You’re reading all articles tagged 'cycling'
Fabric Cageless Water Bottle
I’ve been trying out the Fabric Cageless Water Bottle and thought I’d blog my thoughts!
Instead of a traditional system where a bottle is held in place on the bike by an alloy, plastic or carbon fibre cage, the bottle has grooves which clip directly to the frame via two small studs. I remember a similar idea a few years ago but with magnets instead of studs. Fabric say that magnets didn’t work as well as studs in their tests.
The advantages of this are:
- Cheaper. For £9.99 you get a bottle with two sets of studs to allow you to put a set on another bike.
- Very low weight. At just 3g for the studs its much lighter than even a carbon cage, so one for the weight weenies!
- This is the part I really like: Its nice and minimal – I really like how my bikes look without the cages.
When installing, I found it very easy to overtighten them. Using a torque wrench I expected it to stop but the stud just starts to collapse and obviously makes it harder to clip in the bottle. Simple answer: it just needs a gentle hand-tighten.
Using them was a bit hit and miss at first, but like all things clippy on a bike, you soon get used to it. While I would say that a traditional system is still be easier to put a bottle back when at speed, the bottle was always solid – it never came out, even over things like cattle grids.
For me the downside of the idea is not the mechanism, it’s the bottle itself. It takes more effort to squeeze and get water compared to others like my normal Camelbak Podium bottles. I found it works best if you take it out and turn it 90º, but its still not as easy.
If ever there was a product where ‘your mileage may vary’ it’s this. For my usage, the benefit of the cleaner look was outweighed by the design of the bottle itself. I’m still a huge fan of other Fabric products – especially the Saddles and Bar Tape, but this is one that isn’t for me.
Troika #12: Le Tour!
I had planned a different Troika for #12, but I was so late getting it ready, I was going to miss the fact that the Tour de France starts this weekend! So that will become #13, and here is my rather hurried tribute to the annual cycling pantomime that is the Tour!
- ‘Tour de France’ by Alexis Roche
This one is apparently a bit rude, but it’s in French.
- ‘Tour de France’ by Benôit Charest
From the fantastic Belleville Rendezvous soundtrack.
- ‘Tour de France’ by Señor Coconut
As I’ve mentioned before, I can’t abide Kraftwerks’ ‘Tour de France’, but this is a cover version I can really get behind!
How to get this episode
Listen using the player above, download Troika #12: Le Tour! as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.
All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.
A Big Assed Post about bike saddles for my Big Ass
Your nether-regions are not for sitting on. Your feet are for standing on, your legs are for walking on, and your bum is for attaching your legs to your body.
Finding the Right Saddle – Cycling Tips 2009
I have a problem with bike saddles. I won’t show you a list of all the ones I’ve tried, as that would just be embarrassing. Most people seem to use whatever comes with their bike, and stick with that, but it’s taken me ages to find the ‘right one’ – comfortable, light (and,because I’m a Bike Tart) good looking. I also use my road bike to commute to the office, and finding something that is comfortable without padded tights is useful. (On that note, I’ve also found that white saddles and jeans don’t mix, unless you actually wanted an indigo saddle).
Now to be clear, I’m talking road bike saddles here. My Pashley Guvnor has a lovely Brooks B17 in honey brown that is a fantastic saddle. Especially now that’s breaking in nicely (didn’t take long!). It just doesn’t look right on a carbon road bike though, and the weight makes it much less suitable.
To try out so many saddles, I’ve been mostly picking them up secondhand on ebay. As well as others selling saddles that didn’t work out for them, you can often find cheaper versions with steel or manganese rails, rather than posher Titanium or Carbon. Its also likely that you can pick one up that has already been ‘broken in’, This is less of an issue than it is for Brooks traditional leather saddles, but I’ve found a used Charge Knife was more comfy and flexy than a brand new one. This meant I could try one out, and if it didn’t suit, pop it back on ebay. There’s also a ‘Saddle Swap’ forum on Bikeradar’s Forums where you might find someone to exchange seats with.
Here’s what I’ve learnt about saddles so far, but be warned, there is inevitable talk of my genitals…
Even the smallest adjustment can turn a harsh saddle into a comfy one. There’s a lot to adjust too; height, position fore/aft, vertical angle (pointing the nose up/down very slightly, or keeping it dead level) and even horizontal angle. Unless you have an aero seatpost, it can also be tilted left/right very slightly. I’ve found some scooped saddles that need to be setup dead level, and some that need the back to rise slightly. The only way I’ve found to test a saddle properly is to ride it a bit, adjust it, ride for a bit again, rinse and repeat (A turbo trainer isn’t a great place to test saddles – they all feel harsh). After a while you can take note of how your sitting and adjust accordingly – e.g if I found myself pushing back on the saddle, it needed to be further forwards.
Saddles have different shapes – from flat ones (Fizik Arione, Selle Italia SLR) to rounded and scooped (Charge Spoon, Fizik Aliante, Prologo Scratch), as well as cutouts for dangling your delicate bits should you have them (Specialized Romin), or even with rails placed in the centre to allow the sides to flex while pedalling (Selle Italia Signo). The slightly rounded & scooped shape seems to suit me best. Channels or cut outs don’t always work for me though, e.g the Romin cutout was OK but with the Fizik Aliante VS I could feel the edges of the channel digging in.
Padding is not necessarily a good thing – too much and it can cause chafing.
If you think about it, a deck chair doesn’t have any padding and yet is still comfortable, so padding in itself is not the cure for an uncomfortable seat. A deck chair is comfortable because the fabric has tension in it and supports you with a low average pressure through-out the seat.
I’ve tried saddle recently that pretty much just a carbon shell, with only a mm or two of padding, but it wasn’t as uncomfortable as it looked, due to the supportive shape.
Specialized focus on the width of your sit bones with their ‘Body Geometry’ saddles. The distance between the bones is measured, and then you choose a saddle with just enough width to support these bones, but no more. They are one of the few manufacturers that offer 3 different widths for their range. To measure your sit bones you can sit on a special gel-pad widget at the bike shop, or try and recreate it a home. Its quite a sight though, it involves sitting half-naked on carpeted stairs with tin foil under your cheeks and leaning forwards – hoping to get two clear sit bones bumps in the foil.
The more expensive Carbon, and particularly Titanium, rails are meant to help filter out road buzz, but I can’t say I’ve felt any big difference. It feels like more of a slight weight advantage. I have found that Nylon bases are more flexible than Carbon ones though.
Fizik have a system called ‘spine concept’ which looks at the riders flexibility rather than sit bones. From rigid ‘Bulls’ (unable to touch toes, which is me) to flexible ‘Snakes’ that can easily touch their toes easily. It may sound like marketing guff, but actually is quite common sense: I have low flexibility, so need to rotate my pelvis a lot of achieve a road riding position. I sit on the saddle with different parts of my undercarriage than someone with high flexibility.
Fizik saddles are lovely, the quality is superb, and I love how they have a built in clip system, which makes it quick and easy to switch a saddlebag between bikes. Its the best system I’ve ever used.
The Arione (above) in particular has a stylish racy look that makes it ‘the saddle I wish I could fit’. Sadly it felt like sitting on a rail – too narrow to support my sit bones. The Antares was wide enough, but hard on the sit bones, while the Aliante (which has been my saddle choice so far) has been comfy on the sit bones but pushed up into my squashy bits a little too much on long rides. I’ve always felt that I needed a saddle shape inbetween the Aliante and Antares.
Two years ago, Charge Bikes (who make the Knife Saddle, and the very popular spoon) came out with a new product – the Charge Scoop. A simplified three-part construction: a foam top, vacuum bonded to a nylon base and rails, with no staples or glue.
It was such a hit that other bike manufacturers wanted to spec the saddle, so it made sense to split off Scoop production into a separate company, and so the company Fabric was born. Now these are being specced on Cannondales and the gorgeous new Mason range.
This is the Fabric Scoop Shallow, and its now my favourite saddle. The level of fit and comfort is amazing, a revelation even, and it looks lovely! The shape is spot-on, the padding is comfortable without being too squishy, but I think the most important aspect is that the base is flexible. For the first time, I can sit on something, and really forget about. All my bikes now have a Scoop (with the exception of the Guvnor of course).
I’ve also been trying out their rubbery knurled bar tape, and that’s great too. It’s very easy to wrap, cushioned with a gel backing (without adding too much bulk) and feels nice and grippy. Although similar, Lizard Skins tape was harder to wrap, and the tape moved about after a few weeks, leaving gaps. Fabric’s still looks as good months later.
So fabric have won for me!
A Taste of the Track
This week I went for a Track Taster Session at the Olympic Velodrome at Lee Valley in London – a present from my lovely wife Leigh. Track cycling involves riding a fixed gear bike, and this was my first time – no coasting, no brakes and a high gear. To slow you change your pedalling accordingly, and try to kick back, upon which you can really feel the bike kicking back against you.
When we arrived, the camber of the track at the highest points was rather scary. I couldn’t see how it could be done without slipping off. The tutor was great though and once over the initial slow laps, I was more confident. Riding the sprinters line was actually really exciting – as long as you kept the pace up. Towards the end of the hour session my legs were starting to hurt, and the advice was to stay off the top line once you felt tired – otherwise you would slip.
It was really, really fun. Once you trained yourself to not worry about anyone sudden braking (because they couldn’t) it was exhilarating. While I’m not going to do the next 3 courses to become accredited (that’s if you want to race Track) I would definitely do it again.
If you’re planning on doing the taster session, I would really recommend hiring shoes, or if you use Look Keo cleats, bringing your own. I plumped for using trainers with toeclips and straps and it was a bloody nightmare. Not only very uncomfortable, but squeaky too, and my left foot kept trying to come out. At one point it did, and I had no choice but to let the toeclip scrape along the track floor until I could finish the lap. I wish they’d said it was so much harder work than cleats.
Trying fixed didn’t make me want to add a fixie to my current stable of bikes. It’s not something I would ride around town, but I would ride it again in a velodrome.
Troika #3: Music for Cycling
I’m not a fan of Kraftwerk at the best of times. I have friends who adore them, but they leave me cold. I was listening to one last week that was all about using a ‘Pocket Calculator’ – “adding… and subtracting”. Gripping stuff eh? In particular, when there is a Cycling related programme on telly, the likelihood is that they will end up using their ‘Tour De France’. Its feels about as far removed from the experience of cycling as I can think of. I love electronic music, but for me it doesn’t have the right feel.
I think Rapha have got it spot on. They’re a high-end cycling clothes brand, but to promote their range they regularly publish videos of their rides. If you were cynical, you’d say these are just big adverts, which they are in part, but they’re also very inspirational. It was watching these videos that made we want to get a proper road bike and head out into the countryside. Maybe they’ve twisted my view of what ‘music to cycle to’ should be, but these are the sounds in my head when I’m riding.
Here are the three tracks, with links to the videos they were used in:
- ’The Climb’ – Keegan DeWitt (Rapha Continental Tour of California)
- ‘Stokkseyri’ – Jonsi and Alex (Rapha Continental Movie)
- ‘Mighty Rio Grande’ – This Will Destroy You (Rapha Rides Little Switzerland)
How to get this episode
Listen using the player above, download Troika #3: Music for Cycling as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.
All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.
All I want to do is ride my bike & not be hassled by The Man
I’ve seen an awful lot of ‘bike slogan posters’ but for me, this print by Donhou sums up how I feel about cycling better than any of them.
I use Darren Kiley from PushPedal a lot – from servicing and fault finding to full rebuilds every time I change my mind about the frameset I’m currently using. He’s a man with a workshop, a van, and a lot of experience. He’s one of those great local businesses that you can’t help but promote whenever you can.
He’s recently had this little video made so that you can all behold is awesome beard! I mean, see what service he offers…
Commuting without spamming
I started cycling because of my commute to my new office, although it’s not exactly strenuous. If I go the direct route its barely more than a mile, so I usually extend it a bit, going past the picturesque Cogges Farm Museum (above – a recent location for Downton Abbey doncha know!). I also use my bike for lots of small shopping trips, so even if I’m not ‘out on a proper ride’ I’m usually on my bike every day.
I’ve never recorded these little trips on Strava, as it would be like spamming my friends. They don’t want to know about a 1.5 mile trip to the Post Office, especially if there a many of these kind of updates a day. Then I worked out that I was missing around 1000 miles a year, and while I’m not too worried about a ‘score’ I’m interested to know how much I’ve done on each of my bikes.
Only recently did the light dawn – if I marked each of these little rides as ‘private’, they still get recorded, but don’t bore my friends with it either.
Playing Cyclist Top Trumps with Marianne Vos
I’ve just discovered a new game you can play on Strava – Top Trumps! View Marianne Vos’s profile on Strava and you can do the same! It’s fair to say I’m one of the ‘dud cards’ in the pack!
Cyclists, ‘people who ride bikes’, whatever you like to call yourselves, I’ve launched a little low-key side-project-blog-thing called Ride Stories.
Rides create lasting memories, whether it’s an around the world challenge or your favourite quick local spin, but often all we have to share is the Strava data. The sights, smells and emotions can’t be recorded as easily as miles, cadence and heart rate, but writing the story can enthuse and entertain others.
Maybe you have a ride story to share ?
I change my bikes more often than I change my trousers, and I’m embarrassed about both those facts. The trouble is, you need more than a single test ride to know if a bike is right for you or not, and I’ve given the Boardman CX over four months now, and decided I needed to change it.
Backpedalling at bit to last September: With winter approaching, I’d been thinking about assembling my ideal commuting/winter/all round bike. Something practical and versatile, that would not only be suitable on roads, but capable of a bit of off-road too. My direct commute is only a mile, and while I normally add a bit more, there are some longer routes that I can do that involve potholey/rocky towpaths. They can be done on a road bike, but can be a little nerve-wracking.
So, I wrote a list of what I wanted for a go-anywhere, do-anything bike, but still with drop bars:
- Clearance for large tyres, for more comfort and grip.
- Ability to fit proper mudguards, not matter how much I hate the sight of them. On the commute they make all the difference, and anyone riding behind me (unlikely, but might happen) can get the benefit of no spray in their face. The previous winter I used my Canyon AL with Crud Road Racer clip on mudguards, but they drove me insane. I couldn’t use a tyre larger than 23mm, and they constantly rubbed and bent. I burnt them in a ritual sacrifice as soon as Spring looked likely, along with all the other clip-on style mudguards I’d tried. I’ve bought SKS Bluemels in Matt Black which at least makes them a little less distracting.
- Disc Brakes. Even with decent quality rim brakes they took a while to stop in the wet, so I wanted to give mechanical disk brakes a go.
- Didn’t have to be steel, and as I would be carrying my bike upstairs at the office, aluminium would mean a lighter bike.
- It also had to be something I’d want to ride. If it was overly heavy and ugly, I would just ride something else.
That list meant a Cyclocross (CX) bike, and after a lot of research, there was one that really fitted the bill, the Boardman CX. Unlike ‘pure’ cyclocross bikes it still had things like bottle cage mounts. To top it off, the colour scheme (subtle dark metallic grey and yellow) and graphics looks fantastic. So, I kept an eye on ebay, and before long a brand new frameset turned up! This gave me the opportunity to build it up with own components.
It worked OK for a while, but the more I used it, I realised it wasn’t the best decision…
- Mechanical Disc brakes were a pain in the bum from day one. Mainly the loud ‘honk’ like screech it made, especially in the wet. I tried everything to stop the noise, but I only succeeded in making it slightly quieter for a while. Changing to hydraulics would’ve been an answer but by this point I’d had enough! I’m sure disc brakes will be the future, but I’m not a fan at this point.
- I didn’t enjoy off-road as much as on-road. It was slower and required more bike handling skills, and I felt a big difference going back to road – it was such a big relief to be able to speed up again. I’m not disregarding off-road completely, as the lack of traffic is very appealing, I just think next time I’ll do it on a Mountain Bike instead.
- I wasn’t aware of the differences of a CX frame, like the higher bottom bracket for mud clearance. In general, the geometry/fit just wasn’t as comfortable as my Colnago.
- It was still fairly heavy. Now winter bikes are supposed to be heavy, but I need all the help I can get up hills, and couldn’t help thinking of the penalty I was paying for a CX bike with disc brakes.
Back to now…That’s all a very long-winded way of explaining that I’ve changed the frame and wheels for a Genesis Equilibrium. I’ve been eyeing these up ever since I started cycling, and love their mix of modern and classic/retro steel looks. Plus they fit the bill with geometry and mudguard clearance, and are available to buy as just a frameset. So I’ve taken the plunge and had one built up (by PushPedal again) using components from the Boardman build and my singlespeed project. While I would’ve preferred black (and almost went with a Kinesis T2 for that reason) but I liked the cream (with black groupset and brown saddle/tape) for a change. It will show up mud more, but unlike my water-collecting internal-cabled Colnago, I can at least hose it down easily.
So far the ride has the lovely ‘springiness’ that the steel frame is famed for, and the geometry feels spot on. Will report back!
Now it fits me
I’m approaching three years of being on a road bike, and I’ve finally had a proper bike fit. I’ve always known I needed one, but have ‘got by’, doing my own fettling. Two things motivated me to get it sorted:
Firstly, there hasn’t been anywhere locally to get one done, but as of four months ago, Witney finally has a decent bike shop in the shape of Mickey Cranks (not, as it sounds, a cockney gangster) offering Retul Bike Fits.
Secondly, while the position on the Colnago wasn’t perfect, riding the Boardman CX has actually felt painful – in the feet, knees and calves. The last time I was out I muttered “I’m. Going. To. Get. A. Bloody. Bike. Fit!” all the way.
So… how far out was I?
The main difference was in my cleat position which was way out, the cause of the knee/foot pains I was having. They also compensated for the higher Q factor of the Boardman so that I could use the same shoes/cleat setup on both bikes. Then both saddles went up a few mm, and forward a fair bit (10-16mm). Combined with the new cleat position, this placed me correctly over the pedals.
The final change was to the handlebars, which went lower, especially on the Colnago. I’d been getting problems with very hands and had thought this has meant that the bars weren’t high enough, but the opposite was true. Which is fine by me, as lower bars/stem are more aesthetically pleasing ;)
It also confirmed that the Fizik Aliante was the right saddle choice for me – someone with low back flexibility who rotates their pelvis forward more to compensate. While it’s not quite as sleek-looking as the Arione or Antares, the Aliante is a jolly comfy fit, and I love the ICS (Integrated Clip System) saddlebags that clip into the back of Fizik saddles. It makes it very easy to swap it between bikes, and there’s no velcro, which I find never lasts very long.
I now have a proper cleat and bike setup, as well as a definitive set of measurements for setting up other bikes. While I’m still not 100% sure the Boardman Cyclocross Frame and disc brakes were the right choice for my winter/commuter bike, it’s not painful to ride anymore. I wish I’d done this from the start!
New addition to the stable
There’s a popular equation with cyclists, that the ideal number of bikes to own is n+1. However many you have, you always want another one. Given unlimited funds and garage space it would be great to have a bike every occasion, such as a Surly Moonlander for when it snows, a cargo bike for doing the shopping and so on. It’s not to be, and I do try and keep my number bikes down, and enforce my own ‘one in, one out’ policy.
That doesn’t mean I don’t try a lot of bikes though, and I’m always fettling or trying something else. In my current stable are:
Colnago CLX 3.0
A lovely carbon road bike that is a joy to ride. Comfortable, ‘chuckable’ and as fast as I can make it. It doesn’t hold me back, I hold it back. It is perhaps too nice to ride through winter/commuting and all its gritty muck however, especially with its lack of mudguard clearance. Which is why I put together…
Boardman CX Custom build
I wanted a versatile, ‘do anything, go anywhere’ bike for winter rides/commuting with the ability to run larger tyres and mudguards at the same time, with possibly disk brakes for better stopping power in the winter. This criteria usually means a cyclocross bike, and I found a Boardman CX aluminium frame + carbon fork on ebay that fitted the bill perfectly, and was built up by local bike guru Darren Kiley at PushPedal. To top it off, the subtle dark metallic grey and bright yellow colour scheme really appeals to me. I currently run it with 28mm tyres, but can go up to about 38mm (Photo shows it with 35mm Sammy Slicks). Tempted to try snow and ice tyres on it when the time comes!
And then up until a week ago, I had these two as well:
Singlespeed, Guvnor Style
Its been two guises before this, as my first road bike, a Charge Plug inspired singlespeed, and now as a ‘Pashley Guvnor’ style ride. It kind of worked, but not well enough. The racing frame didn’t really sit well with the inverted North Road Handlebars, as it doesn’t have the correct ‘slack’ geometry of the Guvnor.
Canyon Ultimate AL
Before my Colnago was the Canyon, a brand new frameset that I had built up with parts from my then-current bike, a Specialized Allez. It was fantastic bike, lightweight and stiff but with some comfort too. I had intended to sell it when a got the Colnago, but couldn’t get a decent price for it, and decided it was worth more to me to keep.
These two are no more however, as I finally found a buyer the Canyon, and I’ve disassembled the singlespeed to sell for parts, all to make room for the latest addition…
Handmade in Stratford-Upon-Avon as a homage to the ‘Path Racers’ of the 1930’s. Bought second-hand via a well timed advert in Gumtree, but in fantastic condition. As I may have mentioned a few times, I’ve been hankering after one of these for ages, and selling the Canyon made it possible.
The ride is an absolute joy, and yes, hills are a bit more work than usual. Its not as heavy as I’d remembered it though, and I can lift it up the stairs at the office easily without inducing a hernia. I’m looking forward to riding it further afield than the commute to my office, and hopefully joining the Guvnors Assembly on one of their jollies! The problem with a bike like this is that none of my existing gear and accessories (Helmet, Clothes, Water Bottles, Lights etc) suits such a gorgeous machine!
So I’m now back down to a more manageable three, at least until I the next one…
As I use my road bikes for commuting/shopping trips/going to the pub as well as ‘proper’ riding, I’ve been looking out for a way of converting my SPD-SL clipless pedals into a flat platform pedal for when I’m wearing normal shoes. Speedplay pedal users can get a platform converter (below) that clips around the lollipop shaped pedals and makes an ordinary flat pedal.
Surely there was something for SPD-SL? So far there have been three options:
- Change the pedals for ordinary flat ones as needed. This is the advice that’s often pedalled (o-ho!) around forums to people with this query. Its a bit of a hassle though, especially if you commute during the day and go out for a ride in the evening with cleated shoes. No thanks.
- Use the flat-ish side of the SPD-SL pedal anyway. This actually kind of works – its just enough of a platform to push on, especially if you’re wearing stiff-soled shoes. However, the pedal doesn’t ‘self-right’ (at rest, the flat side isn’t up and ready to use) and its very slippery in the wet.
- Change to SPD pedals, and a dual cleat/platform pedal (like Shimano A530). I used this method originally, but again, the pedal doesn’t self-right and I’ve found I prefer the larger SPD-SL for road use.
I’ve been using the second solution for almost 18 months, and its been alright, but I’ve always looked out for something better, which turns out to be Pedal Dabs from Bike Dabs…
A block of plastic that clips into the underside of the pedal, providing a good grippy platform with a built in reflector. The extra bonus is that it self-rights, so the flat side is always there ready to use. Solid, durable, easy to click in and out. It just works!
As well as Shimano SPD-SL, they also have Pedal Dab Solutions for Crankbothers, Look Keo, SPD and Speedplay.
Why I Bike
A brilliant summary of all the reasons for cycling by the excellent Bikeyface!
When I first got into cycling back in 2010, I blogged about how the Pashley Guvnor ‘epitomised everything I wanted aesthetically in a bicycle’. At the time, I wasn’t interested in modern bikes and wanted something with vintage feel. The Guvnor stood out amongst a sea of gaudy and overdone colour schemes on one side, and twee retro on the other.
I didn’t want to spend too much on a bike though, in case it became another one of my ‘temporary hobbies’. The Guvnor felt too expensive at the time, so I went for the Globe Daily at half the price. However, over the last two years I’ve gone from Globe Daily, Steel Peugeot (off ebay, which became my singlespeed), Specialized Allez, Canyon Ultimate AL and Colnago CLX 3 (the last two are my current steeds). My eyes were quickly to the beauty of modern bikes with companies like Canyon that make bikes with restraint in the graphics, and a high quality of finishing to boot. I really appreciate my carbon Colnago when it comes to hills.
Even so, I can’t get the Guvnor out of my head almost three years later. This probably isn’t helped by the fact I’ve been following the weekend jollies held by The Guvnors Assembly. I’ve always had a niggling thought in the back of my head (particularly in autumn strangely) – “Yes it’s heavy, but what is it actually like to ride?”.
So, when the family went to Stratford-upon-Avon last weekend, I couldn’t help but pop along to the Traditional Cycle Shop for a wee test ride! Yes, it was as heavy as a battleship (but probably not as heavy as other Pashley models like the Roadster), but my first feeling on mounting it was one of comfort. The Brooks B17 saddle was a revelation – I could really feel the ‘hammock’ effect. The swept-back hand position was odd for the first second or so (maybe as I was expecting the bars to be flatter), but this went quickly, and I realised it was a similar to my normal hand position on my road bikes.
When I rode it, it was like being on an elegant steamroller. It took very slightly longer than my road bike to get it up to speed, but once it was going, it just seemed to cruise over rough ground with ease. Very comfortable and an utter joy to ride. The only time the weight will be an issue is when I carry my bike up and down the stairs to my office (only twice a day every week – hey ho!).
Despite that practical consideration I just want one more now that I’ve tried it. I want to put on my tweed flat cap and take an autumnal ride through the streets of Oxford where the low sun makes the old colleges look golden. Ahhhh, bliss.
In the meantime, I’m going to go back and alter my singlespeed project to adopt some the Guvnor aesthetic. It won’t have the correct slack Path Racer geometry, but it will tide me over until I can get one. Which is going to be difficult, because I’m also hankering after a cyclocross bike, but that’s another story…
Time in the Saddle
I’m sure most of feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything we want to.
In particular, next month I’m due to ride 100 miles (and about 6500ft of climbing) in the Circuit of the Cotswolds. This target is within my grasp, but I have to be able to put the hours in the saddle to give myself the best day. Back in March, I took part in the Lionheart Sportive in Longleat, and harsh weather aside, I was wholly unprepared for the difficult climbing involved.
I started looking at Cycling Magazines with their ’12 week training plans’ (or at this stage ‘4 week training plans’!) and fretting about getting the time in. These involve 3-4 rides a week, some of more than two hours – I just don’t have that kind of free time!
Besides, I don’t want to do ‘training’ – thats not what I got into cycling for. I started riding because I loved being outside, propelling myself forward through beautiful countryside and villages and clearing my head of worries. The weight loss and fitness were great side-benefits, rather than the main drive. (I’ll be honest, I also got in cycling for the geekery of bike parts!).
There’s so many important areas where my time needs to be spent; my family, my business, and in particular my Dad. He’s had Parkinsons for 10 years now, and lost his wife and full-time carer when mum died last year. I don’t mention this for any other reason than to try and explain why I’ve turned down offers for speaking at conferences, or generally go a bit quiet. I’m keeping extra commitments to a minimum where I can.
So I try not feel frustrated and ashamed about my lack of riding time, or envious of those who seem to have spare time to ride in abundance. I’ll continue to ride as much as I can, for as long my body lets me, just without any self-imposed pressure. Even if that means I don’t do any more sportives.
(Photo by Al Power)
Broken Spoke Bike Co-op
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.
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.
It was hard work, but I’ve now been able to true the rear wheel ‘enough’. I went with Cyclox Chairman, James Styring who wrote about the experience for The Oxford Times. Tech geek? I’ll have words…
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.
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!
British Sea Power - Machineries of Joy
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!
The Bird Cage
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.
Always wanted drops
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.
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.
Ass Saver Review
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!
Ride with tea!
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
The first sportive
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!
Finally, thanks to your generosity, I also managed to raise £1100 for Helen and Douglas House – thankyou!
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 Charge Plug
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.
The Bicycle of A.D 2000!
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…
Englands best known, unknown artist
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.
For more information, visit The Frank Peterson Society, and
The Ride Journal Issue 6 has a feature on Frank Peterson.
Tattly Bike Tattoos
Tattly, the arty temporary tattoo people have launched a new collection of bike tattoos! I love the ‘Lets Ride’ and ‘Pug on a Bike’ ones particularly:
Sponsor me in the Circuit of the Cotswolds!
This coming June, I’ll be riding my first sportive, the annual Circuit of the Cotswolds, and in doing so, raising money for Helen and Douglas House.
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.
As well as bit of suffering, the aim of this ride will be to raise money for Helen and Douglas House.
About Helen and Douglas House
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!
So, here we go: Please sponsor me!
The Inverted Bike Shop
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.
As for the bike they build in video – gorgeous!
Via twinfish on twitter.
A hamster in a wheel
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.
Things I've learnt about cycling in my first year…
2011 was the year that cycling replaced the “search for the right media centre” as the main blog topic at Hicksdesign 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:
- There are Rules. 87 of them in fact.
- 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…
I still can’t wrap Bar Tape properly though…
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!
Via the Tweed Cycling Club
*I do love Rapha and fixie videos too, its just that, well, this is the complete opposite.
This is what its all about
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.
Biologic BikeMount for iPhone
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.
The Bicycle Cap
Here’s a lovely little film for your Friday pleasure. With a distinctly Wes Anderson feel about it, it tells the story of what happens when a bicycle and a sewing machine get together!
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:
I could go on, embedding just about every video they’ve uploaded, but instead, I’ll mention 3 more. Two Broad Arrows a short film inspired by the life of Sean Kelly, Rapha Rides Monti Pallidi and the Tour of California series, starting here. If you’re a cyclist then you’ll no doubt already be aware of these films, but worth highlighting for anyone who hasn’t.
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:
(photos © Bike Rumor)
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…
Cycling, five months on
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…
London Tweed Run 2011
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:
- Tweeds, obviously!
- 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:
Fear of Yellow
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.
Looks like I need to get over my fear of yellow…
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!
Bone-shaker and The Ride
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.
As a Brucey Bonus, issue 1 is available as a free PDF download (direct link)
The Globe Daily
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.