Category Archives: cycling

Off-season roads

Got caught out in the dark and wet yesterday.  Cycling home in the dark leaves me having to slow right down every time I meet a car, as visibility past their headlights is virtually nothing.  The rain seemed to be on the higher ground, coming down relentlessly on the hilltops but easing off to near-nothing (except surface water and big puddles) in the two big valleys on my way home.

But foul weather seems to bring out the best in the drivers.  Not one of them failed to dip their headlights for me, nor did any pass too close or fast.  Excellent behaviour all round.  Actually that comment almost applies to my outward journey, which was in daylight and good weather: most of the drivers around here are courteous and considerate.

This of course is the off-season.  Come the summer, and particularly the school holidays, and our roads are full of obnoxious idiots.  In my childhood, my mother characterised them as “London Drivers”, and I expect she was pretty-much right.  Nowadays I expect it’s not so much central London as the Extended London that has swallowed up the whole of southeast England.

Guess I should make the most of it, and hope the idiot season brings weather to encourage me off-road, at least for leisure cycling.

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Recycling by word of mouth

I’ve finally disposed of my old bike.

This is, or rather was, the mountain bike I bought in Italy, about 15 years ago.  It served me well for a number of years, including commuting, leisure cycling, shopping, and (not least) house-hunting when I found my current place.  But a while back (at least three years, I think a little more), it died.  That is to say, the frame developed a big rusty hole at the point of the bar where I’d drip sweat on the uphills, and seemed more than a little unsafe to use 😮 .

With the frame gone and the other parts in a range of states, I didn’t hasten to fix it.  But with some decent-quality parts still in good nick (wheels, rack, brakes, cranks, possibly other parts of the drive chain), it seemed too good to take to the tip.  And since I don’t have a new mountain bike, I’m not likely to use them for spares myself in the foreseeable future[1].  If I wasn’t such a procrastinator it would’ve gone to something like freecycle or ebay, but I never got around to it.

Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago, when I met a chap in town with a not-quite-a bike.  We got chatting, and it turned out he was returning from the tip, where he’d been reclaiming serviceable parts from discarded bikes.  So I told him about the bike and asked if he was interested.  This week he came and took a look, agreed there were parts worth reclaiming, and took it away!

Happy to have it off my hands, and I hope he finds a good use for the parts!

[1] I don’t have space to keep multiple bikes I care about, but fortunately my touring bike is a decent all-rounder and serves both on and off-road.  The dead bike wasn’t a drain on my space ‘cos it lived out in the yard.

Bike as invalid carriage

A week ago, as I left FOSDEM, I managed to injure my left foot in a stupid accident.  I’ve been limping all week, and in intermittent moderate pain.  This afternoon I was out on the moors, and limping less than before as the foot gradually mends.

This evening I had arranged to meet friends at a pub.  The pub is about one mile from home, and normally I’d never consider anything other than walking to get there.  But setting out, within a couple of minutes I had quite a lot of pain up the whole left leg.  The idea of walking any further lacked appeal.

Could I phone my friends and cancel?  They’ll be on the way already, and I’ll need to find a phone number.  Better if I can make it.  So as a second try, I got the bike out, and took it along the main road to avoid any significant uphill.  Result: I was able to pedal with both legs, and no pain at all in the bad foot!

Well, I’ve heard of the bike as invalid carriage for people who have difficulty walking.  Now, on a very minor scale, I’ve experienced it at first hand!  Just returned home, and the bad foot feels better than it did before I set out.

Getting to know the new mount

Today I went out for the third time on my new steed. I’ve still yet to do any longer distance (like a full or even half day ride): today was just under 30Km to go and view a cottage (it was mostly nice – I’m thinking about it). But I’ve tried a fair range of terrain, and (as is inevitable in this area) some fair-size hills.

It’s a pleasure to ride. Well, it jolly well should be! On-road it’s faster and smoother than other bikes I’ve had in recent years. On moderate off-road (grass, stones, gravel), it’s also very nice, with a firm and positive ride, though it lacks the ground clearance of a mountain bike. I didn’t miss knobbly tyres at all. But I did find myself getting off and pushing on the hardest off-road section I’ve yet done, both uphill and downhill on the steep sections at the top of Pew Tor.

It’s good to be back on drop bars, and these are right for me. I’m still adjusting to it (that should probably be adjusting back to it, though the paunch has grown since I last had drops). So on the steep uphill the reach feels slightly long, while on the flat the hoods are right, and on the downhill I have the luxury of the drops. The saddle is a comfy little number, too.

Some slight niggles: changing gear upwards on the chainring wants adjusting, and the toeclips are crap. But the LBS will give it an initial service in a couple of weeks, and can adjust things that need it.

One of these weekends, I’ll find time to give it a proper outing.

New steed!

I’ve just made it to my local bike shop to pick up my new steed.  Unfortunately I don’t have time today for a ride, beyond the short stretch home from the shop, so that pleasure is yet to come.

One thing I haven’t used before is these gearshifts based around the brake levers. The super galaxy has the brake lever itself shift up, and a smaller lever shift down, on both sides, so that’s not too confusing. The other common new feature – fix your feet to the pedals – doesn’t come as standard, and I didn’t ask for it, so I have old-fashioned toeclips instead. I know it’s much less efficient than special-purpose cycling shoes, but it’ll go nicely with my old trainers.

I still need to make some adjustments. I think I’ll want to move the saddle forward a little, and I may want to move the bars. But great to have a good-quality touring bike: one that’s great on-road and will also survive off-road!

Whee!

New Bike

I’ve ordered a new bike today.

On Tuesday I went in to one of our Tavistock LBSs, and asked them to do a bit of work on my folding bike. I also took out a Super Galaxy they had on show for a spin.

Today I went back to collect the folder. Derek, the shop owner, was there, and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse on the Super Galaxy. So I’ve put down a deposit on it, and will collect it as soon as I’m back from ApacheCon.

It’s been far too long since I’ve had a decent-quality road bike, and I’ve still got the chronic problem of nowhere good to keep it. Its first main task is to help with finding a new home, with bike space.

Another bike

I just test-rode John’s bike[1]. It’s got figure-of-eight handlebars, with the brakes and gears on the near part of them. I was keen to see how they felt to ride on.

Result: the far side (front) of the bars were quite pleasant to ride on, and it was a good ride on the uphill. But the near side of the bars were incredibly close, and riding on them was less fun. In fact, braking on the downhill was rather scary: the arms were so vertical it was a little challenging to hold my weight back. And pushing the weight backwards in the normal way by sticking the bum out wasn’t so easy.

OK, so the bike isn’t my size (I had to raise the saddle a couple of inches, but left the bars in place). Even so, I think I’ve answered my question: I don’t want bars that put the brake levers so close to the body.

[1] That is, his ‘normal’ bike – he’s also got a shiny new brompton from work.

We won!

Just over a week ago, I blogged a call for my fellow Brits to sign a petition.

Today, with a little over 20000 signatures on the petition, the news is that the government has indeed listened and revised the offending clauses in the highway code. The CTC reports on it here.

My thoughts on what may really have happened, as posted to uk.rec.cycling in a thread on the good news:

Scenario. Powers that be are discussing the Highway Code.

They’ve had objections to some of the points in it, like the “use psychlepaths where practical” one, so they take evidence about how it could change. But it was never a big issue, nor very clear what the issue was, and they’re not paying very much attention. They give someone an Action to reword it.

By the time that person reaches this action item, he/she has no recollection of what was wrong with the wording and why it has to change. After all, it was never a big issue. So we end up with a minimal but random change.

Then they publish the changes as a draft, and it blows up in their faces. But that in itself isn’t really enough: they’re well used to criticism. They need some positive criticism: a better wording, together with an explanation of why. Maybe that was the CTC’s role, in which case it was indeed a crucial one.

The rest is, with a bit of luck, history.

Congratulations to Daniel Dignam, Ming Campbell, and others who made an issue of it. And to whoever came up with the new wording.

[UPDATE] The government has now issued an official response to the petition.

Calling my fellow Brits

Whether or not you’re a cyclist, you should be concerned about this one. The new updates to the Highway Code threatens to reduce our right to use the roads. That is, of course, those of us who are Good Citizens and obey the highway code; those who ignore the law, the code, and common courtesy now are unlikely to be affected much!

The basic problem is one of pushing us on to cyclepaths. That’s fine when there’s a decent path that goes where we want without undue delay. But the vast majority of designated cyclepaths in the UK are substandard, ranging from slow and hazardous to totally unusable. And they can be a problem for other road users, bringing cyclists into conflict with both pedestrians and motorists. A typical 6-mile urban commute could be a leisurely 20-minute journey by road, but over an hour of conflict and stress on designated paths, where for example every concealed driveway presents its own fresh hazard. See the Warrington Cycle Campaign’s “facility of the month” for examples.

What’s needed right now is to sign the petition at the no.10 website. Please do so now, if you haven’t already!

Some places that explain the problem in more detail include the CTC and the Cambridge Cycling Campaign. If you have the time and energy to do more than just sign the petition, they have further suggestions.

A moment of stupidity …

I did a little bit of maintenance on the bike yesterday. Notably, regreased the chain, an operation that leaves the right hand very, very greasy. Not a problem: I’m at home, so I just go to the bathroom and wash it.

Except …

I get to the door. Because of the heavy grease, I need to open it with the left hand. And where are my keys? In my right trouser pocket. A deep pocket, and under normal circumstances, very practical.

Just try digging deep in your right pocket with your left hand. Aaargh!!