538264_10150964770779863_1147176664_nIf you’re a regular in these parts, you’ll be familiar with my… shall we say… less than conventional ways. And, as this week’s episode of ‘Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!’ suggests, my readers are also just a little bit craa-aazy.

This week, people have been asking some of life’s most important and intriguing questions:

  • How should bullhorn handlebars be fitted? – Properly. By someone who knows what they are doing.
  • What is the expected lifetime of SKS Commuter mudguards? – Depends on how badly you abuse them, I suppose.
  • Schwalbe Kojak or Brompton Kojak? – Pssst… it’s the same tyre! The regular one has reflective tyre labels; do you really think the reflective strip on the Brompton version is worth the extra money??? Me neither.
  • Is Carrbrook a council estate? – Used to be, yeah.
  • What year is my Coventry Eagle? – I have NO idea, 1960s or 1970s probably.
  • Who makes Transporter Bumper trailer? – Raleigh, I think. Or, whichever Far East company builds stuff for Raleigh these days.

Right, with the mysteries of the universe finally solved, it’s on to some cycling related trivia. A couple of people this week have been asking about On One Midge handlebars and, having had a set for a little over a year, it’s probably high time I did a little report on them.

205302_10151055926794863_1096110797_nSo what’s the deal? Aren’t they just weird shaped road bars? Well, yes and no.

Essentially they are based on a road style bar in that they have flat tops and then drop down in the usual hooked shape. Naturally, they only suit road style brake levers (no, you can’t run flat bar type levers on them) and the internal diameter is big enough to accommodate bar end shifters.

But here’s the weird thing… or at least the first weird thing… they come with either a 25.4mm or 31.8mm clamp size; the likes of which you normally find on mountain bike stems [although many road bike stems now come with a 31.8mm clamp].

395814_10151077628534863_270717771_nThe other weird thing… or at least another of the weird things… is that angle which the drops are splayed out at. Why, WHY would they do this? Well, what you get with wider bars is more stability and (so those better and braver off road than I am tell me) the splay makes the brake levers more accessible when riding in the drops which apparently gives you the confidence to hammer downhill offroad at eye watering speeds.

You’ll notice however, the splay also places your brake levers at a rather strange angle. For me and my Cane Creek SCR-5 levers, this results in an unusually comfortable riding position, almost akin to that you get from aero bars. I do find myself riding on the tops most of the time but more recently, I’ve been making an effort to get down in the drops; it’s a little strange with all that extra width but it does make a nice change from the somewhat upright riding position I have on the Troll.

So, would I recommend them? Well, yes and also no.

  • For your regular common or garden road bike, they are all kinds of wrong.
  • Most mountain bikes will be set up with mountain bike brakes and derailleurs so consideration needs to be given to the types of levers and shifters you’ll need to buy to make it all work.
  • Cyclocross bikes tend to come with road style bars and integrated shifters & brake levers and are designed to hit the trails anyway so it should be a simple case of switching them over (you may need a different stem, remember).
  • Touring bikes like my Surly Troll are most suited, I think. All that extra width helps to give you more stability which is helpful when you’ve got stuff hanging off the bike in bags and / or on a trailer. There’s also plenty of room for fitting cross levers, lights and handlebar bags.

557294_10151077625149863_721584113_nMy personal opinion? I love the way they look on the bike, I love the way the bar end shifters are kept well away from my knees and I LOVE the way I can change gear with my little fingers when I’m riding in the drops. For me and my Troll, they work great even if they are so wide I have to lift the whole bike over narrow gates etc. but I suspect they are not for everyone.

553743_10150987700279863_347507007_nOh, and whilst we’re on the topic of craa-aazy things, we have a new contender for ‘Best search term EVER!’ with:

“weird things on woodhead pass”

Although that has to be closely followed by:

“public toilets woodhead pass”

That would be weird in such a rugged place!

horse with no name


A while ago, I wrote about the perils of bonking and yet, this very weekend I found myself in a dark corner under a bridge over the Ashton Canal bonking my brains out with wild abandon.

Now, we all know the importance of eating well, not drinking too much and getting plenty of exercise so I won’t bore you with the usual holier-than-thou-go-for-the-burn-and-eat-a-granola-bar nonsense but I would like to share a cautionary tale with you, if you don’t mind.

As part of the whole me becoming a grown up extravaganza, I’m now looking at buying my first house and finally getting a foot on that shaky rung of the property ladder. Of course, there is a list of things the house must have (minumum 2 bedrooms, minimum distance from nearest council estate, maximum distance from nearest pub etc. etc.), chief amongst which is the ability to commute to work in under an hour without having to cycle along the shoulder of a 70mph dual carriageway.

Said potential new house finds itself in a little place called Carrbrook, roughly 10 miles from Manchester and quite literally perched on the edge of the Pennines; and, as it turns out, it’s possible to cycle almost all of the way along the Ashton Canal and Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

To test out my theory, I hopped on the Troll and headed out for a bit of recon. The trail itself is actually quite good almost all of the way and, with the exception of one puncture, a little cobble related unpleasantness and an impromptu detour around Ashton-under-Lyne, all was good with the world but that’s a story for another day.

Today, dear reader, is all about food and drink. On the day in question, I woke up early and shared a rather delicious breakfast of brown toast with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon with my ever patient girlfriend, Karen. After doing a few domestic chores, I was allowed out to play on my bike so I filled my bottles with water and took off in search of the horizon.

The planned ride was a mere 35ish miles (probably ended up close to 40ish with the unplanned detour and my penchant for exploring muddy trails up in the hills) so it was hardly what I would call a big distance and, I’m sure, what many readers of this blog ride without even blinking.

About 15 miles into the ride, I suffered a puncture which seemed to take an age to fix (lousy Troll and its horizontal dropouts) which swallowed up the one spare tube I was carrying with me. By sheer coincidence, I skipped off the towpath at Stalybridge only to spot Johnson’s Cycles across the road (sorry, can’t find a website to link to; must be a fairly new shop) so I headed in, Troll and all, getting mud all over the floor and everything I touched. I grabbed a couple of replacement tubes for £8 and nommed one of the free bananas that was lying on the counter.

After enjoying said ‘nana, a short rest and a nice chat, I got back on the trail, found a great route through a country park, up into the hills, past a reservoir and around to the back of the potential new house. Could I live with these views on my doorstep? I think so.

From here, all I had to do was retrace my steps (minus the detours of course) and I was feeling fine. What I didn’t realise was that I’d been out for several hours and it was already long past lunchtime. Heading back, I made steady progress until I was about 5 miles out of Manchester city centre; that’s when it hit me. The combination of the previous night’s Prosecco, a relentless headwind, my less than adequate intake of food and fluids was starting to take its revenge.

The lactic acid starting building up in my thighs, I was a little battered by the cobbles, there was nowhere to hide from that awful headwind and my mind started wandering. Somehow, I kept the pedals turning (in a big gear, too!) and the Troll found its own way home for the last 12 miles. How I didn’t end up in an accident, I don’t know.

I realised later (after nomming a Scooby-Doo style sandwich, a large handful of salty pretzels and drinking 2 cups of tea) that I was dehydrated and running low on energy reserves, salt and probably several other things your body needs to keep going.

Looking back, I probably only drank about 500ml of water the whole time I was out and with only the banana I ate in the shop and a second one I nommed later on as fuel, I’d basically pushed my unfit body beyond its hungover limits.

It’s easy to remember to eat and drink in the summer when you’re out riding with the mad dogs because you can see the sweat pouring off your brow, you can taste the salt leeching out of your body and you know you need refreshments. The problem is, when the weather’s a bit colder, you really don’t feel that need to eat and drink as much as you do when it’s hot and this proved to be my downfall.

They say you should drink before you’re thirsty and eat before you’re hungry… I’m not quite sure how that works; I guess after a while, you get to know just how much fuel your body needs and you can anticipate it before it feels like your stomach is tied in a knot and your throat is like a piece of sandpaper…

There are plenty of options out there for getting the right stuff into you from ready made drinks to powders, tablets, gels, energy bars and the list goes on. Try a few out and you’ll soon settle on the one that works best for you but, in the meantime, keep taking in plenty of water and you can do worse than have a couple of bananas and / or oaty flapjacks in your pockets.

Oh, and spare tubes too!