Tag Archives: cycling

Sabbatical preparation Comfort Camping

As I have demonstrated before I like comfort when camping. So my Sabbatical preparation includes comfort camping issues. I’m going to be camping for about 5 weeks in total so comfort is important. On the other hand for 4 of those weeks I am going to be cycling up to 65 miles each day, so lightweight and small volume are also important.

I have one new toy since I went cargobike camping. A fantastic lightweight chair. The Helinox Chair One which we bought in Cotswold Outdoor. At 960 grams it is tiny and yet also very comfortable. Ideal for the comfort loving cycle tourer seeking a refreshing sabbatical 🙂

helinox-chair-one-bag helinox-chair-one

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.

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 🙂

Going public on Cycling goals for 2014

So far I been reflecting on goals for 2014 in Approaching the year end and considering future goals then I came over all mad and brave in Going public on a goal for 2014. The Leicester Sprint Triathlon. So what about cycling more generally for me? It must be time for “Going public on Cycling goals for 2014”.

This is about personal goals related to being more intentional about my health, the issue is typified by my inability to lose weight and keep it lost. I am 2kg heavier than a year ago, my body fat percentage is currently 26% (24% a year ago). Currently, just over 100kg I really want to get close to 80kg (although realistically it is a long time since I stayed under 90kg for very long).

So for cycling I am setting two goals based about two habits which seem to have been effective in the past.

  1. I will ride a bike at least 1 mile every single day. By simply getting on the bike I make sure I have done some exercise and most days once on the bike I do a lot more than 1 mile.
  2. I will complete a 100 mile ride once each month. I find these are really helpful in burning up fat. I have even booked dates in my calendar for these right through the year to try to make sure they happen. They are:

January 24th Friday
February 14th Friday
March 21st Friday
April 25th Friday
May 9th Friday
June 6th Friday
July 12th/13th Saturday/Sunday (Dunwich Dynamo) = 200km
August 8th Friday
September 13th Saturday (Historic Churches)
October 17th Friday
November 7th Friday
December 5th Friday

Hopefully that will bring my annual mileage back up to about 5,000 in the year (2011 total miles was 4,700; 2012 total miles was 5,500; 2013 total miles is 3,500).

Along with the swimming and running needed for the triathlon I am hoping this will help tackle my ongoing concern with my weight.

I am also committing myself to some stretching and core muscle work as I know I benefit from them. I am not entirely confident about my ability to stick to these having failed so many times in the past. For the plank I can currently do 60 seconds and so my goal is to simply increase that by 1 second a day. I am still working on what stretching to do.

Fortunately, I love doing the cycling so the goals are much easier to stick at than goals related to weight loss or other exercise.

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).

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).

Everyone wins from cycling, even those that won’t ever cycle.

Our lives are full of people complaining about cyclists.

Yet this excellent post Take Away Space From Cars to Reduce Congestion For All includes these essential reminders:

  • It [Cycling] is here that there is the greatest unmet demand.  It’s also incredibly cheap compared to other ways of moving people around and provides paybacks in the region of 40:1; 4:1 just from the health benefits.
  • Building cycle infrastructure is what’s best for those people who will never travel by any other way than driving too
  • Everyone wins from cycling, even those that won’t ever cycle.
  • The argument that says that where we have a limited resource (in this case, space) that we should prioritise use of it for the least efficient use of that resource (cars) is fundamentally flawed.

Read the post and get everyone else to read it too.

Investment in making Cycling feel safe is a huge win for everyone!

10 reasons why I ride a bike in Leicester

At the regular meeting of the Leicester Cycle Campaign Group this evening conversation turned to why we love cycling in Leicester. I’m sure I have done this before (I have put some links below), but another go won’t hurt.

I love getting around Leicester on a bike because:

  1. 20131202_115512It is fast. There are some shortcuts not available to cars and I can go direct to the door of my destination. Or sometimes inside, like today:
  2. It is convenient. I know how long it will take me and it does not change according to the time of day or roadworks or crashes.
  3. It is pleasant. I never get stuck in a queue and I can choose to ride through parks and along the river
  4. It connects me with people. I can chat to my neighbours, I can pause when I see friends, the schoolchildren who know me often shout Hi to me
  5. It is flexible. I can change my mind, add extra stops, fit in extra errands, adjust my schedule all very easily because journeys are predictable, there are no queues and no worries about parking
  6. It is fun. I love riding bikes, it makes me happy to move along by my own power. I love the daily miracles of  of balancing on two wheels and noticing improving skills.
  7. It allows me to eat more cake without dire consequences for my weight 🙂
  8. It causes far less hurt and harm to other people and the planet than the alternatives
  9. It saves me money (lots of money in fact!). No fuel, no parking, no huge purchase cost, much lower maintenance.
  10. It helps my local community and the local economy. I spend more money locally because it is so easy (fast, convenient, cheap) to do so.

What about you?

Some older relevant posts – handpicked by me 🙂 :

Posts at new junction on Melton Road by Sainsburys

The new junction includes access to the new Sainsburys and a complete reworking of where the Melton Road is crossed by Troon Way (to the East) and Watermead Way (to the West).

Approaching from the North heading towards Leicester on the west side of the Melton Road.

First is the classic Leicester City design (also seen at the new Southgates cycle path) where posts are added to the middle of a cycle track, of course they are not high vis despite their position). This is at the entrance to Sainsburys.

PB190097

also the matching post once you have crossed the junction. After all there is no space to put this post except in the middle of the path (not!)

PB190103

Same post from the opposite direction, completely unclear how you will get into Sainsburys by bike as the path ends just on the corner ahead.

PB190104

Then we have a huge road sign. Pictured from both sides. It shows how easily the posts could have been positioned to the side of the path instead of reducing the width and making it far too easy to catch them with your handlebars.

PB190106

PB190107

The next sign needs to have been a bit wider so that the posts could have been positioned clear of the path.

PB190110

Yet more posts, presumably for another sign. Again there is no reason why these have to block the cycle / pedestrian shared space.

PB190111

Look how much fun we can have with positioning a lamp post, a no stopping sign and a bus stop

PB190113

Where else would you put this vital sign other than the very middle of a shared use pedestrian and cycle pavement? After all it would be impossible to fit the sign to either the lamp post or the bus stop.

PB190114

By the entrance to Sainsburys why put these brand new boxes of electronics in the cycle path?

PB190105

At the corner of Melton Road/Troon Way the boxes are positioned more sensibly. Why couldn’t they be consistent?

PB190116

On the North West side of Melton Road they decided that for a change to install the post 1/3 of the way across the path.

PB190131

On the South West side a return to normal with the sign right in the middle of the path

PB190126

This junction has been closed for weeks, everything has been replaced and yet all these posts have been placed in such stupid places.

To my knowledge the Cycle City Workshop was never shown detailed plans of this junction. I want to know who decided on this junction layout. I want to know who decided to position these posts in these way. Is it the City engineers? Have the construction team followed the design correctly or did they choose these positions?

No doubt cyclists will have to live with this rubbish for the next 50 years. I reported a new sign post in the middle of the new cycle track on Southgates in September and was told on 17th September that the engineer was aware of the problem and the post would be reallocated. Nothing has happened yet and that was a single post in what was an unfinished cycle track.

At the moment I have lost all my confidence in the ability of the City Council to implement safe cycle infrastructure. In another post on this same junction I will also show how the City Council are also failing to implement convenient cycle infrastructure.

 

Wondering about potential while gliding past stationary traffic

This morning I had a 9:30am appointment at the Leicester Royal Infirmary (another wisdom tooth to be removed).

So at about 8:45am I gently cycled into Leicester along the Melton Road passing about a mile of stationary traffic queuing due to the roadworks at the Troon Way junction.

I tried counting the cars with only one person in them but gave up after 19 of the first 20 were single occupancy.

After passing all these cars and going straight through the traffic free City Centre I got to the LRI where I was of course able to park for free right at the entrance.

Obviously huge numbers of people travel shortish distances along the Melton/Belgrave Road everyday and it is only about 5 miles from Syston to the City Centre, it is almost flat and it is a wide road (especially if you measure the full width of the space).

As always I can’t help wondering how much we could save and benefit from installing wide segregated cycle tracks along the full length from East Goscote to the Clock Tower with priority at all the junctions.

There would be huge savings for individuals (fuel, parking, time, gym, illness) as well as transformational savings for the community through cutting congestion and pollution while generating significant health and increased productivity benefits.

So many studies show how the businesses for example along the Golden Mile would benefit if it were a more pleasant place to sit, walk and cycle.

Along the route you also pass several schools, wouldn’t it be fantastic if the children could get to and from school without being at risk from busys roads. For that matter how much better would society be if the air they breathe all day in school were not full of particulates coming from diesel engines going past their windows.

I struggle to understand why people sitting for half an hour in a queue are not clamoring for cycle tracks to reduce the traffic and make the places they go nicer.

I completely fail to understand why residents on these busy and wide roads are not up in arms demanding cycle tracks to reduce the noise, pollution, congestion and danger outside their homes.

Have our brains been destroyed by cars?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: