Author Topic: Cycling websites

sam

  • Guest
Cycling websites
« on: July 10, 2005 »
As written for Cycling Plus magazine.

Type 'bicycle' into Google and you get 21 million hits. It's going to be my job to help you narrow that down.

A computer on your desktop is the perfect accessory to the bike in your shed. Cyclists have been on the net from the beginning, exchanging tips, arguing about helmets, flogging cranksets... and creating websites which serve as digital panniers to hold all the bits and pieces which help define their passion. For something so sedentary, it can be the perfect spur for activity; browsing and clicking often lead to riding. And writing. It was after visiting 'Are you safe on a bike?', a quiz about road positioning, that I got the rough idea for my own road test.

So, where to start? The sites reviewed here will give you food for thought until at least the next issue. Captainbike.com is an encyclopedia of technical information; cyclehelmets.org is as good a place as any and better than most for calmly immersing yourself into the facts and fallacies of helmets; drunkcyclist.com can be your night down the pub, though probably not your local; ctc.org.uk is the cyber home of the venerable Cyclists' Touring Club; notanothercyclingforum.net/bikereader is a library of cycling culture; and cyclingplus.co.uk maintains a sideline in magazine publishing. Happy surfing.

sam

  • Guest
drunkcyclist.com
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2005 »
Bookmark: drunkcyclist.com
Webmastery: html on testosterone
Hits: 6/10

Think Jack Hackett from Father Ted: Girls! Bikes! Drink!  A wild ride of gonzo bloggery ending in the red light district, this decidedly un-PC site is best viewed after the watershed; avoid it at work unless you’ve got your own, very private cubicle. Juvenile and brilliant in unequal measure, it’s occasionally hilarious in the style of the late great American journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Call it fear and loathing from the saddle.

The animated .giffery won’t be everyone’s idea of a good time, and you may want to wipe down your favourites bar the morning after. As the man says: "Just 'cause I slept with you last night doesn't mean I'll ride with you today."

Served with a loving spoonful of ads which will give feminists a heart attack, but political links which will please those on the lefty libertarian end of the spectrum. Almost wrote speculum.

sam

  • Guest
cyclehelmets.org
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2005 »
Bookmark: cyclehelmets.org
Webmastery: unflashy but content rich
Hits: 8/10.

If you’ve ever been drafted into a skirmish over helmets but found yourself short of reliable ammunition, look no further: this international resource is manned by a platoon of researchers dedicated to examining all available evidence with a sharp eye for debunking myths. Administered by the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation, a relentlessly fair-minded body with a panel of mostly academic patrons including the redoubtable Mayer Hillman, cyclehelmets.org is an oasis of meticulously footnoted facts, including this bunker buster: "99% of head injuries seen by UK hospitals do not involve road cyclists."

As might be expected from such a scholarly enterprise, it’s dry enough to start a fire. Better eye candy would also be nice: graph fatigue is a real danger.

So, are helmets a Good Thing? Pro-helmet partisans may find themselves ducking for cover under the safety of personal anecdotes in which polystyrene saved the day. The unconvinced, cushioned by case studies, will be claiming victory.

sam

  • Guest
ctc.org.uk
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2005 »
Bookmark: ctc.org.uk
Webmastery: like a nice cup of tea
Hits: 10/10

The Cyclists’ Touring Club (patron: Queen Elizabeth II) has been around since 1878. It’s the oldest such organisation in the UK “and probably the world”. Fortunately their website is satisfyingly up to date. With 70,000 members, some of whom may have broken in their Brooks saddles before the coronation and most of whom must have computers or at least heard rumours of them, a solid online presence is a must.

After a spate of technical issues in the past, the site has improved vastly and now offers a smooth ride. The information available is voluminous and well-ordered, presented in neatly competent fashion. Everything you’d care to know about the CTC, its policies, resources, and the issues which affect its members, is here somewhere.

It has a technical department fed from a large library of clippings from their magazine Cycle, pleasantly unpushy advocacy, message boards, and offers historical morsels: in 1899 “Lady Harberton, wearing ‘rational’ cycling dress, was refused service” at a hotel in Surrey. She’s probably still a member.

sam

  • Guest
captainbike.com
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2005 »
Bookmark: captainbike.com
Webmastery: retro
Hits: 10/10

Almost every web-savvy cyclist runs into Captain Bike, a.k.a. Sheldon Brown. He's a fixed star in the cyberverse, his extraordinary database seemingly online since the big bang itself. Need to find what size bottom bracket goes with your crank set? Looking for a gear calculator? Want to know why coasting is a pernicious habit? He's got it all covered, with a side order of deliciously creaky humour and a little help from expert contributors.

Sheldon isn't just a massive web presence. He runs Harris Cyclery in Massachusetts, where presumably customers go to gawp in person and buy devotional pamphlets.

The site interface is like your utility bike: nothing anybody would want to nick, but gets the job done. As he writes, "If you like fancy graphics and animations, I'd suggest you turn on your television." Slartibartfast from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, world builder and artiste, whom I always imagined to look like Sheldon, would sigh and continue building fjords.

sam

  • Guest
cyclingplus.co.uk
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2005 »
Bookmark: cyclingplus.co.uk
Webmastery: mirror mirror on the wall
Hits: you decide

I was a little surprised when the editor asked me to review the C+ site, but he has assured me I’ll get paid no matter what I write, though it may be in melted chocolate Euros. The truth is this magazine maintains a perfectly respectable web presence and shouldn’t be taken to task just because the occasional advert for bikini wax slips through.

There is plenty here that’s useful, including tests, routes, a race calendar, and a readers ads section which almost caused a riot on the forum (17,000 members strong) when it was removed from there and placed on the ‘main’ site.

It’s what you’d expect from Future Publishing: Good quality, with a sharp eye on the bottom line.

sam

  • Guest
bikereader.com
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2005 »
Bookmark: notanothercyclingforum.net/bikereader
Webmastery: space: the final frontier
Hits: no rating

There isn't much one can say about this site that it hasn't already said about itself: "One day I was bored and started typing random letters into a search engine," claims 'Bob' on a page of testimonials, "but it turns out they weren't so random after all. I was instantly transported to notanothercyclingforum.net/bikereader and now my life has changed in unfathomable ways." This is a very large anthology of literature and art masquerading as a one-liner.

You won't find a great deal of useful information here, like how to buy a bicycle or build a wheel, but should you want to read A Bike History of Time, study Traffic Zoology, or visit the Saharan Margins, it's covered. And then some.

Contributors include Jeremy Paxman, Boris Johnson, Alain de Botton, Mark Twain - reports of whose death turn out not to have been exaggerated - and a herd of cycling journalists, including yours truly, who knows a good gig when he sees one.

sam

  • Guest
bikejournal.com
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2005 »
Bookmark: bikejournal.com
Webmastery: the numbers all add up
Hits: 8/10

Statspotters and the web? Sounds like a marriage made in heaven. “Designed to provide you, the avid or recreational biker, with a convenient and fun way to track your rides and meet other cyclists for camaraderie, motivation, and even competition,” bikejournal.com is anorakish fun, and I don't mean that in a bad way. The idea here is to input a variety of data points to provide a public spreadsheet of your accomplishments: Excel as a spectator sport.

This is not a place to go if you’re feeling extra proud of your 20 miles a week. Some of the numbers simply boggle the mind. Were you to take the accumulated total of all 8,000+ members we might be talking astronomical units here. As they say: “Ride. Log. Repeat.” Ad infinitum.

The signup procedure – configuring your journal - is of necessity long-winded because it’s so thorough, but once you get through that you have the keys to the kingdom, which includes a forum.

sam

  • Guest
cyclingnews.com
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2005 »
Bookmark: www.cyclingnews.com
Webmastery: broadsheet coverage
Hits: 7/10

This "world centre of cycling" is "updated on an almost hourly basis," a suitably breathless promise which should satisfy its intended audience of race junkies in constant need of a fix. News, articles, reviews, letters, 'special sponsorship features' which help pay the rent, and more compete for your immediate attention. You can bring along your BMX, cyclocross, mtb or track bike while you’re at it. A full range of tastes is catered for.

The photos alone are probably worth the clicks; not so much for their artistry as their immediacy and the loving care with which every grimace or component is captured for your edification.

The proprietors appear to have all the angles covered in this competitive niche, and haven’t left out the shopping experience (it’s Australian, mate). Shame about the restless ads, which may only be truly appreciated by sufferers of attention deficit disorder.

sam

  • Guest
ragingbike.co.uk
« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2006 »
Bookmark: www.ragingbike.co.uk
Webmastery: a calming influence
Hits: 8/10

Robert DeNiro used to ride a bicycle to his auditions in New York City. Maybe that’s where he got his inspiration for the embryonic Raging Bull mirror scene in Taxi Driver: “You looking at me?” As cyclists, we certainly hope motorists are looking at us; just not the wrong way.

The Incidents section in Raging Bike is a database of misplaced aggression, a roll-call of highway code violators. Registration offers a chance to vent your spleen, which hopefully you haven’t left on the road.

The raison d’etre of the site concerns the cataloguing of another type of emission, however. Nine of them to be exact; all fairly noxious-sounding when mixed in a smoky brew, and available at the nearest tailpipe. “After specifying some demographic data, users enter their miles travelled and the system does the rest, calculating personal contributions on an on-going basis.” Aggragated and displayed as a green report card, the figures drive home the ecological credentials of the humble cyclist.

You looking at me?