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!!!

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pink

 

A while ago, one afternoon when life was getting me down, I headed out to the shed, grabbed the nearest bike and raided the parts bin. The result was this here Sun GT10 road bike with original 10 speed drivetrain (downtube shifters and everything), modern Charge Slice bullhorn handlebars and carbon fibre Cane Creek 200TT brake levers.

45295_10151298532389863_480047877_nAnd so, as is the way with these things, I took it out for a shakedown ride and pretty much scared myself half to death… those vintage brakes just don’t have the stopping power I like to have at my fingertips.

That, along with the amber wall tyres, saved me from falling in love with it and before long, it went up for sale… there was only one problem, nobody actually wanted to buy it.

“Would you consider trading it?” somebody asked me.

“Yes, yes I would.” I said.

And this went on for some time… yadda yadda yadda until eventually, the Sun went off to its new home and I took ownership of a shamlessly bright Carrera Epic road bike. Readers of a nervous disposition should look away now.

Carrera Epic 1With a bright green & pink two-tone frame, 14 speed drivetrain and elliptical Shimano Biopace chainrings, I suppose this bike qualifies as ‘retro’.

I have to say, I really didn’t like it one little bit when I first saw it and, after riding it around for a while, I still didn’t like it much. Now, you know me, I’m all about the quirk and this bike was all kinds of quirky… but, somehow, it just wasn’t quirky enough…

Readers of an even more (or less) nervous disposition should certainly look away now!

Carrera Epic flat barsThere I was, gazing at the bike and wondering what on earth to do with it, and I had a moment of either sheer brilliance or sheer madness… you decide which.

Carrera Epic Gussett grips green Carrera Epic Charge Bucket pink I grabbed a set of flat mountain bike bars, invested in a set of BMX brake levers*, some Gussett BMX handlebar grips and a pink, pink, pink Charge Bucket saddle. Oh, and I did all the usual stuff you should expect from one of my bikes – I trued the wheels, made sure the bottom bracket & headset were correctly adjusted, replaced all the cables, put the tyres on the right way around(!) and adjusted the brakes so they were perfectly centered on the rims.

I still can’t say I like it very much… it’s just not my style but at least it’s finally quirky enough!

If you like it, you like somewhere near Manchester and you have £200 (or close to it) burning a hole in your pocket, drop me a line at jimmy.phoenix@yahoo.co.uk and she’s all yours.

* today’s lifeinthecyclelane top tip – BMX brake levers have exactly the same amount of cable pull as road bike brake levers so if you’re looking to convert to flat bars, BMX levers are an inexpensive solution!

for what it’s worth

 

You can’t keep them all.

Correction: I can’t keep them all.

380924_10150419503169863_784234862_8039982_959727584_nMy girlfriend is quite patient with me and my bike obsession, bless her. But, patient as she may be, there was no mistaking the “Seriously, you’re actually paying money for that thing???” look she got on her face when I dragged her to an obscure corner of Oldham to pick up this beautiful old Falcon Panther.

425348_10150673432819863_784234862_8829403_132888241_nYou may even have read about the restoration of said bike here; like almost all of the bikes that enter my life, I pretty much fell completely in love with it and it’s been my ride of choice on only the warmest, driest days (except for those few emergencies where I needed to commute on it on grimy, rainy, horrible and / or icy days – an interesting experience, let me tell you!).

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

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

For me, that meant:

  1. Surly Troll touring / commuting / monster cross / fully rigid mountain / go-anywhere-do-anything bike
  2. Falcon Panther 10 speed warm weather hipster bike
  3. Carrera Epic flat bar road bike project (I haven’t told you about this one yet)
  4. Elswick Hopper Safeway 3 speed town bike project (Karen hasn’t realised I still have this one yet)
  5. Surly Krampus ridiculous dream bike (I haven’t convinced Karen to let me buy this one yet)

Kinesis Crosslight 4t NCN route 55So, when I examined n, realised I was running dangerously low on bikes and built myself my Kinesis Crosslight cyclocross / road(ish) bike, you can only imagine the look she got on her face… A word to the wise: No amount of pretending that bike frame shaped package the neighbours took in is actually a pair of diamond earrings is going to get that look off her face. I suspect an actual pair of diamond earrings might but we’ll never know because I’d just spent all my money on a new bike. Durr.

Before being struck down with a severe case of Man Flu, I gave the Kinesis a 100+ mile, week long shakedown of commuting, single track and high speed, Salford based madness on the roads. Somewhat unsurprisingly, I have a new love in my life.

All of this made me realise just how little I’ve actually ridden the Falcon. And, now I have the Kinesis, the chance of me wheeling it out of the garage have been cut in half (at least). So, it had to go up for sale.

Now, it’s been ‘up for sale’ before. I was asking silly money for it in the hope that either a) somebody would actually pay me silly money for it or b) nobody would actually pay me any money for it and I’d have to keep it. So this time, I put it up with a much more reasonable price tag; the likes of which people might actually consider paying, the likes of which might actually give me some more space in the garage and score me some much needed boyfriend points.

Now, I put quite a lot of time and money into that restoration (probably more than I should have) and, like any classic car owner will tell you, the chances of recouping what you spend on a restoration (let alone making any profit) are somewhere between slim and none.

I haven’t actually done the maths, but I figure I’ve probably broken even… but, the time I spent restoring it, the time I spent riding it, the knowledge that it’s going to someone who always wanted one when he was a kid and therefore appreciates the real value of the thing… well, that all makes it worthwhile to me.

This. This is how I’ll remember it.

545507_10151216346724863_732135669_n’twas a fine day.

sexy boy

It’s OK. You can all breathe again. No need to sit on the edge of your seats anymore. I know you’ve probably all got the shakes from missing out on a whole week’s instalment of ‘Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!’ but worry ye not, dear readers, lifeinthecyclelane is still alive and kicking; we’re just broadcasting to you from a new undisclosed location somewhere to the West of Manchester.

So, with the madness of the move out of the way, whatever passes for normal service around here has resumed.

The usual suspects have been out in force this week…

…all of which is very interesting, I’m sure you’ll agree but the one which really caught my eye was:

“Route 54 porn”

One can only assume this person was referring to National Cycle Network Route 54 which is well known for being quite literally littered with por… no, wait. That’d be weird…

Well, whatever they happened to be searching for, it kinda got me to thinking about the time I spent on NCN Route 54 and, more specifically, the off road stretch of it known as the White Peak Loop – you can read a quick report here.

Route 54 sceneryHome to some of Derbyshire’s finest scenery which, on the day in question, was bathed in glorious sunshine, it’s fair to say the White Peak Loop is a beautiful place to be and you could certainly do worse than spend an afternoon there with a nice picnic and a loved one (or two, if you’re lucky). As per my initial report though, you are hereby officially warned against heading there with heavily laden touring bikes.

Whim AlesHead just off the trail and you’ll (eventually) stumble across Whim Ales; a very small brewery at the top of a very large hill. As we were on ‘The Brewery Tour’, visiting as many breweries as possible (and bagging as much free booze as possible), we stuck our heads around the door and were given an impromptu tour by the poor unsuspecting folks we met inside. Considering they’re not open to the public, don’t do tastings or sales and we were filthy, sweaty and wild-eyed, we received a warm welcome and a cold wine bottle full of one of their beers (for free). It almost made the hideous climb all worth it. Almost.

HartleburyHead off the trail again (free beer safely stashed in the trailer) and you’ll find yourself feeding the ducks in the delightful little village of Hartington.

OK, so there weren’t actually any ducks but the duck pond itself was very pretty and it made for a lovely little lunch spot. Oh, don’t be deceived by this rare patch of flat road, by the way; being Derbyshire, you’re never far from some kind of climb and / or descent… there’s one just down there around the corner as it goes.

TissingtonSo, head just down there around the corner and climb the hill (it’s a beautiful road cut into the hillside) and you’ll soon find yourself turning onto the traffic free (mostly) flat and extremely pretty (so pretty I didn’t take any pictures of it) Tissington Trail; so named because it runs through the equally pretty little village of Tissington which just happens to be an excellent spot to stop and nom some malt loaf.

Me & GC @ Ashbourne TunnelFollow it all the way to the Southern tip like we did and you’ll find yourself posing in front of the Ashbourne Tunnel for a rather questionable picture in your rather questionable shorts.

What’s not to like?

house of the rising sun

 

When the world gets me down (which it does on a disturbingly regular basis), I normally jump on a bike, point it towards the horizon and not come back again until I’m feeling better… I’m sorry to say the world got to me this week and I was very much in need of some cycle therapy; only problem was, I’ve been so busy recently that I was so tired I couldn’t face going for a ride.

So, I did the only thing I could do. I headed out to the shed and built myself a new bike instead.

I suppose it’s a little bit worrying that I have the makings of a new bike just lying around the place… I think what’s more worrying is that I actually have the makings of several… ssshhh… don’t tell Karen, she’d kill me dead.

Anyway, onto the build. Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me take any ‘before’ or ‘during’ pictures so you’ll just have to settle for these few ‘after’ shots:

45295_10151298532389863_480047877_nIt’s a Sun GT10 from the 1980s, originally built by Raleigh and quite literally bristling with parts branded as Raleigh and / or Sturmey Archer which (according to the internet) were effectively one and the same company around that time.

Essentially, it’s your traditional 27″ wheeled, steel framed 10 speed road bike which came to me with the original vinyl saddle, foam wrapped drop bars and awful ‘safety’ brake levers. The amber wall Schwalbe tyres you see here are modern replacements and really aren’t my favourite thing in the world but they have good tread, puncture protection and I suppose they suit the age of the bike well.

261409_10151298532684863_1337481825_nThe drivetrain is the original 10 speed with Raleigh branded chainset and derailleurs; I’ve got a feeling they’re actually made by Huret because they look exactly like the ones on my Falcon, only with different engraving on the derailleurs themselves and the downtube shifters. All I needed to do was throw a brand new KMC chain on, replace all the cables and make a few adjustments to get it purring again.

312836_10151298532509863_1800075579_nThe modern twist I decided to put on this bike was a set of Charge Slice bullhorn bars in dazzling cyan. The blue compliments the decals on the frame and the underside of the saddle (albeit a slight mismatch). The brake levers are the real extravagance on this bike though; they’re Cane Creek 200TT and yes, they are made of carbon fibre! I used these levers once before on a Coventry Eagle single speed and I can report they’re super light and really comfortable to use even if they were a little tight fitting into the bar ends.

484274_10151298532479863_1557117448_nThe final modern touch comes in the shape of a special edition Charge Griffin Bucket saddle with an odd camouflage design.

Normally, I like to match the colour of the saddle with the bars and / or bar tape but with the blue bars and the silver frame and the… whatever colour that saddle is, the only thing I could do was put black bar tape on.

Well, it’s not my favourite bike of all time and as similar as it may be to my Falcon, I don’t think it’s anything like as nice but that’s probably a good thing; if I don’t fall in love with it, it’s so much easier to sell!

in my hands

 

A tenuous musical link, I’ll admit; I just couldn’t resist a bit of angst ridden grunge from the 90s.

How does one measure the success of a blog? Is it by the number of hits every day? How many likes each post gets? Maybe the number of comments received? I don’t know and I suspect it’s different for everyone…

When I started this blog, the aim was to share some of my knowledge with the people out there in the blog-o-sphere and, hopefully, save them from making some of the mistakes I’ve made along the way. In the early days, I was lucky to get more than a few hits each day and now, as I approach 5000 all time views, I’m getting anywhere between 40 and 80 views every day; the majority of which come from Google.

So, I thought it was high time I started answering some of the questions I’ve been (indirectly) asked. This week, we’ll explore such mysteries as “Why do people hate bullhorn bars so much” and “Will bullhorns work on my MTB?” and “bullhorn handlebars gear shifter”. Unfortunately, we don’t have time today for “miley cyrus white wicker basket” or “barendi porn tube”… *slow, sad headshake*

If you’ve ever clicked around this site, you’ll know I’m the proud owner of a vintage Falcon Panther 10 speed road bike which I rescued from the scrapheap; regular readers will also know I’m no fair weather cyclist and I don’t shy away from taking my bikes over challenging terrain. However, when it comes to wheeling the Falcon out, all of this goes out the window.

The 40 year old centre pull Dia Compe caliper brakes do work but they’re hardly the most effective thing and, even the mention of moisture in the air turns stopping into a mere aspiration.

The 1 1/8″ wide Continental Ultra Sport slick tyres are fast yet sticky on smooth, warm tarmac but, again, the very mention of any kind of rain / oil spots / wet painted lines / shiny manhole covers and it becomes skittish and grumpy, threatening to throw its younger passenger off at a moment’s notice.

Give it 80psi in those 27″ tyres, point it towards the epic scenery only t’ North can provide on a crisp, clear, breathless Autumn day and the grumpy old bugger turns into a feisty teenager again; champing at the bit, wanting to go faster and faster, urging you to fiddle with the (less than precise) Huret downtube shifters and stick it in the big ring. What was I going to do, say no?

Exhausted as I may be today, I forced myself to throw some baggy shorts and a baggy jersey on (you can’t wear lycra on an old bike), grab my hipster style shoulder bag and, with no idea where I might end up, the front wheel turned left and up the nearest hill I went. The ride was as beautiful as the weather and, heading north from Middleton, I somehow ended up at Hollingworth Lake before looping back again through Royton and Shaw; a fine way to spend a couple of hours, despite the throngs of fat people queuing for fish and chips at t’ lake.

Anyway, back t’ t’ bars. When I restored the bike, I decided to remove the old drop bars and safety [suicide] levers in favour of fitting a pair of Charge’s excellent Slice bullhorn bars. Primarily, this was a bit of an experiment as I’ve often admired the look these bars give but I’d never ridden with them before.

Essentially, the riding position is the same as you get with traditional road (or drop) handlebars in that you can ride on the flats or on the ‘hoods’ by the brake levers and there’s always the relaxed holding-the-curved-bit-in-between-position which I favour. What you don’t get, of course, is the option to ride in the drops or the hooks (favoured by roadies) which helps cut down wind resistance and is arguably more comfortable.

You’ll notice here that my Charge bars clamp quite happily into the original stem thanks to the 25.4mm clamp; this means that yes, they’ll also clamp into standard 25.4mm mountain bike stems. But no, this doesn’t mean that would be a good idea. You see, the brake levers and gear shifters you find on mountain bikes generally have a 22.2mm (I think) clamp size and the diameter of these bars is much larger so they simply won’t slide on. I chose to go with Dia Compe time trial style levers which fit very nicely into the bar ends; now, here’s the other problem with using these bars on MTBs, the cable pull from these levers is designed for road style brakes so, unless you have cantilevers on your bike, they ain’t gonna work.

The final problem, should you overcome the stem & brake issues is gear levers. As I’ve already said, standard MTB style shifters simply won’t work on these bars so you’re down to fitting your shifters elsewhere; this really only leaves you with downtube shifters. And, of course, downtube shifters (unless they’re full friction) are designed to work with road style derailleurs which you wouldn’t have on your mountain bike…

…unless…

…are you thinking of using an old, steel, rigid mountain bike as a commuter with road tyres? And you like the idea of road bars but can’t get on with riding in the drops? Alas, bullhorns are still not for you. What you want is a pair of butterfly bars. But, that’s a topic for another day.

Bullhorns are great for me on my Falcon but they certainly aren’t for everyone; they also work great on single speeds and fixed gear bikes but I have to say, I think fitting them on a mountain bike would be a mistake.