When London won the Olympic bid, it was claimed that these would be the ‘greenest Olympics ever’. While there have been some important green strides, some of which undoubtedly can be used to inform future major sporting events, it’s been disappointing that so many of the initial green pledges have since been dropped.
Reports out suggest that the organisers claim that it will be the greenest games ever is being put to shame by the fact that the 2008 Beijing games might have had a lower carbon footprint that the London games will have. It is that estimated 3.4 million tons of carbon will be released into our atmosphere as a result of London 2012, whereas, according to this report, Beijing released some 1.1 million tons.
This is interesting as on its own report, London 2012 has claimed its figure will only be 1.9 million. To put these numbers into perspective, the UK’s average yearly carbon emissions is 0.5 million tons. Thought it’s worth pointing out that the lifespan of the Olympics carbon footprint is roughly 7 years.
Health experts have also warned that athletes might suffer from the high amount of air pollution in the capital, which raises another worry of health and safety. As the London games is set to be the most visited Olympics, that is a risk that should be taken seriously.
A British cyclist recently won the Tour de France; the first Brit ever to have achieved one the biggest honours in cycling. This could have been the kickstart for the cycling revolution that the UK so desperately needs, but instead the government and the Olympic organisers seem to be doing everything they can to discourage cycling.
The UK still has one of the worst cycling infrastructures in Europe. It will be even worse during the Olympics as several cycle paths have been sacrificed to make way for Olympic VIP lanes; should a cyclist make a way into such a lane, they could face a fine of £160. Add to that the sad fact that several of the Barclays Bike hire docking stations (Boris Bikes) will be taken out of operation as some of them are placed close to the VIP lanes.
It seems that the Olympics core spirit which is to encourage everyone to do more sports is being sacrificed for corporate interests.
Then there is the issue of the Olympic sponsors. How insulting it must be for those people who suffered (and might still be suffering) due to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, to see BP announced as ‘sustainability’ sponsors.
Let us be honest here, if you chose to have sponsors like BP, who have wrecked the lives for so many people, at least be transparent about it.
There is absolutely nothing sustainable about BP. Even their solar arm has now been closed and they’re not making any strides forward in clean energy technologies. Additionally, the biofuel which they champion to market their sustainability can be highly unsustainable depending on where it comes from.
It would be very interesting to know on what basis they and the Olympic organisers can justify having them as a ‘sustainability sponsor’.
The conclusion that can be drawn is that there is no doubt who the baddies are; the Olympic Organisers and the Olympic Committee, not the athletes.
Though you could wish that the athletes would use their influence and profile to speak out about these issues and then go and compete for their respective countries.
There is no doubt that some green strides have been taken and these should be commended, but we are once again seeing that when the going gets tough (don’t forget large part of the Olympic village has been constructed during a recession), the first thing to be sacrificed is the environment. That is something we can’t afford in today’s climate.
On Your Bike! The Complete Guide to Cycling
by Matt Seaton.
For somebody who has ridden a bike for quite some time, I was interested to see what would be included in something dubbed “the complete guide to cycling”. And, I must say that I was quite surprised at the book’s ability to make me see the bike from a different angle.
When you take up cycling, whatever age you are, you don’t think about the bike itself – it is merely the tool by which you can get out on to the road/track/rough terrain (whatever floats your boat) and get “on your bike.” And to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to find a book that was so easy to read, so interesting to read, especially on a subject that can seem quite mundane.
However, Matt Seaton appears to have successfully completed a somewhat impossible task – it has made me think differently about how I look at my bike. No longer do I see it as an inanimate object that helps me keep fit. No, I am now able to see the bike for what it really is – a concept built out of the Industrial Revolution, a tool that has helped normal folk (as in those who weren’t aristocrats) develop a sense of freedom and something which has transformed personal mobility into social mobility. Yes, very deep. But I bet you never even stopped to think that the bicycle was such an important tool. In fact, as Matt Seaton rightly asserts, “cycling [has] become synonymous with progress.”
So, maybe the idea of a history lesson doesn’t set your world on fire. Well, don’t worry, Matt Seaton merely uses the evolution of the bicycle as a tool to set the scene, to make you realise that the bike in itself has its own place in history. Did you know, for example, that Peugeot, Singer and Triumph all started life as bike manufacturers? Me neither.
Matt goes on to cover the rise and fall of the bike’s popularity, including the BMX’s development in the 1970s, to the mountain bike phenomenon of the 1990s to the carbon fibre road bikes that we have today.
Most of my cycling friends would agree with me that my knowledge of mechanics is somewhat sketchy, to say the least, despite my years of cycling. However, this book is quite good in that it explains about the different types of bike and the basic measurements. There is also a nice double page spread on what the different components of a bike are. If you are pretty handy with mechanics, you will probably find this part basic, however if you are new to the sport, then the book acts as a useful aide-memoire. It covers all types of bikes, from road, to track, to cyclo-cross, to BMX and mountain bikes, and it also provides information as to what to look for in a good bike lock and bike light. It even covers tools, clothing and helmets!
Included in the “Your bike – and how to love it” section is also a useful sub-section about how to clean your bike. This may seem quite a useless thing to include however, I do know people who have purchased bikes worth over £3,000 and then not known how to keep it clean. Remember that this book is aimed at all cyclists – both those new to the sport and seasoned riders.
I must admit that I don’t currently commute by bike, however after reading the chapter entitled “Cycling and the city”, it did make me think twice about doing so. It reminds you that cycling is a great antidote to stress, that the threat to your health from pollution is far outweighed by the other health benefits of cycling and that you can also benefit from the Government’s “Bike to Work” scheme. But perhaps most important of all is the chapter entitled “How to stay safe on your bike.” This is a valuable read for anybody who shares the road with other road users, which is most cyclists. You tend to take things for granted, but this helps you to become ‘actively visible.’ Surely that in itself is worth a read?
The penultimate chapter deals with “Cycle sport”, including the pro peloton, how teams work and a piece on the issue of doping. There is also some useful information on other types of riding, including track racing, cyclo-cross and sportives.
If you are looking for a well-written, informative, interesting book on cycling as a whole, then this could be the book for you. It is full of colour pictures, is easy to pick up where you left off (one of those books where you can pick which bits you want to read) and is definitely worth reading if you have just taken up cycling for the first time after having been inspired by Brad Wiggins and Team Sky in this year’s Tour de France. However, it is a bit out-dated, having been written back in 2006, but having said that, the basics and the history of the bike will always remain the same.
If you are looking for a book that will make you a faster rider, this isn’t the book for you, but if you want a book that does what it says on the tin, then you should definitely add it to your Christmas list.
Title: On Your Bike! The Complete Guide to Cycling
As the name suggests, this is described by the Italian manufacturer as a unisex helmet suitable for both road bike and mountain bike use, and has some features that would appeal to commuters too, but is it a case of ‘Jack of all trades, Master of none’ ?
I have owned this helmet for 6 months, and wear it on my daily commute and on my longer weekend rides.
Light weight, it is the lightest helmet I have owned so far, weighing only 262 grams for the universal size (52-59cm). (MET state that the helmet weighs 270g)
Good ventilation, when riding on frosty/cold mornings I have to wear a warm cap underneath, I have never had to do this with any of my previous helmets.
Longevity, the box states that it comes with a three year warranty, and unusually its lifespan is between 8-10 years!
The advice given by most manufacturers is to replace a helmet after 2-3 years of use, depending on its exposure to UV and the damage that comes from handling. But MET have an initiative called Low Impact On Nature (L.I.O.N) that not only prolongs the life of the product but also reduces its ‘carbon footprint’ and waste during production. Surprisingly the helmet does not retail at a higher price compared with other shorter-life lids of a similar spec, so you save money too! (Also, last years models, as this is, are currently discounted in many outlets, for sale for only £29.99 instead of MRP £39.99, making it an even better deal).
MET offer a helmet crash replacement policy, which means that if your helmet is seriously damaged (due to a crash or serious fall) within three years of the purchase date they can offer an equivalent helmet at a discounted rate, providing you can supply proof of purchase, and the broken helmet.
Minimal exposed polystyrene, the outer shell which is moulded and bonded to the inner during manufacture (as most do nowadays, except for the very cheapest ones) covers the back of the helmet too. This feature adds to the look and feel of quality and must help to protect the inner from knocks and UV light.
From the picture above you will also see the integrated rear LED light, this contains four red LEDs and is operated by pressing the whole assembly, it has a flashing and constant mode.
This is also the ratchet tensioner which adjusts the frame that sits around the head:
From this internal view you can see the washable pads and see the insect net that is moulded into the helmets front vents, you will also notice that the whole helmet is an oval shape, so may not be completely comfortable with someone with a more rounded head shape, for me though it fits perfectly.
The straps and quick release clip are easily adjustable; in fact I had my fit set up within seconds, as I hardly had to adjust anything straight from the box. The straps don’t rely on a thin rubber band to hold the excess in place, which can easily snap and leave a long piece of strap flapping in the breeze, the strap is a loop and is retained by a sturdy moulded piece of rectangular rubber, a much better design, also the strap itself is not so long as to have any free to stick out, it is also finished by a plastic end that is easy to pull even when your fingers are cold or when wearing gloves.
In the past I have often had trouble in getting the straps behind the ears to sit close to my head, but with this helmet these are tensioned properly, matching the front ones, so making it a secure fit.
Styling: This is of course a personal opinion, but the overall style is more generic than other helmet brands on the market, nothing about it stands out as being uniquely MET, unlike some others who seem to add peculiar shapes and designs in order to stand out, I like the look of the pointed rear protrusions as they look very strong and therefore more protective than bare polystyrene. I chose this colour combination because the turquoise is very reminiscent of the famous ‘Celeste’ used by Bianchi, as I have one of their bikes, thinking that the Italian made helmet might be purposely designed to match the Italian marquee. (All MET helmets are designed, developed and manufactured in Italy, at Talamona, in the heart of the Italian Alps).
My only (minor) criticism is that the switch on the light often needs pressing several times to either switch it on or off, especially when the temperature is low, I have noticed that in this years model it looks as if the light has been moulded in a red plastic rather than my clear one, so this issue may have been resolved already.
I’m a very happy man today – when I got the bike out of the back of the car this morning in preparation for the cycle leg of my commute, I spotted my trusty footpump nestled cosily amongst the pasty wrappers and empty milk cartons. Whilst I wasn’t exactly early, I wasn’t late, either, so I thought… You know… What the heck – let’s check the pressure in the soft rear tyre. Crazy, I know.
It’s been awhile since I cycled regularly, and I never cycled that regularly even back then – if I had to guess how many miles I’d ridden in, say, the last five or seven years, I think it would barely average a couple or three hundred miles a year on my old slick-shod Orange mountain bike, if that. In the last couple of years, commuting from Birmingham to Banbury, the average had fallen further still – to all intents and purposes, I was an ex-wannbe-keen cyclist. That, let me tell you, doesn’t count for a lot.
We went crazy last year – my lovely Lucy and I took the plunge and opted for the cycle to work scheme, ordering bikes and even booking our summer holiday in the bike-friendly Ile de Re. Her Giant turned up, as it were, whilst I had to press-gang the sixteen-year-old mountain bike back into two more weeks of servitude. Come October, and a mere four months after I committed to the scheme, our company took the plunge and released the funds, and my new Kona hybrid was released from captivity.
It was a revelation. No serious off-road tool, it was happy enough dabbling with minor dirt track adventures, canal tow paths and little more serious than that, but the road ability was something else. I’d always fancied my rigid Orange, with slicks at bursting point, as a compromised but reasonable road tool – the 29” hoops on the Kona changed all that. It flew – the road miles that Orange nibbled at with unskilled enthusiasm, Kona bit great chunks out like a hungry orca. Makes me wonder what a real road bike would be like…
So in the spirit of fair play – after all, the Cycle To Work scheme is intended to be used for purchasing bicycles to cycle to work – come November I took the plunge and decided to take a crack at using the to ride to work, at least part of the 40 miles. It was, however, not a success -putting a hand in my pocket for a big wedge of cash for a train ticket from my nearest railway station to Banbury was a painful way to start, and the amount of time it added onto the working day was just intolerable. Sorry – for me, at this time and with this commute, the train isn’t going to take the strain, it’s just going to add to the stress. For me, it seemed, the cycle commute was over.
But I had a brain wave about six weeks ago, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before – on investigation, the recent purchase of a new and slightly larger car means that I can just about bend the Kona’s gangly tubes into the back with the front wheel out without too much hassle, and a new concept was born; drive part of the way, cycle part of the way, it couldn’t be much simpler.
So this brings us back to where we started – day one, having barely spun a wheel since the end of the train experiment in November was agony, the miles that slipped effortlessly under the Kendas in November were a chore, it felt like I had to fight for every inch. The site of my trusty footpump peeping out at me from the boot litter on day two sparked a revival that blew a breath of fresh air into my whole cycling world – having your boots blown up to bursting point might make the ride a little lively, let’s say, but the pain in the backside that you get from rock-hard tyres is considerably less of a pain in the backside than the extra effort required to rotate flabby rubber.
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