Thursday, April 28, 2011

More Words on #30Daysofbiking, The Best of Times, the Worst of Times.

A sunny commute, last week.

I'd intended to write this at the end of last week, the third full week of #30daysofbiking,

It turned out that we were rather busier than I'd anticipated over the weekend (in a good way), so it's being written now, part way through the fourth full week of the challenge.

Last week was a particularly pleasant time to be out and about by bicycle. The weather was glorious, and the 15°C threshold for knee friendly shorts wearing was reached on several days (although still not at the time I set off from home). Commutes were mostly uneventful, with light half term traffic contributing to a general feeling that things weren't so bad after all out here.


On Friday, I took a quick ride out on the rougher part of the Cheshire Cycleway near to home.

The Bridlepath forming part of NCN 70

The ride up is on road, and then there's a stretch of gravelly, holed bridleway. It's interesting to ride for someone used to tarmac, and I discovered fairly quickly that I don't ride it particularly well.


Just over the bridge you can see in the distance on the pic above. The LHT is a heavy bike, but it should be ok...

My speed topped out at around 13mph on the gravel, and I wandered a bit on it, torn between trying to make the bike hold a line, and trying to stay on the bike full stop! Riding the crown of the road doesn't work here because of the strips of grass down the centre.


Cherry Tree & NCN70 Signs

Once off the bridlepath, it's back onto tarmac again, and as the sun warmed my limbs, the blossom trees along the route created an odd, snowstorm like flurry to ride through. Rather than retrace my steps, I rode on through the blossom to the main road, and then home. It was a short ride, but really enjoyable.

On Sunday, after returning from my sister's 18th birthday party (Happy Birthday Sis!) I took the opportunity for another quick ride, this time on the SCR2.

Another Lovely Day to be Out

This time, I rode one of the back road routes up to Sandbach - another old route of mine that's a quick 16 mile or so loop.


Granted, it's no Kapelmuur, but this Church is on a Hill.

There's a couple of nice hills on this route, and a decent loop bit at the end that allows you to retrace your steps.

No ride on Monday, (Happy Birthday Son!) but Tuesday meant that commuting resumed.

Another Bridleway, this time part of the commute home.

The half term traffic is still (not) there, and the roads are still pretty quiet, but I've had a couple of nasty run ins with drivers over as many days.

The first was a Cravendale logo'ed truck, that stopped at the same lights on the roundabout I was waiting at, about 6 inches from the bike and I. Now if you know anything about trucks and bikes, you'd be pretty worried by that. The driver gesticulated, well, something, in his mirror, I guess at me, and then roared off at speed up the exit to Crewe station...where he had to stop at the pedestrian crossing anyway. A pointless move from a "professional" driver. (The lane next to the one he and I were "sharing" at the lights was empty, or, god forbid, he could have waited behind me and overtaken safely).

Anyway, can you guess whether I'll be buying any Cravendale product in future?

Oh Shit.

As if to prove that that was not my day, I managed to hit a load of debris in the bike lane just after the Handforth Roundabout, and ended up with this (see pic) in my tyre, and a rather less obvious thorn. Then my spare tube was punctured, so a roadside puncture repair was my only option (thankyou, Rema, for your nifty TT02 kit). That done, I rode on, only to find that the less obvious thorn had caused a slow puncture (impossible to find by eye). It soon became clear that I needed to stop every mile or so to top up the tyre, making the ride home somewhat tiresome.

My last morning commute of the week was enlivened by another truck driver (no company logo) who took exception to my moving out to stop him trying to squeeze past me (he'd have overtaken into the path of a coach that I'd seen, and he, evidently had not, no less). An angry hoot, and a stupidly close overtake followed (again, with a now completely empty lane alongside that he could have used to overtake safely). I'd estimate he waited an extra half second, if that, to pass, and for this, he was entirely willing to risk killing me. It's dispiriting when car drivers indulge in this sort of petulant attempted murder, but when people who drive for a living do it, it's hard not to lose hope entirely.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

A Weekly Report, #30Daysofbiking

We're at the end of the second full week of thirty days of biking now.

Again, a full week of commutes lies behind me.  It's been a tolerably easy week for those, with some ok weather, and the worst of it being an annoying drizzle on a couple of mornings, rather than anything worse.

Towards the weekend, I've picked up a niggle in my left knee, that left me limping around on Friday evening, and hobbling at the weekend.

I'd already decided to do a short ride on Saturday, after feeling quite fatigued last week.  In the end, this was a slightly forced affair - we headed out en famille to Crewe, in the car, and I loaded the Brompton in the boot, and rode back.  An easy two and a half miles or so, spinning as much as I could to avoid stressing my knee. 

On Sunday, my knee was no better, but I was still determined to ride.  I ummed and ahhed about the route, deciding on NCN70 (the Cheshire Cycleway) in the direction of Audlem and Wrenbury, as I remembered it as being reasonably flat.  The plan was not to go too hard, spin the pedals in a lowish gear, and I set myself a goal of 30 miles. 

It was a grim ride, in some ways.  Firstly, my recollection of the route was pretty far out, rolling, with occasional steep parts, that made it hard to settle to any sort of rhythm in my pedalling.  My knee grumbled at every attempt to put serious power through it, and I ended up pulling that leg through with my right leg on the steeper parts.  My continuous feeling on the ride was that I lacked gears to suit my new pedalling - either too low, with me "catching" the pedals on every rotation, or too high, with my knee shrieking at the effort.  The bike I've ridden since 2007 was suddenly unfamiliar, alien, and at times only sheer bloody mindedness kept me rolling towards my mileage target.

With all that, even this ride had its wonderful moments - pedalling up through Englesea Brook, I saw young squirrels playing on a tree stump, and the spring flowers were in bloom all along the route.  The weather was wonderful, the roads quiet, and the views breathtaking.


With a functioning knee, this sort of thing is my idea of fun.

Riding back, I discovered a new part of the Cheshire Cycleway that allows me to cut out a dull, high speed single carriageway that I've never particularly liked riding.  Funny how a route you know can still throw up surprises.

Although it didn't feel like it at the time, I think "spinning" my knee has been good for it - it feels better today than it did on Friday, and I was able to put more power through my left leg on today's commute than I was on Sundays ride - hopefully it will continue to improve.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Some Words on #30DaysOfBiking

Depending on when I get around to publishing this, we'll be nearly halfway through the challenge by this point.

Artist's (well my) impression of riding home last week.

Here, between Manchester and Crewe, it's been mercifully dry for most of the days to now, albeit with a strength and motivation sapping wind on my homeward commutes.

I'm sad to say that I've already missed one day - a Sunday (should have been a banker, I always ride Sundays) that I spent mostly trying to catch naughty dogs who didn't want to be walked, and doing other non cycling tasks that needed to be done - in the afternoon, the Tour of Flanders was on Eurosport, and I wasn't about to miss that.  I toyed with the idea of turning a pedal around the block, but it seemed like cheating. So as of now, my challenge is #29Daysofbiking.

All my commutes so far have been done in full, even on the day that the guard slept in, and my train left 30 minutes late (I was sorely tempted to ride in comfort all the way to Manchester, but did disembark to complete a 13 mile cycle commute rather than a 3 mile one).

Non commuting rides (all three of them) have been a mixture of the quotidian and exceptional.

We learn about right turns.

I took a ride into Crewe with my son to collect his pre-ordered 3DS, and sort out a Mothers' Day gift, he on his Decathlon Rockrider, and me on the Brompton.  It was a lovely day, and we rode partly on the road, and partly on shared paths - at some points we walked the bikes, largely because I thought tackling roundabouts in traffic was a bit advanced for the lad just now.  The sad truth is that British roads aren't very forgiving places for people just learning, because the space given to any cyclist, even young ones, by drivers is usually too small to allow for honestly made mistakes. As we got closer to town, it was simply quicker to walk than to sit with the traffic, which was fairly crawling into Crewe (again, I thought filtering a bit advanced at this point in his cycling career).

The distance we rode to town is something like two and a half miles, and I reckon we rode past about a mile of queueing traffic on the way.  We also got to leave the bikes in the town centre sheffield stands, rather than at a car park we'd have to walk from.  The whole business was eminently utilitarian and practical, and I can only assume that the folk who chose to drive instead were either physically infirm in some way, or were carrying lots of heavy things :)

The following Saturday, I rode a part of NCN5 that I'd always turned back from previously.

Looking Back Down the Towpath. This was the day before Paris Roubaix, and some cobbles seemed appropriate

Although it's possible to do towpaths on the SCR2.0, I'd sooner have more rubber between me and that sort of surface, and the LHT's 42c tyres are much more appropriate to this route.


From the bridge near Lock 49 (I think).

The cobbled ramps up to the locks on this route proved to be pretty interesting to ride - even on 42c tyres they felt a little skittery.  It was a leisurely sort of a ride, with lots of care needed because of folk out walking (our canals lack the wide paths that grace those I saw in Belgium) but none the worse for that.

On the way back, I spotted this sign on Newton's Lane - either someone knows something I don't, or preparations for next winter are VERY advanced in South Cheshire.

This was a ride I did now solely because of the #30daysofbiking challenge - I can't say for sure how long it would have languished on my "Wonder where that goes" list otherwise.  It's a joy to release the LHT from commuting duties and take it on some different routes - although still a road bike (low bottom bracket, &c) it's versatile enough with those big tyres to take on routes I'd not attempt on the SCR2, and surprisingly lively without commuting luggage.

The following Sunday I rode a quick 25 miles or so on the SCR2, the first time that bike had been out since last year, I think.  5 miles of somewhat achey adjustment to the different riding position ensued, as did a slightly longer period of wishing I'd done more to maintain my fitness over the winter.


An accurate sign, and an appropriately equipped bike.

A fairly unremarkable ride really, in the sense that I've done the route before plenty of times, and there were no surprises, nasty or otherwise.  Remarkable in the sense that being out in beautiful countryside, and covering that distance under your own steam is always remarkable.  It makes me feel lucky to be in Cheshire, with so much lovely countryside at hand, and to have cycling as an interest. 

However your #30daysofbiking is going, I hope you're taking the time to tick off some "one day" routes too.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011


have my patch - not sewn it on yet, but quality is excellent & it arrived in a Kickstand Cyclery envelope :)

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Via Bike Hacks; Bike Seat Bag Made from Tires and Tubes

Bike Seat Bag Made from Tires and Tubes

Reader Lucas contacted us with yet another use for old tubes and tires.  Take it away Lucas!

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I recently finished a seat bag made from innertubes and a tire.   The bag is made from a 26 year old Schwinn road tube, and a much newer (but still old) mountain tire.  It is 100% recycled besides the rivets, webbing, and buckle. Even the zipper is recycled from a backpack.  All in all it took about 3 hours from designing to the last rivet.  I thought you would get a kick out of it and I thought your readers would like it too. Keep on riding.


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Read more at Bike Hacks

More detail at the link - the silver rivets give the whole thing a very METAL vibe, ideal for fans of '80s power ballads, like Derek out of off of the Flammecast.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

From Bikehugger: Bicycling Magazine: Lance Profiteers Either Way

For more than a decade now Bicycling magazine has been positioning itself as the “rah rah” supporter of the Lance Universe. Cover stories have drooled over Lance’s various comebacks. They have produced multi-page guides to watching Lance in the tour (sometimes made ironically irrelevant by broken collar bones). They’ve sold books about Lance written by their own Bill Strickland who, in turn has been one of the biggest Lance supporters in print.

One issue I checked and found the word Lance present on every other page of the front of the book (the part of a magazine before the feature articles start). Chris Carmichael for more than a year included the word Lance in the first paragraph of every column. The magazine has taught us how to ride like Lance, climb like Lance, train like Lance, descend like Lance and make a comeback—you guessed it—like Lance.

Finally, if Lance did dope, magazines like Bicycling are partially culpable. His revenue, his fame, his notoriety was borne on the back of their rising circulation numbers and any illicit drug use would have been to keep that very same fame and fortune alive.


Interesting piece on Bikehugger - reminds me slightly of the Cyclocosm piece about the post-Lance tour;

"Can you even imagine it? No more armies of dentists dragging the LBS out of the red each year with Lance-replica Trek purchases. No more Chris Carmichael promising phantom results to middle-aged racers about to train themselves out of love with the sport." (that piece is here, )

Cyclocosm's piece is from last year, and tries to figure out the shape of a post-Lance bike culture in the US - perhaps the apparent repositioning of Bicycling is the first glimmer of it?

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Things You Don't Want to Be Thinking Whilst on a Bike

Well "That bloke hasn't seen me, has he?" is fairly high in the chart of things I don't want to think while riding, but bubbling under must be "Huh, so that is my blood" surely?

Don't worry - it's an injury I sustained from a pie tin last night. (No, really).  Annoyingly, it opened up again as I rode home.

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