Monthly Archives: January 2014

The mid January blues

In some ways it seems ridiculous to me to have even written that post title “The mid January blues”. Yet in terms of my bike/exercise related goals it is how I feel at the moment. The weird thing is that in other aspects of life there are no blues.

Blue:

  • Had some pain in my left ankle for a few days (tendonitis?) although now much better thanks to a support bandage from Boots
  • Had a stiff shoulder since leaning forward to put on the ankle bandage while sat in the car ;-(
  • Put back on some weight while away on holiday last week
  • Missed a couple of days cycling on Wednesday and Saturday due to spending hours driving
  • Only one swim so far this year
  • Little progress towards the running

Not Blue:

  • A great short holiday with Jane last week
  • Lots of good things happening at work, busy but fulfilling, exciting and enjoyable
  • Enjoying being an ordinary member and meeting new people as the new Syston Syclers club heads towards being live

So the blue list is longer but it is all tiny stuff. The not blue list is really short but the things on it are big and great.

How come these little blue things knock me back on my heath goals so much?

January 100 mile ride route. Syston to Launde Abbey

Unsurprising I have had to change some of the details of my Cycling Goals for 2014. So my 100 mile ride for January won’t be on Friday 24th (I have a funeral to take), instead I am going to take a roundabout route to Launde Abbey on Monday 27th.

I need to be there by 4pm ready for a retreat that I organise for Ministers in the Northampton Methodist District.

So an early start for a loaded (stuff for 3 nights away) ride.

I have updated the route from previous years to include plenty of coffee shop locations. For anyone interested the route is available on Strava.

A winter, loaded ride of 101.9 miles with 5,421 feet of climbing sounds like the sort of thing my Bike for Life was created for 🙂 A route that passes independent coffee shops in Melton, Long Clawson, Bottesford, Oakham and Stamford sounds like it was created for  me 🙂

New bike accessory needed. A kickstarter project for someone?

We have a good friend with one of these lifeline devices and are happy to be on the contact list for them.

However, it does highlight my need for a new bike accessory that I haven’t seen anywhere.

What I need is a set of blue flashing lights for when I am on an “emergency call out”. I could zoom down the road blue lights flashing and get to our friend so much quicker.

I haven’t seen blue flashing lights for bikes for sale anywhere, so I am looking for a volunteer to start a Kickstarter project to produce some (preferably in the UK).

Why I love my Bike for Life when it is 11pm and I’ve 10 miles to home with strong headwind and heavy rain

It is a long title “Why I love my Bike for Life when it is 11pm and I’ve 10 miles to home with strong headwind and heavy rain” but I feel I need to explain why I had a grin on my face as the rain got a lot heavier as I was riding through Burton on the Wolds last night.

It seemed to me that when you are out riding in bad weather late at night 3 things allow you to grin and enjoy it.

  1. You need to be wearing the right clothes and have the right food and drink at hand.
  2. You need to be confident that your bike can cope and it not going to let you down in any way.
  3. and it really helps if you know that when you get home you don’t need to worry about cleaning the bike or doing any work on it because of the conditions you are riding through.

This is the route last night:

So for me last night I was able to grin because

1. Clothes/Food/Drink

On the top half I was wearing a thermal t-shirt (don’t know the brand, it is old but still effective), a very old short sleeve cycling top and a new Dare 2 Be shell long sleeve top. It was all warm and kept me feeling dry.

On the lower half I was wearing a cheap pair of old cycling shorts and a pair of winter cycling tights from Altura (at least 5 years old). Again very comfortable and warm.

On my feet I was wearing Shimano MW81 Gore-Tex Winter Mountain Bike Boots, these keep my feet dry upto a few hours of riding in heavy rain and usually warm after that. That is helped by the full mudguards and mudflaps which mean I don’t get much water splash onto my feet.

trail42-packflaskTo drink I had just finished some great hot filter coffee (Cameroon Hosnia from tankcoffee) which has been kept warm in a Trail42 Pack Flask. I’ve only had this since Saturday when I used it for the ParkRun support ride. This time I did make sure the coffee was really hot, using the microwave, before putting it in and it was still a good temperature after nearly 2 hours.

Plus also a bottle of water and a couple of energy gels which I ended up not needing.

2. Confidence in the Bike

At that time of night I find it impossible to enjoy the ride, however comfortable I am, if I having any nagging doubts about the Bike. I find it easy to let nagging doubts drag me down and so in the past instead of enjoying the ride I would be worrying:

  • are my lights going to last to the end of the ride
  • am I going to get a puncture
  • am I going to damage a wheel in a pothole hidden by a puddle
  • are my brakes good enough or do I need to slow down on the downhills
  • am I so tired that I will run out of gears uphill against this headwind

I am sure that you are not like me and don’t let these things cross your mind or get you down. But they have spoilt rides for me in the past. If you have to stop to fix the bike or walk home or call home for a lift then you quickly switch from being warm and comfortable to cold and wet.

While I was fortunate and didn’t get a single puncture on my 2012 LEJoG I also knew that Jane was available in the car not far away from me with full tools, parts and even a spare bike. Even so my Trek Pilot didn’t leave me feeling as relaxed about finishing a ride as my Bike for Life does.

The confidence comes from:

  • The Schmidt Hub Dynamo that you know has been so carefully engineered to last and last.
  • LED front and rear lights powered by the dynamo. The only maintenance they have needed since new is to wipe the lens clean.
  • The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres, 35mm front, 40mm rear. Incredibly puncture resistant and big enough volume to not worry about pinch flats on unexpected potholes etc. So far I’ve had no punctures ever on a Marathon Plus.
  • The wheels are handbuilt, they have stayed true for the first 4,000 miles. As I use disk brakes the rim has not been worn at all and it wouldn’t matter if they got a bit buckled on this ride as it won’t affect the brakes.
  • There is nothing better than hydraulic disc brakes for inspiring confidence that they will get you home. You can stop reliably and controllable right to the limit of the tyres grip no matter what the weather. These are Hope Tech E4’s and they have been superb from day 1. I wore out a complete set of new Swissstop brake pads on my Trek in the first half of LEJoG (and I mean fully worn out). I wrote about this in A bike for life: Cascading decisions.
  • As the Trek had got older I used to worry about the Carbon fork a little, you read scare stories about forks breaking. This is one of the many reasons why the frame and forks of my Bike for Life are all steel (although it is a very fancy steel that Shand Cycles use). So the whole frame inspires confidence that it is not going to suddenly fail.
  • One of the beauties of the Rohloff 14 speed hub gear is that I have a mountain bike range of gears (wider than a road bike). It is brilliant because, however tired you are you are, all you do is twist and there is another gear available. It is very rare that I get to use first gear (I certainly didn’t last night) which is great. That feeling when you are in first gear and struggling up a hill against a headwind is a horrible one and one I have never had with the Rohloff.
  • h10_loopbar_alFinally, the Jones Loop H-Bar is also great in these conditions. You can put your hands close together on either side of the loop (depending on how tired you are) getting a much more aerodynamic position than you would expect on a fairly upright bike. I find this makes a huge difference in strong headwinds and is much more comfortable than riding in the drops of my Trek was. This really helps remove the impact of a headwind on my morale.

3. The Bike after the ride.

The combination of Gates Belt drive and the Rohloff means that when you finish a ride in horrible conditions you can simply leave the bike alone. There is no chain to go rusty, there are no derailleurs that are going to have been clogged up. No wheel rims or brake pads to clean or check. Again compare that to the state of my Trek after LEJoG.

It is so nice to ride your bike without having to think about the maintenance you will have to do afterwards. There will be no guilt because you simply put it away and lock it up. Late at night that is a very good feeling which again keeps the grin on your face.

Summary

I love my bike and it means I can be 10  miles from home with a strong headwind, heavy rain at 11pm with a great big grin on my face 🙂

Best Bike for early life!

LikeaBike Mini

This year we will become grandparents which is a very scary thought. It does give me an excuse to look at some first bikes though 🙂 I have seen plenty of Like a Bikes and am sure they are the best bike for early life! So maybe in 2 years we will be buying one of these for someone’s Christmas present.

I have included the wonderful video from the UK Like a Bike website below.

Sadly, we missed out on these for our children but won’t for the grandchildren. Although if any grandchild starts doing the stunts I for one am going to be absolutely terrified!

LEJoG 2012 Photo Gallery

All the photos from my Lands End to John o’Groats ride in 2012

Bike for Life Photo Gallery

All the photos I have of my Bike for Life.

Cafe Bike Photo Gallery

My Bike for Life loves visiting Cafes with me 🙂

Bullitt Cargobike Photo Gallery

All the photos of my Bullitt Cargobike in one place.

A British Budget Bike for Life: The Paper Bicycle

I rabbit on and on about the need for practical bikes or Bikes that defy categorisation typified by my expensive but fantastic Bike for Life, hence my search for a Budget Bike for Life. My friend Dave reminded me of a potential solution: The Paper Bicycle and it is British!

Paper Bicycle

The design, the pricing and the specification are all fantastic!

It makes an excellent Bike for Life.

Total price for a complete specified bike is almost exactly £1,000 and that is complete with:

  • 8 speed hub gears
  • front and year hub brakes
  • hub dynamo and front and rear LED lights
  • fully enclosed chain
  • steel step thru frame
  • stainless steel mudguards
  • kickstand
  • strong rear rack
  • big air tyres for comfort, speed and reliability

This should be way up your list of potential bikes if you want something that is going to be:

  • reliable
  • extremely low maintenance
  • comfortable
  • completely practical: carry stuff, ride it in any clothes, get on and off easily and stay clean
  • faster than a Dutch bike and many mountain bikes (unless they have been adapted for road use)

Every bike shop should have these in stock to provide a real alternative to the unsuitable bikes they normally sell for town and city use.

Look at the superbly strong rack.

If this had been available with this specification when I bought Jane’s City Bike, it would definitely have been chosen over her Ridgeback (excellent though that has been – after I added all the missing bits).

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