Monthly Archives: May 2013

Brief half term holiday in Derbyshire

So we have just had 3 nights camping in Derbyshire which was a little damp 😉

We were at Ballidon Moor Farm Caravan Park which was excellent (although no phone signal using 3 mobile), a great position and good facilities.

Although only away for 3 nights we achieved a number of firsts for us.

  • As there were only 3 of us we put the 3 bikes in the car. This worked really well!
    • The bikes stayed much cleaner and dryer
    • It was much quicker and easier than putting on the roof carriers
    • Obviously they were more secure than putting them on any external bike carrier
  • On Wednesday it included our first day ride with Jane on her new bike.
    • We did 19.2 miles together (see the route on Strava). We started at the campsite and after a short steep road climb joined the High Peak Trail and then the Tissington Trail to finish at Tissington. After lunch I left Jane and Stephen there and rode on to collect the car to bring them back to the site.
    • I have uploaded three videos of the ride.
    • We really enjoyed the ride 🙂
    • We joined the High Peak trail at Longcliffe heading for Parsley Hay. It was very quiet until we joined the Tissington Trail but it did have quite a few farm gates and was pretty narrow in places.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
    • The Tissington Trail was (for gravel) a good surface from a mile or so south of Parsley Hay. But it was busy and for quite long stretches much too narrow for the amount of traffic it was carrying. In the direction we were going it was almost entirely downhill (10 miles of downhill is amazing!).
    • The views were wonderful and thanks to Victorian Railway engineering the gradients were fantastic.
    • Tissington was a great place for us to finish. Fortunately we beat both the rush and the rain to get lunch at  Old Coach House Tea Rooms. While I went for the car Jane and Stephen went to the Candle Workshop, Vintage Sweet Shop and Methodist Chapel.Parked for lunch at Tissington
  • On the Tuesday after we had visited Bakewell I tested the route starting just north of Parsley Hay at Sparklow thru Tissington and back to the campsite (see it on Strava) that was 15.7 miles after heavy rain for many hours.
    • It rained pretty constantly during the ride so there were lots of big puddles. I was riding my Stoater for the first time in these sorts of conditions since I fitted the mudflaps on the bottom of the mudguards. They worked brilliantly. I could watch water gushing down the front mudguard and not hitting me. When I went through deeper puddles the bottom of the mudflap hit the solid water and knocked it away from me. I was amazed at how dry I stayed and how clean the bike stayed despite hammering through the puddles at high speed.
    • My Bike for Life is incredibly comfortable and sure footed on these surfaces whatever the weather thanks to the combination of
    • At the same time I love that the combination of Gates Belt Drive, Rohloff Hub Gears, full mudguards and mudflaps keep bith me clean and the bike clean while needing no maintenance after such a wet sticky gravel ride.
  • On the Monday after we had setup camp. I rode to Matlock where Jne and Stephen joined me for dinner.
    • The 12 mile ride is on Strava (and included a fair bit of climbing, although never down to 1st gear)
    • I have uploaded a video of the first part of the ride (to Cromford) 

Anyway a good break with some great riding.



3rd party validation

Scroll down in this post “Bespoked Bristol 2013” for a 3rd party reminder of why I chose a Shand Cycles Stoater Plus 🙂 (for pedants it was not called a Stoater Plus when I bought it, Steven and Russ have increased the range since then).


Three fit in a lot more easily :-)

So we been packing for a short trip away with our Dandy folding camper.

One of the nice things about having 2 out of 3 sons away at university is that it is a lot easier to pack for only 3 of you.

Having 3 people means we can leave 4 car seats at home. Our Citroen Berlingo Multispace can seat 7 but the seats don’t fold away under the floor. If you don’t need them then you gain van loads of space by leaving them at home.

So with only 1 seat in the back there is now space for 3 bikes. Yes that is one each, not all for me 🙂 Jane’s new road bike makes this easier as well as the handlebars are much narrower than her utility bike, plus it is lower.

I much prefer carrying the bikes inside as they stay dry (handy with the current weather forecast) and of course are much more secure.

Another advantage to not caring about how cool and trendy your car is. We go for practicality every time.


New bike pedals and a test


The pedals that came with Jane’s new bike were quite frankly rubbish. Really only suited to short test rides around car parks, with naff bearings and weak but quite sharp edges.

So we were looking for some better pedals. Jane is not interested at all in going clipless, although I wouldn’t rule out a future Breeze ride converting her on this as well 😉

As we looked at flat pedals there seem to be three main types:

  • cheap rubbish. Mostly plastic with poor bearings.
  • traditional rat trap pedals. We find these most effective at grazing shins and cutting shoes. So don’t like them very much.
  • Trendy large metal platform pedals. Jane didn’t like these.

So we have gone for something rather different. They arrived yesterday.



From Ergon (whose cork grips we are both using on our flat handlebars) these are their PC2 pedals.

I fitted them and Jane went on a ride tonight (found through Sky Rides), one of the intermediate Tour de Queni rides. In total 19 miles and an average pace of over 12mph. Her first reactions to the pedals are very positive. She commented that she particularly likes the way that you can just start pedalling but they also make correct foot position very clear.


Nearly half the bike she used to have

Just did a quick check.

Jane’s utility bike weighs approx 19kg (that is very fully equipped for reliable daily transport)

Jane’s new bike weighs just under 10kg (pretty well equipped including a rack and mudguards)

For reference my Trek is 11.4kg, my Bullitt Cargobike is 24.9kg and my Shand Stoater, Bike for Life is 17.5kg

Seems to me that while weight is important is by no means the only factor in choosing a bike!

Although having said that I am looking for some lighter summer tyres for my Bike for Life. I have been using the fully puncture resistant Schwalbe Marathon Plus (Smartguard City Tyre Black 700 x 38mm) since before Christmas. They are wonderful in allowing you to ride anywhere without fear of a puncture, but maybe I don’t so much protection in the summer?

After my experience with 28mm Schwalbe Duranos on my Trek for LEJoG I am going to try a pair of 32mm Duranos on the Bike for Life for the summer (sadly they don’t make them any larger. I would have preferred closer to 38mm for extra comfort). This should save over 1kg of rotating mass which should significantly improve speed. We will have to see how good they are for puncture resistance.

When Jane needs new tyres on her new bike I’ll probably be looking at Duranos for her too.


A day for cycling progress

Lots of nice cycling things today.

Some good maintenance/upgrades progress and a nice ride with Jane on her new bike.

The ride first.

We drove over to Rutland to kill lots of birds with one stone. This included a nice ride with lunch.

Or view on Strava.

As proof here is Jane on her new bike (with new helmet from Rutland Cycling as well):


For anyone interested that is a Ortlieb Front Roller Plus pannier which is a great size for carrying just a few things on a day out. Sorry for the lack of colour coordinated water bottle 🙂

We had both lunch and a after ride coffee at the Harbour View Cafe 🙂

Anyway, we had a nice ride with only one idiot driver who decided to beep us as he zoomed past on a very minor road.

Maintenance stuff

There were a couple of other reasons for going to Rutland.

First, I had dropped off my Shand Stoater, Bike for Life at Rutland Cycling yesterday. I have had trouble properly bleeding the rear brake. Turns out the hose had got damaged and so was leaking slightly. They are going to replace that and bleed it for me.

Second, I have also been having trouble with the brakes on my Bullitt Cargobike, they have been getting less powerful, more squeaky and hard to bleed. So we took the Bullitt with us, for the first time finding it is possible to fit it in the car:


That is handy to know 🙂

Anyway the main problem is with the rear calliper which is leaking badly (the front going the same way). I decided to tackle the problem with an upgrade. I don’t particularly like the Shimano disk brakes. They use a very expensive mineral oil and I would appreciate more power when hurtling downhill fully loaded.

So Rutland Cycling are fitting Hope Tech M4 brakes to match my Bike for Life, only on the Bullitt they are going to use Braided Hose which should provide a further improvement.

This means both bikes will need the same replacement seals and use the same brake fluid which is DOT 5.1, available from any garage.

So it looks like my problems with bleeding the brakes are due to hose or calliper problems, future maintenance easier for me to do myself.

Anyway for perspective. We have 3 bikes with hydraulic disk brakes that have done 1,000’s of miles in all kinds of weather. These are the first replacement parts and the 1st professional service ever needed. Still absolutely my favourite type of brake (for power, controllability, reliability and maintenance), especially as it is possible to buy excellent British made hydraulic brakes from Hope Tech.



Redefining normal to find a better life

Our perspective can change. Yesterday felt normal, but I know that a couple of years ago it wouldn’t have seemed possible.

Yesterday was planned with a quiet morning and then getting busier, the plans didn’t quite work yet the result was still a better life.

The morning started well with a lie in (always a favourite with me!). Then email and other exciting admin stuff.

The first meeting of the day was at 2pm, the far side of Markfield, some 13miles away (nearly all uphill). So I set off a little earlier than really needed which meant after a lovely ride through Rothley, Cropston and Bradgate Park I could enjoy a lunch stop at the Old Post Office Cafe, Newtown Lynford (superb toasted triple decker sandwich, huge coffee and walnut cake and a great coffee). Thus fortified I continued up the hills to Fieldhead, then Markfield and to my destination a few miles past the M1, near Coalville. I got there early and was on my way again a little before 4.

That meant I was too late for afternoon visiting at the Royal Infirmary but with all the downhills I was in plenty of time for the Cycle City Meeting at Leicester Town Hall at 5pm despite an errand for Jane on the way.

Leaving the Town Hall just after 7pm, meant that I could now visit the original person in the Royal Infirmary plus another being “processed” by A&E. So a couple of hours there and home before 10pm.

Just over 34 miles in total and despite some heavy showers during the day I only needed my waterproof on for about 10 minutes.

If you had suggested a couple of years ago that I would ride 34 miles (including climbing over 1,000 feet) in normal clothes, on a day with rain forecast, for 2 meetings, hospital visits and an errand  I would probably have thought you crazy. But by working on my expectations, by practising and through the choice of my bike for life I have redefined my understanding of normal. In the process I now experience a better quality of life. For example:

  • While a car might seem faster the stress of driving into Leicester for a meeting at 5pm makes it no fun.
  • I got some beautiful and inspiring views, especially Bradgate Rd from Newtown Lynford to Anstey (although you won’t see it from a normal car as the hedge is too high).
  • I gained the nice quiet reflective time while pedalling gently uphill to prepare 2 sermons for Sunday and a School Assembly for today.
  • I was able to eat a lovely lunch without worrying about putting on weight,
  • I didn’t contribute to Leicester’s appalling problems with air quality
  • I didn’t cause any congestion in the City so didn’t make anyone elses day worse
  • I got some exercise which the doctors and statisticians say is really good for me
  • I saved my employer, the Methodist Church £6.80 in travel expenses plus 4 hours of car parking (same again)
  • During what has been a busy few weeks I got some excellent help with de-stressing and relaxation (for free)

Oh and it was FUN.

Changing my understanding of what is normal has dramatically improved my quality of life!!

For the record some of the features of my Bike for Life that help change normality include:

  • Belt drive keeps me cleaner
  • Rohloff 14 speed hub gears give me the gear range to get up hills without a struggle
  • Full length mudguards with mudflaps keep me dry even on very wet roads
  • Brooks Select B17 saddle is comfortable in normal clothes
  • Dynamo lighting means nothing to worry about if delayed so end up riding home in the dark

First ride with Jane on her new bike

So following from  Converted by Breeze | 42 Bikes today we collected Jane’s new bike.

So here is the new bike:



A 54cm Dolce Elite Equipped from Specialized with lots of nice bits 🙂

It includes a full Shimano Tiagra 10 speed drivetrain (triple chainset) and brakes. As mentioned before Jane finds the “higher” spec Shimano brake hoods too bulky for her hands (and I have found Tiagra reliable on my Trek).

The shop fitted the SKS raceguards, it will be interesting to see how effective these are in the wet. Must be a lot better than nothing and they seem well made and fitted.

I have added a few bits for her:

  • rear rack (Tubus Logo),
  • rear light (Cateye TL-LD1100 LED Rear Light, you have to buy the bracket for the rack as an extra)
  • Exposure Strada front light (only bracket on in the photo)
  • my old Garmin Edge 705 computer (only bracket visible in the photo).

We have also removed the toe straps and will get some much better pedals than these cheap plastic ones with knobbly bearings.

Anyway, we went for a nice 11 mile ride out to South Croxton.

This was Jane’s very first ride on this bike which was also her first ride on 23mm tyres and her first ride with drop handlebars (tests around car parks excluded). So it was really good that she got home without any discomfort and really liking the bike. Very obvious that this is going to make our riding speeds incredibly more compatible which is good news!

Here is an action shot (taken on my phone at dusk so amazed it came out at all).20130513_204233


BTW I was on my Shand Stoater Bike for Life.

Looking forward to more rides together!



Transport planners missing visibility

I met a professional Transport Planner today. He showed some pretty pictures of a new street design which included lots of shared space. He wanted to tell us how great this was for cyclists and it was only late in the discussion that my brain clicked in and I pointed out that there was not a single person on a bike anywhere in any of the images we were being shown.
If you are not showing people on bikes as a normal part of all your street scenes then do not try to pretend that this is a cycle friendly design!!!
A cycle friendly design will show people of all ages on bikes.
We should see young children on their parents bikes and in trailers, we will see young children riding alongside their parents, we will see older children riding to school, people doing their shopping, people collecting their pensions, people socialising, people commuting, people exercising, people touring the county, people cycling to tea shops, people cycling to restaurants, people cycling to Church, to cinemas, kids hanging out with their friends on bikes (and scooters and roller blades), cargo bikes being used for deliveries, cargobikes being used as mobile shops and lots of bikes simply parked.


When your street scene shows all these then I might believe that you have designed cycle friendly streets!

Note that of course we should also see people using mobility scooters, people in wheelchairs and pushchairs. Without these the street is still just for cars and agile pedestrians rushing to and from cars.

What is not shown cannot have been given any priority!



Converted by Breeze

On Saturday, having been encouraged by Rachel (my boss) Jane went on a Sky Breeze ride and loved it. She did 22 miles which included a visit to Thrussington tea shop.


As expected Jane was the only person on a bike equipped any of the following:

  • basket
  • skirt guard
  • step thru frame
  • hub gears
  • chain guard

By equipped with “some” of these I mean of course Jane had them all 🙂

The others were clearly highly trained motivators and so Jane came back convinced that she could ride a road bike, that she would be a lot faster and more comfortable on a road bike and therefore that she should get one.

This was not an opportunity to be wasted!

So on Saturday afternoon we went over to both Rutland Cycling stores who had impressive ranges of road bikes for women (mostly Trek, Specialized and Giant).

Jane tested a couple and came away in love with the fully carbon Specialized Ruby (despite only having ridden one that was a size too small).

That left me with the kill joy task of pointing out that she would probably enjoy the bike a lot more if she could have mudguards and carry a few things neither of which are very practical on the full carbon frames.

Anyway today we went on another bike shop visit. This time we went to the Specialized Concept store at Fort Dunlop in Birmingham where Jane was able to test ride a 54cm Dolce. She liked it a lot.

We then had a little distraction when I suggested she might consider a Specialized Tricross to benefit from bigger tyres, easier mudguard and rack fitting, and disc brakes. If the handlebars were swapped for the narrower women’s ones from the Dolce then most of the dimensions were very similar. In the end two things meant that we dropped the idea of the Tricross. The first was that the standover height was nearly 2cm more which Jane felt was intimidating. Secondly the colour scheme was deemed boring.

So in the end we have ordered a very “pretty” 54cm Dolce Elite Equipped which Jane can collect on Monday next week.



A couple of thoughts on the choice.

I was keen that if Jane was to have a road bike then it should be a good one and there not be any suggestion that she got fobbed off with the cheap option. So this is about the top specification for a women’s road bike with rack mounting points and clearance for full length mudguards.

Secondly, this has Tiagra brake/gear levers. The next specification up from Shimano is 105 and Jane found that the much larger hoods on these were too big for her hands to feel comfortable. So certainly for Jane Tiagra is as far up the Shimano product line as is comfortable. I have heard of a number of people unhappy with Sora (the next level down) and have personally been happy with Tiagra on my Trek for the last 7 years or so.

Thirdly, colour is tricky 🙂 It can’t be too girly (pink bar tape would have been too much) but at the same time it does have to look pretty. Specialized seem to have got it about right for Jane.

With a few days in Derbyshire at half term and a summer holiday in the Netherlands plus assorted Breeze rides and maybe even some with me it should get used a fair bit this summer.

Oh and no she won’t be getting rid of the other bike 🙂 This one is not suitable for riding when wearing a dress or skirt, nor is it as convenient for local shopping. The basket is still too convenient for handbags, bottles of wine, egg cartons etc etc. Plus all those heavy extras make the current bike ideal in horrible weather and on poor quality cycle routes especially when wearing normal clothes.


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