The BikeCode

Version 0.2.1a [FullScottishBreakfast] of 2001-04

BikeCode0.2 --
  P: [Tibs] Tc B10 K:++ i29:30" h1.65m n1960 H+:~ v~ A+ M+ Rg-
  B: [AnthroTech]   3tRu U1c w37" Wr19:406 Mfr SAf bDh[Sachs]:C
                    G3x7 8s Lrr1B Cb[Michael] VjsX col[MidnightBlue]
  T: [BurleyD'Lite] 2c2[Thomas] f++ VsX

Summary of codes Person, Bike, Trailer
General rules BikeCode components, Displaying the code
Overview of the specification Tables, Ranges, etc., Opinions, Position
The BikeCode header 
Per Person Prelude, Basic description, Personal measurements, Fitness, Opinions, Maintenance skills, Use of motor vehicles
Per bike Prelude, Basic description cluster, Use of bike, Dimensions, Technical specifications, Miscellaneous things
Per Trailer Prelude, Basic description cluster, Dimensions, Miscellaneous things, Pulled by...
Trailer bikes Always trailing, Sometimes trailing
Changes From BikeCode 0.1, From BikeCode 0.2 [FullEnglishBreakfast], From BikeCode 0.2.1 [FullScottishBreakfast]


I was driven to do this after (well, some considerable time after) reading David Martin's The theory of BIG, although I don't suppose he can really be blamed for my madness/stupidity. It also, of course, follows on in the "feetsteps" of such as the Bear Code, Code, Geek Code and Cantab Code (although my favourite is probably the Meta Geek Code), none of which should be blamed for anything except themselves...

If you use any of this, you're probably dafter than I am.

Whilst, of course, BikeCode0.2 replaces BikeCode0.1, you might still need to reference the older document for some reason, and if so you can find it here (at least for the moment).

If you're into mountain biking, you may also be interested in Matt Wenham's MTB code (which also has a simple form-based interface for generating codes).

Those URIs seem to be out-of-date, and I can't find a current link. However, there is a neat interface to construct an MTB code here, and another to deconstruct it here.

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Summary of codes

Person code

Starts with a P prelude.

P [ n ] : [ [ name ] ]

and then a sequence of codes (starting with the ob (if applicable), T and B codes, which are compulsory:

A Advocacy opinion
Aero Aerobelly
B BIG rating number
c Cadence number
D Distance dimension
D Electronics opinion
EC EC number number
F Fitness opinion
g Gender/sex code
H Helmet opinion
h Height dimension
i Inside leg dimension
K Kitchen sink carrying tendency opinion
L Clothing/Lycra opinion
M Maintenance skills opinion
MbMaintenance: number of components opinion
MiMaintenance: improvisation opinion
MpMaintenance: packrat points opinion
m Mass (weight) dimension
n Year born (nativity) [approx] year
O Oil (lubrication) opinion
obObligate cyclist
p Heart rate (pulse) number
Rg Retrogrouch opinion
T Type of cyclist code
trk Trackstanding opinion
V Van or other transport code
v Valve preferences opinion
W Welding skills opinion

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Bike code

Starts with a B or b prelude (or a TB prelude).

[ n ] : [ [ make ] ] [ brk [ [ detail ] ] ]
[ n ] : [ [ make ] ] [ brk [ [ detail ] ] ]
TB [ n ] : [ [ make ] ] [ brk [ [ detail ] ] ]

Continues with a basic description cluster:

#-of-wheels [ tandemness ] style

and then a sequence of codes:

()Fairings code
/ Pulled by (for a trailer bike) bikes
2 Tandem or sociable code
8 Suspension code
b Brakes code
C Child seat code
col Colour name
d Front or rear drive code
E Electronics opinion
F Fixed gears
f Folding opinion
fm Frame material code
G Gears code
H Homebuilt code
L Luggage code
l Length dimension
M Mudguards (fenders) code
m Mass (weight) dimension
O Oil (lubrication) opinion
P Power assist code
p Pedals code
ral RAL code for colour name
redRed paint
S Saddle code
s Steering front or back code
U Use of bike code
V Visibility aids code
Wr Wheel rim details code
Wt Tyre details code
w Width dimension

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Trailer code

Starts with a T or t prelude:

T [ n ] : [ [ make ] ]
t [ n ] : [ [ make ] ]

Continues with a basic description cluster:

#-of-wheels type [ count ] [ [ use ] ]

and then a sequence of codes:

/ Pulled by bikes
C Capacity dimension
f Folding opinion
H Homebuilt code
l Length dimension
M Mudguards (fenders) code
m Mass (weight) dimension
V Visibility aids code
Wr Wheel rim details code
Wt Tyre details code
w Width dimension

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General rules

BikeCode components

A BikeCode is made up of four components:

Within each component, individual codes are separated by spaces (the exception being the "clusters" that occur at the start of the bike and trailer descriptions, which are run into one "giant" code).

Each component starts on a new line.

The description components should all be indented by the same amount relative to the BikeCode header - either two or four spaces are recommended.

If an individual component needs to be split over multiple lines (typically, one should not use more than 72 characters per line), then the split should happen between codes, and the continuation line(s) should be indented (the same amount) relative to the first line of the component (basically, this makes things look prettier).

So one might have:

      P: person-data;
      B1: bike1-data
      B2: bike2-data;

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Displaying the code

One can, of course, just provide the code as is - for example:

  P: [AlfredJarry] ob T* B10..12 n1873 h1.25m H--:--
  B: 2O

Another alternative is to use a "code block" (rather like people use for PGP signatures). A comment line is an optional extra:

----- Begin BikeCodeblock -----------
Comment: See
  P: [AlfredJarry] ob T* B10..12 n1873 h1.25m H--:--
  B: 2O
----- End BikeCodeblock -------------

Using email message headers is another alternative:

X-BikeCode-version: 0.2
X-BikeCode-Part1: P: [AlfredJarry] ob T* B10..12 n1873 h1.25m H--:--
X-BikeCode-Part2: B: 2O

Note that in this case each description component of the BikeCode is represented as an X-BikeCode-Partn line. As an arbitrary restriction, you can only have up to 9 description components in an email message header BikeCode (surely enough!).

If the X-BikeCode-Partn lines are too long and need to be split, do so at whitespace (as normal), and follow the appropriate laws of email headers, which I leave to you and your email software to figure out.

Also, beware that some mail readers (notably, the Outlook "family" from Microsoft) will refuse to make any "non-standard" (whatever that means in a Microsoft context) header lines visible.

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Overview of the specification


Like all of these codes, we are assembling a cryptic collection of symbols to encode a lot of information in a short space. Why we're doing this is open to various interpretations, but I think the phrase "bloody minded" has to come in there somewhere.

Choices are presented in tabular form. If the appropriate code is one that is required (for instance, number of wheels on a bike), then it will look like this:

Compulsory -- Number of wheels
otherLarger numbers seem unlikely, but if you need one...

If the code is optional (for instance, inside leg measurement), then it will look like this:

Optional -- Inside leg measurement
i a inInside leg in inches
i a.b cmInside leg in centimetres

Note that in both cases "meta" information (i.e., things you have to fill in) are emphasised.

Also, attempting to present items in a compulsory or optional table in a clear manner might mean that some of the parts of a code are separated by spaces - for instance:

Optional -- Distance ridden
D type nDistance for type of ride type

Despite this, in use no spaces would be present (so one would have Dc3km, not D c 3km)

Examples are presented as follows:

Example -- Inside leg
i27inShort legs
i35inLong legs

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Ranges, etc.

Sequences (of numbers, or whatever) are indicated by separating the individual items by commas (,), with no intervening spaces.

Ranges are indicated by separating the extremes of the range by two dots (..), again with no intervening spaces (whilst a hyphen (-) might seem more usual, this wouldn't be very obvious if our range were (for instance) between + and -).

Alternatives are separated by a colon (:), again with no intervening spaces (but note that a colon is also used to separate different facets of an opinion).

Specifying ranges, etc.
1,2,5The sequence 1, 2 and 5
1..3The range 1 to 3
1..3,5The range 1 to 3 and 5
1:3Either 1 or 3

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Some codes indicate a "strength of feeling" (or "opinion"). Whilst the characters used for each code are specified with that code, the following are quite commonly found:

Strength of feeling
--No way, never, no how
-Not really, no, not very
 No particular opinion
+Definitely, yes
++Extremely so, oh yes, oh yes!
0Never (nb: that's a zero)
~Not sure
?Don't know
#Not saying, MYOB

The last three of those are always valid, even if not explicitly mentioned.

Note that in some opinion codes, the absence of the option is not the same as "No particular opinion" (which is normally the default). Such cases should explain themselves as appropriate.

If two versions of an opinion are to be declared, they are generally separated with a semi-colon - for example, ~:?.

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Some codes need to indicate a "position". These use the following position characters:


If more than one position character is to be used, they should be strung together, without spaces, in the order given - for example, fl or fblr. Context determines whether fl means "front left" or "front and left"...

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The BikeCode header

To identify that this is the Bike code we are talking about (rather than any of the other similar cryptic collections of ...), we start off with:

Compulsory -- BikeCode header
BikeCode versionIdentify this as a Bike Code
BikeCode version -- urlAlternative form, with URL for its definition

where version is the version of the BikeCode we can use to produce and possibly interpret the result, and url is a URL for a page explaining the BikeCode (for instance,

(If anyone wants to keep a mirror of this page, then feel free, and in that case a different URL might be appropriate.)

By the way, that's a space, two dashs ("-" and "-") and a space before the URL

Example -- BikeCode header
BikeCode0.2Version 0.2 of the BikeCode
BikeCode0.2 -- same thing

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Per Person


The first section of the bike code refers to the actual cyclist themselves. It may be omitted if you do not wish to describe yourself, or if you are (for instance) providing information about a type of bike (e.g., to describe its characteristics).

Each person description starts with a label.

Compulsory -- Bike header
P :The one person being described
P number :One of several people being described (the numbers start at 1 and ascend).

(For pedants reading ahead, there is no p label, since coding "the person you would like to be" (or, worse, have) is too silly even for me.)

If used, the numbers start at 1 and increase monotonically.

If you are describing several people (for instance, yourself and your partner), the numbers can be used to disambiguate them, which is especially useful if you have several bikes and want to indicate who ride them. The actual order of the numbers is taken to be meaningless (this is called "tact").

Example -- Person header
P:One person - probably me
P2:Another person - probably someone else

Sometimes, the most useful thing you can say about a person is what they're called:

Optional -- Name
[ name ]The name of the person

Ideally, this should be kept to a single "word", possibly by removing spaces:

Example -- Name
P1: [Tibs]Me
P2: [JoanPaterson]My partner

If you are referred to by more than one name, you'll have to decide which name you want to use.

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Basic description

If you never learnt to drive (or perhaps one should allow "never passed a driving test"), then you are an "obligate" cyclist and can start your "personal" string off with ob.

Optional -- Obligate
obObligate cyclist

What type of cycling you do comes next.

Compulsory -- Type of cycling
T cCommuting
T lLeisure
T tTouring
T xExercise (training)
T rRacing or time trials (should these be separated?)
T aAudax or similar
T *Cycling is your main means of transportation
T iIce
T sSnow
T oOffroad
T dDownhill racing
T wWater (presumably via very big tyres or outriggers, or using an HPV boat)
T fFlying (presumably an HPV boat aircraft of some form)

If you reckon more than one of these applies, you can have multiple codes - for instance:

Example -- Type of cycling
P: TcaCommuting and Audax

Next comes your BIG rating (according to David Martin's Theory of BIG)

Compulsory -- BIG rating
BnBIG rating, 0 upwards

Sometimes it makes sense to use a range (the value may depend on exactly what you're doing or riding). For instance:

Example -- BIG rating
P: Tca B9 Road Warrior
P: Tc B5..8Varying from Baldrick to Effective

It is left as an exercise for the person reading the BikeCode to work out what might lead to the BIG values you're supplying.

If you have a particular long (or short!) commute, or are proud of doing long tours, you may want to indicate the distance you typically do when doing a particular type of ride.

Optional -- Distance cycled
D type distDistance for type of ride type

The type is one of the cycling types used with the T code, and dist is a distance in either kilometres or miles. If you want to specify more than one distance then use multiple D codes - it gets too confusing to try to string them together.

For instance:

Example -- Distance cycled
P: Tc Dc10kmA commute of 10km
P: Tca Dc3.5mi Da200miA commute of 3.5 miles, and a double century "audax" style event

For reference, 1 mile is 1.6093 km, 1 km is 0.6214 miles.

The "Kitchen sink" code is used to indicate how likely you are to be carrying large quantities of stuff that might be useful - for instance, tools, food, liquid, the kitchen sink.

Optional -- Kitchen sink code
K--You might grudgingly carry a credit card and maybe some money
K- You try to journey as lightly as possible
K You carry what most people would consider a reasonable amount - the basic tools one needs to fix a puncture, tighten a nut, etc., maybe a bottle of water, and so on.
K+ You try to cater for most circumstances - it's probably worth asking you for a tool, a spare inner tube or a drink
K++The kitchen sink didn't fit in your panniers, but otherwise you would have brought it

If you think you're one rating on the kitchen sink factor, but other people disagree, give both with a : between them - for example:

Example -- Kitchen sink code
P: [Tibs] K:++I don't think I carry too much, but my partner is sceptical

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Personal measurements

Next we have a variety of personal factors. Some of these are likely to aid people in deciding whether it is worth trying your bike, some are just information that people seem to like to divulge.

Your inside leg measurement allows someone to judge if they might fit on your bike! If your legs are different lengths, the shorter is assumed to be what you are describing, but you can specify both if you prefer:

Optional -- Inside leg
i size cmInside leg in centimetres (the preferred option)
i left : right cmInside leg in centimetres for two differing leg lengths
i size inInside leg in inches

If one leg is missing, give it a length of "-".

Example -- Inside leg
i74cmInside leg 74cm
i29inInside leg 29 inches
i74:78cmInside leg 74cm for the left leg, 78cm for the right.
i74:-cmInside leg 74cm for the left leg, other leg missing.

For reference, 1 inch is 2.54cm, 1cm is 0.3937 inches.

Another factor in sizing bikes is the user's height.

Optional -- User's height
h size mHeight in metres
h feet'Height in feet
h feet' inches"Height in feet and inches

Example -- User's height
h1.7m1.7m tall
h5'3"5 feet and 3 inches

For reference, 1 foot is 0.3048 m, 1 m is 3.2808 feet (or about 3'3").

Weight (or mass, since I want to reserve "w") can also sometimes be relevant.

Optional -- User's weight
m size kgMass in kilograms
m size lbMass in pounds

Example -- User's weight
m70kg70 kilograms
m154lb154 pounds

UK users might prefer stones, and I nearly allowed that as well (1 stone is 14lb, so both the examples are about 11 stone), but two units already is more than enough.

For reference, 1 pound is 0.4536 kg, 1 kg is 2.2046 lb.

I wondered about whether to include gender or not, but in the end decided that I should, since some people might want it.

Optional -- Gender
g MMale
g FFemale
g OOther - see the Androgyny RAQ, and particularly Not this, not that

The limited possibilities here (as compared to most of the other "thing codes") is because I can't help feeling this is a highly marginal label for our purposes - but if we're going to allow personal information at all, I guess it needs including.

Do note, by the way, that this is the gender/sex you are declaring - if you're transexual, transvestite or otherwise doing something complex with your self-image then it's your own business what you use this label for.

Ok - date of birth. If you're 97 and want to boast about how fit you still are, then this is the way to do it.

Optional -- Date of birth
n yearBorn (date of Nativity) in this year

You don't have to be exact - thus:

Example -- Date of birth
n1902Born in 1902
n196*Born in 1960-something

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Optional -- Fitness level
F --I can barely climb the stairs
F -Needs more excercise
F ~Just your normal person
F +Pretty fit
F ++Whizzes past your Windcheetah on their Pashley Princess...
F #No comment
F ?It's not something I worry about

Some people seem to regard their heart rate as an essential measure of fitness:

Optional -- Heart rate (pulse)
p type ratePulse rate you aim for when riding

As before, the type is one of the types of riding specified for T above. I've no idea what sensible values for this are, but here is an example of use:

Example -- Heart rate (pulse)
pr100Aiming for a heart rate of 100 when racing

One important concept not addressed so far is that of whether the cyclist has an Aerobelly. As discussed in the past on the HPV list, this can make all the difference to streamlining on a recumbent.

Optional -- Aerobelly
AeroAerobelly present and accounted for

It's not entirely clear to me whether cadence should be a personal thing, or a bike-specific thing (since one person may have different pedalling-rates on different machines). For now, we'll put it here:

Optional -- Cadence
c cadence Specifies the number of pedal revolutions per minute. A range may be used if necessary.

One of the more difficult things to do, which can be useful, is to trackstand:

Optional -- Balance
trk++Can trackstand
trk+Can trackstand in that sort of wobbly, irritating manner some cyclists use
trk-No, I'm not interested in this sort of showing off
trk--Heh, one of the reasons I chose a trike was so I wouldn't have to balance!

Trackstanding on two-wheel recumbents is, in general, assumed to be pretty street-cred (if recumbents themselves can be considered such). Trackstanding on an ordinary would be awesome. Trackstanding on a unicycle rather goes with the territory...

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The next few items are more to do with personal opinion than anything else (and are thus potential causes of flame wars, so it is perhaps worth expressing one's opinion up front - or perhaps not...).

Some people have strong views on helmet wearing. This code allows people to indicate whether or not they wear a helmet, and where they stand on what other people do or do not do.

Optional -- Helmets
H a : b Giving what one does (a) and what one thinks other people should do (b)
H aIs equivalent to Ha:#

Specifically, a is understood as follows:

Optional -- Helmet details
+I always wear a helmet
-I never wear a helmet
~I sometimes wear a helmet
#Whether or not I wear a helmet is my own business
@This is a moot question, as I wear a turban at all times for religious/cultural reasons

and b is analogously interpreted as:

Optional -- Helmets
+I think other people should always wear a helmet
-I think other people should never wear a helmet
~I think other people should decide for themselves
?I'm not sure what I think about other people and helmets
#My opinion on other people wearing helmets is my own business

Examples of using this might be:

Example -- Helmets 2
H+:~My own position
H+:+Someone I would disagree with

There have also been strong opinions expressed on the HPV list about the merits of Presta versus Schraeder values on tyres. If you have a religious conviction over this, you can express it as follows:

Optional -- Valves
v POnly Presta users are sane/clean/safe
v SOnly Schraeder users are sane/clean/safe
v WHeh, I'm a Woods valve proponent and proud of it
v ~Man, it's like a wheel thing, stay cool and take it as it comes...

If I had to express a view, I would use

Example -- Valves
v~I'll take the rims as they come

Nearly as contentious is how one lubricates one's chain:

Optional -- Lubricating chains
O xI melt paraffin wax and soak the chain in it
O oOil
O @Oil, with a proper cycle of chain in use, chain dripping, chain soaking, ...
O 4WD-40 (we all know you shouldn't do that, don't we?)
O wWhite Lightning or similar
O pProLink or similar
O mOther modern lubes, not one of the above
O [name]Another specific lubricant
O ~Whatever is to hand
O hI homebrew my own concoction
O ?You mean I should lubricate my chain?
O #My own business

(If anyone is really fussed about this and uses separate methods on different bikes, they can specify this per bike instead.)

Clothing seems to be one of those things that determine people's opinions of cyclists, so it can be useful to specify one's attitude, particular with respect to lycra...

Optional -- Clothing/Lycra
L 0I wear normal clothes when cycling
L --Any cyclist wearing lycra is obsessed with going fast and doubtless jumps lights and other such antisocial stuff
L -I wouldn't wear lycra if you paid me
LI wear specialist cycling clothes, and that might include lycra, but I can't say I'm fussed
L +I wear lycra, but just because it makes sense
L ++I wouldn't dream of riding without full team Telcom replica bodysuits and believe there should be a weight limit on the clothing one wears in public

And I suppose that sort of leads to an "advocacy" level:

Optional -- Advocacy
A--Damn cyclists slow me down in my SUV
A-Bikes belong on the sidewalks or trails
ABikes are OK, but I don't see the point in advocacy
A+I belong to advocacy organizations
A++Bikes are my life, and I'll make them yours too!

Particularly in the USA, some people have an "EC" number (Effective Cycling Instructor, I think), indicating that they are certified to teach cycling under this scheme. They can specify this, if they wish, using:

Optional -- EC number
EC numberAs described above.

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Maintenance skills

One of the things many people find attractive about bikes (over other means of transport) is the ability to fiddle with them. The next few items look at that.

First come maintenance skills. The ranking here is slightly skewed to assume people like the readers of the HPV list (so "normal" people might find they centre around M- rather then M, and the descriptions definitely still need working on.

General maintenance ability:

Optional -- General maintenance
M ++I can do just about everything, up to building a bike from the bits in my garage
M +I can do just about everything, but some major tasks still get done by the LBS
MI can do most normal maintenance tasks, but not the more difficult things (spokes, bottom brackets, etc.)
M -I can do simple things (fix punctures, lubricate the chain, etc.)
M --I can't do maintenance at all
M 0No way - I have a partner (and/or bike shop) to do that sort of thing

(If you build wheels for relaxation, then I think you get slotted into M++ regardless.)

If that isn't precise enough for you, there are some related codes:

Number of tools ("packrat points"):

Optional -- Number of tools/Packrat points
Mp +++Sheldon Brown calls me when he needs something out of the ordinary
Mp ++I've got a full workshop setup that'll cope with just about everything
Mp +I've got most tools you'd need to work on a bike
MpI have an adequate collection for normal purposes
Mp -I guess I'll have to buy something as I find I need it
Mp --Tools, what are tools?

Number of components/bits you have:

Optional -- Number of bits
Mb +++The shop calls me when they need something out of the ordinary
Mb ++I can build a complete bike from stuff lying around the house
Mb +I've got a complete selection of spare parts for my bikes, plus other useful stuff
MbI have an adequate collection for normal purposes
Mb -I guess I'll have to buy something as I find I need it
Mb --Spares? The what?
Mb 0My neighbour has parts - I'll borrow

Imagination (the ability to mend stuff with improvised tools and resources):

Optional -- Maintenance improvisation
Mi +++I can build a bike from the bits in your garage, and you don't even have a bike...
Mi ++If stranded, I'll manage to come up with some way of repairing things, even if it looks impossible
Mi +If stranded I'm quite likely to be able to improvise something, especially given a Coke can and some string...
Mi I'll have a go if I have to
Mi -I don't seem to have the knack of improvising in an emergency
Mi --Imagination? I don't have one.
Mi 0I have no interest in improvised fixes or tools

For those who are more ambitious, welding seems to be a necessary skill.

Optional -- Welding
W++Probably builds bikes for a living
W+Knows how to weld and isn't scared to do it
WWent on a welding course, or has done some welding
W-Knows there's welding on their bike (but might be wrong)
W0Not interested in welding at all

So far as I'm concerned, brazing and other like arts might as well be welding, so use your discretion.

Retro grouch points can be an important indicator to the style of one's approach to cycling:

Optional -- Retrogrouch points
Rg ++Safety bike? that's too modern, I'll stick to my ordinary
Rg +Derailleurs are a route to ruin
RgI prefer tried and true solutions, even if the components can be hard to get hold of
Rg -I think, on the whole, I prefer modern components
Rg --I traded the bike in, it's last years color

(Sam Holliman suggests that the alternative term PartsWeenie is defined as 1/RetroGrouch.)

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Use of motor vehicles

Lastly in this section, some people use a motor vehicle to transport their bike(s), and there's been some discussion of what is used for this purpose on the HPV list recently. This is the Van code.

Optional -- Van code
V vA van (!)
V cA car (when the bike goes inside)
V pA people mover (Renault Espace, Megane Scenic, Ford Galaxy, etc.). I'm not sure what these are termed in the USA.
V rA roofrack (on a car, or whatever)
V hA converted horsebox (just for Dave Larrington)
V tA trailer
V suvAn SUV - heh, if you have one of these, you don't need no small abbreviations...
V ?Whatever I can bum a lift in

  • Back to top of Per Person Back to Contents

    Per bike

    Presumably you have one or more bikes, and want to present some information about it or them. This is done via the "per bike" or "bike description" codes.


    Each bike description starts with a label.

    Compulsory -- Bike header
    B :The one bike being described
    B number :One of several bikes being described (the numbers start at 1 and ascend).
    b :A bike you'd like to have
    b number :One of several bikes you'd like to have

    If used, the numbers start at 1 and increase monotonically.

    If you have several bikes, the numbers can be used to disambiguate them, which is especially useful if you have a trailer and want to indicate which bikes it is used with. Otherwise, the order of the numbers is taken to be meaningless (so bike 2 is not necessarily less important in your life than bike 1).

    If you list several bikes that you'd like to have, the numbers are an indication of the order in which you'd get them (given a perfect world), with b1 being the bike you'd acquire first.

    Example -- Bike header
    B:I only have one bike - this is it
    B2:This is my second bike
    b5:This is the fifth bike on my "wants list", but I'd get the other four first...

    Sometimes, the most useful thing you can say about your bike is what make it is.

    Optional -- Bike make
    [ make ]The make of the bike

    Ideally, this should be kept to a single "word", possibly by removing spaces:

    Example -- Bike make
    B: [Trek]Perhaps not a lot of information
    B1: [RansScreamer]Losing the space between "Rans" and "Screamer"

    If the bike is currently in a non-working state, then you need

    Optional -- Broken bike
    brkThis is a broken bike. It is not working. It is pining for the fjords. (sorry, wrong newsgroup)
    brk [detail]The same, but with some commentary

    See also the H (homebuilt) code, which can indicate how "finished" a homebuilt bike is.

    Back to top of Per Bike Back to Contents

    Basic description cluster

    We now start a "cluster" of qualifiers which provide the basic description of the bike. These should occur in the order described, and should not have spaces between them.

    Perhaps the most important thing about a bike is how many wheels it has. Note that for a tricycle we care about how the wheels are arranged (that's because I have a tricycle, and I care!):

    Compulsory -- Number of wheels
    0Fitness cycle (it isn't going anywhere, so any wheels it might have don't count)
    3 dDelta tricycle - two wheels at the rear
    3 tTadpole tricycle - two wheels at the front
    3 sThis is probably a very old tricycle, but it has two wheels on one side, and one on the other
    otherLarger numbers seem unlikely, but if you need one...

    If you have an icebike with one driven wheel and two skids, then "pretend" the skids are wheels for this purpose, and describe it as if it were a trike (and, if you like, use the WrS notation to show which "wheels" are not).

    If you have fixed gears, use:

    Optional -- Fixed
    FFixed gears

    Examples are:

    Example -- Number of wheels
    B: 2FSounds reasonable
    B: 1FAlmost goes without saying
    B: 2FRuBsIf you're reading ahead, you'll guess this is fairly unlikely
    B: 3tFRuA banana trike?

    The "tandemness" (or sociability) indicates the number of riders. Note that this is compulsory for tandems/sociables, but there's nothing to say for "singletons".

    Compulsory if applicable -- Tandemness
    2A tandem with two riders, one behind the other
    2 rA tandem as above, but the rear rider is facing backwards (reversed)
    countA "tandem" for count riders, riding one behind the other
    2 sA sociable - two riders next to each other
    count sA "sociable" for count riders, riding next to each other (in some fashion)
    If it's not a tandem, don't say anything

    Thus, for example:

    Example -- Tandemness
    B: 23SA "tandem" for three people - the Goodies?
    B: 22rRMight be a Flevo back-to-back tandem
    B: 22sRMight be a Gem sociable
    B: 37sSWould describe the Conferencebike 7 person sociable

    One important thing we haven't discussed yet is the "style" of the bike.

    Compulsory -- Bike style
    R rinfoA recumbent
    PA Pedersen (i.e., very unrecumbent!)
    MA Moulton
    OAn Ordinary.
    SA Safety bike (DF, hybrid, mountain bike, whatever - sometimes called an "upright"), including an upright trike, etc.
    S [ info ]A Safety bike with a bit more information specified - e.g., S[MTB] or S[Hybrid].
    UNo seat, so for instance Ultimate wheels would be 1U, and scooters (kickbikes, whatever) 2U
    /A row bike (e.g., see RowBike )

    Example -- Bike style
    B: 2OAn ordinary
    B: [Trek700] 2S[Hybrid]A safety bike

    Recumbents are normally expected to be annotated with more information (as in the R style above) - add whichever of the following seem relevant (in the order given):

    Compulsory if applicable -- Recumbent info
    oOSS (over seat steering)
    uUSS (under seat steering)
    lA "lowrider" (we'll assume for now that means you can touch the ground with the palm of your hand when sitting on the machine).
    B lLong wheelbase
    B cCompact long wheelbase
    B sShort wheelbase

    Example -- Recumbent info
    B: 2RoBlA long wheelbase recumbent with over seat steering
    B: 3tRlA tadpole recumbent lowrider trike

    If the bike is hand or treddle powered, then the style can be augmented with a code to indicate that:

    Compulsory if applicable -- Hand powered
    hA hand powered cycle (as opposed to pedals).
    hfA hand and foot powered cycle.
    tA treddle operated bike (e.g., see Step 'n Go)

    Example -- Hand powered
    B: 3tRlhfA hand and foot powered tadpole recumbent lowrider trike

    Some tandems have more than one style (for example the Pino). This should be specified by concatenating the various styles, starting at the front of the bike and working backwards. For instance:

    Example -- Bike style
    B: [Pino] 22RSa Pino tandem
    B: 3t2RuRhA tandem tadpole recumbent trike, with the "stoker" having hand cranks

    That's the end of the basic descripton cluster for a bike. It's now back to spaces between individual codes...

    Back to top of Per Bike Back to Contents

    Use of bike

    Sometimes it may be useful to indicate who uses the bike, and for what purpose or purposes it is principally used:

    Optional -- Use
    U person typeWhere person is the person description number and type is one of the cycling types from the personal T code.
    U [ name ] typeWhere the named person uses the bike for the given type of cycling
    U typeCan be used if only one person has been described

    If more than one person uses the bike, specify a U code for each of them. If they use it for more than one purpose, just add all the type codes to the same U code. If the bike is essentially unused (for instance, like the Trek hybrid I have in our shed) then a type of ~ can be specified. Note that if the brk code is specified for the bike, then U~ is assumed.

    Example -- Use
    UcI use this bike for commuting
    U~I don't use this bike
    U[Joan]cJoan uses this bike for commutin
    U1ra U2raPerson 1 uses this bike for racing and Audax, and so does person 2

    Back to top of Per Bike Back to Contents


    Next we have (optional) dimension specifications. For simplicity (both of comparison, and of notation) I'm requiring metric units here...

    Length can be of interest, especially for long wheel base recumbents, or for tandems.

    Optional -- Length of bike
    l lengthLength in metres

    Width can be very important as well (for instance, it is crucial to me on my AnthroTech, which is rather too wide for some access points in Cambridge).

    Optional -- Width of bike
    w sizeWidth in metres

    For reference, 1 foot is 0.3048 m, 1 m is 3.2808 feet (or about 3'3").

    Weight can also sometimes be relevant.

    Optional -- Weight (mass) of bike
    m sizeMass (well, in practice, weight) in kilograms
    m tfhSimply too heavy

    For reference, 1 pound is 0.4536 kg, 1 kg is 2.2046 lb.

    Thus, for example:

    Example -- Bike dimensions
    l1.74 w0.93 m22Is (more or less) my AnthroTech
    l2.4 w0.6 mtfhIs Dave Larrington's KingCycle

    Back to top of Per Bike Back to Contents

    Technical specifications

    Next come some optional technical specifications.

    Most bikes steer with the front wheel or wheels, but there are exceptions:

    Optional -- Steering
    s fFront wheel(s) steer (the default)
    s bBack wheel(s) steer
    s lLeft wheel(s) steer
    s rRight wheel(s) steer
    s /Lean steering

    Note that a standard upright counts as sf, not as s/.

    Similarly, most bikes have the rear wheel driven, but there are exceptions to this as well.

    Optional -- Driven wheels
    d positionWhich wheels are driven

    For example:

    Optional -- Driven wheels
    dbBack wheel(s) driven (the default)
    dfFront wheel(s) driven
    dblJust the back left wheel driven (is that a KettWiesel?)
    dlThe left wheel(s) are driven (unusual!)

    What the bike frame is (principally) constructed from may be something you want to boast about:

    Optional -- Frame material
    fm CCarbon fibre
    fm AAluminium
    fm SSteel
    fm ICast iron (!)
    fm TTitanium
    fm PPlastic
    fm [ material ]Something else

    If your bike frame is made of cast iron, then you may also want to specify mtfh.

    Wheel and tyre sizes can be useful to know.

    For simplicity (and lack of ambiguity) we'll use the ISO specifications to describe their size (see Sheldon Brown's Tire sizing/The ISO/ETRTO System for an explanation of what I mean). The only time sizes should be given in inches or centimetres is for historical vehicles (for instance, I doubt there's a sensible ISO size for an ordinary's high wheel...).

    Wheels are sized by specifying their rim dimensions:

    Optional -- Wheel rim details
    Wr specAll rims the same
    Wr position spec : specThe specification for a particular wheel's rim

    Where spec is one of the following:

    Optional -- Rim and tyre details
    diamDiameter of bead seat of rim, in mm
    width - diamWidth of rim in mm, followed by the diameter etc
    diam [ make ]As above, but annotated with the make of the rim
    width - diam [ make ]As above, but annotated with the make of the rim
    S the "wheel" is actually a skid or runner, as on an ice-bike
    diam "Diameter of wheel, in inches, for a historical bike
    diam1 ' diam2 " Diameter of wheel, in feet and inches, for a historical bike
    diam cmDiameter of wheel, in centimetres, for a historical bike

    Tyre sizes are specified in a similar manner:

    Optional -- Tyre details
    Wt specAll tyres the same
    Wt position spec : specThe specification for a particular wheel's tyre

    The spec is interpreted as for wheel rims (above), except that the word "rim" should be replaced by "tyre".

    For example:

    Example -- Wheel size
    Wr19-406[Alesa]The rims on my AnthroTech (the same on all three axles)
    Wt32-406[SchwalbeCityMarathon]The original setup on my AnthroTech
    Wtf406[Nokian]The front tyres are now Nokian, and I can't remember the details...
    Wrl50" Wrr24"A Coventry Rotary Tricycle has one large wheel on the left and two smaller wheels on the right
    Wrl4'2" Wrr2'The same, in feet and inches

    Some people swear by mudguards (fenders for USA readers) and some just like to have that dirty streak down their back (or, for recumbent trike riders, grit in their teeth).

    Optional -- Mudguards
    M positionMudguards on wheels at the indicated locations

    For example:

    Example -- Mudguards
    MfbMudguards on front and back wheels
    MfMudguards on front wheel(s) only
    MflMudguard on the front left wheel only (!)

    Some people express preferences about saddles/seats. The following possibilities are listed (note some make sense for recumbents, some for uprights):

    Optional -- Saddle/seat
    S /Generic recumbent seat
    S /#Generic mesh recumbent seat
    S //Generic moulded recumbent seat
    S |Generic upright saddle
    S rRans seat
    S bBrooks saddle
    S AfAnthroTech folding seat option (guess what I have)
    S tTerry saddle
    S oOne of those saddles with a hole in the middle
    S [ name ] A specific saddle/seat

    If you have a tandem or other machine with multiple seats, then you can specify multiple values, but put the person with the steering first.

    Example -- Saddle/seat
    SAfMy AnthroTech
    S|/A Pino

    If you like, you can specify what sort of pedals are fitted in a similar manner:

    Optional -- Pedals
    p CClipless pedals
    p C [ type ]Clipless pedals with the type specified
    p TToeclips
    p PPowerGrips (is that the right name?)

    Again, if you have a tandem or other machine with multiple pedal sets, then you can specify multiple values, but put the person with the steering first.

    Example -- Pedals
    pC[spd]A bike with SPD clipless pedals
    pTCThat Pino again

    Brakes are another thing some people want to specify:

    Optional -- Brakes
    b front : rearFront and rear brakes
    b frontFront brakes only
    b : rearRear brakes only

    front and rear are each specified using one of the following forms:

    Optional -- Brake specifications
    typeJust by type
    type hType is hydraulically activated
    type [ text ]Type and make
    type h [ text ]Type, hydraulics and make

    The brake type is then one of the following codes:

    Optional -- Brake types
    DDisk brakes
    HHub brakes
    VV brakes
    CCantilever brakes
    ^Centrepull brakes
    SSidepull brakes
    @Backpedal brakes (i.e., on rear hub)
    0No brakes

    For instance:

    Example -- Brakes
    B: 3tRu bDh[Sachs]:CMy AnthroTech has hydraulically activated Sachs disk brakes on the front, caliper brakes on the back (assumed to be wire operated)
    B: 2FS bV:0A fixed gear bike with no rear brake

    If you really want to specify gearing (other than the F annotation already mentioned in the Basic description cluster) then you can use the following components to make up a description:

    Optional -- Gears
    G specGearing specification

    where spec is composed by concatenating the following as needed:

    Optional -- Gear specification
    MStart with this if you have a Schlumpf mountain drive at the front
    gearsThe number of gears on the first cog
    + gearsThe number of gears on the next cog (progressing backwards)
    hub x gearsThe number of gears on a mixed hub/derailleur gearing setup - e.g. Sachs 3x7 would be G3x7

    Thus one might have:

    Example -- Gears
    G3+73 cogs at the front, 7 at the back
    G3+2+7As above, but with 2 cogs in an intermediate drive
    G2+3x72 cogs at the front, and a 3x7 drive at the back
    GM3x7A mountain drive at the front, and a 3x7 drive at the back

    As mentioned in the Per Person section, if you want to specify lubrication but use different means on different bikes, you can specify it per bike. Just use the same lubrication code described there (i.e., code O).

    Some machines come with power assist. We wouldn't want to ignore that:

    Optional -- Power assist
    P eElectrical power assist
    P pPetrol or diesel motor power assist
    P sSolar power assist (comparatively rare)
    P rRocket power assist (comparatively rare)
    P jJet power assist (comparatively rare)
    P [details]Something that needs more explanation

    Different people care for different amounts of electronics on their bikes, things as diverse as speed measurement, cadence counter, heart rate monitor, thermometer, inclinometer, altimeter, GPS, moving map, satellite earth station equipment, and so on. The default position is to admit that electricity is useful for lights, either by battery or dynamo.

    Optional -- Electronics
    E --Even my lights are acetylene powered...
    E -I don't like electronic gadgets, they take away from the "human powered" experience
    E +OK, I admit I find a cycling computer useful for speed/distance/etc.
    E ++The main problem is fitting everything on the bike...
    E +++The BEHEMOTH

    If your machine is homebuilt, you might want to indicate this:

    Optional -- Homebuilt
    HB Homebuilt, and you built it
    Hb Homebuilt, but by someone else
    Hc Custom built (i.e., homebuilt by someone else who is a professional bike builder or equivalent, to contract)
    HB ridableAs above, but with indication of its current usefulness
    Hb ridableAs above, but with indication of its current usefulness

    where ridable is a measure of how rideable the machine currently is (or, if you like, how far it has progressed in the direction of "finished"). This has values:

    Optional -- Homebuilt
    --Well, some of the bits are attached to other bits
    - It's just about rideable, with care
    + It's working but I still have lots of plans for it
    ++It's as near finished as homebuilt ever gets
    [ detail ]Short text with details - as normal, try to avoid spaces

    Note that you can add this qualifier to Hc as well, but that is intended more for machines built to order (for instance, the Trailerbent).

    Fairings can obviously be rather important, particularly on recumbents. Fairings are specified as follows:

    Optional -- Fairings
    ( infoFront fairing
    info )Rear fairing
    ( info )Fully faired

    where info may be nothing (that is, absent), or it may be composed of any of:

    presented in that order. Thus, for instance:

    Example -- Fairings
    ([Zipper]A Zipper front fairing
    ()Fully faired
    Lbbx)Rear fairing that is also a luggage box, as on a Trice
    (  Lbbx)A front fairing, and a rear fairing with luggage box integral
    (HBLbbx)Homebuilt full fairing with luggage capacity at the back

    Suspension is useful on some bikes. An 8 is used to indicate this, since "it looks a bit like a spring", followed by one or more of the following codes:

    Optional -- Suspension
    fFront suspension at the wheel
    bRear suspension at the wheel
    sSuspended seat (e.g., PDQ, AnthroTech)
    hSuspended handlebars (e.g. FlexStem)
    mSuspended in the middle (e.g. Flevo back-to-back tandem)

    So, for example:

    Example -- Suspension
    8fbFull suspension (e.g. downhill MTB)
    8sh"Comfort Bike" with suspended seat post and FlexStem
    8fBoingy forks only
    8bChallenge Hurricane

    Back to top of Per Bike Back to Contents

    Miscellaneous things

    Bikes are often used to transport stuff, as well as people. How one attaches said stuff can be of interest:

    Optional -- Luggage
    LThe bike can carry luggage in an unspecified manner
    L position whatThe bike carries luggage in a what, at the given position
    L bsStorage behind the seat

    what can be any of the following:

    Optional -- Luggage mode
    bxA box
    bkA basket
    wbkA wicker basket
    pbkA plastic basket

    If you want to add cubic capacity or maximum weight, just append them as appropriate. Units may be:

    Optional -- Capacity units
    m3Cubic meters
    BThe German Standard Beer Crate

    So, for example:

    Example -- Luggage
    Lrr1BDescribes the capacity of my AnthroTech
    Lrr30kgIs another take on the same
    LfbxA Christiana trike?

    If you habitually use a child seat on the machine, you may want to specify this:

    Optional -- Child seat
    CA child seat (assumes behind you)
    CfA child seat mounted in front of you
    CbA child seat mounted behind you
    CfbTwo child seats, one in front and one behind
    CbbTwo child seats, both behind

    It's also possible to specify the name of the child (or their person number if they have a P code of their own). For instance:

    Example -- Visibility
    Cb[Michael]Michael sits behind me
    Cfb[P1,Michael]The child described as P1 sits in front of me, and Michael sits behind me

    For some bikes, the "foldingness" is important:

    Optional -- Foldingness
    fThe bike folds (e.g., a Linear)
    f+The bike is designed as a folding machine (e.g., a Birdy)
    f++The bike really folds, that's its main purpose in life (e.g., a Brompton)
    f-The bike obdurately refuses to even consider changing form into something more convenient (or, "my trike is too long/wide!")
    f--even pushing it is a headache!
    fsThe bike has S&S couplings, or similar
    fxThe bike is reasonably quick and easy to dismantle into a usefully compact form by some other means (e.g., PDQ3)

    Note that the above assignations of brand are done by someone who doesn't own any of the machines, so may be wrong...

    Flags and other visibility aids can be useful

    Optional -- Visibility
    V jI wear a bright (fluorescent/reflective) jacket
    V /I wear a Sam Brown belt or equivalent
    V fI have a flag
    V sI have a spinner (e.g., see Catch the Wind)
    V *I have a strobe (on a pole or not)
    V !I have very bright lights attached to my bike (other than strobes)
    V bI have generally bright things on my bike
    V cMy bike is a very obvious colour (e.g., luminous orange)
    V n [ text ]The bike has a notice on it (at the back) of some sort, and here is the text
    V XIn season, I have Christmas lights
    V ?I'm generally weird and obvious anyway
    V -I have a stealth bike - it's deliberately not visible

    If more than one visibility aid applies, string them together as one code:

    Example -- Visibility
    VisA spinner on an illuminated pole

    Lastly (or almost so), I believe some people may want to be able to add the following:

    Optional -- Redness
    redThe bike is red.

    As we all know, red bikes go faster, so this may be important to know.

    Other colours aren't as important, so if you want to specify them, you have to use one of:

    Optional -- Bike colour
    col [colour]The bike's (predominant) colour.
    ral [code:colour]The bike's (predominant) colour as a RAL code and its description

    Examples would be:

    Example -- Bike colour
    redA red bike
    col[black]A stealth bike
    ral[5022:MidnightBlue]My AnthroTech

    The special colours natural and patina are defined for people with homebuilt bikes that are being allowed to find their own colour (as it were). The colour rusty is also allowed...

    If the bike is sometimes used as a trailer bike (see Trailer bikes) then you can add the / code as described therein (under Sometimes trailing).

    Back to top of Per Bike Back to Contents

    Per Trailer

    Quite often, bike owners also have things to pull behind them. I'll call these "trailers" as a generic term (but also see the specific section for trailer bikes). Each trailer gets its own description, as follows...


    Each trailer description starts with a label.

    Compulsory -- Trailer header
    T :The one trailer being described
    T number :One of several trailers being described (the numbers start at 1 and ascend).
    t :A trailer you'd like to have
    t number :One of several trailers you'd like to have

    If used, the numbers start at 1 and increase monotonically.

    If you have several trailers, the numbers can be used to disambiguate them. The order of the numbers is taken to be meaningless (so trailer 2 is not necessarily less important in your life than trailer 1).

    If you list several trailers that you'd like to have, the numbers are an indication of the order in which you'd get them (given a perfect world), with t1 being the trailer you'd acquire first.

    Next, if you like, is:

    Optional -- Trailer make
    [ make ]The make of the trailer

    Ideally, this should be kept to a single "word", possibly by removing spaces:

    Example -- Trailer make
    [Burley]Fairly vague
    [BurleyD'Lite]Much more specific

    Back to top of Per Trailer Back to Contents

    Basic description cluster

    We now start a "cluster" of qualifiers which provide the basic description of the trailer. These should occur in the order described, and should not have spaces between them.

    First comes the number of wheels.

    Compulsory -- Number of wheels
    1One wheel
    2Two wheels

    If you really have a trailer with other than 1 or 2 wheels, feel free to say so (but note that, again, skids on a sled count as wheels for this purpose).

    Then we need to say what type of trailer this is:

    Compulsory -- Trailer type
    gA general purpose trailer
    cChild trailer
    bTrailer bike (tagalong, etc). See TB as an alternative notation
    aAnimal transport (dogs, etc.) - not children
    BUsed to transport bikes (so Zach Kaplan would use this)
    HAbsurdly heavy stuff (see Bikes at work for an example of what I mean)
    fA Bike Friday style "suitcase trailer"

    It can sometimes be useful to specify how many children, bikes or whatever are carried (or can be carried):

    Optional -- Carry count
    countHow many "items" are or can be carried

    It can also be useful to include a short (pithy, please) description of the usage.

    Optional -- Usage description
    [ text ]What/who the trailer is used for

    If the trailer is used for children, this should be the name(s) of the child(ren) (or their person number(s) if they have a P code of their own).

    For example:

    Example -- Basic trailer codes
    2b2A U+2. This could also be TB: 2S
    2[drumkit]Bog standard trailer, specific use
    1H[ladders]Carrying heavy stuff, particularly ladders (on one wheel!)
    2c2[P1,Michael]The trailer is used to carry two children, the child described as P1, and Michael
    2c2[Thomas]The trailer is designed to carry two children, but actually only carries Thomas

    That's the end of the basic descripton cluster for a trailer. It's now back to spaces between individual codes...

    Back to top of Per Trailer Back to Contents


    Next come dimensions. The first three are specified in exactly the same way as is used for bike dimensions...

    Optional -- Trailer length
    l sizeLength in metres

    Optional -- Trailer width
    w sizeWidth in metres

    Optional -- Trailer weight
    m sizeMass in kilograms

    For reference, 1 foot is 0.3048 m, 1 m is 3.2808 feet (or about 3'3"), and 1 pound is 0.4536 kg, 1 kg is 2.2046 lb.

    Next we have the trailer's capacity (perhaps the most important thing for some trailers). This may be the weight it can carry, or the volume - both can be important.

    Optional -- Capacity
    C size kgCarrying ability in kilograms
    C size lbCarrying ability in pounds
    C size lVolume in litres
    C size m3Volume in cubic metres
    C size f3Volume in cubic feet

    If you want to specify weight and volume, just use two C codes (separated by spaces).

    Example -- Capacity
    C32kgCapacity by weight
    C32kg C0.34m3Weight and volume

    Back to top of Per Trailer Back to Contents

    Miscellaneous things

    The homebuilt codes from the bike section can be applied to trailers as well - refer back to the Hb/HB/Hc code description for details.

    Similarly, the bike codes for rims, tyres and mudguards can also be used.

    Some trailers are designed to fold. This code is similar to that for bikes:

    Optional -- Foldingness
    fThe trailer folds
    f+The trailer folds well
    f++The trailer folds really well (e.g., a Burley D'Lite)
    f-The trailer obdurately refuses to even consider changing form into something more convenient
    fxThe trailer is reasonably quick and easy to dismantle into a usefully compact form by some other means (but it is disassembly rather than folding)

    Flags and other visibility aids can be useful, and the same options as used for a bike can also be used for a trailer...

    For example:

    Example -- Visibility
    Vn[long vehicle]A simple notice

    If more than one visibility aid applies, string them together as one code:

    Example -- Visibility
    VisA spinner on an illuminated pole
    V*Xn[weird vehicle]Enough said

    Back to top of Per Trailer Back to Contents

    Pulled by...

    Lastly, it is possible to say which bikes you use to pull the trailer (if you only have one bike, we assume that's the one you use).

    Optional -- Pulled by
    / bikes The bikes that pull this trailer

    This is where the numbers given in the bike labels come in useful - they are what you specify. It is possible to have several bikes pulling the same trailer (presumably not at the same time!) - separate individual numbers with commas (,), and indicate ranges with two dots (..). If all of your bikes might pull the trailer, you can indicate this with an asterisk (*).

    For instance:

    Example -- Pulled by
    /1Pulled by bike 1
    /1,3Pulled by bikes 1 and 3
    /1,3..5Pulled by bikes 1, 3, 4 and 5
    /*Pulled by any of my bikes

    Back to top of Per Trailer Back to Contents

    Trailer bikes

    Trailer bikes are a little bit of an anomaly, particularly since some bikes can be converted between independent and trailer operation.

    Always trailing

    To specify a bike that is always a trailer bike, specify the bike as a normal bike (remembering to get the number of wheels right!), but using the letter sequence TB (or tb) instead of B (or b) at the start of its label. The numbering sequence for trailer bike labels is independent of that for bikes and that for trailers.

    Then, at the end of its code, specify which bike or bikes are used to pull it using the same notation as for normal trailers.

    For example:

    Example -- Trailer bike
    TB1:[Trailerbent] 1R S/ Hc Vf /1 Might be the Trailerbent
    TB: 2SMight be a U+2

    Back to top of Trailer bikes Back to Contents

    Sometimes trailing

    To specify a bike that is optionally a trailer bike, specify it as normal but at the end of its code add a / code, just as you would for any trailer. Note that this means that the number of wheels when trailing will generally be one less than the number when not trailing...

    For example:

    Example -- Bike that trails
    B1: [KettWiesel] 3dRuBl UlA KettWiesel
    B2: [KettWiesel] 3dRuBl Ul /1Can optionally act as a trailer bike

    It's left up to the reader to guess how the conversion is done.

    Back to top of Trailer bikes Back to Contents


    The best way of illustrating what this is about is probably to give some examples.

    We'll start with a large example based on Joan and myself - note that it's not necessarily entirely accurate...

    ----- Begin BikeCodeblock -----------
    Comment: See
      P1: [Tibs] Tc B10 K:++ i29:30" h1.65m n1960 H+:~ v~ A+ M+ Rg-
      P2: [Joan] Tc B7 gF H+ L0 M0
      B1: [AnthroTech]   3tRu U1c w37" Wr19:406 Wft406[Nokian]
                         Wrt32:406[SchwalbeCityMarathon] Mfr SAf bDh[Sachs]:C
                         G3x7 8s Lrr1B Cb[Michael] VjsX ral[5022:MidnightBlue]
      B2: [Trek]         2S[Hybrid] U2c Lbbk red
      B3: [Trek/in-shed] 2S[Hybrid] U1~ pT red
      T:  [BurleyD'Lite] 2c2[Thomas] f++ VsX /1,3
      b1: [KettWiesel]   3dRuBl U1l
      b2: [Birdy]        2S f+ U2cl
    ----- End BikeCodeblock -------------

    From this, one can gather that:

    This is some of the same information presented as email headers:

    X-BikeCode-version: 0.2
    X-BikeCode-Part1: P: [Tibs] Tc B10 K:++ i29:30" h1.65m n1960 H+:~ v~ A+ M+ Rg-
    X-BikeCode-Part2: B: [AnthroTech] 3tRu Uc w37" Wr19:406 Wft406[Nokian]
      Wrt32:406[SchwalbeCityMarathon] Mfr SAf bDh[Sachs]:C
      G3x7 8s Lrr1B Cb VjsX ral[5022:MidnightBlue]
    X-BikeCode-Part4: T: [BurleyD'Lite] 2c f++ VsX

    As a second (fictional) example, we'll take Alfred Jarry, as reported in Howard Waldrop's short story "Fin de Cyclé" (one of my favourite ever short stories, originally published in the collection Night of the Cooters, 1990). His bike code is something like:

      P: [AlfredJarry] ob T* B10..12 n1873 h1.25m H--:--
      B: 2O

    The high BIG factor is because of the general visibility of an ordinary (even at a time when they were more common), his undoubted habit of taking exactly the road space he wished, his rather obvious way of dressing, and the large amounts of ordnance he would wear on his person and bike. As to the "H" rating, I am quite sure he would have disapproved immensely of the idea of helmets.

    Here is an example of how to specify a single machine - this is a Coventry Rotary Tricycle:

    B: 3sS dl Wrl50" sr Wrr24" Mr S|

    This had a large wheel on the left, driven, and two smaller wheels on the right, steered. The treddle version of it would have 3sSt at the start. In "conversation" it's OK to omit the version of the BikeCode - although it may make it a bit dodgy for later viewers, of course...

    Jeff DelPapa provided a personal bike code, which I've attempted to update to 0.2 (apologies if I got it wrong):

      P: Tcltx B8..11 Dc12km Dx300km i75 h1.7 m100kg gM n1957
               K++ H+ Aero vP M++ Mb++ Mp+ W+ Rg+ trk- EC709

    Trent Fisher also provided a 0.1 BikeCode, which I've attempted to convert:

      P: T* B7 Dc4mi K++ gM n196* H+:~ vP M W-
      B: [DragonFlyer] 3sRu U* pC[spd] Lrr f- Vf* col[green]
      T: [BicycleREvolution] 2H C100lb fx V-
      b: 2Ru f+

    Sam Holliman ditto:

        P:  Tx B6 Dx25..50mi K+ m245lb gM n1956 Aero H+:~ v~ M+ Vv:p
        B1: [Trek1200] 2S Ux pc[Look] Wr700[Spinergy]
        B2: [CannondaleSV700] 2S Ux pc[Frogs] Wr559[Spin]
        B3: 2Ru HB[Trek820+exhausttube] Ul col[multi-color] p[flat]
            Wrf406 Wrb559

    Note that I've converted the tyre and rim sizes (26" to 559 and 20" to 406, using Sheldon Brown's tables). Without the originals in front of me, this is inevitably a bit of a guess.

    Dave Larrington gets the same treatment:

    ----- Begin BikeCodeblock -----------
      P:  Tctrl B9..11 Dc16km K+ i86cm h1.9m m80kg gM
          n1964 pr185 H+:~ vP M++ W Vh
      B1: [KingcycleGTO]     2RoBs Uctr l2.4 w0.6 mtfh
                             8fs pC[Look] (HBLbbx) f--
      B2: [RevellRomany] brk 2S Ucl m13 Sb p[none] Lrr
      B3: [SonicHedgehog]    2S[MTB] Ucl m10 8fs[TiFlite] pT
      T1: [YAKBoB]           1g l1.3 w0.41 m5.5 C32kg Vf /1,2
      T2: [Homebuilt]    brk 2g l2   w0.6  mtfh C0.34m3 f- /1
    ----- End BikeCodeblock -------------

    And Giles Puckett used a BikeCode in his signature for a while - here is a rewriting of it...

      P:  Tlx B9 H+ M++ W+ Vct
      B1: 3tRu HB Vf
      B2: 3tRu HB Pe[solar] (HB[in-progress])
      B3: brk[cannibalised] 3tRul HB 
      B4: brk[neglect]      2RoBc HB 

    For amusement value, I've also tried converting Matt Wenham's MTB code from:

    MTB 0.6: N2 O1 Sp2 G21/16 Tr3:2/3:0 A3/6 St/Ti
    XC++ DH J- L+++ H++ Fr+ M+ RG+ Ra-- Fi+ O-- Y28 R12

    to (with some guesses and approximations, of course, since the two codes are different in intent):

      P:     Toc M+ Mb++ Rg F+ gM n1972
      B1:    2S[MTB] Uo G3+7 8fb fmS 
      B2:    2S[MTB] Uo G2+8 8f  fmT 
      B3:    2S

    Back to top of Examples Back to Contents


    Thanks to the following people who commented on BikeCode version 0.1. Ideas have been culled (i.e., stolen) from all of them, and incorporated to make this new version of the BikeCode more - well, more something, anyway (certainly more).

    Jeff DelPapa
    Who provided me with the new E (electronics) code, and ideas for L (Lycra - the extrema are his), the extra maintenance codes (basic ideas and some words), Rg (RetroGrouch - some words), trk (trackstanding - although I made it an opinion), b (brakes), M (fenders, as he would say), whether a homebuilt bike is ridable and the colour patina.
    Trent Fisher
    Who provided me with the new A (advocacy) code, and the visibility flag V?.
    Sam Holliman
    Who provided me with the new wheel rim/tyre description and frame material codes (although I've ignored his suggestion of rim material), as well as some other mad ramblings (erm - that's a compliment).
    PaulCycle at
    Who was complimentary, but didn't give me the code for his Ordinary. Humph.
    Adam Rice
    Who wanted bike/car value ratios, which is an interesting idea but not one I've taken on board.
    Dave Larrington
    Who not only gave me his BikeCode (which I wanted) but also provided me with the new 8 (suspension) code, the extra folding tag f-- and the extra weight tag tfh (which neatly sums up one's feelings sometimes...).
    Giles Puckett
    Who not only sent me Dave Larrington's BikeCode (obviously in parallel with Dave), but was actually seen (for a while) using his own BikeCode in his signature on the HPV list.
    David Martin
    Who isn't offended by my using his BIG codes, and reckons a recumbent probably gets full marks for "clothing" irrespective.

    Back to top of Acknowledgements Back to Contents

    Changes from earlier versions

    Changes from BikeCode 0.1

    There are a vast number of differences between BikeCode0.1 and BikeCode0.2, not least the addition of lots of new codes. I haven't bothered to list everything - instead, here are the incompatible changes:

    Changes from BikeCode 0.2 [FullEnglishBreakfast]

    The BikeCode header can now specify the URL of a page (for instance, this one) defining the BikeCode.

    Dave Larrington suggested the following:

    I've also added the brake code "@" to mean back-pedal brakes.

    (Why FullScottishBreakfast? Well, it's like a full english breakfast, but with porridge added (and definitely with black pudding).)

    Changes from BikeCode 0.2.1 [FullScottishBreakfast]

    Since we're no longer with Demon, but have a "proper" domain name, I've corrected all of the appropriate URIs.

    Since the link to Matt Wenham's MTB code seems to have become disfunctional, I've now got links to an encoder and a decoder instead.

    Back to top of Changes Back to Contents

    Author: Tibs (

    Last modified: Thu Apr 26 15:49:30 GMT Daylight Time 2001