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First test of new Paramo Quito jacket

paramo-quito-jacketYesterday was officially damp. By that I mean heavy rain all day.

So a ride into Leicester for the Cycle City Workshop was a good test for my new waterproof cycling jacket. It is a Paramo Quito which I got for half price from Go Outdoors.

My trousers got absolutely waterlogged as did my socks and trainers. That not helped by the huge standing water puddles along the River Soar/Grand Union Canal on the way home.

But my top half was bone dry. Driest I have ever stayed in such heavy rain. No condensation or leaks. The hood was the most comfortable I’ve used in a long time and it formed a good seal stopping water entering around the neck.

Based on one ride, highly recommended. Especially given the bold ethical and environmental claims by Paramo.


Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
03:34:55 01:08:31 12.10 10.60 19.68 282.15
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Not quite there

So I won’t quite manage a couple of the targets I added later in the year. I could blame Storm Frank but really I just left it too late.

So I’ll be under 5,000 miles (4,904 so far) and just shy of achieving an Eddington number of 60 (currently 58 with 2 more 60 mile rides needed to get it to 60).

I’m not disappointed by this, as neither was a target at the beginning of the year. This year is still the 2nd highest number of miles in any one year for me and way over all the others.

I’ll put up a nice graphic from Veloviewer tomorrow summarising 2015’s cycling (waiting to see if I do a ride today or tomorrow first).


Travelling in London

I don’t get to London that often. But I drove there late on Thursday. Cycled over 20 miles around the city on Friday and drove out to Surrey this morning.

My conclusion is that:
– London drivers are the most dangerous in the country.
– Too many Cyclists in London are reckless
– Pedestrians in London are completely looney.

I was overtaken many times in 20mph area when doing 20mph.

I saw drivers of buses, hgv’s, vans and cars plus cyclists and pedestrians all ignore red lights. All as bad as each other (albeit the consequences if you hit someone vary hugely according to the mass of the mode of transport).

It is not just the speed limits and red lights that get ignored. So do one way streets, restricted turns and parking restrictions. Pedestrians walk on the road, cross well away from official crossings. Cyclists use footways, zig zag, have no lights. Drivers don’t indicate, force their way through gaps that don’t exist, threaten others. Police records show that 3/4 hgv’s are illegally on the road.

The aggression and rudeness of so many people, whatever their mode of transport, was incredible. This seems to be self perpetuating, when everyone else cuts you up, pushes in front etc then you tend to respond in a similar way.

Yes it was a hot day. Yes it was crowded, made worse I guess by the tube strike on Thursday. But it seems so sad and destructive that you are all so busy making life unpleasant for each other.

You do nothing to make this midland yokel want to return to London.


Achievement: My Eddington number is 53 :-)

I have just found two tools that will calculate your Eddington Number from your Strava activities. See this one or alternatively this. Fortunately, they agree with my score of 53.

So what does an Eddington Number of 53 mean?

It means that on 53 different days I have ridden at least 53 miles.

I have a cluster of rides that are 53 miles long which means to increase my Eddington Number to 54 I will need to ride 54 miles on at least 4 days.

As another example I have only 13 rides of over 101 miles so still need 88 more rides of at least 101 miles to reach an Eddington Number of 101 (so many years off!)

Having only just discovered this I don’t yet have any idea about whether I want to have any targets for this in the future, although as a first reaction it is nice to have a Eddington Number greater than my age 🙂


Mountain Biking heaven

Rats, the first version of this got lost 🙁

Trying again.

I had a brilliant 36 mile mountain ride today, starting from and return to the campsite at Blair Atholl.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
06:29:16 05:49:00 36.20 6.22 27.29 3,631.89
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

It was great practice for the Bear Bones 200km event in October as it got me doing things outside my comfort zone including:

  • carrying my bike up a narrow steep sheep track with a steep drop on one side.
  • Two sections where I had to push my bike for a couple of miles each time.
  • Lots of rain
  • Lots of water on the ground bogs, puddles and fords.
  • Lots of climbing into low cloud
  • Lots of rocks and narrow sheep tracks
  • no coffee shops!

Here are some phots from before the rain really got going:







What pleased me most was my mental attitude which remained cheerful and positive throughout. Not once was I in a negative place wondering if I could finish or get up the next climb or whatever. That is a big step forward for me.

There was some excitement. I had 3 falls:

  • onto my right side in the middle of a ford (overestimated my skills there). Filled my right sock and boot with water and proved that a Wildcat Lioness is not waterproof if submerged.
  • onto my left side, landing in a deep patch of heather when I failed to unclip my foot in time
  • a very neat fall ovber the handlebars. IO saw it coming as the front wheel dropped over an edge into a soft hole. I was very pleased with the best forward somersault since junior school 🙂

The last few miles were downhill on a tiny road in torential rain, the whole road turned into a river and so I had both feet wet. However, my new sealskinz socks were good and my Shimano Boots brilliant for the walking and riding. Although, I do need to make them easier to unclip.

All in all a fantastic day out. Very tired but also very pleased tonight.


Load tour reflections after 8 days, 490 miles and 22,600 feet climbed

Cycling from Syston to Iona in 8 days has broken many personal records. Longest day rides fully loaded, longest number of days solo touring by bike, longest number of nights solo camping in a row. So I wanted to reflect on what worked and what didn’t.


Shand Stoater Plus

When I rode Lands End to John O’Groats on my Trek Pilot I would while away the miles dreaming of a better bike for the future. Those dreams became my search for “A Bike for Life” which became a reality in my Shand Stoater. As parts of my route over these 8 days coincided with some of my LEJOG route comparisons are inevitable and quite easy.
It was noticeable that I never found myself dreaming about a different bike or changes that I wanted to make to my bike for life. Yes there are a number of reasons for this (better weather, lower daily mileages, a different focus that travelling loaded and more slowly gives) but the key reason was the way the bike worked. More comfortable, no creaks, no need to stop and check for damage after a bad pothole, no servicing or maintenance needed.
The Stoater frame is just right for this kind of ride. The bigger tyres (37mm front and 40mm rear – I think) worked well both with the load and with the mixed surfaces. So I could eat up the miles when it was a good surface while coping with the sometimes appalling surfaces of the so called “National Cycle Network”. At the same time the frame copes with 4 panniers, bag on the rear rack and loaded handlebars really well. The handling was great at all speeds and on all surfaces.

Rohloff and Gates Centertrack Belt Drive

I’ve put these together because the combination is so much greater than the parts. The combination was a key reason for the choice of a Shand as nearly 3 years ago very few frame manufacturers supported both these. Both worked flawlessly and without any maintenance or servicing.

The Rohloff is perfect for loaded touring. The gear range is enormous and the gears evenly spread. Being able to change multiple gears at a time is really helpful (when you hit a sudden steep slope being able to change down really quickly and using only one rotary gear change is really helpful when you have a heavy load). Also being able to change gear while stationary is great, one less thing to worry about when diving into a passing place to avoid a charging HGV. The fact that it is just as efficient at the end without having been cleaned or oiled or anything is also so different to my Trek after LEJOG where the whole drivetrain needed disassembling to clean it and replace a lot of it. 

The Gates Centertrack belt drive is something that does attract attention when people look at the bike. No chain seems incredible to many. Again it has worked flawlessly, completely silent and maintenance free. I can now see tooth marks on the belt, the first signs of wear that I have seen. I guess I’ll have a look around to see if it would be a good idea, at some point, to take the belt off and put it on reversed to even the wear. I’d say that this belt has been given relatively extreme loading with me climbing over 20,000 feet with the bike so heavily loaded. It hasn’t missed a beat. I totally recommend it, while recognising that I know people who are much more powerful riders than me who have had problems in thick mud.

So far as I am concerned the combination of Rohloff and Belt Drive is unsurpassed for loaded touring.

Wildcat Gear luggage

For this trip I used 3 products from Wildcat Gear on my handlebar (which are a Jones Loop h-bar).

The Tomcat sits on top filling the loop of the Jones bar. It carried my tools, spare tube, sun cream, sanitising hand wash.

The Mountain Lion harness held my Vango Banshee 300 tent (inside an Alpkit Dual Extra 20 litre drybag) with the poles in their bag slid into the harness as well. It is so quick to get the tent out and ready to pitch when you arrive at site yet totally secure, silent and unobtrusive the rest of the time. It worked perfectly, it didn’t slip once, the bag didn’t move or rub or have any issues at all.

The Lioness is a small handlebar bag that works with the Mountain Lion. It is very quick to release and so I keep my wallet, phone, tablet, sun glasses, USB battery for recharging any of my devices, paperwork, keys and chocolate in it. Again it does not move around or slip and is superbly convenient when you stop.

All three Wildcat Gear products are totally recommended.


I have the Stainless Steel Tubus front and rear racks. They have been on the bike since new, they have never caused any problems and have been totally reliable and simple to use. Fully recommended.

Alpkit Gourdon 20 Rucksack

This time I used a simple luggage strap to hold this rucksack on the top of my rear rack. In it I had my sleeping bag, nighttime clothing and anything I found lying around after all the other bags were packed. The rucksack is really useful when nipping to the shops after pitching the tent and will be useful while here Iona. It worked well in this role.

Garmin Edge 1000

I am very pleased with this. I like the larger screen, it is very easy to follow a course anywhere whether off road, through cities or on a maze of rural roads. The screen and map detail is good enough that you can use it as a map and take detours if a different road takes your fancy and then find your way back to the route). The only issue for touring is the battery life, I have turned backlighting to the minimum and on the longer days use a USB battery to recharge it during my lunch stop (or on one day while going along). I particularly wanted the bluetooth support so I can upload my rides using my phone at the end of the day. I can also (via a convoluted method) put new routes onto the Garmin that I can create using my tablet on Strava. While I didn’t use it this tour the on device routing is also very useful.

Miscellaneous Bike bits

  • Ergon bio-cork grips. Still fantastic after 2.5 years! 
  • Jones Loop H-Bar: I wouldn’t choose anything else for loaded touring
  • USE Sumo suspension seatpost: Just works with no issues at all. Recommended.
  • Charge Spoon Saddle: Has worked well and 90% happy with the comfort.
  • Hope Hydraulic Disk Brakes: Superb. Haven’t touched them. They are powerful, well modulated, silent and reliable.
  • Hope Bottom bracket with ceramic bearings: Still going strong and smooth after nearly 8,000 miles
  • Middleburn cranks: Highly recommended
  • Schmidt Dynamo, eDelux Front Light and B&M Racktop rear light. Very highly recommended. No issues at all.
  • Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres. I’ve been using these for ages now, so they are nothing like new. No punctures, no need to pump them up. Sure footed on gravel tracks, smooth running on the road. No worries about glass, thorns or potholes. They look like they have a lot of life left in them yet.
  • Shimano Touring Pedals A530: Had them for years. Work well both with shoes with cleats and in trainers or crocs.

Carradice Carradry Panniers

These have survived but I don’t really recommend them.

  • Most the rivets holding the rail for the rack clips onto the bag have failed and I’ve replaced them with 5mm bolts.
  • The clips used to attach the bags to the rack are fiddly and can be difficult to open
  • The bags squeak when the road surface is not perfect (most of the time in the UK)
  • The zips on the rear pannier pockets leak and the pockets fill with water. The zip pulls break and now one of the zips has come away from the fabric.

On the positive side they carry a lot of stuff, the main compartments are waterproof and the straps on top are really convenient for holding jackets or strapping odd items too (bottles of drink, crocs etc).
Vango Banshee 300 tent

Yes it was overkill to carry a three man tent. However, the only “two” man tents we have are the popup style which are awkward to carry on a bike due to their shape. The Banshee is really quick to pitch and the inner tent is pitched second and taken down first. I much prefer that when it is raining as you can get the flysheet up and then put the inner up without it getting wet (and the same in reverse when packing up in the rain).

The tent has been very stable in the strongest winds I have had.

I did like the sitting headroom but my only reservation is the side opening and the size of the porch that leaves. If it is wet it is hard to avoid drips into the tent when getting in and out. It does not create a large enough area for sheltered cooking.

Shimano MT91 Boots

I wore these a little for the day before starting. They have been great. Comfortable to wear and ride in despite the warm temperatures. Now I have arrived in Iona I have taken the cleats off and put the fill-in pads back so I have a pair of walking boots for the week here.

Tout Terrain Plug III

This is the USB charger that fits into a special stem cap. Mine stopped working just before this ride and in the future I don’t think I’d bother with it, getting the cable into a device without it being damaged while bouncing around is tricky. I find it is easy to carry a USB battery and have found enough places to recharge it. 


Record breaking 100 mile ride.

I’m pretty sure that today’s 101.8 mile ride is my fastest 100 mile ride ever:
It took 7h 2m 11s elapsed time which means a 14.5 mph average speed.
Just over 1h 30m of stops (4 main ones: Waitrose just past Northampton to buy and eat a Chicken and Avocado sarnie + drink and mini cheddars; Nisa going around Milton Keynes for Tuna sarnie and drink; pub in Wing for hot choc fudge cake with ice cream, pint of lemonade, black Americano; Park in Watford for a banana ice lolly and a Snickers).
Strava has given me 53 achievements which for the segments I have ridden before includes a lot of Personal Records.
No problems with the bike or the rider apart from being rather sleepy now.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
08:36:37 07:02:11 101.81 14.47 35.57 2,657.48
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Garmin 1000 battery was almost zero when I finished 🙁


Possibly the best Dandy Designer around is for sale

Yes our Dandy Designer is really, properly up for sale on ebay. These are wonderful folding campers that you can tow behind almost any car. It can sleep 5 and unlike any other folding camper or trailer tent is made from insulated PVC – so you can use it all year round. Plus it won’t go mouldy and you can put it up or take it down in the rain without any problems.

I’ve not seen another with so many extras and upgrades including:

  • Upgraded suspension
  • Gas Struts on the beds
  • Alko Stabiliser hitch with lock
  • LED road lights
  • Fully winterised with gas powered hot air heating
  • Official Dandy PVC awning
  • 3 way fridge
  • etc etc

So feel very welcome to head over to ebay and buy it 🙂


Sabbatical Bike Maintenance

So Friday evening. After 14 days of touring (plus a couple of weekends with family) I am camping between Llanbrynmair and Pennant (yes that is in Wales) getting ready for The Welsh Ride Thing which starts tomorrow.
I’ve a fair amount to sort out to make sure I take as little with me as possible. But I thought I had better do some maintenance on the bike as well. So far in 14 days of very heavily laden touring through some big hills the only thing I have done to the bike was to squirt some water on the belt drive once when it was squeaking a bit (just used my water bottle while moving).
Anyway I have now changed the hydraulic disk brake pads as I don’t want any problems when hammering along an off road track down a mountain. The front pads were fairly worn (but the rear pads were changed more recently). Simple job and all done 🙂
On with the packing


Strava route to Garmin connect course

A significant triumph this evening. I had planned the route for this week on Strava on my laptop but I forgot to connect my Garmin 1000 gps directly to the computer to copy the file over.
Oop’s because I hadn’t found a way to get a Strava route onto the Garmin without a cable connection.
Fortunately I found a way:
1: Use the Strava website (not app) on your phone or tablet. Export the route from Strava as a .gpx file
2: visit and convert the file to a “track”, save the .gpx file
3: goto the Garmin Connect website, use the “classic” version of the website. Choose “upload”, choose “manual” and upload the file from step 2.
4: view the activity (mine was dated 1/1/2010) and choose save as a course
5: now connect to your Garmin 1000 using Bluetooth and send this course to it.
6: you now need to delete the incorrect course from Garmin connect and if autosyncing from Strava too.


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