Friday, 13 February 2015

The London Bike Show 2015

After the almost-overwhelming experience of trying to take in the NEC Cycle Show in Birmingham last September, this year's London Bike Show seemed... well... almost provincial by comparison. It is certainly much smaller than the NEC show. The hall in which it is held is huge, but as you explore the Bike Show you find that, all too soon, you come up against the neighbouring shows (the Triathlon and the Outdoor Adventure & Travel shows, with the International Dive Show running Saturday and Sunday) 

The Bike Show itself takes up perhaps only a quarter of the total exhibition space. 

That said, the smaller size makes it easy to find specific stalls very quickly. I did not set out determined to see 'absolutely everything' and, unlike the past few years, I had already decided not to try and write a blog post giving comprehensive coverage. I had earmarked a couple of specific product launches I wanted to look at, and a few people I wanted to search out and say hello to. I did that and then took my knees home before they began grumbling too loudly! (This consideration was especially important as it was my first day back on the road bike this year and I had six miles to cycle home last night.)

So without further ado - 

As always, I visited my friends at Enigma (recently re-launched as Enigma Bicycle Works) and drooled over their two new models. 

The Evade is somewhere between the Etape and the Evoke:  lighter and faster than the Etape, without "fully loaded tourer" being part of the specification, but better suited to long days in the saddle than the racier Evoke. It is, as ever with Enigma bicycles, a "looker" and very appealing as a candidate for "fast day ride" or "Sunday best" bike. 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Time To Try Again

I last cycled a 200km event in July 2010, riding completely solo and self-supported on my 1979 Puch Princess (at that time with original gearing of 48 x 14-28 five speed).

The following year I attempted the same ride with an assorted mix of friends of varying abilities, most of whom I hadn't cycled with before. We were a disorganised mess, perpetually unsure of who was ahead, who was behind, who was waiting, should I wait?, etc., etc.  About 60km in, I found myself alone in the pitch-dark countryside with a pulled muscle, with none of my cycling companions answering their mobile phones. So I phoned a friend who lived nearby and arranged a "DNF".

In 2013, I tried the same route yet again -- this time with a small group of fellow FNRttCers, which means we all stick together -- but again did not finish for a variety of reasons, including an unfamiliar saddle not set up correctly. 

Since then, I've got a good bike that fits me, kitted out with gear that suits me, and I have bullied and cajoled my knees into behaving fairly well most of the time. 

So here we go -- not the Dunwich Dynamo this time but a proper organised audax with controls and time limits, in day light through countryside I'm somewhat familiar with. I've known of this audax for a while and was vaguely tempted but finally threw my hat in the ring when I found out quite a few friends (FNRttCers and CycleChatters) had signed up.  

I'm certainly not fighting fit enough to do it tomorrow but I've got nearly four months to get myself back up to that level. I'm really looking forward to it. 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

On Turning Two

Yes, the vélovoice blog is two years old! And thanks to all of you who read and comment and share, it's been a very good year indeed.

I don’t care all that much about stats – I care far more about interaction, conversations, engagement. Nonetheless, it’s gratifying to see that pageviews the past year were double what they were the first year, with most visitors hanging around to read more than one page each time they drop by. The split between brand new first time readers and returning ones has shifted slightly from 70/30 to 65/35, which suggests more “retention”, in which case I must be doing something right! The British audience has dropped from 50% to 40% while the American audience has grown from 20% to 30%, with the remaining 30% coming from all over the world (Germany, Canada, Australia, France, Singapore, Japan, Netherlands and Spain filling out the rest of the Top 10).

As ever, I am always thinking about ways to reassure people who visit vélovoice for the first time that they are “in the right place”, i.e. that they will find the information they were looking for and hopefully other things of interest as well. With that in mind, I find it illuminating to see what Google search phrases lead people to this blog. Other than searches on the word “velovoice” (gratifying in itself!), more visitors arrive here for the first time having asked Google for information about the Ortlieb Zip City bag, the Brooks Swallow saddle, the Trakke Bairn bag or the Carradice Stockport bag for the S-type Brompton bicycle. Why? I think because there is so little customer-driven information out there about those products. Manufacturer advertising and press releases can only go so far. People want to know “what is X really like to use?”, if at all possible, before committing to purchase. I hope what I’ve written about those four products, both the good and the bad, is helpful.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Week Of Rollers

I've not been on the bike much in the past month due to sinus problems. I've been running recurring lowgrade sinus infections since last April but at the moment am not taking any medications, just avoiding (to the degree possible) having icy cold air blasted up my nose. This has meant: (a) no cycling when it's windy and (b) even on still days, no cycling outside the village because every road out goes downhill... fast. 

I'm been trying instead to get to grips with riding my bicycle on my new Tacx Antares rollers. In the first 10 seconds of my first attempt, I was confronted with a shocking truth: I don't know how to ride a bike!  No, I didn't fall. But I can hardly pedal. The only strength in my legs seems to be brute downward force through my quads, one leg at a time, which on rollers basically causes my bicycle to behave as it is being ridden by a drunk. 

Glamorous work out location in the garage!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

One Year Time Trial: Steve Abraham's Attempt to Break Tommy Godwin's 1939 Annual Mileage Record (75,065 miles)

Jersey logo
Steve's jersey logo

2015 will see UK Audax legend Steven Abraham attempting to break Tommy Godwin's long-standing record of 75,065 miles cycled in one year. Steve has been planning and preparing this for the past two years.

I am not going to detail here (a) Steve's own record achievements; (b) the sheer magnitude of what this venture involves; (c) how he plans to do it; (d) all the ways people are supporting him, and/or (d) how he needs to finance it. It's all on his website -- just click the links on each topic. 

Do have a look. This is a challenge of epic proportions. Everyone who knows Steve personally and who have followed his cycling exploits believe, if anyone can do it, he can. I have not met him but I am fascinated by his plans, his focus and organisation and his mental aptitude for something like this. 

And he's not the only one having a go at breaking this record -- not one, but TWO, Americans are also apparently having a go in 2015: Kurt Searvoge aka "Tarzan" (another experienced endurance cyclist) and William "Ironox" Pruett (a successful triathlete). Ironox isn't giving much away about his plans but it looks like Tarzan intends to spend his winter months cycling in warm/dry places like Florida. 

Steve will not have such a luxury option here in the UK... and neither did Tommy Godwin. 

So... is this a good time to ask about YOUR cycling goals in 2015? ;-)

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Cycling Highlights 2014

I spend more of my time and energy looking ahead, not back. Cycling plans for 2015 are already shaping up nicely with tickets booked for two Cycle Shows and also TWO cycle tours! Happy days ahead. 

But while dreaming of next year's rides during these dark, cold winter hours, I am also indulging in reflections on the past year -- the rides, the bikes, the weather, the scenery, the people and even some philosophical musings on how cycling as an activity, a process and a lifestyle has changed how I see myself. More on the latter later!

In the meantime, my year awheel featured -- 

Thuds, Floods and Mud!

Serious bike portage required! Story here.

Followed by trail clearance (same story same link)

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Dance Like Nobody's Watching*

Have you ever been "caught out" going about your business, having no idea that anybody's watching? 

Adam caused a bit of a buzz this week -- amongst our friends at least. He was planning a route from St Pancras to my office, as he was meeting me after work to go see Once the Musical (great fun, by the way, but not a patch on the film), and found that a Google StreetView car had captured me on part of my commute. (This is not a route he normally would take so it was serendipitous that he was looking at Bayley Street at all.)

He posted a link to Google on Facebook. In response to all the mock-surprise comments from friends - yes, some cyclists do stop at red lights! And yes, some do indicate before turning! (I sometimes even do it when there's no one behind me!) 

Here are my 10 seconds of "Fame", doing nothing more extraordinary than crossing Tottenham Court Road from Bayley Street into Percy Street at about 9am on an ordinary work day in July 2014. 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

A Mountain and A Ferry to Paradise (#ScotTour Day 8)

Today was sad: our last day on Skye and so it felt the "beginning of the end" of our cycling holiday. However, today's itinerary would see us cover nearly the full length of the Misty Isle and see a corner of it that's well off the beaten track. Lots still to look forward to, then!

We were really fortunate with our B&B in Portree, where the landlady was very happy to let us keep our bicycles looked in the rear 'service' yard, out of sight from the street (behind the blue gate). Adam fixed that gate the day we arrived so we were in her "good books" right from the start! 

Last minute fettling before leaving Portree

Setting off from our B&B: starting with a steep bit!
Be careful not to go flying over that wall into the harbour below!

As on Day 5 of our tour when we visited the Talisker Distillery, we left Portree southbound on the A87. Although our bikes were fully loaded this time, again I found this hill not to be the hardship I had originally expected it to be.

A pause to look back towards Portree and the Trotternish Ridge
- the Old Man of Storr on the right

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Puch Princess Reborn: Sacrilege? Or Best Of Both Worlds?

This post comes with a health warning... and an apology. 
Some of you may be offended by what I've done with this vintage bicycle. 
For the offence, I am truly sorry. For what I have done... not so much. 

Because this time I listened to what the bicycle was telling me, what the bicycle wanted. True, I curated this build according to my preferences but at the end of the day, I had a 35 year old frame that wanted to go fast but couldn't due to the limitations of its build and/or its rider. 

The rider, I couldn't change any more than I can for any other bike (those grumpy knees!) but the build, I could. 

This is not a restoration but a rebirth as something else entirely.  

Sunday, 23 November 2014

In London Next Friday Night? Come to Sustrans' Long Distance Cycling Evening

Thinking about cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats, the Coast to Coast cycle route or something further afield in mainland Europe? Want to learn more or hear travellers tales from fellow long distance cyclists?

Sustrans is hosting another edition of its popular Long Distance Cycling Evening. This is an informal evening of discussion, hints and tips on all things cycle touring. Learn from experienced cyclists about planning, logistics and their adventures in the UK and further afield... on journeys lasting from a couple of days to a few weeks and even months. 

Speakers lined up for this week's event will talk about their experiences of cycling in the UK and across Brazil, Russia and Australia, and more. 

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