No-one expected to be working from home again so soon, but what seems like an annual request has finally arrived from the UK government for those who can work from home to do so. This may indeed alter your Christmas wish-lists and I can already hear the Christmas tills ringing with Peloton and Zwift purchases for the ultimate home setup. There are, however, opportunities to continue your outside rides in place of your commute over Winter if you are willing to ignore the weather, bear the cold and sacrifice some time in bed during the holidays to get outside and ride.

Athletes often talk about the mental and physical importance of training whilst others are not doing so. To gain that competitive advantage while others are not even considering getting into their lycra. Most of us however are not athletes that demand this level of dedication. We will be faced this Christmas, however, with the inevitable choice – to train or not to train. Do we take time out to rest and recuperate, leaving the thought of training for the January push? The older I get, the more I realise that I can’t adopt this point of view. Indeed, many of us have committed work schedules and the holiday periods are really the only time to train for an extended period without the concern of changing into a suit and the distraction of work. Throw in family commitments and suddenly early mornings during holiday periods seem like the only opportunity to indulge in some prolonged physical torture to shed calories.

What if we don’t train? What actually happens to our bodies? Outside of inevitable weight gain, assuming calorie intake remains stable (at Christmas!?), what is the impact on our fitness?

A 1989 article in Sports Medicine found that VO2 max decreases start to begin after two to four weeks fully off, tied to reduction in cardiac output and blood volume. Follow-up studies generally found around a 5% reduction after two weeks, and up to 20% at 8 to 10 weeks.

So, in general two weeks out of the saddle shouldn’t have too much of an impact. The real issue at this time of year is diet and calorific intake. An increase in the quantity of food consumed - starchy meals and high sugar consumption can really impact not only our physical but also our mental well-being. I have often sat at the Christmas dinner table and thought that ‘this is going to be hard to work off come the New Year.’

When the weather sets in it is extremely hard to get motivated especially when it seems like your focus should be on enjoying your downtime. If you’re anything like me, your mince pies and box of celebrations in front of the sofa while watching the inevitable rerun of The Great Escape will feel a lot less impactful if you have braved the early morning physical exercise. In fact, I always feel better for getting exercise out the way early allowing me to enjoy the day, especially around periods of festive celebration. 

What can we do for inspiration? Yes, we can bring cycling indoors. Some say indoor miles are easy compared to outdoor miles in the elements. Only people who've never tried to ride serious miles indoors will say that. The challenge is just different. Instead of darkness and rain the challenge is that you can at any moment step off your bike. There's no rescue needed because you are already home. Just stop pedalling and go and take a warm shower. Having that constant devil on your shoulder is one of the hardest things you'll ever have to contend with. But what if the pull of the outdoors is too much? Getting a small group together to pound the tarmac over the festive period can be hugely beneficial to your motivation. If you are a part of a club, this becomes far easier. If not, consider taking on a challenge such as the Rapha Festive 500 if you really fancy crunching some miles.

First conceived on the snowy roads of Kent in Southern England, the Rapha Festive 500 started out as one man’s personal battle against the elements. But in the 12 years since its inception, it has grown to become a riding rite of passage for cyclists around the world. Last year, over 65,000 went the distance!

The Rapha Festive 500 is hosted on Strava. After all, if it’s not on Strava… Once the challenge begins, you can watch your miles mount up and, if you manage to go the full distance, the coveted Festive 500 finisher’s digital roundel will be added to your trophy cabinet for posterity.  From photo albums to poems, hand-drawn maps to freshly baked pastries, riders have commemorated their experiences of the #Festive500 since its inception. 

Some of the Torch team will be following the Rapha Festive 500 as inspiration to try and discover new commuting routes. This not only provides some valid reason outside of the fitness benefits but also adds value to developing the 2022 commuting plan. Whether the 500km distance is achieved or not, the opportunity to continue cycling is the key. Perhaps a hybrid of indoor and outdoor miles is a good compromise? 200-300km outdoors to discover your best commuter route and 200-300km indoors to ensure we stay injury free to be able to get back to work in January? The Torch500 perhaps...

Whatever you decide to do, we hope you have a safe and festive Christmas and as part of our growing community we would like to offer you a £20 voucher to say thank you and Merry Christmas. Simply follow this link to activate the discount directly to your basket.

They may be a common sight, but privately owned motorised scooters are still illegal in many locations on public roads, pavements, and sidewalks. Rental scheme trials taking place across the globe and some countries and cities have started to adopt e-scooters as ‘acceptable’, even if they are not declared publicly as legal. With battery life improving, range extending and entry prices dropping, e-scooters could be one answer to getting to work in a post-pandemic commute?

Last week we were fortunate enough to get a glimpse in to the world of e-scooters with international brand Inokim. It was insightful and...well…a lot of fun! It was a great opportunity to continue the testing of the TorchONE in a different environment with a larger group of commuters with differing requirements.

Standing upright, you glide, ghost-like along the street. have-scooters make no emissions. You are alone, outside, unlikely to catch anything or pass anything on. You are no burden to the public transport system, nor do you contribute much to congestion. There are no parking costs or concerns to worry about. You take up little space. There are a lot of upsides.

Off road is a different story. On the right scooter (we were using the Inokim OXO for the photo shoot) green lanes and byways take on a whole new life. With little to no sound and speeds up to 20mph, the quiet woodland suddenly becomes an off-roading adrenaline rush without disturbing others with emissions and noise. The OXO tackled the inclines and declines with ease thanks to its ‘booster’ button and the suspension means that gravel, bumps, and debris is navigated with ease. The suspension is the key difference to the road/path focused variants along with after-market tyres.


Commuter Case Study

The relative novelty of the e-scooter phenomenon means there are many unresolved concerns around safety, etiquette, weather conditions and legality, as discussed previously. But enthusiasts insist that they have found a cost-effective nirvana accessible to few who make the daily trudge to the office: a commute that is enjoyable.

Isabelle Ward, a client relationship director in training and development, took her first scooter ride on a Bird while honeymooning in California and now uses one to commute across central London every day. “It’s fun,” she says. “It saves money and relieves stress — it’s beautiful. I arrive fresh-faced and ready to go, [and] save myself money.” “I go on cycle routes. In London we have fantastic bike lanes,” Ms Ward adds. “I use it for meetings — I rock up on my scooter and my clients are impressed.”

 

Not everyone has received such a warm reception to a mode of transport more commonly associated with toddlers than office workers. Joe Rawnsley, who works in IT and rides from Brixton to Blackfriars, insists the electric version is more grown-up than a regular push scooter but admits: “Both are a bit uncool. My friends take the piss.” The advantages still outweigh the ridicule, Mr Rawnsley says, including saving about £6 a day in fares. “I can just put it under the desk. I can wear anything, don’t have to worry about being in a suit.” Data from US cities’ shared mobility programmes consistently show that, where available, electric scooters such as Bird and Lime’s are more popular than municipal bike-rental services.

 

Do I need to wear a helmet?

It all depends on where you are riding. In many countries or states where electric scooters are legal you can ride without a helmet, however some places have specific age requirements or require every rider to wear a helmet by law, regardless of age.

Images from India Hodder from India Rose Creative

Our advice? While you should double-check the position of your local regulator on electric scooters and find out whether helmets are compulsory, we believe you should always wear one, even if it is not mandatory. The helmet protects your skull and therefore brain which is one of the most important parts of your body. As the old adage goes, it is always ‘better to be safe than sorry’, and with road vehicles, one can never be cautious enough.

 

A revised vision

Longer-term, there’s a possibility that we may have become so used to living and travelling in a less squashed-in manner, that we aren’t prepared to go back to the pre-social distancing crush. Lockdown has also focused minds on our relationship with the environment and levels of pollution, which may add to the pace of change. Mayor of London Sadiq Kahn has pledged to make the capital carbon-neutral by 2030, now he is re-elected.

The pandemic has disrupted mobility and the effects will linger well into the future. As people have been avoiding public transportation and relying on personal and shared mobility options, cities have redefined car lanes to create more space for bikes and scooters.

Like Inokim, we are extremely supportive of transport that offers green and efficient alternatives, and provided riders adhere to similar safety standards and road use behaviour, as responsible cyclists do, they have a great role to play in migrating to a carbon neutral society. And if by chance your current commute can be taken off-road, we would highly recommend taking a look at the Inokim OXO to spice up your journey.

Further details:

TorchONE information can be found HERE 

Details of the scooters used HERE

F

With brighter mornings and longer evenings on the horizon (thank goodness), more and more of us will be looking to get on two wheels before and after work and for an extended commute. As a Torch helmet owner you have the ability to operate Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) at any time you are on your bike. But should you be doing this?

Daytime running lights have been made compulsory on cars in Europe since 2011 but this is not a legal requirement for cyclists. Many promote the use of lights as 80 per cent of accidents involving a cyclist happen in daylight. It is easy to comprehend that a fast-moving object on the road isn’t the easiest thing to spot so adding a permanent set of operating lights makes a lot of sense, even during the day.

According to Cycling Weekly, “A study carried out in Denmark discovered a 19 per cent drop in accidents when cyclists used permanent running lights. When it comes to use in vehicles, results vary – some studies show a five to 10 per cent reduction whilst others demonstrate an accident rate drop of 28 per cent. One study carried out by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found at 23 per cent drop in accidents involving motorcycles and cars when daytime lights were used.”

Logical thinking suggests that if there is a legal requirement for vehicles, then it will probably help cyclists, especially if a rider is stopped for whatever reason on the side of the road and about to ride off into traffic. Anything that promotes increased awareness of the cyclist would be considered a positive in our view.

According to Cycling Weekly, “A study carried out in Denmark discovered a 19 per cent drop in accidents when cyclists used permanent running lights. When it comes to use in vehicles, results vary – some studies show a five to 10 per cent reduction whilst others demonstrate an accident rate drop of 28 per cent. One study carried out by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found at 23 per cent drop in accidents involving motorcycles and cars when daytime lights were used.”

Logical thinking suggests that if there is a legal requirement for vehicles, then it will probably help cyclists, especially if a rider is stopped for whatever reason on the side of the road and about to ride off into traffic. Anything that promotes increased awareness of the cyclist would be considered a positive in our view.

There is also a consideration for the increased safety of the individual away from main traffic routes. 2020 saw a rise in cycle muggings and cycle theft while people were following bike lanes. Bike lanes often navigate through wooded areas or under bridges and other walkways. Adding light to yourself in any way will help keep you visible and may provide enough deterrent to put off any likely attacker.

A spokesperson from the Metropolitan Police in London recently (2020) confirmed, “There have been a number of robberies of cyclists and pedestrians on and around the towpaths in recent months. These robberies occurred in secluded areas hidden from public view; environments where opportunistic robbers can commit crime.”

At Torch, we are of the opinion that DRLs should be used by riders especially when commuting on darker quieter routes and also when riding in high density traffic. The slow flash mode will allow maximum battery use (30hrs+) and provides the surrounding traffic clear signals that you are in motion.

What are your thoughts? Are you a fan of DRLs? Are there arguments against their use?

A natural wonder that has fascinated mankind for millennia, the Northern Lights (also called the Aurora Borealis) are nature’s very own lighting performance. The time is right to get a glimpse of the aurora borealis.

Autumn and winter seasons, with their long periods of darkness and the frequency of clear nights, are probably the best time of the year to experience the auroral displays. December through March is usually the best time to observe this elusive natural phenomenon (though you can sometimes see the northern lights starting as early as August). Nights need to be cold and the sky clear of clouds, with limited light pollution and increased solar activity.  To support any future plans you may have, we have compiled a list of recommended location over the next few months to get the best views:

1. ALASKA, Denali National Park and Preserve

Image Credit: ParkAdvocate.org

With nearly 2.5 million hectares of untouched wilderness, Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, located about 383 kilometres north of Anchorage, is a favourite destination for campers and hikers because of its wide-open spaces, beautiful mountain vistas and abundant wildlife. The park is also one of the best places in the U.S. to see the northern lights, thanks to the lack of light pollution. Fall is the best season to get the clearest view of the dancing auroras. Fairbanks, which is located less than 200 kilometres northeast of the park, also sees some incredible light shows, thanks to its location in the auroral oval, an area around the North Pole where auroras frequently occur.

2. TROMSO, Norway

Image Credit: Northern Lights Tromso Walking Tour

Based in the heart of the aurora zone in the Norwegian Arctic, the city is widely regarded as one of the world’s best places to see the Northern Lights. Easily accessed from the UK – with a direct flight from London taking just 3.5 hours – Tromso serves as a popular destination year after year and offers excellent aurora views from September all the way until April. The city itself is a lively affair, with more pubs and bars per capita than anywhere else in Norway.

3. SCOTLAND, Isle of Skye

Image Credit: Mirror

While the northern reaches of Scotland offer better chances of spotting the ‘Mirrie Dancers’, the aurora can be seen anywhere in Scotland when the right conditions are met and where the light pollution is at a minimum.  On Skye's Trotternish peninsula, the quirky Shulista Croft Wigwams are a cosy base for exploring the northern tip of the island. Skye is home to no less than nine Dark Sky Discovery Sites making it one of the best places in Scotland for stargazing, as well as hunting for the northern lights.

4. REYKJAVIK, Iceland

Image Credit: Helka.com

Iceland’s capital remains a favourable choice for many travellers. Brimming with geothermal pools, volcano tours and quality culture, you could be forgiven for forgetting about the Northern Lights altogether. We recommend you don’t, however, as the display is astonishingly recurrent. Like Tromso, the best months to see the Aurora Borealis are between September to April. For an uninterrupted viewing experience, journey to Hofdabrekka, near Vik in southern Iceland, and enjoy the show in mesmerising isolation. Direct flights to Reykjavik are competitively priced and the capital is very walkable, making it great for a quick getaway.

After a number of years with the highly successful T2 Torch helmet, we are now on the path of developing our revised helmet - the TorchONE. Listening to your feedback we know that the TorchONE needs to be a helmet for everyone, for all seasons and all weathers. The commuter landscape is also changing. 

New methods of transport are now being utilised across the globe that enhance an individual’s own sustainability, individuality, and place in the wider community. With rush-hour trains and buses being incompatible with social distancing, and the environment for drivers becoming trickier by the day, getting back to our workplaces requires some fresh thinking.

Transport is changing

E-scooters are one of the more promising modern modes of transport – battery-powered two-wheelers that you stand on, while being propelled by a small electric motor. They’re technically known as  Personal Light Electric Vehicles, or PLEVs, and their prices, ranges, speeds and types vary. However, the big problem is that it is currently illegal to ride them anywhere other than on private land.

Get on your bike” remains a sensible rallying cry for able-bodied people who live within, say, 10 miles of their workplace. Many councils are striving to improve life for cyclists, with dedicated paths and lanes making commutes more appealing. The Government is also making vouchers available to help with the cost of getting old bikes back on the road, while its Cycle To Work scheme is a tax-friendly loan arrangement.

If you like the idea of cycling to work but are put off by either the length or hilliness of your commute, electric bikes (or e-bikes) are an option. Folding bikes, meanwhile, will appeal to those who can use public transport or a car for some of their commute, while electric folding bikes are also available. 

Designing a helmet for the new commuter

There remain some common principals that still apply to a good all-year-round commuter helmet offering such as weight, durability, weatherproofing etc. The big transition for us, however, is making a helmet that one can use in the 'new world' where commuting may not happen everyday but once or twice a week? The helmet should therefore be able to accommodate leisure riders and the more fitness conscious 'long mile' rider. It should allow for 365 day use and provide flexibility in use.  

In early 2020 we started to turn our sketches and design inspirations in to a series of 3D models. As helmet designers with an insistence in trying to push the envelope with new technology, it was important that we made life-size models to test. We utilised Computer Aided Design (CAD) to ensure all measurements are exact and have the ability to 3D print in house to ensure quick alterations and modifications prior to sample manufacture.

With a 3D model sample printed, the fixtures and fittings have been carefully selected to ensure a snug fit for head sizes 50-62 cm. The images below show some images of the initial 3D modelled sample which has been rigorously tested for fit and light fitting.

Torch Apparel Founder, Nathan Wills, “We know that our customers love the clean design, and simplicity of the T2 helmet series, but  want a year-round solution. The TorchONE should embrace the best of our previous designs, whilst allowing the rider to choose whether to ride with lights in place, or not. The initial stages of the TorchONE’s unique design look fantastic in daylight and will represent the largest available lighting solution at night.

We believe that designs should be clean, and operation should be simple. We also chose to steer clear of adding technology which often serves to confuse and distract riders and drivers alike. The TorchONE will represent our view that riders should be seen to be safe, but should follow the rules of the road when it comes to riding safely and signalling their intent.”

For notification of the Kickstarter launch and for future information, sign up HERE.

 

Over the past few weeks we have been favouring the Brompton fold bike option, but is this the best way to commute? What if you need one bike for all activity with work, your own fitness and the family? You may not need to fold a bike after all? We had a look at the options on offer with recommendations from our industry colleagues at Bike Radar.


Of course, terrain matters and length of your journey, so these factors need to be considered. Plus, depending on the facilities at your work, you may wish to consider a more economical option to get rid of wandering hands that may take off with your prize belonging.


You may not have access to a garage or secure lock up at home so these will also be factors to consider when choosing a bike for primarily your commute.

Hybrid / flat-bar bikes

Pros: Fairly quick, hugely versatile, confidence inspiring upright position. Good for family trips, own fitness and the commute especially when carrying panniers or rucksacks.
Cons: Not the lightest or most comfortable bike for longer distances and if you cover any rough terrain this may prove insufficient.

General comments from Bike Radar: “Hybrids are best thought of as a hardy road bike that takes some influence from mountain bikes, borrowing its off-road cousin’s flat handlebars and a more upright, traffic and comfort-friendly position. Like a road bike, most modern hybrids are usually built around 700c wheels. However, the tyres are often wider than a road bike’s – but usually not as wide as a mountain bike – allowing you to traverse rough roads and gravel paths with ease. Hybrid bikes also offer almost unrivalled versatility, with many bikes bristling with bosses and mounts for every accessory imaginable. This makes them an ideal candidate for conversion to other duties, such as touring. If you are a beginner looking for a bike for general use or are a dedicated commuter that favours an upright position in traffic, a flat-bar hybrid is likely to be the perfect choice for you.”

Electric bikes

Pros: Possible to cover great distances, even when loaded, very efficient, a true car alternative and can support those riders who struggle with fitness or injury. Brompton now produce an e-version so this could help those wishing to maintain the Brompton style and brand relationship.
Cons: Heavy, must be recharged, expensive for reliable bikes but costs are coming down all the time.

 

Recommendations from Bike Radar: “As technology has matured and their adoption has become widespread, particularly in Europe, there’s absolutely no denying that electric bikes have become an increasingly dominant force in the cycling market. While the proponents and haters of e-bikes will forever more debate whether or not they have a place in the cycling world. Not only do they open cycling up to a broader audience, but they also allow more experienced cyclists to cover far greater distances than would otherwise be possible This ability to cover ground easily really comes into its own when turned to your commute; with the helping hand that an electric assist e-bike affords. With that in mind, for those that live far away from work, it’s definitely worth considering whether ditching the car, and the associated cost of running one, and investing in an electric bike is a viable option.”

Folding bikes

Pros: Incredibly convenient to store and travel with, extra effort required on the commute journey = fitness, they can be stored in car for family breaks and easily kept ‘to hand’.
Cons: Not as spritely, confidence inspiring or comfortable as a ‘full-sized’ bike and the best ones are not cheap.

 

Recommendations from Bike Radar: Most often built around diminutive 16in or 20in wheels, folding bikes, as the name suggests, fold down into often impressively small packages that can be stored just about anywhere at either end of your journey. Folding bikes are also ideal for those that don’t intend to ride the entire way to work and plan on completing part of the journey by public transport. A folding bike won’t handle like a regular bike due to its use of small wheels and the inevitable compromise that creating a packable bike demands. If convenience, easy storage and the ability to travel on public transport trumps all, a folder is likely the right choice for you.”

Town bikes

Pros: Relaxed riding position, eminently practical, perfect for the maintenance-phobic and will suit most family days out riding at weekends.
Cons: Heavy (although may help with family work out), not the easiest on the hills, often not that cheap or the easiest to work on.

Recommendations from Bike Radar: Often referred to as Dutch or sit-up-and-beg bikes, town bikes come in all shapes and sizes, but are generally characterised by an upright riding position and oodles of practical accessories. Town bikes are also generally very heavy. Practicality is the key focus here, with stout, abuse-proof frames and components that are designed to last almost indefinitely over featherweight, speed-focused performance. Usually outfitted with full-length mudguards, chainguards, racks or baskets and often even integrated dynamo lighting, town bikes are as practical as it gets, offering true hop-on-and-go convenience that could even go some ways to replacing a car in an urban environment.

Fixed Gear Bikes

Pros: Incredibly simple, often good value for money and add a ‘cool’ factor through simplicity.
Cons: Potentially unpleasant in hilly areas, not very adaptable and not ideal for multi-use scenarios i.e. any green lane activity with family at weekends.

General comments from Industry: Long adored by hip urbanites, the classic fixie/singlespeed bike continues to attract devotees in every corner of the world but certainly come with a certain style in mind. The appeal of a singlespeed bike is totally understandable. With no multi-gear drivetrain to worry about, fixies and singlespeed bikes offer a largely fuss- and maintenance-free ride that’s ideal for commuting. It’s also worth clarifying that a fixie has no freewheel – that’s the component that allows the drivetrain to coast, so if you’re moving on a fixie, you’re pedalling. With only one gear, riding a singlespeed bike in a hilly location can be challenging, so think carefully before buying. If you’re after an easy to maintain ride and you don’t mind mashing a hard gear, a singlespeed or fixie may be the perfect commuting choice for you.

Road Bikes

Pros: Quick, efficient, great fun, used for solo or club rides to maximise the ‘roadie’ in you. If your commute is extremely long, then this may be the only real choice to increase time efficiently.
Cons: Not the sturdiest and can be technically frustrating when things go wrong. Tyres can be fragile for multi-use scenarios and kit requirements may alter and turn you in to a dedicated ‘roadie’ whether you like it or not.

Recommendations from Bike Radar: For those that plan on travelling longer distance, road bikes can make a great commuter. Best suited for use on tarmac, road bikes are the best way to ride long distances fast. However, a road bike subjected to constant abuse from potholes, poor weather and rough terrain will inevitably deteriorate quicker than a hardier bike. But given appropriate care and regular maintenance, it will, of course, last for years. You’re unlikely to want to spend a fortune on a road bike dedicated to commuting, even bikes as cheap as the £600 mark can make great and dependable rides. Just make sure that whatever you choose has mudguard eyelets, a dependable group-set and a strong, high spoke-count wheelset. While carbon will offer the lightest and stiffest ride possible, value for money (which a cheaper alloy or steel bike may offer) and longevity should be your primary concerns. If you do decide to go for a carbon bike, greater care should also be taken when locking it up.
 

Gravel or Cycle-Cross Bikes

Pros: Incredibly adaptable with a fast and comfortable ride but may push your budget a little as the ‘gravel’ bike is on trend.
Cons: Not as quick on tarmac as a road bike, but more suitable for commuting than normal road bikes overall.

 

Recommendations from Bike Radar: Primarily, clearances are improved so that chunkier tyres may be fitted. The wheelbase of a gravel bike is also often considerably longer than a road bike, with the head angle also often slackened in a bid to ease handling in rougher terrain.  Gravel bikes are designed with versatility in mind, with most having provisions to mount mudguards, racks and multiple bottle cages. Combined with a road-like fit, these bikes make excellent commuters for those who have to contend with poor roads or even light off-road detours. Dedicated cyclocross bikes tend to lack these commuter-friendly provisions and also usually feature a more aggressive fit than their all-road minded cousins, but still make great commuters with some modifications.

Mountain Bikes 

Pros: Upright riding position, super durable
Cons: Heavier than other options, slow on tarmac, not the most versatile
 

Recommendations from Bike Radar: The upright riding position and sturdy nature of a mountain bike has long made it a popular choice for commuters. While a mountain bike’s stock knobbly tyres are great if your commute follows an off-road route, they will add a considerable amount of drag when riding in town. If you plan on using a mountain bike solely for commuting, we’d recommend that you fit slick tyres to unleash its full potential. We would also recommend that you steer clear of full-suspension mountain bikes if your main aim is commuting because you’ll just be paying for a load of technology that you’ll never use. Instead, look for a cross-country bike, even one that’s fully rigid, and as with everything else, ensure it has all the mounts you need to make the bike more commuting friendly.

Globally, spending on smart transport is projected to reach nearly US$4 billion a year by the end of 2020 as urban planning authorities turn to technology to help reduce many of the transport problems our rapidly expanding cities are experiencing. Some of the technology already exists, some is just around the corner and some may or may not happen at all.

Bicycles communicating with vehicles as automation rolls out across the road. Smart cities building insights on traffic flows to plan better cycling infrastructure. Information in the hands - and on the handlebars - of cyclists to enable faster and safer journeys. These scenarios are part of the vision for the future of road transport and some are already becoming a reality today.

A smart approach to using new tech could help create a better experience for riders, while aiding the creation of safer and more attractive urban spaces for two-wheeled transport.

At Torch we are assessing all areas of technology advancement while maintaining the simplicity of Being safe. Being seen. While our technology research continues, we are believers that underdeveloped and ‘fad’ technology even in its simplest form can, at times, be a distraction to the rider and therefore dangerous when your key senses to maintaining your own safety remain human.

We will integrate technology of differing degrees in the future that prioritises the safety and convenience of the rider or commuter. We are, however, a huge fan and advocate of technology that supports convenience and is an enabler to our customer’s journeys especially when it is built into the fabric of our cycling environment.

In this blog, we review some of the latest information from the 2020 Deloitte Report which focuses on technology to improve cities, health data, workplace technology, how bike-sharing is on the rise and opportunities to make cycling socially safer.

 

Technology can help redesign cities

For the past century, cities have primarily been designed around cars. Bicycles and their needs for space and storage have usually been an afterthought, if indeed they were thought of at all. The construction of a 10-story garage would not merit a write-up in a local newspaper. The opening of a three-story bike park adjacent to a train station in Utrecht, Netherlands made news around the world.

But although cars are likely to remain prevalent for decades to come, a growing number of cities are beginning to reallocate available space to accommodate other forms of transport, including bicycles. Giving bikes more space is very likely a critical step toward making cities more hospitable to bicycle use: Many people who might otherwise embrace cycling are frightened off by the prospect of sharing a crowded road with big metal vehicles with only a helmet for protection. The good news is that there is plenty of space to reallocate. The United States has more than a billion parking spaces, for instance, and more than half of all of the country’s downtown space is given over to roads or parking.

In some cities, effective road redesign has prompted notable habit changes. London has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in creating standalone bike lanes. Partly as a result, cycle journeys in the city grew by 5 percent in 2018, with more than 4 million kilometres travelled by bike each day. The deployment of a dedicated bike lane on one of London’s busiest bridges, which required the removal of a lane previously used for cars, enabled a 5 percent increase in the number of people crossing the bridge during peak usage hours.

Data and analytics technologies can aid urban planners’ efforts to devise bicycle-friendly solutions. The amount of data available to planners is growing, while advances in analytics are making this data ever more useful. London’s transport authority is using a digital tool called Cynemon to help inform investments in the city’s bike lanes. This tool applies algorithms to data synthesised from multiple sources to determine what routes bikers are most likely to take along Greater London’s network of streets and urban paths.

Strava, whose consumer app collects data from millions of bikers and runners around the world, aggregates and anonymises this data through its Metro product and makes it available to departments of transportation and city planning groups to use in improving bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Depersonalised, aggregated data from mobile network operators could also be used to understand commuter journeys.

Bicycles and bike accessories themselves can be fitted with location and motion sensors to yield useful data. In the United Kingdom, Manchester’s city council subsidised a program that equipped bikers with See.Sense lights to capture data on routes, journey times, problem spots such as potholes, and key pinch points or stoppages. The council used the aggregated and anonymised data to understand what routes cyclists were using and where safety concerns were highest due to factors such as lack of infrastructure, adverse road conditions, or overexposure to traffic.

Health Data

The health benefits of bicycling and other forms of exercise have been proven many times over. As just one example, one major study that followed 236,450 participants for five years found that bicycling to work was associated with a 41 percent lower risk of dying compared with commuting by car or public transport.

Cyclists also had a 52 percent lower risk of succumbing to heart disease than non-cyclists, and a 40 percent lower chance of dying from cancer. Even riding an electric bike can improve a person’s health; an e-bike may require less effort, but less effort does not mean effortless. One US study found that people who rode e-bikes for 40 minutes each week for a month improved in cardiovascular health, aerobic capacity, and blood sugar control, while also losing body fat. 

In association with national and local governments, health care systems could use data models to predict the long-term financial benefits of health improvements driven by behavioural modification programs. These analyses could then be fed into cost models for the redesign of cities and towns to encourage more bicycling.

 

Workplace Tech

We spoke last week about how Employers, too, should be involved in shaping healthier commuter habits. Many companies already invest heavily in a range of worker well-being initiatives. Businesses can encourage people to bike to work in many ways, such as converting existing car parking space to space for bikes (10 bikes can fit into a single standard car parking space).

New buildings could plan to build in ample space for bikes from the beginning; Zurich’s AXA Winterhur office, which was designed with 1,000 bike parking spaces, is one example. Office entrances could include a dedicated ramp for bicyclists.

Calendar apps can add further incentive by encouraging workers to bicycle to their next meeting rather than drive or take a cab. The app could show projected travel time for a range of options, including for mechanical and e-bikes; as observed previously, cycling in major cities is likely to be faster than driving or taking public transportation, and e-cycling faster still.

Bike-sharing on the rise

There are billions of bikes in the world, with hundreds of millions of them under individual ownership—but only a small fraction of them are regularly used. One reason for this is because bikes are seldom around when you most need them. With the rise of bikesharing, this is changing.

Bike-sharing makes bicycles available at the point of demand. More than 1,000 dock-based programs exist worldwide, representing tens of millions of shareable bikes. The bike-sharing market is even attracting bike manufacturers seeking to diversify; specialist folding bike manufacturer Brompton, for example, has 45 rental locations in the United Kingdom which we utilised in our recent blog Camera. Brompton. London.

 

Although bike-sharing usage is still relatively low—in the United States, for instance, only 45 million trips were made on shared bikes in 2018, as opposed to the 115 million cars and trucks driven on US streets every day —electrification should make bikes-haring more appealing in the future by offsetting one of its major current drawbacks: the weight.

Shared bikes are designed to be up to three times heavier than a standard bike, both to make them more robust and able to withstand heavy use, and to make them less attractive to would-be thieves. But heavy bikes can be harder to ride, and they may discourage the less fit from making the attempt. An electrified e-bike, on the other hand, can be both robust and easier to pedal than mechanical shared bikes.

 

Safer Cycling

A major reason that people do not ride bikes—of any type—is because of safety concerns. Here, too, technology can offer multiple solutions.

Manufacturing (3D printing) techniques can improve helmet crash resistance, and this is something that we at Torch are using to improve our products and bring a new version helmet (T3) to market in the next 12 months.

Technology can help protect bikers from social dangers as well. Female cyclists, in particular, can be at risk of being physically attacked, and are often subjected to verbal abuse from drivers or male cyclists about their clothing, speed, body size, or even the merits of bicycling while pregnant. To help combat these issues, manufacturers are beginning to integrate increasingly high-quality cameras into helmets, lights, and bikes.

Filming antisocial behaviour does not address the root of the problem, but it may deter or dampen it. Not only can this improve safety for women riders, but it may also help increase overall bicycling participation rates, which tend to be higher in markets where women feel safe bicycling. In the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark, for instance, there is minimal difference between male and female participation rates in cycling, and overall bicycling rates are among the highest in the world.

On the other hand, one study of trends in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia found that male cyclists outnumbered female cyclists by about two to one. In New York and London, about three-quarters of commuter cyclists are male.

As the government begin to roll out new cycle-to-work schemes, support for funding seems to be at a peak. Whether you choose to walk, run or cycle, the benefits of commuting have been widely publicised. This only tells half the story. How can our companies support us to help us become happier, better off and more enthusiastic employees?

There are huge upsides to the employer as well as the employee according to ‘We are cycling UK’:

“Becoming a cycle-friendly employer makes sense. Encouraging cycling helps tackle the business costs of congestion, reduces an organisation's impact on the local and wider environment and even attracts some tax incentives. What's more, it's likely that levels of absenteeism will drop.”

Flexible Working

Flexible working is an obvious solution to support commuting and can allow for out-of-hours travel and for people to commute off-peak, which reduces the stress of commuting and the time it takes. Occasional home working is another option, which eliminates the commute altogether. For some employees, it’s the relentless, everyday nature of commuting that wears them out. Even one day a week – such as Wednesday, the ‘hump day’ – without a commute can cut down the emotional and even financial burden. Overall, flexible working is an empowering, smart solution to the commuting burden. It also offers other benefits, such as attracting and retaining talent.

Cycle-to-Work Schemes

Cycling to work can save staff time as cyclists are naturally less vulnerable to traffic conditions. It also increases wellbeing due to the protective and endorphin-boosting benefits of exercise. This, may empower staff to leave later in the morning and arrive home earlier in the evening, improving work/life balance. Cycle-to-work schemes allow staff to get access to a bike, along with relevant accessories, in a tax-efficient way. The package is purchased by the employer and loaned to the employee tax-free, with the cost reclaimed in monthly deductions, normally as part of a salary sacrifice scheme.

Electric bikes are also included in the scheme, opening up cycling as a commuting option to those who have been excluded before due to the distance they live from the workplace.

There are several benefits to the employer: they save national insurance contributions on the employee’s reduced salary; they can treat the purchase as capital expenditure and claim the associated allowance and they should eventually be able to reduce the number of parking spaces offered to employees.

Workplace Challenges

Workplace challenges provide an engaging and successful way of promoting cycling at a workplace. They often involve organisations competing against each other to see who can get most people cycle-commuting. The results are impressive.

Showers, lockers and drying facilities

Showers help make some people much happier about cycling to work, especially during the summer. Many workplaces already offer showering facilities for their workforce in general, and they also benefit people who jog, go to the gym or exercise during their lunch breaks.

Lockers are useful for storing cycling clothes during the day and in the winter, having somewhere to dry them out after a rainy trip, is extremely welcome. This facility may be nothing more complex than a dedicated cupboard, with hanging rails and an efficient dehumidifier.

Cycle parking

Secure and convenient cycle parking at workplaces makes all the difference – and accommodating several cycles is much less costly than providing space for just one car.

Ideally, cycle parking should be near the premises, easy to reach, covered, secure and well designed. If there is nowhere outside to build a shelter, there may be somewhere indoors that could be converted into lockable bike storage. Wall hooks are good space-savers (inside or outside).

Please feel free to forward this email to your employer representative to allow them to build the case to support your commute or share on LinkedIn.

Stay safe on your commute. #LightTheNight

 

 

This weekend I grabbed a camera, hired a Brompton and tried to explore a different side of London as the pandemic restrictions lift. In this week’s blog I explore a little bit of our Capital. Over the coming weeks I will be aiming to look at different cities, towns, and speaking to our customers about their commuting journey. 

Seeing your city through a lens gives you a different view, a different experience and will challenge your thoughts. You start to notice things you've never seen before and photo opportunities that you normally wouldn’t. You also don’t have to be professional photographer to enjoy the experience, just getting out and really seeing your city is the key. I have included my images throughout the blog, and I would be very interested to hear what you think of them so please comment below or on our Instagram images.

Early Start

It was an early alarm at 0500 on Saturday 18th July but I wanted to capture first light against the epic buildings of London. I wasn’t going unprepared. I had done some research on the ‘best areas to photograph in London’ and thought that I could get some good shots around Waterloo and then on to Canary Wharf stopping somewhere in between for lunch and having a full day riding around on the Brompton which I had hired from Twickenham Station.

The whole experience of hiring the bike was a simple and enjoyable experience. Using the Brompton app, checking availability, booking a bike the day before and taking it out the locker was conducted with British efficiency. Is there such a thing? There seems to be with Brompton. Everything just worked.

This was my first experience on a Brompton Bike, and I was extremely impressed. The robust yet elegant construction was a joy to use on and off the train, in and out of cafes and on the road. At all times I felt safe. Even though it was a sunny day, I was also thankful for the Torch helmet as a few tunnels left me feeling a little vulnerable with visibility and being seen by passing traffic.

What is behind Waterloo Station?

As I said previously, I googled ‘best areas to photograph in London’ and a street came top that I had never heard of. I have lived in London for a few years now and have travelled into Waterloo Station for at least 10 years and never heard of a street that is a stone’s throw from the grand station entrance – Leake Street.

Leake Street (also known as the Banksy Tunnel) is a road tunnel in Lambeth, London where graffiti is tolerated regardless of the fact that it is against the law. The street is about 300 metres long, runs off York Road and under the platforms and tracks of Waterloo station.

 

The walls are decorated with graffiti, initially created during the Cans Festival organised by Banksy on 3–5 May 2008. The festival ran again on the August Bank Holiday weekend 2008.

I managed to grab a few images in the early hours, but my skills let me down a little here I think with lens choice and settings. I am not experienced enough just yet to really take advantage of low light environments.

The Millennium Bridge

Heading over to St Pauls I wanted to catch an image over the Millennium Bridge. I had seen this at night previously and this is definitely an area that speaks to the Torch Brand – innovative, futuristic, a commuter staple, exercise track etc. At night the bridge is lit with neon blue lights depicting some kind of futuristic scene from Tron mixed with the historical architecture of St Pauls Cathedral in the background. I am sure we will be here again to film a video later on in the year. Perhaps for a new product? Time will reveal all!

Contrast

The best thing about London is that you could spend the whole day in 100m by 100m square and find so many things to see and do. Racing past streets (now up to 3rd gear!), I could see a number of great photo opportunities, so I kept turning back on myself to take advantage of the moving light and shadows. I am learning that photography is all about light or the absence of light. The contrast can be powerful. I tried to get the shot below with contrasting light and no light along with the helmet to show how it can be used in night or day to equal effect.

The Wharf

By early afternoon I was getting a little weary after my early start so decided to grab some lunch before heading over to get a shot that I had seen in The Square Mile once; in between both Canary Wharf signs on the lower platform with the lights of the ceiling and escalators in the background. The platform station was empty, and I thought that with no-one around I would never have a better chance. I thought that I would be ultra-professional if I managed to get it in one take. I tool 57 shots. I think I need a lot more practice.

Home

Returning home after what seems to be an extremely long day on the bike, I realised that I had covered around 13km on the bike in the city. No wonder I was tired. Lock-down has not been kind for general fitness and I was truly exhausted by the time I got back to Twickenham to return the Brompton. This was just as easy to return with total cost of approx. £5 for the day. Bargain. At that point, I had also realised that I had spent no more than £20 for the entire day. A whole day of photography, exercise and exploration for £20!? When can I go again?

Over the coming weeks, as you return to a more normal way of life, tag us in with your images of your own city and/or commute @Torch_Apparel on Instagram.

Whether it’s to be a little 'greener', for economic, fitness or health reasons, one of the big impacts of COVID19 is that it has forced us to review certain habits. Read More
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