Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The World According to Lofthouse

CLEAN AIR is in very short supply in London and many other cities. The cycling lobby have met a fork in the road. If they campaign they make cycling sound like a health hazard. If they don't campaign, they ignore one of the biggest problems of our time. Drayson Technologies have launched a laudable clean air crowdsourcing widget and movement called CleanSpace. I've subscribed for three, one for my wife, one for me, and one for a charity. This could become global. It's very clever. SEE:

THE VW SCANDAL is ironically a good thing. Diesel was already in trouble, but now it's truly besieged. We'll now see a raft of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and eventually charging points. The hero vehicles in London are currently: BMW i3 and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. The beemer is radical, way-out-there chic. The Mitsu shows that if the world wants SUVs you gotta make PHEV versions of SUVs, not micro-cars wearing holier-than-thou dog collars.

DISC BRAKES serve commercial interests alone, unless you ride heavier bikes/ haul a trailer/ e-assist/ cargo bikes, where they obviously serve a purpose. Pro-Peleton? They have no choice if they want to be sponsored. But the brutal truth is that disc brakes:
  • add weight
  • add complexity
  • detract from clean lines
  • make wheel changes slow
  • expose the rider to even more forms of potential crash damage, from rotor slicing
  • add cost (and therefore OEM profits)
ON THE SUBJECT OF COST road bikes suddenly went through the roof about two years ago, almost as if the industry flicked a switch. When I bought my 'then top of the range' Canyon Ultimate CF SLX Dura-Ace in 2010 it cost £2,800. Equivalent bikes from fully branded makes that use retailers are now £5k ++. Your best bet is to buy the right frame and then source the carbon wheels carefully and within a budget. Voila: you can get the five grand bike for 2-3k. 

BASE LAYERS have cost me a lot of trial and error money. While I initially fell for Rapha merino they are very expensive. Depending on the wool vintage, not all of them have been scratch-free, in particular the thinner vest ones that you can wear for commuting under a smart shirt. I've found a much better alternative: M&S T-shirt by David Gandy for the Autograph range. It's half cotton and half synthetic, parading under the label 'modal' ("like silk" the shop hand waxed - acrylic I presume). Go a size smaller and you get a terrific drape: a real base layer. I've trialled it extensive in commuting and road riding. They cost £15 each. That's my wardrobe tip for this winter...

LIGHTS TRUMP HI-VIZ but evidently loads of folks don't see it that way. I just keep seeing peeps in hi-viz and fluo, thinking it gets them out of needing lights. You can dress all black and be fine as long as you have A1 lights, preferably two front and two back to allow for malfunction and fading batteries. Isn't this obvious by now?

SECURITY SKEWERS CAN BE AMAZING. The Atomic 22 'complete suite' that I've invested in over two years for my Enigma Ethos 'do it all town bike and audax' is certainly one of the loveliest revelations I've ever had in cycling: my only regret is not buying ALL of it at the start. I mean saddle, seat post, stem bolts - all of it. What happened instead was that I baulked at the price, got wheels and seat post only (to replace Pitlock which are so-so) - and lo and behold, on a bright summery day someone stole my handlebars, the shifters and the saddle. £300 to replace that lot. Another £200 on the additional security bolts. But that was the revelation. Far from being ugly or utilitarian, those items are simply BEAUTIFULLY MADE and BEAUTIFULLY PRESENTED and have IMPROVED the bike. The wheel skewers for example are considerably lighter than a quick release, yet made of stainless steel. ATOMIC 22 are the Chris King of England - salute Patrick Wells, the founder. What I don't understand is why this stuff is not being fitted as original equipment. Cost? Yes, but we've reached the point where in London at least, you can't lock a bike without component theft on an industrial scale. The other benefit is that I only need to carry one mini-U-lock not three.

REVIEW: End of front light test, Exposure Strada Mk VI (2016 model)

REVIEW: End of front light test, Exposure Strada Mk VI (2016 model)
Digital reading ends range anxiety

Burn programmes: set up and forget

This is the best light that I have ever encountered for road use. I will admit to being partial to Exposure Lights - they're hand made at a UK base down in Sussex, which is in itself a terrific achievement in an age of plastic junk.

But until now I've bounced between two extremes: a JoyStick at one end, which I never really understood was meant to be a helmet light...and a Six Pack which offers so much light that if you mount it fractionally wrongly you'll be in big trouble on the road, blinding Minicab drivers into instant rage.

But we've moved beyond 'bigger and brighter is simply better' to a more discriminating solution of real problems. I don't downhill in the dark. I commute in London and sometimes in more rural settings, where I want to see potholes before I feel them. Even the outer perimeter of Regent's Park has some very dark spots.

I liked...

  • Digital read out eliminates range anxiety. 35 hours on LOW and a full charge - outstanding. 
  • No 'flash back' into rider's face. Instead it casts a puddle of light down and out, exactly what you want. 
  • Overall size and weight. Perfect 'middle' solution lies between heavier and lighter solutions.
  • Fits in any jacket pocket.
  • Mounting bracket is very secure and fast to fit.
  • Comes with remote switching so you can flick through settings without shifting hands position. 
  • 'Puddle' light AND 'spot light' cover all bases in a road setting
I didn't like...
  • The little rubber grommet that plugs the recharge port is fiddly and bounces free so it hangs loose. This is the one thing that lets the light down a bit, although it's only an incidental detail.
  • Not sure I need the remote switching - the pressure back panel is so good it does the job on its own.
  • Could use more guidance on mounting angles. You still need a slight 'down' angle to avoid blinding drivers.

Beautifully machined alloy body reeks of quality. Battery life and overall lumens output have gone sharply up even compared to three years ago. If you have an old light (as long as it is an Exposure) Exposure have an exchange programme so don't hold back upgrading. I was skeptical but the improvements over just two years have been remarkable.

Exposure have learned to 'curate' light

Richard Lofthouse

Richard Lofthouse