Thursday, October 22, 2009

Something Which Has Always Puzzled Me

I can understand people who choose to wear cycle helmets.

I can understand people who choose not to wear cycle helmets.

What I don't understand is people who carry a helmet around, dangling off their handlebars. What are they saving it for, some particularly gnarly bit of their route to work ? Or perhaps they just enjoy the extra challenge of having some extra weight on their handlebars to complicate their steering?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Watching Next Year's Tour

The route for the 2010 Tour has been announced and Rotterdam has been chosen for le Grand Depart. The Bike Show has some nice ideas for getting over there via Eurostar and bike, and watching the early stages in Holland. I'd be particularly tempted to see the stage in Brussels or maybe stage 3 from Wanze yo Arenberg Porte du Hainaut and combine it with a trip to the monasterey in Westvleteren to pick up some of their beer.

Having said that, I think an upcoming addition to the family may limit my future cycling jaunts :-)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pants and more cycle cinema

There are many great things about riding a bike to work, but forgetting a change of pants and socks TWO DAYS IN A ROW is not one of them. There's only so many times you can ask your boss if you can pop out for 10 minutes to buy some underwear.

On a lighter note - the London Bike Film Festival opened last night and I went along to watch Breaking Away, the 1979 film about small-town American life, broken dreams and cycling. I'd not seen it before, but it was a lot of fun and more light-hearted than I expected. The climax of the film is, essentially, a bicycle relay race, complete with the competitors passing the bike from team-member to team-member. It was frankly, insane! Do such things exist, or was it just a dramatic invention for the purposes of the plot?

The festival is on for the rest of the weekend at the Barbican. I think Tour Des Legends looks particularly good. Get down there if you want to some more cycle-oriented movies; there was a great atmosphere last night, plus current British Road Race Champion, Kristian House was there.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bike Films For The Bank Holiday

Tomorrow night, Monday, in Brockwell Park they're showing the fantastic Belleville Rendezvous, along with live music, a bike race and The Harder They Come (not sure about the bike connection with that one, I thought it was about reggae). More details here

And if you're looking for something more environmental, the Climate Camp in Blackheath is showing some films about sustainable transport tonight, Sunday, "when it gets dark" using bicycle generators! Go to the camp entrance (off Hare & Billett Road) and ask to be directed to the 'cyclology tent'.

Picture courtesy of "reynard"

Sunday, August 16, 2009

London Bridge Bike Park

I've seen cycle parks in other cities (Bristol, Amsterdam) but not London until today. Luckily I have pretty good facilities at my office, but if you don't and work around the City, this could be a useful facility. Although, you will have to put up with the bell-end outside the "London Tombs" pretending to guillotine tourists.

Apparently there's one in Finsbury Park too.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


Wow! Did anyone else just get caught in that downpour? The Brixton Road was so bad that even the buses abandoned the bus lane for fear of drowning.

Still the Carradice ("that handbag" © my boss) proved exceptionally water-tight. Everything was still bone dry by the time I got home. Same couldn't be said for "other parts" of me. Times like these I wish Gore-tex shorts were less expensive and less "fetish" looking

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Old Bikes

What better way to have a "lifestyle change", than to open a shop restoring vintage road bikes. I shall be cycling up to Sargent & Co in Finsbury Park soon, to check it out.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Made Me Laugh

"Why spend a king's ransom on the latest titanium confection when any weight advantage will be rendered irrelevant by a cheese-and-pickle sandwich and a thermos of soup?"

:-) From the Tweed Cycling Club

Incidentally, I saw the following *very* non-titanium bike outside an Old Street (natch) pub last night. I don't think I've ever seen such Heath Robinson looking brakes before

Friday, July 03, 2009

AA for Bikes?

I've often wondered if such a thing exists and then this morning I found business card for Bike-Ade outside my office. He only covers Central London, but it sounds a good idea nonetheless.

I hope I can fix most minor problems myself, and if anything more serious happens I'd probably just walk to a station, but I'll keep the card anyway, just in case.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

First Big Ride on the New Bike

I've finally taken advantage of the good weather to take the new bike out for a (long) spin. I found the Ten Thames Bridges 100k route on Bikely and augmented it with an extra 50k between Herne Hill and the start of the route in Windsor.

The section from home to Windsor took in lots of West London, including much of Heathrow Airport. Whilst low on rutal charm, I have to admit to finding the environs of Heathrow oddly fascinating; all the low rise, anonymous business parks interspersed with 1930s suburban houses long since seperated from their demolished neighbours. Not to mention the constant stream of jets overhead - I soon passed the time playing guess the destination based on my (hazy) knowledge of airline tail logos.

The Ten Thames Bridges route itself was pretty lovely; lots of Home Counties greenery and obviously a number of bridges varying from the fairly imposing Marlow Suspension Bridge to a thin, no-cycling walkway across Mill End Weir. The latter was actually a highlight, despite having to get off and push, as you felt a lot closer to the water, with the Thames rushing, crystal-clear below. Having said that I'm not sure I'd get out the picnic chairs halfway across as one elderley couple had done.

Using just a printed out Bikely map for the route wasn't great (translation: massive navigation fail!). In future I think I'll create some kind of prompt sheet, complete with distances between turnings. There's nothing better at bringing down your average speed than having to ride up a hill that you're not 100% sure is on the route. At one point in the afternoon my nav was so off I had to turn on the GPS funcitonality of my Nokia N95 to work out which way I'd veered off the route proper.

The bike seemed perfectly up to the distance and in particular the Brooks saddle was a revelation. No sore undercarriage the next day. The Carradice saddle bag was also up to the task, storing plenty. However it's definitely from a "gentler" age of cycling - no ability to quickly remove and attach it when parked up outside a newsagents in the dodgy part of town.

Having convinced myself 150k is do-able, I think the next step is to maybe do an audax of a similar length. I've been eyeing up these two - Ruislip 205k and Luton and Herts 150k. Has anyone ridden either of them before?

I was pretty exhausted by the end, but sitting at Datchett station aftewards having a lucozade and salt-and-vinegar Discos, I was pretty pleased with a good day's riding.

(aerial pic of Marlow Suspension bridge courtesy of/stolen from

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

10% off Rapha

Promotional code I picked up at the Smithfields Nocturne:
gets you 10% off on their site.

Although that still leaves them a little dearer than Halfords.

Valid at until the 20th

Friday, June 12, 2009

Penny Farthings and Bike Week

Last Sunday I caught the tail end of the Veteran Cycle Club's annual event at the Herne Hill Velodrome. It has to be said, there's something pretty awesome about seeing a Penny Farthing "racing" around the a bike track against other cycles from antiquity (I'd tell you what they were, but I haven't a clue - a velocipede? Solid tyred bike? No idea!). Unfortunately we only got there for the very end, so I think we'll have to return next year, but it does look they put on other events

Loads of bike events coming up this week (being Bike Week and all), but a few which have caught my eye are:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bike Tubes

One good thing that might come out of this - the LCC organised some "Bike Tubes" today, where they led a number of groups of cyclists into central-London from pre-arranged locations (Ravenscourt Park, Finsbury Park...).

I couldn't see from the site whether they are repeating this tomorrow, but they do say they'll be running more Bike Tubes in future, even if there's no disruption. Sounds like a good introduction to commuting into London to me.

Mayhem On The Roads Today

As you may know, there's a tube-strike today. Rather than use it as an opportunity to "work from home", Londoners seems to have decided to battle in anyway possible, with the streets already rammed at 7:15. Here's your I-Spy cut-out-and-keep guide to the strike
  • Red-faced tube workers manning picket line outside a station (10 pts)
  • Commuter shouting at red-faced tube workers (20 pts)
  • Twelve people trying to hail the same taxi at once (20 pts)
  • Pedestrian walking out in front of you because their head is buried in their A-Z as they attempt to work out how to get to their office (50 pts)
  • Cyclist, riding a bike that hasn't been used since the late 80s and certainly not in rush-hour London, wobbling across three lanes of traffic in an alarming fashion (100 pts)
  • Company director, in flash car, equally un-used to rush-hour traffic, cutting up the novice cyclists in order to try and grab the last parking spot (100 pts)
It'll be an interesting couple of days.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Back On The Road

Finally, my Evans voucher arrived and I popped over to the store to pick up the new steel stead. With hindsight, I should have perhaps got the voucher for a bigger amount, as it's not often you get the opportunity to buy what you want in a bike shop, effectively at half-price with six months to pay it off. In the end I contented myself with a new lock and some SPD pedals.

I've also added a Brook's B-17 saddle, as per Purple Traveller's advice. Bit early to tell yet, although I'm sure we'll be very happy together. If nothing else, I think it makes the bike look a lot nicer (you may remember I wasn't sold it's appearance) and it complements the ace, Carradice Barley saddlebag I've bought.

After 4 months or so, off the road, I have to admit I'd forgotten the sheer joy of cycling, even if it was on a clogged up, drizzly Euston Road. I'll take it out for a proper spin over the next few weeks and let you know how it is.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Still Waiting For Evans Ride2Work Voucher

Apparently they've received the payment from my company, but not the form. Obviously, it's too much to expect Evans to email/phone my company and ask where the form is. Oh well, duplicate form on it's way now. It's like living through an enforced No Bike Week

On a more positive note, yesterday proffered an unexpectedly, nerve-wracking end to the Giro, with race leader Dennis Menchov falling off his bike in the final kilometre of the Time Trial around Rome. Some pretty sharpish bike changing by his team car, and the decent buffer he'd built up saved the Giro from a pretty unfortunate end in it's centenary year.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pith Helmet

A bit pricey at £95, but this Danish helmet is one of the most dapper I've seen. Available from Bobbin Cycles

Friday, May 22, 2009

New Bike Show Episodes

Doh, I've somehow managed to miss a whole 8 new episodes of The Bike Show from Resonance FM, but not to worry as they're all available online at The Bike Show. There's no finer way to start a Friday than tweaking some Perl scripts while listening to Jack's adventures on a bike around Flanders.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Watching The Giro

If like me, you want to watch this year's Giro, but you don't get the Eurosport channel, you can watch it online using their online Eurosport Player for £3.99 a month (so I'll be cancelling come the beginning of June :-))

Not much to watch today though, the riders have decided it's too dangerous and are just poottling round at a slow speed (until the very end)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Getting A New Bike

Inspired by having the Ride2Work scheme at my present job, I've decided to invest in a new bike. Having ridden both my hybrid and flashy-road bike over the last few years, it's focussed my mind on what exactly I want a bike to do, namely:
  • be usable for the daily commute
  • be able to do light touring (maybe a week in Scotland, rather than a month round Africa)
  • *maybe* be comfortable/practical doing something like a 100-200k
To me, these requirements make perfect sense, but it does seem as if they fall between a number of stools. Road bikes are built for speed and generally spurn the need for mudguard-clearance or anywhere to attach panniers. Tourers do well on those points, but are generally built for serious touring, with an associated weight and lack of whizzing-in-and-out-of-the-traffic-ability. Hybrids too, are slower, and generally don't have drop-handlebars, leaving your wrists craving new riding positions once you do much more than 50k.

The remaining options (at least in Evans - who we can only use for Ride2Work) are:
  1. cyclocross bikes
  2. audax bikes.
Cyclocross bikes look like mummy racer had a one-night stand with daddy mountain bike, with a road frame but knobbly tyres (which I'd swap for road tyres) and enough room to stick guards and panniers. Of these I ordered the Specialized Tri-cross, Genesis Croix De Fer and Kona Jake to try. The Specialized looked great and had carbon forks, but just felt sluggish to me. No doubt some of it was due to it's chunky tyres and it's more relaxed geometry, but it just didn't seem right.

The Genesis felt much better, with disc breaks and a steel frame, but Evans have run out of them now, which conveniently solves that dilemma. I'm still waiting of the Jake as Evans only seem to have one in my size, which is trapped in some limbo between London and their Gatwick warehouse never to materialise into a test-rideable form.

An Audax bike, is a bike designed for riding Audax events :-) These are essentially long-distance, non-races of any where between 100 and 600k, the more hardcore of which feature people cycling for days on end with a few hours kip grabbed here and there. The best bikes for this kind of lunacy are fast touring bikes i.e. perfect for what I want. Unfortunately, the one such bike Evans stock has a slight Granny vibe about it, but otherwise had the best feel of all the bikes I've tested so far and again was steel so should be comfortable on those longer rides.

So which will I go for? Evans have just phoned to say that the Kona *should* be in London tomorrow, so hopefully I'll be able to final make my choice (if only so I don't have to put up with anymore of their indifferent customer-service)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cyclists To Be Allowed To Turn Left On Red

The Guardian is reporting that Boris Johnston has asked the Department of Transport to allow cyclists to turn left at red traffic-lights, on the grounds that this will allow cyclists to get ahead of vehicle (i.e. lorries) at the junction. Not sure how practical it is, or how much safer it will make the roads, but will be interesting to see what happens. From the quotes in the article it seems CTC have already taken against it.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

He'll Never Get A Bike Helmet Of That Hair

PS - apologies for the lack of updates of late, I've been in Hawaii. And New York. Talking of which, it's interesting to see what the bike couriers look like here (supposedly the home of fixed-gear-courier culture). A few of them are the gnarly, trendy looking types as seen in London, but most of them look like they're on crack. Seriously.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Long Distance Cycle Talk

Long-distance cycle tourer (tourist ?) Peter Gostelow is giving a talk on his epic journey home from Japan to England this Saturday at the Globetrotters Club

His blog's worth checking out too - there's plenty of stuff on there to get you wanting to pack it all in and cycle off to Japan. Unfortunately I'll miss his talk as I'll be cycling to the slightly nearer...Cambridge.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Poetic Justice

A fantastic post on the Cycle Chat forum today. Read it if you fancy a laugh.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Congratulations to Mark Cavendish

Starting the year as he means to go on, with a win in the Tour Of California. I'm also pleased to see some particularly catchy categories in there - "California Travel & Tourism Commission King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey". Give me "The Yellow Jersey" any day :-)

Friday, February 13, 2009

London (well, Staines) to Oxford

My mate Barry and I cycled the Thames Valley route from Staines to Oxford this weekend (with an overnight in Pangbourne). As you might expect, the weather added some interesting aspect to the ride, but it was still do-able (with some pushing, some slow cycling and some giving up the official route and just taking the road). It's a mixed route taking in Thames-side cycling, some lovely rural bits on Berkshire and a bit of the usual "creative accounting" off-road routes that Sustrans specialise in (through housing estates, car-parks, etc)

4 Bad Things About This Weekend.

1. Mysterious Exploding Inner Tubes. Before we'd even left London, Barry had destroyed two inner tubes (waking up his neighbours in the process). Had they got caught on the rim ? Was there something sharp inside the tyre? Was the gauge on his track pump a couple of bar low? We suspect the latter, but can't say for sure. Oh well, it only seemed to set us back an hour-and-a-half.

2. Snow and Ice. A lot of the route was surprisingly clear or gritted, but anything that took us through Windsor Great Park, round the back of Didcot Parkway or down pathways into Oxford was a treacherous landscape of thawed and refrozen snow. Good job I put my new slick tyres on last week!!

At best this took our average speed down to 3 or 4 mph while we struggled to keep upright and at certain points we just had to get off and push.

3. Trying To Get Our Bikes On A Train From Reading to Pangbourne With 50 Million Reading Town FC Fans. Barry got on, I could not. At least it meant I got to bomb along the A34 on the bike trying to catch-up the train.

4. No Local Beer in Pangbourne. Half the fun of a bike ride away from home is being able to drink Ye Olde Goat's Nadger's Ale from the local brewery. Only London Pride and Courage in the otherwise good George Hotel, although I did end up remembering how much I like London Pride.

4 Good Things About This Weekend

1. Cycling Through The Snow Covered Landscape of Berkshire. Most of Sunday morning involved cycling down nicely cleared country-lanes, surrounded by pristine snow-covered fields and woods. In particular,
at one point we came out of a wood onto a hillside that seemed to look down onto much of Oxfordshire, with Didcot Parkway being the only thing to break up the white blanket covering the landscape. London seemed very far away and it felt far more like the Peaks or Lakes than the South-East.

2. Slicks Coping On Ice and Snow. No punctures either

3. Wildlife Following Us. As well as rabbits running across the frosty fields to our side, a bird of prey (possibly a Buzzard) followed us on-and-off for a couple of miles around Wallingford. Obviously we must have been looking weak and vulnerable at this point (at least until our pub-lunch)

4. Getting 15 "Mornings". When overtaken by the local cycle club out for their Sunday morning run.

Overall it was a good ride, with the Sunday morning the undoubted highlight. Inevitably for a Sustrans route going through urban areas, some of it tended towards alleys and pathways that can reduce your average speed somewhat and aren't necessarily that picturesque. If I was doing it again, I'd probably try and swap some of these out, for more rural lanes.

If you go expecting something like the C2C or the Devon-Coast-to-Coast, you'll probably be disappointed by the extent to which our crowded corner of the island is now dominated by man's footprint, but for an easily-organised weekend out of London, it was a lot of fun.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Interesting Interview With MD of Brompton Cycles

Yesterday, while recovering from the cold I caught while cycling in the snow to Oxford at the weekend, I heard the following interview with Brompton Cycle's Will Butler-Adams. It's pretty fascinating, I didn't realise they were still actually built in London (Brentford, a mile from where I went to school)

BBC iPlayer (only valid for a week)

It starts about 1:35 in, so you'll need to fast-forward to that, to avoid the 80s jazz.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Tip When Booking Bikes On Trains

If you try to book a bike reservation through an external ticket seller like The Train Line, and they tell you one isn't available, it may be worth checking with the train company themselves. This has happened to me at least twice, most recently this week. In both cases, bike reservations weren't available NOT because the train was already full of bikes (as The Train Line said), but because it was a revised timetable and therefore you couldn't reserve anything, seats or bikes, on the train. In this case, the nice lady at First Great Western has advised me we should be ok, if just turn up and stick our bikes on the train.

Mind you, if we have more snow, who knows if the train will actually turn up.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Made me laugh

From my friend David's flickr. Although to appreciate it you probably need to have seen one of these

Friday, January 30, 2009

New Tyres and Rapha Sample Sale - Part II

So, I've had a week on the new tyres and it's been a week of dry clear days and wet miserable days and this has proven a pretty good trial. They do seem faster, but like always with city riding, unless you go a *lot* faster (or don't stop at lights), it won't make much overall difference.

On Tuesday, which featured "that fine rain that soaks you through" and a resulting layer of slime over the road, I definitely had a few wobbles going round corners a bit fast. Nothing too alarming, but definitely some faster heart-beats and a need to work out what I can and can't do now. The tyres are Armadillos, which are reknowned for their puncture-resistance, so a softer-tyre might be a bit grippier. I'm hoping they'll prove their worth on longer rides when that reduction in friction will add up.

Also - just back from the Rapha sample sale. Nothing too much too tempt me (wrong sizes, wrong items) but a fairly big queue to pay, so obviously someone was tempted. T-shirts were 20 quid, everything else upwards from there.

Friday, January 23, 2009

New Tyres and Rapha Sample Sale

My Specialized hybrid currently has some fairly chunky, 700 x 38c, tyres which seem a bit surplus to requirements, given that most days I ride on the not very gnarly Brixton Road (mind you, some of those potholes...).

So I've splashed out and bought some new, narrower, slicks. APPARENTLY, according to the nice man in the bike shop, I don't need 38c width tyres and can actually take them down as narrow as 28c, so that's what I've gone for.

I'll let you know on Monday whether I can actually get them on my rims and whether I go any faster.

And in other news, Rapha have another sample sale coming up next weekend, next door to Condor Cycles. Hopefully I'll make it to this one and can find out whether reduced Rapha is within the price-range of us mortals.

Opening Times are:

Friday 30 January: 12am-8pm
Saturday 31 January: 10am-5pm

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Truing A Wobbly Wheel

Truing a wobbly wheel is one of those bike maintenance tasks that I always thought was some kind of dark-art, that could only be done by the tattooed, big bearded mechanic you always saw lurking in the back of your favourite bike shop. But having watched a video on, I was able to carry it out with reasonably good results.

The video assumes you have a truing stand, but I was able to manage with the bike upside down, so that the wheel could spin, and using the brake pads to gauge how much the wheel was wobbling from side to side. One other thing, I had the tyre off (I was replacing a spoke) which seemed to make it easier to see what was going on.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Warm Head

Seeing as I'm a slaphead, I can't believe I haven't previously owned one of these. I got one as a Christmas present and tried it out for the first time on the ride to work this morning. Needless to say my head was suitably toasty, despite London being "colder than the Antartic" (© the not remotely sensationalist Evening Standard).

Mine is the Pearl Izumi Microsensor Skull Cap for around £14, but I'm sure others work just as well.

Now I just need some winter gloves and I'll be sorted.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Thursday, January 01, 2009

50 Quirky Bike Rides

Some cycling is all about performance, hauling yourself up Leith Hill so that you're ready for your summer trip to Mont Ventoux or Whistler, or to take another minute off your PB. It's the battle between your will-power and abilities, seeing which will give in first.

Another side is more about the journey, the people and places you come across. The remote hill-top cafe in Cumbria, the beatiful viaduct in mid-Devon, the guy with the recumbent you meet at Newcastle Station. I have to admit this is where my heart lies and is very much the emphasis of Rob Ainsley's excellent book "50 Quirky Rides".

It lists 50 rides in the UK that take you to somewhere notable or unusual. If you've ever wanted to go on a ride that features a trip on a ferry, a visit to a cycle maze or over a scary unfenced viaduct, this is the book to satisfy your need. It even tells you how to ride up that optical-illusion road they used to feature on Blue Peter, where you appear to free-wheel up an incline.

The rides themselves are between 5-50km ("many can be done in a lunchtime"), but the introduction suggests you can expand them into a day-long trips (or longer)

The routes themselves are listed on the website, but I'd encourage you to buy the book, so that we can hopefully get
50 Quirky Bike Rides Volume 2.