Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Intermission (Win an £800 bike!)

Sorry if anyone's waiting with baited breath for the third and final installement of Gloucester to Hungerford. I haven't got around to writing it up yet.

In the meantime, why not support Re-Cycle by buying some raffle tickets and being in with a chance to win the above Wilier Pista singlespeed.

Re-Cycle send reconditioned bikes to poor communities in Africa, where they are obviously more use than here in a shed/locked to a lampost getting seven shades of shit beaten out of it by passing kids.

They also have a nice plan for how to build a trailer out of old bike parts if you want to do some recycling of your own (I'd be tempted if I could spot weld)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Gloucester to Hungerford Pt 2

Continuing from Pt 1

Peering out of my B&B window on Day 2, I could see that the weather had taken a turn for the worse with wall-to-wall grey skies and a distinct drop in temperature. This combined with the extremely (and wind-exposed) landscape of the Severn estuary meant that Saturday morning was probably the low point of the route. Perhaps on a sunny day this would be nice cycle, but even then the Avonmouth bridge (riding alongside the M5) would be a bit of a grind.

Thankfully, once you're over the other side the fun stuff begins. Following the Avon you wind your way towards Bristol through woods and with cliffs rising either side. Suddenly it felt a bit more remote (even though we were on the outskirts of major city). The route pleasantly rises and falls, and you can even (occasionally) kid yourself that your charging through some gnarly single track :-). With the lack of traffic I decided I could not stick my headphones and crank up the music.

Soundtrack: Client - Client

The Clifton Suspension Bridge announces the beginning of Bristol proper and soon you're passing converted warehouses and the SS Great Britain. One thing to beware of (particularly in the rain) are the disused railway tracks on the waterfront in Bristol. Even though they barely poke above the surface, they're treacherour if you don't cross them at an oblique enough angle, something I found out to my cost when I ended up sprawled on the ground.

I combined my need for (a) grub and (b) a spare chain link by visiting the excellent Mud Dock Cafe. It's part bike shop, part cafe and is about 50 yards off the route. Probably the only place I've eaten with a penny farthing dangling above my head and a copy of L'Equipe celebrating Armstrong's seventh Tour win in the bogs

The route then follows the Bristol-Bath Railway path, predictably along disused railway lines. The section immediately outside Bristol centre is a little dull, but the nearer you get to Bath the more rural and pleasant it gets. Fulfilling all my preconceptions of Bath I passed some posh kids cheering on the school rowing teams.

Soundtrack: Electric 80s - Various

After a brief stop in Bath, I push on along the Avon-Kennet canal in the hope of reaching of Bradford on Avon before dark. This turns out to be a vain hope, which is a shame as apparently this is one of the highlights of the route, taking you over aquaducts and surrounded by pretty hills. Also, it's a royal pain in the arse trying to spot 20 cm cycle route signs in the dark, with a weedy front light. Thankfully all the wrong turns I took soon left me in someone's driveway/front-garden/a forest, so I was able to correct myself before going to far off route.

Bradford turned out to be an ideal stopping point, being a well-to-do suburb of Bath with plenty of pubs, two Italians, an Indian and a bike shop.

PS - You can find all the photos of this trip at Flickr

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gloucester to Hungerford Pt 1

Having previously completed the C2C and the Devon-Coast-to-Coast cycle routes, I decided to use up some holiday doing the "Gloucester-to-Hungerford-via-the-Avon-Kennet-Canal" or "GTGVTAKC" as I preferred to call it. The original plan was to go with my mate Barry, but unfortunately a nasty ear infection meant he had to stay behind in London while I caught the train up to Gloucester.

Gloucester seemed the very model of a sleepy cathedral town, it's quiet streets seeming a million miles (and approximately 3 decades) from modern-day London. Figuring I had an hour to spare, I spurned the cathedral and had a quick look round the (free!) Gloucester Folk Museum. Unfortunately I then had to spend a further 30 minutes trying to attach my new map holder to my bike. I'm not sure if I was doing something wrong, but in the end gave up and just wore the wap round my neck on a strap (which worked perfectly well)

The first part of the route follows canals and country lanes down the Severn Valley with the river itself occasionally hoving into view. Even though you only really see the beginning, it's nice to think you're following the course of the river. Unfortunately time constraints meant I didn't have time to stop at Slimbridge but had to crack on for the Village Farm in Elberton (my B&B for the night)

This first stage was nice enough, but I have to admit didn't really stir the soul. The terrain was mostly flat, 30 miles partially on pleasant country roads and partially on tow-paths. Having said that Elberton was nice, with a decent meal and beers in the White Hart.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Least Enticing Bike Route Ever ?

On the platform at Lockerbie station (I think). Apparently it runs *alongside* rather than *on* the motorway, but even so...

Having said that, it is a lovely bit of the country that it runs through

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Chain Reaction Pt 4

Finally got the chain fixed this weekend. Once I knew what I was doing it actually only took 5 minutes to fix. I also then used the chain wear tool to see whether the whole chain needs replacing, which it does :-(

Passed the above "chopper" on my way in, or rather I should say it passed me. Despite the rider having to pedal like some furious BMX-er, he was maintaining a pretty decent speed down the Kennington Road. Perhaps it's the low-slung, aerodynamic postion.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Chain Reaction Pt 3

If you're expecting a step-by-step guide about how to fix a broken chain, I'd wait a few more days till I'm actually able to do that. In the meantime, here's some "DON'T"s that may prove useful

1. Don't turn you bike upside down without removing your (open) panniers first

Picture says it all really

2. Don't forget to make a drawing of where the chain goes first

You'll forget as soon as your trying to re-attach the chain and when you're covered in oil is not the time to be looking round your house for a picture of a bike.

3. Don't re-attach the chain (using the SRAM link you bought) in such a way part of it is running outside of the frame.

You'll just swear a lot

4. Don't think "That's OK" - it should be possible to just slide my SRAM link back apart again

Apparently it *is* possible, but it requires skill and pliers, and not oily hands and no skill.

4. Don't think "That's not a problem", I can use my bike chain tool to remove another link, move the chain back inside the frame, before re-attaching the link using your bike chain tool.

The bike chain tool should be used to push a pin out part (but not all) of the way. See here for how to do it properly. If you do push the pin all the way out, there's no way on God's Green earth that you'll be able to get it back in.

I will now be buying another connex link, to replace the link where I took the completely out and hopefully I'll be able to be back on my bike (finally)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Bike Events in Brockwell Park This Weekend Pt 3

Cycle Training are now not appearing at the Urban Green Fair, but Dr. Bike will be.

Hopefully this is my last post on this subject :-)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Bike Events in Brockwell Park This Weekend Pt 2

Cycle Training UK have also said they'll be in Brockwell Park this Sunday, so if you're interested in getting some training on how to cope with London's not always bike friendly streets, pop by. I believe they even provide some subsidised/free courses via Lambeth Council.

PS I still haven't had a chance to repair my chain yet, so am having to make do with public transport again this week. Obviously a good week to do so.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Bike Events in Brockwell Park This Weekend

The "Urban Green Fair" this Sunday in Brockwell Park has a Bicycle Testing Zone, where you can try out different types of bikes and even better Brixton Bicycle Art will be teaching you how to repair and pimp your old bike.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Chain Reaction Part 2

I've spoken to my resident bike expert and in order to fix my chain I need to use a chain tool like this

(which I have) to remove the "busted-up" link and replace it with one of these

(which I don't). I can also use a chain wear tool like this

to tell whether the whole chain is knackered and just needs throwing in the bin.

Off to the bike shop at lunch, I'll let you know how I get on.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Chain Reaction

Yesterday morning, I rode to work marvelling at how well my freshly cleaned and oiled bike worked. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and each time I changed gear, you could hear the cogs bite with a satisfying clunk, and the movement on the shifters was smooth and definite.

Yesterday evening, my chain decided to explode and leave me to push the bike two miles home.

Not sure if I my cleaning was a little overzealous, or it was all an unfortunate coincidence, but I will be spending the evening learning how to repair and/or replace my chain.

I got a tattoo to commerate the ocassion (only joking, the image is from Louisiana BMX a site dedicated to BMX art!)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I Missed This Last Year... am hoping to catch some of their films this year.

2007 Bike Film Festival

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cycle Theft Chat

Chat online to a couple of coppers and some people from the Home Office, about how to avoid getting your bike nicked.

17th August, 12pm-2pm

Monday, August 13, 2007

This Looks Fun

The Hovis London Freewheel is a load of London streets closed to traffic on the 23rd September, for some car free fun.

PS The logo is mine, not the official one :-)

Cycling on the Isle of Wight

Last weekend I went off to the Isle of Wight for a long weekend. As part
of it, my girlfriend (a non cyclist) and I decided to hire some bikes in order to get around and just for it's own enjoyment. Thankfully the Isle of Wight seems a fairly cycle-friendly
, with plenty of bike hire places and a variety of routes around
the island.

As part of our hire of two bikes from Wight Cycle Hire we got the Cycle Wight pamphlet which lists 13 routes of varying difficulty (they also sell it seperately for £2.99). On the Saturday we chose the Sunshine Trail (12 miles), supposedly named as it orbits the part of the UK which gets the most sunlight per year. It runs from Shanklin through Wroxall, Godshill, Sandown, before returning to Shanklin and mostly runs on cycle-tracks and very quiet roads. The "challenging
off-road" section is basically across a field, bumpy in summer, and
probably a mud pit during the winter months. The route was lovely,
quickly leaving Shanklin for some very rural fields and scenery.

On the Sunday we went for the more challenging Shanklin to Ventnor and
back route, which includes two substantial hills and for a lot of the time sticks to the main road (more appealing than it sounds). Although less rural, it does take you
to Ventnor for a dip in the sea/pint at the ( Spyglass Inn. We also opted for the extension to. It's supposed to end at Niton but we didn't find much there (it was probably around the next corner). Luckily we spotted a sign for a beach cafe at St.Catherine's Point and had a late lunch there.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Oooo, nice

Combining my loves of not getting cold on a bike and peerless Jocko booze, is this great top from the Velo Club d'Ardbeg. I'm looking into doing a holiday up on Islay which will involve some cycling, and will update you with what I do.

PS. Apologies for the lack of updates of late, normal service should be resumed now.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Cycle Lanes Part II

Following the no doubt overwhelming response from readers of this very blog, the government seems to be backtracking on the idea of cycle lanes being compulsory.

Story on Government News Network

"Use cycle routes, advanced stop lines, cycle boxes and toucan crossings unless at the time it is unsafe to do so. Use of these facilities is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cycle Lane Petition

Cycle lanes are obviously "a good thing", generally making cycling more pleasant and safer. Unfortunately there are now moves afoot (see here) to make it compulsory to use one, when it's there. This is very much a bad thing as far as I am concerned, mostly because it fosters the attitude that cycle lanes are the *only* place for cyclists and encourages the already prevelant attitude that roads are for cars and we are somehow intruding on *their* space.

On top of that they are not always well maintained, kept free of parked cars and often integrate back into the road at rather dangerous spots.

Sign the petition here if you agree (thanks to the Crap Cycle Lanes of Croydon blog for the pic.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sorry for the lack of posts...

...I've been on holiday. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Cycling Entering The Mainstream... least in London. The front cover of today's Evening Standard is an editorial piece launching a "New Campaign For Safer Cycling". They want:

1 A real cycle network across London
2. Better cycle lanes with proper segregation
3. Enforcement of special advanced stop lines for cyclists
4. HGVs to be fitted with special cyclist safety mirrors
5. Compulsory cyclist awareness training for all bus drivers and new HGV
6. Cycle-friendly streets: fewer one-way systems which funnel cyclists
into the middle of traffic
7. More cycle parking across London
8. A police crack down on cycle theft
9. Make safe the Thames bridges: some of the most dangerous places for
10. Campaign to alert the self-employed that they can claim a 20p a mile
cycling allowance against tax
11. Better cycle-bus-rail coordination: adequate parking at all railway
12. Cycle training for all schoolchildren and any adult who wants it.

All pretty reasonable, I'd say. Most interesting it shows how much cycling has now entered the mainstream, in London at least, and is no longer solely regarded the preserve of right-on-lefty-types (and I speak as a right-on-lefty-type :-)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Interesting/Alarming Article

Today's Time has an article on a bit of research that shows that (apparently) more women are being killed on the roads by lorries turning left, because they are more likely to obey red lights.

My own way to avoid this (without jumping the red), is to *never* have a vehicle alongside you at a junction; lorry, bus or car. Either stop behind the vehicle at the front of the queue, or nudge out in front where the vehicle can see you (if safe to do so, and you're not peeing off the pedestrians crossing the road). Drivers seem spend their lives suddenly deciding to turn left at junctions, so you don't want to get in the way.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


I have to admit, I've always wanted to try out a recumbent (one of those bikes you lie down on, rather than sit up on), to see what they're like and see if you really can go a million miles-an-hour on them. The only problem is that I don't know anyone with one.

However this morning I found London Recumbents, a bike hire place in Dulwich Park who hire them out. They also hire "normal" bikes and provide traffic-free park-area to practice on, which I imagine is great for those who are thinking of buying a bike, but haven't ridden one since they were 13.

I'll report once I've given one a try.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I saw this bike in Soho Square today. Whereas my Specialized hybrid is a respectable, non-smoking, middle of the road type bike, this bike has a cigarette stuck to it's lip, drinks, gets tattoos and has a rockabilly haircut.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Possibly the best thing you will ever buy for your bike

Almost every cyclist I know has the following story. You buy a bike and start by using a hand-pump, mostly because you've probably used one before and they only cost about 3 quid. With a reasonably amount of elbow grease you inflate your tyres to what seems like "pretty pumped up".

Then one day you plug in a pump with a gauge on it and find that you've been riding around for 6 months on half-inflated tyres. You now inflate them to the correct amount and the first time you go out on the bike again, it rides like the day you bought it! Nothing will sap the speed you cycle at like riding around on under-inflated tyres.

I currently have one from Decathalon for £20, which works fine but is a complete pain to connect and disconnect from the tyre. I used one of these from Wiggle at the weekend at it was much easier. Definitely worth the extra 10 pounds I think.

PS Don't forget to keep your hand-pump for when you're out and about.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Devon Coast to Coast Prep. Part I

Some friends and I have decided to do the Devon Coast to Coast in June this year, so did our first preparation ride on Sunday. Went for the nice, straightforward 18 miler to start with, the Heron Trail. As most of my long distance rides have been on my own, I have to admit I'd forgotten how fun it can be cycling with other people.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a camera, so have no amazing pictures to display, however we did see some nice, rolling estuary countryside, a baby rabbit, a castle and some excellent mispellings on a pub poster. The route would be of particular interest to bird lovers, as it passes not one but two RSPB bird reserves. Otherwise though it was a most pleasant trip.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Prepostorous Puncture

Last weekend I got a puncture and while feeling around inside the tyre for the tack or thorn that had caused it I found this.

It was almost totally inside the tyre, with only maybe 1mm protruding to the outside world.

This must be a world record for largest item found in a tyre.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Free Bike Checkup... Brockwell Park. According to Lambeth Cyclists

"Lambeth Council has organised a series of Dr Bike's, in Brockwell Park,
run by Cycle Training UK.

There's one this Sunday 18th March 12-4pm. We should be up by the cafe."

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Velorution is a cool little bike shop with a difference. If you ride in London, chances are you ride (and were sold) something pretty sporty, either something closely related to a racer (something designed for cycling at 40mph through the French country side whacked up on EPO) or a mountain bike (designed for pulling "gnarly" moves in the great outdoors). The Velorution philosophy seems to be that neither of these designs are especially designed for riding around the city in comfort and style, and so they've looked to the Continent for bikes and inspiration (think the kind of bikes you seem in Amsterdam). The intention is that these are the kind of bikes you could ride in your work clothes (not lycra) and need little maintainence.

Some of them are absolutely gorgeous, and it's quite refreshing to walk around a bike shop where most of them have 7 gears, not 27. Unfortunately such style does not currently come cheap, but who knows maybe this could be the beginning of a sea change in London bike culture.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Getting Out of London

One of the best things about having a bike in London, is being able to take it out of London! The best books I've come across so far, are the Philip's Cycle Tours ones. The rides tend to be around the 20-40 mile mark, with a range of difficulties and all of them are circular. The directions are pretty clear and feature Ordnance Survey maps, so if you're used to them, you'll be fine. The book also lists the nearest station so you can get there and back.

My only quibbles are that I would prefer a few longer rides, and that the mix of difficulties varies from book to book (some seem to have more easy or difficult ones than others), so check before you buy that it has the right level for you.

Around South London
Around North London

Friday, March 09, 2007

Bike Powered Radio

The Bike Show is an excellent weekly online radio show covering the world of biking in all it's many forms. Shows have covered the London Bicycle Film Festival, the forthcoming visit of the Tour De France to London and experimental bike music (!!), as well as more practical London cycling matters such as avoiding accident blackspots and how bicycle storage in the Capital can be improved.

Listen on Resonance FM, 104.4FM in Central London, Monday nights 6:30pm or listen online anytime

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bikes In the Papers

You may have noticed that the papers (well, Guardian, Observer and Independent) went bike nuts at the weekend. The Guardian supplement was particularly good with reviews, articles and lots of routes. You can access it online

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Hopping Down To Brighton

I cycled to Brighton yesterday. Not on the annual, organised bike ride, but just following National Cycle Routes 21 and 20 (see National Cycle Network map, big pdf). The route is mostly on quiet roads, backstreets, paths, etc (even going through a multi-story car park at Gatwick!). 67 miles from my house, which is the furthest I've ever cycled in ridden in one day. A few big hills, and a little bit of off-road (I wouldn't recommend parts of it on a racing bike)

One of the best bits is that the route largely follows the trainline to Brighton, so if you have difficulty (and you have planned well) can always bale out early.

It's mostly very well sign-posted, but I'd still strongly recommend getting the official map . In particular, once you get to Crawley, you get the impression the signposting guy only had ten signs left to last him till Brighton and he decided he'd better use them sparingly.

Friday, March 02, 2007

London Journey Planners

One of the things that can be most intinidating about cycling in London, can be finding a cycle-friendly route. Two sites that I've found very useful are:

TFL Journey Planner


London Cyclemaps (down at the time of writing)

My impression is that the Transport For London site (you have to go into "More Options" and select "Cycle") seems to favour official cycle routes (either on roads, or through parks, towpaths, etc), whereas Cyclemaps prefers backroads. But the best thing to do is try both, and pick the one (or combination of both) you prefer.

And if you prefer paper maps, don't forget you can get free cycle maps from LCC and TFL (and often your local bike shop)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bike Maintenance Videos

Great stuff found on YouTube- nice simple advice on maintaining your bike, what I've been looking for, for ages. Plus seeing it in moving pictures makes it nice and straightforward. It's made by Weldtite, so obviously promotes their products a bit, but the advice seems sound.

Looks like there's a whole series of them too

Cute Shirt

From the ever-reliable Howies

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sideways Bike

This is apparently is the "first major development in bicycle design for 150 years", although I have to say I'm not really sure in what way this "develops" bikes. Looks pretty lethal on the BBC news site, but almost ride-able on the inventors own site

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Yellow Signs

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Not wishing to make light of serious crimes, but my new ride to work features a more "interesting" standard of Police Notices. Not only is the above sign currently outside Jamm, but there's a sign at the bottom of my road about police finding a "live hand grenade".

It's like cycling through a frontier town

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Cycling In The Snow

Today's valuable lesson, the London roads you normally love to cycle on (back streets, quiet) in the snow are the very ones that are uncleared and full of iced up speed-bumps, whereas the one you normally avoid (main roads, full-of-traffic) are pretty empty and are cleared of snow.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

How To Not Get Hit By Cars

Tips on how to cycle in the city and avoid getting smushed by motorists. If you cycle on the other side of the road, give this link a go.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New Route, New Sights

One of the things I love about cycling in London is that you see "stuff" , that you don't see, sealed away underground in a tube. Having just moved to Herne Hill, I have a new route in to work, and it didn't disappoint. While navigating the Vauxhall roundabout this morning, I spotted a normal urban scene; nightclub entrance, bouncers and clubbers queuing to get in. At 7am on a Monday morning!

Apparently this is quite normal now, with some clubbers staying out till Monday or Tuesday lunchtime!