Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New London Bike Shop...

...well, a bike-shop specialising in Fixed/Single-Speed, so not sure how well it caters for those of us not wearing skinny jeans.

Tour De Ville

I'll make a trip up there soon and give it a review.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Another Nice Mapping Tool

I've just come across Bikehike, a website which combines Google Maps, Ordnance Survey Maps and elevation date to make a rather powerful off-road (and hiking) route planner. The OS map pane is great, as it has far more detail than the Google maps, so you can plan trips through forests, over muddy tracks, across fields, etc, that Google alone would struggle with. The elevation graphs are nice too, allowing you to switch between pure elevation and incline (where you can see how much of the ride you'll be going "Arrgh" and how much you'll be going "wheeeeee").

Maybe less use for plain old road-riding and I don't actually have an MTB myself, but I'll certainly be using it for planning my next walk.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Be Careful Out There!

Not one, but two friends of mine fell off bikes while hitting black ice last night; you can see the results of one rider <-> tarmac interface above!

It looks like the weather's getting "warmer" (i.e. not below zero) in London for the immediate future, but it's worth bearing in mind, next time you head out there in near-zero temperatures.

Monday, December 08, 2008

You Won't Get Far With That Front Wheel...

...not to mention the flat at the back

(from Norwoord Road in Herne Hill)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Lovely picture

Pictures like this make me want to leave the South East (where it snows rarely) and move further North.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Does Anyone Know...

...when you should replace your bike helmet ? In particular, I'm wondering about after dropping it. A lot of sites on the internet (the source of all reliable information) suggest you should replace it in that situation, but none of them specify what constitutes dropping it. I'm fairly sure that of the people I cycle with, all four of us have dropped a helmet from table/handlebar height at least once. Does this really ruin the integrity of the helmet ?

Best advice I found was on the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute site. One of their criteria for replacement is "Is The Helmet From the 1970s ?" :-)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

More Bike Tattoos

I've mentioned bike tats in the past but they seem to be growing in popularity. Check out some of these "bad boys" from Wired

Crap Cycle Junctions of London #1

Queen Victoria Street and Queen Street, Mansion House

Want to encourage red-light jumping in cyclists ? Then why not create a set of cycle traffic lights where the cyclists only get one green-light for every two green-lights that the rest of the traffic and the pedestrians get. Guaranteed to either make people think that the lights are broken or just infuriate them that they're regarded as less important than everyone else.

Not mention the queue of cyclists that back up, blocking the pavement...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Rapha Sample Sale

A bit late, but if you're a fan of ponce-tastic Rapha cycling clothes (actually, they're not that bad :-)) they're having a sample sale, starting tonight. 18:00 - 20:30 @ Condor Cycles (51 Grays Inn Road, Clerkenwell, WC1X 8PP).

It's also on tomorrow between 10:00 and 17:00

Friday, October 24, 2008

My ideal beer

They make Belgian-style beer! They like all the organic, granola, hippy crap I like! They like bikes!

Just need to find somewhere in the UK stocking them now.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Apologies again

Sorry to all my reader :-) for the lack of posts recently. I had one of my bikes stolen (along with Jen's) and it put me in somewhat of a bad mood re: the world of bicycling. Not sure that there's too much of interest in the theft itself, we'd been a little naive about the security of where they were kept. Live, learn and don't get too attached to physical possessions.

On a more positive note, I went to Amsterdam at the weekend, which is generally regarding as a cycling city. Interesting to see, the whole approach to bikes (at least in the city centre) seems to be that they are purely functional. Everyone rides "granny bikes" because of their lack of desirability to thieves. I think I only saw two people on single-speeds in the whole weekend (in some parts of London these days, you'd be hard-pushed to see two people not on single-speeds these days). I saw a few people out on nice road-bikes, but this was out on the roads in the middle of the countryside. For the commuter the purely most-basic wins.

And if you ever stay in Amsterdam, I can recommend this place

Friday, September 26, 2008

Open Cycle Map

I've recently bought a cheap second-hand GPS and have been playing about with it. One thing it's introduced me to, is Open Cycle Map, a sub-project within Open Street Map. The idea behind OSM is to generate open-source map-data, which people can use without the usual restrictions that apply to data from Ordnance Survey (see this for the whole story). The Open Cycle Map project plans to use this data, to plot the National Cycle Network, along with other useful cycling features (shops, cycle parking, etc).

The map already seems considerably more user-friendly than that on the Sustrans site and will presumably only get better. I've already started contributing to OSM (tagging up some pubs in my local area, natch) and hopefully once I get a bit more up-to-speed with my GPS, I can start adding some cycle routes too.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Armstrong in, Contador out (probably) at Astana

The newly un-retired Lance Armstrong looks set to join the Astana cycling team. This is a bit of a shame for their other big signing of the year, last year's Tour winner Alberto Contador, who has hinted he'll be offsky if this happens.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Aldi Bike Bargains

Before I begin, I should point out; I've never bought any bike gear from Aldi, so have no idea of the quality (or whether it's made by 8 year-old children in Bangladesh). However, by the look of things some of these are at least worth an investigate. Most eye catching has to be the SPD Cycling Shoes for £19.99! Although looking at the picture they look like they're made out of some plasticky, non-leather, non-breathable material. Perhaps most practical are the overshoes (£5.99, including cap!) and the bike holder

Not sure about the locks though, I've heard rumours of groups of friends buying locks from Aldi/Lidl and finding that all the keys opened each others locks.

It all goes on sale tomorrow (18th) - more details here

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Latest Purchase

Well, a birthday present actually. Despite sounding quite dull, the bike stand is one of those incredibly useful things that I can't believe I haven't bought thus far. If you've ever tried to do any kind of cleaning or maintenance, that requires the turning of your pedals and back wheel, you'll know you have two options: turn the bike upside down, or ask your partner to come and help you while you swear a lot. Neither of these is ideal, I find.

The Minoura DS500 Bike Stand takes the place of your partner, lifting the wheel a few centimetres of the ground allowing the back-wheel and pedal to turn freely. Note, if you want one of those full size ones you see in bike workshops (so you can fix the bike while standing up), you'll have to splash some extra cash, plus they tend to be quite big. The strength of this model is that it folds down to about a foot-and-a-half.

Even better it has some of the best mistranslated instructions I've seen. I particularly liked:

"Do not ride bike while is on DS500. The man will be injured when the bike fallded down"

Thanks to Jen for buying it for me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

And If You Can't Wait That Long For The Tour of Britain

Whilst just searching for a repeat of The Professionals, I've found out that ITV4 are showing the Tour Of Ireland each night at 7pm this week. Come on Cavendish.

Tour Of Britain Comes To London

Having thoroughly enjoyed a couple of bike race events over the last 12 months (last year's Tour De France prologue in London and the Smithfield's Nocturne) I can recommend the upcoming London Stage of the Tour Of Britain on Sunday 7th of September. The line-up looks pretty strong, offering a chance to see a good selection of British riders, both those from the Tour De France (David Millar, Mark Cavendish) as well as those who've excelled at the Olympics over the last few weeks (Geraint Thomas, Bradley Wiggins), not to mention riders from further afield.

The route forms a circuit along the Embankment between Tower Hill and Westminster. For more info, have a butchers here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Things I Learnt Last Weekend

  • Printed out Google maps are not really adequate for locating campsites down Peak's country lanes at 12:30 in the morning

  • You can, however, find sneaky spots in the Peak's National Park for doing some wild-camping, if needs must

  • The Goldeneye Map of the Peak District is great for suggesting cycle routes, but you have to be very careful when navigating as the level of detail is a bit lacking (I took at least three wrong turns thanks to the map)

  • If you are going to put your bike in guard's van on a East Midlands train (which has nothing for you to attach it to) don't then sit in the carriage next to it, otherwise you will hear your bike smashing to the floor, the first time the train rounds a bend

  • The Peak District is hugely pretty

Actually I already knew that last one, I'd just forgotten.

So as you can probably tell from the above, the trip turned out to be "eventful". In particular the whole finding-the-campsite/wildcamping incident meant I didn't get to sleep till 1:30-2am (and was then up again at 5:30am taking my tent down, before anyone official found me). This all lead to me being knackered on the Saturday morning and downgrading my cycling plan from the route mentioned here to this one. It was still 50 miles and about as hilly as I was capable of on the day. In particular Winnat's Pass (which has a 20% gradient) utterly defeated me at the end of the day, but was still an impressive geological feature. Coming down the other side towards Edale was lovely though (always enjoyable flying down a hill while others plod up with gritted teeth. On heavy mountain bikes). Other highlights included the Broken Road, the shady, forested hill around Cressbrook and the long, open descent from Wormhill.

The North Lees Campsite (when I finally got there at 6:30 on the Saturday morning) was nice. Just a shower/toilet block and drying room by way of facilities, but pleasant, wooded surroundings and a good, secluded location. Note - if you're walking/pushing a bike to the site, it's *far* quicker to take the footpaths up from Hathersage village centre, rather than walk on the road.

Unfortunately I didn't manage to wangle a diversion to Arbor Low, but did discover Night Watchman beer

Definitely could do with some more hill practice, so off to Leith Hill again, this weekend I think.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Best Bike Ever!

A write-up of my weekend's Peaks District adventures will follow soon, but in the meantime, I've just spotted this on eBay. Possibly the greatest bike ever. It can do "moderate off-roading" and has even take 3 adults once (there was a pub involved, inevitably)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ready for the Weekend (maybe)

I'm off to the Peaks this weekend, to give the new bike a thorough workout. I have:

  • bought a Goldeneye Cycling Map of the Peaks

  • picked out a route (looks hilly, looks hard, will probably end up doing something else

  • done some practice (up and down Crystal Palace Hill. Up and down Leith Hill/Box Hill/etc on the South Downs

  • bought a seat bag to put my stuff in.

  • bought some energy bars

Hopefully, it will be a weekend of hard, but rewarding climbs, beautiful scenery, Neolithic Stones and nice beer.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

What to Do When Your Derailleur Goes All Knackered

Jen, David and I did a bike ride on Sunday (from the Around South London book, 32 miles from Headcorn, "two water bottles" difficulty) and although it was largely a pleasant ride through rural Kent, it all went a bit wrong towards the end.

Pic courtesy of Jen

As we were coming up a hill into Sissinghurst, something happened to David's gears, resulting in bad noises and an inability to change gears without the chain coming off. After much road side poking and prodding between the three us, and a tentative "I'll give it a quick ride see if that's fixed it" from David, it became apparent that the derailleur was not guiding the chain correctly, resulting in it constantly trying to move it onto another ring. Given that it was patently not behaving we were now in the "let's see if we can bend it back into the right place" territory, but we hadn't noticed that a plastic peg had snapped, so that the derailleur was completely knackered. We all stood around marvelling about how little we knew about how gears worked. We ended up pushing the bikes for 6 miles.

So what can you do if this happens and you're miles from a bike shop and you don't have a spare derailleur with you? Are you doomed to push your bike for the rest of the route? Well, the best advice I've found is to:

1 - Put the bike in a gear you will be happy cycling in for the rest of the day (bit hard, as you'll have to guess a bit, but probably something in the middle)
2 - Remove the chain using a chain tool (that I forgot)
3 - Remove enough links (using your tool) so that the chain will go round the large front and back rings ONLY (missing out the two small cogs) with a fair degree of tension
4 - Replace the chain around those two only (using a spare chain link, which I DID remember)

These pics hopefully show what I mean.


You have effectively made a single-gear bike, which you should be able to pedal, but will obviously struggle to go up hills/break the land speed record, but hopefully the chain should stay on long enough for you to get home/to the bike shop. However please note:

1 - Removing links from chains is a tricky job at the best of times, so best not to do it for the first time when you really need to fix your bike. This describes it in reasonable depth.


Thanks to "Slice" for the single-gear suggestion

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New Bike

Exciting news! I finally took the plunge and bought a new bike. A colleague (my boss, in fact) was selling his Condor Squadra which he rode up Alpe D’Huez in L'Etape a few years ago and I made the mistake of giving it a test-ride. This was the first time I've ridden a "proper" road bike, since I fell off one in a church car park in Renfrewshire 25 years ago, and it was a pretty revelatory experience. Suddenly I was faster than most people. Suddenly I made lights, that previously I got caught at every day. Suddenly I didn't have anywhere to put my panniers :-)

So having umm-ed and ahh-ed, and learnt about groupsets, and test-rode a heap of other racers at Evans, I decided that the sheer enjoyment of riding the bike was too much to forego and decided to buy it. I got a good price (even with our work's Ride2Work scheme, I couldn't get anything quite as good for the same cash for new).

So what to do now ? I don't want to just use the bike for commuting, but as the bike is built to be as light as possible, it isn't really designed to then have a load of panniers on it, as would happen if I took it off for a weekend tour like my "Gloucester to Hungerford" trip. I think I need to re-think my trips into circular ones where I leave all my stuff back at base, while just how far I can go in one day before I fall over. My first planned trip is to the Peak District in a few weekend’s time. Not sure of my route yet, but somewhere starting (and finishing) around Hathersage/Edale I think.

More to follow...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Oh Dear!

David Cameron (leader of the Conservative party and someone who makes great play of his cycling credentials) has had his bike nicked from outside Tescos in Portobello Road), although according to the Evening Standard "Cameron had chained it to a 2ft bollard, allowing thieves to lift both the bike and the lock clear"

<shakes head>

Monday, July 21, 2008

New Cycling "Knickers"

This week I've been wearing my new Swrve "knickers" (American for 3/4 length trousers). I have to say these are awesome, being specifically cut for cycling, but at the same time are almost smart enough that you can wear in the office/pub (if you can't be bothered changing). They have nice big pockets at the back and are cut lower at the front so they don't into your stomach when you're bent over on the bike.

I bought them at this place in Vancouver (benefitting from the strong pound) for about £45 but at more expensive over here unfortunately £65. They're still worth trying if they sound like they might be your kind of thing

I've got them in cotton, but you can also get them in more technical fabrics, if you need.

Highlight of the Week

While watching the Tour De France yesterday on ITV4 I noticed that on the road, in white paint instead of the usual list of riders names (Evans, Cav, Schleck, etc) or messages from the Socialist Party of France, someone had painted a large 15ft cock and balls (someone British, I'm guessing :-))

I'll post a picture as soon as I can find one.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bikes and Trains

Trains and bikes should go well together, however privitisation and overcrowding seem to have left a situation where different companies have different policies at different times and checking them requires judicious use of Google. Thankfully A To B Magazine maintain an up-to-date and in-depth guide to all the networks' different restrictions.

In fact it's so in-depth that it will tell you what all the companies' policies on tandems are, should you be interested.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Back from holiday... posts to follow.

In the meantime, anyone who's had their chain snap will appreciate David Millar's reaction during the last 1km of a stage of last month's Giro D'Italia

Friday, June 27, 2008

Boris on helmets, terrorists and liberty

As you may know, the new mayor of London is a cyclist, but doesn't much like helmets. This causes great consternation to a lot of people (setting a bad example to children, etc. etc). Here he attempts to address the issue in his usual "bumbling" way. Clear a couple of days in your diary if you intend to read all the comments that follow it.

By the way, does anyone really think that kids are going influenced by the behaviour of Boris "Cool" Johnson ?

Pic from the Telegraph.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New Bike Mag

The Ride

The website makes it look quite trendy, but according to the creators:

"The journal is our stab at capturing the soul of cycling. Sod the reviews and route guides, we're about passion in riding, whatever bike its on. We're track, mountain bike, bmx, road, commuting, racing, free-ride. As long as people have a love for bikes then we're interested."

Be interesting to see what it's like.

Incidentally, if you're after a trendy bike mag, then you could do worse than check out Rouleur. I'm sure it's creators wouldn't mind me describing it as "coffee-table" (a polite way of saying 9 quid an issue), but if you like classic photography of epic Tour De France stages, you'll probably like it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sometimes you just need a new tyre

After 5 punctures in as many days (and an evening where three of us pored over the tyre looking for sub-atomic embedded bits of glass/stone/etc) I finally gave up and bought a new tyre. It was only 20 quid and if it means I don't have to use a cycle-pump or puncture repair kit this week it will have been worth it.

(picture of funky no-cycle sign taken in Barbican centre)

Friday, June 13, 2008

How Very Dare They

I've just noticed that at the bottom of my last receipt for some repairs at Brixton Cycles, under "Notes and Recommendations" it says

"Recommend cleaning your bike. It will work better"

They're right though,

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

If you find modern cycling...

...a little bit uncivilised, perhaps you'd care to check these people out, The Tweed Cycle Club. Apparently they organise rides from London.

I particularly like the following advice:

If the barometer forecasts rain, the cyclist is wise to remain in bed or repair to a hostelry for refreshment. Should there be no alternative to riding through a downpour, a fisherman's so'wester will keep the head dry allowing the cyclist to face into the heart of storm and push on with resolve and determination, remembering that moral fibre is the sturdiest of fabrics.

Monday, June 09, 2008

A Weekend of Cycling

On Saturday, Jen and I headed up to Smithfields to watch the Smithfields Nocturne. If you don't know this is an evening of cycle racing including some pretty big names (Geraint Thomas, Ed Clancy, Rob Hayles) as well as some more fun races including the infamous Folding Bike Race, in which competitors have to wear business attire. The whole thing was very enjoyable (helped by the plethora of nice pubs in the vicinity) in an impressive setting with the opportunity to be alarmed at just how fast pro-cyclists go (they barely came out in my photos in the evening light)

On Sunday we headed down to picture-postcard Sussex to do the Rye - Camber - Lydd route from the Sustrans website. If you've not been to this part of world before, it has quite an odd landscape: flat as a pancake, dotted with holiday homes and Dungeness dimly visible in the distance. The only problem with the actual cycle route is that large parts of it are on a rough track, next to the road. This is great if you're a family with kids who want to be safe, but for everyone else it limits your speed and you don't feel particularly removed from the noise and pollution from the cars.

On the way back we took the road, which is actually nicer - you can get a decent speed up and the traffic is reasonably light. It also meant we got back to Camber in time for quick dip in the sea.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Motorbikes in Bus Lanes

Allowing motorbikes in bus lanes is a contentious issue. Ken trialled a couple of schemes which showed a reduction in accidents, but then allegedly (according to the Evening BorisStandard ) the report was suppressed to avoid antagonising cyclists. Now Boris is in office he is planning on pressing ahead with it

Personally I've not had a problem with motorcyclists in bus lanes, but, it would be nice if motorbikes could be kept out of the cycle boxes at junctions a bit more effectively.

If you feel inclined, here's the LCC anti-motorbikes in bus lanes petition

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Easy Rides in the South East

A useful link if, like me, you are planning some short cycling trips in the South East. Also they will hopefully be well signposted. Signage on Sustrans routes can be variable in quality. For instance, NCN1 from London to Brighton starts off brilliantly, however by the time you're cycling across Tilgate golf course (an official part of the route!) without a sign in sight, you may be doubting your own sanity.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Insane Bike

While searching for Raleigh Grifters on ebay (just out of curiosity, don't worry I have no intention of becoming a Hoxton Twat riding around on a 70s kid's bike which is 10 time smaller than me!) I found this:

If you don't remember it, the Raleigh Vektar was their attempt to make a futuristic electonic bike. As well as the more usual features (wheels, gears, saddle, etc), the Vektar featured:
  • computer (for speed and distance)

  • an AM radio (with attena dangling off the rear of the bike)

  • a sound effects generator!!

I'm not sure, but I'm guessing the sound effects would have included lasers and sirens. Of course, being the 80s, these electronics occupy a good third of the bike, whereas nowadays they could fit in one of the tyre caps.

I actually took part in some Raleigh market-research for this when I was a kid, so I am partly to blame for this bad boy! They came to Heston Village Hall and paid us a couple of quid to quiz us about it. Unfortunately although I remember the bike, I have no recollection of what I thought of it. Looking back, it's hard to see how this
didn't provoke some kind of reaction in me!

See here for more details

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Favourite Bike Shop In London

My girlfriend has just bought a bike which has meant quite a few weekends over the last few months have been spent trawling round the bike shops of London, trying bikes out and watching customer service in action.

Our requirements were a bike mostly for fun rides at weekends, rather than commuting, suitable the odd footpath/canal towpath/forest track, but nothing remotely gnarly and off-road. Price range: £300-400.

Evans, Spitalfields - this initially scores highly by being big and therefore browser friendly and unintimidating for someone who doesn't want to be pounced on by a sales assistant the second they enter. However after this point, we found the service rather lacking. They didn't have any bikes in her size in stock, only suggested two different models and rather pushily got us to reserve one for a test-ride next week (the more expensive of the two, natch, £50 deposit required). My objection to this is that someone who's new to cycling may not know what they want, far better to get them trying stuff out (even if it's a similar, more expensive model), just so that you can be sure of their requirements. The person at Evans seemed far keener on getting us dealt with as quick as possible (they were pretty busy that day) 5/10

Cycle Surgery, Spitalfields - also crowded and again, didn't have the right frames in stock. This time however, they were keen to get Jen on similar bikes to establish stuff such as whether she would prefer a ladies frame or not. Also, sent us round the corner to their other store, to ensure she could try some other bikes they didn't have in stock. If you want to go to one of the chains, this would be our recommendation. 8/10

Brixton Cycles, Brixton - Initial impressions are quite intimidating as this store is small and all the assistants look like grungy cycle couriers. It was also extremely busy as it was the first hot Saturday of the year. However once we managed to flag down an assistant the experience was great. The staff's enthusiasm for cycling was manifest (they seemed pleased that you wanted to ride a bike!) and they took as long as was necessary with you, even though the queue in the store was getting longer. Somehow, the guy serving us juggled several other people all test-riding bikes and asking Jen useful questions to aid in the decision making process.

The only drawbacks were the busy-ness and the slight chaos in the store (when we went to pick up Jen's bike the following week, they said it was ready when they still needed to fix a few things on it). We'd definitely recommend it for buying a new bike, just don't go when you're in a hurry. 9/10

(Thanks to CTC Maps for the photo