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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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.

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.

good enough

 

Apologies to regular readers of this blog who’ve been waiting for the latest installment; things have been a bit crazy with pesky real life recently so I haven’t had much time for playing with bikes, let alone blogging about them.

Wait. There are regular readers of my blog, right? RIGHT?

Anyhoo, whether you are a regular reader, first time visitor or figment of my imagination, the important thing is I’m back and have finally found some some time for playing with bikes so here’s what I’ve been up to:

I like vintage wine, mature cheese and the older woman… these things tend to get better with age. And, whilst it’s true that new stuff also floats my boat on occasion, I think it’s fair to say my passion with bikes is also more on the vintage side these days.

The cause of much slow, sad headshaking from she who must be obeyed, my Coventry Eagle 3 speed and Falcon Panther 10 speed are cases in point. Both were originally a bit of a steal when I bagged them on eBay but, because of my bloody perfectionism, the resoration of both was not exactly cheap.

Now, we’ve already established (by which I mean Karen has told me) that I simply can’t keep all of the bikes I’ve ever owned in some kind of magical North American style barn adorned with Mantiques. Pfft. This kind of unrelenting (albeit logical) girlishness has meant that since their restorations, both the Coventry Eagle and Falcon have been up for sale in one way or another.

And yet, methaphorically at least, I do have my barn. Or, a small corner of it anyway. You see, as much as they’re up for sale, I’ve been asking quite unreasonably silly money for them. I suppose the me that’s sitting on his cracked old leather couch, listening to the jukebox and sipping a cold beer knows deep down that nobody was ever going to pay big money for them so they’d never sell.

Don’t tell Karen, OK?

This Coventry Eagle, my first vintage restoration in the shape of a single speed rat rod with carbon fibre brake levers was taken off my hands for £350.

What’s more, the guy who bought it damn near snatched my hand off as he laughing said “Really? You only want £350 for it???”. I wonder just how much it was actually worth…

Of course, it could have just been a fluke or it could have been that the guy worked in a bike shop on the same premises that used to be the Coventry Eagle factory… I guess things like this are really only worth as much as anyone’s willing to pay for them.

And so, an experiment.

Some time ago, I bagged another eBay bargain in the shape of an Elswick Hopper Safeway; another of the late, great steel framed, Sturmey Archer geared town bikes from England’s bike building days.

Here’s the usual ‘before’ shot… not in terrible shape, really. The paintwork’s a little rough in places and the chain is literally caked in oil and grime but mostly the mechanicals are OK.

Originally, as I was metaphorically sat on my metaphorical couch drinking my metaphorical beer, the plan was the usual ground up restoration with new bearings in the bottom bracket & headset, new tyres, new chain, new brakes, new cables, new saddle and most definitely new handlebars and stem.

The experiment however, has (so far) been much, much simpler. So far, All I’ve shelled out on is a pair of new tyres & tubes and a set of handlebars. I have ended up swapping out the rear wheel for another I had lying around which didn’t need truing and I raided my parts boxes for a replacement quill stem and set of pedals but everything else is pretty much exactly as it was.

I’m happy to recover my investment plus a little bit on this one so it’ll be going up for sale at a much more reasonable price with the hope that people will be more inclined to part with their cash.

An unexpected by-product of this approach has been my complete lack of any desire to keep this bike. I guess that makes me a motivated seller and Karen a less disgruntled girlfriend!

want you bad

 

Those of you who know me well also know that there are precious few things in life which make me grin like an idiot and giggle like a schoolgirl; chief amongst which is, of course, the prospect of laying my hands on some new cycling related shiny.

You see, for a while now I have been coveting another… I love my Merida dearly, it takes me just about everywhere I need / want to go; often with Kojak attached, filled with god knows what. Before that, I also loved my Graham Weigh cyclocross which is currently broken down in boxes waiting for me to decide what on earth to do with it. They’re both up for sale but I also have a very soft spot for my Coventry Eagle and Falcon Panther.

But, something has always been missing… it’s hard to explain what but there was definitely something. And so, after much research, a lot of saving up and an awful lot of time spent drooling over one in the bike shop, I am ridiculously happy to report that I shall very shortly be ordering myself a Surly Troll!

Do a quick Google Images search and you’ll see several custom builds, some of which are pretty cool and some others which are… not. A fellow blogger has done quite a good job on his Troll but I think I’m going to go in a slightly different direction.

I’m lucky enough to have an awesome bike shop at my fingertips which just happens to have a ready built Troll in stock which just happens to be exactly the right size for me so this weekend (my girlfriend has gone away for a few days) I popped into the shop, bribed them with some shortbread from the excellent Blue Daisy Cafe around the corner and took the Troll out for a spin around Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

The complete bike comes with a rather odd selection of parts including some very wide handlebars, Avid disc brakes, Kenda tyres and a rather cheap and nasty WTB saddle. The Shimano Deore 27 speed mountain bike drivetrain suits the 26″ wheels and the setup of the bike very nicely and the all steel frame and fork are surprisingly light.

The major attraction for me is the incredible versatility of the bike; it’ll take just about any drivetrain you want to fit from single speed to internally geared Rohloff hub and everything inbetween. You can run disc brakes or cantis (even v-brakes if you really must), flat bars, road bars or… any bars you like – some suggestions here. Unlike many other frames, you can also fit disc brakes, full wrap mudguards and pannier racks (front and rear) all at the same time with no interference issues and, if all that wasn’t enough, there are also dedicated mounts for Surly and BOB trailers!

What will I be running? Well, I’m glad you asked! Obviously, the frame is orange. Very orange. I’ll be going for a fairly clean and simple orange and black colour scheme with the ocassional silver / chrome accent here and there:

  • Wheels: Sun Rims 26″ disc specific wheelset
  • Tyres: Halo Twin Rail 26 x 2.2″
  • Drivetrain: 27 speed MTB specific Shimano Shadow derailleurs, Race Face chainset and Dia Compe full friction bar end shifters
  • Brakes: Avid BBDB mechanical disc brakes with Cane Creek Drop V brake levers
  • Bars: On One Midge ‘dirt drop’ bars with matching stem and seatpost

As I want my Troll to be a commuter, tourer and ocassional weekend trail runner, I’ll also be fitting full wrap mudguards (just as soon as I can find some wide enough to cover the tyres!) and front and rear pannier racks too.

Keep your eyes peeled for progress reports – I’ll be ordering the frameset and other parts tomorrow!!!