where i sleep

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There’s a definite theme to this week’s ‘Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!’… funny how that happens.

Yes, this week we’ve had some gems as:

  • BOB Nutz Surly
  • twin wheel transporter trailer weight empty
  • BOB trailer with horizontal dropouts
  • I’m starting to live in my cargo trailer (my personal favourite)

Yes, this week it’s all about the humble cargo trailer and the somewhat eccentric people who own and love them… it almost feels like I should be narrating a late night TV show on Channel 4.

As you can see, I’m no stranger to bicycle trailers and I’ve put my time in with both of the main types; single wheel and twin wheel. I’ve ridden with them on road, off road, along dedicated cycle routes and through busy city traffic. I’ve had them loaded up with everything from scrumped apples to camping gear & clothes to a new wheelset to a vintage bike.

I’ve towed a trailer in relentless heat, freezing cold, pouring rain and strong winds. I’ve towed on the flat, up hills and down dales. Heck, I’ve even been known to take my trailer to work on my morning commute.

So, which is best? Well, very much like my thoughts on DMR Moto vs Halo Twin Rail tyres, I think it really comes down to the kind of riding you want to do:

  • Find yourself mainly cycling on nice, flat surfaces with plenty of room around you? Not too worried about the contents of your trailer coming into contact with the elements? No obstacles too narrow to navigate on your ride?
    • If you’ve answered “yes” to most of these, chances are you’re a fairly relaxed cyclist and you use your trailer mainly for pootling down to the supermarket or taking a picnic to the park.
    • For you, I am recommending the twin wheel type trailer. This is because they’re relatively cheap, don’t require any particularly complex hardware to fit to your bike and really don’t affect the handling of the bike too much.
    • There are some cons, however; by way of their design, they are naturally wider than your bike which means you need to take care when navigating narrow passages etc. Also, the trailer will want to cut in when you turn so a little extra turning circle is required.
    • Oh, and the one I used was just about as waterproof as your average colander so you’ll need to be OK with your belongings getting wet should it rain.
  • After a trailer to use on a regular basis, be it for your business, touring around the world, or just carrying stuff and things from here to there?
    • If so, I’m recommending for you the single wheel type trailer, like my BOB Yak.
    • Thanks to their design, most single wheel trailers are not much (if any) wider than the bike you’re towing them with. Mounting hardware normally comes in the shape of a replacement quick release skewer or axle nuts so fitting really shouldn’t be too difficult.
    • The major benefits for me are the aerodynamic advantage you get from the trailer hiding behind the bike (a huge advantage over panniers too, by the way) and the fact the trailer simply follows the bike in an arc so you don’t need to worry about your turning circle at all.
    • There are cons, of course. This type of trailer is not cheap… mine came in around the £350 mark but it did come with all the fittings I needed, a waterproof sack and the peace of mind that it’ll hold its value should I ever decide to sell it on.

There are plenty of other considerations too… riding off road really sucks with a twin wheel trailer and, because the single wheel ones mount from both sides of the rear axle, they do tend to have a steering effect on the bike.

Also, there’s the push-me-pull-you that comes with having any kind of weight hanging off the back of the bike and what we shall refer to today simply as ‘The Redditch Incident’… more on that another time.

This year, I’ll be touring not with my trailer but front & rear panniers so keep your eyes peeled for a direct comparison of the 2 options; in the meantime, I think this picture best explains the love / hate relationship I have with my Yak.

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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!!!

 

zombie

 

OK, so it’s really a thinly veiled excuse to play the excellent Zombie, but I thought I’d share with you some of my thoughts about avoiding exhaustion on the bike.

This is me back in 2010 about 300 miles from home at what ended up being the somewhat premature end to the first proper bike tour I’d attempted; you’ll notice I’m not doing so well.

All joking apart, by this point, I was quite seriously exhausted both mentally and physically; the reasons for this were many but essentially fall into 3 categories which apply to all forms of cycling:

  1. Fitness – As you may be able to tell from the picture, I wasn’t in the worst shape of my life ever and really wasn’t carrying all that much extra weight, my legs were strong and I had plenty of stamina. Or, so I thought. As it was, I really hadn’t done any training for the tour other than the occasional ride in the evenings; worse still, I was staying away from home during the week, indulging every day for over a year in a Hilton breakfast and the very best food & drink Nottingham had to offer that I could afford with my expenses.
  2. Equipment – Again, on the face of it, I had all the gear; but it turned out I also had no idea. My custom built Graham Weigh cyclocross was super light and I was towing along the legendary BOB Yak single wheel trailer. The problem was, I was running road gearing on the bike and I bought all of my camping gear in a mad half hour rush on the Saturday; we left on the Sunday. I had a HUGE 2 man tent weighing in at over 2.5kg, an equally huge sleeping mat at just over 1kg, one of those single burner stoves that comes in a plastic case (I have no idea how much that thing weighs!) and so on and so forth; you name it and it was at least twice the size and twice the weight it ideally should’ve been.
  3. Fuel – This is actually the one thing I did get right; every morning we ate porridge for breakfast, snacked on bananas, malt loaf, fruit & nuts, baguettes and the like throughout the day and feasted on hearty, healthy food in the evenings. We also had energy drinks on the bikes constantly to replace the salts and electrolytes we were sweating out in the heat. There was even a Kendal Mint Cake or two nommed along the way when the going got really tough.

They call it ‘bonking’ when your mind wanders off somewhere else and you get a song stuck in your head for hours and hours or you focus on your left knee then your right knee then your left knee, right knee, left knee, right knee… It’s unpleasant, I tell you and it can be downright dangerous too because when your mind starts wandering, so too can your bike and, before you know it, you’re trying to figure out how you ended up in that ditch at the side of the road.

In one particularly dark moment, I remember nomming a whole chocolate covered Kendal Mint Cake, washed down with half a bottle of Gatorade atop a long, steep climb we later realised we shouldn’t have made. I was bonking that day, bonking hard.

So, how to avoid the dreaded bonk? Well, it’s really quite simple and, again, it breaks down rather nicely into 3 categories:

  1. Fitness – Train, train, train. You may think you’re fit right now and, indeed, you may have a good level of underlying fitness but commuting to work and back with a clean shirt and a fresh pair of boxers is just not the same as climbing a hill with all you need for a week’s camping. I put a minimum of 75 miles on the clock every week just by commuting but when I come to tackle a 30 mile run into the local hills at the weekend, I find it a bit of a struggle. A lot of that is due to my body becoming conditioned to storming the 7.5 miles to work as fast as possible which is really good for building muscle but does little to build fitness and stamina and almost nothing in the fat burning department. Longer, slower paced rides (which is the style you want to develop for touring) will help shed the pounds, build stamina and you can enjoy the countryside too!
  2. Equipment – Think! Do you really need to take that? Really? On the 2010 tour, I was so desperate to save weight, I was throwing away my socks every day after wearing them! For the 2011 tour, in addition to a minimum 20 mile a day training ride, I’d also replaced almost every piece of camping equipment I’d bought the year before and every single thing that went in the trailer had to earn its keep. Believe me, you’d be surprised by how few clothes you actually need when you need to pedal them around with you!
  3. Fuel – An old friend of mine who’s a personal trainer used to tell me “My body is like an engine and the food I put in it is the fuel” and, do you know what, he was dead right too; feed your body well and it’ll serve you well, feed your body badly and you’ll suffer. You want to focus on getting slow release energy foods into you at the start of the day; things like muesli, porridge oats, bananas and the like are the best. If you’re heading out in the afternoon, a good bowl of beetroot soup for lunch will set you up really well for many hours in the saddle. In-ride snacks should be oaty flapjacks, malt loaf, bananas (is there anything they can’t do?) and, if you really need it, a sugar rush from some Kendal Mint Cake or an energy bar but, with a sugar rush comes the inevitable crash so do use with caution.

And so, there it is. Chill out a little, don’t sprint away from the lights so quickly and don’t feel too bad about dropping another cog on a hill climb. Get the right food inside you and, if you’re going to be out for a while, take the right food in your pockets. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make sure you’re fit enough to do the kind of riding you want to – it’s supposed to be fun, remember and, contrary to popular belief, bonking is not fun.