Tag Archives: Winter

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!

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

Busch + Müller IXON IQ Premium LED Front Light Set – 1922QMLA

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!

Winter gloves #cycling

I tried (and failed) to buy winter gloves, the reviews were either very positive of very negative. What works for one person doesn’t for another. They are expensive and without knowing which are good and which are bad there is no way I can buy them verses my normal winter solution.

Normally I wear full finger cycling gloves from autumn to spring, when the weather drops below (5 – 8C) I reach for a cheap pair of (thinsulate style) gloves to wear over the top. The full fingers gloves have cost £13 – £24 in the past, but currently I tend to be paying around £16 per pair. The cheap gloves I wear over the top cost between £5 and £10 per pair.

I prefer to pay £5 – £10 for gloves that sort of work vs taking a risk on £25+ gloves, given the fact that I already own the long finger gloves.

I fully expect I’d be more than happy with any of the winter gloves, maybe I need to go shopping to a real cycle shop and get my hands on them in person. What works for you?

December weather #cycling

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.

New 55mm SKS mudguards for Bluebell, ready for the winter tyres #cycling

The SKS mudguards I had on Bluebell (my Thorn Raven Sport Tour) didn’t give enough clearance for my Schwalbe Marathon Winter tyres. Last winter I tried to ride without mudguards, but it’s just nasty and I’m too lazy to clean my frame every ride, so the frame was beyond my normal dirty threshold.

This year I decide to get bigger mudguards.
Simple? No, fitting mudguards is a pain!
First I had to drill a hole through the rear one so I could bolt through it into the mount point.
Then swap tyres to make sure I had it adjusted correctly, turns out my inner tube was on its last legs, so it fizzled flat, tyre off, spare tube fitted and I was back in business


Wow, this photo really shows the filth behind the v-brake and some rust on the cable retainer, it looks better in real life 🙂

The front was even more tricky, the fancy rubber thing on the front of the guard had to come off, it just rubbed the 1.75″ studded tyre, there’s very little clearance!


Then I had to mount it further around than the bracket it is pre fitted with, fortunately I didn’t have to remove the original, which is the normal thing to do, instead I just used the sliding bridge (bracket) that would have been used on the read mudguard.


Which seems to be a far easier solution to drilling out rivets, drilling new holes then bolting the original bracket back on.

Final things to do are:
1) Hacksaw off the extra metal from the mudguard stays, I keep thinking I’ll leave them, but then I also keep catching my legs on them (not while riding)
2) Give them a real test when the weather gets wintery enough for ice tyres

I’ll post an update if everything goes wrong, otherwise assume they work perfectly and I’m happily enjoying the foul weather.


Altura Mayhem Full Finger Gloves

Altura Mayhem Full Finger Gloves

These are a bargain at £13.01 at time of posting, I own a pair and I have to say they are my favourite autumn gloves (which I still wear under warmer gloves in winter)… OK, I’m trying to resist filling my drawer with them, my other gloves have cost a lot more and aren’t any better.

How not to remove the crankset from your bike #cycling

Mistakes are easy and knowing issues and trying to use them to your advantage isn’t a good idea either.

The mistake

I forgot to grease my pedal threads when I last put pedals on bluebell. This plus steel, aluminium and salt water (two winters worth) meant the pedals are welded on. The Internet says heating the cranks will break the seal, but it might damage the threads. Seems like I’m unlikely to fix them, but I thought I’d take them off and try.

The misuse of known issues

For the same reason as above, it’s advisable to grease the bottom bracket spindle else getting cranks off can be tricky. I initially had a problem with the left crank coming loose, so, I thought I’d clean off the grease in a hope it would bind on better. The real solution would have been to put more force on tightening the crank bolts. Anyway, as a result, the blasted crank wouldn’t come off.

Where it all went wrong

Having the tools for a job is all good and well, but sometimes one can overdo it, put too much force on something and watch your dreams shatter in front of you. What did I break?
The crank puller / removal tool, not only that, I also destroyed (stripped) the thread on the crank, thus destroying chances of removing it.

The plan to fix it

I figured the crankset was done for, so remove the crank somehow, replace crankset with a recently acquired crankset (that was being thrown away) put on other used spare pedals I had lying around (boxes of junk), didn’t even steal then from one of my other bikes!

Step 1

Hacksaw, not much room for it, a bit nervous about the frame, but got a chunk off….
Still unresponsive to my hammer, wiggling etc.

Step 2

Drill plus HSS drill bits, started small (nervous) then once through up sized the drill bit to cut through. Great care was taken not to drill the steel spindle. Of course steel is harder than aluminium, but being careful was key (since I hadn’t been earlier). This worked a treat, wedging a claw hammer in the gap broke the seal and freed the crank. He’s the crank and the sheared off crank removal tool:
A closeup on the crank:
Phew, glad it’s over with.

The lessons

  • Grease it up
  • Forcing it will only break it
  • Keep boxes of junk lying around just in case

Of course I would recommend that most people don’t do this, take it to a bike shop and get their help.

Bluebell is up and running and a crank removal tool is on the shopping list.