Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tokyo to Osaka: the tunnel

Given Japan is a hilly country, there are a lot of tunnels. But what is annoying, on roads, that on a map look cycling friendly, you can find yourself at a tunnel, which you are not allowed to ride through. Or simply, bicycle unfriendly tunnels are not marked on maps. This is a problem as finding an alternate route, is not always going to be easy, and can add a lot of kilometres to your journey. 

You can however ride through a lot of tunnels, and I think its a good idea to have lights on your bike all the time, so you can turn them on quickly when needed, as the tunnels are not all well lit, and don't necessarily have good shoulders for riding. 

After I decided to make the trip from Tokyo to Osaka I did a quick search "cycling tokyo to osaka" and I came across this website "" that documents a similar trip made some years back by a group of fixie riders.  They made a short film {below} and if you look @ 5:40 they came across a tunnel which they could not ride through.

As luck would have it - I too came across this tunnel. Well, from looking at the video it seems to be the exact same tunnel, there was also a temple, and it was also on the way to Omaezaki. So possibly this tunnel is here to taunt all crazy cyclists on this trip. Anyway, in my mind I decided that I'd just ride through it, no one would know. It had been a slow day, and I needed to make up some km's.  

Upon approaching the tunnel, a voice came over a loudspeaker, and I assumed who ever it was, had seen me via some camera, and was telling me not to ride through. The same thing happened to the Fixie riders. So reluctantly I turned around.

Luckily enough, I found an alternate route with not too much trouble. The great thing was that this alternate route, was a highlight of the trip. I had to ride closer to the coast and I came across was this crazy road built around the mountain the tunnel went through. But it wasn't on land, it was built over the sea. As one person put it too me, "Japanese love over engineering".

Then I went through a series of small tunnels, sort of ironic, as some were single lane. The view of the coast was great, and the road was winding, with gentle up and downhill sections. The type of road I love to ride. If anyone does this trip, this is definitely a stretch to ride. It's Route 416, around Yaizu. 

Below are just a couple of pics:

Monday, July 1, 2013

Recycled paper helmet..

Two students from London's Royal College of Art have come up with a recycled paper helmet. Dubbed the Paper Pulp Helmet is made from recycled newspaper, which is pulped and then combined with an organic additive to make the helmet water-resistant; the designers say that it's good for six to eight hours in the rain. The helmet is claimed to cost around 1 Pound, and is targeted for bike rental and bike hire schemes. 

I like the idea, but I'm disappointed not to see any mention of how safe this helmet actually is, though I am sure they do plan to test it. It also seems like there is quite a lot of energy used to manufacture the helmet. 
Its a great idea though, and I'd love to see a more refined version targeted at long term usage. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Google maps adds bike directions for more European Countries: Germany, France, Ireland and more...

Google maps has added more European countries to its map service for bikes. This is a great service, which I've used in Australia. I must say, I always have trouble finding bike lanes and tracks, especially when in a foreign country.

Its great to see a company like Google put so much effort into cycling.  Below is what google said in their blog,

Back in 2012, we added biking directions to our maps for a number of countries in Europe. It proved to be a popular feature among cycling amateurs and enthusiasts. We're now delighted to announce that we are now enabling biking directions in Google Maps for Germany, France, Poland, Ireland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.

Like in other countries, we've added information about bike trails, lanes and recommended roads directly to the map. In some countries we’ve worked with partner organisations. In others users have added hundreds of kilometers of biking paths through Google Mapmaker.

How does it work? I am a big tennis fan, so lets say I live in Hamburg and want to head over from my house in the suburbs to a tournament. I am able to grab my Android phone and ask Google Maps for the directions to the stadium. Google Maps will return a route that avoids busy streets and uses suitable bike paths. Time estimates for the route will be based on a complex set of variables accounting for the type of road, terrain and turns over the course of my ride. I also am able to turn by turn Navigation for my bike. I just plug earphones into my phone, switch over to Navigation and let Google Maps guide me through the city - just as from the car.

Of course, you can also use biking directions for a more challenging trip. As the season of big bike races in Europe has started, why not check what route Google suggests for a historical stage of the Tour de France? Our bicycle route for the classic stage from Biarritz to Bordeaux navigates on 206 beautiful, often car-free kilometers close to the Atlantic Ocean, compared to the rather boring 206 kilometers on the N10/A63 which is suggested for cars.

Regardless of the scope of your trip, roads and paths suitable for a bicycle are available by switching on the biking directions legend. This is designed to make it easy to find nearby trails for a recreational ride. Click on the widget at the top right of the map to turn on the "Bicycling” layer.
Suitable roads for riding your bicycle in Dublin, Ireland
One group of people who know where the best cycle paths are cyclists themselves! If you know about a new bike trail, please tell us. Either use the “Report a problem” link at the bottom right of the maps screen or jump into Google MapMaker and add the information to our maps.

A bike path on Google Mapmaker in Poland
We know that many avid cyclists have been awaiting this feature y, so head over to Google Maps and click ‘Get directions’ to try it. Then hop on your bike!


I'm always interested to see what others are designing, especially related to cycling. This iBackpack seen at by Soohun Jung is interesting.  I have thought of putting an iPad in a backpack like this for mobile advertising, but not for a tool to show directions. Turn signals happen via a swipe and a gyro sensor, and a speed sensor recognizes when you are braking and displays that message. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bike locking: Take your front wheel with you, and just leave the bike?

Over the last few weeks ORTRE has had an add running, promoting the locking of ones front wheel, preferably with one of our locks {ORTRE BI5}.  It pretty fair to say that the gold standard for locking ones bike is too lock the rear wheel and the frame to a secure object with one lock, and lock the front wheel to your frame, or a a secure object with another lock.

To my surprise the other day I saw the bike pictured below. The rider of this bike had a totally different concept. Take your front wheel with you and leave the rest of the bike, rendered unrideable, behind. In many ways it makes a lot of sense.

I do hope that I see the situation correctly, its possible the bike could have been left there and someone had just stolen the front wheel. But most unlikely.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Amsterdam - too many bikes? or not enough love

An article earlier this year in Dutch newspaper Trouw has been getting rehashed around the web in the last week. The article highlights a concern that there are not enough spaces to park all of the bike in Ansterdam...  Given in a lot of cities around the world, the emphasis is on trying to increase the  number of people riding, this seems like a great problem to have. 

In the article Jeanine Van Pinxteren, chair of the central district stated “The bike is threatened by its success,” In a town limited in space to start with, one of the reasons for the popularity of bikes, there also just are not enough spaces for parking bikes. And in attempt to improve things there is a plan for an additional 20,000 to be created by 2020. 

Im sure adding parking for bikes in Amsterdam is a good idea. I also think that maybe rethinking the bike itself might also be a good idea. The traditional Dutch bike is by no means compact, and perhaps promoting smaller bikes would be another means of solving the problem.  Just as moving from SUV's to compact cars in other countries is a good idea. But given tradition, I'm sure this is a change that would be next to impossible to bring about. 

In 2011 Amsterdam council officials took away a record 55,000 bikes which had been wrongly parked, or deemed abandoned. Thats a lot of bikes, I'm sure in Sydney that would account for every bike you see parked, and then some. 

Another shift in thinking that might also help would be to start "loving bikes". The typical bike in Amsterdam is not "loved" in quite the same was as a bike in Portland, where people take pride in there bikes. It would be a-typical to abandon a bike in Portland. And one is more likely to bring ones bike into the lounge room at night time, rather than leave it locked up outside. 

I dont think Amsterdam's people need to love their bikes in the same way. But I do think a little more pride in ones bike would see far less bikes being abandoned, and more care taken with the way they are parked. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How to bike in the city - instructional video from Grist

Here's a video from Grist, a how to for beginner cyclists, for riding around the city.

I dont agree with the "plan a route part", when riding often you just have to go with the flow, and you always discover more when your off on a tangent.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Imaginate - incredible cycling video

Last thing I wrote was a book review, well this is totally different. Danny MacAskill videos are always great to watch, and this is no exception. This has to be a bit of a first for biking vids, a fully themed, and creative video. No matter what form of cycling you participate in, you'll enjoy this.

I love the tricks with the fit-ball.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Looking for Cycling Utopia

Well not many people write books about architecture and cycling. Steven Fleming however has, with his book Cycle Space. On the surface one would think, "Oh No, a book about bike racks", but its far from that.

Actually it seems Steven has meshed many issues into this book, economics, politics, geography, history. Really, who ever thought cycling in the city was so complicated. If you are an enthusiast of cycling, urban design, or architecture, this is a valuable read. I just wish he didn't put in the coloured text...  cyclists shouldn't have to wear helmets, and text should be black...  preferably serif.

Anyway, as disjointed as my last paragrah was, so to is Stevens book, bouncing from Singapore to Copenhagen, fixed gear to bakerfeits, Zaha Hadid to Le Corbusier, elevated bicycle superhighways to using abondoned underground railway lines. It's an inside into the way Steven thinks {sort of like me} but also a reflection of the complexity surrounding the issue of bicycles and how they interact in the urban environment.

In as much as this book is an analysis of the current state of cycling and architecture, its really a selfish promotion of cycling, and how to make the urban environment better for cycling. For Steven, wants to ride everywhere. If you too are looking for "cycling utopia" - read it. OR at least read some more reviews over at Amazon...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Lost Your Keys?

We know loosing keys is a real pain, and personally its something I do at least once a year. So we have added a new service for the Ortre BI5 U-lock. On our website you can register any existing key, or new key. Every key has a unique number and once you have registered this number, we will keep the details {so you don't have too}, and if you ever loose your keys, you can order a new set through the web-store here.

If your purchasing a new lock over the internet, we can make up an extra set of keys for you, upon request for an additional fiver.

Anyway, we hope you don't loose your keys...