Saturday 26 April 2014

Practice Commutes

Thought I'd start this blog by sharing a lovely picture that was on the front of a card my awesome wife sent me. Yup, it was a belated anniversary card. Hopefully my wife will think it's fine that it's also a belated blog! Ha!
This week began with a practice commute to Axis house, my soon-to-be work base, and back. Commuting appears to be the way forward as I will have no parking space of my own (and am in the centre of Birmingham) and train fare would be just under £8 a day (let alone the fact I wold still have to find a way to Redditch to start train journey. Is a just under 40 mile round trip too much for the likes of me?!
Practice BTP Commute
I took out Kay-O, my single-speed road bike for the first practice commute. The route (plotted by my buddy Chris) was quite varied and included road, cycle-way and tow-path. My single-speed coped well with the journey as a whole but one hill had me beaten - maybe gears would have helped or perhaps a re-run and I would exert more of an effort knowing the hill is here. My thin tyres coped OK too but I felt they took quite a beating and I would not take them bouncing up and down the many curbs on route. At times my wheels would spin - a thicker tyre would be of benefit but frame will not allow for wider tyres. Mud-guards are essential (though I only had a rear fitted). Rim brakes were poor - disc brakes would definitely be a better option. My drop bars were fine though I initially thought flat bars would be required - it was nice having drops for the speedier route home. Look pedals and cleats were a poor option - too much walking up and down steps (to access canal for e.g.), a change to SPD's is a must. This first run took me 1 hour and 36 minutes to reach base and 1 hour and 17 minutes to return.
Practice Home Commute
Mid-week and I took Queenie out for a few test runs or series of 'shorts' as I liked to call them. These test runs were simply to look at different options of reaching Beoley on my pending commute. The run to Beoley is the first section of said commute. Chris had showed me a route that used a cycleway to reach Beoley that went past the very pretty Arrow Valley Lake on a mostly flat gradient. This 'lake' option was pretty, flat and about 6k long. The 'road' alternative took off about 0.5k but was relatively busy, not so pretty and more undulating. I don't think I will ever use the road version. The 'urban'  route used buss only lanes and took nearly 1k of the distance but was not as pretty as the 'lake' version and again slightly more undulating. I guess my commute will use the 'lake' option most but take on some 'urban' alternative to break up too much monotony. Is great having choices. I had fitted a cheap bell with awesome effect on these 'shorts' and will add a bell to whichever bike I use to commute. I think Queenie is possibly to slow to use as a commute bike (single-speed and heavy MTB) but I will give her a chance and perform a practice commute.

Sure enough, I took Queenie out for a practice commute over the weekend. I attempted to follow the same route as earlier in the week but discovered I had actually gone off route. Instead of cycling lots and lots of tow-path, I diverted onto the Rea Valley cycleway. This was much more picturesque and took me through Cannon Hill Park. Only menace was the number of runners filling said park and the many traffic light crossings. Probably a better route overall though and nice to have choice! Queenie sure coped better with the bumpy tow-path (compared to Kay-O) and her disc brakes were great. SPD's sure made a difference too. The big hill I feared was conquered, but only just and my chest felt like it was ripped open - gears would definitely help here. It took me about 1 hour 40 mins to reach BTP base, about the same as last time. Queenie kept topping out and I know with a more 'perfect' commute bike I could take considerable time off and power flat and descending sections. All in all, quite happy that my big heavy single-speed MTB was up for the commute task and will most probably be used until an alternative commute bike can be sourced/funded!
My return home was essentially same route in reverse. I stopped to take a picture of 1 of the many green signs lining the Rea Valley Cycleway. Greener - yes! Faster - no! Fitter - not yet! Return home was slow, about 1 hour 40 mins again. I was expecting a faster finish but sadly was not able. Queenie kept topping out but still seems like a slightly better choice of temporary commute bike compared to Kay-O.

Cycled 145k this week. Total cycling this year now stands at 2,744k. Maybe next week will be my first real commute.

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