Tag Archives: Light

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 ūüôā

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


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.


From showroom to road

Having just bought a new bike (see Bike for Life plus one) it was time to get it ready. There is always stuff to do so you can take a bike from showroom to road.

For me that has included the following:

  • Fitting two bottle cages (I used 2 black Specialized Rib Cages as reasonably light, work well even with insulated coffee cups).
  • Fitting a cheapish Zefal pump¬†to the down tube bottle cage
  • Fitting the¬†RaceWare Garmin Bar Mount for my Edge 800 (puts it in front of the handlebar so works much better than the default Garmin mount). That meant moving the front reflector upside down to be out of the way.
  • Fitting a handlebar mounting for either one of our Exposure front lights (Strada or Joystick)
  • Fitting the mounting point for a Bridge Street¬†saddlebag. I expect to normally use a small saddleback for u lock, cable, multi-tool, inner tube, tyre levers, waterproof, wallet. This meant moving the reflector out of the way.
  • Fitting a red¬†Fibre Flare Shorty Side Light¬†to the right seat stay (this way not blocked by the saddlebag).
  • Swapping the pedals from the basic OEM’s to my Speedplay Frogs that I used for LEJoG.

Then I ignored Jane and went for a very short test ride (2 miles). Absolutely delightful!

I am waiting for a very nice bell as a replacement for the cheap, useless bell included with the bike. It was a kickstarter project that is currently on it’s way across the Atlantic.


New bike accessory needed. A kickstarter project for someone?

We have a good friend with one of these lifeline devices and are happy to be on the contact list for them.

However, it does highlight my need for a new bike accessory that I haven’t seen anywhere.

What I need is a set of blue flashing lights for when I am on an “emergency call out”. I could zoom down the road blue lights flashing and get to our friend so much quicker.

I haven’t seen blue flashing lights for bikes for sale anywhere, so I am looking for a volunteer to start a Kickstarter project to produce some (preferably in the UK).


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 ūüôā


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).


Bikes and lights as it gets darker

It is that season of the year when bike magazines and websites are full of articles about bike lights.

It is that season of the year when I go out forgetting that it will be dark when I come home, as today for the evening service at Syston Methodist Church.

So here is how I prepare my Bullitt Clockwork Cargobike for the dark.


In fact nothing at all.

My front Schmidt dynamo light has been on the bike all summer and continues with it’s automatic mode. So I continue to occasionally wipe the lens clean but otherwise don’t have to touch it in anyway. It just works. Actually that is really unfair because it is not just working but continues to be the best bike front light I have ever used (our¬†Exposure Joystick is still fantastic but does have to be charged and it does not have the shaped beam cut off to avoid blinding oncoming traffic).

My standard rear light on the Bullitt is a PDW Fenderbot which is attached to my rear mudguard. It has stayed on the bike all summer. The battery is still fine and so whenever I need a rear light it is there and ready to go.

So I confess I find all these articles about bike lights slightly amusing. It is very rare to read tests of dynamo lights, especially hub dynamos yet these lights work fantastically and keep working for years without any maintenance.

These lights are not cheap but neither are top quality battery lights. Dynamo lights have significant benefits in being so reliable and always available.


One ride and complete convert to Exposure Joystick Mk.5

In my post 100 mile preparation check I explained how a 30 mile test ride had demonstrated that a Cateye HL-EL520 LED front light was inadequate on unlit roads. In the comments I mentioned my intended solution.

Well today the solution arrived (see Rethinking Deliveries for more on that). I have bought an Exposure Joystick Mk.5 with a One Cell Piggyback Battery (should give me 6 hours on full beam and 20 hours on medium beam – I reckon I might need 6 or more hours on my way home from the meeting on Monday). For various reasons I didn’t get to open the box until I got back from a meeting just after 10pm. Still I plugged it in to start charging immediately thinking at least I could¬†see if it worked. ¬†Fortunately by midnight the main light seemed fully charged and some charge had gone into the Piggyback battery. While letting it charge I sorted out the helmet mount, changed and got ready for a quick test ride.

I am now back from a quick 40 minute test ride out into the darkness (South Croxton & Beeby). I didn’t see a single car moving! I did 10.8 miles (15.8mph average, maximum speed just over 25mph).

The light is very impressive indeed. It is perfectly possible to ride even on low beam. With low beam I was cruising along at about 15mph on unlit roads with no problems. On full beam faster descents were no problem, it was the headwind rather than the light that kept my maximum speed down.

I have never used a helmet light before and just this one ride is enough to convert me to riding with a helmet at night on any bike that does not have excellent dynamo lighting. The helmet light is wonderfully flexible so you don’t miss the extra ultimate brightness as you can aim it wherever you want. On twisty roads this makes it a bit better than even my fantastic dynamo setup as you can aim it round corners.

While riding on unlit roads I found that I change where it is pointing easily, almost sub-consciously so some of the time looking well ahead, on bends moving between round the bend & where my wheel is about to go. While on bumpy sections or bits that might be a pothole or a puddle you look right at the “thing” up close.

Three 0ther advantages are:

  • reading the small unlit signs at rural junctions as the “dipped” beam of the Schmidt Edelux light is far too low
  • Shining it right at drivers to be absolutely sure they have seen you (would have saved me from one close shave on the way back from Synod last week).
  • Security and speed. You don’t have to take it on and off the bike as it stays with your helmet.

Obviously the key disadvantage is that to use it as a helmet light you need to wear a helmet (although there is a headband option).

The great features are not enough to convert me to using it all the time at night. But it will be fantastic when on my road bike or my fixie for exercise or touring (which is after all what I bought it for).

I also have a handlebar mount so we can use it as a much improved light for Jane on her Ridgeback Avenida (can’t use the handlebar mount on my road bike due to the handlebar bag).

In summary: while I can’t yet confirm the running times, so far I am extremely impressed with the Exposure Joystick Mk.5. It is of course also made in the UK which is a great added bonus. BTW the packaging, the product and accessories are all look good and appear very well designed & made. Having it mounted on my helmet makes best use of the brightness. If I were looking for a handlebar mounted light for the same long ride then I would probably move up through the range to a Strada (with such bright lights I think the dipped beam option is a very good idea).


Lights and fitting them

I have had a couple of people ask about the lights I use on my Bullitt cargobike and how they are fitted. The main front lighting set is all made by Schmidt and purchased from St John Street Cycles (which included building a new front wheel around the dynamo).

The light is a Schmidt SON Edelux, mine is black (SJSC Product page):

It is LED, has a magnetic switch (so no possibility for water to get in the body) and also has a sensor setting so that it comes on automatically as needed. I have simply left it on the sensor setting since fitting it.

The Edelux light is fitted to a bracket which is bolted through the fork crown (so one bolt holds the light bracket to the front of the fork crown and the mudguard [fender] to the rear). Mine looks like this (page on SJSC) and it has the nice benefits of placing the light centrally above the front wheel while being low enough not to get in the way of any cargo.

St John Street Cycles sell a wide variety of front light brackets to fit every need. For example I bought one of these for Jane’s bike:

It has not yet proved ideal as when the front wheel is turned beyond a certain point the light is twisted on the bracket by the frame). I am going to add a Hebe steering stabilizer to fix this.

On my Bullitt the Edelux light is powered by a Schmidt Delux Dynamo (SJSC page):

As I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog I am totally impressed by this dynamo and light combination. It is amazingly bright so I can ride downhill fast on dark, narrow, twisty country lanes with no worries, yet it is also superbly focused so that it neatly cuts off and does not blind other riders or drivers. I have been using this front light and dynamo for about a month, riding every day for a total of something over 250 miles in total. That has included long (for me) night rides. In that time the only thing I have had to touch on this lighting set is once to wipe the front lens clean after a particularly wet ride. It is totally reliably and hassle free and what is more I don’t have to do anything with it when I park or when I start. I love it ūüôā

My only concern is that, inevitably with a 20″ front wheel, it is quite low. So I supplement it with a battery basic flashing light on the handlebars to be seen at eye level by cars.

For rear lights on the Bullitt I currently use two Cateye TL-LD1100’s mounted on the seatpost¬†:

Depending on the location, light levels etc I use various combinations of the lights and modes. Having two means that I am unlikely to be caught out by a flat battery while out.

I chose not to fit a dynamo rear light due to the long cable run on a cargobike.


Review: Schmidt SON Delux dynamo & Edelux light

In Schmidt SON Delux & Edelux, perfect on Bullitt I was describing my new front hub dynamo and light, at that time I had to admit:

The light seems good to ride by. I’ll write more when I have been on some unlit roads but it was fine coming down the unlit cycle path from the Asda car park. Earlier, riding back from Leicester I was following Jane and it lit up the back of her bike very brightly.

However, I do now have some experience. On Sunday evening I cycled to Bristall and back going through Watermead Park (from just south of Thurmaston including using the boarded path). So after riding on unlit off road bridle paths my view of this light and dynamo combination is:


I have never ridden with such a bright and clear bike light. Absolutely amazing in brightness, area covered, cut off to avoid blinding drivers and consistency at low speeds.

The SON Delux dynamo and Edelux LED light are just awesome. I felt I could see better than with my very powerful Lumicycle twin lamp set, which is far more than I expected.

So now only are there the huge convenience (always on the bike and ready to go) and reliability (no charging, no limited number of charges, no running out) advantages but we can add incredibly bright and all the brightness is fully usable.

Today the convenience showed up again. It has been a pretty yucky day with poor visibility, damp and gloomy. I have been out for over 7 hours at different meetings, services & visits. Plus lunch at Templars in Rothley, yum yum ūüôā So I have had my bike locked up outside at 3 locations. Not having to take the front lights off or worry about batteries running low makes life very much simpler. Having the light come on automatically is just icing on the cake ūüôā

I am so pleased with this light & dynamo combination and highly recommend it. I will of course report back in a while about it’s reliability and longevity but everything I have found so far indicates that these will be good.


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