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Bicycle Speakers - Which one to choose?

I've been on the lookout for a reliable bicycle speaker to use on our monthly Night Pedal Cruising rides and after much research I've reached the point where I can't choose between the the Philips ShoqBox Bluetooth Wireless Speaker and the Scosche boomBOTTLE Bicycle Speaker. They're both robust, have great sound quality and fit neatly into a bicycle's bottle cage.  I've summarised the features of each speaker below, but would love some advice from anyone who owns either.


Optimised for the great outdoors the Scosche boomBOTTLE Bicycle Speaker is a tough weatherproof portable bluetooth speaker that fits conveniently in your bicycle's bottle cage allowing you to bring great tunes out on any ride.

A very popular choice of speaker among my friends the boomBOTTLE delivers clear crisp sound even at full volume in high traffic conditions via dual 40mm drivers and passive subwoofer. The rechargeable lithium polymer battery provides up to 10 hours of continuous music playback, long enough for even the most intense endurance rides or day of cycle touring.

Devices can be connected to the speaker wirelessly via bluetooth or via a 3.5mm AUX cable.

When it comes to quality and value for money the boomBOTTLE seems a little expensive compared to the Philips ShoqBox Bicycle Speaker but from what I gather this is a popular and well known brand of bicycle speaker.


Click to enlarge
The Philips ShoqBox Bluetooth Portable Speaker is a rugged speaker built to take a few splashes and knocks and still keep on performing. Encased in a robust rubber casing this speaker fits perfectly in a bicycle's drink bottle cage and is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery that lasts up to 8 hours.

Powered by two neodymium speaker drivers and Philips wOOx bass radiators, this speaker claims to offer loud, clear sound even in heavy traffic.

The speaker features wireless bluetooth connectivity allowing music to be streamed to the speaker from any bluetooth device which means less cables to get caught up on your bike. Devices without bluetooth however can be connected a 3.5mm AUX cable.

This speaker is a lot cheaper than the boomBOTTLE and while I don't need bluetooth compatibility at the moment it may be a handy feature to have in the future.

On the other hand I could save myself a lot of worry about prices and features and just go for something simple and cheap like the Ivation Multi-Function Bicycle Speaker but if I'm going to take the plunge I'd rather get something that will do the job and last well into the future.

I guess I'm torn on price. Friends recommend the boomBOTTLE, yet the ShoqBox is cheaper seems to offer more features so I'm kind of leaning in that direction. If you've had any experience with these products I'd love to hear from you before I buy.


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tips

Fitness Isn't a Goal, It's a Side Effect

In what I can only imagine is a very late New Years resolution my friend has started cycling to get into shape. Yet sadly after only a few rides she's losing her initial enthusiasm. She's discovered that when you're starting out, cycling can be hard work and to her it doesn't seem to be getting any easier.

I know how she feels. When I first took up running I was all enthusiastic, but running is hard work and its difficult to stay motivated. Running for fitness seems pointless, you have no destination, you're running for the sake of running, the stronger you get the longer you must run, you might as well be going around in circles. It's madness, and worse is that if you miss a running session you may start feeling guilty and nobody needs that kind of artificial pressure in their lives. Before long you justify quitting by concluding you just don't have time in your schedule for running.

Someone who has no love of cycling or bicycles who takes up cycling for fitness must feel exactly the same. Its a chore and we already have enough chores to get through each day.

This is why you need to turn your cycling time from dead time into meaningful time. I do this by cycling to work everyday. I'm getting daily exercise but the reason I'm cycling is to get to work, not to get fit. I cycle to the supermarket, I cycle to pick my daughters up from after school activities, I cycle with them to the park on weekends, I rarely cycle without a reason.

So, my friend lives in a small country town with a single main road and quiet backstreets, perfect. The town has a pub, a general store and a post office. So my suggestion to her was to forget cycling to get fit, instead decide that whenever she goes to the post office or general store she'll go by bike. Weather permitting, forget that the car is even an option for short trips within town. Before long whenever she leaves the house to go to the store she'll subconsciously head in the direction of her bicycle rather than the car.

Once you've established that pattern, you're getting exercise while actually getting something done. Your ride isn't as pointless as before, and the excuse "I don't have time for this" is no longer valid because going to the store is something you have to do anyway. Once cycling around town becomes second nature you'll never feel pressure to ride, you may not have to cycle every day either and as a result won't feel guilty about missing a ride because you're cycling when there is a real need, not an imagined one.

Before you know it your fitness will improve and you may even develop a love of bicycles and recreational cycling. But in reality, like millions here in Japan, you don't need to be on a fitness kick or even have an opinion of cycling in order to make the bicycle part of your daily transport mix.

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best,

Encouraging Employees to Cycle to Work

In an earlier article I outlined the benefits both tangible and intangible that bicycle commuters bring to businesses and I'd like to follow that up with another outlining actions that employers can take to encourage more employees to start cycling to work.

 I was recently contacted by the CEO of a company in Yokohama who has made the almost unheard of decision in Japan to encourage his employees to cycle to work. Citing environmental reasons along with physical and mental health benefits he believes that his company can benefit from happier healthier employees and has begun taking measures to promote bicycle commuting including providing access to facilities such as indoor bicycle parking and showers. He also encourages employees to commute by bicycle by paying for insurance and commuter fees, very forward thinking for a company in Japan.

These are all positive and encouraging moves from an employer but he contacted me asking if he could do even more to encourage his employees to commute by bike.

I suggested he consider the following facilities, services and incentives that various companies around the world provide their bicycle commuting employees. Some such as secure parking should be considered essential infrastructure, while other items represent incentives and bonuses that employers can offer employees to entice them away from their cars.

Secure Parking

The primary need bicycle commuters express is the need for safe, secure parking for their bicycles, undercover and out of the elements if possible. Wise or not many commuters have invested hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in their bicycles and ensuring they'll be there at the end of the work day is their main concern. In fact many people I contacted when researching this article said secure parking alone was their only requirement for bicycle commuting, anything more was considered a bonus.

Showers 

In hot and humid climates bicycle commuters expressed an interest in showers. Some may argue that we should ride according to the weather as to not work up a sweat, but during summers in Japan it is impossible to even stand in the sun without sweating let alone cycle, so dropping speed does not help. In the absence of showers many commuters carry an extra set of clothes, a towel, baby wipes and deodorant. For many showers would be welcome, but are not essential.

Lockers

Extra clothes, towels, baby wipes, deodorant, helmets, cycling shoes, bicycle commuters come with a lot of baggage and having somewhere convenient to store that during the day is is essential lest damp clothing get stored under a desk or, heaven forbid, forgotten for weeks in a desk drawer.

Insurance

The culture of fear has taught us that cycling is a dangerous activity (it's not) and we must insure ourselves. In fact Japanese companies are required by law to ensure their employees for the duration of their commute. As Japanese employers choose the most economical policies available cycling is never covered as a valid form of commuting to work, hence many companies ban cycling to work. To negate the issue and make bicycle commuting more attractive employers could cover their employees cycling accident insurance.

Commuter Fees

In Japan companies must also cover the cost of employees travel to work, usually in the form of a monthly train pass. Bicycle commuters currently occupy a grey space with the majority collecting commuter fees while cycling to work. Companies can save money by paying bicycle commuters a commuting fee based on the distance they travel, or the average number of rainy days that can be expected in a year. Whatever the method used to calculate the payment, bicycle commuters should not end up having to pay for the occasional train commute.

Cash Incentives

Related to the topic above, some employers go so far as to offer bicycle commuters a cash incentives. Based on the number of consecutive days spent cycling, distance cycled or simply an arbitrary lump sum a financial incentive is a great way to get people cycling. In return employers benefit from happier, healthier more alert and productive employees.

Skills Training

Many employees don't cycle because they lack the confidence and skills, others believe they're not physically fit enough and can't possibly go the distance. Without getting on a bicycle on the first place employees never come to understand just how easy, fun and invigorating cycling is. Employers can encourage more employees to ride by offering a day of bicycle safety and skills training, getting people on bicycles and giving them the skills to ride safely. In addition to promoting cycling as a valid form of transport, by including employees who have no intention of cycling they, as motorists, get a look at the issues cyclists face on the roads which will hopefully make them more considerate of cyclist in the future. Its a great team building exercise too!


Free Breakfast

A long commute can leave an employee famished, therefore some companies are known to give bicycle commuters free breakfast in the company cafeteria. Not only are employees being well fed, socialising over a cafeteria breakfast has the added benefit of improving communication at the workplace.


Dry Cleaning Pick Up and Drop Off

This is a luxury item, but it allows employees to leave business suits and shirts at the office rather than having to ferry them back and forth from home on their bicycles. This service could also be used to give bicycle commuters cycling gear a good clean up once in a while. Sure its a luxury, but one that makes a lot of sense.

Cycling Packs

Some employers provide bicycle commuters with a "Cycling Pack" of convenient accessories for bicycle commuting at the beginning of each year. The pack may include such items as lights, reflectors, locks, tools, inner tubes, rain wear etc. The presentation of the cycling pack presents another opportunity to educate cyclists about cycling safely and promote cycling to work.

On Site Equipment and Tools

A bicycle pump, patch kit, some simple tools readily available at the bicycle parking lot is a very small gesture employers can make, but one that is greatly appreciated by employees.

Mechanical Support

Not everyone is comfortable with the mechanical side of cycling and the thought of mechanical failure and ending up late for work could be preventing employees from cycling. Some companies have been known to have a bicycle mechanic visit monthly to take care of any issues employees may be having with their bikes. Others nominate a mechanically skilled employee to be available to assist with changing a flat tyre and other simple maintenance tasks as they arise. The security of knowing there is support available when things go wrong well help more employees make the shift to the bike.

Community

Bicycle commuters are social creatures. Giving them a forum to share ideas and information, be it a company mailing list or online forum is a great way to keep enthusiasm high among riders. Such a forum allows commuters to alert each other to dangers they've noticed on the roads around the office such as roadworks or particularly dangerous drivers, it allows them to share alternative route information, and to organise group rides to and from the office if they believe in safety in numbers. In addition to this a little friendly banter, and the sense of belonging to a group, may keep people who would otherwise drift away from bicycle commuting around for a while longer.

Cycling to work benefits employees, employers, the environment and even the economy. As an employer in the face of the numerous benefits cycling employees bring a company you'd be crazy not to support cycling to work.




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night pedal cruising

Night Pedal Cruising, The New Tokyo Ride

Last month's Night Pedal Cruising Tokyo Ride was a great success in which over 40 riders took in the sights of old Tokyo, including the Imperial Palace, Tokyo Station, Ueno Park and Kaminari-mon at Senso-ji, by night.

On this months ride the "New Tokyo Ride" we shun with the traditional and head on over to one of the newest and most rapidly growing areas of Tokyo, Odaiba. Situated on reclaimed land much of Odaiba has been reserved for venues for the Olympic Games in 2020 and it is undergoing immense reconstruction.

We will gather at the Aoyama United Nations University Farmers Market at 5:30pm on Saturday June 21, and will set off at 6:00pm. The ride will pass through Aoyama Ichome and Roppongi, passing Tokyo Tower before a  break at Shiba Park in the shadow of the tower itself.  From there the ride will continue through Past Tsukiji, and over Harumi Bridge before reaching one of the many parks in Odaiba.

The pace is slow, the distance not too great, the company is excellent and you're all invited!

As always it is recommended that you ride with both front and rear lights, bring your camera and if possible a radio or other sound system. (We really need more tnes on our rides!)

This month I hope to be sporting a new bicycle horn!

Full details about the ride can be found here.

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Police in Japan Give Cyclists Free Raincoats

Japan's rainy season is here, it started raining last Thursday literally has not stopped as I write this on Sunday.

 Naturally in a country that relies upon the bicycle for transport as strongly as Japan a little rain, not even a solid month of tropical rainstorms, is going to stop people from cycling. You can't just hang up your bike till the rainy season ends when the bicycle is your primary means of transport.

This means that people cycling while holding umbrellas are out in force, on the streets, on the pavement, battling the rain, and wind. This disturbs the local constabulary as on the books cycling while holding an umbrella (and technically cycling one handed) is against the law.

But people must cycle, and people will cycle through the rainy season regardless of what the law says, and as the Japanese police would face publish backlash if they started enforcing cycling laws they've not enforced for decades they've had to come up with an alternative plan of action.

On June 5 a group of volunteers gathered at Saitama's JR Musashi Urawa station handing out free raincoats, and bicycle safety pamphlets to all cyclists they noticed cycling with umbrellas.

While I personally think there is nothing wrong with a responsible adult cycling while holding an umbrella, I have to tip my hat to the Saitama Prefectural Police Department for coming up with a campaign that doesn't punish cyclists, but presents them with a valid alternative, offering them an opportunity to change their behaviour.

Not often I say this about the Japanese police force, but well done!

While on the topic of umbrellas, if you do insist on cycling while holding an umbrella, especially at night, you may want to try the illuminated Bright Light umbrella which has two krypton lamps inside that light the area beneath the umbrella. With six designs available its a steal at ¥4090 for adults and ¥3070 in children's sizes.



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family,

Do your kids love crafts and bikes?

After a morning of cleaning our bicycles, my youngest daughter had nothing but love for her sparkling clean machine. All the dirt was gone, as was the grease, the faded stickers, and glue residue from stickers which had been peeled off long ago.

My daughter proudly wielded a screwdriver for the first time, removing a bell from her old bicycle, cleaning it, and using it to replace the one that came with her new bicycle. One that she's never been happy with, due to its tinny sound, and hard to reach location. She solved that problem and fixed it with her own hands.

Once finished she insisted we ride to the nearby ¥100 store but would not tell me why, just that she had a good idea which required I ride with her to the ¥100 store (and provide her with ¥300!) Intrigued by what she could possibly be planning we set off.

At the ¥100 store she proceeded to purchase two craft punches, one in the shape of a star, and the other shaped like a cat. She also bought a roll of reflective tape and I could see her plan coming together.

Back home she quickly stamped out a pile of reflective star and cat shaped stickers before heading downstairs to stick them all over her bicycle. But the genius of her creative idea did not end there as she had planned from the beginning to use her cute new stickers to cover up scratches and marks on her frame.

Now her bicycle is spotlessly clean, there isn't a scratch to be seen and although small, her stickers play a part in making her more visible at night without looking ugly by day.

If your kids love bikes and craft I can highly recommend this activity, as for a few hundred yen your children can punch out literally hundreds of stickers with which to decorate their bikes and when a child is proud of their bike they will want to ride it all the time.

(Oh, you don't have to be a child to enjoy this activity either!)

I'm so proud of my daughter for coming up with this idea, the fact she worked so hard cleaning her bicycle and that she solved the problem of her hard to reach bell all by herself.

I've had a great day, made all the better by the fact that now I have reflective cat stickers on my bike too!

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