Tag Archives: Bike For Life

Preparing for a Pilgrimage

So as I have mentioned (once or twice) this weekend is a Methodist Pilgrimage. The Methodists of Syston are heading to Epworth Old Rectory, home of the Wesleys. Five of us are planning to cycle the whole way (165 miles over 3 days) and another two are cutting out Leicestershire’s hills by starting and finishing at Newark-on-Trent (about 100 miles over 3 days). And yes you can still sponsor me! 🙂

I thought I had done a lot of the preparation but as the ride leader there has seemed to be a lot to do this week.

A friend is driving our car as a mobile support/rescue vehicle, so I have been sorting out tools and spares to cover lots of eventualities.

We are camping for Saturday and Sunday night, with cyclists, families and support team there are 17 of us at Trentfield Campsite, I volunteered to cook bacon rolls for everyone on Sunday and Monday and that plus our tent etc is going up in a caravan with more of the support team.

Meanwhile, I have been sorting out my own bike. While my Shand Stoater Bike for Life, was my first choice my knees have been so bad that I am using my road bike as the lighter weight should help save my knees. Following the Leicester Triathlon I have now taken off the tri bars, added three bags:

This will be my first ride with this combination of bags on this bike. So far they look great, I am very interested to see how well they work in practice.

I have also added my new and very bright See Sense rear light although I’ll swap it onto whoever is bringing up the rear of our group. Now I just have to put the mudguards back on (have you seen the weather forecast!).

It will also be my first ride with my Mio Link heart wristband so I’m very interested to see how well that works, sadly at the moment the heart rate is only picked up by my Garmin Edge and not by my Android phone or tablet.

For the first time too I am trying out live tracking of the ride, you will be able to follow us at http://42bikes.warnock.me.uk/tracking/ I can run the app on both my phone and my tablet so I’m hoping to get enough battery life even with the GPS on continually.

One thing I have not yet fully sorted out it getting data off my Garmin without my laptop. I’ll have one more try today, if it works I can get the rides onto Strava and Garmin Connect each day without having to take my laptop computer.

By the time of my sabbatical in 12 months time I hope that I’ll have a newer Garmin and they will have updated their website enough for live tracking to be possible with the Garmin picking up the heart rate and using my phone to upload both live tracking and daily rides. That will make a big difference, especially as on my Bike for Life I can charge USB devices while I ride using the dynamo.

Charging USB devices is getting to be a significant issue. For Jane and I this weekend we have the following USB devices:

  • 2 x Android Phones (Samsung S3 mini)
  • 2 x Exposure front lights (actually shouldn’t need to be recharged)
  • 2 x Garmin GPS
  • 1 x Android Tablet (Nexus 7)
  • 1 x Tecknet USB Battery
  • 1 x Camera (small Olympus)
  • 1 x Bluetooth keyboard for my Nexus 7
  • 1 x See Sense rear light (our other rear lights use rechargeable AA or AAA batteries and won’t need charging for just a weekend).

So 11 devices. They include 4 different connectors and two different charger outputs.

Fortunately by the time I take my sabbatical things should have got easier in terms of USB. On my Bike for Life both bike lights run straight off the dynamo. I am hoping the dynamo will be able to fully charge the Tecknet battery each day and maybe also put some charge into my phone and tablet. Hopefully then the Tecknet battery will be able to recharge/top up the tablet, garmin, camera, phone, bluetooth keyboard, bluetooth speaker and a tent light each night. Also that I’ll cut out at least one non standard USB connector (for the exposure lights).

I am taking my sabbatical coffee kit to try in real world conditions, I’m be happy to make anyone a coffee but they will have to grind the beans themselves (all those winds of the grinder handle for each one of 17 people sounds tiring) 🙂

Bike for Life tweaks

So I have actually done some Bike for Life tweaks!

One bit was some maintenance and I got a Bike Shop to do it for me! The back brake seemed to have gradually lost hydraulic fluid so that the lever was pulling all the way to the handlebar. As I had it bled just after Christmas this seemed to indicate a leak. So I got the Leisure Lakes Bike shop at Long Eaton to have a look. They found the ends of the hose were damaged so have cleaned them up. Hoping that fixes it for a long time.

I have also done a couple of things myself.

VO Rando Integ Dec-1I have this neat little front rack. The horizontal bar is fixed to my bag and lifts off. So to fit the bag you just drop the two rods into the rack uprights. However, the uprights were a bit long so a) the bag didn’t rest on the rack itself and b) it was tricky to get the bag on due to the lack of clearance under the stem.

So I took it all off (fiddly because the wheel and mudguard have to come off) and cut the rack uprights down by just over 1cm. All fits much better now.

When putting everything together I decided to move my front light to this rack instead of the top of the low rider. To be honest I can’t think why I didn’t do this from the beginning. It means the light is about 20cm higher which is good for visibility.

As an aside I am getting an extra one of these horizontal attachment bars for the rack (they are called Decaleurs). The UK supplier is FreshTripe. My cunning plan is to see whether it might be a way to quickly attach my tent or other camping equipment to the rack which might be more useful than the randonneuring bag when on my sabbatical trip.

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.

 

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 🙂

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 🙂

Cafe Bike Photo Gallery

My Bike for Life loves visiting Cafes with me 🙂

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).

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.

roadrat-gritstone

  • 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.

Reliable

  • 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).

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