Monday, 16 September 2019

Raleigh Mustang e-Comp review

Mark continues our sporadic 'Best Loved Kit' series with a review of the Raleigh Mustang e-Comp. 

For some time, I had been considering going over to the “Dark Side,”....ie getting an e-bike. Much as I love cycling, I tend only to ride on flat routes, as climbing just makes me depressed about how unfit/weak I am. Way back in 2008, I had a cerebellar stroke, although I recovered, it knocked the stuffing out of me. My once powerful leg muscles are now soft and jelly like, the guy who used to ride 44x17 fixed on club rides, and push new riders up steep hills has long gone....going out on a beginners group ride a couple of years ago, I watched guys 10 years older than me, and beginner ladies pedal merrily away uphill chatting to each other, as I coughed wheezed and searched for my lowest crawler gear.

Moving on, this year I decided to bite the bullet, and get the best e-bike I could afford. Halfords were doing a good trade in deal, which brought the price down from £2100 to about £1300 once extras added, about £1600 for the Raleigh Mustang.

I chose it because it is lighter than most of the sub £3000 ebikes... (still a hefty 18kg....although my Pashley weighs about the same without a battery and motor!) It also has a decent (claimed) range of up to 85 miles, plus a bottom bracket motor.

The spec is....Kinesis built alloy frame with carbon fibre fork, SRAM Apex 1x11 gearing with 42 tooth biggest sprocket. 650b gravel spec wheels, Shimano Steps motor and 400w/h battery. SRAM hydraulic disc brakes and drop bars.

So, what’s it like to ride/own?

The bike is a fairly understated affair in all black, not necessarily the prettiest of machines, but to be fair, the looks have grown on me. There are 4 possible settings....Off...Eco....Normal...High, the STEPS motor is fairly low drag, so once above the 15.5mph legal cut off it’s just like riding a heavy standard bicycle...Oh and it absolutely flies downhill...saw 42mph on display coming off the North Downs!

Starting in Eco mode, you feel a little assistance, just a little help.....Normal is probably about the best, and depending on variables....wind/terrain/weight etc, should still be good for 40 plus miles.
High....rapid acceleration lots of help, although can feel a little jerky when assistance cutting in/out at limit.

I have used the bike over the last 3-4 months for a mixture of commuting (25+ mile round trip), leisure, shopping, and touring, including with camping kit. One thing that is frustrating is the rather low cut off speed, most fit cyclists can maintain 18-22mph on the flat, so you are still not able to keep up with the skinny Lycra boys and girls!.... many roads in London have a 20mph speed limit now, also so I feel that would be a more logical limit, enabling better integration with traffic...or even 25mph....(decent club cyclist speed.)

I can actually do my commute in the same time....(about 1hr5) on my lightweight single speed on a good day. Where the Raleigh really scores, though is against a headwind or uphill... same time, predictable commute time.

Steep hills?.....”I am Contador!” Lol!....
Flying up with minimal effort, you still have to pedal, of course, but no longer exhausted at top.
There are a few niggles though...
The main one being the bottom bracket is far too low, especially for a so called “gravel bike”....On a rutted stony track, the pedals ground out far too easily...and don’t even think of trying to pedal around a corner when leaning!
The sizing....Not much choice... for me a 50cm or 54cm?......Went for the 54, as thought 50 a bit too small.... it works ok, but have now fitted a shorter reach stem....much better!
Disc brakes...work well, but short pad life, and expensive to replace!

To sum up?....Raleigh have produced an excellent touring bike....it’s stable, carries load well, perfect for maybe an older cycle tourist?... It’s comfortable especially after putting the Brooks B17 on....oe saddle ok, but needed padded shorts.

On the whole though? I really like it, encourages me to ride more often... I’ve even given it a name.....Due to its looks, and Dark Side nature?....
Folks....meet Darth Vader!

Monday, 9 September 2019

Support Richard's fundraising for cycle parking at St Raphael's hospice

Long-standing MCC member Richard is fundraising to install high quality, covered and secure cycle parking for staff and visitors at St Raphael's Hospice in Sutton (SW London), following the death of his dear cycle campaign friend Ceri Davies recently died there. At his final visit they together lamented that there was nowhere for him to his bike!

Over the summer he's riding 400 km in the French Alps, including the Marmotte - Europe's toughest sportive, with 5,000 metres of climbing; 1,000 km to Land's End and back via Dartmoor; 160 km Ride London;  500 km return to Paris; and the epic 1,200 km Paris-Brest-Paris audax event, all in July and August. 3,260 km (2,000 miles) in total.

You can sponsor him here https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/laidbackrich and follow his progess at https://www.strava.com/athletes/456611

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Ceri’s RideLondon Team offer - £20 entry fee; raise £400 for a local hospice

MCC activist, former newsletter editor and author Ceridwen Davies, recently died of cancer, aged just 63, at St Raphael’s Hospice in Sutton.  She was one of our longest serving members, a regular attendee at MCC meetings since the early 90’s where her energetic sense of fun infected us all.
MCC member Richard Evans visited Ceri on 11th March, two days before she died. She was at peace in bed at the hospice. He explains, "when I arrived I was mildly miffed that there was no cycle parking, and of course I could not resist mentioning it to Ceri. After all, the lack of bike parking had been a staple topic of debate at MCC meetings for decades. Ceri beamed her broad toothy smile, so I said, flippantly and in jest, that I’d get MCC onto it."
The idea has since grown legs, and has approval from both Ceri’s family and the hospice.  So MCC would now like to fundraise for and deliver two cycle parking facilities at the hospice – one short term for visitors near the main entrance, like this; and one more secure and sheltered for staff in the car park, like this – in loving memory of our dear friend Ceri. Combined costs are looking to be around £1,600.
The hospice has 20 charity places in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 ride on Sunday 4th August. The entry fee is just £20, and the hospice asks riders to try to raise a minimum sponsorship of £400 each. The hospice will provide a fundraising pack and a St Raphael’s cycling jersey and will be at the event on the day to give support and encouragement.
Any additional funds raised will go towards the general running of St Raphael’s which will help to continue providing exceptional hospice care to more people like Ceri. St Raphael’s needs £6 million every year to run and only receives 20% of this from the NHS, so they need to fundraise a staggering £4.8 million every year.
Contact EmilyKaniecki@straphaels.org.uk for further information and to get your place on Ceri’s RideLondon Team.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Response to LB Merton’s LIP3 Consultation

Merton Council have been consulting on their Third Local Implementation Plan (LIP3). It is a statutory requirement for all London boroughs to develop a document setting out how it is going to deliver the Mayor's Transport Strategy, its priorities and objectives at a local level.

LIP3 is the Council's main transport strategy and sits alongside the Council's Local Plan and other future strategies. It should set out the borough transport objectives; a short and longer term delivery plan and a series of targets set by Transport for London that we are working towards achieving

In March 2018 the Mayor of London released his vision for the future of transport in the Capital called the Mayor's Transport Strategy. It sets out three priority areas for delivery; these are:-

  • Healthy streets and healthy people
  • A good public transport experience
  • New homes and jobs

It also set an ambitious target for 80% of all trips in London to be made on foot, by cycle or/and using public transport by 2041.

MCC's Consultation Response 

Merton Cycling Campaign is the local group of the London Cycling Campaign, working to encourage more people to use active and sustainable forms of transport. 

While the foreword of the LIP includes encouraging statements about reducing vehicle journeys, discouraging drivers from using cars and support for Vision Zero and claims the LIP “focuses on delivery of tangible improvements for walking and cycling” the actions and targets set out fall far short of delivering against this. The LIP3 also proposes developing features that directly or indirectly promote cycling, including the highly desirable Borough-wide 20 mph. Other features promoted as formal ‘Objectives’ are Liveable Neighbourhoods, Cycle-parking (including on-street ‘hangars’), Cargo-bike deliveries, Hire Bikes, Vision Zero and Bicycle training.  A Healthy Streets Policy and Permeability are mentioned as desirable.

However MCC is concerned that the LIP as drafted does not comply with TfL’s requirements for this document. There is little in the LIP3 in terms of practical actions or programmes that demonstrate how Merton will reach the ambitious goals set out in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, and what proposals there are are lacking in ambition.

TfL’s analysis of cycling potential suggests 41% of all daily trips made by Londoners are potentially cycleable, with 55% of these in outer London boroughs. Merton’s current plans will not unlock this potential – a more radical approach is needed.

The targets set fall significantly short of MTS requirements with just a 5% fall in vehicle km (against a mayoral target of 10-15%, with the largest reductions needed in outer London boroughs such as Merton). Likewise, just a 5.5% reduction in car ownership is forecast by 2041 – again this seems unambitious for a borough where car ownership is above the London average.

There is a particular lack of ambition in the list of “cycling-related infrastructure that could be developed”. This includes a crossing that would require cyclists to dismount and a series of shared use paths. Shared paths provide a poor experience both for those cycling and those walking. They are generally only a good solution where low numbers of pedestrians are expected – i.e. they are a poor solution in London.

We acknowledge that funding is limited but additional funding for ambitious projects is available through TfL’s Liveable Neighbourhoods programme. The LIP needs to be revised to include:

  • More ambitious targets for reduction in car ownership and driven km
  • A commitment to protected space for cycling on main roads within the borough
  • Reprioritisation of funding to create low traffic neighbourhoods, focusing on areas with a high concentration of schools.
  • Development of a larger high quality Liveable neighbourhood bid

You can read our full response and more detailed comments here

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Spring Equinox ride report

Sunday 24th March saw a small but hardy crew set out for our Spring Equinox ride around the Surrey hills, a more ambitious and longer route than we'd normally attempt. 

Thanks to Jim for the route planning, and Chris, Mark and Dominic for the report-back; possibly the most literary contribution we've had ever! 

When sun and moon between them cite
That hours in day shall equal night
Merton cyclists are gladly met
Outside The Sultan, there to get
Vantage o'er yon Farthing Down
And thereafter foaming tanks to crown
With tributes and tales of trials tried
And builds we built but never flied

The blessed sun upon us shone
As 10.30 stuck upon the gong
Sallied we forth to the Wandle Trail
And eftsoons to Wallington in the dale
The Downs lifted us up, her apron gently spread
As Jim's route bade us on ahead
And with every climb, upon the ear
Fell an electrical whirr most queer
Charles and Mark were more than man and steel
Between their calves sly design could not conceal
Lithium-ion and rotational force
Towed they up by electronic horse

A feast of cheese and tomato panini
And the streets of Coulsdon soft and dreamy
Spurred our riders to mount the Down
And there behold fair Surrey all around

The Wagner Way a ribbon far to run
Pricked our thigh and upon the bum
A concentrated turn of heel
Brought us back to The Sultan upon the wheel
Amber effervescence there to flow
As we settled to the afterglow
Of a ride when the March sun kept her promise
And wishes for another upon the solstice

A fitting prose, no less, forsooth!
For it be told, in honest truth,
Tales of heroic climbing speed,
Not Charles and I, but young John Ede!
Who battled rough stuff, hill and glade,
And put men half his age in shade!
In later times, this tale regaled,
Tears will fall in pints of ale,
By cyclist looking sad and wan,
Regretting that they had not gone!

Which prompted this observation from Dominic: 

There was virile young young rider,
Who happily threw his leg over carbon fibre,
He went out one day,
And took off up the street,
Only to be passed by a man, He  on a roadster, short and fat,
He muttered "How does he do that?"
And slunk home embarrassed by his defeat!

Friday, 22 March 2019

MCC's response to Melrose Ave Consultation

Merton Council consulting on changes to the existing cycle lane layout on Melrose Avenue. We welcome this review of the Melrose Avenue contra-flow and we would welcome improvements to this cycling route, about which we have had concerns since 2004, but the current proposals will make things even worse for cyclists and that is not acceptable.

We believe the current proposals reduce the quality of cycling provision rather than improve it, prioritise car use over safe cycling provision, and do not address the issue of rat-running on the roads. We believe that a high-quality proposal that promotes safe cycling can be brought forward.

You can read our full submission here, or a summary below.

Issues with Merton Council’s proposals 

The existing segregated cycle lane, despite being only 1 metre wide (as painted) and occasionally reduced by untidy car parking, is advantaged by not suffering from cars pulling out and, in relation to car door opening, parked car drivers are always facing the oncoming cyclists and therefore as aware as possible of their approach. Most importantly the segregated cyclist does not have to contend with the discomfort of moving together with motorists in confined road space.
If the current unsafe proposals are pursued, they would see cyclists riding a one-way street on an unmarked contra-flow where the lane width is 3.7 metres wide.

Reduction in quality of provision

The Cycling Level of Service may not be great on streets such as Melrose Avenue, but it is better than the alternative - being restricted to routes that are usually busier, more dangerous or more polluted.
The proposal of an unmarked cycle contra-flow on a street widened from 2.7 metres, by removing the cycle lane, would leave a 3.7 metre width between continuous parallel car parking. The first disadvantage of this arrangement is that there is inadequate space for a defined contra-flow cycle lane. At 3.7 metres with the lack of any let-up to the solid parking there is another problem, that when motorised vehicles and cyclists are expected to move together through this restrained width, safe overtaking is not possible, and a motor vehicle passing a cycle at any speed is hazardous. The only way to resolve this discomfort is to remove two car parking spaces at intervals to allow for giving way.
The problems of car door opening and cars pulling out unexpectedly are highly relevant for any narrow lane between parked cars. However, the present 2.7-metre-wide one-way lane in Melrose Avenue has considerable benefits for cycling because overtaking is impossible, so the motorist is not inclined to try and no reason to get frustrated if the cyclist holds the road.
The London Cycling Design Standards (LCDS) have a ‘golden rule’ which is that traffic lanes restricted to dimensions between 3.2 and 3.9 metres should be avoided, because of the discomfort it causes cyclists moving together with motor vehicles.

Prioritisation of cars over safe cycling 

The Consultation leaflet suggests that the proposals have been made in part to address an issue with damage to car wing mirrors. This is somewhat disingenuous as these are vulnerable when parked in most London streets and vehicles are well equipped for wing mirrors to be folded in, if considered obtrusive. If it is required that the segregated cycle lane should be made clearer, then a layer of colour on the lane might make motorists more aware, and also pedestrians wanting to cross it more aware, that it is active.
The increase in car parking spaces in the proposals, at the expanse of providing safe pull-ins or overtaking spaces for cyclists also clearly prioritises car parking over safe cycling.

No measures to reduce rat-running 

Whilst we oppose these proposals in their current form, we are not however opposed to contra-flow provision in principle which can work well when well-designed and in appropriate locations where the traffic volumes and speeds of vehicles using the road are low enough. In fact, we would argue the predisposition should always be to allow contraflow cycling on one-way streets and cycles should never be excluded by restrictions that are intended to manage motor traffic.
However, we do not believe that Melrose Avenue is an appropriate location for one and the proposals do nothing to address the problems of the road layout, and lack of traffic calming which encourages inappropriate speed, and does nothing to reduce the volumes of traffic along the road.

Changes we would like to see to the proposed design 

Raising the existing contra-flow facility to footway level to allow a wider passage for cyclists would improve cyclist safety and avoid the intrusion of parked cars onto the cycle lane as they are limited by the new kerb line.

Full-width sinusoidal speed humps, passing places and a protected turn in for cycling would be standard for most councils proposing such a contra flow and we would like to see these incorporated at the very least.

If Merton wants to achieve its objectives for sustainable transport set out in the Draft Local Plan, then we would welcome a more ambitious proposal that addressed the traffic volumes on the road, either by introducing opposing one ways, or for full bollards: Ryfold already has a filter, so there is precedent for this in the Borough. Filters on Melrose between Ashen and Stuart and between Stroud and Ryfold would fix this entire corner of the cell. But could still leave corner-cutting between Replingham and Merton. Filters on Brookwood, Lavenham and Revelstoke near the Merton Road would finish the job.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Melrose Avenue - Wimbledon Park Review of existing contra-flow cycle lane

Merton Council are proposing to change the existing cycle lane layout on Melrose Avenue. They are proposing:


  • to remove the existing cycle lane except for the section of the cycle lane from Arthur Road for a distance of 27 metres. 
  • With the removal of some of the physical features, the residents will be gaining additional parking spaces. It is important to note that although the cycle lane is being removed the actual cycle contra flow will be maintained on Melrose Avenue and the appropriate signage and road markings will be installed to inform motorists. 
  • The Council is also proposing to introduce a speed table near its junction with Melrose Avenue/Ryfold Road. This will include a buildout to accommodate a ‘No Entry” sign and a tree. A further buildout is also proposed adjacent to 151/153 Arthur Road although this will have no impact on parking. The introduction of the speed table, the additional parking bays and the changes to the contra-flow cycle lane require a statutory consultation. 

You can read Merton's proposals and view a plan of the changes by reading the newsletter distributed to residents. Or you can review hard copies at the Merton Civic Centre or Wimbledon Library.

The consultation is open until 22nd March 2019, and can be submitted by emailing Traffic.AndHighways@merton.gov.uk quoting reference Melrose Avenue Cycle Lane.

MCC are considering the proposals and will submit a consultation response.