The London Pass Review – Free Entry to London Attractions: Will it save me money?

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Sightseeing in London

What is The London Pass?

The London Pass is a ‘smart’ card with a chip inside which allows the user to scan their card and gain entry to a choice of 50+ popular tourist attractions in London.

Cards are available for 1, 2, 3 or 6 days’ duration. When you first use the card to gain admission to an attraction it becomes activated.

The adult Pass covers admission to attractions worth £90 per day. E.g. if you buy a 2-day adult Pass for £64 you can visit £180 worth of attractions which means that you are in effect paying only about a third of what you would pay if you didn’t have the Pass. (The childrens’ Pass covers admission to attractions worth £50 per day which is equivalent to £90 worth of admissions for an adult).

Do I need to know my exact date of travel?

No. The Pass remains valid for 12 months after the estimated start date you provided at the time of booking.

What else can I use the Pass for?

If you choose to pay an additional £9 per day per adult (about £3.50 extra for childrens’ Passes) you can get a Pass that includes a London Travelcard which provides unlimited travel during off-peak hours on Transport for London buses, the underground, on trams, DLR and overground trains within zones 1 – 6 i.e. within all of Greater London (including taking the underground to or from Heathrow airport). Off-peak hours begins at 9.30 AM each working day Monday – Friday and all of weekends.

BUT you can’t use the Travel option on these services: any express airport trains, such us the Heathrow Express or Heathrow Connect, Gatwick Express, Stansted Express, or National Express trains.

What does it Cost?

See table below for costs without the inclusive travel option.

Days

Cost

Pass Value (adult)

Pass Value (child <15 yrs)

1 Day Adult Pass

£47.00

£90

1 Day Child Pass

£30.00

£50

2 Day Adult Pass

£64.00

£180

2 Day Child Pass

£47.00

£100

3 Day Adult Pass

£77.00

£270

3 Day Child Pass

£53.00

£150

6 Day Adult Pass

£102.00

£540

6 Day Child Pass

£72.00

£300

What is the Cost of Shipping?

Within the UK it is £2.95 for a standard 3 working days arrival time. If you need it Express to arrive within 1 working day the cost is £6.95.

Worldwide shipping costs are £6.95. Express will arrive within 3 working days but costs between £20 (USA, Canada & Europe) and £35 (rest of the world).

I need a number of Passes what is the shipping cost per Pass?

The above shipping costs are per order (not per Pass). You can order as many Passes as you like and the total cost will remain the same. E.g. if you order 5 Passes for shipping within the UK the cost remains just £2.95. It’s the same with worldwide shipping costs you pay just one shipping charge per order.

Do I need to pay for Shipping?

No, there is a free pick-up option. When ordering online you can pick the option to pick up the Pass from near Leicester Square underground station for free. You will need to print off and bring with you the voucher they emailed you at the time of booking in order to provide proof of purchase.

I have bought a 1-day Pass how many attractions can I visit?

You will be able to visit up to £90 of attractions.

I bought 2-day Pass how many attractions can I visit?

You can visit up to £180 of attractions. That means that you can either visit £90 of attractions each day or £120 one day and £60 the next day or £100 of attractions one day and £80 the next. I.e. any combination you want.

Best Value?

The 6-day adult pass is the best value. This 6-day Pass costs just £102 and entitles the user to £540 worth of tickets and special offers which equates to about 18% of what you would pay if you were not using the Pass.

If you choose the inclusive London travelcard option the 6-day Pass the cost is £156 per adult and £99 per child with the added benefit of a 7-day travel card which allows travel both on and off peak. This means that you can get to attractions earlier by travelling before 9.30 AM in the morning.

Do I need to buy a London Pass for my children?

Not necessarily. It depends what their ages are. We have looked through the websites of a number of the attractions listed and have found that attractions each charge differently for babies and toddlers. Frustratingly, some of the attractions just remain vague about what their policy is.

A few examples:  London Zoo deems any 3 year old toddler a Child and requires you to buy a ticket for them for them to gain entry. On the other hand, Tower of London does not charge an admission fee for young children until they reach the age of 5 and the Charles Dickens museum does not charge for children under the age of 6.

The Thames River Boat Cruise simply states its Child and Adult fare without providing any further information. Not so helpful!

The only way to find out whether young children get admitted for free and until what age is to check directly with the attractions.

If anyone from the London Pass is reading this, can I suggest that you formulate a policy on admission charges for different age groups accompanied by an adult holding a London Pass so that everybody can clearly know where they stand. Currently this is one big area of confusion.

Do I need to buy a Travelcard for my children?

Here things are thankfully clear. Under 5s get free travel when accompanied by an adult (up to four children allowed per adult).

Ages 5 – 10 also get free travel on trains when accompanied by an adult and free travel on buses and trams even when unaccompanied by an adult. Children aged 5 -10  travelling unaccompanied on trains require a Zip Oyster Photocard which has a one-time admin cost of £10.

Children aged 10 years 11 months to age 15 get free travel on buses and trams but pay a Child’s fare on all trains and require a Zip Oyster Photocard.

There are also some dispensations for young adulds aged 16 – 18. For more information check the Transport for London website.

Main Pros of the London Pass:

  • If you plan to visit a fair number of star attractions per day you will likely save money even on a 1-day Pass. Star attractions are ones that typically cost between £15 to £20 to visit.
  • With the Pass you won’t need to queue to buy tickets. However, during peak holiday season you might have to queue to get admitted to the attraction. The Pass also entitles you to be fast-tracked at some venues so waiting time is much reduced.
  • Free large London guidebook is included with the Pass.
  • About 30 additional discounts and freebies are available to Pass holders.

Main Cons of the London Pass:

  • You have to be careful not to start using the card at the end of the day. For example, if you use the card at 4PM it will count it as a whole day of usage even though you only had a short use of it.
  • London Eye, Madame Toussauds, the Sherlock Holmes museum, and some other popular attractions are not included on the London Pass list.
  • You can only visit each attraction once.
  • It does not aprovide automatic free entry to babies and toddlers accompanied by an adult.
  • It does not provide a concessionary price for over 60s.

Should I get the Pass?

It depends what you want to see and how much you want to see.

Museums are mostly free so if that is the focus of your visit you will struggle to get value for money from the Pass.

Likewise, if you like to take a very leisurely pace and only wish to visit one paid attraction a day you will also struggle to get value for money from the Pass.

However, if you intend to see many of the sites which require an admission fee and your pace isn’t very leisurely you are likely to save money – particularly on the 2, 3 and 6 day Passes.

Before deciding to buy the Pass check whether the attractions you intend to visit have an admission fee and if so, what the cost is. Then do the sums to see how much you stand to save before deciding whether to buy the Pass.

If you are over 60, bear in mind that many of the attractions and activities offer concessionary prices for your age group so when doing the sums make sure to do so with this in mind.

Should I Get the Pass with or without the Travel Option: Cons

The main thing to realise is that the Travelcard part of the London Pass is not subsidised so you don’t get any special price on it.

To take the adult 7-day zone 1-6 Travelcard as an example: you could buy one directly from London Underground or a newsagent for about £56 which is about what you pay if you get it via the London Pass. So no saving there.

And most tourists to London won’t require a zone 1-6 Travelcard because they will be staying and traveling mainly or exclusively within zones 1-3. The 7-day travelcard for just zones 1-3 costs about £36 – a potential saving of about £20 over the other one.

Pay particular attention before buying a London Pass for your children. See above notes on ‘Do I need to buy a Travelcard for my children?’

Should I Get the Pass with or without the Travel Option: Pros

Even if you are one of the majority of people who do not require zones 1-6 it’s nice to have it as it gives extra flexibility.

Then there is the convenience thing of having one card that takes care of your travel and sightseeing needs. Additionally, a Travelcard with zones 1-6 will get you from Heathrow airport to Central London which would otherwise cost £5.50 for a Single. Which works out as a saving of £11 if you use the Travelcard for a return trip to Heathrow at the end of your visit. Taking care of your Travelcard in advance also means that you won’t need to queue up in the Underground or newsagent to buy one.

So it boils down to a question of where you need to travel and how much you are prepared to pay for added convenience and flexibility.

If I order the London Pass but end up not using it – can I get a refund?

During the booking process you have the option of buying a money back guarantee for 4.5% of the order total. This is only useful if you think there is a fair chance that your travel plans may change. Remember, even if your travel plans change all Passes come with the flexibility of activating them for a period of up to 12 months.

To check the London Pass website click here.

This informational is brought to you from goodwheelrentabike.co.uk a bike rental company in London.

Expert Reviews – London

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Where to stay in London?  What to do in London?  Where to eat and shop in London?  Leisure and wellness products in London – which is best?  Our customers ask us these questions and others.

One of the drawbacks of such an exciting and diverse city is that it can be a full-time job just reviewing all the many sources of information available. We have found that reliable, up-to-date information on which to base informed decisions is often hard to find.

Our ‘expert reviews’ undertakes to do the research for you to provide you with the latest and best advice on each product.

You won’t find any negative reviews of products here.  If we don’t like a product we simply won’t recommend it.  If we like the product but think it unsuitable for some people we will say that.  This way you can make an informed decision based on your individual circumstances.

Please post and share your experiences for everyone to read and comment on.

If you have any product review suggestions you would like to submit for our consideration please be in touch via our Contact Us page. This is a ‘work in progress’.

Review 1:
Sightseeing in London

The London Pass – will I save money using it to sightsee around London? Click here to find out.

This informational is brought to you from goodwheelrentabike.co.uk a bike rental company in London.

Hampstead Heath

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Golders Hill Park - Hampstead Heath

Golders Hill Park – Hampstead Heath

Hampstead, in north west London is about 3 miles due north of Regent’s Park has some of the most expensive housing in the London area with (according to Wikipedia) more millionaires within its boundaries than any other area of the United Kingdom.

The jewel in its crown is Hampstead Heath consisting of anchient woodland and reserviors now used as swimming ponds.

The Heath also contains the stately home Kenwood to the north and Parliament Hill in the south east corner which has one of London’s best views of the London skyline anywhere in London.

From a cyclists point of view this area is gold dust. The Heath is criss-crossed with paths, the scenery is ever-changing and the constant changes in terrain challenging enough to keep things interesting. But do watch out for the ‘no cycling’ signs where the terrain occasinally gets too rough for riding or where pedestrians have right of way, where you are strongly advised to dismount.

To the west of the Heath is one of London’s most interesting and beautiful parks, ‘Golders Hill Park’. Cycling is not allowed in the park area but you can wheel your bike around the beautiful sculptured hedges and landscaped gardens as you wonder between the animal cages.

Here you can see deer, ostriches, donkeys, maras, ring-tailed lemurs, ring-tailed coatis, white-cheeked turacos and European Eagles. There is also an excellent restuarant where you can just chill al fresco.

But things get even more interesting this time of the year with open air concerts held at both the park’s bandstand and the bandstand at Parliament Hill.

For more information see page 21 of the City of London website: http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/hampstead-heath/news/Documents/Hampstead-heath-events-diary-2013.pdf

A brief sample for the month of May 2013:

Sunday 26 May 2013 at 3 PM: Andalus Trio (Spanish Guitar) Parliament Hill Bandstand

Sunday 26 May 2013 at 3 PM: Merton Concert band (Brass / woodwind) Golders Hill Park Bandstand

Monday 27 May 2013 at 3 PM: Oh La La! (Parisian folk / jazz) Parliament Hill Bandstand

Monday 27 May 2013 at 3 PM: Andalus Trio (Spanish guitar) Golders Hill Park Bandstand

Does life get much better than this? You are lying on the soft grass, surrounded by deer, lemur and the appreciative murmurs of an animated audience surrounding the bandstand where a band appears to be be playing for free. You are sipping Perrier water ordered from the park’s restaurant and your Goodwheel Rentabike bicycle is resting on its kickstand whilst the forest beyond beckons.

You soon get back on the saddle and are once again in ancient woodland, the winding natural paths stretching beyond, your bike’s suspension and padded seat soaking up much of the unevenness as you navigate the gravel paths interlaced with tree roots. The bike maintains its composure as you ride along the uneven terrain.

We at http://www.goodwheelrentabike.co.uk will be happy to offer you advice regarding the best cycle routes on the Heath. We will draw your attention to areas such as the Spaniard’s Inn and the Hampstead Heath extension which are well worth a visit. Hampstead village itself makes for a very scenic and atmospheric ride and is highly recommended.

Happy cycling!

Cental London to Canary Wharf

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London is an old city and one in which the traces of its history often remain to enjoy to this day. Regent’s canal is an example of this. Once a vital artery used for transporting such raw materials as iron, steel and grain, it has now become a place of pleasures for such activities as boat cruising, walking and cycling.

If you are renting a bike from us at http://www.goodwheelrentabike.co.uk do yourself a big favour and take a ride from Central London to Canary Wharf along the Regent’s canal.

You will see London in all its diversity from the affluent areas surrounding Regent’s Park to the poorer areas as you head east and then to the second most important commercial hub in London – Canary Wharf.

The ride is a facsinating and diverse one. Along the sparkling waters you will pass, quaint little corners of London, traditional pubs, ducks geese and other wildlife, river barges, other cyclists, lots of hidden gems as well as housing estates in the less oppulent parts of London. This is indeed a riding experience to savour. You will learn far more about what makes London unique on this one hour ride then if you stick to just on-road Central London riding.

Click on the below link and get ready to start a journey into the past and into the present. The route ends in Canary Wharf and the River Thames where you will get a chance to marvel at the architecture and layout and see London’s future claim as a world commercial central.

Enjoy!

http://www.gps-routes.co.uk/routes/home.nsf/RoutesLinksCycle/regents-canal-walking-and-cycle-route

Airport hotel bikes

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His rental bike awaits

Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted are all places we associate with travel, lots of people moving purposefully from one place to another and of course airplane travel.  As a bicycle rental comany we prefer to associate these airports with something a little different – expanding our customer base for bike rental.

So how exactly does our airport bike rental service work? For the sake of simplicity let’s profile our cusomer Luke.

Luke is 28 years old. He works in hi-tech. He earns £50K a year. He likes to work hard and play hard. He likes the finer things in life and to have fun. He is on his third trip to the UK and has his girlfriend Tina is in tow. She works as an executive secretary in one of the Fortune 500 companies.

The internet is Luke’s link with the outside world, so before he travels to Heathrow he googles ‘Heathrow bikes’ and guess who comes up on the first page – www.goodwheelrentabike.co.uk

Luke is a little over-confident and he thinks he gets our business model just by scanning a couple of internet pages in 30 seconds. He doesn’t totally get it but is convinced enough to go to our page http://www.goodwheelrentabike.com/order-a-bike/ and order two bikes one for himself and one for Tina.

He soon learns by way of email that:

1) We deliver to Heathrow hotels concierge who accept the bike on behalf of their guest.

2) When the week’s rental period is over, Luke need simply hands over the keys to the concierge and we will pick up the bike.

3) We require a credit card authorisation to ensure that funds are available before we can process Luke’s order.

4) Luke’s credit card details are secure with us. Paypal requires that we input his card details directly into our virtual terminal where the number is not visible to anyone.

Having processed his order, Luke wakes up on his first morning at his Heathrow hotel. It is only 7.30 AM, the sun is shining and his energy level is high. Best of all his and Tina’s gleaming rental bikes and the keys to the bicycle locks are waiting for him at the concierge. Luke quickly mounts his bike and manages a fast paced ride around the local country lanes plus a dip in the pool before Tina joins him for breakfast. Later in the day they take the two bikes on a Central London bound train (at no extra cost) and have a crazy time together touring around London before returning back to the hotel by train.

Unlike the tourists travelling through London by Underground, Luke and Tina are enjoying their extra independence afforded by their own two wheels, are getting to really know London its sites and geography. They have even discovered that the weather can often be quite hot and that it doesn’t even rain all the time.

They did it their way and are all the better for it.

Within 5 minutes of Hyde Park

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Gilbert collection partridge cup

Gilbert collection partridge cup

Riding a bike in London feels quick and that is largely because you keep arriving at new exciting venues – ‘most everything in Central London being in such close proximity. One mintue you are riding say in Hyde Park watching someone with a bee in their bonnet harping on about something or other in some foreign tongue and literally two minutes later you are at one of the most beautiful, artistic collections in the world.

The Gilbert collection currently housed at the Albert and Victoria museum is just one very important example. It is a hidden gem itself because whilst the museum that houses it is well known, this particular collection is not one that most people know about.

If you are a lover of beautiful artefacts then prepare to be taken aback by the sheer variety and brilliance of this collection.

What is on display? Micromosaics made from miniscule glass pieces, miniature portraits in enamel, gold boxes most of which were made as containers for snuff, which were also used as important diplomatic gifts, silver artefacts and much, much more.

Check out the beatiful pictures and descriptions on http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/the-rosalinde-and-arthur-gilbert-collection/ for further information.

Rent a bike from http://www.goodwheelrentabike.co.uk and get to see London in all its amazing variety.

Saddles and sore bums

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The only type of bike with a proper seat is the recumbent

When you rent a bike from us at www.goodwheelrentabike.co.uk we want you to be comfortable. In order to be comfortable you have to have the right saddle and know how to use it properly. Here is some advice from the cycling gurus Sheldon Brown and John Allen.

Every Spring, bike shops sell lots of saddles to cyclists who come in because their old saddle has become uncomfortable since they stopped cycling in the Autumn. They went out for a ride or two, and found it much less comfortable than they remembered from the previous year. They’ve heard about the latest buzzword in saddle gimmicks, and they want one of those!

They buy the new saddle, put it on the bike, go for a few more rides, and find they’re much more comfortable. They tell all their friends about their wonderful new saddle, and how they need one too…

But was it really the new, high-tech saddle…or was it just that the rider had become unaccustomed to cycling over the winter layoff? In many cases, working your way up over the course of a few short rides of gradually increasing length is all that is necessary, if you have a decent-quality saddle, properly adjusted.  If you have previously been comfortable on your present saddle, don’t be in a hurry to change.

A saddle is intended to carry some, but not all of your weight. The rest of your weight is mainly carried by your legs, and some by your hands and arms.

A cyclist who is out of cycling shape from being off a bicycle for a few months or more, will start out strong, but their legs will tire rapidly.  When the legs tire, the rider sits harder on the saddle, and that’s when the trouble starts. Many saddle complaints are actually traceable to fatigue caused by starting out the season with a longer ride than you are ready for.

If it has been several months or more since you rode a bicycle regularly, you can expect to be sore if you ride any serious distance.

If you are coming off of a layoff of months or years, start with short rides and increase your distance gradually. Anybody in decent shape can hop on a bike and ride 15-20 miles, but if you haven’t accustomed your body to cycling first you are likely to feel it afterwards.

When a cyclist finds a saddle uncomfortable, the first impulse is often to look for a soft one. This is often a mistake. Just as the softest mattress is not necessarily the most comfortable to sleep on, the softest saddle is not the most comfortable to cycle on.

Many cyclists are unaware of this, and many saddles are made to appeal to the purchaser who chooses a saddle on the basis of how easily the thumb can sink into the squishy top. This type of saddle is only comfortable for very short rides, (though an inexperienced cyclist will often find it more comfortable than a better saddle, as long as rides don’t exceed a mile or two.)

Saddles with excessive padding are also a common cause of painful chafing of the inner thigh, as rides become longer.

So what is the best way to avoid saddle pain? Make sure you saddle is not too soft and don’t use it as a seat. Keep most of your weight on your legs, rather like when you are riding a horse!

Tourists in search

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Chinese tourist

Big Ben posing with Chinese tourists

Visit Britain searches for tourists by advertising the UK abroad. But what emerges from their report is that tourists are themselves drawn to travel in search of…

That’s the big question and it turns out that there is no one convenient answer. Different countries, cultures age groups and genders are in search of different things.

Visit Britain advises that one market Britain to different cultures in different ways.

The Chinese: They are particularly keen on seeing famous locations on their travels. 72% of them agreed with the statement ‘When I’m on holiday I like to see famous and well-known locations’ more than any other. Just 11% agreed strongly that, ‘When I’m on holiday I like to explore new places away from the crowds’. Research show that they tend to be what’s called “trophy tourists”. This is largely because Western destinations are often seen to be aspirational and a badge of sophisticationand. There is an element of “status anxiety” that motivates the Chinese to travel to the West.

In more mature markets such as Australia tourists want to get beneath the surface of destinations a bit more, getting away from the crowds so highlighting authentic cultural experiences (eg pubs) and ‘hidden gems’ whilst maintaining an element of the ‘must-see’ attractions is important. This is because in consumers’ continued search for meaning in their lives, visitors are looking for emotional satisfaction from their holidays and to return home with experience, not just photos!

Not all countries are keen to get underneath the surface of Britain and meet locals. Indians for example expressed no particular interest in talking to the British as part of the experience of visiting England – for them it is more about seeing Britain.

For Latin Americans London is the key driver to visit England and embodies the mix of modernity and heritage that is Britain’s Unique Selling Point. They come to Britain for its tradition, heritage and architecture but ALSO for its innovation, hub of trends, dynamism and buzz.

Young Canadians in particular wanted to understand local culture and even to blend in / live like a local whereas older Canadian travellers were more likely to speak of exploring museums, galleries, music and the arts.

When affluent American parents spend significantly on their children, it is often on cultural activities, such as international travel. These parents are keen to teach their children to value philanthropy, cultural experiences and personally enriching activities above that of material goods so as to ensure that their children are cultured and well-rounded.

Tourists from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, and Estonia, tend to be more interested in participating in the city cultural activities (eg restaurants, shopping, galleries etc.) than visiting the built heritage environment (such as famous buildings and monuments) and undertake these activities to a lesser extent than do other tourists.

Conversely, some of the Asian nations felt that castles and stately homes had a sense of mystery or the unexplained to them which they related to from their own cultures and found highly appealing in Britain.

Tourists from Nordic countries tend to have a high opinions of Britain’s culture. They are very Anglophile in their outlook and they travel to Britain for the cultural experience in the broadest sense. They are more heavily influenced by culture when choosing a holiday destination than by history. Finns and Danes in particular are attracted to Britain’s interesting cities and towns as well as city specific things like restaurants, pubs and bars, shopping, museums and galleries and less inclined to visit castles and stately homes.

Countries with strong historic links to Britain tend to rate the built heritage very highly, hence tourists from New Zealand, Australia, the USA, Canada, and South Africa are most likely to visit historic buildings.

Britain’s gardens although highly regarded by the majority of nations are particularly appealing to the Japanese and Egyptian markets. Visiting gardens is also a high priority for older visitors especially for women.

Going to a pub in Britain is far more appealing to more mature markets than emerging ones, and to younger visitors than older ones. Visitors aged 16-34 are more likely than other age groups to be found in a pub, but older visitors often go too. British pubs consistently ride high on the list of positive perceptions about Britain.

For some nations, such as the Nordic countries, Switzerland, the Netherlands, France, and Ireland going to the pub is seen as one of the top priorities for a trip to Britain. For other nations, such as Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Egypt, and Turkey going to the pub is not seen to be one of Britain’s highlights (probably due to a mixture of cultural and religious views). Other activities are far more appealing.

To New Zealanders British culture can appear too similar to their own country which can be a disincentive to visiting Britain.

For the Japanese, a shared “island culture” is felt to be a similarity with Britain. The two countries are perceived to have a plethora of features in common: there is a royal family in both countries; both cultures have a deeply ingrained respect for tradition and the people are quite similar in their reservedness and consideration for propriety. Japanese feel that Britain represents the quintessence of Japan. Britain is what Japan could have been. Japan is changing but Britain is perceived to be  over the same. Britain is all about tradition and stability. “You could always go back to it and you will find it the same”. Japan respects traditions and yet has an obsession with novelty and changes. The juxtaposition between Britain and Japan inevitably leads to the comparison between the culture built of stone and that of wood. Britain is built of stone and thus seen to be everlasting whilst Japan is built of wood which is temporary. While being a land of traditions, Japan is also a land of transient beauty (wabi-sabi), of fireworks and cherry blossoms where, in reality, nothing lasts long.

Chinese have a strong respect for Britain’s “1000 year old history” as they see it as a kinship between the two countries. Royalty and aristocracy are big draws and the Chinese express an interest in experiencing life in palaces and castles and following in the footsteps of royalty.

So whilst not all tourists are created equal, cycling does transcend culture, gender and age boundaries being an activity that can be enjoyed by all. We at http://www.goodwheelrentabike.co.uk look forward to being of service to all tourists regardless of their reasons for travelling to the UK.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… by Charles Dickens

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Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

Probably one of the most memorable openings ever in English literature was written by Charles Dickens in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.

A fuller quote reads: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way’.

In these words did Charles Dickens so eloquently describe the parody of life – that paroxical tapestry containing both greatness and stupidity, of good and evil, of optimism and negativity. And those contradictions can be found not just around us but within us too. We have our moments of generousity and other moments of callousness, moments of profundity and clear thinking and other moments of murkiness and indecisiveness. Moments where the world looks like a bight place and other times where everything looks despairingly bad.

If we are to believe the media, we are certainly living right now in the worst of times. Economic doom and gloom is all that they see on the horizon. But Dickens’ timeless words are equally as applicable today as they were back when he wrote them. So it is quite likely that we are living both in the worst of times and in the best of times and that there is a silver lining to the current economic situation.

It turns out that those heady days of constantly rising asset prices that existed before the recession hit was just a bubble after all. But living in a bubble is living a lie of make-believe. Ultimtely human beings are far happier with the truth even when that truth is not as pretty as the deception.

So how has the recession affected us in a positive way and how are we in fact living in the best of times? The following report from ‘Visit Britain’ is very illuminating in that it holds up a mirror to our innermost thoughts and desires particularly the desire to get back to the basics of defining and living a good life.

Their meticulously compiled report which utilises source material from Trendwatching.com is titled ‘Overseas Visitors to Britain – Understanding Trends, Attitudes and Characteristics – September 2010′ and makes very interesting reading. Here is an excerpt:

‘Savvy consumers in advanced economies know the difference between brands who want to sell happiness and brands that want to facilitate it, and they will endorse those brands that help them find and create happiness within themselves. Values that cannot be bought such as family, love, and friendship are very much at the forefront.’

‘This provides a challenge for companies to capture such emotions in their products. Brands would do well to associate themselves with something carefree, possibly to the extent that it makes people “feel like a child again”.’

‘There has been a definite shift towards “simpler lives” as a backlash against extreme consumption. Consumers are realising that having more doesn’t necessarily make us any happier. Consumers are becoming more focussed on what makes them happy and are finding that true happiness comes from a life that acknowledges the good in the small and everyday, that finds happiness in the now and the present, that sees worth and abundance in what we already have and feels prosperous in the simple presence of life and nature, friends and family.’

‘As a result consumers are starting to consume less and really examine what they buy. There is a realisation that a constant desire for more, new, fashionable stuff is not necessarily the road to a happy and fulfilled life. Similarly consumers are trying to “make do” with things they already have, as much of what we throw out or replace is based on perceived obsolescence. Look after, fix up and make-do has become the new craze. Sharing, borrowing and renting has also become trendy. There is an acknowledgement that we don’t need to buy items we rarely use and most things are available to borrow or rent. This in turn reduces clutter in our homes, saves money and reduces waste.’

‘Shopping has become a worldwide pastime or even hobby. On the weekends the shopping centres and malls are filled with people eager to spend hard earned money on all kinds of stuff. The more time we spend surrounded by stuff to buy the more likely we are to buy it. However as consumers strive to become more satisfied with less, it is likely that shopping will be swopped for alternatives such as visiting art galleries or museums, the park or a walk in the countryside.’

So, in essence there is much that is positive about our current situation. As a group we are being more real, honest and in touch about what constitutes ‘the good life’.

Every company working in the retail or tourist trade would do well to consider the content of the above when considering how best to market themselves. We at www.goodwheelrentabike.co.uk certainly emphasie the various aspects of our product that has wide appeal for the consumer which are: a value for money bike rental service, the uplifting feeling of being out in the great outdoors getting plenty of fresh air and exercise and the opportunity to meet people, engage socially and feel the rhythm of the city when out in the open.

We hope you indeed find fulfillment in these simple  pleasures of life.

Boris bikes – the carrot and stick (and how it got stuck in their spokes)

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We at Boris bikesgoodwheelrentabike.co.uk can hardly be described as competitors to the 8,000 bike strong Boris bike scheme.

It would hardly be a like-for-like comparison anyway, for a whole host of reasons not least because Barclays Bank has never offered us tens of millions of pounds to have their name embalzoned on our bikes.

In fact, it is not just the bank that have been called upon to dig deep to advertise on the bikes and thereby keep the scheme afloat – it is also local councils. As the scheme expends southwards towards Hammersmith and East to Canary Wharf, local councils have found that they have been called upon to find the funds with which to cover the cost of these expansions.

In short, the scheme does not have and never did have a viable business model, which begs the question: if renting out bikes is apparently such a loss-making endeavour why would any sane person get into a business like that?

To answer that, one must first come to grips with the curious model upon which shared scheme bike rentals are based. Therein lies the scheme’s biggest strength and also its one big fatal flaw – the pricing structure.

The model is based on the first half an hour being free. Yes, we all know that it isn’t really ‘free’ after all it does in fact cost £2 a day access fee for non-members (up from £1 last year) but even with the doubling of the access fee it is still quite cheap for short periods, which is a great thing. So on that count, well done Boris bikes!

But the other side of the coin is not so ‘well done’ in that it intentionally discourages longer rentals using the ‘carrot and stick strategy’. It doesn’t want you holding onto a bike for too long a period when someone else could be using it so it makes it prohibitively expensive to do so.

Hence, keep the bike for over 3 hours in a single stretch and the price (including access fee) rockets to £37!

By comparison at www.goodwheelrentabike.co.uk that kind of money would get you the use of a bike for a whole day with £7 left over for a Starbucks coffee and large muffin (just a suggestion of course, you could instead give us a tip if you preferred to do that!)

So by rewarding you if you dock the bike within half an hour and punishing you severely if you hold onto it for more than a few hours they created a situation where only 1% of users keep the bike longer than 1 hour at a time. (This information is based on ‘Barclays Cycle Hire customer satisfaction and usage – wave 2, 2 September 2011′).

The big minds behind the scheme had originally anticipated a win-win situation. The carrot and stick would encourage the majority of people to return the bikes quickly but the minority who didn’t would fund the scheme with the onerous charges applied to their accounts.

But things didn’t quite work out that way (they never do work out quite as anticipated – after all that is life). They found that they had become too successful for their own good. They had locked themselves into a model that was a losing one. There was never going to be enough money coming in from rentals to cover the cost of their overheads because their customers knew better than to allow themselves to be ‘punished’.

Were we to imitate their business model our sanity would well be in doubt. In fact our business model is based on a very opposite model. Rather than increasing our prices the longer you rent from us we reduce our prices the longer the rental period. So while a one-day rental is £30 a two-day rental is just £48 and a three-day rental is just £60.

Compare that with the £52 cost of renting a Boris bike for more than 6 hours and you will see that the models work very differently. We encourage long-term rentals, we make it cheaper the longer you rent and we have a business model that actually works.

So no, Boris bikes will never be in competition with us or us with them.

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