Monthly Archives: July 2012

Day out to York


Today we went from where we are camping at Boroughbridge (very nice site, just a bit wary that it has flooded 7 times this year, last time in June) to York.

I cycled while the others combined the car with buses via park and ride. I had two lovely rides on very quiet roads. Coming home it was nice to be able to draft behind a commuter on a beautiful Titanium bike for a while.

My routes are here and here, just over 44 miles in total and I beat them back from York ūüôā



A week of commuting!


Well this is going to be a strange week for me. On Monday morning I start 5 days of commuting to work,

I am taking a Counselling Skills course at Vaughan College in Leicester full-time for a week. So at about 8am I am cycling into Leicester with a colleague who is also on the course.

It will make an interesting change. I have not had to commute for about 14 years (7 years as a minister and before that 7 years running our own business). On the other hand cycling through Watermead and Abbey Parks will be a lot nicer than the commute by train into the City of London used to be.

With that, several evening meetings and a week of Bible Studies for the Methodist web site to write it will be a busy week so I may not have a lot of time for blogging. Oh and somewhere in that I need to prepare a couple of services for Sunday and get bikes & Dandy folding caravan ready for our holiday.

Still I hope to join¬†Leicester Critical Mass¬†on Friday ūüôā



LEJOG: Bike recovery

A good part of yesterday afternoon was spent helping my poor Trek Pilot recover from LEJoG. This is what the rear derailleur looked like before I started work ūüôĀ


Not very pretty is it!

It was beautiful before I started riding LEJoG because I had cleaned it thoroughly – honest.

So today was a pretty complete strip down of the bike, a good wash and then put back together with new chain  and new rear cassette. I have put the rear rack back on ready for our summer holiday which is coming up soon, although not the mudguards (because you have to take the brakes apart to fit new longer bolts which is a huge pain). With the new Bike for Life coming I guess the Trek it will be kept as a more stripped down road bike anyway.

However, it is showing real signs of wear and tear. I am going to need a new front wheel rim soon as it is now vvery ridged where the brake pads have worn it away. Unfortunately it is¬†too old to have wear marks so I don’t know how worn it really is. Also the front carbon fork is also showing problems where the brake bolt goes. So once I get my new bike we will have to see what the future holds for this bike.

Anyway this evening it was all back together so I went for a quick 10 mile ride to South Croxton & back. The gears took a while to settle in but then it was running nice and smoothly ūüôā


A Bike for Life: A suitable challenge?

As I think about my new bike, a bike chosen especially for it’s durability, reliability and flexibility I am wondering what a suitable challenge for me and this bike will be.

Some of the recent goals I have met recently are:

  • I got to about 630 days cycling in a row.
  • I am on target to ride 5,500 miles in 2012.
  • I rode LEJOG (1020 miles) in 11 days.
  • I have ridden over 100 miles in a day, several times.

So what will be a suitable challenge for me on this new bike? One that will prove the bike and help with my fitness (and ideally help me lose more weight).

Some ideas:

  • Ride the new bike a minimum of 10 miles every day for a year (when I rode for 630 days in a row some days I only rode a mile or so)
  • Complete a 100 mile ride every month (I managed that for Jan, Feb and March this year)
  • Achieve 200 miles in a day (my maximum at the moment is just under 120 miles).
  • Achieve a 10 mile ride in under 30 minutes (on fixie my best time is just over 32 minutes).
  • Achieve 100 miles in less than 7.5 hours elapsed time (I have managed this in moving time but elapsed time has always been more than an hour longer)

Any other ideas? What would be the best test for the bike? What would have the greatest positive impact on me?

Maybe I should create a poll for this. What do you think?

The Series so far:


Signs of a Bike friendly society

In my last post “What is missing from British Crematoriums” I looked at some of the ways in which British society is not bike friendly. Now I want to look at some of the positive signs of a Bike friendly society. I am going to group these into 3 headings: Cyclists, Bikes and¬†Infrastructure.


When you look at photos or videos of people cycling it is always very obvious which are the Bike friendly societies.

In some you see mostly young men and they are riding fast, wearing lycra, crash helmets and high visibility jackets.

In others you see a wide range of ages with a roughly equal gender balance, you see people in their ordinary clothes even if they seem highly impractical (using umbrellas, riding in high heels or long coats), you see few crash hats and no high visibility.

In some you see people prepared for battle, in others you see friends chatting.


Chalk and cheese you might think if you compare the bikes in use in the Netherlands and in the UK.

In a bike friendly society where everyone expects to ride bikes to get around all year round then the bikes come equipped with mudguards, with chainguards and often with skirt guards. They come with permanently attached lights and sturdy racks and baskets. They come with kickstands. They come ready to sit outside all day and not rust. They come with hub gears and hub brakes that need little or no maintenance. They come with upright seating positions that are comfortable and don’t put strain on shoulders, arms and wrists.

In the UK most bikes come without mudguards, they almost all come without lights (obviously in someone’s fantasy life it never gets dark in the UK). Commuter bikes are sold as detuned racing bikes, maybe with puncture resistance and slightly larger volume tyres. Everything the Dutch take for granted in a bike is an extra (or just not available – how many local bike shops can sell you stands, skirt guards or a fully equipped bike?).


In a bike friendly society the assumption is made that people all ages should feel safe using a bike to get from home to work, school, shops, leisure activities etc. In such a society there is the assumption is that changes to the infrastructure should be made to encourage walking and cycling as the most convenient way to get around for all people. So in a bike friendly society we will see bikes kept completely separate from fast moving and large vehicles. We will see direct routes created for pedestrians and cyclists while at the same time access to city and town centres is made less convenient for motorised transport. We will see provision for cycle storage at all public buildings/places and a big push to integrate bikes with public transport.

At the moment few British politicians, policy makes and transport planners have any idea of what a Bike friendly infrastructure looks like. There is lots of hot air floating around by very little in the way of quality results on the street.

The transport team at Leicester County Council are typical of many. They design and implement very poor quality bits of what they call “cycle infrastructure” but it is to a very low standard and the key impression is that it must not cost much and absolutely should not inconvenience or slow down motorists at all (those being much higher priorities that safety or convenience for cyclists). They have no vision for significant growth in the percentage of journeys that are by walking and cycling, an obvious indication of this is their focus on marketing and training rather than on infrastructure.

One classic example of this approach is that at the Leicester City Cycle Workshop on Wednesday we were told that Leicestershire are planning to develop Loughborough station as a transport hub, encouraging the use of cycling. yet their plans include no infrastructure changes to the entrance which made it into the “Cycle Facility of the Month” for January 2012:

Contrast the approach in Loughborough (by no means abnormal for British Railway Stations. Look at Crawley and Horsham) with how the Dutch do things as shown in  these posts by David Hembrow.

The misnamed Cycle Superhighways in London are another example of very expensive poor quality infrastructure. Despite the design and implementation problems it does seem to have encouraged more people to cycle although in the process as we have seen at Bow roundabout it is putting cyclists into life threatening danger. Even the Guardian has noticed that London is getting short changed compared to Copenhagen.

When counties and cities have committed to making cycling feel safe and convenient by changing the infrastructure then the percentage of journeys made by bike rockets, it especially encourages new people to choose to get about by bike.

A bike friendly society shown by it’s infrastructure can realistically see growth towards and beyond 50% of all journeys being by bike! In such a society most children use bikes to get to school and enjoy the benefits of better health and more freedom.


For me the signs of a Bike friendly society are clear and when you get those signs you will see getting around by bike rocket in terms of modal share. As yet very few of these signs are visible in the UK with the exception of a few stuttering starts scattered around.

It could change and it could happen quite quickly with real political will to recognise that things have got change as a response to:

  • obesity
  • child deaths on the roads
  • congestion
  • pollution
  • oil prices
  • the need to reduce carbon emissions

Where are the politicians, policy makers and transport planners with understanding, vision and determination to change things?

It seems obvious to me that the first two signs of a bike friendly society (cyclists and bikes) are dependant on and come after real progress is made on the infrastructure.

For example when parents suddenly feel the infrastructure has changed enough for their children to be safe cycling to school then suddenly we have a generation of cyclists who won’t be expecting to wear lycra or change their clothes when they get to school. Suddenly we will see signs of a bike friendly society in children riding to school

We have a generation of parents who will demand mudguards so that they don’t have to keep washing school uniforms. We have a set of schools who will not allow children to leave the school in the dark on a bike with no lights and so suddenly we will start to see the sorts of bikes you get in a bike friendly society.

It all hinges on getting safe and convenient infrastructure. Sadly that also means it all depends on politicians, policy makers and transport planners who all have only a long history of failure to offer us.


What is missing from British Crematoriums?

Nearly had a couple of embarrassing moments this afternoon thanks to something that is generally missing from British Crematoriums.

This morning I rode to Loughborough Crematorium through heavy rain, which is of course pretty predictable this year. As usual when the weather is bad I had taken my suit, clerical shirt etc in my Bullitt Cargobike so that I could change before leading the funeral service (the world is quite rightly not ready for me to take a funeral in soaking wet 3/4 length trousers and a t-shirt).

All went well getting ready for the service and so did the service itself.

However, afterwards I was just changing back into casual clothes ready to ride home when the lady taking the next service realised that she had left something in the vestry. Fortunately, I had realised I could lock the door so didn’t end up¬†embarrassing either of us.

Finally, when it came to leave the only route out was the main entrance with the mourners just arriving, so I had to wait til they had gone into the chapel.

Would all crematoriums please note that as more ministers etc cycle to services we need:

  1. secure cycle parking (preferably under cover)
  2. somewhere to change completely and hang up wet stuff
  3. a way in and out that is discrete

Either all that or I might just have to get a cassock and put that on top of my wet cycling clothes (but I really don’t want to start wearing a cassock).

Just wondering how much support for cyclists others who ride to places for work find. So far with the exception of the Leicester Town Council I find the provision to be essentially nil.


A Bike for Life: The British bits

Sadly I can’t buy only British made parts for my Bike for life, there are several items that nobody makes in Britain ūüôĀ

At the moment I think that realistically I can achieve just over 50% of the total cost being items actually made in Britain. As some of the non-British items are very high value (like the Rohloff hub gear) I am reasonably pleased to achieve that.

The following are part of my Bike for Life and are all British made ūüôā

The Frame.

See A Bike for Life: The Frame. Being made by Steven Shand at Shand Cycles in Scotland. The model I am buying is the Stoater Allroad.

Hope Technology

Hope are the next largest British supplier. I am buying several bits from them including:


Just for their cranks. Sadly their website is not up-to-date. However, they make an Middleburn RS8 X-Type crank for external Bottom Bracket bearings to the Hollowtech II standard and they produce a version specifically for Rohloff  which needs a 54mm chainline.

USE – Ultimate Sports Engineering

The Sumo XCR Carbon Seatpost.


I will be fitting Infiniti3D security with the initial goal to make sure the wheels & saddle can’t be stolen. The goal is to only need to carry a U-Lock. That will then fasten the frame to something secure and everything else will be secured to the frame already


I should not miss Brooks out as I will be using my B17 Select saddle. But I don’t need to buy a new one as their lifespan is perfectly suited to a Bike for Life ūüôā

Not quite there

  • I like the look of Woodguards¬†a lot, but in my view they need some form of edging strip to stop water running off sideways.
  • I could have gone for the new Exposure dynamo lights, but they don’t make their own dynamo and I decided to stick with the proven Edelux and B&M.

Not at all there

Sadly I could not find a British manufacturers for:

  • Wheel rims (Hope make hubs but don’t appear to make their own rims).
  • Spokes
  • Handlebar (unsurprising given that I want the Jones H-Bar)
  • Dynamo front hub
  • Belt drive
  • Hub gear with wide range and plenty of evenly spaced gears
  • Low rider racks
  • Porteur style front rack
  • Randonneur front rack
  • Rear rack
  • Grips (I am going for Ergon Biokork GP1)
  • Handlebar tape

The Series so far:


A Bike for Life: Tyres

The Schwlabe Duranos were wonderful for an 11 day LEJoG. Pretty fast and no punctures. But while a 28mm tyre is a reasonable compromise between speed and comfort/robustness which suits a (for me) sprint up the country at 90 miles a day they do not fit so well with my plans for the future.

Right across the country I found appalling road surfaces. I remember one section just after Penryn in Cornwall, a beautiful sweeping downhill that was an incredible washboard surface. I felt that my hands and feet were going to be vibrated off the rest of my body, the only thing that impressed me was that the bike held together. Sadly this was not alone, after a few days I wished I had kept count of the bell ringing moments. By that I mean the moments when the bike hit a pothole hard enough to make the bell ring on it’s own. There were several of these every day. Not only this but of course cyclists frequently get the worst of the road surface as motorised traffic tries to force us into the gutter where all the debris collects.

The roads are not the only problem. In the UK cycle infrastructure is dominated by bad surfaces with tree roots, loose gravel, badly installed drop kerbs, potholes etc etc.

For all these things it seems to me that a 28mm tyre is the minimum for anyone who is not actually racing, unless you want to spend lots of time in pain or fixing punctures or buckled wheels.

However, for a bit more comfort and a lot more ability to carry loads then tyres with a lot more air make a big difference. For the types of riding I am looking forward to (everyday transport, long day rides, self supporting multi-day rides) comfort, load carrying and robustness/longevity and really important so in a bike for life I am looking for tyres that are more like a minimum of 40mm.

In fact today was a good reminder. I had done a bit of preparation of our full suspension Giant Mountain Bike for a son to take away on a holiday and I thought I had better test it so I used it to get to the Leicester City Cycle Workshop and then Leicester Royal Infirmary. Riding a full suspension bike on Leicester & Leicestershire cycle infrastructure is a reminder that this is the sort of bike that British Cycle infrastructure is designed for – of course it shouldn’t be, but the truth is that big tyres and full suspension do make these terrible surfaces more comfortable.

So I’ll be having 40mm tyres, a suspension seatpost and a steel frame to gain as much comfort as possible. Plus the big gain over the full suspension mountain bike is full coverage mudguards which with all the water about is a big item for me.

So far I am looking at either the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme Road City tyre or Continental City Ride. The Continental is 42mm instead of 40mm and has a nice smooth centre strip so is possibly slightly the current favourite. Anyway I expect to get through a pair of tyres in less than a year I might end up testing them both (plus maybe a pair of studded tyres for the snow).

The Series so far:


A Bike for Life: The Frame

So the time has come to reveal my choice of frame for my Bike for Life. Cue drum roll!

First, I want to say there are some great frames out there. My personal choice is not going to be right for everyone (or maybe even anyone), in explaining why I have made this choice I am not intending to attack the frames made by anyone else. Nor am I claiming to have made an exhaustive or even 100% logical decision.

So the criteria that helped me narrow down my choice were.

  • Frame to be made in Britain rather than simply the product of a British company that is made abroad: for environmental reasons, to support our own economy, to support small companies, greater chance of the person who builds it being treated well by the company (in fact in many cases in Britain they probably own the company as most are very small)
  • Made of Steel: reasonably low environmental impact, comfortable, easy to customise, easy to repair, wide choice of frames made in Britain
  • The builder to have experience of and like Gates Carbon Belt Drive
  • Support for Rohloff Hub gears with dropouts that support the OEM large slot for anti-rotation and also the EX box for cable connections.
  • Disk brakes only
  • Support for braze on fittings for low riders and other front racks
  • Clearance for at least 40mm tyres with mudguards
  • Separate mountings for racks and mudguards
  • Willingness to add a plate for a kickstand to be fitted

Some of the bikes that I have mentioned in the past that came close included:

  • On-One Pompetamine¬†(at the moment the 2012 frames are selling for ¬£99 no belt drive, not UK production, Alfine instead of Rohloff but very tasty.
  • Milk Bikes RDA The Commuter. Gates Carbon Belt Drive, dynamo lights but not UK production and not Rohloff, limited options to front braze on changes
  • A custom bike by any of the builders at the UK Handmade Bike Show: Wow, breathtaking.

In the end the company I chose did exhibit at the 2012 ¬†UK Handmade Bike Show¬†and had just launched a “production” range of frames.

So I have ordered a “Stoater: AllRoad” frame from Shand Cycles. We managed to fit in a factory visit and a test ride on our way home from John O’Groats. In fact it is going to be more than just a frame because Steven (Shand) is going to be doing a lot of the assembly. So he will be able to make sure things like the front rack braze-ons are in the right place and ensure that the alignment for the Gates Carbon Belt Drive is spot on.

Small companies can vary widely in their attitudes to potential customers. With some you wonder how they sell anything! My experience so far with Steve and Russell is great, very responsive, very interested in my needs and genuinely interested in building the bike I want. Just as examples Steve has gone out of his way to source one of the very rare Jones H-bar handlebars and well as finding out the situation with the Civia Marketplace Porteur rack.

The Shand Cycles “Stoater : Allroad”. Even meets all my requirements!

The Series so far:



A Bike for Life: Carrying stuff

Sorting out how to carry things has been one of the more complicated areas for my Bike for Life.

The problem is that the different uses for my bike have very different needs for luggage. It has taken a while to sort out the actual racks to be used and sadly none of them are made in the UK.

The back rack is simplest. I am going to use a Tubus Logo Classic. Fairly light and minimalistic but with the bracket for a rear dynamo light and the lowered support bar for panniers (which makes them much easier to combine with a bag on top). I have used Tubus racks for years and they have been excellent.

Now for load carrying on the front of the bike, something that is becoming increasingly popular although as yet not well supported by British bike shops.

I have decided against the various systems where a bracket is clamped onto the handlebar to which bags or baskets can be quickly clicked in and out. One problem is how difficult this makes it to fit a front light. Another is that the weight and volume carrying are both limited which means there is little chance of carrying something like my laptop in one of these click on baskets or bags. Finally as they are only fixed on at the top they tend to wobble around both when they have plenty of weight in them and when they are empty.

So I have ended up specifying 3 different front load carrying systems that I will use in various combinations for different purposes.

First, for daily transportation. I need to be able to carry stuff easily so that loading is quick and simple. I don’t need to carry huge amount because for that I still have my Bullitt Cargobike for larger loads. So I am looking at a Porteur style front rack combined with a rear rack for panniers. The one I have chosen in the end is the Porteur Rack from Velo Orange in the US.

It is not quite what I wanted. For simplicity and strength it is attached to the bottom of the fork. My preferred option would be for a porteur rack that attached to low rider brazed on fittings on the fork. The only one I could find like that was the Marketplace from Civia but that is not approved for sale in the UK. My reasoning was that I would then have been able to have 2 sets of low rider bosses on the forks and so have the porteur rack and low riders at the same time.

For long day rides the porteur rack will come off and be replaced by a small randonneur  rack suitable for a bag. I want to be able to fit a Campagne Handlebar Bag also from Velo Orange although I will not always need a bag this size. The whole point of a small front rack is to give me options.

The small front rack is going to be from Gilles Berthoud as in the picture. It fits to low rider braze ons (but I am having an extra set so that I can have this rack and low riders at the same time).

For longer loaded tours I will add low riders to the front to take front panniers. I have chosen the Duo from Tubus to match the rear rack.

So there will be a bit of swapping around at the front to provide the flexibility I want for the different types of ride. My hope had been that the swapping would be made easier by the porteur rack and small front rack both being compatible with the low riders, with that now possible I’ll expect to use the following combinations:

  • Everyday transport: Rear rack and front Porteur Rack.
  • Long day rides: Rear rack and front small randonneur rack
  • Touring: Rear rack and front low riders with¬†front small randonneur rack
  • Family Holidays: could be any of the above depending on my mood ūüôā

Note that I don’t plan to strip the bike down fully by taking off the rear rack, in part that is because the rear dynamo light will be permanently fixed to it.

The Series so far:


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