Category Archives: Cycling

Tips learned this winter #cycling

I’ve been a bit lazy recently with writing anything down, but that doesn’t mean I’ve not been cycling or indeed discovering new tricks and tips.

Tip 1

This winter I loved my toe covers, cheap, easy to fit and I just leave them on my shoes with minimal hassle compared with overshoes. I own two pairs now. They keep my feet warm enough and even some water out too, enough to keep my toes dry on a wet commute. £9.50 at time of writing… http://www.wiggle.co.uk/dhb-toe-cover-overshoe/

Tip 2

Base layers are expensive, but don’t necessarily need to be bought from a cycle shop, you can save money by looking around. I recently bought four from a DIY shop at £8.49 each, unfortunately they are £9.99 at time of writing… http://www.screwfix.com/p/helly-hansen-kastrup-baselayer-crewneck-black-large-42-chest/55368

Tip 3

Disposable gloves for bike maintenance. I like nitrile ones at just under 8p per glove… http://www.screwfix.com/p/skytec-utah-nitrile-powder-free-disposable-gloves-blue-large-100-pack/1705g

Tip 4

Never give up, just because your gloves don’t keep your fingers warm, you just haven’t found the right ones yet… I like the look of lobster neoprene gloves… maybe I’ll try them next year.

Tip 5

For every rubbish tool you have there’s a good one that cost just a few pounds more, not every tool is worth the extra, but I’m definitely glad I spent the extra on decent wire cutters, chain whip, floor pump and tyre levers to name but a few. Last weekend I used my wire cutters again and I remembered how much I appreciate them every time I use them.

Tip 6

Muc Off or similar top brand of degreaser and bike cleaner. Degreaser is so good, I don’t use a lot over the course of a year, but every time I clean my chain and bike I’m glad I have it and can’t imagine how I ever cleaned it without it.

Tip 7

Ignore and pity the fools with mega expensive road bikes that don’t ride all year round, they may go fast in summer, but fast is expensive and a whole load more maintenance and hassle. Buy yourself a cheap and really awful road bike, try riding it to put yourself off the idea of wasting a lot of money on one.

Tip 8

Rags and old socks, don’t throw them in the bin, they are perfect for bike maintenance and cleaning, as are old scrubbing and tooth brushes.

Tip 9

On a slightly icy Monday morning, do be careful in the office car park, they won’t have gritted it…

Tip 10

Check brakes frequently in winter, a sticking caliper can be enough to help you loose traction on that office car park…

Happy cycling, spring is on its way!

New lights and rucksack #cycling

I’ve never been one to recommend without having used it for while. Enough evaluation time has passed and I’m now ready to extol the virtues of my recent purchases.

A bag is a bag? No, mostly I prefer an office pannier bag, a rucksack trumps in terms of convenience, but also gives you a sweaty back. Though the fancy bag helps a little with fancy looking back ventilation:

It’s still more sweaty than not having it on your back.

(Osprey Talon 22)

But I’m going to stick with it because it’s more convenient (and the blue matches bluebell nicely LOL). The overall weight is slightly less because I don’t need a rack either now. It is also nicer to not have the weight on the back wheel and the rattling around the contents used to get, so the bike moves over bumps better. I’m happy with the bag and my new setup.

Now, onto my favourite subject, commuting lights. See my last post for an introduction http://wp.me/p1Tdgj-11j.

Here they are:

Don’t ever be fooled by beam patterns, heat maps or photos, the only way of knowing how good something is is to get your hands on one and try it on a wet road. The packaging (and website) show impressive patterns, which never match reality.

The Busch + Müller IXON IQ Premium LED Front Light Set – 1922QMLA is pretty good and I like plugging it in rather than taking batteries out and charging separately. The fact that it takes AA batteries gives me a lot of options with this light. It also lasts around 5 hours on full power so I don’t need to charge it every day. It switches to low power when the batteries are low. Looking at run time for low power is pointless, I don’t buy a high output light to run on low power. If this were the only light that I’d bought, then I’d probably rave about it, but, the Lumotec IQ-X light is even better…

The 20 extra lux on paper doesn’t do it justice, it’s a great light, even on my old and low powered supernova S dynamo hub, it far exceeds the output of the IXON IQ Premium, however I will keep using both because I like to be prepared at the least favourable time of year. The IQ-X is a nice looking light too. Anyone wanting to get a dynamo light should definitely consider this light.

I consider both of these Busch + Müller lights affordable and reasonably priced, even when the Pound is weak against the Euro. So there’s no excuse for not treating yourself when your existing lighting isn’t up to scratch.

Dark so early? Time to buy new lights #cycling @bike24net

In the UK we’ve just lost British Summer Time daylight saving and my gosh did I notice the loss of daylight, that hour really did change my commute home. I love riding in the dark provided I’ve got adequate lighting, but my main light is no longer good enough and my spare is just about usable, so it was time to replace them.

Most of the lights I looked at were massively expensive, powerful and put more light on the sky than on the road.

In September 2012 I bought a hub dynamo and a Busch & Müller Lumotec IQ Fly RT front light from bike24.com. I like the light, it’s courteous to other road users and efficiently puts light on the road while still making me very visible, so I wanted something similar but with a bit more power.

Fortunately Busch & Müller now have a more powerful dynamo light and a very good battery light that don’t break the bank, even with the awful pound to euro exchange rate.

So I’ve ordered them from bike24.com:

Busch + Müller Lumotec IQ-X LED Front Light – 164RTSNDI-01
(http://en.bumm.de/products/dynamo-headlights/lumotec-iq-x.html)

Busch + Müller IXON IQ Premium LED Front Light Set – 1922QMLA
(http://en.bumm.de/produkte/akku-scheinwerfer/ixon-iq.html)

There aren’t such good reviews of the IXON IQ, apparently it breaks easily, well, I’ll just have to be careful with it 🙂

Fingers crossed they both arrive safely and work as well as I hope they do, it’d be nice to have something that lasts another 4 years without any issues, the cheap lights on Amazon etc won’t that’s for sure.

The weather has also become cold too, it’s only the start of November and I’m already in my winter jacket and gloves!

Time for a change of setup #cycling

For a long time now I’ve commuted with a pannier (office) bag and a bar bag. These have worked really well, especially on 18.5 miles commutes verses a rucksack on my back which put too much pressure on my body. The bar bag was a useful place to keep keys and valuables as well as my front light battery pack. I also didn’t like a sweaty-rucksack-back on hot days.

I see a lot of commuters with rucksacks and my bags are starting to show their age, so I decided to try a rucksack for a week before investing in new ones. My commute for some time has been a lot less than when I started with this setup, but I kept the same setup. Currently my commute is only 12.5 miles and the weather was hot, so it felt like a good time to try.

After a couple of weeks at 12.5 miles I can confirm:

  • One bag is better than two; carrying two bags around is more hassle
  • A rucksack is an easy bag to carry
  • Clipping bags on and off wastes time
  • A bar bag makes it difficult to fit a front light (or a second in my case), I have to have an accessory bar hanging the light below the bag
  • Luggage on the bike does seem to weigh the rear end down
  • On hot days you get a very sweaty back with or without a rucksack, so it doesn’t make much of a difference
  • A rucksack is lighter, no rack is required either
  • A rucksack is cheaper
  • A rucksack doesn’t require fitting stuff to my bike or replacing it once it is worn out or breaks

The flip side is that for longer commutes I’d still probably want to mount the bag on the bike, but I think I’d try and wean myself off the bar bag. Besides, I’m not looking to commute any more than 12.5 miles 🙂

My chain was getting worn, so I cleaned up bluebell, removed the rack, bar bag mount and accessory bar and set her up:

She’s a little more lively but still heavy, the rucksack is working well and I can always put the rack back on, it’s only 4 hex socket cap bolts after all. (Yes, that is a ~960g rear tyre, well spotted – once worn out I will replace with something a little lighter)

One day I might even fit the drop bars that my first Thorn Raven came with, but there’s other maintenance I need to do on here at some point before then.

Happy riding.

First ride #cycling

Garden / grass riding wasn’t very successful, but first ride on the road and he’s got it mastered: 
He seems good at scooting and starting too.

Mudguard gashing #cycling

To save on gashing one’s legs with mudguard stays:

  
First you need some rubber tape:

  
Cut off a piece:

  

Wrap/stretch around the end of the stay:

  

Trim it with some scissors:

  
The trimming helps mush the end up nice and good.

Clippy pedals #cycling

In all my years of cycling I’ve whimped out at the thought of clipless pedals (a.k.a. clip-in pedals). The price of them and shoes seemed to be putting me off too.

But it turns out there are cheap ones available and £60 will buy you shoes, SPD (Shimano) cleats and pedals. Before Christmas I purchased the shoes and cleats with a view of fitting to my single sided touring pedals that I’ve had in stock since I bought a bike several years back, that didn’t happen. Then I acquired some double sided SPD pedals from my brother, so I then had a couple of options that didn’t happen.

Yesterday:

  • I cleaned bluebell before swapping winter tyres for normal ones (she was pretty dirty and it’s a good idea to clean a bike before swapping tyres because you can then store the clean tyres).
  • I degreased my chain and tightened up the eccentric bottom bracket.
  • I fitted new brake blocks.
  • Re-indexed my gears…. Only kidding, I ride Rohloff 🙂

Then, I got carried away and in a fit of madness I fitted the pedals and put on my new shoes, cleats as loose as possible… Test ride around the garden… I don’t know what I was scared about!

   
These Shimano SH56 cleats allow easy sideways slide, twist or angled disengagement (I said it, it must be correct). The SH51 cleats are not for me and scare me, they are not for a learner like me. Since the cleats are cheap I may one day switch to them, but I can’t see why I would.

Other brands may be better or worse, I just went for what’s cheap and popular.

Here’s my attempt at a video showing my hand pulling and pushing the shoe in the right directions and then angling my foot (fishing???) to detach the shoe from the pedal:

  
First and probably last video! The birds in my back garden were mocking / heckling me.

Don’t fear cleats, just get easy release ones and setup the pedals for easy release.

I rode to work and back without falling off too, so can you!

I love new brakes.