March 9th - At Sittles, north of Whittington, a surprise. It’s amazing the things you get overtaken by in country lanes…
January 18th - Today, I popped down to Lichfield’s first bicycle jumble. I love a good bric-a-brac sale like this, and Erdington is on my list every year. I arrived at the Martin Heath Hall fashionably late, when things were well underway. It was banging. Loads of folk there, and not just the old nodders like me, but youngsters, fixie kids, tourers and hipsters. Loads of stalls, good tea, and plenty to tyre kick and haggle over. I actually spent more than a tenner, too, which is unusual for me.
It was good to see Vickers Bicycles here too - their Lichfield made roadsters are a modern classic, as was the rather new-looking Charge fixie parked up outside.I loved the vintage lighting - from acetylene to Ever Ready, and I was seriously considering the Sturmey Archer five-speed hub gear (note the two cables).
A fine hour or so in the company of other cyclists, and my compliments to the organiser, Martin Cartwright. Lets hope for many more!
December 4th - Also in South Wigston, a postie’s bike. I was intrigued by this one as it shows how heavily loaded these things are these days - and why they’re being phased out in favour of electric carts and vehicles. Postmen and women these days deliver far more parcels and packets than they used to, and less letters, which make for heavier, bulkier delivery pouches.
This bike is interesting, too; not the usual design I see around, this is a step-through and has 3spead hub gear, with Bendix hub brakes. The water bottle made me smile, too…
September 30th - This is incredible - bike geeks will love this. A Fahrrad Manufaktur small wheel bike, spotted on a Solihull bound train. The owner - a beardy, leathery old cycle tourer - said it was one of only 3 in the country. I certainly can’t find any details of this model online. It seems to combine all the disadvantages of a folding bike with the disadvantages of a larger one, but look at the way this is loaded. That’s a remarkable loading technique - note the tea-flask and pannier.
I guess this appeals to the Moulton crowd, and it is a unique, fascinating bike - dynamo lights come on automatically in low light, and it’s rocking a 14 speed Rohlhoff hub, with a Brooks saddle. This is no cheap machine.
Sadly, the owner alighted at Small Heath, and I didn’t get long enough to chat to him about it. But it’s a remarkable steed. I hope I meet him again.
August 29th - The bike parking at New Street Station is still rubbish. Theoretically covered by CCTV, thefts are rife and stripped bike carcasses appear every day. If you need to park bikes in Brum, don’t park here. If you do, learn to lock your bike properly. What’s happening here is that thieves are stealing bikes who have one wheel locked by undoing it, then nicking a compatible wheel from another bike, and riding the composite off into the sunset.
New Street’s bike facilities are a disgrace.
July 18th - Commuting, security and bike racks. In preparation for tunnelgeddon hitting Brum at the weekend - when the city’s Queensway tunnels are closed for six weeks for refurbishment and traffic chaos is expected to ensue - Birmingham City council have been encouraging car or public transport commuters to take to their bikes instead. This is a good idea, and to support it, bike racks have been springing up around the city centre like mushrooms. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.
But then there’s what you do when you get to a rack. I was intrigued by the bike I spotted on the way to work this morning, which had no less than three locks wrapped around the seatpost. Only 2 looked like they were used regularly, and the third is made of cheese. That’s serious extra weight to be carrying.
An odd thing, indeed.
June 13th - I took a diversion from my usual route to Darlaston and hopped on the canal, which was lovely, despite the wet weather. As I passed by the old mill at Pleck, I noticed that an old bike was still taunting me from the open side of the goods hoist. There used to be two in there, but one has disappeared. It still looks like an old steed - note the sprung saddle - but it seems to be fitted with triple derailleur gears. It might be a bit of a mongrel, as although the wheels look chunky, the frame looks quite dainty. Whatever it is, it’s such a shame to see it trapped there in the tower, like some velocipedian Rapunzel.
June 3rd - Spotted on a sunny Monday morning in Brownhills, parked up outside the closed branch of Natwest: a fascinating 3 speed Elite ladies step-through, replete with Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub, dynamo lights, front basket and rear, homemade rackbox. A lovely, functional 80s-ish steed, in excellent nick (note the cottered cranks, bike nerds!). I have no idea to whom it belongs, but clearly a well loved, well-looked after steed of convenience.
Beautiful. Perhaps Cycle Chic has come to Brownhills at last?
May 20th - A small result. The bike racks at Birmingham New Street Station - relocated to a dark corner on the the opening of the new concourse - were formerly only bolted to the ground and could easily be disassembled by thieves to steal users steeds. I noticed this morning that the ordinary nuts securing the Sheffield frames had been replaced with shear nuts, which are nigh-on impossible to remove. For added security, they’ve been bonded on with thread lock adhesive. This makes them much more secure.
I hope Network Rail have learned something from the bad publicity here. It ain’t rocket science really, is it?
May 7th - On the subject of other people’s bikes, just when did children’s trikes evolve into bonkers apparatus like this? It requires a HGV license to push, I’ll bet.
These things seem to be following the same trajectory as baby buggies; once a small thing born of convenience and fun, they’re now hugely complicated pieces of kit that don’t seem to fit anywhere easily.
Evolution, in reverse.
April 12th - I love Moor StreetStation in Brum. Not only is it a lovely, light airy and atmospheric station, but on the whole the staff are more relaxed and customer focused than their competitors. Coming through tonight, I noticed some inconsiderate muppet had locked their bike to the security railings by the ticket barrier inside the station. If this had been a Virgin Station, the bike would have been removed and it all would have been rather tetchy. Here, they sellotape a warning notice to the bike, which considering it’s not actually a trip hazard, makes sense. That’s a nice approach.
Their spelling is about as good as mine.
Sad news reaches me from local blogger The Stymaster: he’s had his ride purloined. It really is a low thing, nicking a person’s bike. Let’s see if we can find it…
December 3rd - A grainy, long-distance shot across Moor Street Station in a rain shower. I noticed this cautionary warning in the bike shed between platforms 2 and 3. Some careless cyclist - perhaps in a hurry - has locked their bike up by the front wheel. A thief has come along, and just opened the quick release, left the wheel locked to the stand, and made of with the rest of the bike. They may even have nicked a front wheel from an adjacent bike to replace it. Bastards.
If you’re locking your bike up, use 2 or more locks with the ‘Solid Secure’ rating. Use different technologies - one chain and one D lock, for example. Thieves rarely come tooled up to deal with both. Always lock through the frame, and a solid object if possible.
Bike thieves a the lowest of the low. Don’t make it easy for them.
October 9th - A real, live hipster and his fixie at Moor Street Station. Interestingly, this is one of the few double sided hubs I’ve ever seen being ridden of the fixed wheel side. Respect for that. It’s a remarkable bike. He loses points in the style stakes for the backwards cap and overloaded rucksack, mind. A good illustration of the variety of cycling.
September 28th - By chance, on my return journey. I came upon this group of cyclists in Birmingham city centre. From twitter conversations, I realised they were a bunch of Birmingham City Councillors, who were on a guided ride of the city to experience what it’s like for cyclists. Interestingly, there were no Tories present.
It’s bloody lousy, we’ve been telling you for years, damn it…