Tag Archives: Road bicycle

Full bike for Life ride preparation in progress

In 7 hours I leave for a nice 85 mile ride with friends.

I am running rather late due to a bit of a hectic week (and still got some work that has to be done tonight).

Yet I wanted to properly prepare my Bike for Life for tomorrow as both Ann and Rachel are riding nice road bikes (and I know that Ann has just had hers fully serviced with new chain and cassette).

Fortunately, the only things I can think of doing to prepare it are:

  • pump up the tyres (it is at least a month since I last put any air in them)
  • charge the battery on my Garmin 800
  • charge the battery on my Contour+ camera
  • fill my water bottles

Yes in an ideal world I might have given it a quick wash so it would look it’s best but probably 11:30pm is a bit late for that.

I haven’t had to do anything more than this for months despite daily use and that is exactly what I wanted when I specified it 🙂



Converted by Breeze

On Saturday, having been encouraged by Rachel (my boss) Jane went on a Sky Breeze ride and loved it. She did 22 miles which included a visit to Thrussington tea shop.


As expected Jane was the only person on a bike equipped any of the following:

  • basket
  • skirt guard
  • step thru frame
  • hub gears
  • chain guard

By equipped with “some” of these I mean of course Jane had them all 🙂

The others were clearly highly trained motivators and so Jane came back convinced that she could ride a road bike, that she would be a lot faster and more comfortable on a road bike and therefore that she should get one.

This was not an opportunity to be wasted!

So on Saturday afternoon we went over to both Rutland Cycling stores who had impressive ranges of road bikes for women (mostly Trek, Specialized and Giant).

Jane tested a couple and came away in love with the fully carbon Specialized Ruby (despite only having ridden one that was a size too small).

That left me with the kill joy task of pointing out that she would probably enjoy the bike a lot more if she could have mudguards and carry a few things neither of which are very practical on the full carbon frames.

Anyway today we went on another bike shop visit. This time we went to the Specialized Concept store at Fort Dunlop in Birmingham where Jane was able to test ride a 54cm Dolce. She liked it a lot.

We then had a little distraction when I suggested she might consider a Specialized Tricross to benefit from bigger tyres, easier mudguard and rack fitting, and disc brakes. If the handlebars were swapped for the narrower women’s ones from the Dolce then most of the dimensions were very similar. In the end two things meant that we dropped the idea of the Tricross. The first was that the standover height was nearly 2cm more which Jane felt was intimidating. Secondly the colour scheme was deemed boring.

So in the end we have ordered a very “pretty” 54cm Dolce Elite Equipped which Jane can collect on Monday next week.



A couple of thoughts on the choice.

I was keen that if Jane was to have a road bike then it should be a good one and there not be any suggestion that she got fobbed off with the cheap option. So this is about the top specification for a women’s road bike with rack mounting points and clearance for full length mudguards.

Secondly, this has Tiagra brake/gear levers. The next specification up from Shimano is 105 and Jane found that the much larger hoods on these were too big for her hands to feel comfortable. So certainly for Jane Tiagra is as far up the Shimano product line as is comfortable. I have heard of a number of people unhappy with Sora (the next level down) and have personally been happy with Tiagra on my Trek for the last 7 years or so.

Thirdly, colour is tricky 🙂 It can’t be too girly (pink bar tape would have been too much) but at the same time it does have to look pretty. Specialized seem to have got it about right for Jane.

With a few days in Derbyshire at half term and a summer holiday in the Netherlands plus assorted Breeze rides and maybe even some with me it should get used a fair bit this summer.

Oh and no she won’t be getting rid of the other bike 🙂 This one is not suitable for riding when wearing a dress or skirt, nor is it as convenient for local shopping. The basket is still too convenient for handbags, bottles of wine, egg cartons etc etc. Plus all those heavy extras make the current bike ideal in horrible weather and on poor quality cycle routes especially when wearing normal clothes.


Puncture and cycle paths

It is no surprise that Leicester’s cycle paths have now achieved their main goal in life – that of causing me a puncture. As much of the surface is covered in glass it is a miracle that this is my first puncture since moving here in August.

So sometime yesterday towards the end of my detour home from the morning service at Rothley (is just under 8 miles normally, I did over 24 miles) a shard of glass got through the tyres. Fortunately, it was slow enough that I noticed it going soft over the last couple of miles but got home before it was completely flat.

I fixed it without removing the wheel from the bike (why do the guides in magazines and on the internet rarely mention doing this). Of course the hole was easy to find as there was a big chunk of glass still in the tyre. Sadly I noticed that although no other bits have got through there are quite a lot of cuts in the tyre. My guess is that I will have to replace the tyre before long as reliability is more important to me than wearing it through to baldness.

So yesterday evening I used my road bike to get to Birstall for the evening service. Today after fixing the flat I had lunch out with Jane on my way to Glenfield Hospital.

I tried the BikeHub routing application again on my Htc Desire (Android) phone. The main problem is that it drains the battery so fast that I can’t use it for more than about an hour. The route was pretty good though, I probably would not have found it without the routing. Sadly there were a few cycle path barriers that were a big pain on the Bullitt Cargobike.

Total today was just over 16 miles.


80 mile day done

As I have mentioned in a few earlier posts today was a longer ride for work.

In total 40 miles each way to the Methodist Church Northampton District Ministerial Synod at Wellingborough.

Anyway turned out to be no problem. Rode all the way there and back with my friend Adam from Loughborough on his Trice recumbent trike (he had already ridden the 10 miles to my house by 6:20am). Adam was suffering a little with tummy problems which meant we arrived in Wellingborough a few minutes late.

Recumbents (particularly trikes) and Road bikes are somewhat incompatible going uphill as the road bike is so much lighter and does not have as low gear, so I had to go ahead on a few of the steepest hills. Other than that it was lovely weather and a most enjoyable ride.

There were a few stupid driver incidents. One was a very dangerous driver as we came into Syston. I was turning right at a mini roundabout and was at the middle when a car decided to go straight on from my left. I managed to turn and stop on the centre of the mini roundabout while they went through exactly where I should have been. I had two front lights on and was also lit up in Adam’s front light beam (very bright Exposure light). Neither of us could quite believe what had happened. Sadly I was too shaken to get the number plate.

Overall though a very good day (the Synod content was good too) and I found it comfortable and easy going. No pains or strains and no bike problems at all 🙂


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.


Road Bike to Bullitt speed comparison

This morning I rode this route: Quiet evening ride on my road bike to check my preparations.

Same route, same rider within a week. Similar clothing.

Road bike average speed 17mph, Bullitt average speed 12.5mph making the road bike approx 1/3 faster.

Both very enjoyable 🙂 Road bike less work. Bullitt causes less concern about bad road surfaces.

Nice to note that when I put my bike helmet on I had to reduce the strap length by about 2cm, must be some lost chins there since end of last year 🙂


Flats, Toestraps or Clipless

Yesterday I had to do a bit more preparation for Wednesday when I noticed and then remembered that one of the cleats had come loose on my SPD shoes. One of the bolts had fallen out during my off road ride in the New Forest just before the New Year.

SPD is a standard cleat for clipless pedals that is often used on mountain bikes. It has been my preferred choice of clipless pedal due the number of companies that support it and the way the cleat is recessed into the shoe sole so that you can walk fairly normally (just a crunching sound as you crush small stones under the cleat). Plus it is one of the cheapest options which was important when we were buying shoes for 5 of us (as the boys needed them when riding on the back of our tandem trike or on the  Kettweisel Trike).

Clipless pedals with matching cleats on the bottom of special shoes provide a way of securely clipping your feet onto the pedals. They can make your pedalling more efficient, more secure and less tiring. However, there are also downsides such as the need for special shoes and the need to practice unclipping as you stop so that you don’t fall over in an embarrassing way with your feet still firmly attached to the pedals.

I decided that it was about time I fitted new cleats as these looked pretty worn and somewhat rusty from lack of recent use. Amazingly I was able to find my little box of spares (I think both shoes and pedals have come with cleats in the past and so I ended up with a number of spares).

Even more amazingly the remaining 3 bolts all came out nice and easily. In the past I have even had to resort to drilling out a bolt.

So my shoes are now ready, but it made me think a bit. It is getting on for 3 months since I last use SPD clipless pedals which is the longest gap for many years.

When riding a recumbent it is absolutely normal to clip your feet on as it is much more comfortable (saves having to hold your fit up onto the pedals) and particularly on trikes much safer (significant danger of getting your leg sucked under the frame if your foot comes off the pedal). So for a long time I almost always rode with clipped in feet. I have had a number of pairs of shoes, some of which looked fairly normal so I could wear them off the bike (although not on anyone’s nice floor).

On several bikes (Fixie, Trek road bike, Giant MTB) I use pedals which are flat on one side but with SPD Clips on the other. My favourite is currently the Shimano A530 (although sadly you need to buy a special tool to be able to take it apart for greasing).

On my Bullitt I have chosen straight forward flat pedals and not regretted it once. I have never felt the need to be clipped in when riding it. So I ride it in trainers, my best shoes, winter trainers, or crocs with no problem.

The road bike that I played with the gears on yesterday had traditional toe clips and straps. I never got on very well with these and generally found them much harder to get in and out of than SPD clipless pedals.

The cycling magazines and many blog posts about cycle commuting in the UK and USA tend to promote clipless pedals all the time. Yet in cities where lots of people ride bikes for transport almost nobody uses them.

I would be very unlikely to use SPD’s on a bike for work (recumbents excluded) as I value the freedom to wear normal clothes more than the efficiency gains. For long distance rides it will depend very much on how much time I will be spending off the bike. However, the more I ride the more the balance seems to switch away from clipless towards flat pedals. With the exception of recumbents I can’t see myself getting the sort of bike that would be fitted with racing style clipless pedals or with any pedal that did not offer a flat side for ordinary shoes.

I have read of a number of other cyclists that have also mostly switched to flat pedals eg vik.

Wondering what others think.


Road bike preparation day

The bits of today between meetings turned into road bike preparation time.

First, a little bit of gear adjustment for a friend competing in a triathalon on Sunday, that’s a very crazy idea, I’m sure it won’t catch on 🙂

Then getting ready for Wednesday.  For a change I won’t be riding my Bullitt as I am cycling to Ministerial Synod (a Church governing body meeting for all Ministers in the Northampton Methodist District) in Wellingborough. I have planned the route on google maps at just under 40 miles.

So that means an 80 mile round trip. Hence, the road bike is first preference (and yes I will be wearing cycling specific clothing). Mine is a Trek Pilot 1.2 which is not a racing bike, more a light touring or audax bike. Unlike this picture mine has a rear rack but sadly I have been unable to fit mudguards due to the way the brakes attach (fortunately currently a good forecast for Wednesday).

I won’t be travelling alone as Adam is riding over from Loughborough on his Trice recumbent trike to join me.  You could consider this training for his sponsored ride to Portsmouth this summer but he doesn’t need the practice as he has been putting in high mileages for work for years. At the moment I just hope I can keep up enough not to be embarrassed.

The Trek has not been used much this winter (mainly due to having wonderful dynamo lighting on the Bullitt and no mudguards on the Trek). So it needed a bit of a clean and the gears and brakes checking.

I very much recommend Green Oil’s Chain Cleaner. Much the easiest and most effect way to clean the chain while it is on the bike that I have ever found. The diluted Chain Cleaner is excellent for cleaning the rest of the bike, just as effective as MucOff that I have used before – but better for the environment.

So the bike is all ready, will put in a few miles tomorrow as “training”. Today’s quick gear and brake test reminded me how nice and quick a road bike is (even with 28mm Schwalbe Marathon Tyres – great for winter use with grip and very good puncture resistance).


The attitude towards cycling infrastructure varies with its quality.

The attitude towards cycling infrastructure varies with its quality is an old post by David Hembrow but well worth reading and watching the video about the history of separated cycle infrastructure in the Netherlands.

My view is that most British car drivers are totally unaware of how inadequate nearly all British cycle paths are. They don’t realise:

  • That many cycle paths in the UK put cyclists in more danger at junctions than being on the road
  • That their surfaces resemble roller coasters
  • They they are frequently covered in glass
  • That they keep ending and abandoning cyclists at unexpected places
  • That they don’t go to useful places
  • That they have many barriers that bikes with trailers, bikes with children on the back, tandems, recumbents, cargo bikes can’t get through
  • That the “dropped” kerbs are frequently so poor that you can’t use them with road bike wheels
  • That they are almost never gritted, salted or cleared of snow
  • That they are rarely lit at night
  • That they go through wild places where it is scary to be alone at night
  • That they are so narrow that our bikes are sometimes wider than the path
  • That we often find cars parked in the bike lanes
  • That cars, vans and lorries often drive into the bike lanes
  • That pedestrians like to walk all over the bike paths and let their dogs roam all over them
  • That councils rarely sweep up leaves or other debris from cycle paths
  • That we get so little priority at many traffic lights that we wait for far longer than any motorised vehicle.
  • That many traffic lights don’t detect cycles and so don’t change for us
  • That they are frequently blocked by temporary road signs and that there are almost never diversions when they are blocked by road works
  • That many of them significantly increase journey times

If roads were as bad for drivers as cycle paths are for cyclists then there would be a huge uprising in this country.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: