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.
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.
- 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.
A couple of weeks ago one gear on my Rohloff started slipping. I don’t know which gear, the numbers don’t matter to me and wore off my shifter years ago, but a guess would be 5.
Anyway, the slippage didn’t go away and happened every time I attempted to engage that gear.
After a week or more I got fed up and eventually decided to do something about it. I drained the oil, filled with Rohloff cleaning oil then road it for a week (10 X 12.5 miles). During the week it appeared to happen less and less until I forgot about it.
I then drained and re-filled with 50/50 oil and cleaning oil until the weather warms up (it’s not that cold here, but the mornings can be below 0C).
Cleaning oil did seep out and even made it onto my rim – which made for very odd rear wheel braking, mostly overbraking and locking the wheel up. Anyway, I cleaned the wheel, nothing else of course.
Bluebell is back to full working order and maybe next winter I’ll add a little cleaning oil.
Today I celebrated the New Year with a test ride to the office I will be working at from Monday.
From the main roads there’s a choice of lanes or the horse poo covered tracks that take you over a lovely little bridge:
Which is over a little river that winds its way around the office, underneath the access road and another office:
From the road you go over the access bridge:
Around the back of the office:
And into the rack
Notice the map (google maps print out) on top of my bar bag, no fancy gadgets for Christmas, not even a proper map!
Bluebell has a nice view from her parking space:
Much nicer than an underground car park.
The new route is 12.5 miles, longer than my previous normal route which was 8 miles, but less than the crazy mileage I did before that.
For me, December is the month of least enjoyable cycling. It’s normally cold, but too warm for winter tyres, often I can wake up to a frosty start and wish I had them fitted. Oddly enough, it’s the one month that I like the forecast to be rain, if it’s been raining then it isn’t frosty.
Last winter I often stayed at home on the bad frosty mornings, rather than risk the ride to work, fortunately with my job I could do some on the computer at home while the road thaws out. That isn’t ideal, the other options I have are:
- swap to winter or normal tyres every time the weather changes. This requires a good weather forecast, for me to keep a close eye on it and also have time to change the tyres, which I rarely have.
- fit the winter tyres when the temperature starts to drop and ride them all winter. This is the lazy option, it is more consistent but definitely more cycling effort. I’ve done this in the past and may do it this year.
- fit the winter tyres onto a second bike and ride that on the bad days (I don’t have a second bike that I would enjoy riding)
- fit the winter tyres on Bluebell and ride a normal bike on the warmer days (I don’t have a normal bike that I would enjoy riding)
Clearly the answer is to buy another bike that I would enjoy riding, unfortunately not this year, maybe next, until then I’ll be looking for warm weather, rain, or I’ll just fit the winter tyres and slog my way through winter instead.
Sure, nobody except me will be proud of these, but…
- Today I cleaned Bluebell for the second time this year! And yes, it was raining at the time, she didn’t mind though. I even cleaned her chain with the fancy chain cleaning gizmo that I never bother to use, I can see why I never bother with the faffy thing.
- Today was only the second time I have bought anything cycling related this year (total spend on cycling this year is only £64)
I can definitely say that Bluebell is very low maintenance and cost, so long as you keep the Rohloff oil changes as they advise and also occasionally check oil levels to make sure you don’t run dry. The only semi-regular maintenance she needs is brake tweaks (as they wear), chain oil and eccentric bottom bracket tweaks (as the chain wears).
I sometimes dream of a super speedy road bike, but I know I’m too busy / lazy to maintain it, so I will keep Bluebell and not needlessly waste money on some fragile carbon money-pit.
Lastly, firstly, pedal reflectors are a legal requirement in the UK, other than that, I think they are worthwhile, they can’t do any harm. Don’t be fooled though, reflectors give people false hope, get decent lights, spend a lot of money on them and be safe. Pedal reflectors won’t help when the vehicle’s windows are misted up or it’s a rainy day. Only bright lights will penetrate that.
But anyway… I was down to my last one, they keep breaking, falling off etc. So I bought some new bolt on ones, let’s see how long they last.
Now, the highlight, a brand spanking new Thorn chainring, 48T and reversible (eat that derailleur lovers):
Notice how clean Bluebell is compared with normal? I treated her to a clean not so long ago 🙂
Also, note the black oil marks are on alternate teeth, bonus points if you can guess why this is? Wow, cycling trivia, almost.
And for comparison old against new:
Extra trivia, is the original (on top) a reversible chainring and explain why 🙂