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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Come and check us out in Belgium if you are close by.
Bernard will be looking out for you!
We’re proud to be sponsoring Love To Ride with their Cycle September campaign. It’s the final week, which means the last push to earn points now! If you haven’t done so already, register yourself and your workplace to start earning points here (18-24 September 2017).
Who knows you maybe with a chance to win one of our T2 helmets, everyone who takes part will go into the draw and there are some other awesome prizes to make you better equipped for getting on two wheels. Happy cycling!
First and foremost we would like to thank you all for supporting and backing our campaign.
It's incredibly painful to have to do this, but we will be canceling our Indiegogo campaign.
While we achieved our funding goal to pay for tooling expenses, we haven’t reached the minimum number required to launch production. This minimum number is set by our manufacturing partners and even if they agreed to make a smaller batch than initially planned, the production cost will be too high to deliver Torch M1 at the Indiegogo price.
We are very disappointed to not launch production right now but it’s more important to us to make sure that we can deliver on quality and at the best price.
We are immensely thankful for all of your support during this campaign and all the nice comments you made about Torch M1. We are extremely sorry to not be able to deliver this time around, but we have gained valuable insight that will assist in our continued development of high-quality products for cyclists.
The Torch Apparel team
We’ve been busy these last few months, back in development mode working on the world’s brightest bike helmet, the M1.
Ever since launching our first helmet, we’ve listened to our backers and our latest helmet is designed for trail, rural and urban riders. It’s the first bike helmet with an integrated 500 lumen headlight and taillight that lights your path and keeps you visible, with a 30 degree wide beam. The helmet has added ventilation, a removable visor and a front light capable of lighting your path.
The M1 is about those off-road biking experiences, and making sure you can max out on adrenaline highs by giving you a helmet to navigate night riding, or simply to help you light the night and be seen by others.
The rechargeable and removable light is integrated seamlessly into the M1, giving the helmet its unique sleek appearance as well as ensuring the positioning of the light allowing you to focus the beam where you need it.
Watch the video below to see the M1 in action >
Our crowdfunding campaign for the M1 is coming soon, to save up to 50% on the cost of one of these awesome helmets simply sign up via email or Facebook click here.
We headed to Copenhagen recently and were in awe of how cycling is a big part of city life. From our visit we understood why Copenhagen has been voted the best cycle city for two years running.
The Danes have got something right with their 350kms of cycle paths and lanes that are safe and easy to navigate, particularly as many of them are raised from the road. This has helped make cycling become a common and indeed preferred means of transport - you can often see people in suits, heels or skirts, even a man with a fridge in his cargo bike effortlessly pedalling past!
Being able to cycle freely meant we could easily explore places and sights in Copenhagen, as well as helping us feel more like a local.
There’s no need to bring your own wheels (we did take our T2 helmet though), as there are lots of bike rental shops around the city. You can expect to pay around 75kr ($8.50/£6.50) for one day’s rental and 350kr ($40/£31) for a week.
We’re already planning our return trip to get the most out of this bike-crazy city!
You can find out more and discover Denmark on a bike here >