Feeling Nostalgic!

Nostalgia is a funny old thing.  You can go for ages without thinking about the past and then something can bring it all flooding back.  I’ve been reminiscing about a lot of things recently and I started thinking about bikes I have owned.  I expect lots of people have a similar list.

First bike

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I can’t really remember much about this except I remember at the age of 3 or 4 being absolutely thrilled when the stabilisers were taken off and I learned to ride it.  The hill on the street where we used to live was a gentle slope not very big at all, but back then it was perfect for riding down as fast as you could.  There weren’t many cars about either so the street was fair game for bike riding, football and all manner of other games.  In those days, we knew pretty much all the kids from the local area, and much like pet dogs, we were kicked out of the house in the morning and told to go and play.

Raleigh Tomahawk

I really, really, really wanted a Chopper but I wasn’t big enough.  In the early 70’s if you weren’t big enough for a Chopper then your choice extended to a Chipper or a Tomahawk.  The Tomahawk was like a miniature version of the Chopper so I went for that, and mine was purple if I recall correctly, and my next door neighbour had a red one.  It had no gears and was basically a deathtrap, which coupled with my lack of sense as a child would lead to my first real bike crash.  Inspired by Evil Knievel a group of us built a ramp in our cobbled back entry.  The ramp consisted of a pile of bricks we’d scavenged and a plank of wood maybe 4 inches wide.  The ramp was too narrow, the bricks were unstable and the angle was too steep.  After several attempts where we rode at it and missed (knocking the bricks over) I managed to hit the ramp perfectly! Up the ramp I went and the tiny front wheel of the Tomahawk rolled almost vertically down off the end of the ramp sending me over the handlebars.  Physics was clearly not our strong point (along with construction and health and safety).  I don’t know what I landed on but I had an H-shaped imprint cut into my leg which scarred and was visible for years afterwards.  After a while, and possibly after being left out in the rain, the chrome mudguards started to rust and I either tired of the bike or outgrew it or both.

Raleigh Commando

This was my first bike with gears.  I think it was a 3 speed Sturmey Archer hub activated by a twist-grip mechanism.  It was fantastic.  For about 10 minutes, and then became difficult and unresponsive.  That caused my second crash.  That and riding no-handed whilst eating a bag of crisps.  Anyway, I was riding no-handed eating a bag of beef and onion crisps.  I think they were Golden Wonder, but they could have been Smiths.  I don’t think Walkers had been invented then.  The Commando, complete with army markings (black paint with corporal stripes), was not the most stable bike and it should have come as no surprise to me that the front wheel turned suddenly to the left.  Holding my crisps in my left hand I grabbed the handlebar with my right and accidentally shifted the gears.  This resulted in going from a hard gear to an easy gear which threw me forward as my legs spun quicker.  The bike hit the kerb and I went forward and off knee-first.  The resulting cut took ages to heal and I still have the scar to this day.  Happy days.

Peugeot 5-speed Racer

My first “proper” bike, it had 24 inch wheels, a 5 speed derailleur and was purple with tan-wall tyres, and we used to race around the streets, the cobbles and the back entries.  It was de-rigeur to pull a back-wheel skid when stopping and puddles were meant to be ridden through

Peugeot 10-speed Racer

This one had 26 inch wheels and was a silver colour.  I loved that bike and it used to get me all over the place.  I even remember carrying a full set of golf clubs once, whilst riding from my house to the golf course.  I don’t know what happened to that bike.

Motobecane BMX Cross Bike

Thanks to forums.velovert.com

Around this time (late 70’s/early 80’s) BMX was becoming something and I saw this bike in our LBS.  I’ve no idea how or why they had it but it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.  It was bright red, had front and rear suspension, a big front lamp with a rally style grill on it and DRUM BRAKES!  I remember my dad asking what I wanted for Christmas and me saying I’d like that bike.  I still had my Peugeot so I thought he’d just say no, but to my absolute surprise he didn’t.  So I got a second bike.  We lived in a terraced house and the bikes went in the hall, so there wasn’t much room!  This was a fantastic bike – it was heavy and agricultural but the suspension was brilliant!  I used to ride it over as much bumpy ground as I could find.  I was still lacking in common sense and a fundamental misunderstanding of mechanics and physics though, which lead to another crash.  One the routes I used to ride to visit my gran and granddad involved three steep steps in a narrow guinnel that immediately turned 90 degrees right.  I rode my Motobecane down the steps and was somewhat surprised when the front suspension compressed at the bottom and my momentum took me head first over the bars and into the wall that formed the 90 degree turn.  There was no wearing of helmets then so I simply rubbed the large bump on my head and got back on.  Probably explains a lot.  It was when I ruined the bike that I lost interest in it.  The drum brakes squeaked so being an idiot I squirted some oil in.  That solved the problem but unsurprisingly stopped the brakes working, and they were never the same again.

There followed a long gap until my next bike.

Kona Lava Dome 1993

I decided I would re-establish my relationship with bikes and bought this mountain bike to ride to and from work and at weekends.  I used it primarily to do a 14 mile commute and then assorted rides up and down hills at weekends.  I stopped using it when a) I changed jobs and b) the kids came along.  It would be over 10 years until I next rode a bike and started this blog…

Happy times!


A Great Weekend’s Cycling

It’s March and we’ve had some incredible summer-like weather this weekend.  On Saturday I couldn’t resist breaking out my “new” summer bike and giving it a blast.  I say new because I bought it last September in the end of 2011 season sales.  I’ve used it once and done 32 miles

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It’s a fantastic bike.  Full dura-ace, great wheels and a superbly comfortable frame.  It just makes you want to go faster and faster!

On Sunday we did the Chirk 200 audax.

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The weather was freezing at the start – 8am, although in reality 7am as the clocks had gone forward the night before.  After 5 miles or so I couldn’t feel my fingers.  It was only when we decided to leave the big group of riders behind and accelerate up a hill, that I suddenly warmed up a bit.  Apart from some idiotic half-wheeling riding by somebody tagging our group, it was a great ride out to Chirk, chatting with fellow audaxers and enjoying the weather.  Chirk is now becoming remarkably familiar, and we had a nice lunch at the milk bar there.

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4206ft climb

By now the sun was up and it was 20+ degrees as we set off back.  Anthony, Graeme and I took turns pushing the pace, reeling in various groups and enjoying the countryside.  We kept bumping into our friends from Saddleworth Clarion and last saw them sharing an enormous tub of sherry trifle ice cream at the ice cream farm!

We finished in 34 minutes less than the same ride last year, and my average HR was less too.  Hopefully that is progress, but more importantly it was just a fun day on the bike.

Ride stats : 130 miles in 7hrs 41m @ 16.9mph average. 4206ft ascent, average HR 129bpm, 5134kcals energy

Strava stats

Boardman Team Carbon – 10,000 miles!

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I bought my Boardman Team Carbon just over 2 years ago for a shade under a thousand pounds.  Since then I’ve used it to ride from Land’s End to John o’ Groats, from London to Brussels, up to Stirling and pretty much all over the place!  It’s now clicked through the 10,000 mile and has been a great servant to me over that time.  It’s pretty light, has proved to be relatively robust and was a great first serious road bike.

This summer I’ll be changing to a Canyon road bike and my Boardman will become my winter training bike.  I hope the Canyon proves as comfortable and durable.

January Miles and New Commuter

It’s the end of a busy January and I’ve clocked up 551 miles in that time.  That’s about 40 miles more than I did in January last year but, interestingly, I’ve doubled the amount of climbing from 13,900ft to 27,900ft.  Pleasingly, my average speed is marginally quicker than it was last year at 14.8mph.

Stats : January – 551 miles, 27,900ft climb, 1d 13hrs ride time, 27,249kcals energy

I’ve also decided to retire my commuting bike – a red Specialized Langster fixie.  It’s done 3,160 miles and is a little beat up now.  Regular followers on twitter will know it’s had a few mechanicals recently, and as I use it every day to get to work and back I decided a new bike was better than spending more money on it.  I’ve been pretty happy with it and I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it – maybe sell it or just keep it for occasional use.

Pearson Touché

I’ve replaced the Langster with the Pearson Touché shown above.  It comes with better brakes than the Langster, is lighter and also has full mudguards, which should help things when it gets wet.  Whilst the Langster had a 42 x 16 gearing, I’ve specified this with a 46 x 16 gearing which should make the commute that little bit harder back up the hill!

Boardman Bikes

As Boardman bikes announces a new lineup of road bikes for 2011 that takes it into direct competition with a lot of more established brands, I think that few people will be as qualified as me to comment on the merits of their bikes.

In the 14 months that I have owned my Team Carbon I have covered over 5,500 miles on it, climbed nearly 217,000ft and spent 15 days and 13 hours in the saddle, covering the length and breadth of the country.  I know what I’m talking about with this bike.

The bike looks sporty, with it’s angled top tube, oversize down tube, and very straight front forks.  It looks like it means business.  It’s very light but stiff enough to be instantly responsive.  It almost eggs you on to get out of your seat and hammer it.  It climbs beautifully, and descends very assuredly.  Going fast round corners is a confident pleasure.

The wheels aren’t the best feature so I’ve changed them to Shimano RS80’s – making the bike even more responsive.  The rest of the kit on the bike has been first rate – I especially like SRAM double-tap.

I’ll be looking to buy a new bike in the future, and perhaps step up to the next level.  There’s a lot of brand snobbery out there, but after my experiences of this bike, the new elite range  will certainly be on my list to be considered.  If you’re in the market for a bike I would say don’t discount Boardman bikes.

490 miles in February and a Lesson to be Learned

Today I was supposed to be riding the Radway Audax – 95 miles around Cheshire.  The HQ is only 11 miles from home so I decided to ride there.  The chain picked up where it left off last week by slipping a bit, and jumping rings, but I thought it would settle down.  Unfortunately after about 8 miles it started jumping off the jockey wheels on the rear mech and therefore getting jammed.  I decided not to try and risk it and got a taxi home.  It’s my own fault.  I was discussing this with Anthony last week and I’d measured the chain with a chain tool, and I knew it was ready for replacement.  I decided to try and squeeze one more ride out of it.  More fool me.  Lesson learned.  Bike is long overdue a full service – it will be going in tomorrow.

So the paltry 8 miles I did today takes my total for February to 490 miles, and my total for 2011 to an agonising 999.5 miles!

STOLEN BIKES – Please keep an eye out

The following is from a member of my club

Last night or early this morning (22/02/2011) my garage was broken into and two of my most treasured possesions were stolen; My Klein Palomino Custom Build, and my Specialized Rockhopper Expert with upgraded components.
Rockhopper’s are very common as standard, so it’ll be difficult to trace that one unless you happen to notice one with the upgrades I’ve made! However, there aren’t many Klein Palomino’s about, it’s quite a rare bike, especially with the kit that I’ve specced it up with.
It’s a long shot, but i’m going to email all of the details to as many people, bike shops and forums as possible, and if people such as yourself can spread the word in their own areas and keep an eye open for them in workshops, on the trails, in second hand shops and online I’ll appreciate it greatly!
If you do happen to see either bike, please contact me (details below) or call the police as soon as possible.

If you see the bikes please get in touch via the blog.


Single-speed Cycling

I recently bought a single-speed bike for my commute so I thought I write my thoughts after a couple of hundred miles on it.

It’s a Specialized Langster Steel which is an absolutely beautiful bike.

Specialized Langster Steel

I ride on the free-wheel, rather than fixed.  I figure that’s a bit easier in and out of traffic, and my cadence max’s out at 120rpm going downhill at 25mph!

Here are the things that make single-speed great, in no particular order

  1. Simplicity.  No gears – just get on and pedal.  And pedal.  And pedal!
  2. Maintenance is easy.  No derailleurs, jockey wheels or mechs to worry about.  Generally a quick clean of the chain and re-lube once is week is more than adequate
  3. Fitness.  Riding single-speed has definitely helped improve my fitness, especially uphill.  I was a bit worried at first but the bike almost eggs you on, makes you keep a high cadence and gets you out of the saddle.  My leg strength and stamina has definitely improved.  I’m now overtaking guys on geared road bikes on my regular uphill commute home.
  4. It’s cool.  Did I mention the bike is beautiful and definitely turns heads – it’s safe to assume it’s not me 😉
  5. Fun, fun and more fun!  Riding single-speed is like being a kid again.  It makes you smile more.  It’s dress-down Friday riding.

As Matt at North Cheshire Clarion says: the equation for the number of bikes you should own is n+1, where n = the number of bikes you already own.  If you haven’t got a single-speed bike, you need one!

Tandem Chain Snap!

This morning we hired the tandem again. The weather was a bit cold and looked like it would rain (it did much later) so we were in two minds about going out. When we got to the hire place we were told that the previous day some German cyclists had returned it with badly indexed gears, and the chain was catching the front dérailleur in certain gears. That was the first clue!

As ever the route was very hilly and after 12 miles we stopped for cream tea. Being in Cornwall that involves jam first followed by clotted cream on top (as opposed to Devon where the cream is first).

We then had a mile downhill, but into a headwind, before hitting a steep uphill. At that point I dropped onto the granny ring and the chain just snapped!

A bit of a walk to get a phone signal and we arranged to be picked up. We’d done 13.5 miles. Bah!

#Lejog Day 7 – Perth to Beauly

Today was an awesome ride and we’re now 800 miles in.

On day 4 Ian wore his Bianchi shorts (that match his bike) for the first time. Apparently he developed blisters in places they have no right being. I know this because it’s the subject of a daily morning update at the breakfast table, whether we like it or not (not). So today started with us getting up quite early, breakfast, bottom updates and making an earlier start than usual.

It was quite a tedious ride in many respects. 90% of it was on the A9, which is a major road which has traffic whizzing past at high speed. So it was just head down and go really. Nearly 30 miles of it was uphill but Rob set a cracking pace. Pete and Ian did try the cycleway next to the road for a while but it’s designed for mountain bikes so didn’t really work.

Unfortunately we saw a couple of dead deer by the road, and a lot of dead hawk/kite type birds too.

The Scottish scenery is quite spectacular. From large, imposing hills to beatuiful-smelling pine forests to wide rivers and streams. Of course the forests provide the ideal gentlemen’s ablution facility as and when required. Which for some strange reason has changed from “hardly” on the first few days to “not again” today.

Ian, or Lucky Ian as he shall now be known, had another puncture today. And then inner tube problems and pump problems. He also lost his pump on the A9 to confirm his nickname.

Speaking of which, my bike started making an unfamiliar noise from the bottom bracket. I just hope it lasts another 123 miles!

At various stops today we were attacked by gangs of small sparrows. I believe the locals up here refer to them as Midgies – they are bloody annoying.

So we rode north from Perth through Dalwhinney, Aviemore and Inverness.

The last leg of the ride took us past the Beauly Firth which was beautiful with the sun streaming across it.

Our host at the Caledonian Hotel rustled up a smashing meal for us and told us it was on the house for our charity. One of his regulars also gave us a tenner too. More lovely folk that we’ve met. And I also met my best mate Rick who’s working up here so a great end to a great day.

Garmin stats
133 miles
8 hrs 39 mins
15.4 mph
8002 kcals used
About 5000ft of climbing

Final day tomorrow. 123 miles to go. I really hope the bike holds out – that’s my only concern at the moment. Unfortunately limited signal here so no pictures.