Urban cycling is a dangerous game. To win (ie survive) you need nerves of steel, llghtnlng-tast reflexes, eyes in the back of your head and the ability to swear fluently on demand for the frequent occasions when someone tries to kill you. Sue Wilson spots the most commonly-used homicidal tactics.
I The old knock 'em all with your door trick Cyclist-hating motorists like to lurk in parked cars waiting for a bike to approach (ideally with a bus coming up behind). As the unwitting cyclist draws level. they open the driver‘s door — iftimed correctly. this will send bike and rider crashing helplessly into the road. I Chronic indecision/inability to distinguish left from right Some drivers will hurtle down a right-hand lane. chasing a green’light. then at the last minute they suddenly decide to go left instead. wrench the wheel round — and pile straight into the cyclist on their inside.
I Cyclists without lights after dark These are a) nutters or b) enemy agents planted to give the rest of
us a bad name.
I Make ’em sweat Bus drivers paused
at stops love waiting for a cyclist to start overtaking. letting them get halfway up the M . length of the bus. as?“ then starting to pullout; the rider ? pedals frantically ~ for a few moments hoping to
get past. then is left stranded in the middle of the road dodging the traffic behind as the bus roars off.
I Potholes There is a
theory that these are the brainchild of a malevolent cyclopath in the Highways Department. They often appear overnight without warning— huge craters in busy roads that will buckle your wheel or throw you offif you hit them. lfthat fails. there‘s every chance you'll be mashed by the car behind as you try to swerve round.
I Blind tourists Americans are particularly
; susceptible to this strange i selective myopia-they‘ll
i roadside until all the cars
have passed. then start to cross and walk smack into
1 abike. L.--_._._-
#7780 The List 28 June — l l Julv 1991
Philip Parr goes head first
into six of the toughest and '5
trendiest hard hats. A few years ago. cycle helmets were
in the same league as string-
connected mittens. kagouls and
' woolly bobble hats. lfthey were
worn at all. it was with embarrassment and at the thSistence
of protective parents. But with a 1 government health and safety
I campaign in the schools and a
- plethora ofstatistics providing
unequivocal evidence that wearing
‘ helmetsincreases yourlife
expectancy. sales are booming. ’We . used to get in fifty helmets each
January.‘ say Edinburgh‘s City Cycles. ’and they lasted the whole year. Now we sell literally thousands each year.‘
addition to the question ofstyle (the bright colours and less bulbous shapes of the new helmets are another reason for increased sales). helmets also vary in quality. There is
., not one. but three safetystandards to i
which the helmets can conform.
Most British helmets are tested by ‘ the BS] and have the familiar kite
mark if they have passed. Other helmets will have passed either the ANSI or Snell tests. both ofwhich are American.
All the testing standard authorities are rigorous, but work on different criteria. Claims are made in favour ofthe ANSI standard. because it
demands that the helmet must be
able to drop from a greater height
} than is required by the BSI. and it
also tests the straps. However, the
: BSI argues in favour ofits test
, because it drops the helmet onto a
' shaped anvil as if it was hitting a curb j and thus concentrating the load. In
5 recent European tests which
subjected helmets to slow clamping
‘ in a vice. the BSI-approved models = appeared to perform better.
Edinburgh's City Cycles.liowever. But not all helmets are the same. In _
are firm advocates ofthe ANSI test
5 procedures and use that as their
All helmets are similar inasmuch as they are useless once they have done their job. lfa crash occurs and the helmet saves your skull. it absorbs all
z of the shock. but does not survive
itself. Once damaged. a helmet must be replaced.
Below. we list a selection of some of the most popular bike helmets. all e fwhich have been passed by either ANSI or Snell.
I Vetta Corsalite 1-18 Price £39.95. This microshell helmet (which means that it has a plastic coating over the polystyrene inner) can be adjusted exactly to fit the size of your head. Available in pink. red, green, orange and yellow.
I Vetta Corsalite 2-3 Price £29.95. As above but with a lycra covering in place ofthe plastic. This helmet is just as safe, while having the advantage ofbeing lighter.
I Vetta Bambino Price £24.95. A child‘s safety helmet which conforms to the most stringent safety standards.
I Trek Ultralite USA Price £39.95. A well designed helmet from the USA featuring air-ﬂow channels to keep the head cool. Maybe not as supremely stylish as the Italian Vettas and Gyros.
I Trek Micro-lite 2000 Price £49.95. A microshell which offers extra protection around the nape of the neck. and is lighter than its similarly priced competitors.
I Gyro Price £60—£70. The Nike Air ofcycling helmets. They are very safe but no more so than anything else. Preferred by the professionals and possiblya little lighter and . cooler than other helmets. but really you are paying for the name.
)Run of the _’hill
Love them or hate them, you’d be hard-
put to deny that mountain bikes have , done a lot to polish up cycling’s once
ma-élrather worthy reputation. Mountain biking is sexy, hi-tech, even macho;
now you can throw away the bicycle clips and pour yourself into slinky Lycra shorts which caress every perfectly-toned bulge of muscle. Lindsay McDermid, from mountain bike specialists the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op, agrees that the advent of these adult-size BMXs has given the sport a welcome boost. ‘Traditionally, cycling didn’t have a particularly glamorous image, and now suddenly it’s all bright colours, it’s healthy, the image is much younger- I think mountain bikes add
. the element of fashion which was
missing.’ You do get the impression that some
i people buy mountain bikes purely ; because they're trendy—cruising
around on their Hard Rock or Muddy Fox machine wearing all the day-glo gear is simply another chance to pose. Lindsay McDermid agrees, but sees
i this as a minority element. ‘With any
new sport there will be some people who treat it like a fashion accessory,
Mountain biking: threatt Glen Coe?
but I don't see mountain bikes as a passing phase. Apart from anything else, it’s different from buying clothes or a record because of the amount of money involved - you don't go and
1 spend hundreds of pounds on a bike
just because it’s lashionable this
And mountain bikes can certainly be expensive—the Bicycle Co-op’s range starts at a relatively modest £179.95, but goes up to a Cannondale model with ‘elevated oil-damped suspension
a cool £1800. However, as Neil MacDonald, oi Glasgow Cycle Campaign, points out, it's all relative. ‘21000 fora bike might seem expensive, but it’s nothing compared to a car. Also, that bike will be beautifully made and will last forever, whereas
even a £5000 carwill be a piece of l” junk.‘
While many people invest in mountain bikes because they are ideal
for urban cycling, particularly in hilly cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh, the potential for off-road cycling is also a major part of theirappeal. it’s an
exciting, adventurous way to see the : countryside, and many climbers are
taking to two wheels as a way to get to
i and from climbing areas more easily. ‘ The encroachment of bikes on to
walkers’ territory has caused a certain amount of friction, however, with
hikers’ organisations claiming that ' mountain bikers destroy the peace of the countryside, are a threat to walkers
and are eroding mountain paths. Jim Riach, of the Scottish Cyclists’ Union, sees it as a question of getting
3 the balance right. ‘The potential for conflict always exists between two user
groups of a particular area - like on
: waterways between anglers and
canoeists — but i think the problems between walkers and mountain bikers tend to be more perceived than actual. If you consult with landowners, managers and walkers’ organisations when you’re devising routes or competition courses, they generally don’t see many problems. As far as erosion goes, anyone using a path, on tool or on a bike, can cause erosion, but mountain bikers tend to use the higher standard paths - forest trails or forestry roads, which are already used by landrovers and other vehicles anyway, because it’s much harder to cycle on very steep, narrow, or muddy