Monthly Archives: April 2011 - Page 2

#bullitt #cargobike for Guitar Hero

This week the Methodist Church in Birstall has been open for a whole range of events leading towards Easter. This afternoon and evening it was time for Wii Games.

So my Bullitt Clockwork got to carry a fair bit of stuff:

If I remember correctly the load included:

  • 3 data projectors
  • 1 x 30 watt Roland Cube Guitar Amp
  • 1 x PC 3 speaker set (with big bass speaker)
  • 2 x iPod dock speakers
  • 2 x Wii
  • 3 x reel power extension cables
  • 2 x 5 way extension cables
  • 1 x Guitar Hero (drums, 2 guitars, mike)
  • 1 x projection screen
  • 1 x cycling magazine but I never got a chance to read it ­čÖü
  • lots of assorted sound and video cables
  • U-Lock
Here in close-up, you can see how elegantly everything was packed for the 3 mile trip. The route starts in Syston, goes thru Thurmaston, across Watermead park using a bridleway, board walk and two bridges over the river/canal. So quite varied. The only tricky bit is when riding on narrow paths between railings as the projector screen was not centred and so made the load quite wide.
Still there were no problems in either direction.
Of course as usual one of the advantages of a cargobike is being able to unload (and then load up afterwards) it right where the stuff is needed, ie in the middle of the Church ­čÖé

More fixie love

Having cleaned my fixie and put it back together I used it again today.

This morning and early afternoon were to three places for work, I didn’t need to carry anything at all so enjoyed riding my the fixie for a change, it was just over 9 miles in total.

This evening we went out for a birthday do for one one our sons, bowling and then a Chinese meal at Meridian Park, Leicester. So I took the fixie along in the back of the car and rode home after the meal (a good way to be able to enjoy a delicious Chinese meal without feeling too guilty afterwards). It was just under 11 miles home.

Fixie’s or Fixed Wheel or Fixed Gear bikes get a very mixed press. The views always seem to be extreme. They are seen as ultra cool or completely crazy.

I don’t think mine fits either description ­čÖé

Loaded with good front and rear brakes, full mudguards (fenders), rear rack and chainguard I have disguised the cool looks.

With all the things making it highly practical I think it is entirely sensible, ultra reliable transport.

The opinions of the effects on the rider are equally at extremes. Either it will destroy your knees or make you the smoothest rider ever.

I have not found it causing knee problems. However, I take precautions by not trying to accelerate too fast, being willing to stand to accelerate comfortably & having slightly shorter cranks to reduce knee bend. My suspicion is that knee problems are often caused on a fixie by trying to do all the braking with your legs rather than with the brakes. I also tend to avoid very hilly areas as I am not strong enough to ride fixed on big hills (yet?).

I have found that it does make my pedalling smoother. Jane has noticed this when we have been riding the tandem together after I have ridden fixed for a while. I notice lumping pedalling when first riding fixed after a break. Especially the less comfortable your saddle the more you notice lumpy pedalling, especially downhill.

In short I think a fixie makes a good extra bike if you have space for it and don’t live in a really hilly area. It will give you superb reliability, improve your pedalling and get you fitter faster (as you are always pedalling you get more exercise per mile). But why bother getting a great winter bike if it does not come properly kitted out with brakes, mudguards and rack?

Plus they are so beautifully silent & smooth (you do get a very different feeling of connection to the bike when riding fixed).

So beautiful

I have finished the rebuild of my Pearson┬áTouch├ę (see It started with the chain)┬áand just been for a quick ride.

Wow, so beautiful. It is not that she was running very badly before (just the slightly annoying crunch due to the dirty drivetrain), but now she is like a magic carpet – so smoooth ­čÖé Probably she was this smooth when I first bought her but back then I was just getting used to riding an upright bike again after years on recumbents and so I was more focused on the pain in my butt ­čÖé

As I took everything apart there was loads of gunk everywhere but all the bearings were in good nick so it was just a thorough clean and re-assemble. All went easily.

I had thought I would turn the sprocket and chainring over to even out wear, but both turned out to be handed and the wear was very minimal.

No pictures (because I didn’t finish until after dark).

This was a full service and the only products I needed to use were from Green Oil (EcoGrease, Clean Chain Degreaser, Chain Lube) they all work well and are nice to me, the bike and the environment.

I’ll go out for a longer ride a bit later.

It started with the chain

It started with the chain, I was a little irritated yesterday on my nice ride on my fixie. There was a certain point where there was a little crunch as the chain went round. Barely discernible but as fixed gear bikes are so smooth it began to get on my nerves.

So this afternoon I decided to clean the chain and turn the chainring and sprocket over to even out any wear.

When I started on that job I kept discovering how dirty my beautiful Pearson┬áTouch├ę┬áwas. So I kept removing bits so that I could clean them properly.

Now it looks like this:
IMG_20110417_160147
Oop’s ­čÖé

At least I can get it properly clean and that should last another 4.5 years before I need to do it again ­čÖé

I am quite amazed at the good condition of so many of the parts once you get past the grime. The wheels spin on and on and on yet those bearings have never been touched, despite the fact that I have ridden this through floods that came up to the “N” on the seat tube (so the axles and bottom bracket were way below the surface of the water).

The only bits that are not so nice are a few of the bolts eg for the mudguards and wheel nuts that are obviously not stainless steel and have rusted a bit.

I love the fact that bikes are simple enough (especially a fixed gear) that you can take them apart in this way and understand how all the bits work and fit together.

The beauty of silence

As it was such a nice afternoon I chose to use my fixie (Pearson Touche) to ride to the Royal Infirmary.

It is basically a flat ride (total was 14.6 miles) ┬áso there is no need for gears and the Touche rolls along incredibly easily and silently which is one of the fantastic things about a fixie – there is nothing as quiet and smooth to ride as a fixed gear bike.

Unfortunately this does not automatically mean a smooth ride and the Touche does tend to bounce me around a fair bit due to the combination of hard (but very fast) 25mm tyres, the aluminium frame (although softened somewhat by carbon seatpost and fork), the hardest but lightest saddle I have and the appalling quality of Leicester’s cycle facilities (which perhaps are the only half sane reason that so many people ride full suspension bikes around the city).

I think I am due for a change of saddle on the Touche, especially now that I have less padding on my bottom. Given how pleased I am with the Brooks Flyer on my Bullitt cargobike I think a Brooks B17 might go well on the Touche.

Still that is for another day, today was one to remember for the sensation of flying along by the river in silence ­čÖé

More building materials by bike

Today we needed some ballast (sand & gravel mix) for our shed base (due to a huge root we have had to create a level a bit higher than originally planned).

IMG_20110415_142048So I collected 9 bags of ballast from Buildbase which is pretty close to us. In the photo is the 5 bag load.

No problem at all for a Bullitt cargobike ­čÖé The only bit requiring any effort is getting the Bullit back on it’s stand with a load this heavy. I am not sure if they are 20kg or 25kg bags which puts me right on the maximum load or just over it.

Fooled by modernity

I am coming to understand that I have lived much of my life fooled by modernity. By illusions of progress. The biggest lie in this is still believed and taught by our government.

The lie of modernity is that economic success is connected to the car.

Yet my eyes are being opened to different views.

Somehow it is assumed and implied everywhere that when someone drives to work they are contributing more to the economy than when they cycle, walk or use public transport. Yet the reality is that they have to work several days a week just to earn back the amount their car costs them and the wider economy.

It scares me how long it has taken for me to realise just how little sense a car makes for our economy and not just in environmental terms.

Why is the lie that driving more is good for us so easy to believe? A lie that had huge costs for us financially, in our health, in our environment, in our national security and in our local community.

Second 100 mile ride review

After riding to the Methodist Council at the Royal Holloway College as detailed in First 100 mile ride review, I had to get home again.

The meeting finished at lunchtime on Monday so by about 2:15pm I was ready to leave.

It felt as if I had spent 48 hours at the Royal Holloway stuffing my face with huge meals so I decided to start very slow and see how things progressed.

So I took a more direct route to Berkhampsted where I rejoined my earlier route. This meant time on busier roads although with slightly gentler gradients.

I wanted to be a bit faster this time as a 13 hour ride would have gone on until 3:15am and I was already tired after a busy few days of meetings. Retracing the coute was easy enough although sadly it did rain heavily for a while after Berkhampsted.

I got as far as the Little Chef just south of Bletchley at about 54 miles for my first proper stop. I tried to be more sensible in my eating than at the Pizza Hut on the way out so I had a cheese omelette and carrot cake. I also had a cafetierre of coffee (but wow they are so stingy with the coffee that it almost never properly brews). I took the opportunity of the stop to dry my shoes a bit with the hand dryer as well as change into dry socks and add leg extensions and more layers on top.

I found it much smoother getting past Bletchley and Milton Keynes as traffic was much lighter. By the time I was past Milton Keynes it was getting dark so I had my full lights on with the Exposure Joystick on Medium (with the single cell piggyback batter that is good for 20 hours).

The ride from Milton Keynes to Northampton went well, the Galaxy Tab battery lasted until nearly the end of that segment which was fine, I knew the way from there.

In Northampton I went back to the Subway at the Tesco Extra and got there at about 9:45pm they were still open but had closed the seating area and already stopped serving for the day so I just had a warm chicken sub and filled my water bottles. A coffee would have been very welcome at that point as I was getting cold when stopped to eat.

By now a headwind had picked up a lot. As I reached and then rode along the Brampton Valley Way there were a few exposed sections where the wind was very noticeable. I made it along this section at a reasonable speed although my neck was quite tired from the weight of the helmet with Joystick light and piggyback battery.

Sadly the only place open in Market Harborough was a KFC, I didn’t stop there thinking I could get something at the garage at the junction with the A6 but that and the┬áMacDonald’s were both closed.

That left me feeling very sleepy, tired and slow with a headwind for the last 18 miles to home. So I went the simple route along the B6047 to the A47, it seemed very long and slow with me struggling up all the hills, often down to 1st gear. By this point my neck and legs were very tired and my feet were extremely cold. I couldn’t face any more energy bars. Fortunately, by now home didn’t seem so far away and as ┬áit got nearer my speed increased a bit through Keyham, Beeby and Barkby.

Eventually I got home at 1:15 so it took 11 hours which was 2 hours faster than the outward journey although the average moving speed was slightly lower at 13.1mph I had however, only had two significant stops for food (plus a three brief stops for an energy bar).

It took quite a while for my feet to warm up enough so that I felt I could have a nice warm bath, they had been really hurting for the last 10 miles or so.

This time I did not feel I could have ridden any further.

If I could have had a coffee and a bit more of a meal in Northampton and maybe a coffee and snack in Market Harborough I would have felt a bit stronger. It was fortunate that I had a pair of dry socks to put on back at Bletchley but some shoe covers would also have made a big difference.

The Trek Bike worked beautifully the whole way. My new back wheel has survived and is still perfectly true which is good considering the size of some of the potholes I hit at high speed. No punctures (Marathon tyres score again) and the Tubus Rack and Ortlieb panniers worked flawlessly.

So I figure that for future long distance rides the key things I need to improve are

  • the eating and drinking en-route. I need better supplies to cope with the occasional long gaps caused by sticking to small roads or being out late at night.
  • I need a way to keep my feet dry and warmer

If I sort those out then with a proper rest and starting either very early in the day (and finishing early in the morning at home) or starting at night and then continuing the next day I reckon I am good for the next big target of breaking 200 miles. There are no immediate plans for that though.

In the meantime it does give me a lot more confidence in planning rides to meetings with distances of up to 100 miles in the day. That means day meetings in Northampton might be a next target. We will have to see.

First 100 mile ride review

Home again after 119 miles on Friday and 118.7 miles on Monday. Not forgetting a huge 10 on Saturday and 3.5 on Sunday ­čÖé┬áSo my first 100 miles in a day completed and followed by another after a gap of two days.

The rides had a purpose. I am a member of the Methodist Council and we had one of our three annual meetings this weekend. This time it was at The Royal Holloway College, Egham and it started after lunch on Saturday finishing at lunchtime on Monday. I had decided to use my day off on Friday to ride to somewhere close to the meeting (and so had booked in at the Travelodge at Feltham). Coming home was in one sense simpler, as I can arrive at home at any time,

I have written a number of posts already on my so called preparations so how did they work out in reality?

IMG_20110408_072626Friday was a beautiful day, it must have been for me to be wearing shorts and sunglasses at 7:30 am ­čÖé

I was pleased that I had managed to cut down a lot on what I was carrying. So my panniers were  nothing like full to capacity (I had space for my bike helmet in one still without filling it).

I also used my handlebar bag and rack top for bits and pieces such as tools, rain jacket, snacks, phone chargers etc.

On the top of the handlebar bag you can just see my Samsung Galaxy Tab ready to show me the route via google maps.

As much of the route was on quiet and twisty roads I decided to ride in my high vis top (the wind blocking was also handy in the morning chill).

IMG_20110408_083039The next photo is from my first pause which is was on the way to Market Harborough. I had come from the road opposite and was continuing to the left of the photo. As you can see it was an absolutely gorgeous day for a ride.

IMG_20110408_091121So nice to ride that obviously my next stop needed to be Starbucks in Market Harborough for a coffee and a snack (notice how I was trying to eat something reasonably healthy). Of course they don’t have anywhere to park bikes.

I was working on the idea that it would be sensible to eat consistently and that it would get harder to eat later on. Plus I like coffee ­čÖé

IMG_20110408_095706From Market Harborough I followed the Brampton Valley Way which is an old railway line converted to an off road cycle route all the way to Northampton. It includes a couple of fairly long railway tunnels.

So I had my bike helmet had my new Exposure Joystick light ready fitted.

Unfortunately I forgot to swap from my sunglasses to my ordinary glasses which radically reduced the effectiveness of the light ­čÖé

Even more unfortunately the tunnels also have the worst track surface of the while route, which is daft – surely the surface quality is more important for safety inside a very dark tunnel than on the open track.

This photo is after the first and shorter tunnel at “only” 480m.

After the end of the off road section came Northampton. I skirted the centre and then stopped for a first lunch at the Subway at Tesco Extra on the ring road. Again tried to be healthy, at least there are some options at a Subway that do not include reformed meat but the cookie that was added for 1p to make it a meal deal was not exactly healthy.

From Northampton it was quiet roads and very pleasant to the outskirts of Milton Keynes. At that point I found things a bit confusing. It is not immediately obvious where you are allowed to cycle until you guess that small yellow posts mark the shared use cycle paths. Even then it is still confusing  due to the way they weave around junctions and occasionally swap sides.

Still gradually I got used to it. Still frustrating that except where there are underpasses you have to give way and bounce over not quite smooth kerbs at every junction.

IMG_20110408_130753While going around Milton Keynes I reached the halfway point and was pleased to be feeling great. Although clearly not well enough to notice whether the picture was in focus or not ­čÖé

Sadly at the southern end of Milton Keynes the route became rather unpleasant for a few miles as I passed Ikea and through Bletchley. It was very unclear where cyclists were supposed to go and I kept finding myself having to stop for kerbs and to try to work out where the cycle facility went, even if there was one.

After an age I made it out of Bletchley and onto quieter roads again. So I celebrated with a second lunch at a pub in Great Brickhill. From here on the road was very pleasant until I saw the Chilterns rising up steeply in front of me and gulped.

However, the reality was fine and so I wound my way up some long hills and on through Berkhampstead. It was very crowded and so I made what turned out to be a mistake (isn’t hindsight wonderful). I should have stopped for something to eat and to refill my water bottles. But instead I carried on and wow what a steep hill out of┬áBerkhampstead.

After crossing the A41 I took a very minor road which also included a really steep hill with hairpin bends. The hills kept coming and one of them just before the outskirts of Little Chalfont reduced me to walking up it.

IMG_20110408_172800About this time I reached the 100 mile mark. That was very satisfying but I was starting worry that I was not seeing anywhere to fill up my nearly empty water bottles and the battery on my Galaxy was getting very low despite using the Biologic battery to charge it.

I was starting to get quite tired now although mostly it was hunger and concern about running out of water. So the miles seemed to drag on and on.

IMG_20110408_183020Eventually I reached Uxbridge and so I stopped at a Pizza hut for a meal. Being very hungry I ate faster than was sensible.

By the time I left it was heading towards dark and sadly in the section after this the Galaxy Tab shut off with a flat battery. Fortunately I had plenty of charge left in my phone, as that is also running Android I was able to use the same technique. But it did mean stopping to take the phone out of my pocket.

As you might expect the route around Heathrow was very busy and did include some stretches where the cycle path disappeared and I end up riding along sections of the dual carriageway which was not at all nice.

Fortunately, by this time I was nearly there and found the hotel easily.

IMG_20110408_204641The total trip was 119 miles and took me almost exactly 13 hours including all the stops. My average moving speed was 13.7mph. After this I was very pleased to discover that I was not very stiff and was not in any pain except that I had caught the sun a little too much.

After a good nights sleep it was a very gentle 10 mile pootle over to Egham ready for my meeting (I was there first and so had time to wash and change before anyone else got there).

All in all a good experience with key lessons about carrying some food that is not in the form of energy bars and also realising how far you can go even in the crowded South East without passing anywhere to refill your water bottles.

About to leave

So I am about to leave on my longest ride ever and am feeling eager but also somewhat nervous and filled with dread.

See you in 120 miles or so (hopefully).

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