Tag Archives: Fixed-gear bicycle

Rain realities

Just been for a short ride (about 5 miles) in heavy rain. Was thinking about a few realities of rain:

  • Rain seems 10x heavier from within a conservatory style roof or inside a car
  • Excellent mudguards (fenders) massively reduce how wet you get riding in the rain. Plus the rain you get on you is much cleaner than what comes off the ground.
  • A fixed gear bike is fantastic in heavy rain, still runs silently and you know there is no maintenance needed when you get home.
  • Bullitt proof tyres and wheels make riding in the rain much less of a worry, you can’t see the potholes so you need to trust that you can get through them.
  • Car drivers are more stupid than normal in the rain. They will make no allowances for reduced grip and reduced visibility. Try to ride where they are not. Fortunately many car drivers seem worried that their car will leak and so will go home early and stay there.
  • Until you have ridden a bike in heavy rain with a high quality waterproof, breathable jacket designed for cycling you will not believe how different it is to anything else.
  • Your skin is waterproof. If it is warm enough then shorts are great for riding in the rain.
  • The best way to find it easier to ride in the rain is to ride in the rain.

More lovely fixie riding

So it turns out that my fear expressed in Potential bike upgrade miscalculation did not happen. Our oldest son decided that he didn’t want a bike for another term. I am clearly on notice though, as next year he will not be living right in the heart of Oxford.

So I have been enjoying my fixie while I can.

The new Brooks B17 saddle is already more comfy than the very light Specialized saddle I had on before (although it does weigh more than twice as much). I’ll get it nicely broken in before the end of the summer and then move it to the Trek Pilot. The most noticeable difference with a Brooks saddle compared to the synthetic ones I have use before is how easily your bum slides around it. Adjusting position is very simple and it feels like there is much less friction on the inside of your thighs.

Anyway last night I went out for a lovely ride on the fixie. Almost exactly 10 miles. It is running almost absolutely silent except when grit sticks to the tyres and flies off under the mudguard. The almost is because there is a very slight creak when powering out of the saddle which I need to fix. Possibly a pedal as I didn’t do anything to them when I did the maintenance, last time I had this I decided it was the velcro straps on my shoes.

Back to the ride. I averaged 17.7 mph door to door (so that includes the driveway at home and all warming up). The ride was Syston to Rearsby, then Thrussington, Ratcliffe On the Wreake, East Goscote, Queniborough and back towards Syston railway station. I think I’ll find a way to make it exactly 10 miles allowing for a bit of a warm up and then see what sort of time it takes. I am wondering if I can do a route like this four minutes faster (ie break 20mph) if I am warmed up and not negotiating our driveway and speed humps at the beginning and end. Doing the ride after 12:30 at night meant that I didn’t see a single car in the whole ride.

One of the nice things about a fixie is that when you are feeling good it just flies up short hills. That was very noticeable on Station Road in Rearsby and on Barkby Road from Queniborough. On the first I reached the level crossing and then thought to myself “I thought there was a hill before this”. Coming out of Queniborough I thought I had better give a bit of  a kick to get up the hill without having to stand and slow down. Towards the top I looked and the gps and found myself doing over 21mph which surprised me a lot.

Maybe I should strip it of excess weight (mudguards, rack, chainguard) and put the drop handlebars back on to get the speed up. Except that this evening I used it for a funeral visit so was moderately dressed up and still just hopped on, nice to not have to worry about trouser clips or tucking your trousers into your socks. Just get on and go.

I don’t like the idea of making a bike less practical just to go a bit faster.

It started with the chain

It started with the chain, I was a little irritated yesterday on my nice ride on my fixie. There was a certain point where there was a little crunch as the chain went round. Barely discernible but as fixed gear bikes are so smooth it began to get on my nerves.

So this afternoon I decided to clean the chain and turn the chainring and sprocket over to even out any wear.

When I started on that job I kept discovering how dirty my beautiful Pearson Touché was. So I kept removing bits so that I could clean them properly.

Now it looks like this:
IMG_20110417_160147
Oop’s 🙂

At least I can get it properly clean and that should last another 4.5 years before I need to do it again 🙂

I am quite amazed at the good condition of so many of the parts once you get past the grime. The wheels spin on and on and on yet those bearings have never been touched, despite the fact that I have ridden this through floods that came up to the “N” on the seat tube (so the axles and bottom bracket were way below the surface of the water).

The only bits that are not so nice are a few of the bolts eg for the mudguards and wheel nuts that are obviously not stainless steel and have rusted a bit.

I love the fact that bikes are simple enough (especially a fixed gear) that you can take them apart in this way and understand how all the bits work and fit together.

The beauty of silence

As it was such a nice afternoon I chose to use my fixie (Pearson Touche) to ride to the Royal Infirmary.

It is basically a flat ride (total was 14.6 miles)  so there is no need for gears and the Touche rolls along incredibly easily and silently which is one of the fantastic things about a fixie – there is nothing as quiet and smooth to ride as a fixed gear bike.

Unfortunately this does not automatically mean a smooth ride and the Touche does tend to bounce me around a fair bit due to the combination of hard (but very fast) 25mm tyres, the aluminium frame (although softened somewhat by carbon seatpost and fork), the hardest but lightest saddle I have and the appalling quality of Leicester’s cycle facilities (which perhaps are the only half sane reason that so many people ride full suspension bikes around the city).

I think I am due for a change of saddle on the Touche, especially now that I have less padding on my bottom. Given how pleased I am with the Brooks Flyer on my Bullitt cargobike I think a Brooks B17 might go well on the Touche.

Still that is for another day, today was one to remember for the sensation of flying along by the river in silence 🙂

The beauty of variety

Switching between different bikes is a lovely reminder of the variety that is possible in cycling.

I have a reasonable stable of bikes and they are all quite different from each other. Compare this to cars.

Firstly, purchase cost. You can have a wide range of bikes (cargo, race, mtb, fixed gear, touring), in fact a range of bikes for the whole family for less than the price of one family car. Imagine how far £15,000 (guestimate of the average price of say a Ford Focus) could go on bikes, that is 15 excellent bikes, or 30 pretty good bikes or one fandabbydozy cargo bike and 10 excellent other bikes.

Second, running costs. Your bikes are going to be incredibly cheap to run compared to the car. No filling with fuel, far less expensive servicing & insurance, no tax, no parking costs.

Third, versatility. Your one road car can’t do everything. If it is going to be suitable for taking the family on holiday then you won’t be able to use it for track days & it likely won’t be a huge bundle of fun to drive. Neither can one bike do everything, but who cares, if bikes replace a car you can afford more than one 🙂

Fourth, life span. Your bikes will have a far longer lifespan than your car. Since we started buying better quality bikes we have not had one fall apart or that was no longer worth keeping. We have passed one onto a friend who uses it for daily transport, we have passed several along through the family as the boys have grown up. We have sold a few onto new owners for good prices. It has been worth spending some money on upgrades and replacements for worn parts. We have bikes that we fully expect to be serviceable if we reach retirement (plans for touring the UK on our Trice tandem recumbent trike during our retirement occasionally surface). During the same time period we have worked our way through a number of cars that reached the point where servicing costs, reduced reliability, poor economy, changed circumstances forced an expensive change.

Fifth, options. While I suggest having multiple bikes instead of a car the truth is that by moving away from a car many more options are open to you. You could take a less well paid job (but maybe more satisfying, or less stressful or more worthwhile, or more local, or fewer hours or nice company or …), you could use the savings to move to a different home (closer to work, family, friends; more comfortable; …), you could have more leisure time (especially if you get enough exercise cycling to save on gym costs & time), you could enjoy more things as you get healthier. The car is often sold as giving us choice and freedom whereas in fact it becomes a ball and chain holding us down and denying freedom of choice.

If you have not tried riding a different sort of bike then why not consider giving it a go. They all have their advantages and a stable of them offers some great choices.

My stable includes:

  • Bullitt Clockwork Cargobike (what I ride most as I use it nearly everyday for work and general transport)
  • Trek Pilot 1.2 (a light touring road bike. ie with drop handlebars, a rack and triple chainrings)
  • Pearson Touché (fixed gear with mudguards, rack and chainguard: simple & reliable, a joy to ride and very good for improving my pedalling style)
  • Birdy Folding bike (not quite as small as a Brompton, but incredibly useful when travelling by train for transport at both ends)
  • Giant Full Suspension Mountain Bike (for bouncy off road fun, will tackle most terrain in most conditions with the right tyres)
  • Trice X2 recumbent, tandem, trike (the best way to enjoy riding with Jane, ultimate in comfort with superb touring capability)
  • Trice XXL recumbent trike (currently somewhat stolen by Jane; fantastic for solo touring; all day riding and my choice for riding in icy conditions; gives the biggest grins ever when zooming downhill)

But notice for the versatility that all but one of these (the Bullitt) are shared with the rest of the family. I don’t have or need solo use of any of these (yes it helps that size wise we don’t need a huge variety of bikes). So we all benefit from the variety possible by not spending our money on cars.

Bikes: everyone should have some variety 🙂

Lumpy pedalling

One thing that shows up very quickly when moving to a light(ish) road bike from my normal Bullitt cargobike is lumpy pedalling.

It is much more obvious when your pedal stroke is uneven if you are on a light bike and carrying no load. The bike is obviously more responsive (almost twitchy) compared to a cargobike and so you feel it surge forward with the lumps in your pedalling.

Normally the extra weight of the cargobike masks this so you might wonder if it matters. My experience is that it matters (or at least makes a difference) on 3 occasions:-

  1. If you ride a tandem lumpy pedalling is very noticeable to and off-putting for your companion. This is particularly so on a recumbent tandem trike where it is normal to ride with the two sets of pedals 90 degrees out of phase. Not only will it irritate the other rider it will also waste loads of energy as you end up pushing against each other.
  2. If you are riding on slippery surfaces then smoother pedalling makes a big difference to your grip and so lump pedalling makes an unanticipated slide more likely.
  3. My feeling is that smoother pedalling is likely to be better for your joints and muscles, the knees in particular. The smoother you pedal the faster you can spin the pedals without being bounced out of the saddle and that means less load on the knees.

So how can we get smoother pedalling?

My experience is that the old ways are the best. Professional riders of old used to ride a fixed gear during the winter and I have found (as expected given the many articles around supporting this) that riding fixed does indeed make a very noticeable difference to your pedal action.

Jane surprised me by commenting on how much smoother my pedalling was when we last used our tandem trike which was after I had been riding my fixie quite a lot.

So it looks like I need to get some miles in on my fixie in the next few weeks. Which is no bad thing as it is a very nice bike to ride (and like my Bullitt has the great virtue of fantastic reliability).

I have heard a few people suggest that when you reached advanced years like me that a fixie is actually bad for your knees. If you insist on using a high gear and heading for the hills that may be the case but with reasonable gearing, starting on gentle terrain and a dose of common sense I feel it makes a lot of sense.

Variety of bikes needed

Today, I won’t be using my Bullitt cargobike.

While it would be very handy for the first four places I am going at the last I am concerned about security.

So today I’ll use panniers on my Pearson Touche fixie.

The reason is that at the end of the day I am going straight from my last meeting to join the rest of the family at the Odeon to watch the new Harry Potter film. They will have gone in the car (as the film finishes too late for the last train) and I can put my fixie into the car for security while at the film. as they are taking the car I can also bung in a change of clothes (as a clerical shirt is not my first choice for going to a film with the family).

Anyway off to the first visit now. Maybe photos later.

Convoy of mixed bikes

On our  ride to Oadby today we had one of the most mixed convoys of bikes possible.
Bullitt 01I was riding my Bullitt (someone had to carry the locks, coats, stuff to clear our of Mum’s room, …)

Jane was on our Trice XXL. One of the lowest recumbent trikes available. Wickedly fast and comfy. Plus excellent treatment for varicose veins 🙂 Picture later as on a different computer.

Andy was on my Pearson Touche fixed gear bike.

The XXL is least ideal for the city but is most comfy and Jane finds she is faster on that than anything else. Although as she is never out of breath at the top of a hill we suspect she enjoys the way a trike allows you to climb very slowly without balance issues.

The fixie is a great city bike, however, quite incompatible with the XXL as it is fast uphill but the speed is limited on the downhill by the speed you can spin your legs.

The Bullitt is comfy and with me riding is quite compatible with Jane on the XXL (neither of us will break records going uphill but we love going down). It has great road presence which coupled with the upright position gives great confidence in traffic.

My guess is that there are not that many groups of 3 riding through Leicester on quite such a variety of bikes 🙂

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