Saturday, 28 November 2015

What's In A Name? -- or, the Anthropomorphisation Diversion

Twins separated at birth: Susan and Sharon,
played by Hayley Mills in Disney's The Parent Trap

Take two (originally) identical bicycles, strip them of all their components, then build them up again with the components from each bike going onto the other bike...

Yes, Operation Body Swap is under way.  Here's the post about the London Town Bike version, using the frame from my first Puch Princess then built up with most of the components from another Puch Princess (same year and model, frame IDs only a few numbers apart) bought from a woman about 15 miles up the road.

When the Road Bike of the two twins is finished, she will look like this. Except with a nicer frame.


Sunday, 22 November 2015

London Town Bike #4 -- or, Finally Just Right?

The saga of finding a suitable bike for use on the central London part of my daily commute continues... 

Back in August 2014, I had identified five options

1. Find an old frame and build it up with parts already to hand; 
2. Use an existing 'old' bike (of which I had one but wasn't quite prepared to 'sentence' to year-round all-weather theft-risk use); 
3. Buy another (complete) 'old' bike that I didn't have qualms about; 
4. Wait and buy a new bike via Cyclescheme; or
5. Buy a really cheap, new bike "for now". 

At that point, I had tried nos. 1 and 3. After setting out my options as above, I went with no. 5: the Viking Bromley

That experiment taught me a lesson: cheap bikes just don't work as well. (Well, d'oh!)

My latest venture is in fact a combination of option nos. 1, 2 and 3: 


This is Phase I of the Puch Princess Body Swap


Thursday, 19 November 2015

Custom versus Bespoke

Do you have a bespoke suit?  A custom car? 

Was it made to order? Or tailored to fit you and your style after it was made? 

The words "custom" and "bespoke" are regularly applied to bicycles and often in ways that make the two words seem interchangeable. But are they? 




From the dictionary definitions, it seems many do view the two words as "synonyms", that is, two words that mean the same. 

In the bicycle industry, this certainly seems to be true: both words are regularly used more or less interchangeably. The British have perhaps (until recently) favoured the use of "bespoke" while Americans have leant towards use of "custom", but that seems to be changing rapidly, with "custom" becoming the dominant word on this side of the Atlantic as well. 

I wish to make a case for differentiating the meaning of the two words
for the sake of precision and clarity! 

The problem in my view is that both words are often used to describe two situations that are entirely different

  • A bicycle frame made from scratch to the precise requirements and demands of an individual.

like a "bespoke suit" =
you are measured up before scissors go near the fabric

  • The building up of a frame (any frame, whether stock or made to order as above) to meet the demands or satisfy the requests of an individual. The individual has had no input into the design and manufacturer of the frame itself, though usually they are given a choice of size, from a range of sizes on offer. 

like a "custom car" = 
you buy another person's basic design or vision,
with the option to personalise the hell out of it!




Sunday, 15 November 2015

And Then There Were Two

Last year's rebuild of my 1978 Puch Princess has been a complete success. 

With one small niggle.... the paintwork.

Lots of scratches, the "Princess" decal long gone from the top tube, and -- worst of all --
damage to the seat tube where a previous owner apparently draped a lock from the saddle rails.

Ideally, I would love to have the whole bike resprayed, but I felt mired in indecision over whether to go for as-close-to-original as possible (including reproduction decals) or opt for something entirely different. I hesitated to jettison the Puch branding and identity altogether. However, the decals are the distinctive part of the 'livery' and I've never been 'in love' with the distinct 1970s vibe they give off. Don't get me wrong, they've rather grown on me over time. But if I were planning the colour scheme of this bike from scratch, this isn't what I would have come up with! The light metallic green colour might well have made my shortlist of colour options but in the end would have likely lost out to something else -- possibly navy, maybe even red. That would be a crying shame but I know in my heart I could not promise I wouldn't. 

Hence my inaction over doing something about the tired, worn paintwork. 

Over last winter, while the bicycle mostly hibernated (only coming out on dry days for a bit of coffeeneuring and errandonneuring), I shoved this 'first world' problem to the back of my mind. 

There it lie dormant, just waiting for a catalyst to wake it up.

Spotting this on ebay proved to be that catalyst.


Monday, 5 October 2015

Normal Service Will Resume Shortly....

Apologies for the delay in posting my reports on our Lowlands Tour of northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands. There was this "little" matter of a mass shooting in my home town of Roseburg, Oregon, and somehow in the past 5 days I have spent a lot of time not finishing off those blog posts but rather scouring the Internet for updates, sifting the falsehoods from what may be the truth about events as they unfolded, while trying not to get dragged into debates about gun-control (sorry but that is so insensitive just now!) while still trying to answer this one honest question from bewildered friends: 

"Why can't Obama just make his legislature do what he wants?"  

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So why the impasse? This may not be The Right Answer but it's the one that I give:  

Unlike the government structure in the UK, the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the US federal government are truly separate. A system of checks and balances means the President and the Congress can stop each other from doing certain things, but neither can force the other to do anything. 

With respect to gun ownership and regulation, yes, culture and society have a huge role to play in the lack of legislative change, but perhaps not for the reasons that the media (with its gleefully endless debate about the Second Amendment to the Constitution) and ordinary people themselves when interviewed (with their glib "right to bear arms" argument) might lead you to believe. The fact is, the U.S. federal government is constrained by the anti-federalist movement. This crystallised during the Civil War and has gathered strength ever since but probably has its roots with the Louisiana Purchase when the U.S. doubled its land holdings overnight, prompting westward emigration on a massive scale, followed only much later by the formation of new states, each with its own soft-touch imposition of 'law and order' over a "Wild West" where men had by necessity protected their families themselves with their own guns. Meanwhile, people don't relinquish responsibility for the safety and security of their family and property easily, especially in rural areas where self-sufficiency is both essential and prized. 

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Bike Sizing in the Real World -- or, Making the Bike Fit YOU


Following up on previous posts about bike fit, most recently about Stack-to-Reach Ratio, I've been considering how this applies in the 'real world', specifically what lessons I might learn in relation to my own bicycles. 

Let's take my Enigma Etape and my Surly Cross Check. Both are bespoke builds, that is, all the components have been chosen by me, based on my needs and preferences. It's no surprise to see both bikes sporting identical saddles, pedals and racks! However, the 'heart' of each bike is very different: the Etape is completely custom, i.e. made to measure based on my body (size / proportion / strengths / weaknesses / flexibility / range of motion) and my desire to do long rides in comfort, whereas the Cross Check is a stock frame in a stock size, a bike with a reputation for versatility but with proportions that are somewhat 'long' in reach. 


Over the years, I've tended to think of these bikes in terms of their differences. Most of what I decided I wanted from the custom Enigma build was informed and shaped by my experiences with the Cross Check. My thought process was fairly linear: I don't like X about the Cross Check, so I want Y on the Enigma. 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Long Term Review: VIKING BROMLEY Singlespeed Mixte



It's now been a year since I purchased this bicycle to take over central London commuting duties. Aside from a couple of problems in the beginning -- the strangest being the left crankarm unscrewing itself while I pedalled, several days running, without any apparent cause and no problems in the past 10 months -- the bike has done rather well. 

Taking stock now, the main problem has been (and continues to be) the brakes. Everything about them is cheap and flimsy. It doesn't help that the braking surface happens to be painted rims. 

Sunday, 30 August 2015

If The Shoe Fits...


I am a creature of routine. I am also extremely hard to please. So when I find something that works exactly as I want it to, is comfortable, aesthetically pleasing -- hopefully all three! -- it's sometimes hard for me to give it up and move on.

As the years go by, I exercise more foresight: the moment I realise something works for me, I buy up as many as I can (a) afford, and (b) reasonably justify storage space for! If something goes on sale at a dramatically reduced price, I worry that means it's about to go out of production or out of stock so I order a supply to last several years! This is why I have safely stashed away: four pairs of my favourite trousers, two new pairs of my favourite walking shoes and a Smartwool cycling jersey identical to the one I wear most often. 

But sometimes I get caught out, having enjoyed the use of a particular brand or model only to find I can no longer get an exact replacement. 

So, having worn out my beloved Shimano R320 cycling shoes (a model that Shimano has discontinued in favour of the new and improved and staggeringly ugly R321) and Speedplay Light Action cleats (a flawed but wonderfully knee-friendly design)... what was I to do?


Sunday, 16 August 2015

New Lease On Life: Tom's Marlboro

A story from the Luton & Dunstable Cycling Forum's Bicycle Recycle program...

Here is one of the bikes from a van-load of about 20 that came to us from a Sustrans project in Luton when it wound down. This was the only road bike in the lot:  a Marlboro Medallion which had a mid-1980s lugged steel frame, steel-rimmed 27 inch wheels, 5-speed with downtube shifter, unbranded brakes. Completely unremarkable in every way. 


Tom is my boss. He lives about 10 miles away from us and is often on the same train as me each morning into London.  He has a young active family. They live just off a shared use path built on a disused railway line. The family has one car. Tom has for a number of years commuted between his house and the train station using an "old beater" chosen deliberately for its calculated lack of appeal to bike thieves. Or so Tom thought. Until two weeks ago when, just before he and his family went away for their summer holiday, he left it unsecured at the train station and came back that evening to find it gone. 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Strange Yet Familiar: Lesli's 1985 Trek 420


When confronted (yes, "confronted" -- there's no other way to describe the 'smack into a brick wall feeling' of getting that call from siblings halfway round the world saying it's time to come home if you want to have that one last visit with your elderly and increasingly frail parents) with an unexpected one week stay in Oregon this summer, I realised two things almost immediately. One was quite obvious really -- this was going to be emotionally a very difficult time. The second decision followed hard on the first but for many would not have seemed so obvious:  I would need a bike to ride. 

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Bickerton!

Most of the bicycles donated into the Luton & Dunstable Cycle Forum's recycling program are pretty predictable:  old 10 speeds, mountain bikes and 'bike shaped objects', almost all from the lowest tier in terms of price - and quality. 

There is the occasional exception, such as the Kerry children's bicycle that came in last March.

Today, we got something equally unusual:  a Bickerton folding bicycle. 


Sunday, 26 July 2015

Caught Between A Rock And A Slippery Place

I've worn out my Shimano R320 shoes. The uppers have held up well but the rubber nubbins on the soles have worn down and are not replaceable, and the ratchet clasp on the main strap has weakened to the point that it slips loose as I ride.  

Meanwhile, the Speedplay Light Action cleats fitted to them when new are pretty worn, with one bolt missing and the others so worn down they'll have to be drilled out if I want to recover the blue wedges between the cleats and the 3-hole-to-4-hole adapter plates. 

My immediate inclination was to buy exactly the same again... only to find that the R320 shoe has been discontinued in favour of the latest incarnation, the R321 which, unlike the R320, does require heat molding to the feet. I'm not inclined to go down that route -- after all, feet swell and even change shape throughout the day. (And... it's really difficult to find the all-black colourway in stock!)


So I decided to step back for a re-think. 


Saturday, 11 July 2015

Another Cycling Blog... That Isn't A Blog

Sorry it's been quiet the past few weeks here. I have several product reviews coming up but meanwhile have been busy designing and building the new website for The Fridays aka the Friday Night Ride to the Coast 'crew'. 

It's nearly ready pending tests of the newsletter system but hasn't yet gone live. Here's a sneak preview of the home page. 


Yes, this was created on the Blogger platform but will be published to a custom domain. No, it will not work in any way like a blog! It has a static home page, for one thing, and new articles will not appear there but under 'Latest News', with appropriate lead-ins from other pages on the site and indeed other websites. 

It's been fun re-learning HTML code and I'm very pleased with the result, both in terms of appearance and functionality. 

Monday, 29 June 2015

Action 100 Charity Ride on 30th August

I have just received news of a charity ride at the end of August to raise funds for Action Medical Research, the well-known children's charity that has Paddington Bear as its mascot. I have never posted on the blog before about such events, though I do participate in at least one charity bike ride a year myself. 

In any case, Ellie's email was so charming and not at all pushy... and I do believe this is a ride that may appeal to a few readers and is certainly a good cause... so here you go!









PRESS RELEASE

25 June 2015

Charity seeks riders for Action 100 cycle challenge

The Action 100 cycling challenge will take place from Bristol to London this summer and children’s charity Action Medical Research is calling for riders to sign up now for the event on Sunday, 30 August.


Saturday, 27 June 2015

Rock Creek Weekend

(Arachnophobes may want to give this post a miss...!)

I write this sitting at my desk at home in Bedfordshire. But this time a week ago -- and a whole world away -- I was sitting next to a camp fire in the forests on the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon.

My trip 'home' centred around final goodbyes to elderly parents in failing health. But almost as precious  in my memories will be the camping trip that brought me and all four of my sisters together for a "girls only" weekend retreat.

We drove from our parents' home in Roseburg up the North Umpqua River, passing a seamlessly shifting panorama of scenes from our childhoods. I say 'childhoods' because the age gap between eldest and youngest is 19 and a half years, and our memories from this area span all of that plus another 20 years, then (for several of my sisters) after a long gap, another 7-8 years of hiking in these mountains, camping along its streams and 'ridge running' its spider web of old logging roads.

I was travelling "light". I had my (re-packed) carry-on bag from my flight, plus this:


We took two vehicles, each carrying only two people but towing one of these:

My youngest sister's family-built teardrop, after she sprayed it
inside and out with ant & spider poison (a precautionary step that paid off)

Monday, 8 June 2015

Life's Latest Lesson: Don't Panic


Based on the way my knees felt, I returned home after our three days of cycling in France thinking I may need to start preparing for the next round of knee surgery sooner rather than later. 

Backstory -- or, how Grumpy Knees Came To Be

I had an arthroscopy on my left knee in October 2010. There was so much damage to the cartilage (which started degenerating when I was a child), the surgeon said: 

  • I have removed as much as I dare and still leave you a little bit of cartilage for at least some 'cushioning', but what's left is still quite damaged; 
  • Further procedures like this will not be an option (for this knee; for the other, rinse and repeat); 
  • Frankly, if you need another invasive procedure, that will be the end of your cycling*. 

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Tandem Dreaming

FNRttC Burnham © The5MileCyclist 2013 

Adam and I love our Circe Helios Duo and we've done two Friday Night Rides to the Coast on it. However, the value it brings to our life lies much more in its cargo-hauling capabilities. We haven't used it in tandem mode enough to get my stoker position and fit completely sorted to my satisfaction. What we have is okay for 50-60 miles and it's an easy set-up when swapping out from cargo mode the day before a tandem ride. 

However, I do ponder from time to time the possibilities that might present themselves if we had a road tandem with the sizing for captain and stoker optimised for us. At the moment, it's no more than idle speculation and musings, as I linger over stories, reviews and photos on other blogs, such as --


Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Fridays' Tour de Normandie 2015 -- Day 3: Honfleur to Dieppe (via Harfleur, Le Havre and Rouen)

Posts about previous days of this tour: 

Sometimes things don't go to plan. 

Sometimes I argue with my body, knowing I need to win. 
(Usually, my knees are playing at being drama queens and need to be told to "shut up".)

Then sometimes the body says something to which there is no possible reply; it's game over.  

On a drab, damp Monday morning, about 5k out of Honfleur -- having (yet again) had little sleep, conquered a migraine in the wee hours, then fallen down the stairs on the way out of our accommodation -- the body spoke and that was that.

Let me rewind a few hours.

My day started at 5am -- with a migraine. An injection followed and two hours later I was very nearly recovered, from the migraine at least if not from the cumulative lack of sleep which was almost certainly its trigger.

We had to be dressed, packed, loaded and round the corner to the meet up point at 8am. We had plenty of time, as we had bought a few groceries in Houlgate the previous day, so ate "breakfast" while we packed without losing any time.

All was going well until the very last minute, when, arms full, I descended the narrow steep angled staircase and somehow missed the last step altogether. Down I went. I didn't drop anything but my head hit the wall. (By the way, that's how I discovered where my errant Polar cyclocomputer was: in my cycling cap. And briefly between my head and a wall. Ouch.)

I sat against the wall for a few minutes taking stock. I hadn't lost consciousness and didn't feel dizzy. Psychologically shaken but fairly certain I hadn't broken or sprained anything, I stood up and loaded my bike.



Monday, 1 June 2015

The Fridays' Tour de Normandie 2015 -- Day 2: Bayeux to Honfleur

Posts about other days of this tour: 


I am up to my neck in revision ('exam prep', for the Americans) but want to get these French ride reports written while I still remember the stories!  

Sunday (day 2) consisted of 65km of just about the best cycling ever, followed by 35km of what Martin summed up as "the worst afternoon I have ever spent on a bike". (I agreed. Others may have said similar beyond my earshot.) Fortunately, I have ample photographic evidence of the first and very little of the second. 

Up early, I started my day with the most comprehensive self-massage of my calves and lower hamstrings as it's possible for a non-qualified person to do! My knee joints felt 'tight' and the outside of my lower right leg also felt stiff and a bit painful. A massage helped tremendously but the relief was short lived. (I've since learned more about key trigger points in muscles I'd never heard of -- unfortunately, they are nearly impossible to "get at" in one's own legs.)


Saturday, 30 May 2015

The Fridays' Tour de Normandie 2015 -- Day 1: Brix to Bayeux

Posts about other days on this tour: 

On Saturday morning, we needed to be ready to leave the Ibis Hotel at 8.15am. Gordon and Martin* would lead us all to Brix for the Official Tour Start at 9am. 

We woke at our usual time of 6.15am and set about showering, dressing and packing. We had found out the night before that breakfast options in the hotel would be severely limited (i.e. only croissants, which I can't eat) so we would need to seek out breakfast elsewhere. Also, our bicycles were locked in the beverages storage room in the hotel, a factor we had to account for as we packed. 

At 7am, we presented ourselves to the McDonald's next door, to find the driver of a delivery truck the only sign of life. Aha, the sign on the door said it opened at 7.30. Half an hour is an awkward period to fill, when you are mostly packed up but can't retrieve your bicycle yet to finish off and load up. So we watched a little television (what?!) and then went back. 

Three cyclists were inside, having already ordered and sat down. Ironically, they were the only ones in the entire group I did not know at all**. We exchanged nods and smiles. Our main focus of attention however was this -- 


Friday, 29 May 2015

Bike Sizing: Stack And Reach

When it comes to bike size and fit, the industry has suddenly started talking a new language. And high time too. 

I am flying out to Oregon in a few weeks and for the first time intend to cycle while I'm there. Details are still to be confirmed but one option I've been looking into is hiring ('renting' for the Americans) a road bicycle from a bike shop. But my bitter experience has taught me that stock sizes provided by mainstream manufacturers simply do not fit me. Nonetheless, I have indulged in two short periods of daydreaming about renting a bicycle utterly different from my own, just for the sake of it. 

As it happens, the only two models of bicycle available for me to hire are
  • the Raleigh Capri (year/model and precise build not known)

the 2015 Raleigh Capri Carbon 1 (not available in the UK)

Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Fridays' Tour de Normandie 2015 -- Prologue

Posts about other days on this tour: 


The tour officially started 9am on Saturday in Brix, Normandy -- about 15km from the Cherbourg ferry. However, as almost all of the 31 people in the group were booked onto the same ferry and 21 of those into the same hotel (about 8km from the ferry) on the Friday night, Simon (the organiser) and Susie (his wife and co-conspirator) met us off the ferry and led us through Cherbourg all the way to our hotel. Simon & Susie had come over a day or two beforehand and were staying elsewhere (probably for the peace and quiet!)

Our day started at 10am when we set off to catch the train from Luton to Portsmouth, via East Croydon. 



Wednesday, 20 May 2015

N+1 -- or, The London Town Bike Revolving Door

There's a story to be told -- actually, 2-3 stories -- and these will follow in due course but I'll lay the groundwork now with a few announcements: 


Astrid the Viking will be retired before next winter. 

Astrid has done surprisingly well in the role of London Town Bike but she has one fatal weakness and I have another vision for her. This won't be pursued until next winter, at which time I will give a long-term review.

I've acquired another Puch Princess, in astonishingly original condition. (One careful lady owner from new, etc etc.)


In a few weeks' time, she will look somewhat different. (As will Lorelei.)

Monday, 18 May 2015

Making Lemonade -- or, Escaping from the Great Escape

I am not entirely new to the world of audax but I have yet to complete one "successfully", that is, within the time limits with a fully completed brevet card.  

Coming into yesterday's event, my audax CV (résumé for the Americans) consisted of just two attempts:  the Flitchbikes 100 from Great Dunmow, Essex, in June 2011 and the For Those Who Don't Do Hills 100 from Polegate, East Sussex, in April 2012.  On the Flitchbikes 100, I rode my Surly Cross Check and finished out of time, mostly due to an unexpectedly long lunch break -- a friend and colleague had tragically died in Spain two days before and I spent nearly an hour on the phone with a mutual friend who was very distraught. On the "No Hills 100", I had just taken delivery of my new Surly Pacer. The first few miles became a "shake down" ride trying to figure out all the various things that weren't working correctly, gear changing being the main one. I bailed fairly early on and became a tourist for the day, taking in Pevensey Castle and other local sights before making my way back to Polegate for the train home. 

So I'm not what you'd call 'accomplished' at this audax lark.  

Yesterday, I rode The Great Escape 200km with my partner Adam and our friend Sonia. For both of them, this was their very first exposure to the audax 'scene'.  Adam was basically in it for a long day ride in nice weather but was happy to take on the role of pacesetter and navigator. Sonia and I came prepared with route sheets and maps, determined to hang on to Adam's wheel (if we could) but most of all excited to test ourselves with a challenging distance. 

So - take three people, all quite experienced at social group rides but with no relevant experience at riding to time limits - and you can guess what happened!

First - the start at Look Mum No Hands! This was extremely well organised by Islington CC. (Shocking to find out afterwards though that, out of 400 entrants, 130 did not turn up.) We arrived in good time and greeted lots of friends (most of whom were going to be in much faster groups well ahead of us).  

Arriving at LMNH about 07.20

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Unprepared But Ready


Tomorrow I will ride The Great Escape 200km audax. It will be my first audax event since March 2012 and my first attempt at a 200km ride since July 2010. 

Am I ready?  Well, if knowing myself, my bike, my kit, the route, how I need to fuel, hydrate and pace myself equals readiness, then yes, I'm ready. 

Am I prepared? Looking back over the past few months at my ride data -- time, distances, frequency -- then no, I'm not as prepared as I could be or indeed would like to be. 

Last Saturday, I rode nearly 100km on Lorelei the Puch Princess on a casual group ride. That was the first (and only) ride this year longer than 25 miles. After 50 miles, discomfort from being a bit too stretched out for my liking began to kick in but otherwise I felt good and got up the next day feeling I could do the same again. 

Tomorrow will be very different. Crucially, I will be on a bike that fits me, one I trust to give a comfortable ride all day long. I will have a handlebar bag to carry snacks and to stuff items of clothing in as the day wears on, with no need to stop -- likewise with water bottles. Perhaps most importantly, I will be wearing stiff-soled cycling shoes and using clipless pedals. That makes all the difference to my legs, particularly knees, in terms of stability and degree of fatigue. 

So compared to last weekend, I should be a bit faster and more efficient. As long as I can school myself to keep stops to a minimum and not 'faff about', I should be okay. 

Ideally, I would have done 5-6 rides of 100km by now, as well as 1-2 in the 140-160km region. But, although I may not have as many miles behind me as I would have liked, I think I have adequate 'time in the saddle' and sufficient conditioning to spend a long day in the saddle fairly comfortably. 

Some of our friends are talking about completing the course in 8 hours. My goal is just to finish within the fixed time limits!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The Fridays Go To Normandy (Again)

I am counting down the days to our mini cycling tour in France at the end of the month -- just 10 days to go! Here's a preview* of our route and hints at the scenery we'll be cycling through.

After a night in Cherbourg with a few other Fridays peeps, we will cycle 5km to Brix to meet up with everyone else - outside the boulangerie of course! Then we set off for Bayeux.

Saturday

Valognes - earmarked as possible mid-morning coffee stop

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

A Cycling Mini Tour: Just What The Doctor Ordered

First day of my first cycle tour. Smell the excitement!

With the last assignment of my law course now behind me and the final exam itself just one month away, the next item on the calendar is...

An extended weekend cycling with friends in northern France. 

The Fridays On Tour 2014.  (C) Andrew Brennan
(full photo set on Flickr)


Saturday, 2 May 2015

Update on Womens Bib Shorts

I posted recently on my experiences with a variety of women's bib shorts from brands making an effort -- with varying degrees of success -- to create innovative designs enabling toilet breaks without the need to completely strip off (not fun on a night ride, whether in suburbia or out in a dark country lane with the foxes and frogs). While some (such as Gore) do not differentiate the way they market to men and women, they do, I think, quietly "get it". Others (like Pearl Izumi), on the other hand, trumpet their women's specific designs as a unique selling point yet miss that point in some crucial aspect. 

Fortunately, more brands are having a go at designing solutions to this challenge. I stumbled across an article in Outside Online magazine today applauding women's bib shorts designs from six cycling brands. I have not personally tried all six, but again it looks like a mixed bag of the good, the bad and the rather silly. Here are my initial impressions, along with UK pricing details. Where possible, I am including from the manufacturers' own websites photos that show the specific "bio-break" design features, rather than simply an overall front view. 

My favourite Gore Power 2.0 bib shorts are at the top of the list. At £99, they are the second cheapest pair of shorts featured and very good value. The placement of the zips has been altered in the latest update to this design, so I cannot comment on that. I would caution that the keyhole front dips below the belly button, which for some women will not be the most flattering look. 

Photo: Gore


Sunday, 26 April 2015

Bridget Gets A Facelift

One of these days I will write a long term review of the stalwart in my stable, my Surly Cross Check -- I promise. I bought this bike in October 2010 and she's been my daily commuter and faithful friend. The fit isn't perfect but with a few tweaks to her over the years and, to be fair, improved strength, flexibility and better posture on my part, we've sort of grown into each other. 

I mentioned a few tweaks. The significant transformations that Bridget has gone through are recorded in the series of photos on the My Bicycle Family page. Meanwhile from time to time she gets a few minor updates. 

I'm not quite sure how to classify yesterday's 'operation' -- transformation or minor update? Basically, Bridget got a whole new "head"! This was in fact the final, most time-consuming, stage in a series of changes that saw all three contact points significantly changed. 

We'll call this stage "The Facelift". 

Bridget has sported On One Midge dirt drop bars for nearly two years. These were fitted in the summer of 2013 when I started working for Sustrans at the Travel Choices Hub. While my commute was entirely on paved roads, the cycling I was doing during the course of my work ranged all over local roads, tracks and trails on a wide variety of surfaces, including spots of deep loose gravel. Dirt drop bars gave me my preferred default position on brake hoods but also offered a wider stance when the going got rough. I love these bars and wouldn't hesitate to put them on another bike (or iteration of this bike) if mixed-surfaces regularly feature in my life again in the future. 


Sunday, 12 April 2015

Day Ride in France

The long awaited Day Ride in France!  It was in fact an exceedingly long day: one of the cats woke us at 2am following which we did not get back to sleep. The alarm went off at 04.15 and we did not get home until 00.15 the next morning!

Adam and I took the train to St Pancras where we transferred onto the High Speed service to Dover. We spotted Sonia while walking through the station and found Jurek already settled on the train. Arthur and Tony joined us at Ebbsfleet. The weather from home was damp and foggy and it didn't look much better in Dover.



#30daysofbiking 2015, Exhibit B

My cycling this week ranged from commuting to errands to Touring In Foreign Lands, utilising four different bikes!


Monday, 6th April 2015

On Monday (which was a Bank Holiday), I accompanied Adam to our local Recycling Centre to get rid of a cargo bike + trailer load of mostly electrical goods. 



Saturday, 4 April 2015

#30daysofbiking 2015, Exhibit A

I tried the #30daysofbiking challenge two years ago but didn't get very far. Last year, I dismissed the idea out of hand because, to be honest, by the time we reach April, spring itself is incentive enough to ride. 

I have not "signed the pledge" this year either so, on an official level, I am not doing it. But unofficially, looking at how my schedule is shaping up over the next couple of months, there is in fact a very good chance I will be on a bicycle of some description for at least a few minutes' duration nearly if not every day. And I've got this new toy to play with. So I may as well record a few rides as we go. 



Saturday, 28 March 2015

All Wired Up

I have an ambivalent relationship with bicycle gadgetry. I've used cycling computers practically from the day I (re-)started cycling as an adult in 2009, but I've spent months at a time without any, and haven't had one on my main commuting bike for several years. I log a general estimate of commuting miles on the mycyclinglog website but am not really interested in any other data coming out of my daily commute.

On my 'good bike', however, I've always been interested in how far and fast I go -- though I am by means speedy nor am I what is known amongst audaxers as a 'Mileater'*. Nonetheless, the 'best bike' gets the best miles and I do like to know what I've been doing, in concrete as well as visceral terms.

The first few years, I used Cateye cyclo-computers. My first two computers (on the Brompton M3L) were wireless but found they sometimes fail to record what you're doing but likewise sometimes pick up interference from nearby devices, so just weren't reliable enough. I switched to wired versions and ran those on the Cross Check and Pacer quite happily. 
 



Sunday, 22 March 2015

A Vintage Mystery: Kerry Bicycle Company

What is it?


Background

The LSTF-funded Travel Choices project in our area is coming to an end this summer. One very successful initiative (largely run by Adam) over the past year has been the bicycle workshops. This has included people bringing in their own bikes for free-at-point-of-service checks and then having it serviced/repaired by one of the project's mechanics, or learning how to service/repair their own bicycle themselves using the workshop's tools and having a mechanic on hand to assist and answer questions. 

The other aspect of this Travel Choices initiative, run through the workshops, was a donation scheme: bring in your old bicycle and donate it, then choose another one that suits you better from the ever-growing stock of bicycles donated by others. This effectively recycled a number of bicycles through the community. Each donated bike got checked over, serviced and repaired to the extent needed to make it road-worthy. Any bicycle that could not be made safe to ride would become a donor, 'cannabilised' for any useful parts. 

With the project coming to an end, the two local councils are working on transitioning their resources into "legacy" projects that can be run by local volunteers. The Luton and Dunstable Cycling Forum has been a key partner throughout the Travel Choices project, so it is the obvious contender to take over some of the activities that the Travel Choices project had run. And so the Forum finds itself the recipient of a lot of the cycling-related stock and inventory. 

And thus it came to pass that a van-load of donated bicycles (and boxes of components) was disgorged on our driveway this week!


Thursday, 19 March 2015

Mini Reviews of Women's Bib Shorts - Some Brands "Get It", Some Don't

Some time ago, a discussion about womens bib shorts came up on the LovelyBicycle! blog. The usual issues were covered: lack of availability generally, lack of choice for sizes and body shapes and of course the inevitable challenge of the Toilet Break, or as some manufacturers delicately if somewhat obtusely put it, the "Bio Break"*. 

At some point in the middle of the discussion, I was struck with the impulse to dig out all the bib shorts I owned and take comparative photos. So I abandoned the computer for 15 minutes, dashed upstairs, upturned a few drawers, arranged various samples on the bed, snapped a couple of shots, then uploaded them to a photo website so that I could post a link to share with the other ladies in the discussion. On each of the two photos, I jotted down the brand and style name of each item, a link to where they can be bought (ideally where more details are provided directly by the manufacturer) and then a summary of what I personally thought of each pair. 

A suggestion was made that I blog about this myself. I certainly intended to but somehow it didn't really make it onto my To Do list. 

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I had a clear-out of all the cycling kit that I don't wear regularly, for one reason or another. When it came to the bib shorts, I realised my experiences over the past few years have refined my preferences considerable, down to the point where I really only ever wear Gore branded bib shorts or bib longs.** So everything else went into the Outbound bag. And I decided it might be helpful to capture and preserve my "overviews" (not "reviews") in a more accessible place, i.e. here on the blog. 

So without further ado - I present a selection of bib shorts of various designs, highlighting where I think some manufactures have successfully figured out the whole Women's Bib Short "thing" and where others are just playing a Gimmick Game


Sunday, 15 March 2015

#Errandonnee 2015 Challenge: Rides 6-8

Errandonnee #6
Date: Friday, 13 March 2015
Errand:  Get drugs (!)
Category:   Personal Care
Destination:  Local pharmacy
Steed: Lorelei the Puch Princess 
What I learned/observations:

I had my timing wrong and reached the village just at school leaving time. The streets were heaving with children... and with people driving their cars for the school run. I saw two other people on bikes: one a young lad cycling slowly on the sidewalk keeping pace with his mum who was pushing a stroller and a small girl about 5. The other was a teenage boy who lives near us, who walked by our house just as I was leaving home. He was hammering back up the street towards the village again, riding no-hands as he shrugged into a jacket. Late for his after-school job, I reckon. I envied his no-hands skills and was pleased to see him putting them to practical use rather than showing off!

Deja vu! Today was warmer and the bike has been rebuilt

Friday, 13 March 2015

#Errandonnee 2015 Challenge: Rides 1-5

Here's my first batch of Errandonnee rides. I haven't really got to grips with the new controls. In the absence of specific food/drink categories and given my current unavailability for any ride that could remotely be construed as "social", I foresee too many errands being categorised as Personal Care when they are anything but! (If only I were looking after myself as well as my anticipated over-use of this category might imply...)

Errandonnee #1
Date: Sunday, 8 March 2015
Errand:  Get Cash
Category:   Personal Business
Destination:  ATM in Luton town centre
Steed: Riley the Enigma
What I learned/observations:

When an ATM is unable to dispense cash, it will still take you through the entire menu right up to selection of the amount you want before telling you so. Why can't the cash option be disabled or displayed as unavailable right on the main menu?

Take 1:




Saturday, 7 March 2015

#Errandonnee 2015 Has Started!


Up to my eyeballs in coursework with a final law exam looming in just 3 months, much in "real life" is passing me by. For example, this year's edition that fabulously fan "Farewell Winter, Hello Spring" cycling challenge called the Errandonnee started on Thursday. 

30 Miles over 12 Rides in 12 Days.

The "rules" are designed to get those creative juices flowing and get you out in the fresh air with that trusty steed which may have been languishing (just like you) a bit too much through the winter. 

Much of the fun happens on the Facebook page, where people from all over the world post photos every day from their pedal-powered outings. And the Twitter hashtag is #errandonnee. (That's 2 Rs, 2 Ns, 2 Es.)

So where will you go? We want to hear about it! 

selection of #errandonnee photos on Twitter today

Though perhaps the burning question is:  You carried WHAT on your bike??!

@rachelcannon lobbied for the addition of this new category to this year's challenge.
I wonder what else she has up her sleeve?!

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