Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Bishop Auckland Food Festival 2014

Bishop Auckland Food Festival logo
This weekend sees the annual food festival taking place in Bishop Auckland. The main event is in the castle grounds and market place, but there will be demonstrations and workshops at Bishop Auckland college too.

As well as sampling food from the local area and internationally, a few special guests will be in attendance, demonstrating their recipes and signing books.

Knowing Bishop Auckland all too well, I'll stick my neck out and say that the traffic in town during the day will be terrible, jams and slow moving. Especially before the start at 10am and close at 4pm. There is parking in Bishop Auckland, but drivers are being advised to park at the college or just out of town at Perfect Homes & Gardens. There will be charges for the park and ride service provided. Follow this link for more information.

What has this got to do with a biking website?'s the science bit, so concentrate.

There are many benefits to riding your bike to the food festival if you live in or just outside Bishop Auckland:

  • Driving the car will hard work as the congestion on the roads will be high
  • You might struggle to get parked
  • You will have to pay to use the park & ride
  • You can park your bike securely just about anywhere as long as you have a suitable chain. See this map for more details
  • Riding your bike is great exercise
  • Therefore you can sample more cake - guilt free!
  • You could if you wanted to, sample a couple of ales - but be careful, riding under the influence can be dangerous
  • Cycling is a fun, family activity

So there's a few reasons for you to consider. If you do decide to go to the festival on your bike, leave a comment below or get in touch and let me know how you found it!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Cycling in Amsterdam

A couple of weeks ago I was married, so my wife and I headed off to Amsterdam on a mini-moon (two nights, three days) while we save money to go to Cuba later in the year for our "proper" honeymoon.

We talked about hiring bikes and how cool it would be to tootle around the city stopping off at the sights and having drinks at the city's numerous caf├ęs.

The bike hire plan went straight out of the window when we got into the centre of Amsterdam. The cyclists were crazy!

Alright, crazy is a strong word. I'm a confident cyclist but Rebecca is not. There was no way we would even ride a bike, despite it being April and the month of 30 Days of Biking. I'm sure that if you rode there everyday you would be used to the style of riding and the traffic conditions etc, but it really was not what I was expecting.

The Dutch have an exceptional cycling infrastructure that cycling campaigners here in the UK would dearly like to see implemented in our cities. According to Wikipedia, here are some numbers:

  • 1,000,000 bicycles in 2006
  • 400KM of cycle paths
  • 54,000 bicycles reported stolen in 2005
  • 12-15,000 bicycles fished from the cities canals in 2005
  • 490,000 cyclists rode 2 million KM everyday in 2012
  • 35,000 KM of bicycle paths in the country
  • 18 million bicycles in the country
  • 1.3 bicycles for every citizen old enough to ride

With that in mind, I expected the roads to be fairly motor transport free, the pedestrian footpaths and bicycle paths would be easy to distinguish and the cyclists would be calm, riding around with respect to other road users and each other. That wasn't the case.

Pedestrians need to be on their toes and have eyes in the back and each side of their heads. Seriously, crossing the road was dangerous, even when traffic lights were red and the green pedestrian signal was on, cyclists would zoom past without any warning.

We saw cyclists riding down the wrong carriageway because the traffic lights were on red. Hopping over pavements was no issue and riding while talking on the phone seemed to be perfectly acceptable. Flying over cross-roads with no hands on the bars or with passengers sitting on the rear pannier racks side-saddle.

I think we saw one cyclist wearing a helmet; there was no high-visibility or technical clothing on show and the lack of hand signals was conspicuous by its absence.

However, saying that, we saw no accidents. Here's a list to some more detailed blogs: (bearing in mind I was on honeymoon and not on official Bishop Auckland Biking business!).

 Have you been to Amsterdam? What did you think of the cycling culture whilst you were there?

Monday, 14 April 2014

It's always nice when customer service is good

I know that Halfords sometimes comes in for a bit of stick in regards to their cycling range. To be fair though, the Boardman road bikes are class - and that's just one of their range.

Anyway, last October I bagged a bargain pair of Schwalbe Land Cruiser tyres for my commuter bike to provide a tad more comfort and a lot more traction on the off road sections of my commute. I fitted them at the same time and they seemed great. However, a couple of weeks ago the rear tyre ruptured in the middle of the tread, shredding the inner tube and leaving me stranded (almost - I managed a basic fix using Sam's empty plastic bag of nuts that let me limp along for another couple of KM). The tyre had become really deformed and had a big bleb in it before it finally gave in. I had no choice but to carry on riding on it though.

Hole in tread of tyre
Seen from inside of tyre
The tyres had done around 500 miles and showed no other sign of damage. The front tyre is still in perfect condition. I checked the Schwalbe website as I was sure that this was a faulty tyre, but the directions on there said to take it to the place of purchase. I thought that I was resigned to having to buy a new tyre as I was sure that +Halfords would not see this as a fault. However, upon explaining the story, the guy on the bikes department checked the stock, found that there wasn't any available there and then and ordered one for me to pick up the next day. Sure enough I got a call and picked up my direct replacement tyre. Moreover, the current price of the tyres is more than I paid originally and I wasn't charged any extra. Fingers crossed that this one is as good as the front!

Sometimes just asking can be beneficial. I might have just disposed of the tyre and bought a new one.

How about you? Have you had any examples where customer service is beyond what you expected and surprised you?
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