High Baron sneak preview #3

Another quick update on the work-in-progress High Baron build: brake troubles!

It has brakes! At last!

Also, side-by-side with the Metabike…

Regular readers will recall from my two previous ‘sneak peeks’ [1] [2] that the High Baron doesn’t exactly lend itself to the fitting of brakes.

That problem was solved on the front with a deep drop Miche caliper, recabled to be ‘bottom pull’ following advice from Nazca who do something similar on the 700C Gaucho.

However, the back brake remained elusive, with the stopgap measure of filing apart a Tektro R725 to get tyre clearance leaving a lot to be desired.

Upon enquiring with Optima as to whether or not the frame might be faulty, I was reassured that…

…the rear brake bridge is made this way to make it possible to fit 28mm tires. But indeed it will only work with a set of brakes with a bit longer arms (47mm – 57mm distance).

Fair enough, let’s get hold of a long drop Miche caliper for the rear, and try that…

Continue reading “High Baron sneak preview #3”

Optimising long distance cycling speed

It’s tempting to zero in on a lighter ride (carbon frame, lighter wheels, etc) but is that really because it’s an effective way to increase speeds, or is it just easy to quantify?

Done a brevet or twenty but not as quickly as you’d like?

Go faster on your bike…

The issues are the same whether you’re struggling to make the cut on a 200km, trying to improve your safety margin or build up a sleep buffer on a longer randonée, or even if you’re finishing comfortably within time but want to go round quicker.

Hey – maybe you’re just sensible and want to ride at the same speed as the group, but for less effort!


It’s tempting to zero in on a lighter ride (moving to a carbon frame, lighter wheels, and so on) but is that really because it’s an effective way to increase ultra distance speeds, or is it just because it’s so easy to quantify?

So before you splash the cash on an amazing pair of wheels… stop!

I just caught up with a fairly old topic on the forum: New “Comfortable” carbon frame or steel folding bike for LEL2013? I spent a little time writing a response to that discussion but thought it might be worth developing here:

Identifying an upper bound for weight-related performance gains

It’s rather difficult to exactly quantify the advantage of a reduction in weight because of the complex interplay of static and rolling losses, accelerations, etc. However, it’s actually quite easy to put an upper bound on the benefit, as follows:
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CEC: Quality Bike Corridor #1

Correspondence Nov 2012: Southside Councillors, re: Quality Bike Corridor

In relation to:

Southside/Newington Cllrs: Steve Burgess, Jim Orr, Ian Perry, Cameron Rose


Dear Councillors,

After a couple of delays it seems that the official launch of the QBC has suddenly arrived!

As you might expect since we live just off the route, I have plenty to say about it – but agreed it was only fair to wait until it was ‘finished’ before weighing in.

As someone who “plays well” with traffic I’ve personally found the QBC to be a minor improvement, mainly because of the build-outs around parking (especially the one heading north at the bottom of Ratcliffe Terrace) make it easier to force your way into the traffic stream, while removing a lane from Summerhall has also made it quite a lot easier to speed past queues. However, I honestly couldn’t recommend the QBC as a route for novice riders or those with kids, especially as the parking situation (which is laughable at peak times) just gets silly outside them. Consequently it’s hard to defend as good value.

I’ve put together a short video of my experience using the QBC which I hope you will find interesting (‘enjoy’ would be a bit perverse), on youtube:

I hope it’s obvious that this ties in directly with the general concern that Leith Walk is going to be rebuilt without segregated facilities for cyclists – despite all the support for them (and the fact that we haven’t had the “consultation” yet). At least two people in my team at the office have told me there’s no way they’d consider riding to work in Leith from the south side unless they were separated from traffic, and we can see how “well” these painted facilities work here, despite considerable cost.

Instead they sit in their cars stuck on Leith St and I wave on the way past.. but am seen as either heroic or just mad.

I understand that it might be difficult or discouraging for some councillors to see people reject these high-profile (and expensive) painted lane schemes, but I think it’s the perfect illustration that we need to aim for European-class facilities and not a poor imitation – buy cheap, buy twice.

Welcome your thoughts,


Dave McCraw

Unusual silence on this one. So far only one response- from Cllr Perry, saying that he agrees segregation is ideal but “difficult to achieve unless we give priority to cyclists”… say no more 🙂

06/12/12 update

A well thought-out and interesting reply from Cllr Burgess (a member of the transport committee at the time the QBC was approved) came through today:

… I routinely cycle and have cycled the new QBC and completely agree with you – how can this be a quality bike corridor when the bike lane ends in a parked car every so often.

What the committee did agree is that the scheme would be put in and monitored and could be improved on in future.

I replied directly as follows (digression on Leith Walk removed):

Dear Steve,

Thanks for your reply.

I think on balance that the QBC is a small improvement overall – the red paint around the parking at the bottom of Ratcliffe Terrace and the removal of one car lane at Summerhall being the highlights. It’s just a shame that it was billed as a “Quality Corridor” as that underlines how much better it could have been (and how much it cost anyway!).

As you say, it’s relatively encouraging that the council are willing to spend this kind of money and at least pay lip-service to connecting destinations rather than provisioning isolated stretches (although with no cycle facilities at all for southbound cyclists for the middle section of the QBC I daresay lip service is still a bit too generous).

Perhaps we will have more success having the design corrected now that £650k has been spent providing a nicer surface for people to park on than could ever have been achieved at the design phase?

Your (and the other Green cllrs’) continuing support in pressing for improvements to these schemes is much appreciated.

Best wishes,


As a general observation, having made and publicised a ‘Quality Bike Corridor’ at considerable expense, there seems to be a strange reticence among some of those responsible to defend (or even discuss) it.

High Baron sneak preview #2

I’ve been spending a lot of time filing away at the rear brake caliper… but the end result is that the HB is now rideable!

Since I last updated on the High Baron build, I’ve been spending a lot of time filing away at the rear brake caliper… but the end result is that the HB is now (just about) rideable!

David Gardiner takes it for a spin:

It’s not completely reassuring spending a lot of time doing this:


… to a safety critical system. Even the front brake (which fits without modification) is woefully weak.

Still, at the end of the day I got to do this:


Looking pretty promising!

“Quality” Bike Corridor: council fails utterly

Concerned citizens despair as £650,000 scheme fills with parked vehicles… marginal improvements “no compensation for huge failure of ambition”.

Concerned citizens despair as £650,000 scheme fills with parked vehicles

Marginal improvements no compensation for huge failure of ambition

Edinburgh’s much-publicised “Quality Bike Corridor” launched to minor fanfare recently (although as both ends of the route are currently building sites, someone must have become bored with the wait).

95% of the route has been complete for the last few months, of course, giving cyclists and drivers alike plenty of time to acclimatise to “business as usual”, aka “cycle lanes have been painted underneath parked vehicles”.

I felt it would be unfair to lambaste the scheme before it even officially launched, so I went out after the ceremony to capture footage of my fellow cyclists and I attempting to use the QBC.

Incidentally, if you’re interested in getting a camera yourself, I’m using (and can highly recommend) this compact HD video camera by Contour.

If you don’t like seeing footage of cycle lanes full of stationary vehicles, look away now:

As ever, click on the cog for HD video quality.

I particularly like the near-dooring at 00:45 and the Bonaly Dairies Dangerous Deliveries section around 02:10 (the driver has never forgiven me for interrupting him screaming threats at a hapless traffic warden).

Continue reading ““Quality” Bike Corridor: council fails utterly”

Optima High Baron sneak preview

Taking the bestselling Baron lowracer and lifting the front end with a larger wheel, this is going to be an excellent distance bike…

It’s not ready for prime-time yet, but things have been busy at the Laid Back Bikes showroom as we build the fifth distinct dual-700c bike of recent months… an Optima High Baron!

Taking the bestselling Baron lowracer and lifting the front end with a larger wheel, this is similar in conception to my dual 700c RaptoBike lowracer.


Usually the expert mechanics at the Bicycle Works put the finishing touches on Laid-Back stock, but this one is being built by the ‘front of house staff’ (so to speak!)

Here you can see David shaking down what proved to be a tricky cabling job.


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Toplight Line Plus tail light review

Light, strong, bright and never needs battery charged, the superbly designed Toplight Line Plus might just be the best tail light in the world…

The best rear light in the world to date?

~£30 dynamo rear; rack fitting easily adapted to seatposts

I’ve written in depth on headlights like the Lumotec Lyt and Lumotec IQ Cyo. While many people are happy to pair these dynamo headlights with a bog-standard battery blinkie, why not go one step further and use free dynamo energy to blast nonstop red light in your wake?

Combining a rear reflector and light in a featherlight package which weighs the same as two naked AA batteries, Busch & Müller’s Toplight Line Plus is officially road legal in the EU (without supplemental reflectors) and the technology behind its design puts basic blinkies like the Superflash, Cherry Bomb or RSP Astrum to shame.

First, a word of warning. You obviously need a dynamo to use a dynamo rear light. Don’t hesitate, you won’t regret the high initial outlay I promise!

Technically there’s no reason why you couldn’t run the Toplight Line Plus from a dynamo without a dynamo headlight, it would just make you odd (but if i.e. you break your headlight, don’t worry, the tail light will keep going happily plugged right into the dynamo while you make do with a headtorch or similar).


The Toplight Line Plus has a wide rectangular format and fits pannier racks with 50mm bolt holes as standard. However, I was able to mount it on my seatpost effortlessly, using a cheap seatpost reflector mount (free scrounge from the local bike shop) and a strip of plastic cut from an old tupperware box:

Before you write this off as all a bit Heath Robinson, I should point out that I’ve ridden with this for 36 months as a daily commuter and on thousands of kilometers of brevets including as my sole tail light on the 1200km Paris-Brest-Paris.

So, it’s pretty solid then…


Apart from having a sophisticated reflector (which is brighter from behind the wheel of an approaching car than many battery tail lights!), the Toplight Line Plus also uses a cunning fresnel to distribute red light over a wide angle. A strong band stretches from one side of the road to the other – but not down at the tarmac or up into the stratosphere.

The killer feature of the Toplight Line Plus is its large cross-section, going on for 3x the area of my previous Superflash rear lights. It’s even better than that in practice, because where lights like the Cherry Bomb or RSP Astrum project most of their light as a point source (i.e. something that an approaching driver can’t so easily estimate for distance) the Toplight Line Plus is a uniform bright area of 42.5 sq cm.

This makes estimating the distance of the light significantly easier. It doesn’t have a flashing mode (illegal in Germany) and it doesn’t need one in my opinion – YMMV.

Doesn’t it go out when you stop?

… the 1980’s are calling and they want you back!

Modern dynamo tail lights, including the Toplight Line Plus, are almost invariably equipped with a capacitor standlight. This keeps the light on for several minutes after you stop (even in stop-go-stop-go traffic) – usually just long enough for people at the office to send out ‘helpful’ emails about the unattended bike with the lights left on…

There is a more pricy version called the Toplight Line Brake Plus which uses the energy stored in the standlight to boost brightness when you brake. Ingeniously, it does this by monitoring the frequency of the AC current your dynamo produces, which varies in proportion to speed as the magnets rotate faster or slower. Change of AC frequency indicating braking triggers the extra light, even during the day.

I haven’t tried this version of the light and probably wouldn’t consider it such good value, but YMMV.


Although a little more expensive than a decent battery blinkie, the Topline Light Plus is robust, never runs out of charge, can’t easily be stolen (and won’t work if it is) and are signficantly safer in terms of motorists’ ability to estimate your distance and vector.

After a chain of battery lights, starting with the Cateye LD1100, Blackburn Mars 3, through the Superflash, RSP Astrum, Smart Lunar R2 and the Cherry Bomb, I can absolutely recommend this light without hesitation.

I still keep blinkies for clipping onto clothes and bags or if I want to ride one of our non-dynamo bikes, but they’re a poor second best to the Toplight Line Plus.

Busch & Muller dynamo standlights

A four minute video showing my B&M dynamo lights, spun up by hand, slowly getting dimmer. Standlight FTW!

I’ve written elsewhere about dynamo lights on the site – I’m a big fan.

In each one I find myself offering reassurance that when you stop, your lights don’t go out (at least, not unless you buy a cheaper non-standlight version, where one exists – usually a minimal saving too!)

Then I had the brilliant idea of running my Lumotec IQ Cyo and Toplight Line Plus up to speed in my hallway and then letting the standlights run down… in HD video!

Naturally the video gives you no impression how bright these things are. At the start there’s enough light to descend at 40mph, while the standlight drops that down to enough light to ride carefully on level ground (with no streetlights) although it doesn’t really look like it:

Hopefully you don’t find this exciting, but perhaps you will find it reassuring. Fast forward to 4:00 to see the tail-light turn off.

Signalled junctions in Edinburgh tend to take between 45 seconds and 2 minutes to cycle through, and as you can see, there’s plenty of light from even a short spin of the wheel to tide you through one of those. They last considerably longer if you’ve actually been riding…

Carpe oculi!

B&M Lumotec Lyt review

An excellent budget dynamo light that still packs quite a punch – ideal for around town!

~£22 brilliant budget illumination

All the light you need for year-round urban riding!

The dazzling Lumotec IQ Cyo may be an expensive and over-the-top choice if 40mph descents in the middle of the countryside at 3am aren’t top of your agenda.

Not to worry though – the German masters of lighting at Busch & Müller have a secret weapon that’s right up your nearest dark alley:


The Lumotec Lyt is a budget-priced dynamo headlight which offers absolutely killer performance for urban environments. The output is markedly less than a full-on headlight like the Cyo but you are paying a fraction of the price. Aimed high, the Lumotec Lyt will still sear the retina of distracted motorists and is adequate to ride (with care) on unlit paths or roads.

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Alan Taylor’s ICE Sprint 26

“the trike is better for me in every other respect: it is more comfortable … and safer because motorists leave much more space”

Recent Laid Back Bikes customer Alan Taylor writes in regarding his new trike including some excellent pics (spot the mountain pass!):

For the past 7 years I’ve been riding to work on a typical ‘winter trainer’ DF road bike consisting of a generic aluminium frame, solid 32 spoke wheels shod with Michelin Krylions and mudguards, and typical roadie gearing: 53/39 chainset and 9 speed 13-26 cassette. This bike was ok for my 14 mile rural round trip to the office but like lots of cyclists I would give it a miss at the first sign of ice on the roads.

ICE Sprint 26 next to the River Tay

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