Orbital Cycling Festival 2013

amp_fondriest

amp Hoops were recently on display at the 2013 Orbital Cycling Festival at Goodwood Motor Circuit. The mid/deep section clincher combo on a beautiful Fondriest Chrono frame gives a super-stiff ride. This bike is being put together as part of triathalon coach Simon Ward’s project “Hawaii Five-0″ – a mission to qualify for the infamous Kona Ironman. Keep up to date with his progress here: http://www.tri247.com/columns/simon_ward.html

Be Aware. Be Predictable.

commute

We are all too often reminded of the dangers of city commuting, but it really hit home last week with the unfortunate news of yet another cyclist fatality near Holborn, merely a couple of roads away from the amp head office. It is always horrible to see the stats, but particularly sickening when it happens so close to home – our condolences go out to all who knew him.

In recent years, the popularity of cycling as a daily transportation method has come on leaps and bounds, both across the Capital and throughout the rest of the UK. With this, the voice of cyclists has grown dramatically, bringing with it all range of consequences – from the very positive, such as safety improvements and infrastructure changes, through to the negative, such as animosity and conflicting attitudes with other road users. While much of this begins to take the political stage, we at amp care much more about taking a step back and putting the most important thing first – your own safety. This is not to shy away from large-scale improvement and activism, but we would much sooner veer away from an accident than fly tail first into the back of a cement mixer simply to prove a point. So, in this vain, we present our extremely simple and effective rules to riding safely in town.

Be Aware. Be Predictable.

When it boils down to it, in any city collision, there can only be two people to blame. We like to call them “You”, and “Not You”. Let’s take a look at the first of those culprits

Be Aware

The stand-out feature of any city commute is that there is an awful lot going on. As a cyclist, you are one of the softest and most breakable objects on the road, so it’s very much in your prerogative to make sure you don’t get broken! The single biggest factor that will keep you upright is awareness. At any one time, it is vital that you know exactly what is going on all around you. Next time you go to reach for your shifters, try to catch yourself out with the question “do I know the model and colour of car right behind me?” This question suddenly becomes a lot trickier as you approach a 3-lane junction in rush-hour. Spatial awareness is key here, and an awful lot of it comes with practice. Your senses are your radar and you want to use all of them to keep a fluid map in your mind of where every object is and how it is moving. Ok maybe not all of them – if you’re using your sense of touch then it’s probably too late. Quite simply, if you know where every object is, then you’re very unlikely to choose to ride into any of them.

Awareness is more than just knowing where things are, but how they are moving and how they are interacting with the environment. If three cars are about to converge into two lanes in front of you, then going for the overtake and adding a fourth body to the mix certainly isn’t going to help. Understanding how vehicles behave at junctions takes a lot of observation. This is why we recommend sticking to the same familiar route wherever possible as you will quickly pick up the nuances of how different vehicles manoeuvre around the junctions and where they typically make mistakes. You will learn the turns where indicators are neglected and where buses swing out to make the tight bend.

Regular riding also has a huge impact on awareness. If you’ve been sunning yourself on the beach for a while, force yourself to take the first few days back on the road super slow. Keep asking yourself how aware you are of what is going on around you and you will quickly see that you need a few days to get back in the swing.

Cycling proficiency tests do a great job of tooling you up with procedures and knowledge of the Highway code, but awareness will always be king. There is nothing that disheartens us more than seeing a perfectly executed hand gesture and lane change straight into the path of a speeding motorist. We see so much ‘textbook’ cycling that creates just as many textbook near misses. Signal, don’t signal, we don’t really care; just know what is going on around you.

Be predictable

Now let’s consider the other culprit; “Not you”.

You’ve mastered awareness, well done, now all you have to do is wait for every other road user to pick up this expertise and commuting life will become a breeze.

When you get bored waiting, let’s look at the other rule; predictability. Awareness and predictability go hand in hand.

The human brain is an incredibly clever machine. If you have ever tried your hand at filming some amateur video footage and created something so nauseatingly shaky and incomprehensible that even Youtube couldn’t make sense of it, you will realise how damn cool is it that two little eyes can give you a complete clear perception of your surroundings. However, the more we delve into the workings of the human cranium, the more we see that ‘perception’ is simply this. At any one time, the amount of information that we actually gather through our eyes is worryingly small, and the miracle of our vision is that the brain fills in the rest. Don’t believe us? Google it. There are all sorts of optical tricks you can find online that show just how little we ‘see’ and just how much our brain puts where it should be!

Obviously in fast-moving high-information environments, this presents a problem. No-one can look everywhere at once, and even the eyes in the back of our mothers’ heads are distinctly doubtful. Enter predictability. If I glance up at you and see you cycling along at 20mph, the next time I look up I expect to see you cycling along at 20mph at 10 metres further down the road. I’m no fortune teller; it’s just kind of obvious.

Without wanting to get too geeky here, let’s put some numbers on it. Picture your typical danger zone – Old Street roundabout. For those of you whose commute doesn’t entail the East end of London, Old Street roundabout is a crazy busy 3-lane, 4-exit roundabout which continually serves the most eclectic mix of road-dwelling vehicles you are ever likely to meet. Crossing this junction, there are probably 10 vehicles in your immediate surroundings at any one time.

Now, if you cross this roundabout in an aware manner, you will be moving your head around at least 10 times. Let’s be generous and say the drivers do the same. That means that at any one instance, one of the ten drivers around you should be looking straight at you. Or to put it in a more scary way, nine out of ten of them aren’t. This means that nine out of ten surrounding vehicles are simply predicting where you ought to be, and in this case it doesn’t take a genius to work out the safest position on the road; exactly where everyone thinks you are. If you ride predictably, then everybody’s idea of where you are will match up with the truth, so nobody is going to steer into you!

It is absolutely fundamental that you ride around busy roads in a completely predictable manner. If you see a nice space and dart for it, however aware you are of traffic yourself, there are now nine new people who haven’t got the foggiest where you are.

So, feel free read all the rule books, don the hi-vis, obviously wear a helmet and get as much advice as you can. But above everything else, just hold these two words in your head.

Be aware of your surrounding environment

Be predictable to those who aren’t