Friday, August 13, 2010

Mrs Monkey's mad crochet skillz in effect again - scented mice this time #craft #crochet

Rain, and Tyres

Chatting to people about riding in poor weather, I often grin and say "I've been out in worse."

And it's true, at least, it was until yesterday evening.


Manchester's weather was proper, wrath of god biblical as I rode home.

I took shelter in the car wash place on Oxford Road to avoid one heavy downpour, and broke the journey periodically when the rain got too heavy (it never stopped). At one such stop, under the canopy at John Lewis', at Cheadle Royal, the rain came down heavily enough to set off car alarms in the car park. The drains couldn't cope with the downpour, so the bottoms of most hills were, essentially, fords. I rode one (before the motorway bridge just outside Cheadle) but didn't like the idea of the water being over my bottom bracket, so walked the next with the bike held up - even at the furthest point away from the road centre on the footpath, my ankles were under water.

Riding up towards my usual route (right turn up Schools' Hill) the road was deep enough that a Range Rover coming through on the other side was in bumper high water. I ended up turning off with some other cyclists towards Kingsway along NCN 558, which had less standing water on it.

Capping it all off was a road closure in Wilmslow, which meant queueing traffic back to my turning - I got fed up of it (it's not really safe to filter there) and walked most of the way, easily outpacing the traffic. I arrived at Wilmslow station just as the train I was aiming for left, and as bright sunshine appeared. When I got off at Crewe, I managed to ride two dry minutes and then it rained again (not as heavy though).

And then I spent the evening desperately trying to get my stuff dry for today's ride, with only partial succes.

Whilst there was a point at which I was so wet that evidently I wasn't getting wetter (which was sort of liberating, in an odd way) the chill that set in when ever I stopped for traffic lights or to turn was bone deep.

People often ask for opinions on tyres - I've put together my experiences so far below.

On the Tourer/Commuter (Surly LHT) - Continental City Contact 700x42c - like these a lot, so far, and they're less slippy than the Vredestein Perfect Max they replaced. No p* on them since I put them on last November (riding 28 miles per day in and out of Manchester), tread seems to wear well.

On the "quick" (ha!) bike, I've tried;

1) Kenda Kontender (700x 26c Wire on)
Awful. very grippy, but punctured so frequently that I was carrying two or three tubes with me on each ride.

2) Schwalbe Stelvio (700x25c Wire on)
These I really liked - they lasted about 1,500 miles, I think, before the back got a bad cut from some glass.

3) Continental Gatorskins (700x25c, Wire on)
Roll nicely at the recommended pressure, and pretty hardwearing. Downside for the set I had was the performance in the wet, which was awful - I had no confidence in them at all to keep me upright, and to this day, these are the only tyre I've managed to wheelspin.

4) Michelin Pro Race2 (700x25c, folding)
These are absolutely superb - road feel is fantastic, they roll beautifully, and they're hardwearing *enough*, given their other qualities. The 25c is nicely plush too.

5) Continental GP4000 (700x23c, folding)
My favourite tyre before I'd tried Pro Race. These are really nice, but riding pro race makes them feel, well, not quite "meh" but they're not in the same league (imo, ymmv, &c)

On the Brompton, Brompton Greens. Only had one puncture on the B, and that was due to a faulty inner tube. (and in the front wheel, thank god!)

Thursday, August 12, 2010


A new product tested at Urban Velo. Clicking through to the manufacturer's site, the ad videos are really very funny.

Some interesting stuff from Karl on Sea on his recent visit to the capital.

He compares London's hire scheme with others.

He looks at how driver behaviour can make even a fairly straightforward route an intimidating experience.

And lastly he observes the dominance of the Brompton in multi-modal commuting.

I'm really enjoying Kim Harding's account of his bike build. The build is based on a 2009 Genesis Croix de Fer frame (one of the "do it all" cross bikes that are becoming more and more popular), which was an unusual bike at the time it was introduced because of its disc brakes.

It should build up into a really nice commuter/light tourer/off roader.

I've been irritated by Copenhagenize's occasional jabs at the "sport" cyclist, so it was nice to see him speak favourably of Robert Penn's "It's All About the Bike" here.

A great article on why Petacchi's disqualification from the Tour would not mean Mark Cavendish taking green, here on the Pave blog.

...and has an international incident afterwards too.


Copenhagen's Car-free streets & Slow-speed zones from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

The Utility Cycling blog had this nice Streetfilms film about Copenhagen's people friendly spaces. It's good because it shoots holes in many of the reasons people give for not taming the car a little in our cities. As has been said before, if we can make the spaces between our buildings into more than the parts where motor traffic goes as fast as it can, good things happen.

ARTHUR DE PINS AT THE BEACH features the work of French artist Arthur De Pins, here. Appropriately for the time of year, if not the weather *I'm* experiencing, it's beach themed.

Artists and illustrators write and illustrate their favourite recipes. Featured on the Lines and Colors blog.

Salsa have an update on the clever Wanderlust, and downright nifty minimalist racks they showed earlier in the year.

They're also making a Snowbike, the Mukluk, which looks very cool - check out the design features they've put on the frame.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Mid-Life Crisis

I'd Much Rather have been in a Car. DAMN MY MID LIFE CRISIS.

The Daily Mail has taken a break from dividing the world into things that cause cancer/things that don't, and mocking the dress sense of female "celebrities" to weigh in on the topic of an increase in sales of bicycles. I'm not sure what the Telegraph stopped doing to do so, but they have a piece too - apparently the Telegraph article was also covered on BBC news. Both articles point to it as evidence of a (male) mid-life crisis.

The Mail's position is largely silly season mockery and supercilliousness, it seems to me, pointing to "research" showing that bikes allow one to "send out the message that its rider has the appealing qualities of being fit, rugged and loving the planet, according to the experts." The researchers dub "the upsurge in bike sales, the ‘noughties version of the mid-life crisis’" - of course, because no one would ride a bike if there wasn't something odd about them, would they? As one commenter succinctly points out "in Holland, everyone has a mid-life crisis."

The bike is said to lack the allure of the things normal men are interested in, like Ferraris and Porsches (of course!) And Billy Zane (41) "admitted" going bar hopping on his bike, apparently (riding a bike, his guilty secret!). The writer is either dead inside, or hasn't seen a lugged Mercian, or a Pegorretti, either of which I'd, personally, climb over several Ferrari to get to.

It's also interesting that the article mentions "top of the range race bikes", but is illustrated by pictures of two men riding eminently sensible (if we forgive the lack of mudguards) hybrids, whilst wearing jeans. This does, at least, forestall the "they look funny in lycra" jibe that tends to accompany such an article.

The real story here isn't so much why the growth is in the 35-44 Male demographic, perhaps, as to why such a cheap (ignore the nonsense about the bikes costing £7,000 in the Telegraph) and convenient way of getting about is so limited in its appeal here in the UK. Why don't we see more cycle use among women and young people? A further tragedy is that while many bikes are sold, relatively few are ridden regularly beyond an initial flush of enthusiasm, and fewer still on the sort of short, regular journey that makes a difference to local communities and traffic congestion.

I suspect the answer lies largely in the shameful attitude of the UK to the safety of cyclists and pedestrians, and sadly, that isn't a story you'll see the Mail, or the Telegraph telling any time soon.