learning to fly

Wait. What? How can the 2015 Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee Challenge be over already??? And I was having such a good time, too!

Well, we started out with an entry in my favourite new category (You carried WHAT on your bike?!) so it seems only apt to end there too.

Errand #11: Cake delivery | Date: 15 March 2015 | Category: You carried WHAT on your bike?! | Miles: lots | Thing I noticed: People will eat cake, regardless of how smushed it is, providing it’s free. | Bonus: Carrying a baked good.

Yes, I said cake delivery. I ever-so-carefully placed the cakes in the box and secured them in my Carradice saddle bag… on my Surly Ogre MTB. And then I went mountain biking in the Pennines. You see, the cake delivery was to the people I was riding with and it just so happened the location of the delivery turned out to be several hours and many, many extremely rough miles up the Pennine Bridleway.

Before:errandonnee11 cakes beforeAfter:errandonnee11 cakes afterWhoa. Those cakes did NOT survive well. But that certainly didn’t stop my friends from digging in and eating the whole lot!

errandonnee12 emusErrand #12: Surlyfest with friends (other Surlys and friends not pictured) | Date: 15 March 2015 | Category: take your pick from social call / personal care / wild card | Miles: lots and lots | Thing I noticed: Epic scenery (and some random emus).

Originally, this ride was supposed to be the much anticipated and long overdue Trollfest #4 (and then there were four) but, in the end not a single one of us actually turned up on a Surly Troll!

I neglected to take any pictures of the collection but there were 2 Surly Karate Monkeys (both single speed), a single speed Surly Krampus, a Rohloff equipped Surly ECR and, of course, my Surly Ogre now in all its knobbly tyred off-road glory.

The wind was relentless and chilled us all to our cores as we rode through some of the best scenery the Pennines has to offer, finding new trails, rediscovering ancient packhorse trails and even inventing new trails through tussocks of grass and boggy marshes.

We took turns failing to crest impossible climbs and I had more than my fair share of close shaves as my rusty mountain biking skills were exposed on the technical descents.

My friend Matt and I unknowingly entered into a bizarre competition to see who could catch the most air off whatever piece of rock or whatever we could find as we hurtled downhill. I’d like to think I scored OK and by the end of the ride was even getting quite good at it but when I tell you Matt was carrying luggage on his ECR and was still catching bigger air than me, I think you’ll agree he deserves the prize!

What a way to round out a great challenge – can’t wait for the next one!errandonnee12 Surly Ogre

life is a lemon (and i want my money back)

Well, for a moment there I was getting a bit worried that the 12 days of the 2015 Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee Challenge was slipping away and I was running dangerously low on completed errands. And then one simple errand led to a massive five in one day and one more the following day. AND I’m one step closer to getting over not being allowed to have a Krampus (yet) (again).

errandonnee4 bike partsErrand #4: Picking up new shiny from the bike shop | Date: 10 March 2015 | Category: personal business (getting over the whole Krampus thing) | Miles: 12 | Thing I noticed: that doesn’t look like £80 worth of gear, but it is.

The new shiny in question was: 4 new tubes, a gear cable, some jockey wheels, a chain and 2 disc brake rotors. The plan being to convert my Surly Ogre from its current setup as foul weather commuter and dedicated coffeeneuring rig to a fully rigid, knobbly tyred, lightweight (as lightweight as Surlys get, anyway) 29er mountain bike.

Basically, convert it into the closest thing I can get to a Krampus with the meager budget I’m allowing myself to splurge on bikes at the moment.

errandonnee5 Surly Ogre MTBErrand #5: Surly Ogre MTB shakedown ride, part one | Date: 11 March 2015 | Category: wild card | Miles: 15 (combined for errands # 5 – 9) | Thing I noticed: I’m too fat to ride a 1×9 setup where 39:36 is the lowest gear ratio available to me.

Errand #6: Showing off the Ogre to my bike shop friends | Date: 11 March 2015 | Category: social call | Miles: 0 | Thing I noticed: The Ogre now weighs (only) ~17kg. There’s no picture because I’m sure you’re sick of seeing my bike at the shop!

Errand #7: Getting money out of the cashpoint so I could pay back the tenner I owed Karen | Date: 11 March 2015 | Category: non-store errand | Miles: 0 | Thing I noticed: I still can’t work a cashpoint with gloves on (I seem to remember noticing this last year too). There’s no picture because there was a queue of people behind me waiting to use the one working machine and I suspect they’d have beaten me if I stopped to take a photo.

errandonnee6 white spiritErrand #8: Buying some white spirit so I can clean paintbrushes and thin down the yacht varnish I’m using for the new garage door frame (how rock & roll is my life?) | Date: 11 March 2015 | Category: store | Miles: 0 | Thing I noticed: One does not simply walk into the store and just buy some white spirit – there must’ve been 20 different options! I went with the one that I felt struck the best balance between value for money and ability to fit in my Carradice saddle bag.

errandonnee7 lemonsErrand #9: Picking up some lemons for Karen to make Lemon Drizzle cake with | Date: 11 March 2015 | Category: store | Miles: 0 | Thing I noticed: People look at me like I’m crazy when I take pictures of lemons and, to quote my friend Tess, the white spirit and the lemons “is gonna make a helluva martini”.

Overall, the shakedown went well and all I really needed to do was adjust the angle of the handlebars slightly and think seriously about the gearing. I’d originally planned to put a standard MTB triple on the front but then I got to thinking about whether I really need a big ring and settled on a double with bash ring.

Then I thought: hang on a minute, I’ve already got a single ring with bash fitted to the Ogre… maybe I can just run that as a 1×9 with a 12:36 cassette. As it turns out though, the 39 tooth chainring I had on there (which I’d wrongly thought was 36 tooth) was just way too tall for the kind of riding I want to do and even on the flat I wasn’t using the high gears so a smaller chainring was in order.

After rummaging in the parts box, I found a 32 tooth middle ring on an old Shimano chainset so I threw that on and headed out for a quick spin to the shops. It’s a shame I’ve already used up my 2 store errands, but there you go.

Errand #10: Surly Ogre MTB shakedown ride, part deux | Date: 12 March 2015 | Category: personal care (because leaving the old gearing on there would’ve killed me). Miles: 1.5. Thing I noticed: the gearing was so high before because what I thought was a 36t chainring was *actually* a 39t chainring! This 32t ring is *much* more sensible.

errandonnee10 Surly Ogre Sturmey Archer Blackspire4 full days to go and only 2 more errands to complete! How are you getting on?

boss of me

It’s been a busy few months here at lifeinthecyclelane HQ with the various things that come with being a grown up (something I never signed up for, incidentally).

If you tuned in for my last post, just before chrimbo, you’ll recall I was childishly giggling over my plans to finally get my grubby hands on the Surly Krampus I’ve been longing after for ages. Unfortunately, being a grown up has ruined all those plans for the short term at least.

But hey, it’s not all bad news. It’s winter here which means it’s time once again for the annual Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee Challenge! 12 errands by bike in 12 days with a total of (at least) 30 miles covered. The rules are slightly revised this year and there are even some new categories including my favourite: You carried WHAT on your bike?!

And what better place to start than there?

errandonnee1 chocolate cakeErrand #1: Dropping off an 8.5kg parcel | Date: 5 March 2015 | Category: You carried WHAT on your bike? | Miles: 7 | Thing I noticed: Some drivers are so stupid they’ll still drive directly at you, regardless of how big and ridiculous your bike setup is | Bonus: Carrying a baked good.

The chocolate cakes I took into work actually survived the journey completely unscathed but I didn’t get chance to take an ‘after’ picture because people started tucking into them as soon as I opened the box.

errandonnee1 Surly Troll BoB Yakerrandonnee2 shower gelErrand #2: Commute to the office | Date: 6 March 2015 | Category: Work or volunteering | Miles: 6 | Thing I noticed: It’s probably time to recycle all my used shower gel bottles.

Ever since I started work in my current office, I’ve just thrown every bottle of shower gel back into my locker when it’s empty. It’s a little odd, but it almost feels like a collection of sorts now so part of me is reluctant to drop them all in the recycling…

errandonnee3 Surly Troll Keep PedallingErrand #3: Popped out for a ride and swung by the bike shop to say hi | Date: 9 March 2015 | Category: Personal care (preventing myself from being a couch potato) | Miles: 15 | Thing I noticed: Overwhelming police presence due to some kind of political parade.

I’m off work this week (taking care of yet more grown up type things) but I found some time to escape for a quick ride and decided to swing by the bike shop whilst I was out. As is the way of things, I ended up ordering a bunch of new shiny but this still goes down as personal care because I originally set out just to ride, just to clear my head, just to hear the tyres on tarmac.

As I neared the city centre, I noticed an unusually large number of closed roads (even for Manchester) and an equally large number of police officers lining the streets. Soon enough I got caught behind a pair of officers on horseback creating a rolling (trotting?) roadblock on one of the busiest streets in town… they waved me by and I came face to face with another pair of horses as I pulled up outside the bike shop and 3 helicopters buzzed around overhead.

It turns out the English Defence League were marching / protesting / something and, I’m told, another parade / demonstration of some kind was also taking place. With a decidedly uncomfortable feeling descending, I decided to get out of there and let the police do what they do best.

On the way home, I saw at least 20 riot vans lined up…

errandonnee3 Surly Troll police vansSo, the 2015 Errandonnee is well underway and (political issues aside) I’m having a great time! As MG says “Hey winter, you’re not the boss of me”.

i don’t love you

Did you ever fall in love?

I mean, truly in love.

The kind of love that is all-consuming.

The kind of love that sees you spend countless hours dreaming over the object of your affections.

The kind of love you’d beg, borrow and steal for.

The kind of love you know will only end up hurting you one day but you’re too blind to see it.

The kind of love they all warned you about.

The kind of love that they said should never be…

I’m in love and I have been for some time.

And, do you know what? I know it’s wrong. I know it’ll end up hurting me. I know it shouldn’t be.

And, do you know what else? I. Don’t. Care.

Recently, the internet wet itself when Jeff Jones unveiled his latest, greatest creation in the shape of the enigmatically named Jones Plus. So, when I happened to be in the bike shop a few weeks ago and they just happened to have a pre-production prototype in, I did what I do best.

Jones Plus Truss fork1I put on my very best puppy dog eyes and somehow convinced them to let me take the thing out for a quick spin around the grotty back streets of Manchester.

Now, you may recall I was lucky enough to take a Jones out one time before… That one happened to be the fantastically ridiculous Spaceframe and was set up single speed and half fat. There was a lot to like about that bike. An awful lot. But then, it tried to kill me (or maybe it was user error) after which I kinda went off the whole thing.

Jeff Jones Spaceframe half fat 2But seriously, what a machine. I do remember it feeling a bit short in the (effective) top tube for my liking though and the whole setup wasn’t my bag (you can read my full ramblings about it here) but the overwhelming decision I came to was that I’d rather have a Krampus.

You can read all about how I first fell in love with the Krampus here. Dang, that was a GOOD day.

And then, of course, I got the chance to ride a Surly Ice Cream Truck. In the UK. Before it was even available in the UK. With the guys from Surly.

Yes, there are perks to having friends who own a bike shop.

Surly Ice Cream Truck 1I have to say the Ice Cream Truck surprised me. I was all ready to hate it, what with its absurd 5″ tyres and brash American ways but it was a surprisingly nimble, predictable machine with a beautiful geometry. If I were ‘into’ fat bikes, I might even be tempted to consider thinking about maybe becoming interesting in buying one. Maybe. Oh, you can read me gushing about the ICT here, if you’re ‘into’ me gushing about things.

If you can handle all that gushing, you’ll learn that once again I came to the somewhat predictable realisation that… I’d rather have a Krampus.

Jones Plus head badgeBut let’s get back to the Jones Plus with its GORGEOUS head badge.

29+? Check.

Ridiculous Truss Fork? Check.

More than 1 gear? Check.

Long wheel base? Check.

Jones bars? Check.

All kinds of fun jumping on and off assorted street furniture in Manchester? Check. (don’t tell the folks in the bike shop!)

Heck. There’s an awful lot to like about this bike. But, do you know what? Yep, you’ve guessed it:

I’d rather have a Krampus.563530_10151458835669863_576432359_n

And now, they only gone and released the Krampus Ops with its stealthy matt black paint job and sensible modular dropout system. Dammit Surly!

I know it’s wrong. I know it’ll end up hurting me. I know it shouldn’t be.

You know I don’t care.

I’m having a Krampus.

The build list is still being finalised but let’s start with this:

  • Surly Krampus Ops frameset in matt black
  • Velocity Dually rims in matt black
  • Hubs, headset, seatclamp all in chrome
  • Seatpost, stem & bars all in black
  • Custom decals and pinstriping
  • Some kind of Brooks saddle (most likely brown) with matching grips

Yes, it’s all been done before and yes, it’s based on classic hot rod styling and yes, I know all of that is absurd on a bike which will spend its life being thrown around t’ Pennines. No, I don’t care.

Merry Krampus, everyone.

Krampus montage

closing time

We’ve all been there, the dreaded last orders bell ringing and the bar staff impatiently looking at the full pint of beer in your hand, wanting to clean up and go home. And, all you want is for the night to never end.

And so it has been with the 2014 Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge.

Somehow, it’s already weekend 7 of 7, MG is ringing the bell for last orders and all I want is for the challenge to never end.

This is the first time I’ve taken part in the coffeeneuring challenge and I must admit, after the first ride, I wasn’t really getting it… It felt weird to just go for a short, slow ride and randomly stop somewhere for a cup of coffee. But, as the challenge went on and I found myself visiting some great local places (and one not so great place), I started to appreciate the simple pleasures of enjoying others’ company and the different perspective you get on your local area when you actually take the time to stop and smell the flowers.

Whilst the challenge may be over, my coffeeneuring adventures are only just beginning. Hell, I’ve even decided to keep my Surly Ogre in its current cafe racer style as my dedicated coffeeneuring steed.

  1. coffeeneuring7 mocha creation cafeWhere I went: Once again, I joined forces with fellow blogger and part-time coffeneurer, the Northern Walker. We met up at the bike shop before heading over to Creation Cafe, 1 St. Phillips Place, Salford, M3 6FA.
  2. Date I went there: Saturday 15th November 2014.
  3. What I drank: I had a large mocha which was great and some kind of crunchy cereal bar which was rubbish. Matt had a large black coffee which was reportedly excellent. We both loved the mugs!
  4. coffeeneuring7 creation cafeA detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: The A-board on the street advertised Creation Cafe as “open ’til late” so, as we arrived around 15:30, we were somewhat confused to find the place completely empty (and blurry in this picture) and, as much as we were welcomed, I got the distinct impression that the guy wanted to close up and go home… which we were preventing him from doing. Matt didn’t seem bothered by this but I must say I was slightly put off by it.
  5. coffeeneuring7 creation cafe bike racks Surly TrollBike friendliness of the locale: I’m most pleased to report that there are actual public bicycle racks right outside the cafe so which we shackled our pair of Surly Trolls. You can’t see the bikes when you’re inside the place though so if you’re particularly paranoid, you might feel uncomfortable about leaving it unattended out there.
  6. Mileage: A short one today – by this point, I’d only ridden about 8 miles (Matt had been out all morning) but I went on to ride about another 20 afterwards.
  7. Must visit: This is a tricky one… the place is nice, the coffee is good (and fairly priced) but I can’t shake the negative feeling I got from the luke-warm welcome and empty cake display. I’ll probably go back again but I expect something better next time.

no pressure over cappuccino

Week #6 of the 2014 Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge is upon us and I’m right on schedule, having bagged a very wet ride #6 this Saturday.

I was once again joined by our friend of Northern Walker fame and, given the unmitigated disaster that was his choice of coffee shop on our last ride together, he insisted I choose the location this time.

“No pressure, then…?” I joked.

We met at our favourite bike shop, Keep Pedalling in Manchester (other inferior bike shops are available) where we spent some time nattering about bikes and drooling over a brand new Tangerine Dream Surly Crosscheck being picked up. Whilst I was there, they recommended a new coffee place that has recently opened up on the other side of the city; we set out riding in no particular direction as the first few spots of rain landed on the lenses of my glasses.

coffeeneuring6 surly troll ecr grindsmith manchesterWe rode north on NCN route 66 along the Rochdale canal until we reached Middleton then looped through Heaton Park into Prestwich and down towards Pendelbury before heading back into the city along the banks of the River Irwell – if you know the area, this can be a pleasant route but it was pouring rain for the entire ride and, by the time we reached Greengate Square in Salford, every single item of clothing we had on was soaked through.

  1. Where I went: Grindsmith Espresso & Brewbar, Greengate Square, Victoria Bridge Street, Manchester, UK, M3 5AS.
  2. Date I went there: Saturday 8th November 2014.
  3. coffeeneuring6 grindsmith manchester bakewell cappuccinoWhat I drank: Standing there, dripping on the floor with my glasses steaming up, I asked what they might recommend for a freezing cold, soaking wet cyclist, especially as I couldn’t read the menu. “Cappuccino” was the response and, despite me not really liking any cappuccino I’ve had in the past, I went with it anyway.
    The friendly staff invited us to take a seat in the nice warm interior which, whilst incredibly tempting, would’ve resulted in us getting mud all over everything so we declined, deciding to sit outside as the rain had finally eased off.
  4. A detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: Along with my cappuccino I ordered a bakewell slice which was lovingly presented to me on a custom made wooden plank – fancy, eh?
    Despite my previous forays into the world of cappuccino drinking, I’m pleased to say what I had was really quite pleasant; it’ll never be my favourite coffee but it was nice all the same. The bakewell slice was ooey-gooey and easily lived up to its billing as being “spectacular”.
  5. coffeeneuring6 grindsmith manchester bike racksBike friendliness of the locale: Finally, FINALLY! A place with bike racks! As per bleeding usual, there wasn’t a single public bike rack anywhere in sight but the good folks at Grindsmith had solved this problem by simply bolting one to the side of the place! There’s even a vintage chopper there to reinforce the hipster vibe (happily, there’s no requirement to wear tight trousers and a checked shirt or have a carefully trimmed beard).
  6. Mileage: As usual, we didn’t keep track but it was probably somewhere between 30 and 40. In. The. Pouring. Rain.
  7. Must visit: As I say, there’s a definite hipster vibe here, what with the old cable reels and wooden crates to sit on, the trendy people coming and going, extravagantly swiping their iPhones (other, non-knobbish mobile phones ARE available) and, with 2 coffees and 2 small pieces of cake costing over a tenner, it’s hardly cheap but the surroundings are lovely, the staff are friendly and welcoming and the quality of the product commands the price tag. Oh, and we didn’t feel out of place at all, despite my dishevelled appearance of which I am so proud.

We enjoyed our coffees as we sat watching the strangely relaxing fountains dance.

Later on, we childishly zig-zagged our way through the fountains on our bikes, much to our own soggy amusement.

coffeeneuring6 grindsmith manchester bakewell cappuccino fountains

getting away with murder

I’ve got a list of jobs to do as long as my arm. And, I’ve got long arms.

So, when an exhausted Karen fell asleep on the couch this Saturday I was faced with a dilemma: do I risk waking her up by getting the vacuum out or by putting the washing machine on?

Being the problem solver I am, I decided to let her get some much needed rest, tiptoed out to the garage and snuck off on the bike for a bit of coffeeneuring.

I expect my ‘Boyfriend of the year’ award is in the post.

  1. coffeeneuring5 surly troll jubilee parkWhere I went: For coffeeneuring ride #5, I went with another coffee shop sans walls in the shape of Jubilee Park in Middleton, North Manchester.
  2. Date I went there: Saturday 27th October 2014.
  3. What I drank: Nothing terribly exciting, just a small flask of strong, sweet coffee. Oh, and I grabbed a KitKat on my way out.
  4. coffeeneuring5 coffee kitkatA detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: So far, almost all of my coffeeneuring rides have followed a theme of having no predetermined destination and no sense of direction. This weekend’s ride was no exception. I went down the road to drop off a parcel, turned around, rode up the hill a bit, changed my mind, turned left, changed my mind again, explored a trail I’ve been meaning to ride down for months, found it went nowhere, turned around, rode through the park a bit, changed my mind, rode around the park a bit more, rode down the river for a few miles, rode into the city centre (on a Saturday evening!), rode along the canal for about an hour and then finally settled on a spot in a surprisingly nice little park. I found myself a good spot where I could lean the bike, sit on the wall, drink my coffee, eat my KitKat and wonder why nobody else was out enjoying the park.
  5. Bike friendliness of the locale: Well, like all public places in the UK, there was the usual lack of ANYTHING to lock one’s bike to and, as I rode down the hill out of the park, I was surprised by the lack of smooth ramps – naturally, I just rode down the steps.
  6. Mileage: *shrug* 25 maybe?
  7. Must visit: Yes. Well, it’s not necessary for you to visit Jubilee Park (although you can if you wish), but I am highly recommending you head out to your local park and just sit, enjoying a coffee and the quiet… until your phone rings and you have to sheepishly explain where you’ve escaped to.

Oh, by the way, I’ve recently been testing out my awesome new Luxos front light… more on that soon.coffeeneuring5 Surly Troll Luxos front light