Tag Archives: Equipment

Lighter tyres #cycling

I’ve always gone for the reasonably priced 26″ Schwalbe tyres. Marathon Green Guard were my normal all round choice for almost puncture free riding, but they are heavy, not Marathon Plus weight, but not light either. (see link below for comparison). The standard Marathon Kevlar (old) tyres were lighter but weren’t robust enough for my needs.

Years pass, and a more expensive tyre catches my eye, the Marathon Supreme and coming in around 440g it’s a good weight saving:

I’ve never had a folding tyre before, they look very wonky to begin with, but look good once fitted:

Because I had an old Marathon Plus on the rear, it’s reduced the weight by around 750g! I just hope they don’t yield punctures, the reviews are very positive, but only time will tell whether they are worth double the money!

The best comparison is http://www.bicyclerollingresistance.com/tour-reviews/compare/schwalbe-marathon-2015-vs-schwalbe-marathon-plus-2015-vs-schwalbe-marathon-supreme-2016

That site shows the weight saving and fractional rolling benefits too, but also less puncture resistance.

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.

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.


  • 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.

Blown it all #cycling

Though it is windy outside, I am not talking about the weather this time.

2015 was a controlled year so far, very little spending (buying my wife a cheap bike in the summer does not count), then… Black Friday happened.

Wiggle.co.uk had (still have at time of writing) £40 off when you spend £200 on clothing and helmets. I had no intention of buying:

  • 2 long sleeve jerseys
  • 2 pairs of long fingered gloves
  • 2 pairs of mitts
  • 2 summer jerseys
  • 3 pairs of shorts
  • cycle shoes and cleats

I did intend on buying

  • 1 long sleeve jersey (only if the price was right)
  • 1 pair of long fingered gloves
  • 1 pair of winter gloves

The long sleeve jerseys were half the price of my original, which I paid £45 for in January 2011. Sure I never bought a second because it wasn’t worth that money, I’ve been using a gilet and arm warmers when the jersey is in the wash. But at half the price I bought two and the gilet and arm warmer faff will be over.

The summer jerseys and shorts were cheap, my shorts are a bit hole-ridden (LOL) so I couldn’t turn them down.

Shoes? Yeah! I will be a proper cyclist now, no more tramp shoes for me baby! Sure, I used to look at tramps (who always wore better shoes than my cycling shoes) and wondered if they cycled.

So anyway, I easily spent over £200 and I never did get the winter gloves.

It has still been a free hobby (offset by commuting), cheaper than running a second car, cheaper than any other way of getting to work and good for my health. No, I won’t mention the dog poo fiasco of last week, I’m only going to blog about the good things, not about getting covered in it.

Battery or dynamo hub powered front light, the big decision #cycling

At present I have an Air Bike P7 Ever Light (SCC P7 LED, 700 lumens) and it’s been working well for several years now but a while back the cat chewed the charger cable, so I patched it up, but the lamp cable has also been patched up, the lens is cracked and the reflector surface has bubbled in places too. Sure, it still works, but a replacement is overdue.

I can’t afford a decent branded battery pack light (oooww Betty) or a SON dynamo plus a decent lamp. Given the price of the MagicShine lights I’m tempted to buy one, but I’ve also been thinking about a dynamo. Dynamos seem expensive, mostly lack a flashing mode for daytime use and quick release would have to be a DIY solution too. Why am I still interested in a dynamo? Well, the modern battery front lights have such poor runtime that I find it annoying to have to keep charging it, my rear lights last the week so they can happily be battery powered without getting annoying. Fortunately Busch & Müller’s IQ DRL lamps aren’t that expensive and have a Daylight Running (flashing) Light, so if I can keep the price of the hub and wheel down then the only issue is a DIY quick release bracket, I can deal with that. Another thing about a dynamo (in theory) is that I can upgrade or replace the lower costing lamp in future, so when the IQ2 is widely available I can upgrade (or just wish I’d have waited for it). Nexus and Bluebell have different wheel sizes, so I can’t swap it between the bikes, but then I’ll still have the Air Bike that I can use on the lesser used Nexus if I have to.

Finding somewhere that sells dynamo hubs laced into rims isn’t that easy either, some don’t, they only sell the components, some say you’re going to have to contact them with your requirements and they’ll create the custom order for you. A few people recommended Bike24, so I went there, they do sell the built wheel, but unfortunately the cheaper dynamos were out of stock, after some huffing and puffing I decided to just splash out a bit (no, not on a SON, I can’t splash out that much!), here’s what I ordered:
Supernova Infinity S dynamo hub laced into a Mavic XM 719 rim (center lock or rim brake) – €229.90
Busch + Müller Lumotec IQ Fly RT Senso Plus LED Front Light with DRL 174QRTSNDI – €49.90
Total = €279.80

The downside (there always is one) is Bike24 are based in Germany (hence the Euro price tag), so I’ve no idea how much it’s really costing, but I figure if I can afford it in pounds then it’ll be fine.

Wish me luck!

New job, new cycling decisions #cycling

My previous office had a bike shelter in the car park, facilities for cycling other than that were non-existent, but one can change in a toilet cubicle, use baby wipes for the private areas and wash hair, face and hands in a sink (or toilet, whatever you like). I was fine with this for nearly two years, it wasn’t ideal, but I got used to it, so showers at the office aren’t a requirement for me now, but they do encourage others, if there’s not a shower then some won’t cycle, it’s one of those things.

Where was I heading with this, oh yes, my new job which I hope will progress into “my job” in a few months is in a town centre. This location brings numerous benefits, but there is even less provision for cycling, I am indeed shocked and appalled by this. How can the provision be less than practically nothing? Well, nowhere safe to store my bluebell, that’s how.

Q: Accept a job even though there is no guarantee of safe parking?
A: You can always buy a clown bike and store it under your desk
– No thanks, unless no other option.
A: Are you kidding? Job first, figure the rest out later
– Yes, fine, job accepted.

First couple of days have been train plus walk, it’s horrible and my legs can’t take all this walking, though the train isn’t that expensive (yet).
Thoughts of driving are ruled out by awful traffic and parking at £15 per day.
So I NEED my bike but the bike storage is now confirmed as rubbish!

Q: So bike under the desk, what about those dirty days when the bike will drip filth everywhere if I brought it inside?
A: That’ll get them to provision something PDQ
– Not sure I want to rock the boat in my new job just yet.
A: You can buy special bike bags for this
– Sounds like a faff to me and the outside of the bag will still get wet / dirty in the progress, I think my bike belongs outside, especially given my lack of cleaning routine

Q: Other options?
A: There’s storage on the flat roof, you could use that? There are also railings to lock it to.
– I’d have 4 or 5 flights of stairs to carry the bike up inside the building, not to mention the weight of it all, the filth issue above still comes in. Though that would be the safest storage option.
A: Pedestrian crossing railings outside the office
– I’d worry about that location, seems a bit like irresponsible parking to me, would my bike be removed by the council, etc.
A: The station parking
– Too far to walk from there up a hill to the office, you also need a season ticket for the cycle lockers too, so I’d be using the unsecured parking and I’d definitely need expensive cycle insurance, my locks are plenty high enough on the security ratings, there’s vandalism to worry about as well as theft.
A: Local bike parking e.g. hoops outside the library or school
– Similar concerns to station, though close to the office, there’s no guarantee I could get a space, but on that day I can always fall back to a different option, or turn around and go home in protest.

Q: Couldn’t you use the Nexus bike rather than worrying about the theft of Bluebell?
A: I’d rather slit my wrists, I tried the Nexus recently and I think I’d have to buy a better bike, but that’d again be at risk of theft, probably more than Bluebell, though she is expensive, she doesn’t have the coolness factor the thieves are hopefully looking for.

Q: When would you ride Bluebell if you used a different bike?
A: The Burley doesn’t fit it unless I get a new hitch, so probably never.

Q: Is there any point owning Bluebell and not riding her?
A: No, I suppose not.

Q: What will I do if my Bluebell does get stolen?
A: Cry and claim on insurance?

Q: Would you replace Bluebell?
A: Tricky question, I’d have to cross that bridge when I came to it, but it’s probably not worth it, the replacement would only get stolen too.

So it looks like the local bike parking plus hefty insurance and my hefty locks is going to be my first attempt, let’s see how I get on. Wish me luck!

Bicycle bottle cage DIY #cycling

The problem

Small bottles fall out of bottle cage, like so:

The solution

Make a sleeve to hold it.

What you need:
– 1 litre squash bottle, high juice or similar
– Sharp knife (and protective gear if you aren’t handy)
– Lighter / olympic flame

What you do:
– Cut the top off the bottle with the knife (wearing protective gear if you need to)
– Melt around the top / cut with the flame


I like to use small water bottles that can be recycled and replaced at low cost, that way the bottle never gets filthy dirty or too much hassle to clean off the bacteria build up:

In summer I often use high juice bottles instead.
In heavy rain your sleeve will collect water, so you might want to also pierce a few holes in the bottom.