Sunday 30 September 2012

LBC ride reconnoitre

I have committed to organising a pedal around the lanes of Central Bedfordshire for the London Brompton Club, so I thought I would reconnoitre a route today and share it with those that had registered an interest.

The start and finish will be Flitwick railway station.

There are several other LBC rides organised in the forthcoming months but nothing in December so I chose Sunday 2nd December, the day of the Christmas wine sale at the Warden Winery; an ideal destination.

Here's the route...

The route is a little bumpy with a couple of local hills. The first is Flitton Hill, 2 miles in to the ride so everyone will have fresh legs.  It is very short and kicks up to a maximum of 8%:


The next is a longer climb out of the village of Clophill and for some reason has been titled the 'Clophill Ball Breaker' on Strava.  I don't understand the reason though as it only averages about 5% with a short kicker of 10%.

I frequently see a Buzzard and occasionally a Greater Spotted Woodpecker on this lane.  At the end of this road you get a great view of Haynes house, historically the stately home of Thomas Thynne but is now a centre for an Indian religeous charity.

My planned route passes Chicksands woods and Rowney Warren, with the excellent mountain bike area.

Our lunch stop will be at the Shuttleworth visitors centre in Old Warden. Sadly we won't have time to wander around the exhibits, the bird of prey centre or any of the other attractions, but the cafe and shop are good.
After lunch we will retrace a bit of the outward route but turn left to Southill and the Winery.  I spotted a Red Kite on the outskirts of Old Warden.

The local cycling club, Beds Road, were having an organised time trial today.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take any photographs of the Winery estate as the entrance gate was closed this morning.
I propose returning to Flitwick via the Wrest Park estate. The road from Upper Gravenhurst is an unpaved road, mostly concreted but with some sections of gravel and pot holes - Note to self and others - bring something in your bag to wrap around any bottles of wines you plan to purchase.

Wrest Park! I don't suggest we stop too long to admire the house and gardens but it would make a great backdrop to a group photo.

After the park the route goes via Silsoe agricultural college along an established bridleway and then back to Flitwick.

Total distance 28 miles, about 1150 feet of climbing, quiet lanes, a bit of bridleway, superb scenery, local historical attractions, a great lunch spot, what should be an interesting destination (the Winery) and plenty of opportunities to stop for photographs. :-)

Thursday 27 September 2012

Deadly rubber

I think it is in Armstrong's first autobiography, but I recall reading that when he lived in Girona he had a bike area in his apartment with a section for the 'shit that sticks'.  At the time of reading I wasn't sure whether he was referring to good stuff that he kept or if it was a typo and it should have read 'stinks'.

I've got a back tyre on my Brompton that certainly doesn't stick and I'm going to get something better as soon as I can decide what.

The Schwalbe Marathon tyre stinks! Do not buy them as they are deadly in the wet.

The tyre wall indicates the maximum pressure should be 65PSI but I have resorted to running my back tyre at 45PSI just to get any grip on damp roads.  I have been sticking with it (no pun intended) throughout the summer, but I had a brown pants moment in the wet weather this week whilst turning right into a junction.  I think Valentino Rossi would have been impressed by the way I recovered from what felt like an enormous rear wheel slide.
The Schwalbe Marathon Plus has been recommended but I'm cogitating whether I want to risk wasting more money with Schwalbe.
What's the alternative?

Sunday 23 September 2012

Triple pilgrimage

The after effects of the Lake District ride/walk were gone by the weekend so I decided to do a Sunday pedal over a route I had been planning and researching for some time.

I rode out to Eaton Socon via Great Barford, Roxton and Wyboston.  My 'Mecca' was the home of Cecil Paget, the designer of the cyclists' rain cape. 

I took a photograph of the blue plaque on the very well kept cottage and cheekily placed my bicycle in the home owners pathway and snatched another quick snap.

On the return leg, I had plotted a route from Eaton Socon to Potton but one of the roads turned out to be a farm track and I went a little off route and ended up in Tempsford and turned left to Everton. On the way to Tempsford I punctured but was able to replace the inner tube pretty quickly and used a CO2 canister to get the pressure up to 110PSI. I couldn't find anything in the tyre which may have caused the puncture so I rolled up the old inner tube and put it in my pocket to examine later. 

Note to self - put a new inner tube in the (tired looking) seat bag.

Before Everton I got held up at the train crossing for what seemed like an age.

My next destination of cycling significance was Biggleswade, famous for being the home of Dan Albone and his Ivel Cycle Works (and later motorcycles and tractors).

The town has great cycle street furniture to lock your bike up.

From Biggleswade I took the road out to Langford and (with a strong will) passed the garden centre cafe to get to my next cycle related shrine. I went to Stotfold to see the gold post box for a famous local cycling olympian...

...Victoria Pendleton!

I managed to get home before the rain (Cecil Paget must have been looking out for me).  Total distance about 65miles, easily achieved in under 4 hours including the stops for puncture repairs, the level crossing and to take photographs.

An enlightening pedal :-)

Thursday 20 September 2012

St Katherine's dock Troll

Mildy inconvenienced.

The route I choose to take each day on my Brompton commute is via St. Katherine's dock and the bridge has been taken away.  There is an alternative pedestrian bridge that runs across the top of the lock and I suspect that one or two cyclists have been guilty of anti-social behaviour.

Clearly there has been some sort of incident and prominent no cycling signs have been erected everywhere.

And the Troll?  A security guard now stands watch over the bridge to ensure cyclists (who can't read) dismount.

I wonder how long the bridge will take to repair (before it becomes an irritation)?

Tuesday 18 September 2012


Rich Mitch's work is superb and I can't imagine a better award to present to the most Combative rider in the Tour of Britain.
Lucky Cav.

Monday 17 September 2012

My walking shoes need new cleats

I cycled/walked the Fred Whitton 4 Seasons cycle challenge and definitely need new cleats.

On a previous attempt, I joined a small group of cyclists attempting to complete the ride in October a few years back and we failed due to attrocious weather conditions and bad navigation.  Despite my policy of not re-attempting rides I decided to make an exception and the Chinook-O and friends of Chinook-O assailed the 112 miles and 11,200 feet of climbing.
The weather was a lot more favourable than previous.  Just look at the blue sky and fabulous view from the top of Kirkstone Pass.
The route traverses twelve big climbs on passes and fells in the Lake District. 

True to forecast, the weather in the afternoon changed to cloudy with some showers but it didn't impair the views.

There are several self-timing points scattered around the route.

The Ortleib bar bag worked out ok. It definitely slowed me down but having the map and somewhere to carry stuff was good.
You reach Hardknott with 98 miles in your legs; a vicious climb exceeding 30% on two sections and where I wore out my cleats in walking.

At the top of Hardknott Pass there is a small mound of stones used by many cyclists (who manage to stay on the bike) for a trophy picture.  Not for me, since I walked it (and, by this stage, grateful for not being buried under it).

Some irony in the pub in Coniston, where several pints of local bitter and a slap-up meal helped post-ride recovery.

Ride stats:
* 111.4 miles
* Total ascent 11242 feet
* Total moving time 8hrs 40mins
* Average speed 12.9mph
* Max speed 40.8mph
* Total calories burned 8,700
* Average heart rate 126bpm
* Average cadence 69rpm
Thank you to Rick, Jon and Julian for organising and letting me tag along :-)

Sunday 9 September 2012

Local hills

Another Chinook-O ride today and we went in search of local hills.

We covered 50 bumpy miles in 3 hours and ticked off Liddlington hill, Brickhill hill, Sharpenhoe clappers, Hexton hill and Pulloxhill before returning to the Marston Vale visitors centre for a well deserved slice of cake :-)

I don't think any of today's climbs are going to prepare us for the next Chinook-O planned ride in the Lake District. We'll see.

Saturday 8 September 2012

Mileage in product design

I love well thought out, quality designed kit. Equally, I love to do a bit of research to find the best kit matching my requirements.  Through research I found Lezyne and I love ALL their kit.

Case in point is the Lezyne rear light and the seat bag complete with their tools.

I am thinking about riding a few Audax events and I have another 100 mile plus endurance pedal shortly. With some concern about navigation and my ability to carry enough food, drink, etc, I began researching smallish, light weight bar bags with map cases.

I looked at bags from Rixen & Kaul and Ortleib and decided on the latter since it got the best reviews and was in stock at an online retailer.  I chose a white coloured Ultimate 5.

As you probably spotted, there is no map case. The retailer incorrectly sent me the plain mapcase and not the Ortleib version with press-studs to attach it to the bag.
You may also have spotted the peculiarly mounted Hope light. In photographs of the bag it appeared to sit low enough for a front bar-mounted light to shine above it but sadly that is not the case.
The photograph above may also give you an indication of how awkward the bag is to open, especially whilst cycling.
Overall I'm not convinced I chose wisely.  The reviews were good, as far as I could see, but I think there is huge potential to design a much better product.  My 14 year old daughter is studying GCSE product design - she could easily do better than Ortleib's 5 (out of 10) effort.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Illuminated thought

Early in my morning commute today I entered the 'creative thought' zone; the alpha zone.  I tend to get my best ideas whilst cycling (and cross country running and, bizarrely, when I wash the car) and this morning I was being dazzled by the sun, low in the East in the direction of Canary Wharf and I thought about the dogfight techniques of fighter planes. I remembered one of my granddad's favourite stories about 'This is your life', the television program presented by Eamon Andrews.

In one live show, Eamon Andrews was giving the red book to a famous fighter pilot, Joe Walensky, and he asked him to regale a tale of shooting down enemy planes during the 2nd world war.  Mr Walensky gave a great description of an airborne battle where he defeated two Fokkers who came out of the sun.  Eamon Andrews clarified for the benefit of the viewers that Mr Walensky was referring to the German airplane the Fokker-Wulf, to which the chirpy ace responded, “NO THEY WEREN’T! THESE TWO FOKKER’S WERE MESSERSSCHMITTS!!"

My next thought was my own safety in the dazzling sunlight and to reduce the risk of a SMIDSY (Sorry Mate I Didn't See You) I reached behind and switched my new Lezyne lights on.

My son and I also used the lights during the Red Kite sportive.  There were a few lanes which passed through wooded areas and the lights must have been good as we received several compliments and questions on the make and models from other riders.

Sunday 2 September 2012

Sportive achievement

Today was the day.  My son and I rode the Marlow Red Kite sportive; 50 miles, nearly 900 metres of climbing and we averaged 11.5mph.  Pretty awesome for an 11 year old.

The route took in some spectacular views and generally used quiet lanes, some of which reared up and I saw 13% on my Garmin on one long climb.  At one stage my son looked at the road ahead and saw an impending climb which he described as a 'wall' :-)

He went through the typical periods of pain I have also suffered with, first his back, then his bum, then his knees and finally his neck. He made me chuckle at one point; claiming his bum had gone numb and that he couldn't feel his legs but that they were still 'turning like a tuned engine'.

The last few miles of the ride dragged on a bit but he still left some energy in the tank to outsprint me to the finishing timing mat and get a better time than me.

We received plenty of praise at the finish.  The organisers congratulated my son and other riders said he looked great on his bike.  We had a quick drink, bought a raffle ticket and were about to leave when one of the organisers spotted my son's rider number on his bike. It was one of the randomly selected numbers and he had won a British Cycling jersey covered with 9 autographs of our top velodrome riders, including Sir Chris Hoy. Fantastic!

Saturday 1 September 2012

Brompton chain replacement

Yet another replacement chain on my Brompton :-(

I suppose I shouldn't grumble as I managed to get 6 months out of the previous chain, so about 1,000 miles. Total cost of replacement chain and sprockets = £25.00 Alternative cost of buying daily return tickets on DLR would have been £806.40!

Of course I had the additional cost of cleaning and lubrication products.  For interest I clean the chain each week. My personal procedure is to clean the chain with Kaboom in a Barbieri cleaner, then I rinse the chain off with a hosepipe, wipe dry with an old cloth, turning the cranks I spray the chain with GT85 (to displace the water and add some PTFE), wipe dry again and then I oil the chain with Finish Line wet. I follow Sheldon Brown's advice on applying the oil. Depending upon the weather and conditions on my weekly commute, mid-week I occasionally wipe the chain with a cloth or wet-wipe and apply a bit more oil.

Stirred by a query by a London Brompton Club member, I decided to go for a KMC chain again (as opposed to SRAM or Wipperman). So X8.93 1/2 inch x 3/32 inch chain is now fitted and we'll see if I get much more than a 1,000 miles out of it in support of their guarantee...

Unique Guarantee:
The life of your new KMC XX-SP chain is guaranteed to last
longer than other brands. Double X Durability treatment
includes all X-SL, X-EL, X-L and X1 models. If you are not
satisfied with the durability of your chain, mail to DoubleX@
kmc Should you have a valid complaint you will
receive a replacement chain with our compliments.

What to do with the old, worn chain? Reduce/Re-use/Recycle - how about glueing it to the border of a plain picture frame?