Category Archives: sport - Page 2

So many beautiful road bikes but

This morning I had to drive to and from Rothley for the morning service as Jane won’t let me cycle until this cough improves. On the way there and back I saw more more beautiful road road bikes than I have ever seen out and about before but sadly what is needed is not beautiful lycra clad people on shiney road bikes but ordinary people riding ordinary bikes to work, to school and to the shops.

No country has moved to riding bikes for everyday transport from cycle sport.

The increasing numbers of recreational cyclists are not bad news, it is great to see more people enjoying riding bikes, but sadly alone this is not the change we need to see.

It was also sad to see a number of drivers failing to wait until it was safe to overtake and many others passing far too close.


From showroom to road

Having just bought a new bike (see Bike for Life plus one) it was time to get it ready. There is always stuff to do so you can take a bike from showroom to road.

For me that has included the following:

  • Fitting two bottle cages (I used 2 black Specialized Rib Cages as reasonably light, work well even with insulated coffee cups).
  • Fitting a cheapish Zefal pump to the down tube bottle cage
  • Fitting the RaceWare Garmin Bar Mount for my Edge 800 (puts it in front of the handlebar so works much better than the default Garmin mount). That meant moving the front reflector upside down to be out of the way.
  • Fitting a handlebar mounting for either one of our Exposure front lights (Strada or Joystick)
  • Fitting the mounting point for a Bridge Street saddlebag. I expect to normally use a small saddleback for u lock, cable, multi-tool, inner tube, tyre levers, waterproof, wallet. This meant moving the reflector out of the way.
  • Fitting a red Fibre Flare Shorty Side Light to the right seat stay (this way not blocked by the saddlebag).
  • Swapping the pedals from the basic OEM’s to my Speedplay Frogs that I used for LEJoG.

Then I ignored Jane and went for a very short test ride (2 miles). Absolutely delightful!

I am waiting for a very nice bell as a replacement for the cheap, useless bell included with the bike. It was a kickstarter project that is currently on it’s way across the Atlantic.


Bike for Life plus one

I’ll start with the confession. My Bike for Life is now Bike for Life plus one. Yes I have bought another bike 🙂

However, this should not be understood as a failure of my Bike for Life either as a project or the specifics of my Shand Cycles Stoater Plus. In fact quite the opposite!

My Shand is so delightful to ride (while being the most incredibly reliable, low maintenance and practical form of transport ever) that it has kindled more love and enjoyment of just riding my bike. Hence, for the first time in my life, I have joined a cycling club. The Syston Syclers are new this year and have their “Sygnature” rides on Saturdays which suits me very well.

What I have, unsurprisingly, found is that a fully equipped Bike for Life is fine for the slower groups. So I have been one of the ride leaders for the steady paced 30 mile rides where we average around 12mph. The next group up which is now moving to 45 miles and around a 14mph average is rather harder work. On those rides many of the practical, comfortable, low maintenance features of my Bike for Life make it more difficult to keep up with everyone else on road bikes.

If I could be bothered to adapt my Bike for Life it is perfectly suitable for keeping up with these rides. But I would need to save weight and windage by removing

  • steel mudguards (with leather mudflaps),
  • front low rider racks,
  • front handlebar bag rack,
  • rear rack,
  • huge bell

I’d also move to faster tyres than 40mm Marathon Plus and possibly drop handlebars instead of my comfy Jones Loop H-Bar.

Of course that is not practical on a regular basis. So with a big 50th birthday this year, with permission, I started looking.

If money were no object then I’d have gone with a custom Shand Skinnymalinky (custom in order to have hydraulic disc brakes) with the electronic Shimano DI2 gears. That would have given me another beautiful British steel frame but aimed at fast day rides.

I looked at a number of bikes. The Genesis Equilibrium Disc is very nice. I also looked at the Charge Plug (4 and 5) and lots more.

In the end, thanks to a very knowledgeable and helpful lady at Edinburgh Cycle Cooperative in Manchester I looked at and fell in love with a Whyte Suffolk.

SuffolkIt is a British brand even if not manufactured here. It is an aluminium frame which was not my preferred choice (mainly due to higher environmental cost). But it looks great, has unique cable operated hydraulic disc brakes, Shimano 105 gear/brake levers and rear derailleur. It also comes with 28mm tyres with room for bigger and they also have a matching mudguard set.

So I now have three bikes for use each week:

  • Bike for Life: Everyday transport, Leisure, Family rides, Touring
  • Whyte Suffolk: Club rides, fast unladen day rides, exercise
  • Bullitt Cargobike: Shopping, Transporting stuff for work

Surplus to requirements (open to good offers) Giant Full Suspension mountain bike.



Excluding views of cycling campaigners

After being asked by the County Council I recently suggested some items for the Leicestershire Cycle Liaison meeting agenda. I suggested 5 items:

  • parts of the TfL February Board meeting briefing paper (PDF) [focused on the need for segregation and the benefits of segregation]
  • a report from someone involved in transport strategy for new housing
  • plans of junctions that have been updated or are being designed now to review for cycle safety
  • a presentation from the Council on what requirements for cycling provision are included in all design briefs
  • an update on the Council’s policy on 20mph limits/zones given the changing national picture.

I fully recognise that I am pushing hard at Leicestershire County Council whose understanding of cycling provision is limited to education, signposting and shared use pavements.

However, I was disappointed to get this reaction from a Cycling Campaigner:

I have found in the past, that talking about highly charged issues, like you have sent for comments, can really only be done, to have any meaning, with a keen cyclist. do you fall into this category do you happily cycle at 28 to 33 kms per hour.If you do then it can be meaningful as anybody can cycle slower and fall in with the existing infrastructure, its the keen cyclist that has the problem.

So by this persons definition I am not a “keen cyclist” as I do not ride between 28 and 33kms per hour (that is 17.5 to 20.6mph) and because I am not a “keen cyclist” I should be happy with the existing infrastructure as I am not one of these “keen cyclists” who has the problem.

I was almost lost for words and it took sometime for my blood pressure to subside enough for a reasonably civil reply.

I campaign for cycling infrastructure to the latest Dutch standards because I am concerned about a variety of crises we face as a country:

  • deaths on the roads
  • obesity
  • congestion
  • air pollution
  • health costs
  • peak oil
  • CO2 emissions

While walking and use of public transport can also help with some of these crises nothing is more effective at tackling them all than switching lots and lots of journeys to ordinary people riding bikes. Not only that but switching people to riding bikes also happens to be great for the economy with shops, employers, home owners, health service, road maintenance, emergency services all benefiting.

I do not want to be associated with an attitude that defines only fast sports cyclists as “keen cyclists” and which does not consider the huge numbers of people who would like ride a bike but feel it is too dangerous.

So I am not a “keen cyclist” despite riding nearly every day and 3,500 to 5,500 miles a year! Moreover, my focus in Cycle Campaigning is not on “keen cyclists” by this definition (although my experience of cycling in the Netherlands shows that even “keen cyclists” benefit greatly from Dutch quality infrastructure.

[Update] I have now had a gracious response to my response from the person concerned confessing that they were being selfish.


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).


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!


Lycra clad fast cyclists in the Netherlands?

So today was over 34 miles from Bladen to Eindhoven as a family. An opportunity to check whether the frequent claims by UK cyclists that cycle tracks in the Netherlands are only for slow cyclists.

After discussing it with Jane and Stephen our conclusions are:

  • We saw more cyclists on fancy road bikes who were fully clad in lycra than we have ever seen while out riding in the UK.
  • All these cyclists were using the cycle paths
  • A number of lycra clad cyclists overtook us
  • We saw many more lycra clad cyclists going across our route than along it.
  • We saw a much closer gender balance in the lycra clad cyclists than in the UK. I guess at least 1/3 were women compared to maybe 1/10 in the UK.
  • While there were more lycra clad cyclists out today than we ever see in the UK (and remember this is not a weekend and this was during office hours) they were only a small percentage of the total number of cyclists that we saw (certainly less than 10%)
  • As well as lycra clad cyclists on road bikes we have also seen quite a few lycra clad cyclists on mountain bikes, again on cycle facilities and again going fast. No idea where they were going to/from.

Soon after getting back to the campsite I noticed a mum and her pre-teenage son going out for a ride. Both were on “proper” road bikes, both in full lycra. I have never seen that in the UK before.



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.


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!



Inspired by @v_pendleton and others

As you can read elsewhere, I had an inspiring afternoon in London and ended up enjoying myself browsing in Foyles bookshop.

While there I picked up Victoria Pendleton’s autobiography “Between the lines” and really got stuck into it on the train back to Leicester.

I have found Victoria inspiring for years. She is such an incredibly smooth/fluid cyclist. Absolutely amazing to watch. As someone who rides a fixed gear bike (well did until it disappeared to University with a son) I can appreciate a little just how difficult it is to ride as she does. As I watched the Olympics this summer I could hardly believe how she could appear to be going flat out in a sprint and then still stand out of the saddle and go even faster.  Awesome.

However, she has also always impressed me for the way she has in a unique way managed to mix strength, determination, vulnerability, powerful emotions, professionalism and her integrity in not giving up on being the girl she wanted to be. Although I should point out that the level of being impressed is still not anything like enough to get me to watch Strictly Come Dancing – that would be many steps too far 🙂

Anyway the inspiration led to a beautiful ride home from Leicester Station through Abbey Park and Watermead Park, one of those times when riding a bike seems so effortless, smooth and fast. Absolutely delightful.

So yes the book is good, although 20 years ago all those emotions on display would have reduced me to a quivering wreck 🙂


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