why don’t you get a job?

 

Grump.Grump. Grump.

I’ve had the last week off work, today was my first day back in.

Well, I say I’ve had the last week off but it was actually only 4 working days because I ended up going in on what was supposed to be the first day of my holiday because there was too much ‘urgent’ and / or ‘important’ stuff on my to-do list.

Grump.

On top of that, stupid real life syndrome kept me from spending what remained on my precious week off exclusively on the bike.

More grump.

When I did manage to get out, the trails were blissfully bereft of fair weather cyclists.

Happy dance.

Unfortunately, like any other vacuum, the space left vacant was filled by the only other people able to spend their days somewhere other than at work: The Great British [sic] Unemployed.

Now, I’m not about to embark on some kind of tirade and unfairly pigeon hole those who are genuinely out of work for reasons beyond their control… I know not all unemployed people are the same. I just seem to encounter the worst of ’em. I probably deserve it.

Most of the trial dwellers I seemed to come across were litter-dropping, cannabis-smoking yoof who would much rather deliberately block the way and intimidate me than politely smile and return my friendly “hello”… come back fair weather cyclists, all is forgiven.

Grump.

As I chained my bike up outside the office this morning, I had that familiar feeling of wanting to be out on the trails instead… but then I thought, without this job, I wouldn’t be able to afford the bike(s) I regularly take out on the trails. And, if I had every day to be out there, would I appreciate them as much as I do now? Who knows.

What I do know for sure is that, as much as I could’ve easily just kept cycling this morning rather than going to work, if I had’ve headed for the trails, I wouldn’t have been able to squeeze in my final errand for the 2014 Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee Challenge!

Happy dance.

Yep, just when I thought I wasn’t going to make it, today I managed to squeeze in one last errand.

Errand #12: commuting home from work | category: work | miles: 10 | thing I learned / observed: I might not always like it, but I’m grateful to have a good job | bonus: completed after dark (lighting method: hub dynamo powering front & rear lamps)

1947761_10152514988714863_1039945336_n

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karma police

 

I’m not sure I believe in karma and all that mumbo jumbo.

I love that expression “mumbo jumbo”, you so rarely get to use it in a sentence. In fact, I’m fairly confident I’ve never typed it before.

But I digress.

Every week I say to myself “Listen, you can’t leave the office at 7pm on a Friday and expect to be able to ride across Manchester city centre without running into revellers, crazy people, buses, taxis and other assorted hazards!”.

Every week, I ignore my own sound advice and find myself dodging people stepping out into traffic, drivers making ill considered (and often illegal) dangerous manoeuvres and women of a certain age who really shouldn’t be wearing *that*.

Tonight, as the pack of mini-skirted 40-somethings almost got wiped out by a tram, I decided to hang back and let the taxi (that was going to pull out whether I pulled back or not) pull out ahead of me. To which I received a big smile and a friendly wave.

A little way down the road and I pulled alongside another black cab sat  waiting at a red light and waved to point out he was driving around in full dark with no headlights on… to which I received a big smile and a friendly wave.

The remaining trek across the city centre presented the usual selection of horrible sights, a few close shaves and one incredibly impatient driver blowing their horn at me when I didn’t move out of their way immediately.

Meh. I suppose it’ll take a little time for my good karma to kick in.

But I digress.

You see, tonight’s ride home from work was the first in a series. Over the next 12 days I am taking part in the 2014 Chasing Mailboxes Errandonee Challenge.

The rules are pretty simple, I just have to complete 12 errands by bike in 12 days, covering a minimum of 30 miles. Oh, and I also have to document each errand with a photo and point out something I learned or observed on my trip.

carradice bagHere’s a picture of my Carradice saddle bag I use for commuting to work, it’s plenty big enough for a change of clothes, lunch and a few bits and bobs if I need to pick anything up on the way home.

Something I observed on my trip? Well, other than the bewildering selection of outfits on display in the city centre, I was quite struck with just how big the difference is between the madness of the city centre and the serenity of the suburbs – I can’t wait to get out of the former, but I find myself taking longer and longer routes through the latter.

Edit:

Errand #1 fits into the ‘work’ category as it was my daily commute to / from work and also takes care of one of my recommended ‘after dark’ errands.

1795689_10152477967614863_2101079586_nSee, look, it was dark. Dark like a dark thing. The lighting method used a simple Shimano hub dynamo wired up to a Trelock front dynamo light and a… something-or-other mudguard mounted dynamo rear light, both with built-in standlights. How I ever lived without dynamo lights, I’ll never know.

Total mileage for errand #1: 16 miles.

you owe me nothing in return

 

A little something from Alanis this evening to a) delight the legions of Portuguese fans of lifeinthecyclelane who are forever demanding plinky plunky music videos with subtitles and b) make my Canadian reader hang his head in shame.

In fact, the interweb tells me Alanis is half American so you guys can all feel bad too.

Incidentally, on behalf of the UK, I hereby sincerly apologise for The Spice Girls. *slow, sad headshake*

Anyhoo, it’s been all kinds of exciting here at lifeinthecyclelane HQ recently; you’ve probably read the news reports about a crazy-eyed, hairy-faced man abandoning his unfortunate and all-too-patient girlfriend at various marketplaces around Manchester while he goes off cycling in the wilderness with…

<insert dramatic music here>

…another girl.

Salsa Mukluk 2A filthy girl.

1456671_10152219705564863_2054789501_nA filthy girl who likes going down.

1465350_10152219705879863_535419075_nA filthy girl who likes going down and let me taste her pussy.

1451350_10152219704934863_255121575_nYou can make up your own jokes.

But seriously, Canadian-American regret and hideously inappropriate innuendo aside, this is after all a cycling blog so it’s about time I reported on something at least a little bit cycling related.

Ahem. You at the back! Stop sniggering. This is a serious blog.

 

This year, I’ve largely been switching back and forth between my Surly Troll and Kinesis Crosslight for commuting duties. During the summer, the Kinesis was also my evening & weekend ride of choice for exploring the local lanes and bridleways.

As the days started to get shorter and the weather started to get crappier, I set the Troll up in its now familiar mountain biking guise and the Kinesis became my foul weather commuter.

It’s time to talk about rubber.

Hey! No sniggering.

709111_183LrgAfter countless miles over tarmac, gravel, hardpack dirt and (some) mud in blazing heat, freezing cold, pouring rain and (a little) ice, it’s finally time to hang up what has to be one of the best sets of tyres I’ve ever owned. The Vittoria Randonneur Cross Pro with its semi-slick, semi-knobbly tread, reflective sidewalls, sticky compound and excellent puncture protection has been absolutely flawless.

Mine are now looking almost completely slick, the reflective stip is starting to peel away and the combined abuse from Birmingham & Manchester’s roads and trails over the last few years has left them beaten, battered and scarred. And yet, through it all, I never had a single puncture.

Of course, one simply can’t abandon one’s girlfriend without the universe handing out some kind of cruel and unusual karmic punishment. My punishment came in the form of a 2 inch galvanised steel nail that somehow found its way into my rear tyre, directly through the tread, out through the sidewall and CLATTER CLATTER CLATTER into my rear mudguard; albeit mercifully just around the corner from the office.

Now, as a rule, when your tyre sidewall gets damaged, your tyre is toast. This is normally bad news. Especially when said tyres cost a small fortune. But, given the seemingly endless mileage they’ve given me, I really can’t complain; I’ve more than had my money’s worth.

1471784_10152222999774863_1520757008_n

mr postman

 

There’s a rather exciting development waiting in the wings here at lifeinthecyclelane HQ… I’m bursting to tell you all about it but it’s not all finalised yet so you’ll just have to remain on the edge of your seats holding your breath for a little while longer…

You will be familiar with the equation for working out the appropriate number of bikes to own:

n + 1
(where n = the number of bikes you currently own)

In the last few weeks, n has been in steady decline. Now, I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking this is a bad thing. You’re thinking several things must be wrong. You’re thinking “why are we doing maths?”. You’re thinking Karen’s finally had enough of all these bikes, killed me dead, given my collection away and taken over my blog.

Fear ye not. I am alive and well (a bit sniffly, but generally OK) and the only thing being killed off is my collection of bikes. This, believe it or not, is a good thing.

You thought the maths was bad? Prepare yourselves for some science!

“Horror vacui (Nature abhors a vacuum)”

Interestingly enough, I abhor a vacuum too. I’m sure we’ve got one in the cupboard somewhere but it’s far from my favourite household appliance.

Nature contains no vacuums because the denser surrounding material continuum would immediately fill the rarity of an incipient void. Or, if there is a space with nothin’ in it, somethin’ will fill it.

Here at the HQ, the void has appeared as a result of several projects finally making their way off to new homes:

425348_10150673432819863_784234862_8829403_132888241_nFirst, it was my beloved Falcon Panther 10 speed road bike which I rescued from the scrapheap. 27″ wheels, bullhorn bars, a Selle San Marco Regal saddle and full friction downtube shifters. That was a fun bike to ride! It’s currently somewhere in London being ridden around by a guy who always wanted one when he was a kid.

Raleigh Compact 3 speed folding bikeNext up was this quirky little Raleigh Shopper 3 speed folding bike. A major diversion from the usual things you see roll out of the workshop but it was heaps of fun all the same. All she needed was a fresh set of tyres, a bit of adjustment of the brakes & gears and she was off to Merseyside. No more sitting about in a dusty old shed, she can now been found pootling up and down the docks, transporting the lady who bought her back to her childhood.

Carrera Epic flat barsMore recently, I shocked the world with the pink & green madness that was the Carrera Epic flat bar road bike build. Deliberately different, deliberately challenging, I wanted this bike to turn heads and turn heads it did! Selling it proved to be quite the challenge in the end and when it finally did go, the guy buying it for his girlfriend asked me to include the original black saddle… Shame, I liked it with the pink one! Anyway, if you see it being ridden around London, do drop me a line and let me know which one it’s got on.

994151_10151707854699863_1000163482_nSince then, I ended up adopting Penelope here. Since taking this photo, I’ve swapped out the saddle, given her flat bars, new brake levers, new cables all around and fitted 2.2″ DMR Moto RT tyres. She loves hitting the back streets of Salford for a quick, hard ride but I just can’t devote enough attention to her since setting the Troll up as a mountain bike. Earlier today, I sold her to another guy in London (seems to be a dangerous shortage of cool bikes down there) so she’ll be off in search of new adventures down there in a few days’ time.

1236615_10151932228879863_88922407_nA little while ago, I bagged a Pashley Millenium workhorse, formerly spending its days delivering post around Manchester. I had all sorts of plans… I was going to have it blasted and powdercoated, I was going to give it a set of moustache bars, a top tube mounted 3 speed shifter, some vintage lamps and it was going to be my new winter commuter. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get on with the uber relaxed geometry so, I put it up for sale. A mere couple of hours ago, I was lifting it into the car boot of its proud new owner. And the best part? Ey, when he were a lad, it were all fields around St Helens and all his mates got racers but his parents couldn’t afford one so they bought him a £10 ex-postie bike from a 2nd hand shop. When he saw this one on eBay, he just had to have it because it reminds him of the one he had all those years ago.

Sure, I make a little bit of money on these bikes every now and again but there’s just nothing like the smile people get when they pick up something cool and it’s always nice to know it’ll be ridden and appreciated.

The resulting vacuum in the lifeinthecyclelane HQ workshop will soon be filled, have no fear. This next one is gonna be all kinds of cool… I CAN’T WAIT!!!

slip sliding away

 

Ah Autumn (that’s Fall for those of the American persuasion). The days are getting shorter, the roads and trails are getting quieter, it’s time to break out the foul weather commuter, fit the full wrap mudguards and clip on the lights.

Largely, because I’m lazy, I’ve saved a little time this year by simply rolling out the same bike I’ve been riding all summer. It already is my foul weather commuter, it already has full wrap mudguards and I haven’t bothered to take my lights off since last year. They even still had some charge left – bonus.

Along with my lazyness comes falling leaves, mizzle, drizzle, and every other kind of rain Manchester can throw at you (that’s a lot of rain, by the way). With a lot of rain in a city with lots of painted lines and lots of manhole covers comes a lot of risk of going face surfing. This morning, I very nearly dropped my Troll several times when the front wheel slipped out on shiny metal / paint / oil spots…

Be careful out there.

something inside so strong

 

Whilst I was away, suffering from a bad case of real life syndrome and, more recently, a horrible respiratory infection, I had quite literally millio… no, thousan… hundre… OK, so I had one person contact me demanding an update to my blog. Clearly, over a month without a new instalment of Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia! was just too much to bear.

You may even recall me promising a special month long special edition… and, here it is! Please, try to control your excitement.

 

You asked for it, I promised to do it.

You asked for it again, I promised to do it again.

You kept asking for it, I kept promising to do it.

At some time in the last month, you asked for it yet again; so, without further ado, by popular demand, you-kept-asking-for-it-so-I’m-finally-doing-it… yes, yes, it’s finally time for a “Keep Pedalling wheel build review”.

32421_10151271550494863_43233265_nYou may recall I originally built my Surly Troll with an old Sun Rims Ditch Witch wheelset I had lying around the garage. Super wide disc specific rims with a matt black finish, I loved them and I quite literally rode them into the ground; relenting only when the hubs were making so much noise I was worried I wouldn’t make it all the way home (hence the boxes of brand new shiny in my trailer).

206696_10151327132799863_2024200714_nHere’s the finished article being used in anger atop the Hill of Death. For the wheel building nerds out there, here are the specs:

Halo Aerowarrior 26″ disc specific rims in white, Shimano Deore XT 36 hole quick release 6 bolt disc hubs in black and regular, bust-one-and-you-can-get-it-fixed-just-about-anywhere round stainless steel spokes in silver; none of your fancy black bladed [read expensive and almost never in stock] spokes here.

Of course, these wheels were hand built by Rich at Keep Pedalling in Manchester. Interestingly enough, he was actually recommending a cheaper, more sensible, touring bike rim but hey, what’s rock ‘n’ roll about that? So, I splurged the extra cash and went with the Halos.

They’ve been on the bike now for a little over 6 months and have done somewhere between 2000 and 3000 miles (I really haven’t been keeping count) on road, off road, through rain, snow, mud, sand… you name it.

The XT hubs are super smooth and super quiet and will be treated to a service in another 6 months’ time. The rims are as perfectly straight as the day I picked them up and, despite the daily abuse I give the bike, I’m yet to break a single spoke (of course, I fully expect to break several tomorrow now I’ve jinxed it!).

So, how do I rate the quality of Keep Pedalling’s wheel building service? Well, I’m currently saving up to have another one done. What does that tell you?

Oh, I almost forgot! My favourite search term from the last month? Well, it just has to be:

“Olive at Keep Pedalling”

Olive

f.e.a.r.

 

Something strange has happened to me recently; I can’t quite put my finger on what’s caused it but I have most definitely turned into some kind of lettuce.

Quite possibly, it’s down to when I dropped the Troll on the ice a while back… ever since that happened, I seem to have lost all confidence in the tyres and my own ability to stay upright. Admittedly, the weather hasn’t improved much since I crashed so I’ve had good reason to be on the lookout for black ice but to say I’ve been cautious through the corners must be the understatement of the year.

I now find myself gingerly mincing around traffic islands and slowing right down for corners I’d previously have attacked at high speed… what has become of me???

406476_10151161830094863_453640121_nIn an attempt to get some peace and quiet, I decided to ride home via the canal towpath earlier this week; something I’ve done countless times before, something I felt sure would help me recover some of my confidence in the bike and myself away from the distractions of rush hour traffic. As you can probably tell, much of the canal towpath in these parts is paved with cobbles. Huge, great big slippery cobbles. Just the kind of thing you need when you’re feeling unsteady…

It seems almost clairvoyant that this week’s winning ‘Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!’ entry is:

“towpath accident”

Happily, I didn’t actually have an accident but I was utterly convinced I was going to… perhaps to the point where I’m feeling so unsure of my balance that I’m tensing up and actually increasing my risk of coming off…

It’s not good. Any advice?