Garmin Edge GPS: complete range comparison

A head-to-head guide to every model of Garmin Edge GPS bike computer…

Buy the right Garmin GPS without wasting a ton of cash

(hint: don’t buy them all!)

Garmin’s Edge range of GPS bike computers has seven models of ever-increasing cost and complexity.

You probably just want one, but luckily for you (and unluckily for my wallet) I’ve ended up owning five GPS devices and can do this gratuitous handlebar shot. I have the Edge Touring, not the Touring Plus, and an Edge 810 over the older 800:

garmin-edge-all
Admittedly this is an unhealthy and expensive obsession…

Lots of sites will give you a huge table of features to compare, but like me your eyes probably glaze over after the fifteenth column. 😉

So, in ascending order of eye-watering price, here’s a concise guide to which Edge GPS is right for you (and why you might want to spend more):

The Garmin Edge range in one sentence each

  • the Edge 200 is a steal if you just want a bike computer that records GPS traces to look at later.
  • the Edge 500 does almost everything the Edge 510 does, but cheaper. If you want Ant+ sensors on a budget, you won’t regret it.
  • the Edge 510 improves on the Edge 500 if you’d like to easily choose between different data screens (i.e. one bike with PowerTap, one without), has better altitude and trace visualisation and bluetooth PC / phone integration.
  • the Edge Touring gives you mapping and navigation at a great price, so long as you don’t care about Ant+ sensors or altitude.
  • the Edge Touring Plus is very close to the Edge 800 in price, but does a lot less (but is much simpler).
  • the Edge 800 does almost everything the Edge 810 does for much less money.
  • the Edge 810 improves on the Edge 800 if you’d like to easily choose between different data screens (i.e. one bike with PowerTap, one without) or want bluetooth PC / phone integration.

Garmin Edge 200

If all you want while riding your bike is conventional stuff like speed, distance, and time, then the Edge 200 is all you need. You can just ignore the fact that it uses GPS while out riding, and you can’t significantly improve the GPS track it saves even with a device costing four times as much. It will be more accurate than the traces everyone else is uploading to Strava or MapMyRide from their phone, anyway 🙂

garmin-edge-200

The Edge 200 has much better battery life than a mobile, it’s smaller and less obtrusive on the handlebars, and it’s more reliable too (I’ve still to find a decent Android bike app).

Don’t dismiss this simple little gem just because it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles! Wiggle have these for under £90 (20% off) at the time of writing, while Chain Reaction are doing a similar deal.

There are two main reasons you might want to spend more:

  • [jump] you want to record external sensor data (such as heart rate or cadence)
  • [jump] you want to see colour mapping, and have your GPS actually navigate for you (like a car satnav).

Garmin Edge 500

The 500 has the same compact size as the Edge 200 but integrates fully with Ant+ sensors for heart rate, cadence, and power.

Being one of the older models, your wallet may thank you for picking up an Edge 500 – there are often good deals on refurb models from Wiggle, while Chain Reaction are doing a straight 10% off at the time of writing.

garmin-edge-500

If you want a lot of data while you ride, the Edge 500 offers all you can imagine… instead of displaying one page of ordinary cycle computer data fields, you can have up to five pages each with up to eight configurable data fields.

I have one page for “right now” fields like current speed, cadence, and heart rate, another page for lap averages, while a third does trip totals, time of day, temperature and so on.

Additionally, the Edge 500 is equipped with a barometric altimeter allowing it to record quite accurate elevation data (something which is lacking in the Edge 200). However, it should be noted that many sites will overwrite the elevation data recorded on your ride using survey data, so this isn’t as big a deal as you might imagine.

The Edge 500 doesn’t “navigate” you, but it does have the ability to display a breadcrumb trail of a route you downloaded in advance (DIY or someone else’s). Like a road map with only one road (and no background detail) this will still display turn cues and warn you if you go off route.

There are two main reasons you might want to spend more:

  • [jump] you want to regularly use your GPS with multiple bikes or prefer a touch-screen interface
  • [jump] you want to see colour mapping, and have your GPS actually navigate for you (like a car satnav).

Garmin Edge 510

The Edge 510 is the big brother of the Edge 500, offering a similar number of data fields, integration with Ant+ sensors (speed, cadence, heart rate, power) and the ability to follow a pre-loaded route with turn cues – but no mapping or navigation.

You aren’t likely to find the 510 as a refurb deal, and it’s almost 50% more expensive than the 500: Wiggle currently have it for 12% off, while Chain Reaction are also doing 12% off.

garmin-edge-510

The main advantages of the Edge 510 over the Edge 500 are the touch-screen interface (an improvement over the sometimes frustrating process of remembering what the four buttons on the 500 do in every different situation!) and slightly better screen, but principally the ability to have a different screen setup for different bikes.

This is really useful once you start adding external sensors because, say, the fields you want to see on race day on a PowerTap-equipped time trial bike or a cross bike with heart rate strap are probably quite different to the fields you want to see riding to work on your shopper (with no sensors at all).

On the Edge 500 you’re stuck with one set of fields (although you can turn individual pages on and off without too much pain) but the Edge 510 allows you to set up the whole interface differently for each of your bikes.

The Edge 510 offers a full time altitude profile (missing from the Edge 500, but of limited interest while riding) and the navigation (follow trace) screen is a bit better too.

Finally, the Edge 510 will interface with a phone to allow real-time tracking online (if you have signal, and while your phone battery lasts). A niche feature? I’ll let you decide…

There’s only one reason you might want to spend more:

  • [jump] you want to see colour mapping, and have your GPS actually navigate for you (like a car satnav).

Garmin Edge Touring / Plus

The Edge Touring is a stripped-down version of the Edge 800, aimed at those who want navigation but *not* training / performance features.

The basic Edge Touring is only a little more expensive than the Edge 500: Wiggle are doing it for well under £200 (10% off), while Chain Reaction have 10% off.

garmin-edge-touring

With identical hardware but a streamlined firmware package, you lose the ability to interface with Ant+ sensors altogether (although you can pay £50 more for the Edge Touring Plus, this still only allows a HRM strap – no cadence or power).

Instead of sensors, Garmin are pushing the Edge Touring on navigation features – A to B (or circular) routes calculated using OpenStreetMap data, displayed on the excellent full-colour display. If you buy the Edge Plus you get a microSD card with maps pre-loaded, otherwise you have to get these as a free download.

The data fields that can be displayed on the Edge Touring are reduced, but still likely to satisfy a less data-obsessed rider – while the trace recorded for later analysis is top notch. The Touring Plus has the barometric altimeter enabled and displays a rolling profile of your ride along with current altitude and ascent.

Battery life on the Edge Touring models is good enough for a couple of average days in the saddle (or one really long one) at around 17 hours. While many people have been scratching their heads over a touring GPS which doesn’t take AA batteries, this is the downside of Garmin recycling their Edge 800 hardware – you’ll need to use an external AA battery pack instead (I’ve managed a 1200km continuous trace this way), though sadly the waterproofing of the Edge is compromised while under external power.

There’s only one reason you might want to spend more:

  • [jump] you want Ant+ integration and performance/training features alongside satnav

Garmin Edge 800

Despite the arrival of the 810, the Edge 800 is still readily available for a relatively small premium over the Edge Touring – Wiggle are doing it for 25% off just now, while Chain Reaction have 25% off too.

This will add all of the performance features you’d find in the Edge 500 combined with the screen, mapping and navigation abilities offered by the Edge Touring. As you’d expect, the firmware isn’t as simple as the Edge Touring and you’ll have to put a bit more time in to get the most out of the Edge 800.

In many ways the Edge 800 looks like the real sweet spot of the range just now:

– compared to the Edge Touring, you’re adding Ant+ sensors and a slew of performance data and training features for very little extra money
– compared to the Edge 510, you’re adding a bigger screen, full colour mapping and navigation for very little extra money.

Why would you spend more?

  • [jump] you want a few bells and whistles like smartphone integration

Garmin Edge 810

The 810 is more of an evolution than a real advance on the Edge 800, but comes at a hefty price premium unless you can find it on sale – worth keeping an eye on both Wiggle and Chain Reaction for this one.

garmin-edge-810

The main feature of note is the ability to customise the interface for each of your bikes (as with the Edge 510) – something that’s missing on the Edge 800, which is stuck with shared data screens for all bikes (though the 800 allows you to turn particular pages on and off).

However, apart from that, a streamlining of the menu interface and smartphone integration for live tracking online, that’s about all you get for a significant extra chunk of cash. Bluetooth is nice for uploading rides without reaching for the USB cable, but it strips an hour from the battery life of the Edge 810, so it’s not a clear-cut decision…

I have an Edge 810, but I’m pretty sure I’d have been happy sticking with the old 800.

Conclusion

My better half loves the Edge 200 and turns her nose up at anything more complicated – even the Edge Touring. She just wants to know the basics while riding, and to upload to Strava and look back on later.

The Edge Touring is a nice upgrade along the same lines, adding mapping (for a fistful of dollars). To be honest I didn’t think I saw the point of the Touring models until I actually started using mine – the simple interface is a massive improvement.

If I had to choose just one GPS, more often than not I reach for the Edge 500 – compact, reliable, and feature full. I ride with power, so the 200 and Edge Touring aren’t going to cut it.

For unknown rides where I want a map, the Edge 800 is ideal (I’ve got an 810, but I regret it). Many will be quite happy with one of the cheaper GPS models and falling back on their phone for the odd bit of mapping.

Whatever you choose, riding with GPS is major step up from conventional bike computers. The fact that you can look back and see where you rode any time in the past (and how long it took you to get anywhere) is a massive bonus.

Schwalbe Marathon Mondial review

The last word in durability, with predictable off-road handling without completely sacrificing speed on tarmac…

Indestructible rubber for when the going gets tough…

The Marathon Mondial is Schwalbe’s flagship expedition touring tyre – the last word in durability, with predictable off-road handling without completely sacrificing speed on tarmac.

If you aren’t going to be riding on unpaved roads, the Marathon Mondial is probably not for you. While Schwalbe have done a great job mitigating the effects of the tread and tough build of the Mondial on rolling resistance, it’s very noticeably slower than a slick road tyre – no surprises there!

At the time of writing, Chain Reaction are doing a healthy 28% discount on the 700C and 26″ sizes. Wiggle might be worth a look too for both 700C and 26″ (currently 10% off).

mondial2
The Marathon Mondial makes short work of a river crossing, Cuba’s Sierra Maestra mountains…

Rolling resistance

The Marathon Mondial rolls much better than you might expect from a photograph – the chunky tread is carefully designed so that an almost smooth centre ridge is presented to the tarmac under normal riding conditions.

On a mixture of sealed and unsealed surfaces, the Mondial might just be the perfect compromise. However, if you expect tarmac rolling performance along the lines of the Marathon Supreme you will be disappointed – there are no miracles!

schwalbe-mondial3

Comfort

The width of the Mondial makes it very agreeable from the rider’s point of view. Potholes, debris and rocks and boulders on dirt trails are eaten up without drama.

Altering the tyre pressure sensitively to conditions is very important. At 85psi the tyre is as rigid as possible to minimise rolling losses, and jarring if you ride down steps or similar. Off-road I go for 50psi to improve comfort and handling – still plenty of air in a 2″ tyre to protect the rims from sharp impacts.

A wide tyre is probably the best investment you can make in protecting your bike. There’s so much adoration of steel that it sometimes seems that everyone in a shack in the third world is supposedly ready to leap into action and weld up your frame before the next big mountain descent… hedge your bets with a bit of extra air in the first place 🙂

Reflective bands

The Mondial is fitted with reflective sidewall bands. Although arguably the least important type of safety feature, if you’re likely to get caught out at dawn or dusk with no lights, this sort of thing certainly won’t hurt:

mracer-3

Grip

The Marathon Mondial is designed for off-road use and has a wide hybrid tread.

The centre studs are very large and closely interlock to keep the tyre stable on tarmac and minimise rolling losses. Beside this, two rows of side studs are provided to dig in when the going gets rough.

schwalbe-mondial2

The Mondial is extremely stable in descent on mud and dirt – I proved this to myself with a shakedown on local mud before hitting Cuba, and the Mondial continued to prove its worth on a big day’s crossing of the Sierra Maestra.

The rubber formula, Schwalbe’s Endurance compound, is shared with the old Marathon XR, and designed for ultimate durability. Intuitively, the tyre must be less grippy if the rubber is longer lasting (not as sticky), but I found them very reassuring in all sorts of conditions, from high speed wet descents on tarmac to river crossings and sloppy muddy climbs, all fully loaded.

Flat resistance

The Schwalbe Marathon Mondial loads it up on puncture resistance with Double Defence (SnakeSkin sidewall protection and a high-tech fibre breaker strip) combined with the extra hard Endurance compound.

Mine are looking very good so far, but I’ll update this if and when I encounter problems (I commute a substantial distance on a disused railway path covered in glass, putting any tyre through its paces).

Durability

Others who have put much more time onto the Mondials than I will be able to speak of their ultimate lifespan, but after plenty of hard use with a 30kg / 65lb load mine still look pretty new.

This is where Schwalbe really focused their efforts, delivering a tyre that can be expected to give many thousands of miles on the road, and it shows. The tread and sidewall construction are absolutely first rate.

So far I have a thousand miles or so and the mould lines are still visible. I’ll be editing this section with mileage updates in future, to see how we go…

mondial1

Weight

At 650g for the 700x42c folding version, the Marathon Mondial is not the lightest tyre ever made – the same size Marathon Supreme comes in at 495g. But then, how heavy is “heavy” for an expedition tyre anyway?

You probably don’t want to risk an expedition with no spare tyre, but confidence in the Mondial might allow you to conscience a trip with only one spare, and that could end up being a pretty big weight saving.

Conclusion

I bought into the Marathon Mondial because I wanted a tyre that would perform predictably and reliably on muddy trails, yet not be ridiculously slow on tarmac. With a 30kg load-out I wanted something fat enough to protect the bike, and to give me the confidence to risk one (relatively fragile) spare.

The Mondial is a tremendous expedition tyre and absolutely didn’t disappoint. I was able to plough through deep muddy tracks and ford rivers with aplomb, while I didn’t feel it was too hard to keep up on tarmac sections either.

I haven’t done enough mileage on mine yet to be definitive about durability, but I think it’s encouraging that they still have their mould line after 1000+ miles.

Just be warned – because they are big and designed to go everywhere they just aren’t going to be as fast as a road touring tyre!

At the time of writing, Chain Reaction are doing a healthy 28% discount on the 700C and 26″ sizes. Wiggle might be worth a look too for both 700C and 26″ (currently 10% off).

schwalbe-mondial1
The Mondial dwarfs the 40mm Marathon Plus (and there’s not much weight between them!

Vital Statistics

Folding version:

ETRTO (mm) Imperial (“) Pressure (bar) Pressure (psi) Weight (g)
50-559 26×2 2.5-4.5 35-70 720
37-622 700x37c 3.5-5.5 55-85 580
42-622 700x42c 3.5-5.5 50-85 650

Wire version:

ETRTO (mm) Imperial (“) Pressure (bar) Pressure (psi) Weight (g)
50-559 26 x 2 2.5-4.5 35-70 740
55-559 26 x 2.15 2.5-4.5 35-70 865
37-622 700x37c 3.5-5.5 55-85 570
42-622 700x42c 3.5-5.5 50-85 650
47-622 700x47c 3-5.5 45-80 760
50-622 700x50c 2.5-4.5 35-70 825

 

 

Challenge Furai 26″ review

John Mills talks in depth about his Challenge Furai 26″ midracer…

John’s Nazca Fuego is a popular “Readers’ Bikes” entry, and I’m pleased to be able to add this article by John to the site, this time featuring his Challenge Furai — Dave.

Introduction:

Over the last few years I have owned and ridden a good few bents, from stick bikes to low racers. My first bike was a Nazca Fuego and I eventually went back to this model as it is, for me, a near perfect all-rounder.

The Furai also caught my eye and I did have a brief ride on a 24” all-rounder version. Later, I read Dave’s review of the Furai based on a very wet short tour in the Highlands. It came across as a bike with many similar qualities to the Fuego but with a bit less weight and a slightly higher seat. Intriguing.

Then last year David at Laidback told me about a 26” version he had taken as a trade in. I travelled up to view it, tried it and bought it.

johnmills_furai1

The Bike:

My bike started life, I believe, as a 24” model. Challenge supplied a replacement fork.

The bike is fitted with an Rock Shox air suspension and carbon boom. It is built using Avid Elixir hydraulic disc brakes, SRAM X9 rear mech, and twist grip controls. The supplied SL seat was too short for me so I approached Challenge directly about getting a Large carbon seat and the associated fittings. The process went smoothly enough and the seat arrived. There were no instructions so I set about it using my own judgement. The outcome is a seat sitting a little further forward than the SL seat. This seems to have benefited the handling (I’ll explain this later)

I made one or two changes. I substituted a pair of wheels comprising Shimano XT hubs and Mavic XC717 rims (a personal favourite), a SRAM PG990 9 speed cassette and fitted 28mm Schwalbe Durano tires. I lowered the gearing by fitting a Shimano XT 26/36/48 ATB chainset. I am using a Bacchetta Big Bag as a seat pack for stuff and a bottle cage is mounted on the stem. All the changes went smoothly and the finished bike, ready for the road with mudguards, bottle cages, computer, Ventisit and pedals came to approximately 14kg. All that remained was to wait for the blessed rain to stop!!

Handling:

When I first rode the bike I felt what appeared to be a slight hint of wheel flop at low speeds. It disappeared at anything above walking pace. After I fitted the carbon seat this characteristic had vanished. Either I had dialled this out of my consciousness or the slight shift in weight distribution eliminated it.

Directional stability is excellent, yet it responds quickly to steering inputs. Changes of line feel secure with no feeling of under or over steer. Across cratered surfaces it holds its line well and the narrow tyres seem to cut through some of the muddy surfaces left from the winter storms.

Brakes, as you might expect, are superb with power and good modulation.

I have had no issues with the idlers. I wonder whether chain tubes (which are installed) prevent the chain leaping off? Perhaps chain length and therefore tension plays a part?

Some time ago I remember reading a number of posts on BROL forums concerned about the potential for heel strike on a Furai 24. It was some weeks after I got the bike that I remembered and looked up this thread. Up to that point I had not thought about or experienced heel strike. It certainly can occur (though there is no hard interference between cranks and wheel) but in practice it is a non-issue.

In Dave’s report of the 24” version he mentioned the issue of pannier bags rubbing on the swing arm. I haven’t ridden the bike with panniers (Radical Bags) however when I offered them up they looked as though they clear the swing arm. The only difference is that Dave was running the SL narrow seat and the standard seat is at least 2 cm wider. There might be an issue with sway but that is easily dealt with by tying the bag to a convenient point on the rack.

johnmills_furai2

Comfort:

I realise that hard shell seats suit me well and comfort levels are excellent. The rear shock does its stuff. There is no sensation of pogo-ing. The bottom bracket is, for me, just the right height above seat level. Performance riders may wish it to be a little higher. Combined with the moderate seat recline the BB height gives me a good view of the road surface immediately in front.

The unsuspended front does transmit some road shock but the longish wheelbase helps mitigate the effect on the bike.

Seat height is 55/56cms. You sit between the wheels and because of the shape of the seat reaching the ground is easy. I’m 6ft with an X seam of 42.5” and inside leg 32” i.e. short legs / long torso. At junctions I can sit comfortably with one foot clipped in and the other flat on the ground. Ergonomically this is a very friendly machine. Compared to big wheel stick bikes I have owned the Furai delivers better comfort, seat height, weight distribution and bottom bracket height all without any significant weight penalty.

The narrow handlebars – slightly V shaped – are excellent for fast riding. They give you a real feeling of being tucked in to a cockpit. The folding stem looks fabulous but isn’t. The clamp that sets the handlebar height is woefully inadequate and the ‘bar height continually slips out of adjustment. A solution is easy though. Take one slightly bent target archery arrow, cut a portion of the shaft equivalent to the width of the clamp, squeeze gently in a vice until it will slide into the space underneath the clamp and presto you have limited the distance the clamp can move! Shouldn’t be necessary though.

Performance:

The first time I rode the bike I took it over my short hilly circuit and immediately felt it climbed faster than the Fuego. I seemed to be one gear up all the time. Downhill was good but not as good as a low racer of course. And into the wind it is marginally slower as well. Where a big wheeled bike shines is on less than perfect surfaces. It just seems to roll better over them. And coarse surfaces abound round here. Over a number of rides I would say that my average speed was consistently 1-1.5 kph faster than the Fuego. I put that down to lower weight and less rolling resistance. It is winter and these figures are the result of moderate (not performance) riding efforts.

On steep grunty climbs the bike feels very stable and seems to be able to drop to near walking pace and still hold a reasonable line.

Conclusions:

Overall I would describe this as a swift, smooth bike with good ergonomics. It is not a racer but feels as though it will make an excellent Audax / long day ride bike.

It is very versatile. With the standard Challenge aluminium seat fitted it can take a rack and panniers and feels robust enough to carry a load.

One of the tests I use about any bike is to observe how I use it after the initial novelty has worn off. The Furai gets picked as often as any of the others. It must be good! I look forward to warm days with no mudguards and some longer rides. A great bike – and like so many Challenge products it looks great.

“Stravandals”: the Strava safety police and their “hazardous” own goal

The 85th percentile speed for the Roseburn Path on Strava is only a hair over 20mph – the design speed for modern shared cycle facilities

How self-appointed safety police are doing much more harm than good

Over on CCE, someone posted a link to a fascinating Strava heatmap showing to-the-second recorded rides for a huge number of UK cyclists.

It’s worth emphasising that this kind of information is virtually unprecedented. For the first time planners, policymakers (and everyone else) potentially has access to aggregate and individual cycling behaviour on a second-by-second basis.

heatmap

Just as a taste, you can actually see that nobody (who uses Strava) cycled along the Quality Bike Corridor at the same time that the much bigger (parallel) Minto St / Gilmerton Rd was seeing heavy traffic. You can see that large numbers of cyclists are using the nasty 40mph A702 to enter Edinburgh but you can also see that they don’t like it (because a significant majority divert onto Braid Rd at the first opportunity).

It’s taken years for Edinburgh Council not to fit bike counters that, once rolled out, will still not really tell us much about cycling patterns, let alone give us the ability to examine the rest of their route.

Enter the Stravandals

Unfortunately, Strava is becoming increasingly compromised by “stravandalising” – the vexatious flagging of stretches of road or path as “hazardous” by self-appointed internet policemen (or women, in fairness, etc. etc.).

While I’m not unsympathetic to the views of people who think comparing speeds on any public thoroughfare is intrinsically wrong, they seem to fail to appreciate that there’s no objective assessment to make. By this I mean that while speeding or drink driving are nice and objective, the “hazard” flag is a purely moral judgement, and as I see it, one that is rarely being made wisely.

Strava’s apparent fear of bad press has led inexorably to the point where my own commute now has fewer sections which are apparently safe to cycle than those which are not, and I suspect things are only this “good” because other users are re-creating segments as fast as they can be deleted.

Why anyone would pay a monthly fee for something which anybody with a free account can delete in moments is quite beyond me – I made the decision long ago that I wouldn’t pay for Strava under those conditions.

15mph_hazardous
A “hazardous” 15mph… 5mph below modern path design speed.

In terms of the market, the issue of “stravandalising” segments promises to be quite interesting. Strava users who feel they’re paying for a service which they don’t receive are easy pickings for rival services that offer a better proposition.

You’d think Strava would be desperately concerned that someone’s going to do a Facebook on their MySpace – it’s not that hard to imagine.

Strava: a priceless safety resource?

Few people will see it this way, but let me make the argument:

I find it pleasingly ironic that people who claim to be motivated by safety seem hell-bent on destroying pretty much the only centralised record of realtime cycling behaviour that’s ever been gathered. Talk about taking the short view.

When you look at “hazard” segments in detail the picture that is painted is often not one of road rash, mangled kittens and dead toddlers at all, but this demands the wisdom to look beyond any distaste at the headline element, something Stravandals clearly lack.

Researching this piece, I looked up the leaderboards of two classic Edinburgh “hazard” routes that have long since been expunged from Strava: the Union Canal and the Roseburn Path.

I hear you gasp in horror. But what does Strava’s leaderboard actually reveal?

The maximum segment speed reached by any cyclist on the Union Canal this month is 16mph, while the maximum reached by any cyclist descending the Roseburn Path is 21mph. (As you’d hope, these speeds reflect that while both are very quiet during most hours of the day, the canal is only wide enough for two cyclists to ride abreast, while the Roseburn is the width of a road).

I’m not interested in arguing about whether 16mph is too fast on a deserted towpath.

I don’t even feel like pointing out that the original Strava segments both time-shifted cyclists to quieter hours of the day (last summer I left an hour early and avoided almost all pedestrians, but with no segment, I may as well ride the same way in rush hour) and discouraged rapid progress across the Slateford viaduct (because the segments were at either side of it, it wasn’t timed).

I *agree* that there’s a moral argument that says this is all wrong, but based on the actual casualty stats, I also believe that any objective assessment of the risk would find that it’s relatively trivial.

I people watch well over a hundred miles a week and the fast riders are almost never the bad ones. Want to see near misses? It’s the two-tings-and-a-prayer brigade that are doing the damage, and they’re hardly the Strava stereotype…

What I think is much more interesting is the argument that brushing this under the carpet, hiding the data in the hopes that cyclists will all start dragging their brakes, is both a failure in terms of safety and actually a retrograde step – if people are dispersed from Strava to rival services who take a stronger line for their users this resource, which really seems to exonorate cyclists more than it condemns them, could be lost.

Strava speed = not necessarily that fast

The 85th percentile speed for the Roseburn Path this year is only a hair over 20mph – the design speed for modern shared cycle facilities. And that’s counting each individual’s *fastest effort* with the prevailing wind behind them – for a true picture you then need to drill down further: I show on the leaderboard at 18mph but my average is 15mph…

Isn’t this actually rather reassuring? Worrying about the KOM alone is like making road safety decisions based on the fastest speed any single car has ever travelled at, ignoring the question of how fast people drive from day to day.

It would require more data gathering than can be managed in retrospect to see whether the removal of segments has actually led to a reduction in speeds (I wouldn’t expect so, but I’m only guessing).

Let me finish with this question: if motorists were voluntarily publishing personally identifiable GPS records of their speed and route, can anyone seriously argue that we should hide that data, bury our heads in the sand – or would we be falling over ourselves to access the lessons that data contains, and reassure ourselves that people just aren’t driving all that fast (or are they?)

The sad thing is – there are objectively hazardous locations and the most popular Strava segments invariably grew to be the ones which didn’t include them. What we have now is the old school “how fast can I do my entire route, traffic lights and all” – is that actually safer?

Whew. If you stayed with me through that, you deserve a badge…

Cycling Cuba’s Oriente

Three weeks in Cuba, cycling unsupported around the coast of the Oriente – Guardalavaca, Baracoa, La Farola, Santiago, Sierra Maestra…

Viva la revolución!

We’re just back from three weeks in Cuba, cycling unsupported around the coast of the Oriente- Guardalavaca, Baracoa, La Farola, Santiago, Sierra Maestra… we’ve got monster tan lines and an irrational hatred of plantain chips and everything made of guava… 😉

Rather unfortunately my camera didn’t make it. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one taking pictures, and in the true spirit of antiimperialismo I’m able to bring you a few sneak peeks while I write up more substantial reports (watch this space).

Cuba certainly lived up to its reputation as a first-rate cycling destination: perfect weather, amazing roads, friendly people… with the daily average around 40°C it was certainly an antidote to British winter blues!

cuba6
The coast road just east of Marea del Portillo, Granma

cuba8
Fixing the suspension of our intercity transport with some fence wire on the Carratera Central.
Note the five well secured (!) bikes.

cuba7
Crossing the Sierra Maestra towards San Lorenzo

cuba10 (1)
Riding into another Carribean sunset…

cuba1Crossing the pass of La Farola, between Baracoa and Guantanamo

cuba2Rush hour on a typical Cuban main road

cuba3
The amazing coast road west of Santiago…

cuba4
All that’s left of the only road on the south side of the Sierra Maestro…

cuba5
How much longer will it last? Anyone’s guess…

A rational premium for bike-friendly housing?

Rationally, if we intended to live in a house for just ten years it would be worth spending up to an extra £24,000…

In “how I saved a house deposit cycling to work” I showed that being able to keep a second car off the road has saved us £9500 over the last four years, or £2375pa. (That’s based on our real bank account balance).

Let’s imagine that there’s no difference in terms of health or enjoyment and stick with the financial figures. Rationally, if we intended to live in a house for just ten years it would be worth spending up to an extra £24,000 to secure one which allowed us to ride to work.

That would have to include the costs of borrowing extra money and ignores the opportunity cost of investing the money in the house (after all, we could use it to become loan sharks instead) but it’s still a hefty amount of cash when Scotland’s average home costs less than £200,000.

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Image courtesy Andrew_Writer

Say you want to settle down and have kids which means you’re going to be around for the next twenty years- it would make sense to spend up to £50,000 more on a house which is bike-friendly than one which isn’t.

Being rational, it’s safe to say that many people are making such decisions – although of course you could look at it as a way of getting more house for the same money rather than a requirement to physically spend more. I have no doubt people do both.

Of course, rational cyclists being willing to pay significantly more money to live on a good cycle route can be used as an easy justification for the construction of more cycle routes too. Let’s imagine the £600,000 cost of the Quality Bike Corridor had delivered an excellent commuter route instead of a shocking waste of effort painting lanes under parked cars. That £600k would potentially have benefited local residents to the tune of £2,000 per annum, per household. (Even giving up a bus pass is worth £6000 per decade on your house value).

If just 300 households were able to give up a car as a result of the provision of a Dutch-class segregated cycle route at that price, it would deliver a return on investment *in the first year*.

Even better, the money people stop spending on cars when the council builds a segregated cycle facility feeds directly into the economy – perhaps largely the local economy. Is this why cities that do build world-class facilities see such a dramatic rise in the turnover of local business?

You may find talk of inflated house prices improbable, but there’s good evidence from the school catchment system that parents have been paying up to £200,000 more for comparable properties with better schools (the average is apparently around a 20% premium, although that article is a few years old).

Because there’s no firm line separating “people close enough to use this cycle facility” from “people not allowed to use this cycle facility”, you wouldn’t expect a sharp, easily detectable price jump in the same way that catchments have. However, there must be a good masters or PhD. thesis in measuring the effect.

Houses identical to ours (with bigger gardens) go for six figures less in Fife than they do here. We’re also buying into a good school catchment, but our budget definitely included a “cycling premium”.

Doesn’t yours?

Dooring – depressingly common

It’s lucky I’ve seen so many offences committed on Edinburgh’s streets that I was covering the brakes…

The #1 cause of cycling KSIs is a flung-open door

I’m not going to say much about this, other than to point out that it’s lucky I’ve seen so many offences committed on Edinburgh’s streets that I was covering the brakes and able to stop without drama.

Something I learned the hard way as a student, when I was taken off by a flung-open door in moving traffic (!).

I could write to the council and report the taxi – 8am, no stopping zone, W309 PSX (taxi number 1199) and a clear offence under Construction & Use… but what’s the point? It would merely be noted as no death occurred (and presumably I “came out of nowhere” despite wearing a white jacket 😉 )

These days you can actually get prosecuted if you’re doing something as unusual as driving while eating a bowl of cereal, but something like this is so depressingly common that it’s not even worth reporting.

Donkey Lane and traffic jams

Why do people sit in traffic on the Calder Road when there’s an existing segregated cycle route from Currie to the Gyle?

When ‘almost’ is not much good at all…

Not far from our new house lies the curiously named “Donkey Lane”, a cycle path linking Currie with the Riccarton campus, Hermiston Gait and the Gyle, not to mention the west end and Lothian Road (via the canal).

Donkey Lane allows you to avoid the sort of daily rush hour traffic which I’ve attached in video for contrast. While you read this article, you may want to play that in a second window alongside (or if you really have the patience… it’s embedded below)

Now, back to Donkey Lane:

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The adjacent residential street, recently and extensively resurfaced…

Considering the huge queues that pile up every day along the A70 and down at the Calder roundabout, you’d think that this would be a popular facility- it takes me an hour to drive to our swanky office on the shore, yet I can bike it in roughly half an hour…

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Unfortunately most people don’t get any further than this – the entrance.

In reality, almost nobody uses Donkey Lane. So at least we aren’t alone there.

We house-shopped based on good school catchments with a linear segregated cycle route into town, so it’s a surprise to admit that we are driving more (vastly more) than when we lived in the south of Edinburgh in a flat which more or less pre-dated our interest in cycling.

Or is it?

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Donkey Lane is a public right of way but is in private ownership, and self-evidently receives no significant maintenance. In summer it’s horrendously overgrown, and for the other eleven months of the year it’s clearly a sort of linear swamp which can only attract the most dedicated masochist.

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There’s a serious upside to using these paths – it’s unusual for even one car to overtake me cycling between Currie and Leith, eleven miles away. And I’m saving 30 minutes each way over driving!

Unfortunately, after initial enthusiasm I have to confess that getting covered head-to-toe in mud and destroying hubs like they’re going out of fashion (despite full SKS guards) can get a little tiring.

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With the council looking to add 10,000 homes or so to this side of Edinburgh in the next few years, and constant hand-wringing over road capacity, you’d think paths like these would be massively low-hanging fruit.

On an average morning I can count a hundred cyclists between Wester Hailes and Leith on the segregated path network. If they all drove, it would be like one extra car every 20 seconds!

There’s only one cyclist who I see (on a blue moon) travelling via Donkey Lane, despite Currie having no shortage of well-off, well-educated people who are (for better or worse) the sort of people who seem to be candidate cyclists today. Instead they all sit bumper to bumper on the A70…

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There’s something of a heated debate on CCE just now about plans to properly surface a couple of East Lothian’s old railways, which has naturally been opposed by the usual competing interest groups.

No doubt the same argument can be made for Edinburgh paths like Donkey Lane and the Water of Leith – but we should be clear that we’re trading a lot of extra idling diesel engines to benefit a minority who prefer their paths filthy.

Cycling is itself a minority pursuit, so I suppose it comes down to whether we want to get people out of their cars at the expense of people like riding schools, whose horses understandably prefer a natural surface.

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You only have to stand on NEPN for a few moments to be passed by dozens of people who’ve left their car at home. Here almost everyone drives despite having a choice of segregated cycleways, because getting covered in mud (and needing expensive lights to avoid rocks and roots) is a hefty disincentive.

Does having a mud surface prevent speeding riders? Well, it is on Strava at 24mph… but would you rather have a 24mph cyclist on a deserted path or a load of 40mph drivers going past your local primary school?

Would you rather queue as in the video or have 10-20% of those vehicles cycling instead?

Evidently, it’s not enough just to have a muddy chute, because people aren’t going near it.

I raised this with our councillors and two of them were good enough to obtain a response:  “Donkey Lane forms part of the Council’s long term proposals to create a ‘family friendly’ cycle network across the city and we plan to focus on its development once the shorter term priorities have been delivered”.

I’m not holding my breath, considering that it took ten years from the Land Reform Act to sort out the *signage* for cycling in the Meadows… but I am looking forward to getting back out of the car some day. 🙂

ICE VTX Review

The new VTX is the top of the line racing trike from ICE. Just how good is it?

Hold on tight: the best just got (much) better

At first sight of the marketing blurb which accompanies the VTX I was sceptical. “It looks much the same as the Vortex to me,” I thought. “Beyond a few cosmetic tweaks to make it seem worth the upgrade, will there really be much difference?”

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I must admit that I wasn’t completely convinced by the ICE Vortex – a trike so uncompromising that I had bruises over my vertebrae after just a few hours hard riding. Sure, it was fast (for a trike), but given the type of roads I have to ride on, I couldn’t really imagine owning one.

I’m happy to say that my suspicions were completely wrong. While evolutionary, ICE have made a very significant upgrade in the VTX – no less of a speed demon but one which is significantly easier to live with.

I’ve also been able to take some power-based performance measurements for the first time; scroll down for details.

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All change at the back

The headline upgrade comes in the form of the new rear frame section, which employs hydroforming in an attempt to create a more compliant ride, without sacrificing drivetrain efficiency or cornering performance. The seat bracket has also been relocated to further reduce the transfer of road impacts.

I deliberately took the VTX for a session on a local tarmac road which has started to fall apart, and I could hardly believe the difference – despite rattling at full speed over inch-deep cratered moonscape, I still felt pretty comfortable in the seat and the trike was easy to control.

On my maiden ride with the old Vortex I had to stop every five minutes to tighten something… was this my first hint that the VTX was actually a step-change? No – I was convinced of that immediately.

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Handling

The ride quality of the VTX is head and shoulders above anything else I’ve tested. The whole trike feels beautifully poised, and can be flung around the road with one-handed abandon.

Conducting virtual elevation tests one frosty morning (where braking is an absolute no-no) I found the tail drifting out on the sharpest corner and it was no worse than entertaining. I settled for imagining I was Steve McQueen, started pedalling hard and everything eventually straightened out!

Speaking of brakes – as with all ICE trikes, brake steer is non-existent on the VTX (we live on a steep street, and I took the demo to skidding point with one hand without the slightest inclination to pull to one side).

The whole trike feels incredibly refined and leaves you in no doubt that you are riding a top quality machine.

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Power tests

I decided to take a different approach with the VTX and perform some virtual elevation testing to measure its performance. See here for an informative PDF by Robert Chung.

The general idea is that if you know CdA (aero resistance) and Crr (rolling resistance), along with weight, air density and so on, physics will tell you *exactly* how fast you will be going for a given power input.

If you compare this theoretical speed with actual speed and it turns out you’re going slower, the only answer is that you are going up hill (and vice-versa). A virtual elevation profile can thus be drawn up by charting these deviations in speed as changes in height. You have to do some guesswork with the CdA and rolling resistance until the virtual profile matches the real altitude profile, but then you’re done.

Unfortunately, having the trike for weeks which turned out to be some of the wettest and wildest on record made it difficult to gather a compelling set of data due to wind interference (wind slows you down, which looks like you’re going uphill).

However, with that caveat, I came up with the following approximate values: CdA: 0.350, Crr: 0.01

(Note that the trike and my body / clothing are indivisible, and the rider makes up a good chunk of the above figure!)

I performed a series of laps in a built-up area where only one leg was exposed to a (very light, almost un-noticeable) headwind. I was able to create the expected virtual elevation with the above values:

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Obviously, the altitude increases with each lap, but the thing giving me confidence is that the profile is exactly correct on the three sides which were sheltered from the wind. The one wind-impacted street (which connects the descent with the start of the next lap) slopes down in reality, but doesn’t slope down enough on the VE chart, due to the headwind making it slower, thus “flatter”.

It’s pretty interesting stuff. I rode the laps at differing speeds, and it looks like you can see the trike scrubbing in the hardest corners (as it slows me down, it makes the elevation a little steeper than the road really is, giving some variation in the exact profiles).

I was almost out of good weather, but had one opportunity to validate these numbers by climbing a local hill between two spot heights measured by Ordinance Survey. As you’d hope, the virtual height I climb to in the plot below (blue line) ends up at *exactly* the expected height (denoted by the vertical green bar at the finish, which is neither too high or too short to meet the blue line):

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If I’d been thinking ahead, I would have climbed the hill several times at different power to further validate the figures, but it was just a snap decision when I happened to be there.

Just to point out – the blue line above is completely synthetic based on Watts at the rear wheel and estimated Cda/Crr numbers. My power varied plenty on the climb, and yet the plot captures the ramp up then steady gradient which exists in real life. Neat.

Knowing the ballpark CdA and Crr allows a direct comparison between the VTX and other bikes/trikes without arguing over routes and weather conditions. For a great example, refer to this post by techathy on BROL, plotting the Vortex against the Challenge Fujin and a regular time trial bike.

(I believe his Vortex has a aerodynamic tail of some sort, so as expected it’s a little more streamlined than the VTX was for me.)

As you can see, unfortunately the VTX isn’t as rapid as a time trial bike, let alone a lowracer. But on the other hand, you can’t spend much time riding in the TT tuck (certainly not an entire leisure ride) and if you do, you can’t see much of what is going on. The VTX is extremely comfortable and you can look around 🙂

Note the significant difference in speed at 200W and above – 4mph slower than the Fujin or DF time trial bikes (but “only” 2mph slower than the more common DF ‘hoods’ position).

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Contrast the profiles of the VTX and the Sprint 26X (with extra laid-back seat!) – from the Laid Back Flickr stream

I was asked specifically to compare the VTX to the Nazca Fuego, a low(ish) and not insanely reclined two-wheeler. My gut feel is that over mixed terrain the Fuego is faster, but the VTX is close, unlike the Sprint or Adventure – the VTX is a similar weight and the drivetrains are not dissimilar in perceived efficiency. When I’ve been able to perform virtual elevation testing with the Fuego I’ll produce a specific article on this, but for now, I’d say anyone swapping from a non-racing two wheeler to the VTX won’t be overly disappointed…

Construction in detail

Much of what I wrote in the Vortex review applies equally to the VTX, so that may also be worth your time.

To allow for a lower and more reclined seating position, the VTX continues the set-back seat position of the Vortex, and this can make it slightly more challenging to get into. For the vast majority of prospective owners this is just something you’ll get used to in a few minutes, but I was reminded of it repeatedly whenever someone wanted to sit on the trike and see what it felt like!

It’s hardly made of paper, but a heavy enough collapse onto the seat (especially if you took the carbon option) might not be the best idea.

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The VTX is fitted as stock with a triple chainset (compact double on the VTX+ for the mountain goats), and although I hardly used the smallest ring, you should be aware that the 700C driving wheel is so much bigger than the 20″ drive wheel on other trikes that it makes each chainring the equivalent of the next size up.

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In other words, the small ring on the VTX is like the middle ring on a Sprint 20, and the middle ring on the VTX like the big ring on a Sprint 20 – so with the VTX big ring, the sky’s the limit!

(Unfortunately you still have to pedal 😉 )

Below is a close-up shot of the new rear frame member. It’s fully rigid and the tubes are highly profiled and bowed to improve comfort and handling. Note the upper seat mount is just visible right up next to the power idler – nowhere near your shoulders, and the difference is really dramatic.

Note the fine detailing around the dropouts, which have been extensively relieved and look fantastic.

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Here’s another view. You can see that this model came fitted with a rear mudguard. The month I had it prior to publication was the wettest December since records began and I doubt I would have ridden at all without it!

By way of contrast, the lack of front mudguards will only get you wet if there’s a cross wind at just the wrong angle to steer the spray into your path… a compromise that seems worth making to avoid increasing the VTX’s frontal area any further.

Note the new headrest. Even that is a significant step up on the Vortex (i.e. I actually used it from time to time!)

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The new seat pad is excellent – my back didn’t feel at all sweaty even on the hardest ride (note, it is winter at the time of writing so not the sweatiest time of year!)

Most importantly, the seat holds you securely when corning hard and it stays comfortable even when you’re being pounded by a broken road. A great improvement.

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Front of house, the VTX comes equipped with the ubiquitous BB7, made razor-sharp by the tiny length of the cable run. Braking one-fingered is natural… quite a revelation compared to my grimy collection of well-used winter bikes!

The VTX+ has an upgrade to hydraulics for minimal maintenance and even greater bite (though you have to wonder who would find the brakes on the base model inadequate…)

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The handlebars and stem come in one piece – this makes them light and stiff, but I suppose may not suit every rider. Personally, I kept rubbing the mirror t-bar extension off the tyre when cornering in tight spaces… user error?

The shifters are SRAM and work crisply and flawlessly – shifting on the VTX is instant as you’d expect from anything which costs as much as this. Just be aware that as with the original Vortex, adjusting the boom will throw off your front mech completely, because the gear cable runs to the boom without an outer housing.

The rear mech had an amazing feature where you could push in a pin to lock out the spring and work on the drivetrain (or remove the wheel). This blew my mind and all my SRAM rear mechs are now destined for upgrade-land…

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The VTX (reviewed here) doesn’t have quite the same quality of finishing kit as the VTX+, but I’d be amazed if anyone took it out for a spin and felt dissatisfied: every detail has been attended to and as a complete package this is one of the sharpest rides in town.

Conclusion

Speed-wise the VTX is streets ahead of any other trike I’ve ridden, and should not disgrace itself in the company of two-wheelers if you normally ride strongly. That said, the inherent penalties of multi-track mean that it won’t leave any two-wheeler in the dust, either. In return you get an insanely fun machine to ride, given twice as much space by passing motorists, and everything else that’s unique about trike riding!

As always, I haven’t talked about price. While it’s a fact that the VTX is significantly more expensive than some other trikes, there’s no question you are buying a quality machine.

The handling is perfect, the seat very comfortable even after many hours, the complete package is light and has excellent finishing kit… it really is quite easy to recommend. ICE have little to fear when it comes to losing their crown.

There’s a demo currently available at Edinburgh’s Laid-Back-Bikes, but I suspect it won’t hang around for long!

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On wisdom and culpability

We must demand the highest standard from drivers who kill when they err. You could be next – do you want other cyclists to blame you? Then don’t blame them.

We must demand the highest standard from drivers who kill when they err

Society only gives the drivers of large vehicles one job, and it is this: before you hit the accelerator, ensure you aren’t about to crush someone in front of you. Before you spin the wheel, ensure you aren’t about about to crush someone beside you.

The vast majority of drivers are pretty good at this, which is why the death toll caused by large vehicles is so much lower than it could be.

Unfortunately, when they do fail to follow this simple rule the victim’s chances of survival are slim, which is why the drivers of large vehicles are involved in around 50% of fatalities despite making just 5% of urban vehicle movements.

Many large vehicles have such good mirrors that it’s actually impossible to disappear from view regardless of the position you are in.

This is not true of them all, but that is hardly a mitigation in the driver’s favour. It is to be hoped that we will reach a position where operating a vehicle without safety mirrors becomes a criminal offence, but even today there can be no question that the driver’s first responsibility is to satisfy themselves that they aren’t about to take a life when they spin the wheel.

“I couldn’t confirm it was safe, so I did it anyway” isn’t accepted from anyone else who is responsible for preserving lives, and you owe it to yourself not to allow the terrible frequency of large vehicle deaths to blind you to this basic truth.

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The TFL “die in” protest, courtesy Docklandsboy

Silly cyclists are only silly – they do not give the driver a free kill

Because the drivers of large vehicles are the single biggest threat to their lives, many cyclists have developed a healthy paranoia about being anywhere near one, and the authorities have invested significantly in awareness campaigns targeting cyclists in the hopes of reducing preventable deaths.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Women are sometimes warned to avoid certain areas for fear that they will be assaulted.

Critically, it doesn’t follow that rapists are less culpable if their victim failed to follow that advice, nor is someone crushed by a driver who swings his lorry about without looking partly to blame, just because we know that drivers sometimes fail to ensure their path is clear.

There are huge political and financial incentives for the authorities to fix the blame on victims of bad driving. Look at the way Boris immediately came out on the attack against cyclists after London’s spate of recent killings – not only does this go down well with certain sections of society, it divides cyclists themselves over the artificial distinction of whether the victim could have avoided being crushed to death by the driver who failed to check their course was clear.

The apparent failure of cyclists to appreciate this is one of the biggest obstacles to a unified outcry against large vehicle homicides.

Yes, it’s often unwise to pass a large vehicle on the right, or the left, or even to sit in front of it.

Yes, avoiding the drivers of large vehicles can seem ridiculously easy to an aggressive and experienced rider.

Yes, there would probably be fewer deaths if every cyclist was as wise as yours truly.

But at the end of the day, there are over sixty million people living in the UK who are not HGV drivers. We have a basic right not to be crushed to death by a professional who fails to ensure their path is clear.

Cycling unwisely doesn’t excuse the driver anything.

You could be next. Do you want other cyclists to blame you? Then don’t blame them.

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Courtesy Richard Gough