Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Turbo Wagon

Volvo ran some good adverts back in the day. And given you can fit a double mattress (or a good bike collection) in the back of a 740 they're pretty much on topic. Pfff car nostalgia.


HK Toilet: Cafe Gray

One of the great things about Hong Kong is undoubtedly it's toilets. The pollution, the anti-cycling stance, the most expensive housing stock in the world, even the mainland madness on Canton Rd- ALL CAN BE FORGIVEN after a nice panoramic pee in a 5 star hotel! Kicking off a little series where I shall try to avoid the gollum like creatures jumping out of marble access panels, here is cafe gray's toilet on the 49th floor of the Upper House hotel in Admiralty. Full props go to the use of mirrors and sculpted dual access basin (good for avoiding gollum). And of course, the view speaks for itself with a dual take on the lower Peak 'burbs on the right and Wan Chai through to Kowloon Peak to the left. Perhaps a little more glamour could be injected into the urinal experience, but that said, cafe gray certainly takes it's place in the lexicon of Hong Kong luxury lavatorial landscape. Mix with high tea and cream scones.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Late last year I took part in a day of trail building with the AFCD in Tai Lam Country Park to contribute a little to the cause of getting some more legal trails open in these parts. A fun day out, I was amazed at how much I learned about what goes into a successful mountain bike trail, and more than anything, how much effort it takes! Clearly the cut of my cloth was shown up in the state of my palm, but that's a price well worth it, especially when you see, then ride, the fruits of our labour. Photo below courtesy of HKMA:

'Ed's berm' (unofficial title among certain circles) rocks!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sky and Snow

For once in my life I'm quite happy not to be cycling on the Italian Riviera.


Monday, March 18, 2013

HK vs. SZ Top Ten Tallest

As a follow up to yesterday's post on riding in Shenzhen, I thought I'd do a bit of research on how the building heights / forms compare between the two cities, using this 'Top 10' diagram I managed to collage from http://skyscraperpage.com/diagrams/.

Hong Kong is famous world wide for it's tall buildings, and the opening of ICC in 2010 as the world's 4th tallest building was fairly global news. But Kinky Tower, sorry King Key tower, as the tallest building ever built by a British Architect (Terry Flannel) and in at number 9, didn't seem to garner so much attention. I must admit, that whilst I've seen it from a distance, I didn't visit yet either... What jumps, when you put these diagrams side by side, is how similar Kinky looks to the Hong Kong stalwart, IFC. I don't think that plays out in 3D so much, but it suggests a trend that Shenzhen picks up where Hong Kong left.

Picking this theme up, comparing Shenzhen's Excellence Century Plaza (the rhombus one with a snappy title) with HK's Bank of China, there are certainly similarities. Excellence Plaza also reminds me of New York's Hearst Tower, but without the integrity of structure and form (this is perhaps not so important for the Chinese...) In fact, when considering what is important to the Chinese, the fact triangles & rhombi features heavily across the top 10 for both cities is a little surprising given triangles are meant to give off bad feng shui. Certainly there are a lot of formal games that are shared between the towers of both these cities.

Another key similarity is how recent all these buildings are. A similar diagram of New York would give you 5 of it's top 10 tall buildings built in the thirties,  whilst Hong Kong will, at best, give you 4 from the nineties. I.M.P Pei's Bank of China is the elder statesman of this chart, following completion in 1990. Shenzhen tops that with just 2 from the 20th Century, the oldest being complete in '96. Shenzhen certainly 'wins' (if that is the game) when it comes to newness.

Where Hong Kong 'wins' is in it's height. Thanks to ICC, Kinky Tower does not take that crown, and going down the Top 10, HK tends to have an extra 10 stories or so on average. I'm sure if you'd done this comparison 10 years ago the difference would be much more pronounced. And I wouldn't be surprised if Shenzhen 'won' this rather pointless battle in another 10 years.

The efficiency gains of building tall tend to be overtaken by the technological challenges / costs of going big around a certain threshold, that I'll guess to be around 50 stories in the current dawn. After which it's all about prestige and image. My perception is that Shenzhen has struggled globally to lift it's image to anything approaching Hong Kong, and there are still a lot of people in the West who've never even heard of the city. However, global perceptions of China in general, as per Shenzhen's quota of tall buildings, are changing very fast. And I guess how this manifests itself in the scale elevations of mankind's tall stuff is the real point of any height 'battle'. Mies said "Architecture is the will of an epoch translated into space". No one said it had to be pretty.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


There are rides when you push the boundaries of how far / how high / how fast. And there are rides where you push the boundaries of what constitutes rideable terrain. Usually that would be on a mountain bike, but this weekend I pushed the boundaries a bit (for me) on what constitutes a rideable road. Shenzhen is a modern Chinese city designed around the motor car, with bikes generally relegated to the occasional Flying Pigeon wandering across the pedestrian crossing with a bunch of leeks sprouting out back. 

But with the speedo touching 50kph 100km into my Tour of Shenzhen with Colossi's Sander Kole, it did occur to me that riding 5 lane highways can actually be quite fun after all! I guess when you don't have so many options for good riding roads in the city you make do and adapt. And yes, we did get a glimpse of the nicer roads available down on the Shenzhen 'riviera'- these shots were taken on a nice little climb right by the Yantian border crossing. The greenery just past the fence is in fact Hong Kong! Before you ask, I didn't have the balls to take my iPhone out on the 5 lane highway... Still, nice to do something a bit different and clock a few km's on the flat with the impetus to keep the pace high to stay alive. Next time it's 'all in' right down the coast, perhaps without the fake handbag haul for afters.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Let's play spot the difference! I'll give you a clue- one is in Qatar, one is in Hong Kong... Let's hope Rem can do better than Tung Chung.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Copper Elements

There's quite a few articles in the Financial Times about biking these days, and they really know their stuff when it comes to 'how to spend it'. Take, for example, this £5500 track bike- complete with leather saddle and copper painted, errr, elements... hmmm....


Friday, March 8, 2013

Statue Sq.

I really don't do enough drawings around Hong Kong- a bit like reading it has become more of a holiday activity (discounting the more professional variety...). But as with my New Year's Resolution to read more books in 2013, I think I should also draw more. This only took 20 minutes and was a nice head clearing space between finishing work and going out for dinner- I guess it pays to keep the moleskin in the man bag.... Also nice to have a proper scanner at home at last!

F41 Lounger

I'm a big fan of everything Marcel Breuer, especially his chairs. Whilst this bicycle chain driven piece might not have aged quite as well as the iconic Wassily tubular chairs (a certain pair of vintage fakes warrant a future post), you've got to love the pram meets go-kart aesthetic.


Thursday, March 7, 2013


I'm due an update to my virtual 'Bike Bookcase' below, especially since 'It's not about the Bike' moved into the fiction category. One recent purchase where such truths are not so pertinent to the book's message is this rather nice book on the history of Cinelli, including a foreword by Paul Smith. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Magic Mirror

I must admit that with this all this space dust and magic mirrors, Normski does seem to be back on form.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Scot Inspired English

There are TT bikes and there are TT bikes. There are obsessive frame builders and there are obsessive frame builders. In case you missed this best of NAHBS show steel machine, this is what you call an obsessive TT bike by an obsessive frame builder- Rob English. Graeme Obree meets Archibald Russell.


Catenary Pavilion

Some nice thinking going on here: