Tag Archives: Brake

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.


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.


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 🙂


A day for cycling progress

Lots of nice cycling things today.

Some good maintenance/upgrades progress and a nice ride with Jane on her new bike.

The ride first.

We drove over to Rutland to kill lots of birds with one stone. This included a nice ride with lunch.

Or view on Strava.

As proof here is Jane on her new bike (with new helmet from Rutland Cycling as well):


For anyone interested that is a Ortlieb Front Roller Plus pannier which is a great size for carrying just a few things on a day out. Sorry for the lack of colour coordinated water bottle 🙂

We had both lunch and a after ride coffee at the Harbour View Cafe 🙂

Anyway, we had a nice ride with only one idiot driver who decided to beep us as he zoomed past on a very minor road.

Maintenance stuff

There were a couple of other reasons for going to Rutland.

First, I had dropped off my Shand Stoater, Bike for Life at Rutland Cycling yesterday. I have had trouble properly bleeding the rear brake. Turns out the hose had got damaged and so was leaking slightly. They are going to replace that and bleed it for me.

Second, I have also been having trouble with the brakes on my Bullitt Cargobike, they have been getting less powerful, more squeaky and hard to bleed. So we took the Bullitt with us, for the first time finding it is possible to fit it in the car:


That is handy to know 🙂

Anyway the main problem is with the rear calliper which is leaking badly (the front going the same way). I decided to tackle the problem with an upgrade. I don’t particularly like the Shimano disk brakes. They use a very expensive mineral oil and I would appreciate more power when hurtling downhill fully loaded.

So Rutland Cycling are fitting Hope Tech M4 brakes to match my Bike for Life, only on the Bullitt they are going to use Braided Hose which should provide a further improvement.

This means both bikes will need the same replacement seals and use the same brake fluid which is DOT 5.1, available from any garage.

So it looks like my problems with bleeding the brakes are due to hose or calliper problems, future maintenance easier for me to do myself.

Anyway for perspective. We have 3 bikes with hydraulic disk brakes that have done 1,000’s of miles in all kinds of weather. These are the first replacement parts and the 1st professional service ever needed. Still absolutely my favourite type of brake (for power, controllability, reliability and maintenance), especially as it is possible to buy excellent British made hydraulic brakes from Hope Tech.



Double success :-)

Wow, I am very impressed with SPA Cycles and the Post Office. As detailed in Neat solution I ordered two special brake bolts on 22nd December at about 11pm and they arrived this morning 24th December. Fantastic service, thanks to both of them!

So I couldn’t resist fitting them 🙂

I have wanted to fit mudguards to my Trek Pilot Road bike for years and a long time ago I bought some brilliant SKS mudguards, but I have never been able to fit them due to the way the brake bolts use a long allen nut through the frame to reach the relatively short brake bolt.

Rather foolishly (this is me after all) I started the upgrade without fully thinking through how long it would take to completely dismantle the brakes (in order to replace the main bolt). It was a bit fiddly (once I noticed the grub screws it went more easily). When it came to putting it back together in an ideal world the front brake bolt would have been 5mm longer and the rear one 10mm shorter. However with a bit of bodging I was able to reassemble the brakes and put the bike together with the new mudguards fitted.

Things got a bit tight for time towards the end as I had forgotten some family were turning up just as I needed to be going out to the 4pm service at Rothley made worse by the fact I was still finishing the bike in the front hall as they arrived 🙂 Still I was finished just in time.

I am delighted to report that on the first outing the mudguards worked perfectly and for the total of 8.6 miles I averaged 16.4mph which meant I was in time for the service at Rothley and then the Christingle at Syston (see This time last year I failed). That was good news as we had a lot of extra people this year in Rothley which was great but would have been very embarrassing if I hadn’t got there in time.

As always I find peoples responses to my travelling by bike interesting. Lots of older generations relate to it well as it is how they used to get around. But very consistently people who do not ride bikes overestimate distances and how long cycling to places takes. Remember I am not some fit racing cyclist in full gear on a lightweight road bike but a middle aged, somewhat overweight bloke wearing a clerical shirt and work trousers. I do tend to wear trainers and if I am going to be riding fast I do take a replacement shirt – but there is no Lycra or clip on shoes and I always have at least one pannier of stuff.

Back to modifying the bike. In terms of fitting the brake bolts and mudguards one of the bodges is due one of my few irritations with the Trek Pilot. At the back there is only one set of holes at the dropouts. When you want to fit both a rack and mudguard this is less than ideal. The mudguard stays end up forcing the rack mounting away from the dropout which puts extra stress on the bolts. Fortunately the Tubus Locc rack has extra holes above the ones used to fix to the dropouts and so I have the mudguard stays fastened to the rack which is fastened to the frame. Sadly over the years the mounting point thread on the left dropout has worn out, fortunately on that side it is not a problem. I use a long allen headed bolt mounted with the head on the inside and a nut on the outside. There is no space to do the same on the chain side so I am not sure what to do when that thread wears out (maybe use it as an excuse for a new bike?).

Anyway two successes today 🙂 Mudguards fitted and I managed my Christmas Eve services by bike 🙂

Plus so far two full services celebrating Christmas in very different ways. Just 11:30pm Holy Communion and 10:30am Christmas Celebration to go both in Syston Methodist Church – all welcome even if you don’t join me in cycling to them both 🙂


Brake maintenance

I am starting to try to think about getting ready for summer holidays.

Today that meant washing my Trek Pilot after it got very dirty in the torrential rain on Friday. Plus I have fitted new brake pads. I am trying Swissstop pads this time, supposed to be very powerful, shall have to see. I didn’t want to risk running out of pads in the next few weeks as I will be using this bike in France on our holiday. But when I took them off they were even more worn than I had realised so it was pretty good timing.

Fortunately I don’t have much other maintenance to do before the holiday. The cheap mudguard on middle son’s Giant Escape N7 has a broken clip, Jane is going to ride that while we are away so I guess I had better get a replacement. Oldest son’s Trek needs a look over but I think the rest are looking pretty good.

Jane has made a start on the top-coats of paint on the Bullitt cargobox (the quality of my gloss painting has long been a source of many insults). It would be nice to get that finished before we go away.

Tomorrow, I plan to get the materials to built the bike carrier for our Dandy folding camper.


What makes car drivers dangerous?

I have come to the conclusion that there is a common factor to nearly every instance I experience of dangerous driving by car, van, bus and lorry drivers.


It seems as simple as that.

Obstructions make drivers dangerous.

Let me give you some examples.

  1. Riding towards Thurmaston from Syston there are a number of mini-roundabouts. Car drivers see these as obstructions, as things that might hold them up.  So they try to overtake even at the last moment when the road narrows due to the island in the middle. They do this even more aggressively if they can see other people waiting at the roundabout or queuing after it or if they can’t see one of the roads due to trees.
  2. When there is an obstruction ahead such as a Red traffic light then drivers feel the need to overtake (and then slam their brakes on). It does not matter to them that you will immediately overtake them when they are stationary.
  3. Whenever the road narrows for traffic calming then cars feel the need to overtake just before it so that they get to the slower bit first. They will squeeze through any gap and ignore oncoming traffic to achieve that goal of getting to the obstruction first.
  4. When there are speed bumps then cars will overtake even immediately before them and then jam their brakes on so they don’t break their suspension. So often this forces the cyclist who was just overtaken to also brake hard to avoid going into the back of the car.
  5. Cars frequently respond in the same way with speed cameras. They know one is ahead, it is an obstruction to their journey so they race to get t0 the speed camera as quickly as possible overtaking well past the last safe place. Then they brake hard to avoid triggering the camera.

Dave’s Law: The slower an obstruction forces a driver to go the more aggressively they will approach it and the closer to it they will overtake bikes.

What this means is that obstructions  designed to slow car drivers often make life more dangerous for cyclists (or at least feel more dangerous).


Giant Escape N7

I recently bought a new bike for our middle son for basic transport. The Trek Pilot 1.2 that he and I have shared for a few years is not suitable for him to ride around an urban area (Leicester). He needed flat bars, mudguards & rack. I needed him to have low maintenance (as that ends up being my job).

So to fit the trend I am trying to follow I looked for Hub gears and non rim brakes. Not a lot of choice in anything a teenager wants to ride. In the end we came across a Giant Escape N7, it is no longer made but we found one in stock at AJ Cycles in Higham Ferrers.

I have added Giant Mudguards (not really recommended as the stays are too long and need to be cut). Still they are reasonably effective.

I treated him to a Tubus Locc rack as it carries Abus U-Locks. Sadly though the new Abus lock came with a different fitting that is not compatible with the Tubus (fortunately we don’t use the Trek and Giant bikes at the same time too often so normally we can share the lock we already have that fits this rack).

His reactions have been good, finding it an easy and comfortable ride. Works well for someone who has no interest whatsoever in the technical details of a bike but just wants it to be available and work.


The only concerns I have with this bike relate to the roller brakes and Nexus 7 speed hub.

Roller Brakes

When I mentioned the Giant Escape N7 in 42: Best Upright Bike back in March 2006 I got a number of negative remarks about roller brakes. I have since test ridden a few other bikes with roller brakes and decided that they were worth trying. Tonight I went for a ride on the Giant Escape N7 from Carnon Downs Caravan Park in Cornwall. From here everything is down 🙂 So I went down to Restonguel Point, Loe Beach and back via Trelissck and Playing Place. That included 14% and 17% descents on wet roads in the rain. The roller brakes were excellent. I could lock the rear brake if I wanted but they gave good control and feedback, held the speed where I was happy and allowed me to stop where ever I wanted. They are not as powerful as disk brakes or well setup v-brakes but are perfectly adequate. I suspect that some people are so used to the outstanding performance of disk brakes that they find anything less powerful scary. These are not the brakes for races aiming to get to the bottom of a steep hill as quickly as possible and stop instantly with no notice. On the other hand they should work for years with little or no maintenance.

Nexus 7 Speed Hub

This seems to have a relatively poor reputation for reliability. My feeling is that for the use my son has it will probably be fine. If it fails then I’ll look at either a Nexus 8 or an Alfine (8 or 11) hub with roller brake. The bike frame and everything else were good enough value that it would make sense to put a better hub in it if this fails.

On my ride tonight I was able to ride up the 17% hill from Loe Beach with no problems – well other than a lot of heavy breathing 🙂 The hub changed gear reliably, although the changes are noticeably less well defined than those on my Alfine 8 speed hub on my Bullitt. Time will tell as to the reliability but the performance to date is perfectly acceptable.


I think it is a pretty good choice for general urban use in the UK. In countries with a better cycling infrastructure you would not need some of the mountain bike influences (26″ wheels with big tyres, heavy duty forks etc) but in the UK with a teenager they seem sensible. Now this is not available I am not sure what the best alternative would be.


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