Monthly Archives: December 2013

Going public on Cycling goals for 2014

So far I been reflecting on goals for 2014 in Approaching the year end and considering future goals then I came over all mad and brave in Going public on a goal for 2014. The Leicester Sprint Triathlon. So what about cycling more generally for me? It must be time for “Going public on Cycling goals for 2014”.

This is about personal goals related to being more intentional about my health, the issue is typified by my inability to lose weight and keep it lost. I am 2kg heavier than a year ago, my body fat percentage is currently 26% (24% a year ago). Currently, just over 100kg I really want to get close to 80kg (although realistically it is a long time since I stayed under 90kg for very long).

So for cycling I am setting two goals based about two habits which seem to have been effective in the past.

  1. I will ride a bike at least 1 mile every single day. By simply getting on the bike I make sure I have done some exercise and most days once on the bike I do a lot more than 1 mile.
  2. I will complete a 100 mile ride once each month. I find these are really helpful in burning up fat. I have even booked dates in my calendar for these right through the year to try to make sure they happen. They are:

January 24th Friday
February 14th Friday
March 21st Friday
April 25th Friday
May 9th Friday
June 6th Friday
July 12th/13th Saturday/Sunday (Dunwich Dynamo) = 200km
August 8th Friday
September 13th Saturday (Historic Churches)
October 17th Friday
November 7th Friday
December 5th Friday

Hopefully that will bring my annual mileage back up to about 5,000 in the year (2011 total miles was 4,700; 2012 total miles was 5,500; 2013 total miles is 3,500).

Along with the swimming and running needed for the triathlon I am hoping this will help tackle my ongoing concern with my weight.

I am also committing myself to some stretching and core muscle work as I know I benefit from them. I am not entirely confident about my ability to stick to these having failed so many times in the past. For the plank I can currently do 60 seconds and so my goal is to simply increase that by 1 second a day. I am still working on what stretching to do.

Fortunately, I love doing the cycling so the goals are much easier to stick at than goals related to weight loss or other exercise.


Going public on a goal for 2014. The Leicester Sprint Triathlon

Time to go public! Following the esteemed and scary example of my boss (@RachelParkinso2) I have decided that a goal for 2014 should be to enter and complete the Leicester Sprint Triathlon. It is a convenient event for me as it is not on a Sunday, includes indoor swimming and is nice and local.

As a Sprint event it is a 400m (16 lengths) swim, 20km (12.5 miles) cycle and a 5km (3.1 miles) run.

Just to be clear. I have never done a Triathlon before (nearest thing was to ride the cycle section of a relay triathlon last year). I used to swim a lot, although never very fast and not very much front crawl. I haven’t successfully run 5k since I was about 15.

So I don’t have a target time, just to finish will make me very happy. As far as the 3 elements of the race are concerned I am not worried about the cycling which I can use as a bit of a rest (or if feeling strong an opportunity to catch-up with some people).

As for the swimming I know I can swim 16 lengths, but my goal will be to train enough to do them all as front crawl which is far beyond what I can do at the moment. The entry form asked for an estimated time, I had no idea what to put as I haven’t timed myself yet!

The running is a much more scary thing! I tried the NHS Couch to 5k programme last year but gave up because it was causing me lots of knee pain. I’ll try the same programme this year but will take it slower so I probably won’t be able to run the whole distance by May, although I should be able to still finish (not on my knees though because they are always the biggest problem).


A Budget Bike for Life?

Following my last post A Bike that defies categorisation I started to wonder whether a budget bike for life was possible. So I have started to look around and build a specification.

As I looked, at least for the moment I had to rule out a Gates Belt Drive. I couldn’t find a budget steel frame with support for a coupler in the seat stay. That will have to come in the future. So a chain and chainguard is needed instead.

This is what I have so far, it comes out at around £1,500 at retail prices including shipping.


  • Frame: Cotic Roadrat with Fork £300
  • Rear Wheel with Alfine 8 speed hub, Mavic Disc rim £200
  • Front Wheel with Alfine Dynamo hub, Mavic Disc rim £100
  • Alfine Chainset £55
  • KMC 8 Speed chain £10
  • On-One Mary Handlebar + stem £25
  • Headset £60
  • 2 x Avid BB7 cable disc brakes £130
  • 2 x Brake Lever £15
  • 2 x Ergon GP1 Grips £25
  • Quality Brake Cables £10
  • Front and rear LED Dynamo Lights £170
  • Rear Rack £35
  • Flat Pedals £25
  • Carbon Fibre Seat post + clamp £60
  • Saddle £30
  • 2 x Full Length SKS Mudguards £35
  • 2 x Inner Tubes £8
  • 2 x Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tyres 700c x 35mm £46
  • SKS Chainboard £15

That sounds to me like a pretty nice reliable workhorse bike that will be good for reliable transport in all weathers. It won’t be as quick as a “road bike” but from my experience it will be possible to commute up to about 10 miles each way in ordinary clothes (especially if you are willing to change your shirt when you arrive at work). It will be able to handle shopping, towing kids in trailers or a childseat. It will be able to handle most Sustrans off road routes and won’t disintegrate on poor quality cycle tracks and roads. The only routine maintenance will be to clean the chain.

H’mm, wondering how that sounds to other people? My guess is that a manufacturer would be able to sell these at the Cycle to Work Scheme magic figure of £1,000


A Bike that defies categorisation

David Arditti has written an excellent post Vole O’Speed: A post about bikes. In one part of the post he compares the category of a “Road Bike” and a “Hybrid Bike”. My Bike for Life is a Bike that defies categorisation in these ways and deliberately so.

In my opinion the categories of bikes sold in most British shops do not reflect the needs of reliable, convenient, long lasting, pleasant transport.

  • “Road Bikes” are impractical, their 23/25mm tyres do not cope with cycle tracks, potholes and daily use carrying loads. They are designed for speed, not comfort and so you rarely see anyone riding them in normal clothes. They come without mudguards (and often without the space for mudguards to be fitted), racks, lighting and pedals that can be used with normal shoes.
  • “City Bikes” are poor relations of real Dutch bikes. They frequently don’t have the features that make Dutch bikes reliable, long life, comfortable and practical. Eg chain guards, hub gears, dynamo lights, hub brakes.
  • “Mountain Bikes” are also impractical for transport in many ways. They come with knobbly tyres which while often quite puncture proof are very slow on roads. They come without racks, lights, mudguards and chain guards. They have low gears designed for climbing a mountain off-road but irrelevant for getting to the supermarket or work.
  • “Hybrid” is such a vague term that it can include what is essentially a road bike with flat handlebars (and with nearly all the disadvantages of a “road bike”) or a mountain without knobbly tyres, to a more traditional town/city bike (although typically without hub brakes or lighting).
  • “Dutch Bikes” we are starting to see a number of places selling Dutch Bikes, these are much closer to being what is needed. However, Dutch bikes are not perfect everywhere in the UK. Many designs assume fairly flat terrain (heavy and few gears) and good quality infrastructure (typified by not enough volume of air in the tyres and by a very relaxed riding position which I think works best when in a more cycle friendly environment).

It was partly in response to this that I came up with the phrase “A Bike for Life” when I started looking for a practical bike that defied these categories.

By a “Bike for Life” I mean:

  • A bike that will last a lifetime
  • A bike that is completely practical for everyday life
  • A bike that is reliable for everyday life
  • A bike that enhances life

Lets look at the features of that make a bike for life fit these criteria:

Last a Lifetime

  • A steel frame because unlike Carbon or Aluminium it can be repaired (plus with the added bonus of a lower environmental cost)
  • Components that are chosen for long life that can be serviced and won’t break. So handbuilt wheels with big tyres, hub gears, hub dynamo lighting, disc, hub or roller brakes (that work for ages without adjustment and which don’t wear out rims)
  • Security fastening of wheels etc so that the bike can be quickly locked more securely (I use Infinity3D)

Completely Practical

You need to be able to ride all year round for normal tasks in normal clothes. This implies:

  • Hub Dynamo lighting: always there, automatic, maintenance free. I use a Schmidt hub dynamo and eDelux front light (on two bikes) and a B&M rear light (on my Bike for Life).
  • Racks: Ideally front and rear. I have chosen Stainless Steel racks from Tubus for strength and long life.
  • Either a chain guard (to keep oil off your clothes) or a belt drive (no oil in the first place). I chose the belt drive.
  • Full length mudguards, preferably with mudflaps to keep you dry.
  • A stand for easy parking.


  • Puncture proof tyres on strong wheels. So 35/40mm tyres with loads of puncture protection (I use Schwalbe Marathon Plus).
  • Hub gears which last far longer and require far less maintenance than do derailleur gears. My (expensive) preference is for Rohloff for performance and reliability (amongst other things moving the indexing into the hub reduces gear cable problems)
  • Hub, Roller Brakes or Disc brakes (hub gears are the lowest maintenance, disc brakes the most powerful)

Enhances Life

This will be more subjective, but for me it includes:

  • The bike being great to ride, so not frustratingly slow or heavy.
  • The bike being comfortable despite the poor road conditions and infrastructure (big tyres, seat post suspension, ergo grips, Jones Loop H-Bar handlebar).
  • Supporting local manufacturing which helps with community, with our own economy and the environment. For me that included Shand Cycles, Hope, Middleburn, Brooks, Carradice, Atomic22, BridgeStreet.

Bikes for Life

I would be so happy if a shop would start selling “Bikes for Life”, by using less exotic components than I chose it should be possible to achieve the magical £1,000 Cycle to Work Scheme limit.


That’s a nice new bike!

So yesterday morning was strange! Very early for a Saturday I had cycled to Braunstone Park (see The hazards of supporting running) and was hanging out with a bunch of weird people ie runners. Anyway one of them came up to me and said “That’s a nice new bike!”.

I was of course on my Bike for Life, the Shand Stoater Plus. Pictured here after it’s wash 10 days ago:

I was struck by the “new” part of the comment, after all it is very obvious to everyone that it is a “nice” bike 🙂 Was it the result of being washed 10 days ago? Was it an assumption that the only reason you would be out on a bike at a silly time on the Saturday after Christmas because the bike was new?

Whatever, it is a nice complement to the quality of the workmanship of Steve and Russ at Shand Cycles that after 3,500 miles in 1 year of daily use in all weathers the bike still gets mistaken for new.

A little while later someone else also commented on the bike, noticing some of the features, like the belt drive, which normally only bike geeks notice. I do still like the way the bike appears understated to most people, unlike a carbon road bike which should “look at me, I’m expensive” the Shand is discrete and many of the wonderful features are only noticed by real bike geeks.

Also worth noting is that in the Uk where cycling is not at all normal you find a much higher percentage of people who ride bikes are “bike geeks” compared to the Netherlands where bikes are just bikes for most people who ride them. That is a clear indicator of the amount of work to be done in the UK to get non bike geeks on bikes (work that I believe should be nearly all focused on safe and convenient infrastructure).


Anti spam measures

Sadly, since moving 42bikes to the new host I have been deluged in spam registrations. So I have taken some Anti spam measures. Hopefully these are invisible to everyone else.
Meanwhile I have deleted all the spam logins (if you feel I deleted you by mistake then feel free to add yourself again).


The hazards of supporting running

This morning Jane and Rachel did the Braunstone Parkrun and I cycled over to support their running as it was Jane’s first ever “official” 5k run. In doing this I discovered first hand the hazards of supporting running as a cyclist, especially on an icey Saturday morning.

I got to Braunstone Park without incident. Despite leaving home ages after them I arrived in plenty of time to cheer them on about 1/2 way round their first lap. Then as I moved on the road to a suitable spot to catch them on their second lot I came off my bike. I was turning into the car park near the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church and the whole corner was just ice. Still no real harm done, it does make a nice change to come off without ripping a nice jacket though, which I was grateful for.

After seeing Jane and Rachel the second time I moved to the finish and then through the woods to catch them a bit earlier. I cam across a woman with a dog who was so out of breath that it was very worrying, turned out her other dog had run off and she couldn’t catch him. So I did a bit of off road riding and herded the dog back to her.

After seeing Jane and Rachel heading towards the finish I went back through the woods to the finish to keep out of the way of the runners. The good news is that Jane finished her run, helped a lot by my support and possibly also a little by Rachel running with her 😉

I had no more problems after that except that the crash has knocked my seat post a bit loose so every so often it swivelled around a bit. I took a roundabout route home, partly to avoid the debris covered paths in Watermead following recent flooding and also to make sure that I made it up to 20 miles. Besides being such a great running supporter I used the ride to test a couple of things

  • whether riding before breakfast helps with weight control
  • the effectiveness of a new thermos mug that fits in a water bottle holder

More on these later, meanwhile here are the ride details from Strava.


Personal Syston 10 mile time trial

I have a 10 mile loop that I use like a little time trial.

I rode almost exactly the same route as yesterday only today I was 2.1mph faster which is nearly a 7 minute saving (same bike and quite similar weather conditions).

Still very windy but I was pushing myself quite hard although usefully fueled up by both Christmas Pudding and Christmas Cake 🙂

Not sure how often I’ll do this on my Stoater, Bike for Life, which is rather over equipped for a 10 mile time trial 😉 In the past I have done almost the same ride at 17.7mph on my fixie. Still in terms of trying to improve my fitness riding a heavier bike makes it more intentional and intensive (see my post Approaching the year end and considering future goals).

In fact I am not really sure how often I will do the same time trial ride, I like variety rather more than simply trying to do the same thing faster each time. Although it would be interesting to see how much quicker a full road bike or even a proper time trial bike would go.

Given that 10 mile time trials appear to be so important in British Cycling I guess I vaguely wonder approximately what sort of performance level just under 41 minutes for a 10 mile time trial is (especially when the type of bike and weather is taken into account).

Hoping to see a result when I step on the scales in the morning, but for the moment having to learn and play “Munchkin” with the family!


Approaching the year end and considering future goals

So with just a few days of 2013 left I’m starting the process of reflecting on the year just ending and considering my goals for the year to come.

I will have cycled just over 3,500 miles which is about 2,000 miles down on 2012. I am putting that down to last year’s LeJoG ride and the training for it. Probably the key loss for me has been a much reduced number of longer day rides.

On the plus side I have had some fantastic rides on my Bike For Life which continues to be all that I had hoped for: a delightful bike to ride that is incredibly reliable, low maintenance and practical.

Less good is that my Pearson Touche fixie has been off the road for a while. Hoping to find time to sort that out soon.

Next step is going to think about my goals for the next year and how public I am going to be about them. For various reasons (including an approaching 50th birthday towards the end of 2014) I want to be more intentional about my health than I have achieved in the past. Making that challenge harder is my proven poor interest and stickability at daily routine and good habits. Riding a bike is going to be a key part of this but it isn’t enough.

Maybe more on that later.

I am also interested to see how the blog develops over the next year now that I have moved it onto a more powerful hosting platform. Suggestions are welcome.


Evening test ride

So tonight I nipped out for a quick 10 mile test ride. What was I testing? Well several things:

  • My first real ride since having a wisdom tooth and the tooth next to it out on Christmas Eve.
  • My first real ride with my new mismatched Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres (35mm on front 40mm on the back). See my earlier post.
  • My first ride since moving this blog from to a hosted WordPress site which should allow me to embed Strava ride reports.

The first good news is that the ride was a good distraction from the remaining aches in my jaw 🙂

The second is that the Marathon Plus felt good, hopefully the 35mm on the front will be a bit quicker than the 40mm, however, I don’t want to waste the good 40mm tyres so having one on the back which carry’s more load and where I have been able to create more mudguard clearance seems a good compromise.

Below is a test of the Strava report


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