. I commute all of the time, despite the weather. I have the skills to repair most common technical problems and blog about riding at www.bishopaucklandbiking.co.uk.
Super Commuter challenge 3 - Cycle to Work Day:
The background to this is quite important, as I think my employer is now opening up to the idea of cycling as a way of having healthier employees. I have tried to get Tridonic to set up the cycle scheme at Spennymoor, but it failed. The hesitant cyclist challenge (challenge 2) was primarily me on my own trying to persuade people to ride. This however, is different.
We recently had a “Klartext”, German for “Clear text” (Tridonic is an Austrian company), where the employees ask and management answer open and honestly. The question was asked as to why there is little promotion of health and well being. The answer was along the lines of “We realise we are lacking here and if anyone has an idea, we’ll be open to it”. Then I received the challenge 3 email...
My action plan:
Based on the open invitation to promote a healthy lifestyle choice, Cycle to Work Day was obvious. I approached the management and they were behind it 100%. So I set to work planning how to do it. Here’s my plan:
- Write blog post on Lightweb (company Intranet) - POSTED
- Posters to advertise cycle to work day - LEAFLETS AND POSTERS DISTRIBUTED
- Counterpart in Thorn to help promote in their site? - THORN IS OUR NEIGHBOUR AND SISTER COMPANY
- Need to figure out how to count pledges in order to keep count for food - EMAIL RECEIPTS FROM PLEDGES ARE TO BE PRESENTED
- Is Cyclescheme £50 budget required? - YES, I WOULD LIKE TO DO A RAFFLE
- Write up and submit to Cyclescheme - CURRENTLY DOING THIS ;-)
- Press release? Need to clarify with management that this is OK (not my remit)
- I will take photos on the day and share on social media
- Follow up blog post on Lightweb showing how successful it was
Britain’s Biggest Bike Breakfast:
I thought about this and how it could be feasible and keep everything under some control. The problem is I work day shift in R&D, there are two shifts in the production facility and if our neighbours Thorn get involved, that is something else entirely! Thorn have been approached, but they have not responded yet.
The trouble is allowing people time off to participate in the day i.e. getting everyone there for photos, someone to hand out the coffees/croissants etc. So a compromise was made and the management will be giving employees who pledge a meal voucher for use on the day, on the lunch break. I think this is fair and a good incentive.
I would like to use the £50 budget from Cyclescheme to purchase some bicycle accessories and have a prize draw. I will buy 3 or 4 items, such as LED light sets, multi tools, gloves and issue raffle tickets with the meal vouchers.
I am really pleased about this part. I have contacted Spennymoor Neighbourhood Police Team and they have agreed to come on site and mark bikes as part of Operation Spoke, which “is a bike theft reduction campaign led by Durham Constabulary, working in partnership with Durham County Council and Darlington Borough Council, Local Motion and the Safe Durham Partnership”. I have my bikes marked and think that if this basic security step is offered for free, without people having to go too far out of their way, then this is another great incentive for cycling to work. This will happen in the hour around the shift end/start so everyone is able to join in if they want.
Since I started promoting Cycle to Work day:
I posted the blog entry on 20th August and that received a handful of “likes”, a comment from a Thorn employee saying he would love to participate if Thorn would go for it, an email enquiry from an employee in another sister company about the cycle to work scheme AND ONE PLEDGER FROM R&D! He doesn’t cycle at all and is borrowing a bike for the day. That is a success in my eyes and I hope I get more.
My wife has also started putting up the posters in her workplace as well, so something seems to be rubbing off!
The Hesitant Cyclist!
We asked the Super Commuters to approach a hesitant cyclist in their workplace and talk to them, in a bid to understand any barriers that stand in the way of getting them in the saddle and riding to work. Here is how Dean got on!
Challenge 2 set for the Super Commuters initially seemed relatively easy to me. I had to identify a colleague who could be described as a hesitant cyclist. By that, they should meet the following criteria:
- Live fairly close to work
- Are already broadly active (maybe step/aerobics/yoga/pilates, football, hiking, gym etc)
- Maybe cycle a little when the sun is out
The plan was then to gently break them into bicycle commuting by riding to work at least three times in May.
I know that there are already a few people who work at Tridonic who do cycle in:
I also knew that there were a few likely candidates for me to lean on, and also a lot more that I knew would not entertain the idea.
What I did I decided that as the people who did ride in to work worked in the production plant and I did not know who they all were as I work in the office/lab, I would write an open letter to Tridonic. I dropped this on all of the tables in the rest area, pinned it up on to notice boards and sent it to every email address registered at the site. Somebody must bite, I thought.
The works’ forum was due to take place on the 25th May, so I also wrote out a suggestion for the forum. I knew this would be too late, but I thought it might be a last-gasp push for someone. As it happens, the forum notes are still to be presented to the workforce (as of 3/6/14).
At first I got a few silly remarks. We have a single shower, so somebody commented on sharing the cubicle. Could I give people a croggy in? Don’t you think that Newcastle is a bit far to ride in to work? How can I stop people stealing my bike from my garage? All rather unhelpful and I just ignored these. I had in my mind some people who I could focus on.
Adam - he has cycled in to work before, is really active and currently training for a triathlon. He was on holiday for some of the month and could only do the commute if he stayed at his parents house, 6 miles away. He lives in Newcastle, around 23 miles away. That’s too far for a hesitant cyclist.
- Wayne - lives around 5 miles away, but the idea of riding down the A167 from Durham (7 miles) is very daunting. If he had a dedicated path, like a disused railway, he’d be up for it. He also suggested that the lack of shower facilities could cause problems.
- Paula - lives no more than 2 miles away. She does yoga/pilates, but makes sure she looks her best professionally for work. She didn’t like the idea of being sweaty and messy at work.
- Jagjit - Lives around 25 mins walk away. I pass him every morning around the same spot. I’m usually at work, showered and changed by the time he gets in. He shares a house with a few other people and hasn’t got the space for a bike. He is put off with the “hassle” of a bike; where to keep it secure when not at work, changing clothes and he hates the rain.
- John - again, lives no more than a couple of miles away. At lunch he goes home to let the dog out into the garden and have his dinner. Cycling would take up too much of his lunch break.
- Linda - I didn’t have her in mind, but she approached me and said she enjoyed the idea of “pedalling” to work. However, she lives over 14 miles away. She had clearly given it some thought, as she drives in with another colleague. She thought she could start gently by coming in by her pick up truck with the bike in the back. Then she could set off home on her bike. As she finishes earlier than her colleague who can drive the truck, she would get so far and then get picked up. Every day she’d aim to get further before being picked up. I like this idea, but think it is too ambitious for someone who hasn’t ridden in a while. It takes commitment from two parties too.
In the end, I failed the challenge as nobody (that I’m aware) has taken up bike commuting, let alone tried it a couple of times. Overall, the impression I got from talking to people, the main cons were traffic, distance and time. Parking is free at work and unless you work shifts, you are guaranteed a parking spot. People didn’t seem too concerned with fuel prices.
It’s a shame that there were some negative comments at first. Bicycles are a viable mode of transport but it does take some commitment to make it work. I think a lot of my colleagues are used to routine and are unwilling to change it. The least I can do now is keep on praising bike commuting to the people who were willing to listen and hope they decide to give it a go.
The Luminite II jacket from Scottish cycling clothing manufacturers Endura is specifically designed for commuters. The exceptionally bright luminous yellow colour alone tells you that. The 50 reflective patches placed strategically on the arms, torso and lower back enhance that claim. Finally the Luminite LED light unit ingeniously integrated into the rear pocket ensures that you should definitely be seen in traffic.
The jacket has four pockets in total. One on the rear that stretches across your lower back. On the front there is one chest pocket and two pockets at the bottom. They are all fleece lined, for hand-warming on colder days and all have storm flaps to prevent rain from entering through the zips. The chest pocket is surprisingly roomy and has a headphone port, allowing headphones to be worn with the wire tucked inside the jacket, reducing the opportunity of snags occurring.
All zips have large toggles on them to make it easier to open with a gloved hand. This includes the zips for the underarm vents, but more on these later. The pockets allow for ample storage if you don’t always need to use bags on your journey. I use the rear pocket to stash my gloves and buff in when I arrive at my destination.
As mentioned earlier, the zips have large toggles which are hidden away under storm flaps. The main zip, where it comes together at the top of the jacket, could do with a small flap of material to cover the two parts of the zip together to stop chafing on your neck. A small complaint, and is dependant on how tight the neck drawstring is. The zips mainly feel sturdy and don’t hesitate when pulled, but the underarm vent zips are obviously smaller in order to not restrict movement too much or make for uncomfortable riding. I have found these zips to be difficult in using as they sometimes snag on the storm flap. Stop, take your time and they move easily.
There are two drawstrings to be found to make the jacket more snug. The first is around the neck of the jacket and the toggle is hidden away under a flap at the back of the neck.
The toggle is easy to get to and easy to adjust. The inside of the collar is fleece lined to prevent chafing. The other drawstring is located around the bottom of the jacket and has two toggles, located in each pocket at the bottom. These are slightly more fiddly to alter, but once set to the correct tension you just tuck them away and almost forget about them. Almost, because it does feel like you have left an item in the pockets from time to time. The cuffs have Velcro adjusters to keep the arms in place. The tabs are made of thick, reflective material so again they are easy to grab with gloves on.
As you can see in the pictures, the colour is exceptionally bright for daytime riding and the reflective patches really do pop when subjected to bright light; ideal for riding in low light conditions or at night. The built in LED is a really nice feature. It offers three modes: intermittent flash, steady flash and solid, cycling through with one press of the same button. The light is red so it: a) stands out against the yellow and b) ticks the legal requirement of having a red light at the rear.
However, I found that the LED would only be useful if you are not carrying a rucksack - it could benefit from being positioned lower down the jacket. When I posed for the above photo, the LED was on solid. However, when I put my rucksack on, it must have pressed the button again and switched the LED off.
All of these features are worthless if the jacket doesn’t fit correctly. My jacket is a large. I have found that this can be a gamble as the chest of the jacket can be far too big, but I need the length in the arms to be correct as I have quite long arms. This jacket has excellent length in the arms, meaning I can stretch right out and the cuff remain in place around my gloves.
The fit around the chest is extremely comfortable and not too baggy as to create a parachute effect. Lengthwise, the jacket does pull down over my backside to keep me dry and warm, but does have a tendency to ride up. This can be minimised by reducing the tension in the drawstring, but having it loose can create a draught. I’d like to see some silicone gripper around the lower rear hem to help the jacket stay in place.
Another area that can be uncomfortable if too tight or too loose is the neck. The drawstring allows precise adjustment here and the zip can be used to cool down quickly.
I have not been able to test the jacket’s waterproof claims at the time of writing. However, I can say that despite how thin the jacket feels, I stayed warm on my commute with just a long sleeved polyester baselayer on underneath. The jacket is very light and I didn’t feel like I was overheating too much. I did feel a bit sweaty, but I put this down to not using the vents/zips efficiently. I’m interested to see how breathable it is in warmer temperatures.
One big complaint I have in the function of the jacket is the position of the underarm vents. When carrying a rucksack, the straps do restrict how effective these are, essentially holding the jacket against your body and stopping them from opening fully.
The Luminite II jacket is a worthy purchase for any commuter. It’s high visibility ensures awareness from drivers in all conditions and gives a sense of security to the wearer. Length of torso and arms allow a nigh-on perfect fit with adjustment of the drawstrings, despite some riding up at the back. Flaws in ventilation and LED location lose the jacket points if you are a commuter with a rucksack. Fit some panniers and these flaws go away. For shorter journeys, the pockets allow you to hold plenty of gear. I’m still dubious as to how breathable the material will be on a warmer day and I have yet to test it in the rain, but I have high hopes.
The RoadHawk RIDE camera is described on the box as a “digital rider protections system”. This is important and is what sets it aside from other “action cameras” such as the Go Pro range.
In the box
The contents of the box were surprising: a whole host of different mounting options, plenty of different cables and the camera, plus memory card. I didn’t expect so many. Looking through the mounting options and cables, it seemed to me that the camera is leant towards motorcycles or even cars. The main reason for this is the inclusion of a cable that hardwires it to the vehicle’s 12V DC supply. Bikes don’t have those. The manual hints at this too, calling it your vehicle’s “black box”.
I mounted the camera to my helmet using the velcro and elastic strap option, as this allowed for easy adjustment if I got it wrong. Read: it isn’t permanent. It was fairly easy to fasten the strap together and the velcro gives a really secure fastening down the length of the camera. However the camera can spin in the elastic holder and move when turning on and off. The manual suggests that helmet mounting is good for filming where the rider is looking but can produce a lot of movement in the video. Mounting to the frame restricts movement, limits the field of view and is subject to vibrations. When happy with your chosen location, you could use any of the adhesive pads to make a more permanent fixture.
Using the camera
To set the correct date and time, a text file needs to be placed on the SD card the camera needs to be turned on as close to the time you put in the text file to ensure accuracy. I found this quite difficult as the USB connection seemed to be quite unreliable - taking a while to register the camera was connected, killing other USB devices attached to my laptop and a pop-up always appears informing me that a USB device has malfunctioned everytime I connect. The end cap needs to be unscrewed everytime to connect, which helps to keep the rain out. A spare end cap is supplied with holes in to allow audio to be recorded.
The camera is turned on by holding down the one button on the camera for a short while and recording is instant. The camera is turned off via the same method. This keeps things really simple and can be done with gloves on.
My laptop is still running XP and as such does not format the SD card correctly. I had to contact customer service to find this out and they recommended a download to format correctly. This worked, which was good as the SD card must be formatted at least weekly. The reason for this is the camera records 5 minute segments into one file and overwrites the oldest files when it becomes full. Formatting only takes seconds so this isnt a chore.
The camera records in 720p high definition, which gives a really good image. However, I am unsure if my laptop cannot handle the video as sometimes the video freezes and distorts during playback. Other files seem to playback fine. The files are large in size and apparently they need to be transcoded if you would like to edit any video. Again, this might be my laptop’s technical limitations but it’s a slow process.
The flashing lights (blue/green) when recording can show up in low light videos, even more so when the battery begins to get low and the red LED starts flashing rapidly. This looks a bit like there are some sort of emergency service vehicles just out of view.
The camera is exceptionally small and lightweight, maybe as big as a lipstick. I don’t really notice it on my helmet, although I have seen other pedestrians and drivers have a double take as they no doubt see the lights flashing on your head. Mounting the camera is quite straight forward and the amount of options provided means you shouldn't really struggle to mount this successfully. After that, the camera is pretty simple to operate, is light and small and looks pretty stylish, apart from the attention-drawing flashing lights. Battery life is quoted at 90 minutes; I have managed to get 70 minutes out of it in the house. Lower temperatures would definitely reduce this time.
My major quibbles are when interfacing with the computer. The flakey USB connection isn't convincing and the distorted video on playback disappointing.