Cateye TL-LD1100 rear light review

A big light with ten(!) LEDs, the Cateye LD1100 has great battery life and a variety of modes, some more gimmicky than others…

Bulky but long-running 10 LED lightfest

The Cateye TL-LD1100 is the brand’s top-of-range rear LED light. It makes use of a whopping ten LEDs (some rear, some side-facing) and takes full-fat AA batteries to give outstanding runtimes.

Currently Chain-Reaction are doing 14% off while Wiggle have it on a 10% discount.

I’ve been commuting using dynamo lights for some time now, but my better half has made do with a few different battery rear LEDs since we own so many rear lights of various ages!

As it’s quite a costly option, the TL-LD1100 has stayed on as a backup light for longer than you might expect, and before that served as primary light for a year on our shared 12 mile commute.

cateye_ld1100

Mounting

The Cateye TL-LD1100 is not a clip-on style light – you must use one of the Cateye mounts (although you can get hold of a belt clip adapter mount if you want to use it this way).

The TL-LD1100 does not come with Cateye’s newer flex tight brackets – probably because it’s just too heavy. You will need to keep coming back to check your mount as there have been numerous reports of lights dropping off.

Ours uses the rack mount adapter, working around this problem.

The physical size of the TL-LD1100 may seem intimidating but in fairness it is fat in every dimension, so at least you avoid the difficulties presented by the TL-LD600 strip light.

Beam quality and strength

The Cateye TL-LD1100 has two buttons and a total of 24 modes – four modes per button, the buttons being independent in operation.

In much the same way that you don’t worry about how many modes your car lights have, I’m a bit “meh” about anything other than plain old “on then off”…

The side-facing LEDs are a nice touch. While there are limited situations in which a driver is likely to be targeted by them, it’s certainly reassuring to know that you’re spraying red light in every direction!

One of the biggest annoyances with this light is that if you just want all the LEDs to flash, each “half” of the TL-LD1100 operates at a slightly different speed, so it slowly changes from all flashing at the same time to perfect counterpoint (i.e. effectively non-flashing at half-strength) and then back again.

This will drive you mad if you’re riding behind!

The LEDs are not ‘power LEDs’ (as found on, say, the Smart Superflash and similar lights). However, there are so many of them that, combined with the use of full-size AA batteries, the Cateye TL-LD1100 remains a very bright light indeed.

Depending on the mode you use, the TL-LD1100 is a borderline mega dazzler. Making it unpleasant for people to drive behind can definitely encourage them into a rushed overtake. It’s not as bad as many of its competitors, however.

The TL-LD1100 does allow you to run only half the light at a time, reducing glare (although then, why aren’t you just running a cheaper light?).

It’s important to mount the light completely level, as designers depend on this when working out off-angle visibility and other factors. Do not point it at the ground by mounting vertically on the seatpost!

Because the Cateye TL-LD1100 hasn’t passed the relevant tests it isn’t road legal when used on its own (in any mode).

I’ll write more about this separately, but unless you go for a dynamo (all dynamo lights are genuinely road legal), it’s true of pretty much anything a bike shop will sell you.

Useability

The Cateye TL-LD1100 has two small rubber buttons to one side of the case.

You have to count many different presses to take the light from ‘off’ to your chosen modes, and a different number of presses to turn it off again. I actually found this surprisingly frustrating!

Battery life

Unlike a great many of its rivals, the Cateye TL-LD1100 runs on two full-size AA batteries.

This gives it fantastic battery life despite the large number of LEDs – 50 hours steady and 100 hours flashing. Remember that the temperature at which you use the light and the type of battery used both influence that figure.

A word on true brightness

Unlike many ‘power LED’ lights, the Cateye uses full-size AA batteries. It delivers 50 hours on solid from 2x2850mAh cells – (2 x 2850 / 50) = 114mA. The power is thus (0.114 x 1.25) = 0.143W

This is actually more than the real wattage of both the RSP Astrum and Smart Lunar R2 lights!

Durability / waterproofing

The Cateye TL-LD1100 has solid weather sealing (based on all weather mileage), but I have had repeated trouble with the little rubber buttons on the end being dislodged if brushed across the light (say in a pocket or bag, or just a badly-aimed finger).

Trying to get the rubber bit back in to re-seal the button is an exercise in exquisite frustration!

As with all lights, mounting under the seat (combined with a mudguard) virtually guarantees trouble-free operation.

Overall

The Cateye TL-LD1100 rear LED light is a comparative giant – both in size, weight, long runtime and cost.

It is not outrageously bright, especially if you moderate the modes – which is a great advantage if you are a social rider and especially if you don’t subscribe to the simplistic “more watts = more safety” bandwagon. It is reliable but operation can be frustrating due to the millions of different modes, and the fact that each half of the light seems to run to a different rhythm.

The apparent dodgyness of the seatpost mount is a worry. At twice the price of many rivals, this is not a light you would be happy to lose.

Again, Chain-Reaction are doing 14% off while Wiggle currently have it on a 10% discount.

Cateye TL-LD600 rear light review

An older design, the LD600 is reliable and easy to operate, while having the advantage of not being offensively bright.

Distinctive strip LEDs: cheap and effective, awkward to mount

The Cateye TL-LD600 is a distinctive rear light consisting of a single strip of five low power LEDs. An older design, they’re still a common sight all over the country.

Although Cateye have produced a replacement in the LD610, you can still buy the older version of the light for a song. Currently Wiggle have it on a 17% discount, while Chain-Reaction are doing 12% off.

I’ve been commuting using dynamo lights for some time now, but my LD600 is still doing sterling service as an extra rear LED on my Carry Freedom trailer. Since I’ve often lent the trailer out, I’ve been able to check its performance in different circumstances, and it’s still a very effective rear light.

cateye_ld600

Mounting

The Cateye TL-LD600 is not a clip-on style light – you must use one of the Cateye mounts (although you can get hold of a belt clip adapter mount if you want to use it this way).

Rather than a nice jubilee-clip style mount, the Cateye TL-LD600 has a more primitive fixed-size band, tightened by a small metal screw.

Say hello to packing out the mount with tape if it’s not just the right size, and don’t strip that screw head!

(Depending on packaging, you may find that the TL-LD600 comes with one of Cateye’s newer flex tight brackets – a step in the right direction).

Because the light is a long strip, it’s quite easy to use zip-ties or rubber o-rings in a figure of eight to clamp it onto any tube or flat surface (this is how I’ve fitted mine to the Carry Freedom – no risk of loss or theft).

The long strip format does work against the TL-LD600 however, in that you can’t really mount it on a seat stay (it goes into the spokes) or vertically (it’s too long and hits the seatpost or seat stay – forcing you to point it at a crazy angle).

Beam quality and strength

The Cateye TL-LD600 has four modes – three flashing patterns as well as solid mode. In much the same way that you don’t worry about how many modes your car lights have, I’m a bit “meh” about anything other than plain old “on then off”…

The “chasing” LED mode is particularly weak – why would you reduce your light to just 20% brightness *and* let it flash? Crikey!

The LEDs are not ‘power LEDs’ (as found on, say, the Smart Superflash and similar lights). Visibility is OK from behind but the light doesn’t excel at off-axis visibility – another area in which it shows its age a little.

One advantage of not being an insanely bright mega flasher is that it’s much less unpleasant to ride or drive behind someone using it. Making it unpleasant for people to drive behind can definitely encourage them into a rushed overtake. As a driver, I can vouch that sitting at light behind someone with a mega LED flasher definitely focuses my mind on getting past!

The TL-LD600 definitely doesn’t have that problem. Few will want to buck the trend and deliberately opt for a less dazzling light, but it’s certainly an option.

It’s important to mount the light completely level, as designers depend on this when working out off-angle visibility and other factors. Do not point it at the ground by mounting vertically on the seatpost!

Because the Cateye TL-LD600 hasn’t passed the relevant tests it isn’t road legal when used on its own (in any mode).

I’ll write more about this separately, but unless you go for a dynamo (all dynamo lights are genuinely road legal), it’s true of pretty much anything a bike shop will sell you.

Useability

The Cateye TL-LD600 has a small rear button to one side of the case.

One nice touch is that the light is switched on and off with a long press, so you can cycle through modes while riding without going dark. Unfortunately there’s only really one mode worth using..

Battery life

The Cateye TL-LD600 runs on two AAA batteries.

I seem to get much more than the stated battery life (15h steady, 30h flashing) but neither is much to write home about. Remember that the temperature at which you use the light and the type of battery used both influence that figure.

In this area the TL-LD600 does start to show its age compared with newer, high power LED lights that manage more than twice as much battery life (flashing mode) and 50% more on solid, despite being much brighter. See the Smart Lunar R2 or Smart Superflash amongst many others…

Durability / waterproofing

The Cateye TL-LD600 has solid weather sealing (based on all weather mileage on the back of my trailer, 6″ from the tarmac!).

As with all lights, mounting under the seat (combined with a mudguard) virtually guarantees trouble-free operation.

Overall

The Cateye TL-LD600 rear LED light is an older design that’s clearly long in the teeth in some respects, especially battery life vs output.

It is not offensively bright, which is a great advantage if you are a social rider and especially if you don’t subscribe to the simplistic “more watts = more safety” bandwagon. It is reliable and easy to operate.

The light is let down slightly by the awkwardness of mounting it, but at the same time the width of the TL-LD600 can make it more prominent than a single point source (and more useful for drivers trying to fix your position).

There are probably better options, but it’s certainly not one to avoid.

Again, Wiggle currently have it on a 17% discount, while Chain-Reaction are doing 12% off.

Smart Lunar R2 rear light review

Extremely bright and benefits from respectable runtime, the Lunar R2 is also fairly well built and not overly expensive. A good all-rounder.

Two 0.5W LEDs make this another blinder

The Smart Lunar R2 is a small (AAA) rear LED in the clip-on tradition. It benefits from superior construction quality relative to the infamous Smart Superflash 0.5W LED light, but at greater cost.

Currently Wiggle have it on a 10% discount, while Chain-Reaction are doing a respectable 20% off.

I’ve been commuting using dynamo lights for some time now, but my better half has made do with a few different battery rear LEDs since we own so many rear lights of various ages!

This has actually been pretty useful, since I’ve been able to check the performance of the Smart Lunar R2 in different circumstances while riding along behind, instead of so many bike light reviews which boil down to “it seems bright and nobody has run me over yet” 😉

smart_lunar_r2

Mounting

The Smart Lunar R2 has a clip on the rear which allows you to attach it to items of clothing, bags, and so on.

It is also supplied with a seatpost and seat stay mount that secures the light using the same clip. Rather than a nice jubilee-clip style mount, the Smart has a more primitive fixed-size band, tightened by a small metal screw.

Say hello to packing out the mount with tape if it’s not just the right size, and don’t strip that screw head!

It’s rare to see people riding with a light attached to bag or body that’s actually pointing in the right direction. I’ve tried this myself often… either the light points to the sky or ground or it waggles around spraying photons like a garden sprinkler!

The ability to mount on the seat stays means you should be able to find somewhere for the Smart Lunar R2, even if you have a short seatpost or use a seat bag. Don’t worry that the spokes will obscure the light from drivers on an inside lane – in reality they’ll have spent plenty of time being lasered getting into that position.

Beam quality and strength

The Smart Lunar R2 has five modes – a variety of flashing patterns as well as solid mode. In much the same way that you don’t worry about how many modes your car lights have, I’m a bit “meh” about anything other than plain old “on then off”…

Both LEDs have a plain lens (compare with the RSP Astrum’s diffuser lens). Visibility is still good from all angles and the Lunar R2 throws so much light downwind that you can be picked out minutes away on the open road…

The R2 is extremely bright – so bright that it’s unpleasant to ride or drive behind someone using it, especially in flash mode. While this may be great in some circumstances, making it unpleasant for people to drive behind you can definitely encourage them to overtake. As a driver, I can vouch that sitting at light behind someone with a mega LED flasher definitely focuses my mind on getting past!

It’s a difficult balance to strike. When driving I often find it quite difficult to work out the speed and course of a cyclist using a flashing light, so I recommend solid mode. (This is less of an issue under street lights.)

It’s important to mount the light completely level, as designers depend on this when working out off-angle visibility and other factors. Do not point it at the ground in lieu of just buying a less dazzling light!

That said, you can safely ignore anyone who says flashing lights aren’t road legal – this hasn’t been the case for about a decade.

Because the Smart Lunar R2 hasn’t passed the relevant tests it isn’t road legal when used on its own (in any mode).

I’ll write more about this separately, but unless you go for a dynamo (all dynamo lights are genuinely road legal), it’s true of pretty much anything a bike shop will sell you.

Useability

The Smart Lunar R2 has a small end-on button that isn’t the easiest to operate. It works more like “press in part of the body” than the distinct, super-positive rubber button you’ll find on many Cateye and Raleigh RSP lights.

That said, it’s not rocket science to turn it on at the start of your ride and off at the end – just a bit of hassle if you want to change modes on the way, especially gloved up.

It has a simple “press for next mode” (including the “off mode”) which makes it straightforward to change on the fly whilst riding. The large number of modes makes it slightly more tricky to switch off as you need to count just the right number of clicks.

I bought two Lunar R2 lights from my LBS around two and a half years ago. One of them failed (bounced off on a pothole and run over) but the other is going strong.

Battery life

The Smart Lunar R2 runs on two AAA batteries.

We get around the stated battery life (50 hours flashing, 25 hours solid). Remember that the temperature at which you use the light and the type of battery used both influence that figure.

With rear LED lights it’s important to bear in mind that brightness and battery life are a direct trade-off. Almost all are manufactured using essentially the same mature technology and LEDs which are broadly equal in efficiency.

All you need to decide is whether you’d like twice as many photons for half as much battery life, or vice-versa.

The Smart Lunar R2 produces quite a lot of light and so is fairly battery-hungry.

A word on those 2×0.5W LEDs…

If you know battery life, you can work out the true power draw of your light using simple mathematics.

Two AAA batteries max out at around 1200mAh each, and so the 25 hour runtime of the Smart Lunar R2 points to a current draw of (1200 x 2 / 25) = 96mA. At 1.25V this is (0.096 x 1.25) = 0.12W

A genuine 0.5W LED current draw would give a battery life of just six hours on AAA. Two 0.5W LEDs would last just three hours!

Durability / waterproofing

The Smart Lunar R2 is reasonably sealed, given that it’s lasted three winters.

The internet is less sure, with quite a few reports of water ingress. While I agree that the sealing could be better, we’ve never had a problem with our lights in pretty foul weather (although we do use mudguards).

Overall

The Smart Lunar R2 2×0.5W rear LED light is a solid effort – it’s much better built than the cheaper Smart Superflash 0.5W LED, although perhaps not as well built as some competitors (especially the mount, which is competent but not outstanding).

It is extremely bright and benefits from respectable runtime for its power – 25% more than the RSP Astrum in solid mode (although less in flashing mode)

Again, Wiggle currently have it on a 10% discount, while Chain-Reaction are doing a respectable 20% off.

Smart Lunar R1 rear light review

Whatever its weaknesses, at the end of the day it’s useable, effective and economical… one of the best all-round battery tail lights.

Solo power LED tail light – the gold standard?

The Smart Lunar R1 is a small (AAA) rear LED in the clip-on tradition. It’s the direct descendant of the infamous Smart Superflash 0.5W LED light, but with a better quality of construction (and at greater cost).

Currently Chain-Reaction are doing a cracking 35% off.

Although more than half of our bikes are now dynamo equipped, I don’t actually own enough sets of dynamo head/tail lamps (!). The Lunar R1 is probably my go-to recommendation for a battery powered rear light, taking all things into consideration.

smart_lunar_r1

Mounting

The Smart Lunar R1 has a clip on the rear which allows you to attach it to items of clothing, bags, and so on.

It is also supplied with a seatpost and seat stay mount that secures the light using the same clip. Rather than a nice jubilee-clip style mount, the Smart has a more primitive fixed-size band, tightened by a small metal screw.

Say hello to packing out the mount with tape if it’s not just the right size, and don’t strip that screw head!

It’s rare to see people riding with a light attached to bag or body that’s actually pointing in the right direction. I’ve tried this myself often… either the light points to the sky or ground or it waggles around spraying photons like a garden sprinkler!

The ability to mount on the seat stays means you should be able to find somewhere for the Smart Lunar R1, even if you have a short seatpost or use a seat bag. Don’t worry that the spokes will obscure the light from drivers on an inside lane – in reality they’ll have spent plenty of time being lasered getting into that position.

Beam quality and strength

The Smart Lunar R1 has a low mode in addition to steady and flashing – when a light is as excessively bright as this one is, that’s a big advantage in terms of extra runtime for no loss of safety.

The main LED has a plain lens – there are also mini-LEDs to light up the housing itself, giving the light a slightly larger profile. Visibility is good from all angles – and plenty of light is flung out of the back for any situation…

The R1 may only have half as many power LEDs as the R2 (or RSP Astrum) but it’s still very bright – ten years ago it would have been revolutionary. Because it’s slightly less dazzling, there’s less of an issue of making it so unpleasant for people to drive behind that encourage them to rush an overtake.

As a driver, I can vouch that sitting at light behind someone with a mega LED flasher definitely focuses my mind on getting past!

It’s important to mount the light completely level, as designers depend on this when working out off-angle visibility and other factors. Do not point it at the ground (especially when you can just use low mode when riding socially)!

You can safely ignore anyone who says flashing lights aren’t road legal – this hasn’t been the case for about a decade.

Because the Smart Lunar R1 hasn’t passed the relevant tests it isn’t road legal when used on its own (in any mode).

I’ll write more about this separately, but unless you go for a dynamo (all dynamo lights are genuinely road legal), it’s true of pretty much anything a bike shop will sell you.

Useability

The Smart Lunar R1, like other Smart tail lights, has a small end-on button that isn’t the easiest to operate. It works more like “press in part of the body” than the distinct, super-positive rubber button you’ll find on many Cateye and Raleigh RSP lights.

That said, it’s not rocket science to turn it on at the start of your ride and off at the end – just a bit of hassle if you want to change modes on the way, especially gloved up.

Battery life

The Smart Lunar R1 runs on two AAA batteries.

We get around the stated battery life (100 hours low mode, 30 hours steady). Remember that the temperature at which you use the light and the type of battery used both influence that figure.

With rear LED lights it’s important to bear in mind that brightness and battery life are a direct trade-off. Almost all are manufactured using essentially the same mature technology and LEDs which are broadly equal in efficiency.

All you need to decide is whether you’d like twice as many photons for half as much battery life, or vice-versa.

The Smart Lunar R1 produces quite a lot of light and so is fairly battery-hungry.

A word on that 1W LED…

If you know battery life, you can work out the true power draw of your light using simple mathematics.

Two AAA batteries max out at around 1200mAh each, and so the 30 hour runtime of the Smart Lunar R2 points to a current draw of (1200 x 2 / 30) = 80mA. At 1.25V this is (0.096 x 1.25) = 0.1W

A genuine 1W LED current draw would give a battery life of just three hours on AAA. That’s the physics…

Durability / waterproofing

The Smart Lunar R1 doesn’t have the greatest weather sealing, but it is respectable enough, especially if you take care with the seals when you open and close the light. (Also: making sure you close it properly is a good way to avoid getting home to discover you’re just carrying the rear half of the light, the actual electronics part having bounced off!)

As with the Lunar R2 light, there are plenty of reports of water ingress online. I have on occasion had one of these lights short circuit (jam in flashing mode) but they’ve always been fine after drying out.

I’ve never had one fail to the off mode.

Overall

Over the years we’ve had a fair number of this type of light (from the original Smart 0.5W Superflash through to the present day). Whatever its weaknesses, at the end of the day it’s useable, effective and economical… one I just keep coming back to!

The Smart Lunar R1 0.5W rear LED light is probably my best recommendation for an all-round tail light, taking all factors into consideration.

Again, Chain-Reaction are doing a 35% discount at the time of writing.

Raleigh RSP Astrum rear light review

The RSP Astrum is a budget priced but well constructed rear LED in the clip-on tradition. This excellent twin-lens design is a step above many other lights.

Two 0.5W LEDs make this a dazzling contender

The RSP Astrum is a budget priced but well constructed rear LED in the clip-on tradition. Amazon are selling it for £15 delivered (25% off) at the time of writing (it’s not stocked by the usual mail-order companies).

I’ve been commuting using dynamo lights for some time now, but my better half has made do with a few different battery rear LEDs since we own so many rear lights of various ages!

This has actually been pretty useful, since I’ve been able to check the performance of the Astrum in different circumstances while riding along behind, instead of so many bike light reviews which boil down to “it seems bright and nobody has run me over yet” 😉

astrum

Mounting

The RSP Astrum has a clip on the rear which allows you to attach it to items of clothing, bags, and so on.

It is also supplied with a sturdy seatpost mount that secures the light using the same clip. Unlike many rear light mounts, the Astrum has a big thumb-friendly screw-drive affair which makes it a dream to fit and adjust. Giant thumbs up from me!

It’s rare to see people riding with a light attached to bag or body that’s actually pointing in the right direction. I’ve tried this myself often… either the light points to the sky or ground or it waggles around spraying photons like a garden sprinkler!

Fortunately the Astrum’s seatpost mount is sturdy and easy to fit. I recommend this approach over the alternative, even if you want the Astrum as a backup light.

Beam quality and strength

The Astrum has two flashing modes (one on, one off and both flash together) and offers a solid mode too.

One LED has a plain lens while the other is fitted with a diffuser. This casts light out at a much wider angle – improving the light cast to the sides at point blank range.

The Astrum is extremely bright – so bright that it’s unpleasant to ride or drive behind someone using it, especially in flash mode. While this may be great in some circumstances, making it unpleasant for people to drive behind you can definitely encourage them to overtake. As a driver, I can vouch that sitting at night behind someone with a mega LED flasher definitely makes a quick pass more tempting.

It’s a difficult balance to strike. When driving I often find it quite difficult to work out the speed and course of a cyclist using a flashing light, so I recommend solid mode. (This is less of an issue under street lights.)

It’s important to mount the light completely level, as designers depend on this when working out off-angle visibility and other factors. Do not point it at the ground in lieu of just buying a less dazzling light!

That said, you can safely ignore anyone who says flashing lights aren’t road legal – this hasn’t been the case for about a decade.

Because the RSP Astrum hasn’t passed the relevant tests it isn’t road legal when used on its own (in any mode).

I’ll write more about this separately, but unless you go for a dynamo (all dynamo lights are genuinely road legal), it’s true of pretty much anything a bike shop will sell you.

Useability

The Astrum has a central and large rubber button which is a breeze to use, even with gloves. This is a much better solution than the end-on ‘soft body’ style buttons you can find on other lights (like the Smart Lunar R2).

It has a simple “press for next mode” (including the “off mode”) which makes it straightforward to change on the fly whilst riding. You don’t need to count half a dozen clicks as is often the case (Cateye! I’m looking at you…)

So far my Astrum is still going strong after two and a half years. A big part of this is the quality of construction of the ‘interface’.

Battery life

The Astrum runs on two AAA batteries.

We get around the stated battery life (80 hours flashing, 20 hours solid). Remember that the temperature at which you use the light and the type of battery used both influence that figure.

With rear LED lights it’s important to bear in mind that brightness and battery life are a direct trade-off. Almost all are manufactured using essentially the same mature technology and LEDs which are broadly equal in efficiency.

All you need to decide is whether you’d like twice as many photons for half as much battery life, or vice-versa.

The RSP Astrum produces quite a lot of light and so is fairly battery-hungry.

A word on those 2×0.5W LEDs…

If you know battery life, you can work out the true power draw of your light using simple mathematics.

Two AAA batteries max out at around 1200mAh each, and so the 20 hour runtime of the RSP Astrum points to a current draw of (1200 x 2 / 20) = 120mA. At 1.25V this is (0.12 x 1.25) = 0.15W

A genuine 0.5W LED current draw would give a battery life of just six hours on AAA, so 2×0.5W would give just three!

Durability / waterproofing

The Astrum is well sealed, as it would have to be to survive three winters unscathed.

The quality button construction (see above) plays a large part in this.

Assuming you run mudguards, you can improve the reliability of any rear light by mounting it under the saddle (fairly sheltered) instead of on your body or bag.

Overall

The RSP Astrum 2×0.5W rear LED light is a great little number – well built, easy to operate, extremely bright and with a mount that’s head and shoulders above some competitors.

Again, Amazon are selling it for £15 delivered (25% off) at the time of writing (it doesn’t seem to be stocked by the usual mail-order companies).

Parking: Pickles attacks your property income

Councils to slash services or raise taxes to subsidise cheap, under-enforced parking spaces… all thanks to Eric Pickles, Minister for Dodgy Drivers

With plenty of demand, why should you deserve to lose out?

Parking in our cities is underpriced.

I say this with confidence because so many people are willing to pay that there are never any spaces free.

parking1
Pic courtesy Ashley Coates

When it takes ten minutes of driving in circles to catch a vacant spot, any economist will tell you that there is no need to make parking cheaper – quite the reverse, if maximising the value of our parking estate is important (and it should be).

Make no mistake, parking spaces are a public asset. We might allow local government to administer public land on our behalf, but in a very literal sense, you have a stake in a collective investment in parking infrastructure.

Like any other investment, you should be keen to see it perform as well as it can.

When large corporations take steps to legally minimise their tax bills there is public outrage: HM government is letting a huge amount of money rightfully owed to the state slip out of reach. There’s little sympathy for the idea that just because corporations don’t like paying tax that we should cut our own throats and make it cheaper for them.

parking_4
We don’t eat from La Fav since they block the bus lane every day, even when there’s free parking…

Imagine that local government across the country owned commercial property on a large scale. We would demand, and rightly so, that they let it at market rates when companies are lining up to pay, and didn’t give them discounts just because they’d prefer to make more profit.

Parking infrastructure is extremely valuable – both in the sense that the land could be sold for fantastic sums, and in the sense that people are literally queuing around the block to pay the going rate to rent it out for an hour or two.

Eric Pickles’ attempts to undermine the value of publicly-owned parking spaces are both ill-advised and frankly anti-Tory. If we allow these rents to be undermined by weakening enforcement or removing parking restrictions, it’s not as if it reduces the cost of living in the UK one iota.

Instead, local government has to collect the money by raising rates and local taxes.

Since when have the Conservatives been keen on *increasing* our taxes?

Barmy schemes like allowing people to ignore yellow lines if they feel like it are effectively redistributing wealth, something Tories are supposed to hate. Increases in council tax hit those who are better off that much harder, so Pickles isn’t even managing to get the poor to pay for the well off to park.

parking2
Parking on Edinburgh’s QBC is so brutally enforced that only four commercial vehicles were able to park for free on the single yellows in rush hour… how can businesses survive?

In one recent financial year, City of Edinburgh Council made a healthy profit of almost £15m from administration of our shared parking estate. That’s a lot of money, and it all goes to reduce our council tax bill and business rates (unless you’d prefer to have bin collections and pothole repair crews cut to make up the balance).

Edinburgh effectively funds ~700 nurses/teachers each year using parking revenues

What, are you saying you’d rather pay for hundreds of nurses out of your own pocket than let councils fine people who park illegally?

Of course, this isn’t literally true, because of the bizarre legislation that prevents councils actually charging free market rates and using the money to reduce public taxes. At the same time, it’s silly to argue that the money doesn’t impact other areas of the budget (if I gave you £100 of petrol vouchers it would allow you to spend £100 more on your mortgage – “ring fencing” in this sense is a bit of a false concept).

The Tories are supposed to oppose big government. Why are they so enthusiastic about putting up rates and council tax with this drive to cripple councils’ ability to get a good return on the public’s property portfolio?

Pickles actually went so far as to say, proudly, that he explicitly wants to force councils to raise taxes (or slash services) instead of “raking in pretty large sums of money” by renting out parking spaces at fair market rates.

Why is this popular with the core Tory vote? Or with anyone for that matter? The public own all the parking spaces as it is, so letting them go cheap is just cutting off our nose to spite our face…

Cheap, impartial camera enforcement: the new big bad wolf

The latest target of Pickles’ ire are CCTV cameras which have been successfully used to reduce the cost of parking enforcement across the country. That is to say, the money raised from parking spaces we collectively own as taxpayers has increased, further reducing the taxes we pay.

parking_3I filmed this Robert Wiseman Dairies truck almost run me off the road as he rushed to park illegally on a blind corner. Yes, parking is far too brutally enforced in this country…

Apparently this is “over-zealous and unfair”, and instead of a few cheap cameras (that never lie) we are to be saddled with paying for a hoard of physical traffic wardens instead. (Although ironically they can simply stand and video the streets, like a very expensive human stand-in for a camera pole). Go Eric!

Apparently it’s actually part of our parking legislation that councils have to ring-fence funds raised for certain purposes and can’t charge true market rates. Instead council tax and rates payers subsidise artificially *low* parking charges for everyone else.

Just look at parking permits – as little as £50 will get you a year’s exclusive use of a space in an Edinburgh street that has a market value (even at current subsidised prices) of hundreds of times that much.

Cheap parking is bad for businesses too

Parking can’t simultaneously be too expensive and yet people will bite your hand off for the chance to park in the space you’re vacating. We desperately need to get away from this weird idea that increasing subsidies on parking spaces will somehow save local business / the high street / be fairer on the public at large.

As we’ve discussed in other posts, fewer than 50% of residents in Leith even own a car, yet businesses on Leith Walk seem loath to allow even a limited reduction in parking spaces in exchange for an upgrade that would make the street pedestrian and cycle friendly and vastly increase footfall.

But think about it. At the moment, business rates are kept artificially high because businesses are effectively subsidising cheap parking for their customers. It doesn’t reduce trading because parking spaces and virtually always full – in fact, on Leith Walk it’s almost always double-parked.

So if parking becomes even cheaper because of poor enforcement and relaxing the rules, it’s not as if extra customers can park in these magical spaces – they were already completely full.

Instead, it’s a simple matter of less money being made, and rates payers (along with taxpayers) picking up the shortfall.

Now for the cycling tie-in

Cyclists are impacted by illegal parking in another sense than the financial, and that is in our personal safety. You only have to attempt to cycle on the council’s rediculous Quality Bike Corridor (with 40-50 vehicles parked in it at a time) to realise that the problem is not that parking is over-enforced or over-priced.

parking_2
This locksmith lost our custom for main and rental properties over his “use” of the QBC…

Quite the reverse, a camera or two permanently mounted on Ratcliffe Terrace might actually make the Quality Bike Corridor a better quality place to be. If we liked cycling there, it might stop us driving to the out-of-town retail park where we actually do our shopping!

parking_1
If you think this is bad, it’s nothing compared to the driving footage from the QBC…

What a typically ill-considered and populist bit of politics from Mr Pickles…

Sebastiaan Bowier: fastest human ever

VeloX3 hits 83.13mph at Battle Mountain 2013…

VeloX3 hits 83.13mph at Battle Mountain 2013

Congratulations to HPT Delft / Amsterdam who have managed to clinch the world record at the eleventh hour of this year’s Battle Mountain event.

It’s the third attempt by the Dutch team (who are supported, amongst others, by RaptoBike) to take the crown from Canadian Sam Whittingham.

Rather than copy and paste their press release like everyone else has, I’ll just direct you to the press release 🙂

I mainly wanted to share these excellent pics by team photographer Bas de Meijer:

VeloX3_1

VeloX3_2

VeloX3_3

VeloX3_4

VeloX3_5

VeloX3_6

VeloX3_7

Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX vs Continental Grand Prix 4000s

Continental GP4000s or Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX? Which of these road bike tyres is best for you, and where’s cheapest to buy them?

Two full-on race tyres go head-to-head

A while back I posted an in-depth review of the Continental GP4000s after they appeared on a wicked 35% discount on Wiggle.

I’ve also just posted an in-depth review of Vittoria’s stunning Open Corsa Evo CX… currently at a 13% discount with Chain Reaction.

Both of these tyres are their respective manufacturers’ top-tier road tyre – designed for riding harder, faster and further at the expense of durability and puncture protection. The difference they will make to a bike clad in everyday commuter rubber is startling.

As a long-term user of both the GP4000s and Open Corsa Evo CX, I decided to put together this overview to help you decide which tyre is right for you.

GP4000s-vs-OpenCorsaCX

Comfort / handling: tie

This is a very difficult one to call.

The Open Corsa Evo CX has the most amazing, buttery road feel which makes it a pleasure to ride even at full pressure. By comparison I find the Grand Prix 4000s to have a stiffer feel and to chatter more on uneven surfaces.

On the other hand, the superb grip of Continental’s Black Chilli compound – particularly noticeable when the road gets greasy – makes the GP4000s stand out over Vittoria’s offering when it comes to raw grip and assured cornering.

Don’t get me wrong – the GP4000s is very supple and the Open Corsa grips well enough – it’s just that either tyre excels at a different aspect of handling.

Durability: GP4000s II

Both the GP4000s and Open Corsa are race tyres which come with minimal sidewall protection and an emphasis on all-out speed. Neither will stand up to rough treatment and neither will stand up well to fields of broken glass either.

That said, the construction of the Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX is noticeably more slender than that of the GP4000s – the carcass is made of incredibly thin 320tpi ply while the tread practically looks painted on.

When you hold them in your hands there’s little doubt that the GP4000s is built to outlast its rival. That goes for mileage too – I’d be gobsmacked to get as many miles from an Open Corsa as I get from the Continental.

OpenCorsaCover2
The Open Corsa EVO CX is an amazing tyre, but it makes no compromises to durability…

Weight: tie

To be precise: in the 23mm size the GP4000s is 5g lighter (205g vs 210g) but in the 25mm size the Open Corsa Evo CX takes the lead, at 10g lighter (220g vs 230g).

Let’s be completely honest here – the grams separating these tyres won’t make an appreciable difference to you, regardless of the fact that it is rotating weight.

It’s just not a significant component of your power-to-weight ratio given that the mass of rider plus bike for the average reader of this site is probably going on for 100,000g (100kg).

Puncture Protection / Sidewall Protection: GP4000s

The GP4000s is the clear winner here, with a Vectran fibre breaker layer which does an excellent job defending the tyre from unwanted penetration.

At the end of the day, it is a race tyre and it’s not designed to spend time amongst fields of broken glass, but the Open Corsa Evo CX is sacrificing even more protection for all-out speed. I discovered this to my chagrin at a race recently, where I lost a place to an ill-timed tiny thorn worming past the Vittoria’s defences.

Continental GP4000s in the mud
(GP4000s after a muddy ride. They *can* do this, but don’t get upset if you ride them to destruction…)

Rolling resistance: Open Corsa Evo CX

Both tyres perform stunningly well when it comes to rolling resistance, especially in the larger sizes.

However, bottom line it and the Vittoria Open Corsa is noticeably the faster tyre. The absolute suppleness on the road makes it feel like you’re riding with at least 15psi less in your tubes yet reaping the benefits of a hard road slick at the same time.

In many comparisons of tyre rolling resistance the Open Corsa comes out close to the top (with latex tubes) even against tubular tyres.

Styling: Open Corsa

This may be a bit of a silly category… but to me, Vittoria produces tyres which are simply more aesthetically pleasing than Continental. The GP4000s performs well and looks… utilitarian. The Vittoria performs well and looks… sporty!

Not that cycling has ever been about looks, right?

Conclusion: GP4000s II (unless you’re actually racing)

For my money, the tremendous performance of the Vittoria Open Corsa CX is handicapped by the tyre’s low mileage and lack of puncture protection. It may ride like a dream most of the time, but it’s expensive and sometimes you’ll find yourself reaching for the tyre levers at just the wrong moment!

In contrast the Continental GP4000s has the durability and enough puncture protection to give me confidence riding it further afield. It doesn’t hurt that the tyre is so tacky on greasy roads either, a condition that we have all too often in the UK.

Together these have to outweigh the fact that, deep down, I’m sure the GP4000s is not quite as nimble as the Open Corsa.

Looking for a good discount?

At the time of writing, both Chain Reaction and Wiggle have hefty discounts on the Grand Prix 4000s and less so on the Vittoria Open Corsa. However, you can often catch the Vittoria tyres going for a steal, so take a look to get the current price:

Recumbent efficiency

Even if you aren’t able to go as *fast*, are you more efficient on a recumbent bike (even while climbing)? Yes indeed!

Go further per calorie – by going laid back

I’ve been putting in the miles on one of my upright bikes recently, ahead of a race where riding recumbent isn’t an option.

I thought I’d spice things up by swapping a session onto the High Baron, using the same PowerTap wheel to see whether I could make anything interesting of the data.

As I suspected, I was faster on my upright than on the High Baron. I wasn’t going flat out on either bike, since I’ve been doing ten or more rides a week – I was only subjectively investing the same effort on each. The outcome mainly reflects training on one bike (many hours) over the other (very little)… the specific effects of training shouldn’t surprise anyone.

What is more interesting is to compare the power I had to use to achieve each performance.

recumbent_vs_road_bike

The route is a little under 25 miles with just over 1300ft of ascent (40km / 400m). Overall, I managed 17.5mph average for 230W on my upright, compared with 16.7mph for 168W on the High Baron.

I think there was more of a headwind on the High Baron ride, but since that only advantages the recumbent, let’s assume that wind conditions were the same:

Each recumbent mile cost 36.2kCal, versus 47.3kCal for each upright mile.

If I’d been racing myself, I’d obviously have won on the upright, but that’s just one way of looking at a performance. What if I was riding an ultra-distance event where I’m mainly limited by how much I can force myself to eat and how little sleep I can survive on?

For every 36 miles ridden on my upright I’d be an extra 11 miles further down the road on my recumbent (for the same effort) and once performance becomes limited by something other than absolute power (i.e. limited by fuel, fatigue, comfort, or any similar factor) that’s really going to tell.

Even on a 200km brevet my average power in the closing hour or so can be as low as 150-175W. I can achieve that on either type of bike, and then you’ve got to think of the next 200, 400, 1000km…

Screen shot 2013-09-20 at 01.00.43

Convergence on hills, as expected

I’ve previously compared the performance of recumbent and road bike in ‘ideal’ conditions (flat without wind) and found a large advantage in favour of the recumbent (250W vs 150W for the same speed).

On the other hand, I’ve also previously bemoaned terrible performance on all-out hill climbs (the MetaBike took 36% longer), where absolute muscle recruitment and platform efficiency is paramount.

It would be expected then for a mixed route / mixed conditions performance to show much less advantage than the ideal case, depending on the proportion of time spent climbing and the proportion at high speed (where aerodynamics offers significant benefit). A flat TT would be very close to the 100W advantage shown in my earlier test, while a hilly ride would be closer to break-even, or perhaps to disadvantage the recumbent altogether, as in the second test.

Pleasingly this is the case for the rides in question: I was 0.8mph faster on upright for 62W extra, which is a much prettier picture than getting the same speed for 150W extra!

If I isolate the hillier section of the route I see 14.1mph for 350W (upright) against 10.6mph for 245W (recumbent). The lack of absolute power is dramatic, but again, only important if each second counts for its own sake (as in a road race or head-to-head hill climb).

Much more interestingly, the efficiency gap has closed right down, to 89.4kCal per mile (upright) against 83.2kCal per mile (recumbent). But…

The recumbent is still more *efficient* on a 10mph climb, albiet *slower*

Since so many people seem prone to equate slow climbing with poor performance it’s hard to emphasise this too much.

If you’re touring you’re hardly going to ride for four hours dead then stop wherever you are at the roadside. You probably have a destination and getting there a few minutes either side is not important compared with getting there in comfort or for less sweat and toil.

If you’re riding an ultra distance event, it’s not likely that you’re so strong that you can maintain high wattages for days at a time; it’s more likely that you want to get the maximum ‘bang for your buck’ when it comes to spending your body’s limited capacity for exertion.

Only if you’re racing over fairly short distances does absolute power outweigh efficiency.

If we buy into the hypothesis that recumbents reduce the muscle mass you can recruit by isolating your legs (which is one possibility) you can see that they really will start to shine as the miles rack up.

recumbent_efficiency1 (1)

Caveats

Other than the obvious (small sample size, indicative only…) the big caveat here is that I’m still measuring power at the wheel and not at the crank. This means it’s possible that one or other of the bikes is systematically under-reading the effort required. What if the much feared phenomena of drivetrain or frame losses mean that the recumbent really requires an extra 50W at the pedals to hit 250W at the cranks?

It’s impossible to answer this question without access to a crank-based meter at the same time as the PowerTap… if anyone has both and would like to run a few tests, get in touch!

For my part, I don’t really see how such a large difference can be accounted for through drivetrain losses: for starters, an idler that sucked out 50W would get as hot as an old-fashioned incandescent bulb, which is patently not the case.

Certainly there are many questions about recumbent performance that remain unanswered, but hopefully this chips away at another aspect of the problem (even if it raises as many questions as it answers!)

Any comments, as ever, gratefully received…

Vittoria Open Corsa EVO CX (KX & KS) review

In-depth review: Vittoria’s Open Corsa Evo is a great looking, supple, fast-rolling but relatively fragile road race tyre…

Blindingly fast and seriously stylish, but fragile

+ Exceptionally smooth rolling tyres…
… at the expense of durability
BUY:Wiggle [up to 40% off] or Chain Reaction [up to 15% off] (AS PUBLISHED)

Let’s get one thing out of the way – if you buy these tyres and ride them on real roads, it’s likely that at some point you may get a puncture.

While Vittoria have always equipped their headline Open Corsa EVO range of tyres with a puncture strip, these are not intended to be reliable commuting tyres; everything about them is optimised for suppleness and speed, from the microscopic 320tpi carcass to the tread which is so thin it may as well be painted on.

I’m lucky (or foolish) enough to have enough bikes and wheels to be running the Continental GP4000s, Schwalbe Ultremo and three flavours of Open Corsa Evo (CX, KX and KS) just now. See my head-to-head (coming soon) for a direct comparison.

OpenCorsaCover2

Variations

The Open Corsa CX is the popular choice, but you can also get hold of a range of alternative treads on the same carcass: the older KX and KS (slick and more heavily treaded on the shoulders) being the two I have direct experience of.

Vittoria’s extended line now consists of the sr, sl and sc (respectively, wide, slick and tan sidewall).

I can’t tell any real difference between the slick and wet weather versions myself, though it may pain Vittoria’s R&D division to hear that!

Width/weight

The Open Corsa CX isn’t the lightest race tyre, but it’s still very competitive – Schwalbe’s Ultremo is around 15g lighter in the same size, but we’re talking less weight than the change in your pocket and nothing to lose sleep over.

21mm, 23mm and 25mm sizes are all on offer, of which the last two are most likely to be of interest on our cratered roads. Pleasingly, they seem to come up on-size – you won’t buy a tyre labelled 23mm and find it’s actually a rebadged 21mm to keep the weight down.

As always, you may be surprised at the difference in air volume between the tyre sizes:

width relative width relative volume
Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX 21mm 1x 1x
Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX 23mm 1.09x 1.19x
Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX 25mm 1.19x 1.42x

For technical reasons, if all else is the equal a wider tyre will also roll faster. All else is very much not equal between a race and touring tyre, but it applies here: the wider casing bulges proportionally less, so the sidewall deflection is slightly closer to a perfect circle (ideal efficiency).

The 25mm size would be expected to gain around 5% over the 23mm for this reason. Those of you who are into longer days on the bike will greatly appreciate the extra comfort combined with extra speed! (Obviously, you need the clearance in your frame and forks…)

Rolling resistance

Vittoria are proud to claim that the Open Corsa is “provenly the fastest all-round racing tire available” and though you should take that with a grain of salt, it has performed very strongly in third party tests (including some quite geeky ones you can find online).

The carcass has been made at a phenomenal 320TPI, which makes it almost 3x thinner than the carcass on a Continental GP4000s. This reduces rolling resistance (at the cost of strength) and of all the tyres I’ve spent serious time on, the Open Corsa is certainly the one which leads the way when it comes to a feeling of raw speed.

As above, having the option of going wider allows for even faster rolling tyres – the disadvantage of an increased cross-section into the wind shouldn’t worry you unless you’re riding time trials (in which case your bike might not even fit a 23mm tyre, never mind a 25mm one!)

As I’ve written before, the Open Corsa (like the GP4000s and Ultremo) are measurably faster than some tubulars (such as the Continental Competition) which should tell you all you need to know about how fast they really are.

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Open Corsa Evo CX (fine diamond / herringbone tread)

Comfort

Standard caveat: The Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX is a race tyre. It’s not designed to be comfortable in the same way that a touring or utility tyre is (if that’s what you want, I’m afraid you need a different bike!)

That said, of all race tyres I’ve tried the Open Corsa stands head and shoulders above the others for its smooth ride at a given pressure and width: it’s like riding on a wider size altogether (or letting 15psi out!)…

While I certainly wouldn’t tour on them, so long as you’re happy with the relatively limited mileage, they make a great choice for long days in the saddle.

Grip

In the dry the Open Corsa CX has great grip – things are less clear in the wet, where I find them to be less confidence inspiring, especially compared to the super tacky GP4000s or Ultremo.

That said, they’re streets ahead of a more basic (and hard wearing) commuter tyre. Any of these three would be perfectly acceptable, but when you ride them head to head on greasy tarmac… the Open Corsa is edged out a little, in my opinion.

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Open Corsa Evo KX (cosmetic shoulder tread, slick centre)

Flat resistance

I want to say that it’s only a matter of time, but that’s probably being a little unfair on a tyre which is designed from the ground up to serve a purpose where the ocassional flat is quite acceptable.

If you want a heavy and protected tyre, they’re on the market too.

That said, I do think the Open Corsa EVO is more vulnerable than either of my recommended alternatives (the Continental GP4000s and the Schwalbe Ultremo).

In common with all true race tyres the sidewalls are unprotected: vital to minimise rolling resistance, but exposing them to risk of damage compared with heavier and less supple tyres.

There are sufficient reports online of people tearing these tyres up that I think it’s safe to conclude they are at least *somewhat* more vulnerable than, say, the GP4000s. It’s really quite hard to be objective because people with the worst luck shout loudest!

I do ride my Corsas on less than perfect roads (including some short bits of urban path which never see a sweeper) because I don’t believe it’s worth paying for top-quality tyres and sitting them on the mantlepiece.

corsa4
Open Corsa Evo KS (slick tread)

Durability

Tread thickness is directly linked to rolling resistance. The Vittoria Open Corsa Evo emphasises going fast, so it has relatively little rubber!

As mentioned above, watch the sidewalls.

I’m hoping to get 2000 miles on the rear tyre which I’ll consider fair innings. At the end of the day they are a consumable item, and we accept the flipside of high performance with eyes open. 🙂

Conclusion

With the Open Corsa EVO CX (and sister tyres in the same line), Vittoria has really hit the ball out of the park on the performance front. Nothing else will get you as close to the feel of tubulars without actually riding on them.

In fact, I prefer my Open Corsa -equipped wheelset to my tubs because they’re so close in feel that all I’m left with are the many downsides of riding a tub…

They look fantastic. If you want a really good looking race tyre look no further!

+ Exceptionally smooth rolling tyres…
… at the expense of durability
BUY:Wiggle [up to 40% off] or Chain Reaction [up to 15% off] (AS PUBLISHED)

Vital Statistics

Note: On a 15mm rim the 700x23c measures 23.5mm

Folding only:

ETRTO (mm) Imperial (“) Pressure (bar) Pressure (psi) Weight (g)
21-571 650x21c 8-10 115-145 185
21-622 700x21c 8-10 115-145 195
23-622 700x23c 8-10 115-145 210
25-622 700x25c 8-10 115-145 220

 * note that coloured rubber options are available in 23-622 / 700x23c only.