spaceman came travelling

 

There are certain perks in having an addiction to bikes, chief amongst which is also the simplest.

1441436_10152198917554863_2044853909_nOn a crisp, clear Sunday morning you can hop on your bike, head into the hills with good friends and just while away the hours.

This happened. And it was good.

Excused from my usual weekend cake selling duties, I abandoned Karen at the market and with the bike on the roof of the car, I picked up Spanner Monkey and novice fat bike rider Sylwia along with her super-shiny, almost-never-been-ridden Salsa Mukluk and together we headed for Hollingworth Lake where we met up with Rich & Shona before setting off in search of adventure on t’ Pennine Bridleway.

As is often the way with such things, the deceptively flat trail began rising and rising and rising. Soon enough I was in the granny ring, grinding out the relentless climb as Sylwia suffered with her mahoosive tyres and Rich & Shona made an utter mockery of us both by storming up the hill on their single speeds like it was nothing at all.

1472910_10152198917169863_51681481_nThe fleet was certainly turning heads. I was riding my Surly Troll in its usual off-road setup with suspension fork and less than ideal tyres. Sylwia was tearing up the trail with her brand spangley new burnt orange Salsa Mukluk, Shona was rocking a beautiful titanium something-or-other with flat bars, hydraulic disc brakes and well, not a lot else. And Rich? Well, despite striking a rather camp pose, Rich had brought along a steel Jeff Jones Spaceframe & Truss fork.

Jeff Jones Spaceframe half fatSet up ‘half fat’, the Jones was running a 29″ wheel in the rear wrapped in (I think) a Surly Knard tyre and up front was a true fat bike wheel & tyre. The awesome stopping power was delivered by Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes and minimalist Paul brake levers. The drivetrain couldn’t have been simpler: one ring up front and one at the back with a chain inbetween. And the bars? Jones Loop Bars of course.

And then it happened. As a red faced Sylwia got her breath back and I cursed my lousy tyres, Rich came over and nicked my Troll. Git.

As I watched him pedal away, tyres hopelessly skidding in the deep slimy mud, I threw my leg over the Jones and pointed it towards the horizon.

It took me a while to get used to the relatively tall front end and what I thought was a bizarre saddle angle, but a few hundred metres later and I was settling in. Maybe it wasn’t the right size frame for me but I did find the whole thing a little bit short in the top tube and for my taste, I would’ve liked a couple less spacers under the stem. That said, the Loop Bars have never made more sense; on the Troll they still feel super wide but they fit the Jones perfectly. On a short road section I could even get down into the elusive beard-resting-on-the-bars aero position.

Jeff says: A Jones is a high-performance non-suspended bicycle. The ride is both efficient and comfortable and the handling is immediate and assured. With the default choice for off-road cycling nowadays seemingly suspension before anything else it might seem odd to ride rigid but that is the last thing my bicycles are – the geometry and construction provide an extremely satisfying and direct connection between the rider, the trail and the bike. It’s pure cycling and a lot of fun.”

I tend to agree. The bike felt responsive, sharp and direct but not harsh or jarring, even on the really rough stuff. The full effort my puny thigh muscles put into the pedals was instantly delivered to the rear wheel and, even with that gigantic tyre, the front end felt precise and controllable.

Before long and we turned onto a steep gravel climb. Once again Shona & Rich took off and monstered their way to the top as Sylwia and I took turns losing traction, losing balance, running out of strength and running out of talent.

I couldn’t tell you what the gear ratio was on the Jones but for me in that moment on that climb it was just that little bit too tall. Getting out of the saddle and giving it everything I had, I managed to lumber the bike up to speed and get enough momentum together to keep going until I hit the next patch of gravel or fell into the next rut or was forced to stop for breath. Eventually Sylwia gave up and started pushing but not before singing ‘The Final Countdown’ by Europe to me as I nommed half an emergency banana and gave it every little bit I had left to crest the hill.

Despite being so high, that was the low point.

After the climb came the flat. And with the flat came a narrow track on a ridge, mossy drystone wall to my left and jeebus-that’d-hurt-if-I-fell-down-it drop to my right.

“Don’t you have any proper mud tyres???” Rich complained from behind me as the Troll refused to grip anything. “I’ve got some mud tyres. I’ll give you the damn things if you promise never to lend me this bike with these tyres on again!!!”. Then, as some kind of sick punishment, I finished sniggering about the awesome mud-shedding ability of the tyres on the Jones and the front wheel snatched in a rut, throwing me and the bike towards the perilous drop.

Somehow, some way, the thick tufts of grass managed to catch the bike and break the worst of my fall. Clinging on for dear life and listening to Rich laughing at me I realised just how close I came to a really horrible accident.

Salsa Mukluk 2With that unpleasantness out of the way, we stopped for some emergency chocolate, a photo opportunity and some downright childish jumping over a mound of earth.

Seeing just how much fun Sylwia was having, I simply couldn’t resist taking her up on her offer to swap bikes. So, I handed over the Jones, watched Rich skid all over the trail and embarked on my first true fat bike ride ever.

Salsa Mukluk 1Obviously, it was a million sizes too small for me so I had to stay out of the saddle and just pedal like I was riding a kid’s BMX. In fact, that’s exactly what it felt like, the best, most fun BMX in the world. In fact, I yelled “THIS IS LIKE RIDING THE MOST FUN BMX IN THE WOR…”

…and then it happened.

Like finding a worm in your half eaten apple. Like realising there’s a spider creeping up your arm. Like a rodeo bull throwing a cowboy across the arena. For reasons that escape me, Sylwia’s Mukluk suddenly realised some big hairy guy was riding her and she threw me to the ground in spectacular style. Gracefully, the Mukluk executed a perfect landing next to me and just sat there laughing at my misfortune along with my so-called friends and the walkers on the trail.

Oddly enough, Sylwia came and rescued the Mukluk, Rich rescued the Jones and I was reunited with my Troll for the final stretch of the ride.

Bruised and battered, I gingerly made my way down the trail only to find Shona stopped and off her bike (this almost never happens); turns out the Mukluk had struck again and thrown Sylwia into some rocks. Luckily she escaped with only minor cuts and bruises but it was a healthy reminder of just how careful you need to be on unpredictable trails (no matter how big your tyres are).

We all struggled with the last section, even Rich had to put a foot down as the Jones sunk into a bog but we all made it safely back to Hollingworth Lake, heralded down the final super fast descent by Sylwia crowing like a demented cockerel. Bless.

You know when your face hurts from smiling and laughing so much? Yep, it was one of those days.

Jeff Jones Spaceframe half fat 2

with arms wide open

 

“Hooning” the Young People call it, I believe.

Ey, when I were a lad, it were all fields around ‘ere and, what’s more, I’d hop on my BMX, push it to the top of the steepest hill I could find and go hooning down it with wild abandon and total disregard for my own safety. As I recall, I never wore a helmet and never hurt myself.

Now I’m a grumpy old man, I have to put quite a bit more thought into it before I go hooning anywhere. After all, I did once manage to break my collarbone when I rode head first into a gigantic steel post that’d been there forever. Another time, I inexplicably woke up on my back in a ditch, my bike up in the air still clipped onto my shoes, my ribs broken and my so-called-friend half laughing, half worried about me back up on the road.

As I reported on Monday, this week’s escape from the office was clearly earmarked for non-stop mountain biking. Of course, as is the way with such things, I ended up wasting spending 2 precious days doing work stuff and another day doing chores (there’s only so much anyone can get away with, I guess). I did manage to squeeze in a trip to the bike shop and a few miles exploring the local lanes but the excitement all happened in t’ hills around t’ Chorley about 20 miles north of t’ Manchester.

Surly Troll Rivington Pike 1 Surly Troll Rivington Pike 3 Surly Troll Rivington Pike 2 Monday was really a bit of a shakedown. My Surly Troll was devoid of its usual rigid fork, racks, luggage & road tyres and instead was sporting a Fox F100 suspension fork, 26×2.1″ Continental Speed King tyres and, well, not a lot else.

After abandoning the car somewhere in deepest, darkest Rivington, I basically spent a couple of hours getting well and truly lost, fiddling with the adjustable fork, trying to sort out the shifting issues I was having and dusting off my extremely rusty mountain biking skills.

The majority of my day was spent climbing, climbing, climbing so there was sadly no hooning to be done until right at the end of the ride. The scenery was pretty spectacular though.

When it finally came time to find my way back down to the car (it was somewhere down there by the reservoir), it seemed the perfect opportunity to give my new Jeff Jones Loop handlebars their first proper off-road test. You can check out the various hand positions they offer and the eye-watering price tags on the excellent Jeff Jones Bikes website.

Pointing the front wheel down the hill, I shifted my hands to the very outside of the bars, one finger on each brake lever (the rest firmly wrapped around the grips) and unleashed my inner BMX riding child. I shudder to think what speed I was going at but it certainly wasn’t the “safe and controlled pace” recommended in the brochure. The fork was doing everything it could to absorb the massive impact from each of the equally massive rocks it hit, my water bottles threatened to rattle loose from their cages and as I neared the bottom of the descent, I wondered whether my brakes were going to stop me in time.

The front wheel hit a particularly large rock and as I gazed down at the approaching trail, I wondered just how the ambulance would reach me. Happily, with all the extra stability and leverage the bars gave me, I stayed upright and the Troll just wanted to go faster. Moments later the front wheel dropped into a rut, caught the sides and again I was wondering how I’d look after facial reconstructive surgery.

The only thing you can do in that situation is let go of the brakes, get your weight back over the rear wheel, close your eyes and hope. “FASTER, FASTER, FASTER!!!” the Troll kept screaming and somehow we made it to the bottom in one piece.

I’d never been so happy to see a Vauxhall in all my life.

Friday morning, I was a determined man. I woke up and ate the contents of my fridge. I packed a bag with a couple of bananas, some malt loaf and a lump of Kendal Mint Cake. I grabbed a MUCH better map and set off to ride the curiously named Anglezarke Loop. All of it, this time.

Monday’s shakedown had taught me several things:

  • it might be only 30 miles but at least half of them are climbing very steep hills and almost all of them are on very rough trails
  • [this] man cannot survive on very little food
  • bigger is better

I made the decision to swap out the 26×2.1″ Contis for the only bigger tyres I had lying around the garage: a 26×2.4″ Maxxis Holy Roller for the rear and a 26×2.4″ DMR Moto RT for the front. Not exactly off road tyres but I was guaranteed good drive and sticky rubber on the rear and at least some directional knobblies to help keep the front going where I pointed it.

For reasons that escape me, I decided to ignore the “mountain bikers may find it easier to ride the route in an anti-clockwise direction” advice, parked at Anglezarke Reservoir and set off in a decidedly clockwise direction.

On the short road section, I was instantly glad of my tyre choice as, despite the increased volume, I had considerably less rolling resistance. As I hit the trails and unlocked the suspension, traction on the wet, slippery rocks was spectacular but in the deep, squelchy mud, it got a little skittery.

Anglezarke Loop 1 Jones Loop barsBefore long, the anti-clockwise advisory became clear. Heading this way, it’s uphill for what? 70 – 80% of the ride. At least that’s how it felt.

The loop is a mixture of very short tarmac road sections, bridleways, forest tracks, disused packhorse tracks and desolate moorland. This picture simply doesn’t do justice to the incline or the severity of the surface. Take one hand off the bars or one eye off the trail at your own peril. Believe it or not, this trail is actually on the map as a road. It’s got a name and everything.

Anglezarke Loop 2My Maxxis Holy Roller rear tyre was doing a truly spectacular job at finding grip on the loose, wet rocks and even the carpet of rotting leaves didn’t provoke any slippery moments. Up front, the DMR Moto RT (both tyres running at 40psi, by the way) was taking the bike exactly where I pointed it with the legendary Fox F100 fork soaking up the relentless impact from the trail. A previous rider had lost his water bottle (and cage!) when the welds finally let go under all the punishment.

Anglezarke Loop 3About half way round the 30 mile route, I made the mistake of stopping on a climb for a nature break and to nom a banana. The incline was so severe and the surface so rough, I really struggled to get back on the bike and start pedalling without losing my balance.

Once I did get going again, I shifted my weight all the way forward, grabbing the loop on the front of my Jones Bars which really helped keep the front wheel down as I ground out the remainder of the climb in the lowest gear I could find.

A few slurps of energy drink later and I was rolling onto the beautiful false flat proffered by Darwen Moor. See that big hill hiding behind the sign? Yeah, the car’s over the other side of that somewhere.

Anglezarke Loop 4I hadn’t seen another human being for over an hour and now my only company was the occassional disgruntled looking sheep. As I reached the end of the moor, I had to chase them away to keep them from escaping through the gate with me.

Another short tarmac section and I finally met some other humans. Oddly enough, all men. All just kinda hanging around on the trail. All looking a bit shifty. A few heading into the woods. A few giving me the ‘I wasn’t doing anything’ nonchalant look as I rolled by, checking my map.

Into civilisation, I rolled. Through a nice little park. Down a wrong turn into a very unfriendly looking farmyard. Quickly back down the lane. Up, up, up. Again the wrong way and this time onto open access land, flagrantly cycling on a pedestrians only footpath. Horizontal rain lashing my face as I crested an obscene climb and played with the traffic. Off in the distance I thought I saw Rivington Pike.

“Not far now, keep pushing. Not far now.” I lied to myself out loud.

Another huge slurp of energy drink and I hammered onto a bridleway I actually knew.

“COME ON! KEEP PUSHING!” I yelled to myself on the final hideous climb. Again, out loud.

With Rivington Pike at my side, I gazed down at the reservoirs, knowing the car was only a few miles away and all I had to do was survive the descent.

Anglezarke Loop 5Wild-eyed, hepped up on energy drink and malt loaf, I stuck it in the big ring, pointed it down the hill and hooned all the way down. I got out of the saddle, shifted my weight back, threw my arms as wide as they’d go on the bars and just went with it. By the time I’d made it to the bottom, the combination of rain, sand and abuse had eaten my rear brake pads, my leg muscles were screaming with lactic acid from keeping hold of the bike and I was filthy. Exhausted, exhilerated and… dammit! I’d parked in the upper car park! Those last few miles were pure agony.

And my verdict on my Jeff Jones Loop bars? Despite all this rambling hyperbole, there are only 3 words required:

Worth. Every. Penny.

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.

under pressure

 

Good evening dear readers and happy Thursday to you all! Thanks for all the messages of concern, issuing of search parties, placards, marches and… wait, what? You hadn’t noticed I haven’t been posting much recently? Pfft.

Well, be that as it may, it is Thursday again which means it’s time once again for our uber exciting foray into the murky world of:

‘Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!’

But wait! Order now using your credit card and we’ll double this offer by also including our semi-interesting, semi-regular, semi-new feature:

∞ What I’ve been reading Wednesdays
(or whatever day it happens to be when I’m writing this)

Regular readers (I continue to hold out hope I actually do have some) may remember I’ve recently been feeling like something of a lettuce; mincing about, worrying something rotten about the bike slipping out from under me, resulting in the less than pleasant experience of picking pieces of gravel out of my face.

I’ve been trying out all sorts of different things in an effort to overcome my irrational fears: knobbly v slick tyres, road bike v touring bike, short stem v long stem, heavily laden bike v stripped down speed machine, thinking v not thinking – that last one doesn’t come too highly recommended, incidentally.

But, above all things I’ve tried, one thing above all others has really made all the difference to my cycling experience. It’s changed how I think about cycling, how my bike(s) handle, how I lean into corners and how I think about the surface (whatever surface it may be) I’m rolling over. I am, of course, talking about tyre pressures.

Here at lifeinthecyclelane HQ, we get a lot of visitors searching the interwebs looking for wisdom about tyre pressures; me being me, I even tried my best to provide a little of my own experience which may or may not be of some use to this week’s search term trivia winner:

“DMR Moto RT 26 tyre pressure”

To be completely fair, I really need to strap them back onto the Troll at some point and give them a second chance… maybe my new found knowledge will change my mind about them.

Until such time, let me introduce you to a blog recommended to me by friends who own a bike shop: Guitar Ted Productions and the post in question: Musings on Tires. UK readers will have to forgive the repeated misspelling of ‘tyres’, such is life when you read US blogs.

Still with me? Full of new knowledge and ready to lower your own tyre pressures? No? Still not quite convinced yet? Need a bit more coaxing? Wondering what Surly would do?

Not for the faint of heart: Surly Bikes blog and the disturbingly ‘normal’ post: Tires (again, you’ll have to forgive all the Americanisms, bless ’em).

We should hopefully be back to more regular posting now I have a stable broadband connection and, with the Troll approaching its 1st birthday, a few tweaks are in order and it’s about time I reviewed some more kit I love and kit I hate – keep your eyes peeled!

safety dance

 

Wait. What? It’s Thursday already??? That must mean it’s time for yet another thrilling episode of ‘Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!’… please, try to contain your enthusiasm.

It’s been a fairly busy week over here at lifeinthecyclelane HQ with quite literally some visitors sent our way by various search engines, all of which are (as usual) high quality contenders for the grand prize of being immortalised on a Thursday; but, there can be only one winner this week and it’s this little gem:

“is it safe to cycle on a canal towpath when it’s icy?”

Yes, and also no.

But mostly no (for me).

It all very much depends on how much of a lettuce you are, how good your bike handling skills are, what tyres you have fitted, what the towpath surface is made of and how much you fancy the idea of potentially slipping on a patch of ice and ending up taking a swim with whatever happens to be lurking in the canal. Of course, you won’t survive too long in water that cold anyway…

And on that happy note, I’ll leave you!

Oh, I’ve been thinking about a new weekly feature to delight my beloved lifeinthecyclelane readers… or, is there something in particular you’d like to see here?

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?

halo

 

Something a little heavier than our usual musical interlude for you today… but hey, sometimes only heavy metal will do.

Play it loud or not at all.

Since my recent crash, I’ve been riding around with DMR Moto R/T 26 x 2.2″ tyres on my Surly Troll; largely this is because I was looking for something that was essentially still a road tyre but more suited to the changeable conditions and, with a little bit of luck, less likely to send me face first into the pavement at the first sign of the cold, slippery stuff.

206696_10151327132799863_2024200714_nAccording to DMR, the RT in the name stands for “road and trail” as this is a “great tyre for street riding, hard pack trails and dirt jumps”. Now, I don’t do a great deal of dirt jumping what with the Troll weighing just shy of a metric ton but I can report that thanks to the rounded profile and closely spaced yet flexible tread, these tyres do provide an extra level of stability, grip and confidence on the trails and I actually found them to be very capable in deep, wet mud. On the road however, I have to say these tyres really, really drag and the buzz you get from knobbly tyres on tarmac started getting on my nerves after a while.

Recommended maximum pressure is 60psi which I found to be perfect for the trails (I like a firm ride anyway but it still wasn’t too harsh) but on the roads I found even pushing the pressure beyond the limit and up to 70psi didn’t really help minimise the drag enough for me.

After a few weeks, I just couldn’t take it anymore; the Troll felt heavy, sluggish and really wasn’t much fun to ride. So, I went back to the tyres I had on before. The tyres I crashed on.

250942_10150987692164863_477781285_nAlso 26 x 2.2″, this isn’t the first set of Halo Twin Rail tyres I’ve owned. I used to run a set on an old mountain bike I had and I liked them so much I invested in a set for my cyclocross bike in the 700c size. These days, they make ’em in just about every size and colour you can imagine with single and dual compounds and they all come with puncture protection rivaled only by the legendary Schwalbe Kojak.

Halo decribe the Twin Rail as a “trail and street tyre” and recommend a maximum 65psi for off road use and 85psi for on road use meaning they “perform in almost all conditions”, which they do. As I’ve said, I prefer a firmer ride so I rarely let the pressure drop below 70psi and I’ve ridden through just about everything with these tyres.

They’re awesome on hardpack dirt, great on gravel, capable of dealing with everything but the deepest sticky mud and (critically for me) they’re phenomenal on the road. Unlike the DMR Moto RT which is really a trail tyre at heart, the Halo Twin Rail is a road tyre first and a trail tyre second; the name of course comes from the 2 central rails which (when the pressure is high enough) are they only things in contact with the black stuff so rolling resistance really is kept to the bare minimum. Of course, once you start to lean or you hit the trails, the smooth, rounded profile of the tyre kicks in and the recessed ‘knobbles’ (Halo call them ‘sleepers’) ensure you have plenty of grip without the tyre flexing as much as a traditional knobbler.

So, which is better? Well, that very much depends on the kind of riding you do. As different as they may appear at first glance, these tyres do deserve to be compared side by side because they both claim to be suitable for road, trail and skate park use… You’ll have to check with the local yoof which is better for dirt jumping and the like (I suspect the Halos) but for me it’s as simple as this:

  • If you ride mostly on trails (this includes gravel, grass, mud, canal towpaths and everything inbetween) and you only use tarmac to access said trails, the DMR is the clear winner.
  • If you ride mostly on the road but you want to be able to skip onto the trails or explore that bridleway on the way home, you need a set of Halos in your life.

556027_10150987707259863_1754207612_nOh, I don’t know whether this will form part of your decision making process but the DMRs don’t boast any puncture protection where the Halos do… but, nothing is totally puncture proof so you’ll want to carry a spare tube and a decent pump too (mine’s a Lezyne but that’s a story for another day).

Today’s ride was a mere 15 miles (I ran out of daylight and my lights failed so I had to get the train back) mostly on the road but with a few impromptu miles of canal towpath thrown in. It’s cold up here in t’ North this week to so there was plenty of the dreaded ice around… I’m happy to report no crashes, despite a couple of two-wheel slides which didn’t faze me.

My confidence is steadily returning and I’m back in love with the Troll now the Halos are back on. 2013 is going to be good.

the only way is up

Happy holidays dear readers! I hope you’ve all been having a relaxing and enjoyable time whether you celebrate xmas or not. Over here at life in the cycle lane HQ, we’ve largely been doing lots of cycling up in t’ hills, eating lots of delicious food and drinking more than a few glasses of excellent wine. Keep your eyes peeled for a report on just some of our recent adventures.

In th meantime, another week has passed us by and Thursday is once again upon us which can mean only one thing; yes, it’s time for another instalment of ‘random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia’! Grab yourself a mince pie or something else delicious, pour yourself a glass of wine and sit back whilst I entertain you with this mindless nonsense.

  • Our first special guest this week comes to us via Google and wants to know “trivia about searching things” – no, really; somebody actually was searching for that when they landed here!
    • Worry not, your search is over! You’ll be (semi) pleased to learn that we explore the murky world of search trivia here at life in the cycle lane every Thursday, week in, week out. Got a glass of something to wash your mince pie down with? Good. Welcome to the family.
  • Now then… who’s next? Ah yes. “What is the widest tyre for a Brompton?”
    • Err… I’m sorry to say I have no idea! What I do know, however, is that Bromptons run on the larger 349c version of the 16″ wheel, not the 305c version you find on kids’ bikes, BOB Yaks and other such things so do take care when shopping for replacements to carefully check because 16″ isn’t necessarily 16″…
    • I had a wheel custom built for my BOB Yak using a Brompton 349c rim which I run with a Schwalbe Kojak 16 x 1 1/4″ tyre; it’s slick, narrow and designed for high pressures so if you’re a lettuce, it’s not for you. There are some slightly larger alternatives around the 16 x 1 3/8″ range which will give a little more comfort but I suspect you’re wondering whether something like the 2″ wide Schwalbe Big Apple would fit, yes? Well, no, it won’t. Sorry.
  • Next up this week is the person wanting a “Keep Pedalling Manchester wheel build review”
    • Seeing as Keep Pedalling, Manchester is my all time favourite bike shop ever and the place I source all my cycling gear these days including a rfecent custom built wheelset, I’d be more than happy to provide you with a review – that’s a job for next week. In the meantime, get yourself down there once they reopen in the new year and have a drool over all the cool stuff they have in stock.
  • Next! “I hate my Long Haul Trucker”
    • Oh. Really? That’s a shame. Please feel free to donate it and I’ll make sure it finds a home with someone who’ll truly love it. Drop me a line here.
  • OK, we have time for just one more this week; there have been so many good contenders but we have to go with “Race Face crown race which way up?”
    • Sigh. If you need to ask that question, you really shouldn’t be attempting to fit the crown race yourself. Get it wrong and your headset simply won’t work and if you try to ride your bike like that, you’re guaranteed to suffer a catastrophic failure which will no doubt result in you going face surfing.
    • If you’re anywhere near Manchester, take your frame, fork & headset in to Keep Pedalling and ask them to fit it for you; they’ll no doubt also advise you on cutting your steerer tube down and other such things which require specialist tools and a bit of know-how.

OK, that really is all we have time for this week; tune in next Thursday for even more mundane search trivia!

ice ice baby

 

It was always going to happen, I suppose.

Sooner or later you have to crash every bike you own. I remember my dad once swearing me off motorbikes by telling me “It’s not a question of if you come off, it’s when and how badly”; I suppose the same could be said for bicycles.

Since you’re reading this, it means I’ve finally managed to crash the Troll. And, since I’m able to type this, it means the crash wasn’t too bad at all; it certainly could’ve been an awful lot worse.

You see, it’s been rather chilly up here in t’ North for… well, forever, but particularly so the last couple of weeks. Has this stopped me cycling? Am I some kind of lettuce? Do I only get my bike out when it’s warm, dry and breathless out there? Hell no! I ride all year round in whatever weather happens to be out there.

I will admit to slowing down a little and not hammering through corners quite as much as I normally would in this colder weather with the roads as greasy and unpredictable as they are. Even still, I just about survived a two wheel drift scary enough to stop the traffic a few days ago; that was a close one.

And so, after mincing all the way to work this morning, dodging white lines, shiny manhole covers, tram tracks and hundreds of Mancs, I made it to within 100m of my office door. I was in the bloody car park leaning into a right hand turn I must’ve taken a thousand times when I suddenly realised the bike was still going forward…

I slid with balletic grace for a good 2 feet before the rear wheel also lost traction on the ice and I hit the concrete; stupidly, I put my hand out to break my fall which sent daggers of pain right up my arm all the way to my shoulder blade. As I lay on the ground, guessing how many bones I’d broken, the kindly cyclist following me in picked up the Troll and checked I was OK before heading off to complain to the building managers about the lack of grit.

After I’d hobbled down to the nearest NHS walk in centre, I was assured the only damage done was a bruised elbow and matching ego. Having broken a collarbone before, I know all too well just how lucky I was today…

It won’t stop me cycling and neither should it stop you but it just goes to show you can’t let your concentration slip for a second in icy conditions.

 

Anyway, it’s Thursday again so it’s time for my new feature: ‘Stuff people have been searching for when they landed here’. Catchy title, eh?

  • First up this week: “fitting SKS mudguards to Merida bike disc brakes”
    • Well, it very much depends on whether your bike has mudguard eyes; if it does, full wrap mudguards like SKS Commuter may work but your disc calipers are likely to cause interference issues. I’d recommend having a look at SKS Beavertail; I’ve used the regular ones (good for narrower tyres) and the XL ones like I had fitted to my Merida (good for wider tyres). As they mount just from the brake bridge, you shouldn’t have any problems with your discs and you’ll still get plenty of coverage.
  • Who’s next? Ah yes: “Marzocchi fork makes a dinging noise”
    • Dude, that’s not good. Get it to a bike shop right away and no, don’t ride it there. Having said that, it could just be a stray brake cable knocking against the fork legs or, if you’re running disc brakes, they may be adjusted too close which could also be causing a sound like that. Hopefully, it’s not a small crack about to turn into a face plant inducing failure. Best of luck!
  • Time for one more? Well, how could I resist this one: “my tracksuit is made”
    • Err… good. Yeah. Mad fer it. etc. etc.

So there you go; I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s insight into just some of the visitors to life in the cycle lane – tune in next week for more!

Oh, and stay off the ice!

lightning crashes

 

Sometimes, I write about products that work well (like the Surly Tuggnut or Schwalbe Kojak tyres).

Sometimes, I write about things that go wrong (like when I dropped my Troll before it was even built).

Sometimes, I write about bike rides I’ve been on; some have been great (like the Diggle Jiggle) and some have been not so great (like the White Peak Loop).

Sometimes, I just get a man in to do the pesky writing for me.

In any event, I’ve always tried to stay away from controversy and I hope I don’t ever come across with a holier-than-thou attitude. After all, everyone is entitled to their own opinion (no matter how wrong they may be). There is, however, one area of cycling life where I am fiercly opinionated and that is safety.

You may recall I was recently quite shook up by a near miss a good friend had on the road; his bike was completely toast but happily, he suffered nothing worse than a badly cut face and badly bruised pride. The cause of said crash isn’t completely clear but the fault certainly lies with the cyclist on this occasion.

So yes, we do make mistakes. And yes, we admit to them.

Listening to the radio one morning this week as I snaffled my eggs, I was horrified to hear that the sideburn wearing British Cycling legend that is Bradley Wiggins wouldn’t be appearing as Chris Evans’s guest as he’d been knocked off his bike the day before. With little information other than he was recovering in hospital with minor injuries ringing in my ears, I threw my leg over the Troll and took off for my daily 7.5 mile (each way) commute into Manchester.

Ask any regular cyclist and they’ll no doubt regale you with 1) tales of incident free rides, 2) near misses with idiotic homicidal drivers and 3) (not all will admit to this last one) self inflicted crashes brought about by a moment of stupidity or simple lapse in concentration; I’m sorry to report that my ride in to work that very same day was brought to you by option 2.

About a mile out of Manchester City Centre on the dual carriageway A62 Oldham Road, I was in the middle of the inside lane blowing through some traffic lights (yes, they were on green) with an articulated lorry shadowing me in the lane to my right. Parked in a bus stop to the left (and the reason I was in the middle of the lane) was a large white van displaying learner driver plates.

Thinking nothing much of it, I changed up a gear and pushed on pacing the truck at around 25mph. At the very moment I’d satisfied myself the truck driver had seen me and was going to stay in his lane, I saw the driver of the large van drop the hammer and, without looking or indicating, pull out into my lane.

I don’t think I managed to form any real words but whatever noise I was making was loud enough to make the van driver look out of his window just in time to see me getting squeezed closer and closer to the truck and the trailer wheels which were about to make me into a Troll kebab.

Somehow, I managed to stay upright and a few hundred metres down the road, I pulled up to have a quiet chat with the van driver who was suspiciously hanging well back. Eventually, he decided I wasn’t going away and, with the fear of god in his eyes, rolled down the window. And that’s when I saw it.

Carefully embroided on the chest of what was unmistakably a stab vest was “Greater Manchester Police”.

“What the hell was that?”, I asked.

“WELL?”

“I… I… have no comment I wish to make at this time…”

Addressing a less shellshocked officer in the passenger seat I rhetorically asked “This is a Police vehicle? Under instruction? Are you being serious?”; the slow, resigned nods from the instructor told me this young officer’s professional driving career was already over so I decided not to press the issue any further save for a few choice parting phrases including “astonished” and “disappointed”.

That evening, even closer to work, I was nearly t-boned by a woman in a van to whom checking her hair in the mirror was more important than checking the road she was pulling into. Unlike the young officer, she was more than happy to comment with several choice phrases I shan’t repeat here and several finger gestures you can no doubt imagine.

So, she nearly kills me but I’m in the wrong for telling her to look where she’s going… Seriously?

The next day and I’m almost all the way home; literally within 200m of my house with all 700 lumens of my front lights shining into the face of another driver who decided it was perfectly acceptable to pull out in front of me.

What astonished me most about this one was the sheer impossibility that he couldn’t have seen me. Unless, like our blonde haired friend from earlier, he was too f-ing busy looking at something else to even bother checking for other road users.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, I wasn’t feeling in the least bit charitable so I gave him all kinds of hell despite the pathetic ‘sorry mate, I didn’t see you’ look he painted on his face. Lucky he drove away when I told him to really; I’m not sure what would’ve happened if he’d tried arguing he was in the right…

 

Now, Wiggo and Co. have undoubtedly done the sport and recreation of cycling a great service this year with so much success in the Olympics, the Tour de France and other events with the resulting publicity. There are certainly more people enjoying cycling and organisations such as Sky, British Cycling and Sustrans are certainly playing a big part in making that happen.

I read today that the woman who allegedly knocked Wiggo off his bike voluntarily went to the police who promptly reported her for summons although there is an ongoing investigation into the crash. Naturally, I wait for the full details to come out but it would in itially appear that the driver was at least partially at fault.

The silver lining I’m hoping for here is that Wiggo can do cycling another great service as a result of this crash. Will this raise awareness amongst cyclists and drivers alike that accidents are all too easy to cause (on both sides) and oh so easy to avoid? Will the courts decide to make an example of this case? Will Wiggo come out and openly criticise the driver’s actions? Or, is the story not as it first appears and was Wiggo at fault? Are we to listen to the tabloids and believe the crash was caused by the shaving off of the world’s most famous sideburns?

Whatever happens, the few of you I’m able to reach (whether you’re a cyclist, a driver or both), please please please remember:

Open your eyes and look, open your ears and listen.