Ever since I got into cycling, I’ve been aware that I’ve enjoyed tinkering and fettling bikes as much as riding them. I’m never satisfied with stock bikes, and love to customise and try out different parts where I can. Like Arthur Weasley, I’m happiest in the shed.
So far, I’ve picked up what I can from manuals, guides on the internet and just trying things, but there are an awful lot of holes in my education. I also want to be able to setup and service my bikes as much as I can, which is where a new co-operative in Oxford called The Broken Spoke comes in.
The Co-op door
Setup in 2012 by Cassiope Sydoriak, Elle Smith and Will McCallum, and based in workshops that are part of the Oxford Story Museum , they have laudable aims:
Teach bicycle maintenance classes that are fairly-priced, convenient, and accessible to everyone
Bring people together to ride and repair bicycles
Provide specific activities and training for vulnerable members of our community and those under-represented in cycling
Create training, volunteer, and employment opportunities for a new generation of bicycle mechanics
Support the growth of a “fix it, don’t throw it away” mentality within the cycling community
Do business in a sustainable way that strengthens our community
I’ve now completed two bike workshops there and can highly recommend them! The first course was Wheel Building back in February (Flickr Set here), where we learned how to lace and true a wheel. Topics like dishing and spoke length were also covered, and after spending 2 hours trying to true a wheel, I appreciate the skill involved even more.
I then went back for a second course, the two-part External Mechanics Intensive (Wheels, Brakes, Chains and Gears) with chum Matt Hamm. In both courses, the workshop leaders were fantastic, and numbers are kept low so that there is enough one-on-one time. This means you can get specific instructions on your particular bike and its components, rather than just generic instructions. I’ve learnt a lot and keen to go back for more.
Matt and I removing sprockets
As well as the specific bike courses, they run an open workshop every Saturday from 12–6pm. You can come and use their extensive tool collection, and get advice and help from volunteer experts hanging around.
The co-op is a triumph!
Sorry, couldn’t resist a photo of my singlespeed outside the Pembroke Street entrance…
The film has two stars – triathlete Kate Tiernan and a 1970s road bike by Allin Cycles of Croydon. Apparently, as well as filing frame lugs into elegant filigree-like patterns to save weight, the Allin Cycles staff would also sell gramophones to boost winter income. Now the worlds of cycling and recorded sound are once more combined in the British Sea Power video.
This song is in constant rotation in my head at the moment, I absolutely adore it. The lovely sunny video with vintage bike is a bonus!
Portland Design Works have developed a new alloy bottle cage thats a refreshing break from the norm. The Bird Cage is an inspired design where the wings form the arms to keep your bottle secure, and is available in the UK from Charlie the Bikemonger.
A few weeks I found this great photo of my Mum outside her childhood home in Cloister Crofts, Leamington Spa (it all looks very different now!). A month before Mum died, she was asking me all sorts of questions about cycling, and revealed that she’d always wanted a bike with drop handlebars.
Still, that looks like a classy Brooks saddle and saddlebag there, so not all bad!
There’s a road near home that I cycle most weeks. Its a gravelly and potholed concrete track with a descent and then a small climb. It acts as a shortcut to the village of Hailey, avoiding the busy main road where I’ve felt the breeze from wing mirrors of passing cars.
Normally, I take this track quite gingerly – staying on the left side where there are less potholes and not taking it too fast. Last Sunday however, I seemed to have decided that I’d been needlessly overcautious in the past, and didn’t need to brake going down the hill. It’s obvious what happened next isn’t it? I could feel the bike slide beneath me and down I came, sliding down the hill on the gravel to the bottom of the dip.
All that’s left of the ‘Giro’ is the O
Fortunately nothing was broken, just bumped and scraped – the helmet did it’s job! The inner foam was cracked through in four places, and on the side I slid on, its almost scraped all the outer shell off. Also, my cycling buddy Andy was with me, so I knew that there was someone who could ring for help. As it was, I recovered enough to slowly limp home the last four miles, but it was agony.
My bike came out of it much better than I did, just cosmetic scrapes, nothing expensive to fix. All in all, I came out of it well, and I know people who’ve had far worse knocks, and not their fault either. I feel a bit of an arse, and I’m in quite a bit of pain, but my enthusiasm for cycling isn’t dwindled one bit.
I’m getting a bit OCD when it comes to bike add-ons. Apart from a small frame pump, I don’t like lots of plastic brackets and bolt on bits on my bike. If its not needed at that moment, I don’t want to see it, or any evidence of it. What’s more I don’t like mudguards (or have a bike with clearance for them), despite living in a country that has seen nothing but rain for the last few months.
Enter the Ass-Saver. A simple piece of plastic that clips onto the saddle rails, providing a small mudguard that can also be folded away and stored under the saddle.
It sounded ideal and not very expensive – so I had to try one. It was a bit more fiddly to fit in the Prologo Nago saddle on my Canyon than the Charge Spoon on my singlespeed, but it did fit. When it stayed in place, it did indeed save my ass, but that wasn’t always the case. I’ve found it can get knocked easily, especially when getting on, so I do have to check that it’s straight before setting off.
When you don’t have mudguards, its obviously not going to stop wet legs in a downpour, but it’s ideal for commutes and satisfies my hideaway fetish nicely!
This morning I managed to squeeze a 20 mile ride in before work, and it was the perfect morning for it. Warm, sunny, and with all sounds of summer around me – from swifts screaming above to to the gentle babble of the River Windrush in the picturesque village of Swinbrook (above). Good for the soul and sets you up for the day!
Wouldn’t it be nice, especially over winter, to be able to take a nice cup of tea* with you on a bike ride? A source of refreshment, caffeine, antioxidants and sugar that tastes so much better than energy drinks**.
You can of course take a thermos with you, but this is not only heavy (requiring a bag to carry it) it also means stopping to drink it. Its nice to stop and enjoy a view for sure, but generally I prefer to keep going, especially as stopping can mean getting cold.
So, what I was looking for was the equivalent of a normal plastic water bottle (or ‘bidon’ if you’re poncey), that can be stored in a bottle cage and squeezed into my mush on the go, but will also keep my tea drinkably hot. Until recently, the closest I’d found was the Biologic Vacuum Flask, which is designed for a bike’s bottle cage, but doesn’t fulfill the squeezy requirement:
I also had doubts about whether a metal flask in a metal bottle cage on a metal frame would just be too rattly.
I was about to seriously start thinking about trying to make my own (see: Kickstarter), when I found the Camelbak Podium Big Chill via Matt Hamm. I use Camelbak Podium’s already, they have a great spout system, and you get no nasty plastic taste in the water. I hadn’t come across the ‘Big Chill’ though, which has an insulated wall for keeping water cool. In the description was the key text:
Also keeps warm beverages warm during cool weather rides
My tests so far have been great – I’ve kept tea hot for more than an hour and half, longer than I expected for plastic bottle! It doesn’t have all the elegance of a china cup, but it works!
*Or coffee if you’re that way inclined
**OK, it doesn’t have all the benefits of a proper energy drink, but it does taste better
Yesterday I took part in my very first sportive, The Circuit of the Cotswolds, with 70 miles (112km) and 4000ft of climbing it was the hardest ride I’ve done yet. The weather was forecast to chuck it down all day, but it held out, and even treated us to a sunny start! The route was gorgeous – very picturesque and worth the climbing for the views of the Cotswolds.
The first 30 miles or so flew by, probably because I was busy nattering. I then started to feel sad that we were doing it too fast – not reasons of saving energy, but just because I wanted to make it last longer. It’s rare to get so much time to be cycling with my friends, usually its snatching an hour or two inbetween all the other things you have to do when you have a family.
The last 10 miles or so started to hurt a bit however, so in the end I was quite glad to see the finish line. With recent events, training had taken a back seat, so I was very pleased to have achieved what I had and have so much fun in the process. Now the next milestone is the 100!
Riding a singlespeed can help bring back the unfettered joy you experienced riding your bike as a child. You don’t realize how much mental energy you devote to shifting until you relinquish your derailers, and discover that a whole corner of your brain that was formerly wondering when to shift is now free to enjoy your surroundings and sensations.
After buying a new road bike last summer, I was pondering what to do with the now-redundant Peugeot. I really fancied a retro/modern project bike to work on, and after seeing pictures of a Charge Plug (below – a bike with exactly the aesthetics I was after) I set about converting the Peugeot to a Plug-style singlespeed to use on the commute to the office.
The first stage was quite cathartic – remove all the surplus components from the bike, stripping it back to just what it needed. Off came the front and rear derailleur, cogs, large chainring, bottle cage and brake levers/shifters. Once the relevant cables were cut, this was all very straightforward.
I loved the process of sourcing parts and learning how to put them together myself. From the original Peugeot, I kept the frame, cranks, calipers and seatpost along with pedals I’d bought for my Globe Daily (now sold to a new owner). Then off ebay I got the following:
‘New’ Rigida wheels: These weren’t necessary, but I liked the style of the deeper rims, and silver colour, as opposed to the skinny black ones that came with the Peugeot originally. They were also a complete bargain at £30!
Charge Spoon saddle: My favourite bottom perch
Charge Slice Bullhorn Bars: Bullhorns give more hand positions than a standard flat bar, and the extensions are great for extra leverage when you need more power going up hill. Its great to ride. They’re only £20 brand new anyway.
Chain tensioner: Because the length of the chain is restricted by the width of the links, you’ll most likely end up with a bit of slack. ‘Proper’ singlespeed/track/internal hub frames have horizontal dropouts at the rear, so you can just adjust the position in the dropout to take up the slack. However as I wanted to use my road bike frame, it has vertical dropouts, so I needed a chain tensioner. More on that later…
Velo Orange stem: Used, but was immaculate! Shinnnnyyyy!
And then the parts I had to buy new:
Short chainring bolts: The inner chainring needed remounting onto the front, with shorter bolts. A few pounds from Charlie the Bikemonger
The gaps left by the removed rear cogs was filled with nice polished alloy Hub Spacers from Velosolo.
25mm Schwalbe Marathon tyres: I wanted slightly wider tyres, with more tread than my road bike, and found these with a reflective wall – ideal for commuting!
Cyclo cross style Tektro brake levers: These were a Christmas present :)
Fizik bar tape in brown to match the Charge spoon saddle
And here’s the end result:
The hardest parts of the process were getting the chainline dead straight (a lot of fiddling but got there in the end!), and setting up the chain tensioner correctly. I tried all sorts of fettling with it, but it was always too noisy once engaged with the chain. The chainline was definitely straight, and ran smoothly without it (just a bit loosely) so in the end I got a Charge Masher ‘half-link’ chain which did away with the need for a tensioner altogether. No noise, the right tension, and no extra gubbins needed!
I’m really pleased with how it turned out! Its fun to ride and ideal for commuting, keeping my proper road bike (currently a Canyon Ultimate AL self-build) setup for my jaunts around the countryside.
In 1954, Cycling Magazine ran a competition asking readers what they thought the bicycle would be like in the year 2000. They weren’t that far off either (click the image to view larger) – frames made of plastic, cables concealed in tubing and electrically welded frames. There was however, no explanation of the ‘Twin Top Tubes’. As reader John Caine, astutely guessed:
Our old friend the bicycle will remain essentially the same…
This man, so rough in appearance, with hands like hams, was an artist, producing the most delicate wistfull pen and ink drawings to a standard that has seldom been equalled
Frank Peterson, “Englands best known, unknown artist” is a very recent discovery for me. Through his published work in periodicals such as Cycling magazine he captured the romance of cycle touring in the UK with pen and ink. His first work for Cycling was in 1893, but I tracked down some copies from 1937-39 which as some excellent examples of his work. The majority have the running theme of picturesque landscape, with the bike that bought him there in the foreground.
I’m someone who has spent the last 10 years at a desk, not doing any sports or exercise bar the occasional walk. Most days my exercise was walking from a car park to an office. As such, I’ve been unfit, and very overweight.
This all changed last year when I discovered cycling. I’ve lost over a stone and a half now, and I’m ready to take on my first sportive! Well, actually, I don’t feel quite ready yet to cycle 70 miles over Cotswold hills, but I’m training as regularly as possible to be as ready as I can be. While 70 isn’t a big deal for some, it definitely won’t be an easy one for me.
Helen & Douglas House is a registered charity providing respite and end of life care for children and young adults with life-shortening conditions, as well as support and friendship for the whole family. The two hospice houses are bright, vibrant and positive places, where the emphasis is on living life to the full, even when that life may be short.
Children can stay at Helen House and young adults can stay at Douglas House, along with their families, for short periods of time for rest and recuperation, treatment of distressing symptoms and end of life care and support. In any one year we support over 250 children, young adults and their families.
It costs over £4.5 million every year to run Helen & Douglas House, most of which comes from voluntary contributions – your support means a great deal!
I hope you’ll consider supporting me – I’ve set a very modest fundraising target, but I’m sure with the power of the interwebs, we can beat that into a cocked hat!
I loved bike shops as a kid (especially the smell of them!) but we didn’t, and still don’t, have anything quite like this. 718 Cyclery is not only a great retail space, but the whole attitude to building bikes and access to the process is unique and just plain brilliant. I found myself nodding in agreement to everything Joe says.
Last Autumn I borrowed a friend’s Turbo Trainer, an odd looking device that allows you to use your bike indoors for training. With the nights getting longer and the weather getting worse, it seemed like a good way of retaining the fitness gains and weight loss from the summer.
My first experience wasn’t that great, rather uninspiring in fact. The bike is locked into a rigid position, there was a fair bit of noise (even though this was one of the quietest ones) and it felt nothing like cycling on a road. For my second session, to a proper structure and keep up the interest, I played a Sufferfest video, which helped a lot. Here’s the trailer for the one I bought, ‘The Downward Spiral‘…
If you’re watching this trailer sitting on a sofa, rather than a turbo trainer and bike, you might chuckle at the music and captions feeling a bit overdramatic. Believe me, it doesn’t once you’re on the bike and you get the instruction to ‘close the gap!’ you go for it. 25 mins later however, there was the strong smell of burning rubber, and lo, I had melted the rear tyre, and the floor was littered with rubber shavings. I’d love to claim this was because I was doing such an intense workout, but I think I’d just set it up with the wrong resistance.
The way around this is to use a special turbo trainer tyre, made of a much harder compound, and the easiest way to do that is to have a separate wheel setup ready and change it over for a turbo session. That means getting another tyre, wheel and cassette! But that’s not all you need, as the you also have to prop the front wheel up, have a fan on to keep cool and protect your bike from the corrosive sweat that drips off you in bucket loads.
It’s an awful lot of faff!
However, it wasn’t until the next ride that I felt the benefit. Just doing two short sessions during the week made the Friday ride much better. In the end though, I decided that getting a turbo trainer was the equivalent of a sandwich toaster – a dust-gatherer after the first couple of uses.
Now we’re in February, and the UK is having an extended cold snap where my usual routes have layers of compacted frozen snow. After falling off my bike last November, which made my ribs sore for weeks afterwards, I don’t fancy the risk, and I’ve finally caved in and got one. It’s always going to be better to riding outside, but for the times I can’t, I can at least do a hamster in a wheel impression.
2011 was the year that cycling replaced the “search for the right media centre” as the main blog topic at The Hickensian. I’ve been pretty much starting from scratch in terms of knowledge, and gleaning information from all sorts of sources.
Here are just some of things I’ve learnt this year:
When mucking about with the stem height on the headset (for the purposes of slamming) you need to tighten the top cap before the stem bolts. If you do the stem first, you can’t tighten the top bolt properly and everything rattles. As I find out once, going downhill.
The quick release on brakes is great for whipping the wheel off that bit quicker, just remember to put it down again afterwards. As I find out once, going downhill.
Cream tyres look great on a retro build, but after a few short rides they look like you’ve wiped your bottom on them.
Mudguards and chainguards protect you from muck, but metal ones are a constant source of annoying rattles.
When changing tyres or inner tubes, you need just enough puff in the inner tube to give it some shape. Otherwise it gets pinched by the tyre and you get through quite a few inner tubes. I learnt eventuallly
You need a good hard tyre to resist punctures, at least 90-100 psi.
Just because a saddle is expensive, it doesn’t mean its right for you. Of everything I’ve tried sitting on this year, from Brooks to Fizik, the ones that suit my bottom best are by Charge: the Spoon and Knife saddles. They can be picked up for less than £20, look good and feel great.
The day I made my saddle properly level (with a spirit level) was the day I stopped suffering from numb hands on a ride.
The most important accessory/thing to take with you is water.
Steel may be heavier, but it gives you a nicer, smoothed out ride compared to Aluminium.
There are 2 types of SPD cleats/pedals – SPD‘s are small, metal and are intended for Mountain Bike use, whereas SPD-SL‘s are larger, plastic and intended for road bike use.
I just love farting around with bikes. Which is why my Peugeot Project from earlier this year is now becoming a Charge Plug inspired single speed project. When thats finished there’ll be another bike project…
Here’s a great find from the dusty depths of YouTube – a British Transport promotional film from 1955. Not only does this feature Tweed (plus fours much in attendance), cycling, a fantastic soundtrack, railways and country pubs, it’s also filmed around the area I grew up in Warwickshire.
So if you need an antidote to haggard looking men or hipsters doing trackstands on their fixies*, this is it!
We’re having a truly Indian Summer here in the UK, and it looks set to continue over the weekend. It gets dark by 7pm at this time of year, so I had to get out early tonight to enjoy the warm rays while they lasted.
This image sums it up for me – riding through pretty countryside, with long shadows and village names that make giggle like a schoolboy.
Here’s an interesting idea for improving bike lights and night time visibility. Revolights is a Kickstarter Project that places LEDs in a ring around the wheel, timed so that it provides a constant beam lower down, lighting up the road around you:
From the video, I’m not 100% convinced that they’re quite bright enough yet, but to be honest, I adore the effect. Tron light cycle comparisons aside, I’m just a fan of how they look when moving. I really hope this project gets some attention, funding and development – in a few years this might be the kind of thing that gets built into the wheel itself.
I’d reached that point in my rides, where I wanted some sort of cycling computer to track my progress and show my route, so I recently picked up a Biologic BikeMount to allow me to use my iPhone. Rather than buy a dedicated unit (such as a Garmin, which isn’t really an option financially at this point) this lets me reuse a device that’s already replaced lots of other separate devices like Camera and iPod. Here are my thoughts after 2 months of use.
The phone gets clipped into a sturdy protective hardcase, which is then mounted to your handlebars via a supplied bracket. I’ll let this chap called Josh tell you exactly how it works:
Together with Cyclemeter, I now have a nice clear display to glance at, at the end of the ride, I export the results to Strava. The dedicated Strava app is nice and clean, but a bit basic. I like the features of the Cyclemeter app, such as telling me how many calories I’ve burned (very motivating for me).
The main disadvantage of this setup is the overall size of the kit. While the iPhone itself isn’t that big, by the time it’s in the protective case it’s got added bulk. At least the case gives me confidence that if it does get dropped, the phone would survive.
I’ve managed to get mine mounted on my stem, so that it keeps it out of the way a bit, but there’s no getting over how much it much it dominates the handlebars compared to a dedicated unit like a Garmin. It might make you feel a bit self-conscious!
Other, minor, negatives points are that the home button is a stick-on dome of plastic, which fell off after a few weeks, just leaving the sticky pad. It still works though. Also, the bracket that you put on the bike doesn’t get absolutely tight. Just as you think it’s going to tighten, it loosens slightly again. So you have to tighten again, and stop just before it ‘snaps back’ to loose. However, I’ve not any problems with it falling off, or being wobbly.
Another reason I got the mount, was that I fancied trying to shoot video to capture some of the picturesque parts of my rides (the case has a window for the lens). First of all, it’s a fiddle to get the bracket and phone in the right position so that the camera has a good landscape view, but it is possible. However, the iPhone camera just isn’t up to the job – the picture is just too shakey. There’s a lot of post-processing apps that will take out the shake, but they crop the image a lot. I did try an app called Steadylens, which works during recording, but that wasn’t much better. The overall effect is what I can only describe as ‘swirly and shimmery’ even at very slow speeds. As if its being viewed underwater:
I also noticed on still images, taken with the phone in the case, that it distorts the image towards the edges.
Despite the size, and other little niggles, the BikeMount, along with Cyclemeter, works really well, and do me just fine.
Another wee cycling update. It’s now been 6 months since I claimed that I wasn’t interested in being sporty, owning a Road-only bike (I wanted to ride something ‘chap’ and retro), and that I would never touch Lycra with a bargepole, let alone my body.
All that’s changed – I’m now riding a proper road bike (that I’m trying to make as modern as possible), in lycra and wearing SPD shoes. What a difference it all makes though! After a lot of discussion on Twitter on normal shorts vs bib shorts, I got a pair of the former from Shutt Velo Rapide. which are really comfy and no comparison to when I was trying to ride in jeans. I’m realising the advantage of bibs though, as I get do get a cold patch on my back.
SPDs were another big step, but didn’t take as long to get used to as I thought they would and make the difference that everyone has been telling me they do. After a couple of falls on the grass outside I soon got the nack, I got used to getting my feet in and out without looking down. I couldn’t ride any distance without them now – and certainly wouldn’t want to tackle any hills.
Another milestone I passed tonight was my first ride – with someone else. I was very nervous, almost like a first date nervous. Would I hold them up? Would I be a panting wheezy lump at the back? Would I fall over, forgetting to twist my foot out of the SPDs? Actually, I was fine – a little out of breath, but as much because I was trying to chat at the same time.
The advantages of riding with others are well documented, but the biggest difference I felt was in keeping pace. It spurred me on to keep pedalling and try a bit harder. Also, on such a windy night, it was nice to be able to draft behind someone for a bit and feel the reduction in wind resistance.
The biggest problem I find is with getting time to go out riding. I can usually manage an hour a week, and would love to do more, but the spare time just isn’t there. Especially when I’ve got a book to write. However, for the first time, I’m starting to think about group rides and even working up to doing a sportive! I love it.
I mentioned a while back that while I’ve been enjoying the Globe for its comfortable, relaxed style, I’d been thinking of getting a proper road bike for weekend and sunny evening jaunts around the countryside. Not being able to justify the cost of a new bike just yet, and heavily inspired by Simon Clayson’s Peugeot 753 project, I spent a while watching items on ebay, looking for a suitable basis for a project bike. Ideally I was looking for something with a classic style frame with flat top tube that was rideable from the off without needing too much work. I knew that it would probably be something that would need a respray and work done further down the road, but it would allow me to find out if a road bike was ‘for me’, without spending too money up front. If it did work out, I could improve and upgrade it and spread the cost out over time, but if it didn’t, no big loss.
Finally, the ideal candidate turned up, and it was another Peugeot:
Looking back through old Peugeot catalogues, it turns out that it was a ‘Competition’ from 2000, making it about 11 years old.
What made it particularly appealing was the quality Columbus Thron steel frame and silver Campagnolo Veloce groupset. The frame colour was already black (which was exactly what I wanted), so even though it would need a respray at some point soon, it didn’t need to happen right away. The general condition was OK, and it didn’t need any drastic intervention up front.
The initial plan was to make this a retro build, with chrome handlebars (Nitto Noodles), Brooks Honey Leather Saddle and bartape. Here it is in this unfinished half-way stage:
However, after a few weeks I realised that I’d changed my mind, and that my heart was really after something more modern. After all I already had the retro styled Globe Daily. So after some rethinking here’s what it looks like now:
So far I’ve replaced:
Front tyre: removing the old yellow stripe type helped tidy up its looks immensely.
Pedals: Shimano A530, which have cleats on one side, and normal flat pedal on the other, so that it can be used for commuting as well as road riding. I haven’t got SPD shoes yet, and I’ve got use to flipping the pedals with my foot to get the flat side
Saddle: Charge Spoon, which is great value
Handlebars and Stem: This was the biggest change. I found the reach and shape of the Modolo bars it came with hard to use, the brakes and shifters felt too far away. Then I tried Nitto Noodle bars, which have nice swept back tops, but the reach was still quite large. Now that I’ve swapped it for a Deda RHM 02 bar (much shorter reach) and slightly shorter matching stem I’ve got it how I need it. In order to fit the Deda stem I needed a quill stem adaptor, but it works really well. I finished this off with some Fizik gel pads and bartape for a comfy hold. This was really nice, but I found the strips that they supply to tape down the ends at the centre not very flexible, and didn’t make a smooth end. I changed this for plain black insulation tape which works much better.
I also removed the 90s style graphics, using a hairdryer to soften the adhesive and a credit card to scrape it off, leaving just the Peugeot logo.
Overall, it’s cost me just over £200 for the original bike, plus all the additions (some of which were new, some nearly-new off ebay). I’ve learnt a lot by doing this, but I’ve had to ask lots of questions and some trial and error before getting this far, so thanks again to Simon Clayson, Matt Carey and Tim Barry for putting up with all my questions.
So was a ‘proper road bike’ for me? Undeniably yes. After just 2 weeks of using it, the Globe feels slow in comparison. I never thought the bike would make that much difference, and that personal fitness was a bigger factor, but now I can see that the bike can make a big difference too. I’ve had great fun riding this around local villages, increasing my mileage and how long I can go without stopping for a breather. It’s also been a fun geeky journey choosing parts.
It’s a project that’s still in progress, and as funds allow I plan to respray it and upgrade the wheels, but a more immediate task will be to replace the chain and clean the mucky drivetrain. I’m also starting to realise why cyclists wear lycra, and I’m coming around to the idea. Slowly, but getting there…
Recently, my favourite place to spend time on the internets has been the Rapha Films channel on Vimeo. These high quality short films are not only inspiring and enthusing, but beautifully shot, edited and scored too.
It all started with their Rapha & Paul Smith promo video:
Which was followed up by ‘City Riding’ (both featuring the can’t-help-but-want-to-imitate Cole Maness):
Then there is Rapha California, which if you ignore the anti-helmet sentiment, is brimming with atmosphere:
The Vimeo app for Boxee is currently crashing on me a lot, so I’ve been watching these on Apple TV via Couchsurfer (yes you can Airplay from iOS too). It would be great if Apple could open up apps for Apple TV and get the same slick experience that YouTube videos and Podcasts get.
I’d be the first to admit that the geekery of bike components appeals to me as much as the actual cycling. As the author Robert Penn says It’s all about the Bike. I’m currently fiddling away on a road bike project, using a 10 year old Peugeot picked up off ebay as the basis, and choosing replacement parts is great fun.
My tastes started off retro, or ‘vintage’ as the cycling crowd would call it (retro to them means the ’80s), preferring steel, honey brown leather and highly polished metal. Recently though, I’ve been getting into the look of more contemporary parts just as much. In particular, I’ve been lusting after the Cinelli Ram bars ever since I discovered them:
The unified stem and bar shape is just so pleasingly flowing, and the variety of graphics that look good on it really show it off as a piece of art as much as a functional component:
It makes sense to me to make this much fuss of the handlebars, its the one part of the bike (other than the front wheel) that you’ll see the most. At around £500 these aren’t going to find their way onto my Peugeot Project anytime soon, but I can’t help planning in my head what custom graphics mine would have…
It feels like a good time to do a quick update about my cycling.
The great news for me is that since October, I’ve lost almost a stone without really trying, and that feels great. If I didn’t have a bigger appetite from the exercise, I’m sure I could lose more. I’ve gone from an ever increasingly sedentary life, where the only excercise was the few yards from car park to office to sandwich shop to one where I’m always trying to find time to cycle.
It started as a commute into work, but then I began using it for errands like shopping, and now I’m taking off for an hour or so at the weekend. As the evenings get lighter I can hopefully get out on the occasional evening too. The will is definitely there, it’s just finding time that’s tricky.
I can feel my stamina building – inclines that were once left me breathless I can now do with breath. A commute that took as much as 14 mins back in October, is now only 7. I’m arriving at work feeling alive and energetic, rather than sleepy and lethargic. The change from a budget mountain-style bike to the Globe Daily has helped a lot – I can go faster and further.
I do still love my Globe Daily, but if I was buying a new bike now rather than 3 months ago, I’d be making a different choice. Rather than a town bike or hybrid, I would’ve gone for a classic road bike with dropdown handlebars for more holding positions (whereas the Daily has only really got one) and a larger gear range. The Globe has low enough gears for hills, but on flats and downhills it always feels like there should be another 2 to go to. To that end, I’m keeping an eye out on ebay and local ads for a something with a Reynolds frame as basis for a little project…
The date for this years Tweed Run, the metropolitan bike ride with style, has been announced as the 9th April. As mentioned back at Christmas, I’m planning to do next years Tweed Run as I need three things:
A bit more fitness (yes, even for a 10 mile bike ride!). My stamina has been getting so much better since October, and I’m losing weight steadily. It’s a great feeling, but I want to be a more confident cyclist before I take part in anything social.
A little project that I’m planning, to build my own Pashley Guvnor inspired bike.
My moustache is coming along very nicely though and should be in top form for next years event!
As well as the sartorial, there’s a lot of bike geekiness with vintage ‘safety bicycle’ models appearing alongside penny farthings and modern setups. Brooks (the British saddle maker) made a short video of last years event, which is well worth watching:
I hate bike helmets, absolutely hate them. I can hear my younger self laughing at me, but I wouldn’t want my children to be cycling without one, so I grudgingly wear one too. As I read recently (sorry can’t remember the source) …
Nobody thinks they look good in a bicycle helmet, just suck it up and wear one.
Which is right of course. So far, that’s been my only concession to safety and visibility, but after reading Alan Colville’s account of his last two weeks, I might have changed my mind very quickly. It’s a must read, but in particular, this passage stood out to me:
There is a lesson to cyclists: it was important to the emergency services and everyone there after that I was wearing a helmet, with a hi-visibility jacket and was well positioned on the road. This did not stop me being hit. It did ensure that the driver was firmly in the wrong. He is being charged with a driving offence. As cyclists, day or night, we need to do all we can to be seen. It not only puts us on the right side of the law, but it keeps us safe nearly all the time.
My Globe Daily 1 bike has finally arrived! It took over 3 weeks after ordering it online from Evans Cycles, but it was worth the wait for the fact that it was all setup, bar attaching the pedals and straightening the handlebars. They even provide a free multitool.
Normally, I wouldn’t have bought a bike that I hadn’t a chance to try first, but all the research I did led me to the Globe Daily as the bike I wanted: a modern hybrid bike with retro styling. My heart was set and I love its looks even more in the flesh…
It has a front basket/rack (does rack sounds more manly?) with integrated d-lock holder. I’m still in two minds about whether to keep this on or not. On the one hand, it’s been useful for errands like fetching the family a takeaway, but it’s not big enough for my Macbook, so I still need a bag for commuting. Can’t decide if it looks ‘chap’ (as I hope) or just a little bit too feminine. Also the D-lock holder is a great idea, but my Kryptonite lock has a bulge on one side that means it doesn’t quite fit:
At first I thought I’d got the wrong size frame, but after saddle adjustment and getting used the different riding position too (less upright), I’m happy I got the right size.
After the mountain bike, it took a few days to get used to the bumpiness of a road bike – going from a soft but inefficient ride to a bumpy yet speedy one. A rattling rear mudguard and the D lock in its holder added to the bone-shaking feel, but now that they’re sorted it feels much less so. I might try slightly wider tyres at some point as it comes with 28c, but 35 could help soften the ride a bit.
The Daily 1 has only 3 gears compared to the 20-odd on the old bike, but each gear feels right. If anything, it feels like it could do with one more higher gear, as #3 feels fairly easy going on flats. All is good!
Finally, I must thank Simon Clayson and Matt Carey, who have been a constant source of wisdom in my search for the right bike, and getting it setup right. Thanks chaps!
Looking through the various cycling magazines, the majority seemed to focus on either Mountain Biking, Racing or health and fitness. I wanted to read something general, that wasn’t too heavy on the Lycra. I finally plumped for one, which was OK, but it just left me feeling that I should’ve spent even more money on my bike.
Fortunately, I found 2 magazines online that fitted the bill perfectly: Boneshaker and The Ride. Both are magazines that you would buy simply because they are lovely objects to behold – beautiful design, commissioned illustration and print quality (they smell gorgeous). Stonking good reads too of course!
boneshaker’ magazine is a collection of articles, stories and anecdotes about people and projects doing great things with bicycles. Full to the brim with photography and illustration, we hope that it will both inspire and entertain, raise awareness and bring a smile to your face…and appeal to both bike-heads and to those who may not yet even have experienced the true joy and freedom that can be found from our two-wheeled friends.
The idea was to create a journal of personal stories. Bikes have changed people’s lives in so many ways and we wanted to gather a small selection of these tales. We didn’t want to give reviews or race reports, we wanted to get under the skin and expose the passion that flows through riders veins…
As well as the incredible writing we also wanted the magazine to be equally strong visually. Artists, illustrators, photographers were all approached and they have helped give The Ride the stunning visual style it has.
So with this renewed enthusiasm for cycling, I’ve been looking for a new bike. I currently ride a cheap mountain bike (very cheap – it was free with a dishwasher) which gets me to work and back just fine, but isn’t ideal. I don’t think I’ll ever be a mountain biker, or need a fast road-only bike, so a hybrid was what I needed. I also wanted something that looked more retro than sporty, something a Chap might ride.
After some research, I soon found a dream bike that epitomised everything I wanted aesthetically in a bicycle, the Pashley Guvnor:
Handmade in Stratford Upon Avon, these classic bikes have so much character and it was the Guvnor I particularly lusted after. At £865 though, it’s something I’ll have to work towards. Looking at the more affordable end, I fortunately found the Globe Daily One Hybrid Bike:
Exactly the kind of retro styling that I was looking for, but combined with modern technology like internal hub gears. There were more practical bikes out there, but I fell in love with the Globe! It’s been ordered, and will hopefully arrive in a couple of weeks.