Monthly Archives: June 2013

Methodist Pilgrimage 2014 update 1

Been doing a little more thinking about the pilgrimage next year.

Firstly, I have been tuning the route between Newark-on-Trent and the campsite. It now avoids the A52 entirely and has only a tiny section on the A1133. So the route is almost entirely byways or very quiet roads. The Sunday route does include some stretches of A road but there are no alternatives and traffic levels reasonable.

Secondly, if camping is an issue for you then I have found a B&B on the new route just 3 miles south of the campsite.

Thirdly, while the new route is slightly longer (about 58 miles on the Saturday and Monday between Syston and Church Laneham, 42 miles on the Sunday to/from Epworth)I have realised that there is a an extra option. You can catch a train from Leicester or Syston to Newark-on-Trent as the station is on the route, it cuts the distance by half (and misses all the hills!). Those who choose this option would start a little later so we could meet up for the last 25 miles on the Saturday. On the Monday we would start together and those who wish can catch the train (missing the beautiful Leicestershire countryside).

Key unknown: At the moment the key unknown is whether it will be possible to visit the Epworth Old Rectory on a Sunday (especially on a Bank Holiday weekend).

Sponsorship: If we can do this then I would suggest sponsorship is optional but if you choose to be sponsored then 50% goes to Epworth Old Rectory and 50% to the charity of your choice.

Costs: We would keep other costs to a minimum so they would just cover support vehicle, accommodation, breakfasts and some en route snacks leaving people free to buy their own lunches (at one of the many tea/coffee shops in Epworth on the Sunday, at one of the few shops we pass on the Saturday and Monday). There are a couple of pubs close to the campsite for evening meals.


Home again

So I got home about an hour and a half ago from my Quarter days mini tour.

Quite overwhelmed by the interest being shown in doing this in an organised way next year. See A very Methodist Challenge for 2014.

Today was 61 miles, a little further because I was experimenting with the route a bit. I managed to cut out the A52 crossing the River Trent but I think I can combine the missing the A52 with a bit shorter route than today.

Today was also wet. It started raining in the final stages of packing up and continued the whole time with a mixture of light rain, heavy rain and short breaks.

Overall a great few days away. Felt good about my legs and my Bike for Life was flawless, didn’t touch anything before the ride, didn’t touch anything during the ride and apart from hosing it down (for aesthetic reasons) don’t need to do anything now.  I didn’t once catch myself wanting to change anything about it which is very unusual for me.



A very Methodist Challenge for 2014

I am thoroughly enjoying a three day cycling tour that could also be described as a Methodist Pilgrimage.

It turns out that it is about 80 miles from Leicester to Epworth. These 80 miles include very few hills but lots of beautiful rural countryside and villages. They start at Leicester, the home of the first package holiday and end at the childhood home of John and Charles Wesley, two of the founders of Methodism.

So I have had an idea. An idea for a very Methodist Challenge for 2014.

Let’s do a mass Methodist Pilgrimage from Leicester to Epworth and back. Taking John Wesley’s usual mode of transport (a horse) and updating it we get a bicycle.

So I’m wondering about using a May Bank Holiday next year for a group cycle pilgrimage.
– Saturday: Leicester to Church Laneham – about 60 miles, only one significant hill
– Sunday: Church Laneham to Epworth and back. About 45 miles leaving time for guided tours, lunch and Worship (maybe at Wesley Memorial Church or around Samuel Wesley’s tomb where John Wesley often preached). Only one hill to notice up to Epworth
– Monday: return from Church Laneham to Leicester, again only one significant hill.

We could sort out someone to carry the luggage (and provide an emergency recovery service) so that we can camp at Church Laneham for both nights while riding unladen. There are two pubs for eating close to the campsite which has nice showers and other facilities.

So who is up for this?

I reckon that if you have ridden 20 miles and been able to move the next day and can ride a 10 mile course in less than an hour you will be ready for this.


Quarter days mini tour

So next week I get to go on a mini tour.

Thanks to a strange feature of the Methodist Church (yes I know there are many) as a minister I am given Quarter Days. I am supposed to take 1 day per month as extra time away from the manse (why they are called Quarter days when they are allocated monthly is another mystery).

Anyways, next week I am taking Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday to add to my day off on Friday. I need to work around a long standing engagement on the Friday evening (quiz master) so am actually touring for 3 days.

The plan has a simple goal, I am going to visit the Epworth Old Rectory so I can combine a kind of Methodist Spiritual Pilgrimage with some beautiful cycling. Looking at the route I figure this might be one of the flattest rides in the UK.

I am going to make this especially easy by using the same campsite for 2 nights. So on Wednesday I ride to Church Laneham (just under 55 miles), Thursday I make a round trip from there to Epworth Old Rectory (42 miles) and then back home on the Friday in time for the quiz which includes the locally famous Rothley Fish and Chips.

This will be my first camping tour on my Bike for Life. I am pretty busy until Wednesday so it is fortunate that my Stoater is always ready to go as packing is likely to be very last minute.


That is why I did it that way

So today I have been getting my Trek Pilot ready for a race tomorrow. I am the cycling member in a team sprint triathlon at Blenheim Palace (my part is 19km).

I have stripped the bike down, 23mm tyres instead of 28mm, no rack, no lights, no bell, only 1 bottle cage. Sure is a lot lighter.

Then I realised that I did need to face the horror of the drive train.

After hours of cleaning the cassette, chain, chain rings and derailleurs are all back to their original colour and the bike is a whole lot lighter.

That reminds me exactly why my Bike for Life has a belt drive, Rohloff Hub Gears and Hope Hydraulic Disk Brakes. So easy to keep clean and running at 100% (yes I know it is not as fast but that is because I chose to have a bike that can also carry loads, be comfortable, by dry in the wet etc).

I have also straightened the rear wheel on the Trek which is why the Bike for Life wheels have big tyres and are so strong.


A lightweight summer

Sadly no this does not mean I have suddenly managed to stick to a diet and lost 10kg.

I have however, reduced the weight of my Shand Stoater, Bike for Life by about 1kg for the summer. I have swapped the Schwalbe Marathon Plus 700cx40mm tyres for Schwalbe Durano Plus 700cx32mm tyres. They look very skinny! Will tell you soon if they make me go a lot faster or not.

I have also switched tyres on my Trek Pilot. In preparation for my first (and last) competitive performance in a Sprint Relay Triathalon on Saturday at Blenheim Palace I have changed from (very tired) Scwalbe Durano Plus 700cx28mm tyres (the ones used on my LEJOG) to 700cx23mm Schwalbe Blizzard Sport tyres.

The Trek certainly feels faster, more twitchy and more vulnerable on bad surfaces. I will also be removing the rack (shocking I know), bell and lights 🙂

After Saturday I have decided to retire my Trek. Open to offers but will be selling it with known future maintenance needs (front rim is pretty worn out, front fork has some splintering where the brake bolt goes through, derailliers are very tired).

I look forward to seeing what the Stoater is like with the new tyres. My preference would have been for a 700cx35mm so if you have some recommendations with similar speed and puncture resistance to the Durano Plus tyres (Schwalbe don’t make them any bigger than 32mm) I am interested for next summer.


Cycling with children

After the Leicester Cycling Campaign Group meeting last night we were talking about options for carrying children on a bike and I was reminded that I recently saw Cycling with children – Breeze – Sky Ride.

My views are somewhat different. We have 3 sons, the youngest is now 15 and when they were younger we tried lots of ways of taking them cycling (the youngest from just a couple of months old).

So a quick review of the options we have tried and what I think of them.

Childseat on the back of an adult bike

The cheapest option. However, it is unlikely you will manage this without at some point kicking your child in the face (when you forget and swing your leg behind the saddle to get on or off) or the bike falling over with the child in the seat (when opening a gate, or pressing a button at a crossing, or when parking, or when navigating getting up a kerb). You need to be a confident rider to cope with the position of their moving weight and you cannot see or communicate with your child while riding. When you have a childseat on there is very little in the way of options for you to carry anything (and with children this age you will probably at least be carrying a changing bag). Not an option I would ever try again (except see recumbent trikes below).

I would change my mind a little if I were riding on a high quality Dutch style infrastructure and riding a bike such as a Workcycles Fr8, but not on British roads with the bikes typically for sale in the UK.

Child trailer

We used one for years and were still able to pass it onto someone else afterwards. We carried two sons in it, even occasionally when the oldest was 6 or 7 years old. We carried our youngest in it from just a couple of months by strapping his “Carrytot” in. It worked well on reasonable quality cycle infrastructure and we used it on road mostly for relatively short suburban journeys on quietish roads. Will work with lots of different bikes and can easily be moved between bikes. You can take a child to nursery and leave the trailer there for someone else to use to collect them. We found this a good solution where we were in Crawley. I would not be happy using one along the Melton Road in Syston for example.

Child trailer bike.

We used two.

One a fairly basic, with a seat post mounting, which Jane never felt confident using (although I used it a fair bit, even behind a tandem). The handling was tricky though with it having an odd lean in corners. It also affected the bike handling a lot. It does allow you  carry panniers. Unlike a tandem the child does not have to pedal, however it is also a lot slower to ride than a tandem.

The other was an early Hase Trets. This was fantastic, we used it loads including a two week camping tour. The child can contribute (but don’t rely on much power). They can also sleep. Your load carrying capacity is not affected, the impact on bike handling is minimal and it will work with almost any kind of bike. Unlike a trailer bike it does not make getting on and off your bike any more difficult. As a next step after a trailer it is excellent and we felt it was worth every penny. When our youngest had outgrown it we sold it to a family with a severely autistic child, who we hope found it as wonderful as we did.

Child on the back of a tandem

If you can get either a “childback” tandem or one with kiddie cranks then this is an excellent option. We had two tandems and based on them my preference would be to have straight handlebars (the extra leverage they give for holding the bike upright when stopped is very helpful) and I would be more careful about checking the brakes are powerful enough.

Sadly a tandem is tricky to store, tricky to park and likely to be nearly impossible on public transport. If you live somewhere (like Syston where we are now) then much of the cycle infrastructure is going to be tricky or impossible to use. It also does not solve the problem with very young children. As the child gets larger they can affect the handling significantly (one of ours was rather dyspraxic and that led to some quite scary experiences at junctions or bends). They can also be difficult for climbing hills requiring more skill and strength than a trailer as you can’t stand and “honk”.

Again we would choose this again if we could afford a modern child back tandem and lived somewhere without lots of narrow barriers on the cycle tracks.

Recumbent Trikes

We used a Stein Road Shark tadpole recumbent trike (2 x 20″ wheels at the front, 1 x 26″ wheel at the back) with a childseat and a trailer to carry up to 3 children to a nursery 4 miles away. It was excellent as all the stability issues with a childseat disappeared. It also had very low gears so even with 3 children you could get up the hills, even if slowly.

I also used a much faster Trice XXL with the Hase Trets (and for a shorter time with the childseat or trailer). Again that worked very well indeed, felt very safe even at high speed (well over 20mph was no problem downhill).

The ultimate was our Trice Tandem recumbent trike. We could adjust the length so that our sons could fit as stoker from about 8 years old. We also used this with the childseat, trailer and Hase Trets. I often used this with 2 sons under 10, one a stoker and the other in a childseat, trailer or Hase Trets. The Hase Trets was used with the tandem recumbent trike for a 2 week tour loaded with camping equipment, the only issue was that the huge panniers hid the Hase Trets from view in the wing mirrors and so we could not see if our son was pedalling (the others said he rarely did). Our record was over 30mph, rock solid even when steering with just one hand. Up hill we were able to use the very lowest of 81 gears to get up almost anything – just very slowly.

You probably are not going to suddenly switch to a recumbent trike in order to carry children, that was a side benefit to our solo trikes and with the tandem it was one phase in the life of a trike we plan to keep using for 40 years or so.


If you have more than 2 children then you are going to need to be creative with combinations, what is possible will depend on the relative ages/sizes of your children, the terrain, traffic levels and the quality of cycle infrastructure. I have managed 3 sons a few times (tandem with the oldest, middle one on the trailer bike and the youngest on the trailer behind that) but that was only possible on segregated infrastructure with no barriers and no significant hills. The Dutch have well sorted solutions for flat terrain but also assume a safe separation from traffic.


So based on what we have learned what would I recommend or choose today?

The big difference now is knowing about cargobikes. For general transport of small children around a town or city a Long John style cargobike would be my first choice (ie a Workcycles Cargobike, a Bullitt or a Cetma). We didn’t know about this option. I would much prefer this to every other option for babies and young children. You can see them, you can talk to them, they have a solid box around them, you can carry other stuff as well and they can be kept dry. If the distances are shorter or you don’t feel comfortable balancing then a trike such as a Nihola or Christiania can have even more capacity but don’t expect high speeds!

If all your riding is car free or on quiet roads then the trailer is a good option. However, few of us will feel comfortable about this option in heavy traffic.

Once the child is ready to start pedalling then I would be choosing between a Hase Trets or a tandem (or maybe a Hase Trets first and then a tandem after). The tandem is better suited to open roads, longer distances and stronger children. The Trets is more flexible and better for younger children.

I have lots of reservations about cheap trailer bikes and childseats. In my view they have very limited use unless you live somewhere where you are going to be separated from motorised traffic most of the time.


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