Monday 26 March 2012

Barclays bikes photo competition

Barclays have announced a photo competition with a theme of standout images showcasing the adventure, inspiration and beauty of cycling in the Capital.

The winner will receive a prize package including £1,500 of cycling equipment, a 5 star weekend hotel break and a visit to Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park.

I guess the photo ought to include a Boris bike or one of the cycle highways.

I wish someone had taken a photo of my SCR down Narrow street this evening when I sniped the scalps of two other cyclists outside Sir Ian McKellen's pub.  That would have been a winner.

Sunday 25 March 2012

Build on the miles

I rode to Cambridge today!

Here's the Basso in the King's college cycle rack...

I have been riding 100km most weekends (Man Flu week excepted) and my average speed has been increasing so I decided to start extending the mileage. Today's circuitous return route was over 85 miles and the Basso with newly fitted handlebar stem was as comfortable to ride as can be.

On past 100km rides I have just carried 1.5litres of plain water and generally begin to feel the bonk at 45miles.  Today I carried a further 0.5litre in my jersey pocket and I added SIS' PSP22 to one of the bike bottles.  Combined with 2 small bird seed bars, I was able to finish still feeling reasonably strong.

Statistics for the week:
Total miles 150.
Weight loss 1lb (must try harder)

12 weeks to go before l'Ardechoise!

Friday 23 March 2012

John Bishop

Chapeau to John Bishop. I watched Sport Relief and saw his week of hell which included a 185 mile cycle on day 1 from Paris to Calais which he completed in 18.5 hours.

And also in the news I read that Mario Cippolini would like to make a come back at this year's Giro d'Italia...

Were they separated at birth?

Thursday 22 March 2012

Stella design

Two huge items of interest on the morning Brompton commute today.  Firstly, I had to look twice because a warship parked next to another is weirdly camouflaged, but I think it is HMS Sutherland moored next to HMS Belfast.  Secondly, there was a bit of activity at the Tower of London and the biggest bouncer I have ever seen was acting official next to the Beefeaters.  He was wearing an Adidas lanyard. What's that all about...

The new Team GB kit was unveiled at the Tower today ahead of the London Olympics.  I should have asked the bouncer what was going on.  Instead, I missed the opportunity to see Sir Chris, Lizzie A. and some of our other medal contenders modelling the new kit designed by Stella McCartney.

I wonder if Chris Boardman had a hand in the design or colour proposals.  I imagine the dark blue is less obvious in an athlete's peripheral vision as team GB charge past and onto the podium.

Tuesday 20 March 2012


Perhaps it is just semantics but maybe I don't do upgrades and a better description would be fettling. 

The last two evenings I have been able to tweek the front derailleur on my Basso to eliminate chain rub on the big ring and I fitted a new chain and 12 tooth sprocket to the Brompton (which should always be done together).

Both the Basso and Brompton were running Wipperman chains in an experiment to see if they are longer lasting than SRAM or KMC.  The Brompton fitted chain has been a disappointment and despite regular cleaning and lubricating it has lasted for less than the 2,000 miles I had hoped for.  I've reverted to a cheap SRAM replacement.

The Basso inherited a Wipperman Connex chain I originally fitted to the Van Nicholas ahead of last year's Time-Megeve Mont Blanc sportive. It is approaching the 75% wear mark so will require replacing shortly.  Again, I expected more life for the money so I will probably replace it (after Lent) with a trusted KMC X10-L or the lighter SL if I find one advertised at a good price.

Sunday 18 March 2012


No discipline - Five hail Mary's - I bought a bike 'upgrade' and broke my Lent promise, however I pressed buy-it-now on a Sunday so I'm unsure if I need absolution.

The saying goes 'measure twice, cut once' or in my case, 'measure twice and buy it once', and I paid it no heed as I bought the wrong length handlebar stem.

One of the build parts I didn't have in my spare box when I built up the Basso was the stem so I went ahead and bought a used FSA K-Force in my normal 130mm size.  But riding the bicycle hasn't been totally enjoyable especially on longer rides and I started having thoughts about selling it.

I swapped the deep section wheelset to my winter wheels which made some improvement but my back still ached on rides of any distance, so I took out my tape measure and spirit level again and checked the set up.

The saddle height was exactly the same as my other bikes, corresponding to the bike fit I had in 2008.  The knee to pedal alignment was spot-on, so the saddle fore-aft position was correct.

Then I checked the bar height, measuring from the front axle spindle to the underside of the handlebar where it meets the stem. I also checked the distance to the top of the brake lever hood.  These were also fine, so the seating position, the bar height and the lever position were consistent with my other road bikes.

Finally I checked the reach and found that the distance from the nose of saddle to the handlebar was 1cm longer than on my other bikes.  I measured and checked again and yes, the top tube length on the Basso is slightly longer than the Wilier and the Van Nicholas.

Nothing for it but to buy a shorter replacement stem.  I have to admit not liking the bulkiness of the carbon K-Force and, sticking with FSA, I preferred the design of the SLK, thus I decided to add a 120cm one to my post-Easter shopping list. I just thought I'd do a quick search on the Classifieds to compare the going prices versus new and, lo and behold, I spotted an irresistable bargain and immediately became a Catholic ;-)

I haven't had a chance to try out the change as I used the Van Nicholas for a short 25 mile Sunday pedal today to test the lungs after the self diagnosed Man Flu during the week.  A longer road test on the Basso will have to wait.

Weekly stats:
Miles - a very poor 36
Weight loss - dunno.

Back on the plan tomorrow.

Friday 16 March 2012

Racing Gentlemen

It's dark, I'm wearing sunglasses...

and I'm wearing a shirt, jacket and tie and riding my Brompton.  It must be the Nocturne folding bike race.

I'm registered for this year's race as well as (hopefully) the world championships.

I can't wait.

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Man Flu

Not Bird Flu but enough to put a dampener on training.


Sunday 11 March 2012

Beautiful scenery

I rode out to do a lap of the race circuit from yesterday (to see whether I might be able to manage the average speed of the finishers) and to get some miles in my legs.
Route here.

Despite the poor road conditions and the puncture, the ride and N.Bucks scenery were fabulous.

I hate him, or more precisely, his job

Puncture-fest.  Almost as bad as the eTack de Caledonia ride I did in 2009 and they arrested someone for sabotaging that.  This ****** gets paid for it.
One inner tube and one CO2 cannister in the bin :-(

Saturday 10 March 2012

More spectator training

Roy Thame Spring Chicken

I drove out to spectate at the Cat 4 & 3 race this morning to cheer on some of my friends.  An unplanned lie-in meant I arrived shortly after the start so decided to drive around the course to catch up with the peloton but there was a crash at the first corner with at least five injured cyclists sat on the grass verge, so I parked up to wait for the 2nd lap.

There was always a risk of a crash with ninety cyclists on narrow, greasy lanes and the pot holes added to the challenge.

The road conditions were awful and there was even a dead badger lying in the road and other road-kill in the gutters. A crashed car lay on its roof at one road junction on the circuit. 

So the conditions for racing weren't ideal.

I  got back in the car and followed the lead bunch for the remainder of the 2nd lap and they were averaging nearly 25 mph.  Not bad for a 75km race. I drove behind a support car for some of the lap with two dropped riders getting a tow to try to get back to the bunch.  Their speed was in excess of 40mph on a long downhill stretch.

On the 3rd lap one rider from Hemel was soloing away and he had a distance of 200 metres before a two man chasing group and then the main bunch were a further 100 metres behind.

I had to leave before the finish but the British Cycling report states that the Hemel rider narrowly missed the win.  One MK rider in the top 10 and my friend reported he came 11th.
In the afternoon I had free tickets to watch MK Dons play Exeter.  The home team won 3-0!

So will the double dose of  'spectator training' boost my 100km pedal planned for tomorrow?  I hope so as the diet plan went awry during the week.

Three Brompton commutes and one lunchtime road pedal, so only 50 miles so far.

Monday 5 March 2012


Registered ... and every time I think about it I feel nervous.

14 Cols, 278km and 5310 metres of climbing.

None of the cols have been featured as Tour de France climbs though, so they can't be much of a challenge ;-)

173 miles, 86 uphill and the rest free-wheeling downhill. Easy?

Sunday 4 March 2012

Belgium classics weather

Today's return to winter-like weather was my fault.  I registered for the Rapha Hell of the North 3 and was thinking to myself how good the weather was on the previous two and I began planning how I would use my sportive bike more than the Basso. Then someone in charge of the weather thinks they'd better top up the reservoirs and Sunday starts wet, gets very wet and then snows. Proper Belgium classics weather, just like when I rode the Ronde van Vlaanderen sportive in 2008.

I should have got re-acquainted with the turbo trainer, instead I set off on my 100km ride to do my best impression of a Belgium rouleur.  I chose the Basso because it still has the Crud Catcher mudguards fitted and my winter wheels have the Vittoria open pave tyres fitted - ideal.

My selection of clothing wasn't great though.  The Schutt VR race cape was excellent but I should have added another layer to the base, jersey and gilet.  I also totally under-estimated the temperature, went for the long-fingered Specialized gloves and left the waterproof Chiba winter gloves on the radiator.

By the time I got home I was frozen to the bone, couldn't feel my fingers and for a brief period I thought I was going to be sick.  All sorted by a hot bath and a mug of coffee.

Riding in this weather increases my respect for the racers in the classics.

I shall be watching Paris-Roubaix in the pub at the end of Rapha's free ride, drinking a free pint and eating free frites.  I just need to go fast enough to finish in the early bunch and get a good seat.

I know who I'll be cheering for.

Saturday 3 March 2012


A tale of brake calipers. 

When I built up my Basso 'Frankenbike' with components I had lying around, I didn't have any spare calipers.  On other bicycles thoughtfully assembled by me I had chosen Shimano each time - 105s on my son's bike, Dura Ace on my race bike and Ultegra on my sportive bike - because they are trusted, easy to set up and, with Swissstop pads, I had no qualms about descending col d'Izoard at 60mph.  However I was tempted to try something different, lighter and if they turned out better than Ultegra then I'd consider swapping to my sportive bike.  But I didn't want to spend ridiculous money.

After a bit of searching on the world wide web I came across the Planet-X CNC calipers. The reviews were good, the weight incredible and the price too good.  I decided on the gun metal colour and set an email request on Planet-X's web site to let me know when they had them in stock. I waited.

I waited for a week and happened to check again to see that the price had been increased by 25%!  They also had a pair of gun metal colour showing in stock and I hadn't received a courtesy email.  I telephoned them the following day and asked (politely) for an explanation.  Apparently the gun metal ones had been a customer return and, after a quick check with the manager, I was offered them at the original price.  Seize the day.

The verdict - less than 200grams, not so easy to set up, the fittings are a bit fragile, the pads take a few 100km to bed in and I have had a few wet-weather moments. Would I descend a mountain on them (even with Swissstop pads)? No way! So they aren't getting promoted to the sportive bike.

What could go on my Van Nicholas Chinook sportive bike though?  Coincidence/luck perhaps, but (prior to Lent - I promise) I bought a pair of used white TRP 970SL calipers for a good price.

An assessment is planned tomorrow when I shall try to beat last week's time for my 100km training ride.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Wilier Izoard

I gave my Wilier a clean and lubrication today.

I bought the XL frameset new in 2008 and built it up using a Dura-Ace 7800 groupset and with a Ritchey finishing kit.

  • Chainset - 7800 53/39 175mm cranks
  • Rear derailleur - 7800 with Token tiramic jockey wheels
  • Ritchey WCS 44cm carbon compact bars, 130cm WCS carbon stem and seatpost
  • Fizik Arione CX carbon seat
  • KMC X10-SL chain
  • Van Nicholas carbon bottle cages

With the deep section wheelset fitted, the bicycle weighs 17lbs.

After Lent I plan to replace the cableset and change the bar tape, probably to white Lizardskin DSP race.

Whilst cleaning, I noticed the rear wheel bearings are making a rumbling noise, so I need to give them some attention and the bottom bracket cups will need replacing shortly.