Monthly Archives: February 2011

The 10kg turnaround

Recently my diet has progressed to the point where I am about 10kg down from my maximum weight last summer. That weight scared me quite a bit and so I took action to lose about 7kg although I then put 2kg back on over Christmas. Since the beginning of 2011 I have lost 5kg (which puts me slightly ahead of my target for the end of July).

The difference has come from a combination of snacking less (especially late at night) and of far more exercise (which has mostly been cycling).

I am amazed at the difference that losing this 10kg has made, far more difference than I had expected. People commented that I look less fat (a long way to go before I could claim to look slim) and this is borne out by moving down two9 waist sizes in trousers and at least one neck size in shirts. However, there has been a much bigger change in how I feel and what I am comfortable doing. I guess that tiredness, lack of energy and reduced ability sneak on you with the extra weight and it is easy to assume that it is just you getting older. Now though it is rather like turning back the clock my personal quality of life is much improved and it has a positive effect on the rest of the family as well.

It all seems very obvious with the benefit of hindsight, yet it took a lot to get me to act. Not only that but after seeing the first benefits I nearly slipped back again. The boost given by simply enjoying riding my bike everyday and getting things done by bike that I have never managed before has made all the difference.

I now feel that I have the keys to continuing this progress a little more locked in. The pattern is:

  • Daily bike riding. No set target for length but it does keep going up as I get fitter. Now over 120 days in a row
  • Daily weight recording on the to see progress against my target with not quite daily reporting of progress on twitter and quantter
  • Tracking the miles I cycle. I keep a fairly simple tally in Daytum (data entry is very quick and easy). Essentially I add one total per day for the miles I ride broken down by Bike and whether for work or leisure. I can see at a glance that I have ridden 765 miles this year of which 443 are for work and a daily average of just over 12.5 miles. I like numbers and so like being able to see the miles clock up here.

Over the next months the diet will take me into down to weights I have not seen for many years. By the time I reach July I should be just easing out of the overweight BMI category. So far every indication is that will be good, I just wish I had got on with it sooner.


Why do we think we will dissolve?

This morning I just escaped the rain when riding to Birstall for the morning service. By the time I came to leave it looked like it was raining hard. Still lunch was calling so I rode home, back through Watermead Park (interesting to see how high the river is at the moment).

In fact as is often the case the rain was not as hard as it had looked. I was comfortable in my jacket and enjoying the ride (at least the rain kept a lot of dog owners off the paths).

I was therefore quite surprised that in response to a “Good Afternoon” a lady commented on how terrible it was. Hey folks, this is England, we get rain here and we have for many years, yet we have not yet dissolved. We seem to have developed some quite odd reactions to the rain. There are the never go out in it people or the “it looks damp, so I’ll wear full heavy duty hi vis waterproofs with wellies and an umbrella. There are the teenagers who think that a hoodie is waterproof. Where are the sane people who just get on with life 🙂

I also felt sorry for the people sat in their car with bikes on the roof waiting for the rain to stop as I rode past.


Door to door deliveries

Today I delivered the new coffee machine to Syston Methodist Church. It came in four boxes (coffee machine, box with the 3 Air Pot flasks, box of filter papers and a box of coffee sachets).

Here you can see it all loaded on the Bullitt leaving home


When you get to the other end you don’t have to worry about the double yellow lines 🙂 Instead go right to the door.


In fact why stop at the outside door? Instead with a cargobike you can go right inside all the way to the kitchen. Try that with a van!


In fact I did something like 7 Bullitt journeys to the Church today. Besides the coffee I carried:

  • 3 data projectors
  • 2 projector screens
  • 1 xbox360
  • 2 TV’s
  • 3 Wii’s
  • Flipchat & pad
  • Guitar hero drums, & guitars
  • 1 x 30watt guitar amp
  • 2 large sets of computer speakers (each bass and 2 tweeters)
  • 2 other computer speakers
  • 17 x 2 litre bottles of drink
  • 60 hot dogs
  • 60 hot dog rolls and 40 burger rolls
  • 20 jars salsa, sour cream, guacamole
  • 10 bags of nachos
  • 8 power extension cables
  • Various sauces and relishes

Here are some pictures of some of the deliveries:



and here is a terrible picture of some of the people enjoying the bowling:


We managed 5 bowling lanes (4 projected, one with a big TV) plus guitar hero using a projector and an Xbox racing game on another TV. Plus our “Ally Cafe” serving burgers, hot dogs, nachos, soft drinks and of course the new excellent coffee.

We had well over 70 people of all ages come. Many of the more mature using a games console for the first time> In the end experience and lots of practice won the day with a top bowling score (right at the very end) of 244 by H from our Sunday School.


Fill her up :-)

Just back from a big shop for an event at Syston Methodist Church tomorrow evening. Fortunately, we took the panniers for Jane’s bike as it would not all have fitted on my Bullitt.

Anyway, sad person that I am, I weighed what I carried home in a pretty heavy and full Bullitt:

  • 17 x 2litre bottles of soft drinks = 34kg
  • 4 x 2.27 litre bottles of milk = 9.6kg
  • Sauces & relish = 4.1kg
  • Salsa, Guacamole, Sour Cream = 4.6kg
  • 60 Hot dogs = 8kg
  • Assorted cheese, & plastic glasses = 3.2kg
  • Cake and Blackcurrant squash = 3.7kg

Grand total 67.2kg

Plus u-lock and cable = 2kg

That is the heaviest load yet, but I still had about 15kg of capacity left. I would need a bigger box to fit that in. Handling was no problem at all, very smooth.

Jane was carrying 40 burgers, more cheese, lots of bags of nachos, burger buns, hot dog rolls and of course the coffee.

Of course it is only just over a mile but the Bullitt rolls so well that I could have easily gone a lot further, much in the way of hills would of course have been hard work. With the gentle rolling bits coming from Thurmaston to Syston the momentum just carry’s you up.

If I were in a hilly area then a trike with really low gears would be very handy. Alternatively a Bullitt with a mountain drive in the bottom bracket could get you up some pretty steep stuff ( if using that I would go for a larger chainring than the default (say a 44 tooth which would allow a chainglider to be fitted). It would be a lot quicker than a trike on the flat and downhill, plus it can still be fitted through a normal doorway.

This was an exceptional shopping trip, I don’t think anyone is normally going to get a heavier load of shopping. Just goes to show that supermarket shopping does not require cars. However, to get more people to do it does require a good enough infrastructure that people will feel safe and will be willing to invest in load carrying bikes (or have enough people wanting to shop by bike/trike to make a cargo bike hire scheme practical). Nor does it require as much effort as people think, after all I had already cycled 22 miles today, about 50% of it partially loaded. It was the heaviest load Jane had carried on her bike and she noticed the heavier steering, 40 quarter pounder burgers + loads of cheese in your front basket does that 🙂 but had no problems and commented on how easy it was to ride.


Hebie Chain glider on a Bullitt Clockwork Cargobike

An update following: Out of my technical depth: chain ring.

First the existing stuff.

Turns out that after about 1200 to 1400 miles the supplied Alfine chain ring was quite worn. Sadly the way it is made stops it being reversed.

The same is true of the 20 tooth sprocket. Worn and can’t be reversed.

Neither is very impressive in terms of wear, sadly it does not seem possible to fit a better quality sprocket from anyone else due to the rubber sides, one of which is fitted to the sprocket. These really catch lots of crud (I suppose on the bright side they have kept it away from the hub gear itself, but they are keeping the chain dirty.

Second, fitting the Hebie chain glider.

Sadly this has not yet gone well. I fitted the nice, tough feeling Surly 38 tooth chain ring. However, it is very close to the crank arms (which are a 130 BCD). It turns out the crank arms don’t fit within the chainglider.

So a big re-think.

In the end I have found a replacement chainset, it is also Hollotech II like the Alfine so the chainline should be correct. However, it uses a 104 BCD and can support chain rings down to 34 teeth. Hopefully this will provide a lot more clearance and allow the Hebie Chain glider to fit.

Meanwhile, I am currently running the Surly 38 tooth chain ring, almost no riding today and hopefully tomorrow I’ll fit a new sprocket to go with the new chain ring and chain. Then when the new cranks arrive I can get the Hebie fitted. All the gunk in the drivetrain does act as confirmation that this is a good thing to do.

Other fixes

I have now fitted the pitlock security to the front wheel and seat post. Pitlock don’t offer secure 15mm nuts for the rear wheel (although my frame lock helps there) nor do they provide replacement allen bolts to hold the seat on.  Looking for other solutions for them.


Hopefully in a few days I’ll be able to provide an exact solution to fiting a Hebie chain glider to a Bullitt clockwork. Til then don’t hold your breath 🙂


Cyclist dies after crash with lorry in Leicester

This is terrible Cyclist dies after crash with lorry in Leicester.

We are all being warned all the time about the dangers of undertaking HGV’s on the left, but in this case it seems the cyclist was ahead of the HGV and already on the roundabout before being hit by the right turning HGV.

I was cycling in the area just after midnight last night. I crossed Krefeld way only two roundabouts along at Beaumont Leys Lane. It was one of those many places where there is a cycle lane in parts but it seemed to have disappeared from Beaumont Leys Road by the time I reached the roundabout.

I had been “naughty” and stayed on the pavement, something I almost never do, but I was confused by the cycle path signs which seemed to point me along the pavement and then (as is often the case) simply abandon me.

If Leicester had chosen to invest in high quality Dutch style cycling infrastructure this man would probably still be alive.

Hat tip:

I wonder how many more people on Bikes will need to die before we get a safe quality infrastructure.

My condolences to the family.


Escorting teenagers

As it is half-term I went on two rides yesterday escorting teenagers.

One to Blockbusters (about 9 miles round trip) and one to Starbucks (going the reduced traffic way which is 3.5 miles instead of just over 1 mile).

My choice with a teenager is to ride behind them. I can then offer them support and encouragement (such as reminding them to pull out a bit earlier to go around parked cars) as well give directions (as they are learning their way around the area). However, more importantly (to me as a parent) it allows me to act as a bit of a shield.

I tend to ride a little bit further from the kerb (parked car etc) then they do. That makes it easier for a vehicle to see there are two of us. It also tends to increase the space they are given by overtaking cars. It also reflects that when they are nervous they tend to ride too close to the kerb anyway.

When we approach an obstacle such as a pinch point I take the lane so that it is safe for them to pull out and so they will not get squeezed against the obstacle or separated from me.

For background our youngest is only just a teenager while the other is 16. Neither are used to riding in traffic on their own.

I would appreciate suggestions as to whether there are better ways to do this to help build their confidence and techniques.

I had one significant scare yesterday. My younger son and I were coming north through Thurmaston on the Melton Road (B667). This has a lot of parked cars. It also has a combination of speed humps and speed plates. As we approached a particularly narrow point (cars parked both sides) with a large speed hump/platform I heard a loud engine revving behind. I pulled out slightly to protect my son (but was still on the correct side of the dashed line in the middle of the road). A large Mercedes Sprinter van then accelerated to zoom past me, they passed within 1 foot of me (bigger gap on the other side) and then turned right off the road less than 50metres ahead. I was not surprised to notice that their offside wing mirror was held together with tape. They were certainly doing more than 20mph as they passed (and my first guess would have been more than 30mph).

My son is quite a nervous rider and I am concerned that if they had passed him that close and that fast he could easily have been frightened into wobbling into them. At the very least if they had passed as close to him as they did to me he would have been scared and put off riding his bike.

Clearly somehow they interpreted my defensive move as some kind of challenge.

While not as close I had a similar situation when with our middle son earlier in the day. Approaching one of the pinch points on the Wanlip Road in Syston I pulled out a little (it is not wide enough for a bike and car to be comfortable in the gap at the same time) and a Nissan Micra decided to accelerate, go past me and swerve at the last moment inwards to get through the small gap.

It seems to me that at the heart of vehicular cycling is the idea of riding defensively, of being willing and able to take the lane to ensure that you are not in danger in the gutter of the road. However, it seems that here such defensive moves are seen as aggressive and both car and van drivers are responding by forcing their way through tiny gaps.

I find it hard to see how to respond to this. There are no cycle routes as alternatives. Both these are in 30mph limits that are widely ignored. Both roads have “traffic calming”.

Longer term I am totally convinced that we have to move away from Vehicular cycling with a proper Dutch style infrastructure where all routes either have fully separated cyclepaths or major traffic calming (no through routes etc),

In the medium term I think the Melton Road B667 in Thurmaston needs to be blocked at some point so that it is not a through street (add moving bollards to let buses through). Wanlip Road needs a proper separated Cycle infrastructure as one of the key routes in Syston (possibly making the section between Fosse Way and the Melton Road one way for cars – it is dangerous at the moment due to the parked cars making it too narrow).

In the short term what options are there? Stop the kids cycling? Break the law by getting the kids to cycle on the pavement like so many other people do around here? Wear a helmet with a video camera to catch all these drivers and report them?

Suggestions are welcome.


It gets easier

Had a couple of very gentle rides with our sons today (one to Blockbusters and one to StarBucks). With a short ride for work it made 18.5 miles in total. As I was pootling along I was thinking how nearly 6 months of riding nearly every day (now up to 92% since mid August and over 110 days in a row) have made a real difference.

Back in August 18 miles seemed like a big deal. I would have expected to wear “proper” cycling clothes, carry a water bottle and it would have dominated my day.

Now I barely notice it. Sure it is a nice way to get to places and it helps with the diet. I enjoy the actual riding and the freedom to just go places without planning it or worrying about traffic. But the beauty is that it is always available and is so convenient.

Over these months just riding everyday has made a huge difference to how easy it is to get about by bike. Yes the miles have helped but I think the real key for me has been to make it an everyday habit and to just make it absolutely normal. Normal in clothing and normal as a means of transport.

Now the only problem is that I now need new clothes, ones that are a fair bit smaller 🙂


Out of my technical depth: chain ring

I have taken the plunge and ordered a Hebie chain glider for my Bullitt Clockwork cargobike.

The problem is that for it to fit I need to change from a 39 tooth chain ring to a 38 tooth chain ring (and get rid of the chain ring guard at the same time).

I have been trying to find a chain ring I can just bolt on in place of the current 39 tooth one. From St John Street Cycles I have figured out that I have a 76.4mm bolt centre to bolt centre measurement which means a Bolt Circle Diameter BCD of 130mm. The pProblem is that I can’t seem to find many 38 tooth 130mm BCD chain rings. From what I have read somewhere (can’t find the link at the moment) the chain is standard 9 speed.

So far the only option I have found that appears to be right is a Surly stainless steel chain ring. Available from Wiggle or Winstanleys Bikes.

Can anyone advise me on whether this is the right product for me.



Is 20 enough?

I think the 20’s plenty for us campaign is excellent and it does seem to be gaining momentum at the moment which is good news.

However, I am not convinced that 20 is enough.

Yes the chances of being killed by a car doing 20mph are much reduced. But around here 30mph speed limits are broken all the time, even on roads with “traffic calming” (generally speed plates, speed humps and pinch points). Drivers are still aggressive, inconsiderate and careless.

Yes I believe we need 20mph speed limits on all residential streets but we need much more than that if we are going to really make our streets safe and pleasant places to be.

Seems to me there are lots of good ideas around. I just hope that we can see “20’s plenty for us” as a battle and not the whole war so that when it is won we can get on with the next steps.


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