Sunday 26 October 2014

Getting ready for the winter commute

Had a relatively quiet but fun week on the cycling front, covering only 48k. However, made good use of the week in terms of future preparations. Indeed, not only did I create potential routes but I also readied my commute bike for the winter season.
First off, I acquired a funky little KCNC wheel skewer light mount. This piece of kit allows a light to be mounted off the bars (and in line with the hubs). I just need to get a decent commute light for my Genesis bike now. (I have a Hope Vision 1 in mind). The blue bone-head was just for effect. If this works well, I might invest in another for my road bike which would get rid of endless cable from my dynamo hub up to my bars.
The next thing I acquired was a Continental Top Contact Winter II tyre. This tyre will be great over the Winter months as it will allow me to cycle over snow, frost and ice. The tyre has many features including a reflective strip, temperature resistant up to -25C, proven tread pattern for assured winter grip and a high level of puncture protection. My buddy Chris had raved about these tyres last season and assures they are the business. These tyres are not cheap - they can cost anything between £35-50 each! I paid less than £30 for my tyre (from Tredz who priced matched and then gave a further £5 discount voucher). For sure, I need a second tyre but will have to wait until payday. These tyres will be changed back after the Winter season.
The other thing I prepared was a potential 200k route. This route, I hope, will be suitable for a single-speed adventure as it is not overly hilly and never climbs higher than 150 metres at any point. I used 'Ride with GPS' to create the route and am hoping to use this as a DIY perm for maybe November and December. I have entitled the route 'the not-so-great figure of eight'. Any guesses why?
The not-so-great figure of eight, 200k DIY perm
In terms of actual cycling, I had 2 mini adventures. The first was a quick blast on my single-speed bike. This was just a quick route check on my planned event above. I cycled to the first control and then got lost trying to make sense of my Garmin. I've had my Garmin ages and should have learnt that purple route lines take priority over white ones! Silly me.
My final ride was on the day that the clocks went back. And talking of 'back', I had Lunar on the back of my single-speed MTB. We picked up where I got lost the day before. Following the rule that purple lines win over white ones, we found our way. I guess you could say this was a 'Lunar Cycle'.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Lunar's debut/Events/Mr Pickwick's Autumnal Outing/Commute/Wheels/Inspiration

No blogging for a short spell because I caught an evil bug. This bug took a while to pass. No cycling whilst the bug was with me.
A mighty creature is the germ,
Though smaller than the pachyderm,
It's customary dwelling place,
Is deep within the human race.
First ride after my short abstinence was a quick jaunt with Lunar and Kim. This was Lunar's debut ride! Lunar appeared real pleased to be sat on the back of my bike and was proud of her buff and helmet. I would have taken Lunar out in the past only it's taken this long for her head to fit her 'small fry' helmet.
Lunar liked going over bumps and things very much which pleasantly surprised me. On Lunar's first trek we cycled all the way to Arrow Vale Lake, cycled round it and then returned home. Kim cycled all this way too but appeared to be out of puff during the whole ride.
On Lunar's first cycle we covered about 15k. We both hope to have further cycling adventures together soon. Oh what fun!

Had lost my mojo a little. I think this was because I'd gotten ill and a lot of my buddies had entered PBP which I'm unable to ride next year. To help get my mojo back, I entered the following events.
Better yet, I am hoping to convert the Snowdrop Express into a 200k plus event and ride my first ECE! An ECE is an extended calendar event. Essentially, if I add distance to the event (by riding to the start, and riding from the finish), I hope to convert it into a point scoring event. It's complicated, but I think I've nailed it.

By mid-October my mojo had come back. To celebrate, I completed another 200k audax with Ron and Chris. This audax was Mr Pickwick's Autumnal Outing, a 200k Black Sheep event organised by Mark Rigby. This was a great audax and the first event to be completed for the 2015 season (which strangely started 1 October 2014). This was one of the few Black Sheep events that I had not previously cycled.
GPX track log of Mr Pickwick's Autumnal Outing, 206k
Ron, Chris and I all met up in Tewkesbury with a whole bunch of others ready for the start. This event was really well attended. For an Autumn day, the weather was great. Shorts and bare arms weather. At just after 7.30 a.m. we set off. For the most part the ride was undulating in nature and followed nice roads within a rural setting. The first leg was a 52k stretch that took us to Tredington. Was most disappointed when we reached the control because it was just a garage shop. How we all wished for a full English breakfast!
Hilliness profile of Mr Pickwick's Autumnal Outing
We had battled the early hills in stage one and so left Tredlington with an air of relief. Daventry was the next control but I kept reading the signs as 'dysentry'. Took few photo's on route but did stop to take pictures of a 'lizard' that Chris had spotted.
Chris's Lizard
On the flip side, Ron said it was a newt
In our eagerness to eat, we didn't stop at the official control in Daventry. Instead, we stopped at the first eatery we spotted. This was a great control, it was a 'spoons pub. I ate a lovely chilli egg noodles and chicken dish. Mmm, delicious. Despite Ron cycling his new funky SL 4 bike on this event, it was my bike that received positive comments on this adventure. Indeed, a drinker at this control commented (about my SL 3) 'that's a nice bike. You best lock it up or else I'll nick it'. Hmm.

Suitably fuelled we left Daventry and headed for Chipping Norton. Chris was off form today and his left leg was giving him grief. My right knee had a niggle too. We considered swapping legs but figured that wouldn't work as we'd only give a bad one away and receive a bad one in return. Both Ron's legs were fine and he was off - we didn't see him again until the finish!
The 3 of us, before Ron's departure
Chris and I stopped at a familiar control in Chipping Norton. The service was friendly enough but the food wasn't great and overly priced in my opinion. I ate a carrot and ginger soup. My quick visit to Sainsbury's (just up the road) was better where I purchased lots of fun size Twix bars. I got some ibuprofen for our pains too but that never seemed to help.
3-D hilliness profile of Mr Pickwick's Autumnal Outing
The last stage was a 57k trek back to the start. Just like the first stage, this stage had a few pulls and a few lovely descents. Despite Chris being in some pain, we were not quite the 'lantern rouge' and were aware that at least 2 cyclists were behind us. Started to get dark during this section but that was fine as we were suitably lit up. Very pleased to report that we didn't get cold or wet during any of this event. The tail end of this audax was great as it was mostly down-hill, a descent of at least 12k or more! Indeed, a very speedy descent took us into Winchcombe and then a more gentle descent took us to the finish in Tewkesbury. When we got our brevet cards stamped at the finish, we caught up with Ron again. Ron had already consumed 3 pints of beer at this point! All agreed, we had a lovely autumnal outing!

My other cycle adventures were the usual commutes to work and back. The canal from the Mail Box to University was still closed. I do hope it opens again soon.
Lin and Chris donated some stuff towards my retro project which was great. Lin gave me 2 complete mountain bikes - all in bits and a road bicycle wheel. The bikes are a little small for me and the road wheel has too few spokes for a retro build. However, I plan to build up the bikes and sell them, possibly to fund the retro project. The wheel will come in handy elsewhere. Chris gave me 2 vintage wheels which will be just great fitted to my retro Raleigh Esprit. More building must take place soon.

People ride bicycles for all sorts of reasons. I ride mine because it's a form of meditation for me. Some folk's reasons are quite bizarre and wacky, such as the person in the pic below. Whatever your reason, go ride your bike!
I've got a bike,
You can ride it if you like,
It's got a basket,
A bell that rings, 
And things to make it look good..

Monday 6 October 2014


Not so long ago I purchased some lovely Shimano Dura-Ace brake levers for my planned retro build. I was excited about these levers and wanted to put them straight on my bars and essentially make a start on my build. Even though the frame is old, heavy and a little tatty, I love it. I like the Raleigh badge on the frame and I like the way the Raleigh logo is impressed on the bars.
Without further ado, I set about putting the levers on. They looked great. However, I had made an error - the levers were 'aero' levers and retro bikes are supposed to have 'non aero' levers. Aero levers are those where the brake cable is hidden under the hoods and usually gets taped to the bars. Non aero levers have the brake cable sticking out through a hole in the top of the hoods. I should stop buying items before researching in greater detail. Is complicated this bike building lark but at least valuable lessons are being learnt.
Damn blast! Those aero levers were real nice, I will keep them for a proposed single-speed bike build perhaps?! I soon located another set of Shimano Dura-Ace vintage levers and non aero style too. These new levers cost £20 and looked better than the other one's I had already but they didn't come with brake hoods. I made an impulsive purchase.
Now, locating hoods was a real menace. Nowhere appeared to sell vintage Shimano hoods. Dia-Compe hoods were considered 'universal fitting', so these were swiftly purchased at a cost of £7.99. Am still within budget and the hoods I've ordered are white which I though was a nice touch.

Other items that came through the post included a Shimano 600 Ultegra 6400 crankset (£33) which had arm lengths of 175mm (bonus), Shimano 600 SL-6400 7 speed shifters (£12.57) and a bike work stand that I very much needed (wanted). The bike stand allowed me to remove the previously fitted brake levers with ease. I do hope I can get my head around these building problems.
Not long after I had built up my bike work stand, my hoods arrived in the post. This prompted me to fit my levers and attach the new hoods. The hoods were as tough as boots and after much stretching and pulling they fitted neatly over the levers. Next job was to tape the bars. I had never taped bars before and my first attempt was a trifle pants but it'll do for the time being. Am a little disappointed I am so naff at things.
The picture doesn't look too bad but trust me, the bar plugs looked tacky as the bar tape did not plug in neatly, there was a little gap near the hoods and the blue electrical tape would have looked better if it was white. The bar tape was too thick (in my opinion) and that's why I think this task was so difficult. I also attached the shifters to the down tube, just because I could.
The shifters were funny things - only the right one had a screwdriver slot. No cable's attached to them yet. Look pretty neat don't you think?!
Cayo 2012 (and 2010)
Would be great to get my retro bike built up in time for the Snowdrop Audax next year. This is an event that I have cycled 4 times already but used a different bike on the last 3 occasions. The first and second time I cycled this event (which was my first audax ever) I used my Focus Cayo. Third time around I used my Specialized Roubaix. The fourth and last time I cycled the event, I used Cayo again but this time around she was a converted into a single-speed machine. 
Slinky 2013
Kay-O 2014
In terms of actual cycling this past week, I only managed 2 work-and-back commutes. Was foggy and misty in the morning and soon it'll be dark. When exactly do the clocks go back?!

Happy New Year 2022

Happy New Year folks. I wonder what's in store for 2022,  - something crazy, something new? It's a shame Covid is still here and I&#...