pour some sugar on me

I love it when a post comes together.

This week’s foray into the murky world of ‘Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!’ is quite literally a little bit interesting… It’s almost as though the search engine gods had some kind of master plan when they gave us such gems as:

“schwalbe kojak brompton pressure”

and

“bob yak lowrider”

Regular visitors will of course be familiar with me and my Yak and the nightmares fun we have together.

31696_433159445659_539585659_6272016_296285_nIrregular visitors [see what I did there?] may even be familiar with the saga of the wheel… you see, all that time ago when I spent all that money on all that trailer I was thoroughly disappointed to find the stock wheel & tyre supplied with my BOB Yak had clearly been pinched from the nearest kid’s bike and thrown in my box.

A lot of time, a heap of internet research and more visits to various bike shops than even I think was appropriate and I was all kinds of familiar with the different versions of 16″ wheels and 16″ tyres, none, NONE of which are interchangeable.

Originally, I bought a stock Brompton front wheel and a 349c 16″ Schwalbe Kojak slick tyre (tyre pressure is between 60ish and 120ish, as I recall) but it turned out the axle length on Brompton wheels is considerably narrower than the 100mm (standard front axle) width the Yak required; so, replacement wheel #1 was promptly sold.

150030_465165489862_6224409_nReplacement wheel #2 was a 305c 16″ lowrider wheel complete with 16 x 1.75″ white wall tyre; essentially the same wheel & tyre size as the original but with extra bling bling, 17 million spokes and a couple of extra pounds weight. Cool eh?

Cool, heavy and blinging aside, that wheel really isn’t much better than the stock kid’s bike one I started with and, although the tyre would accept a little more pressure (and therefore drag less on the road), it really wasn’t the solution I was looking for.

270547_10150255310509863_784234862_7043533_3617116_nCue replacement wheel #3: a custom built 349c Brompton rim laced to a standard 100mm wide quick release road hub, all wrapped in a brand new 16 x 1″ Schwalbe Kojak tyre – sweet. I can run this with high or low pressure (dependent on how much weight I have in the trailer), it’s super light, nice and strong, the tyre’s super sticky and it comes with awesome puncture protection and reflective tyre labels.

It’s amazing the difference it makes to the feel and handling of the trailer. In those bad old early days with the crappy original, I remember dragging the damned thing up and down hideous climbs and I distinctly remember the crappy tyre buzzing on the tarmac, sidewalls pathetically flexing under load and generally ruining my life.

These days, I fit the trailer to the back of the bike and just forget it’s there! No matter how much weight I have in it, the larger rolling diameter, slick tread, higher pressures and more resilient sidewalls just keep the trailer well planted and make sure it’s not ruining my life any more than it should.

Which all leads rather nicely to my favourite search term from this week’s selection:

“kendal mint cake cycling”

Now, I happen to lurve Kendal Mint Cake and on more than one occasion it’s saved me from certain bonk atop a ridiculous climb in equally ridiculous heat… I mean, come on, 4 different kinds of sugar all melted down, given a minty fresh zing, (sometimes) wrapped in chocolate and sold in gift shops everywhere… what’s not to like?

Yes, it’s true they climbed Mount Everest on it. Yes, it’s true I’ve had a bar of it in my cupboard for ever. Yes, it’s true I sometimes take it with me when I’m cycling but no, it’s not true that it’s a good cycling food.

Kendal Mint Cake, as awesomely tasty, minty and sugary as it may be, is really not much more than a block of pure sugar. Now, sugar’s great for picking you up when you’re down and a bar of the white stuff (I prefer the brown, personally) will certainly beat off the worst bonk but it won’t last for long.

Your body burns sugar really quickly and, before you know it, you’ll be back to bonking again and it’s only going to be worse because you’ll also be crashing from your sugar high.

So, by all means, grab a bar or two from the gift shop and stick it in your pockets but rely on it in small bites at a time as only the last of last resorts – you’d do much better to get plenty of slow release energy into you prior to the ride with some Clif Bars and / or bananas in your pockets.

Other high quality energy bars and fruit are available.

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?

crazy

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!

halo

 

Something a little heavier than our usual musical interlude for you today… but hey, sometimes only heavy metal will do.

Play it loud or not at all.

Since my recent crash, I’ve been riding around with DMR Moto R/T 26 x 2.2″ tyres on my Surly Troll; largely this is because I was looking for something that was essentially still a road tyre but more suited to the changeable conditions and, with a little bit of luck, less likely to send me face first into the pavement at the first sign of the cold, slippery stuff.

206696_10151327132799863_2024200714_nAccording to DMR, the RT in the name stands for “road and trail” as this is a “great tyre for street riding, hard pack trails and dirt jumps”. Now, I don’t do a great deal of dirt jumping what with the Troll weighing just shy of a metric ton but I can report that thanks to the rounded profile and closely spaced yet flexible tread, these tyres do provide an extra level of stability, grip and confidence on the trails and I actually found them to be very capable in deep, wet mud. On the road however, I have to say these tyres really, really drag and the buzz you get from knobbly tyres on tarmac started getting on my nerves after a while.

Recommended maximum pressure is 60psi which I found to be perfect for the trails (I like a firm ride anyway but it still wasn’t too harsh) but on the roads I found even pushing the pressure beyond the limit and up to 70psi didn’t really help minimise the drag enough for me.

After a few weeks, I just couldn’t take it anymore; the Troll felt heavy, sluggish and really wasn’t much fun to ride. So, I went back to the tyres I had on before. The tyres I crashed on.

250942_10150987692164863_477781285_nAlso 26 x 2.2″, this isn’t the first set of Halo Twin Rail tyres I’ve owned. I used to run a set on an old mountain bike I had and I liked them so much I invested in a set for my cyclocross bike in the 700c size. These days, they make ’em in just about every size and colour you can imagine with single and dual compounds and they all come with puncture protection rivaled only by the legendary Schwalbe Kojak.

Halo decribe the Twin Rail as a “trail and street tyre” and recommend a maximum 65psi for off road use and 85psi for on road use meaning they “perform in almost all conditions”, which they do. As I’ve said, I prefer a firmer ride so I rarely let the pressure drop below 70psi and I’ve ridden through just about everything with these tyres.

They’re awesome on hardpack dirt, great on gravel, capable of dealing with everything but the deepest sticky mud and (critically for me) they’re phenomenal on the road. Unlike the DMR Moto RT which is really a trail tyre at heart, the Halo Twin Rail is a road tyre first and a trail tyre second; the name of course comes from the 2 central rails which (when the pressure is high enough) are they only things in contact with the black stuff so rolling resistance really is kept to the bare minimum. Of course, once you start to lean or you hit the trails, the smooth, rounded profile of the tyre kicks in and the recessed ‘knobbles’ (Halo call them ‘sleepers’) ensure you have plenty of grip without the tyre flexing as much as a traditional knobbler.

So, which is better? Well, that very much depends on the kind of riding you do. As different as they may appear at first glance, these tyres do deserve to be compared side by side because they both claim to be suitable for road, trail and skate park use… You’ll have to check with the local yoof which is better for dirt jumping and the like (I suspect the Halos) but for me it’s as simple as this:

  • If you ride mostly on trails (this includes gravel, grass, mud, canal towpaths and everything inbetween) and you only use tarmac to access said trails, the DMR is the clear winner.
  • If you ride mostly on the road but you want to be able to skip onto the trails or explore that bridleway on the way home, you need a set of Halos in your life.

556027_10150987707259863_1754207612_nOh, I don’t know whether this will form part of your decision making process but the DMRs don’t boast any puncture protection where the Halos do… but, nothing is totally puncture proof so you’ll want to carry a spare tube and a decent pump too (mine’s a Lezyne but that’s a story for another day).

Today’s ride was a mere 15 miles (I ran out of daylight and my lights failed so I had to get the train back) mostly on the road but with a few impromptu miles of canal towpath thrown in. It’s cold up here in t’ North this week to so there was plenty of the dreaded ice around… I’m happy to report no crashes, despite a couple of two-wheel slides which didn’t faze me.

My confidence is steadily returning and I’m back in love with the Troll now the Halos are back on. 2013 is going to be good.

girls, girls, girls

 

Being the lazy, no good civil servant I am, I haven’t been at work since some time back in late December; even then, I wasn’t really working… In any event, I’ve completely lost track of who I am and what day it is but those in the know tell me it’s Thursday today which can mean only one thing!

Yes, it’s time for yet another round of:

Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!

Please, try to contain your excitement.

As ever, I’ve been inundated with questions and keywords this week and here are my favourites:

  • “will a washer stop axle sliding in horizontal dropouts?”
  • “can you fit a BOB Yak to a bike with disc brakes?”
  • “do bullhorn bars fit any fixie?”
  • “Schwalbe Kojak tyre pressure”
  • “Surly Troll image”
  • “leather girl on bike porn”
    • Wait. What?
  • “spandex bodysuit see through wet messy”
    • Dude, you’re clearly looking in the wrong place.

A fairly obscure selection this week, I’m sure you’ll agree! Perhaps it’s high time I went back to work…

In other news, keep your eyes peeled over the next few days for a review of my custom wheelset I had built by the good people over at Keep Pedalling, Manchester.

the only way is up

Happy holidays dear readers! I hope you’ve all been having a relaxing and enjoyable time whether you celebrate xmas or not. Over here at life in the cycle lane HQ, we’ve largely been doing lots of cycling up in t’ hills, eating lots of delicious food and drinking more than a few glasses of excellent wine. Keep your eyes peeled for a report on just some of our recent adventures.

In th meantime, another week has passed us by and Thursday is once again upon us which can mean only one thing; yes, it’s time for another instalment of ‘random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia’! Grab yourself a mince pie or something else delicious, pour yourself a glass of wine and sit back whilst I entertain you with this mindless nonsense.

  • Our first special guest this week comes to us via Google and wants to know “trivia about searching things” – no, really; somebody actually was searching for that when they landed here!
    • Worry not, your search is over! You’ll be (semi) pleased to learn that we explore the murky world of search trivia here at life in the cycle lane every Thursday, week in, week out. Got a glass of something to wash your mince pie down with? Good. Welcome to the family.
  • Now then… who’s next? Ah yes. “What is the widest tyre for a Brompton?”
    • Err… I’m sorry to say I have no idea! What I do know, however, is that Bromptons run on the larger 349c version of the 16″ wheel, not the 305c version you find on kids’ bikes, BOB Yaks and other such things so do take care when shopping for replacements to carefully check because 16″ isn’t necessarily 16″…
    • I had a wheel custom built for my BOB Yak using a Brompton 349c rim which I run with a Schwalbe Kojak 16 x 1 1/4″ tyre; it’s slick, narrow and designed for high pressures so if you’re a lettuce, it’s not for you. There are some slightly larger alternatives around the 16 x 1 3/8″ range which will give a little more comfort but I suspect you’re wondering whether something like the 2″ wide Schwalbe Big Apple would fit, yes? Well, no, it won’t. Sorry.
  • Next up this week is the person wanting a “Keep Pedalling Manchester wheel build review”
    • Seeing as Keep Pedalling, Manchester is my all time favourite bike shop ever and the place I source all my cycling gear these days including a rfecent custom built wheelset, I’d be more than happy to provide you with a review – that’s a job for next week. In the meantime, get yourself down there once they reopen in the new year and have a drool over all the cool stuff they have in stock.
  • Next! “I hate my Long Haul Trucker”
    • Oh. Really? That’s a shame. Please feel free to donate it and I’ll make sure it finds a home with someone who’ll truly love it. Drop me a line here.
  • OK, we have time for just one more this week; there have been so many good contenders but we have to go with “Race Face crown race which way up?”
    • Sigh. If you need to ask that question, you really shouldn’t be attempting to fit the crown race yourself. Get it wrong and your headset simply won’t work and if you try to ride your bike like that, you’re guaranteed to suffer a catastrophic failure which will no doubt result in you going face surfing.
    • If you’re anywhere near Manchester, take your frame, fork & headset in to Keep Pedalling and ask them to fit it for you; they’ll no doubt also advise you on cutting your steerer tube down and other such things which require specialist tools and a bit of know-how.

OK, that really is all we have time for this week; tune in next Thursday for even more mundane search trivia!

why is your raincoat always crying?

As utterly bonkers as Simone White may be, I must confess to owning (and regularly playing) her surprisingly excellent album ‘I am the man’ which is how I came to know of this equally bonkers song. Originally, I bought the CD after falling in love with ‘The beep beep song’ made famous by this brilliant Audi advert so please feel free to listen to that instead whilst I bore you with cycling related trivia.

So why the fascination with the bonkers (albeit cute) Simone White all of a sudden? Well, regular visitors will know I like to post a song which is at least semi-related to the topic I’m boring you with writing about and today is no exception. In fact, dear readers, I have a semi-exciting new feature for you which may or may not become a regular fixture here at life in the cycle lane.

A great many of the hits my humble little blog gets are referred from various search engines around the world and, through the magic of the stats WordPress provides me with, I can even tell what people were searching for when they landed here. So, I thought it might be fun to answer some of the questions I’ve been indirectly asked this week.

First up: “what cane creek headset goes in the ogre”

Err… any one you like really; providing it has external cups of course. I use an S-1 in my Troll which looks and works great… I replaced the plastic top cap with a metal one but other than that it’s cool.

Second (and a bit more interesting): “how my cycle will go wrong on commute”

Any number of ways… Main things to watch out for are:

  • Punctures – Stop being a lettuce and spend some money on a decent set of tyres with puncture protection; they’ll pay for themselves in no time. I ride on Halo Twin Rails which are awesome as are Scwhalbe Kojaks (in fact, almost everything from Schwalbe is good for commuting).
  • Visibility – Get yourself a bright yellow jacket if you absolutely must but any decent cycling gear should have reflective bits on it which go a long way to getting you seen out on the roads. I wear a Gore Phantom II jacket almost all of the time and it has plenty of shiny for me.
  • Lights – Technically, this comes under visibility because commuter lights are really more about being seen rather than seeing (unless you ride home down a completely unlit street). Again, you have to be OK with spending a few quid here and you’ll want something with several modes (including flashing) to suit various light conditions.
  • Luggage – Dependent on how much stuff you want / need to carry, you’re going to need some decent luggage to house it if you’re serious about commuting; to carry said luggage, you’re also going to want a decent rack. I use a pair of Ortlieb Back Roller Classic rear panniers which are rugged, waterproof and downright cavernous; they hang off a Ragley rack ’em up pannier rack which is awesome. Many, many other bag & rack combinations are available and some are more suited to certain bikes than others… head down to your local bike shop and get some advice.

And finally this week: “surly troll frame weight”

It’s heavy; stop being a lettuce.

lightning crashes

 

Sometimes, I write about products that work well (like the Surly Tuggnut or Schwalbe Kojak tyres).

Sometimes, I write about things that go wrong (like when I dropped my Troll before it was even built).

Sometimes, I write about bike rides I’ve been on; some have been great (like the Diggle Jiggle) and some have been not so great (like the White Peak Loop).

Sometimes, I just get a man in to do the pesky writing for me.

In any event, I’ve always tried to stay away from controversy and I hope I don’t ever come across with a holier-than-thou attitude. After all, everyone is entitled to their own opinion (no matter how wrong they may be). There is, however, one area of cycling life where I am fiercly opinionated and that is safety.

You may recall I was recently quite shook up by a near miss a good friend had on the road; his bike was completely toast but happily, he suffered nothing worse than a badly cut face and badly bruised pride. The cause of said crash isn’t completely clear but the fault certainly lies with the cyclist on this occasion.

So yes, we do make mistakes. And yes, we admit to them.

Listening to the radio one morning this week as I snaffled my eggs, I was horrified to hear that the sideburn wearing British Cycling legend that is Bradley Wiggins wouldn’t be appearing as Chris Evans’s guest as he’d been knocked off his bike the day before. With little information other than he was recovering in hospital with minor injuries ringing in my ears, I threw my leg over the Troll and took off for my daily 7.5 mile (each way) commute into Manchester.

Ask any regular cyclist and they’ll no doubt regale you with 1) tales of incident free rides, 2) near misses with idiotic homicidal drivers and 3) (not all will admit to this last one) self inflicted crashes brought about by a moment of stupidity or simple lapse in concentration; I’m sorry to report that my ride in to work that very same day was brought to you by option 2.

About a mile out of Manchester City Centre on the dual carriageway A62 Oldham Road, I was in the middle of the inside lane blowing through some traffic lights (yes, they were on green) with an articulated lorry shadowing me in the lane to my right. Parked in a bus stop to the left (and the reason I was in the middle of the lane) was a large white van displaying learner driver plates.

Thinking nothing much of it, I changed up a gear and pushed on pacing the truck at around 25mph. At the very moment I’d satisfied myself the truck driver had seen me and was going to stay in his lane, I saw the driver of the large van drop the hammer and, without looking or indicating, pull out into my lane.

I don’t think I managed to form any real words but whatever noise I was making was loud enough to make the van driver look out of his window just in time to see me getting squeezed closer and closer to the truck and the trailer wheels which were about to make me into a Troll kebab.

Somehow, I managed to stay upright and a few hundred metres down the road, I pulled up to have a quiet chat with the van driver who was suspiciously hanging well back. Eventually, he decided I wasn’t going away and, with the fear of god in his eyes, rolled down the window. And that’s when I saw it.

Carefully embroided on the chest of what was unmistakably a stab vest was “Greater Manchester Police”.

“What the hell was that?”, I asked.

“WELL?”

“I… I… have no comment I wish to make at this time…”

Addressing a less shellshocked officer in the passenger seat I rhetorically asked “This is a Police vehicle? Under instruction? Are you being serious?”; the slow, resigned nods from the instructor told me this young officer’s professional driving career was already over so I decided not to press the issue any further save for a few choice parting phrases including “astonished” and “disappointed”.

That evening, even closer to work, I was nearly t-boned by a woman in a van to whom checking her hair in the mirror was more important than checking the road she was pulling into. Unlike the young officer, she was more than happy to comment with several choice phrases I shan’t repeat here and several finger gestures you can no doubt imagine.

So, she nearly kills me but I’m in the wrong for telling her to look where she’s going… Seriously?

The next day and I’m almost all the way home; literally within 200m of my house with all 700 lumens of my front lights shining into the face of another driver who decided it was perfectly acceptable to pull out in front of me.

What astonished me most about this one was the sheer impossibility that he couldn’t have seen me. Unless, like our blonde haired friend from earlier, he was too f-ing busy looking at something else to even bother checking for other road users.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, I wasn’t feeling in the least bit charitable so I gave him all kinds of hell despite the pathetic ‘sorry mate, I didn’t see you’ look he painted on his face. Lucky he drove away when I told him to really; I’m not sure what would’ve happened if he’d tried arguing he was in the right…

 

Now, Wiggo and Co. have undoubtedly done the sport and recreation of cycling a great service this year with so much success in the Olympics, the Tour de France and other events with the resulting publicity. There are certainly more people enjoying cycling and organisations such as Sky, British Cycling and Sustrans are certainly playing a big part in making that happen.

I read today that the woman who allegedly knocked Wiggo off his bike voluntarily went to the police who promptly reported her for summons although there is an ongoing investigation into the crash. Naturally, I wait for the full details to come out but it would in itially appear that the driver was at least partially at fault.

The silver lining I’m hoping for here is that Wiggo can do cycling another great service as a result of this crash. Will this raise awareness amongst cyclists and drivers alike that accidents are all too easy to cause (on both sides) and oh so easy to avoid? Will the courts decide to make an example of this case? Will Wiggo come out and openly criticise the driver’s actions? Or, is the story not as it first appears and was Wiggo at fault? Are we to listen to the tabloids and believe the crash was caused by the shaving off of the world’s most famous sideburns?

Whatever happens, the few of you I’m able to reach (whether you’re a cyclist, a driver or both), please please please remember:

Open your eyes and look, open your ears and listen.

lollipop

 

“Cheap rubber is not necessarily good rubber” was the advice I gave to a friend recently looking to buy new tyres for her hybrid; I suspect the same applies to spotty adolescents nervously buying condoms in the chemist too.

When you think about it, you can spend hours and hours mooching around bike shops, trying to figure out which bike is best for you: mountain bike, road bike, hybrid, BMX, cruiser, cyclocross, tourer, folder, singlespeed, fixie or hack…. And, there are probably some more. Then, you’ll probably spend as much time trying to settle on the colour of said bike and you’ll try on every helmet and pair of gloves in the shop but, and be honest, just how much attention do you pay to the tyres? I’ll wager it’s perhaps not as much as it could / should be.

Now, there is a lot of talk about how you shouldn’t ride a mountain bike on the road and you shouldn’t ride a road bike on the trails and you shouldn’t ride a Brompton at all; whilst I agree that Bromptons (in fact all folding bikes) should be banned for all eternity, I must say I conform more to the idea that you can ride whatever you like, wherever you like.

I ride a Merida Matts mountain bike from the 1990s with a rigid steel fork on the road… In fact, I ride it on road, off road and everything in between. Also, I ride a cyclocross bike with a rigid carbon fork (which is essentially a road bike with clearance for mud) off road so, it’s really not an exact science; very basically, the various types of bike will give you very different riding positions so it’s more about finding one that works for you.

The thing that really matters is the 2 small contact patches connecting you to whatever surface you happen to be rolling over and this is where the science really does make a difference; so, here are some basics to help you out:

  • Tarmac – The smoother and thinner the tyre, the smoother it’ll ride on the smooth surface; the same is true with tyre pressures, the higher the pressure, the smoother it’ll roll. Beware, however, that the narrower and higher pressure the tyre gets, the less it’ll deform over lumps and bumps so the ride will be less comfortable but much more efficient.
  • Mud – If you want to get down and dirty, it’s quite the opposite; you want something wide and knobbly to grab hold of whatever it can in the squishy stuff. Equally, a lower pressure will help the tyre to deform under load and assist with the grabbiong onto stuff, giving you more traction than you thought was even possible.
  • Gravel – Now, I hate to break this to you but nothing, nothing actually grips on gravel surfaces but there are some semi-slick / semi-knobbly type tyres that help move some of the gravel out of the way and grip the hardpack underneath. Choosing something with a smooth central section and knobbly ‘shoulders’ run at a mid range pressure and spending some time working on your riding style will give you the confidence you need to safely navigate the loose stuff. There’s absolutely no shame in slowing down; it’s much more fun than face surfing!
  • Snow – Again, very little will provide much in the way of real grip here but a good quality knobbly tyre suited to deep, wet mud will work great on fresh, soft snow. There are also specialist snow tyres with metal studs that will bite into hard packed ice but these are very expensive and not for the average cyclist, in my humble opinion.
  • Sand – Now, I can’t say I’ve ever actually ridden on sand but, as I understand it, the only way to go is with the widest, lowest pressure tyre you can lay your hands on. Surly and Salsa are now building ‘fat bikes’ specifically for this klind of riding; very cool indeed but again, very specialist kit.

So, what do I ride? Well, on my go-everywhere-do-everything Merida, I run 26 x 2.00″ Schwalbe Kojak slicks at 70 – 80psi which give me an incredibly comfortable, stable, predictable ride.

I love my Kojaks so much, I had a custom wheel built for my BOB Yak and bought a 16 x 1.25″ version which has significantly reduced the rolling resistance over the awful knobbly tyre that came with it as stock.

What I simply can’t explain with science (or anything else) is the awesome grip level these tyres give in all conditions. I’ve ridden them on really hot days when they seem to almost stick to the road, freezing cold, icy days when they seem to… well, they almost stick to the road and, because I live in Manchester, I’ve ridden them in just about every type of rain there is from the annoying fine stuff that makes the roads greasy right through to full on monsoon rain and, you’ve guessed it, they just stick to the road! I suspect it’s the larger than average contact patch but they’re as predictable in cold and wet conditions as they are in hot and dry ones.

With Schwalbe’s excellent Raceguard puncture protection, they’re also bombproof and mine have reflective tyre labels so they give me the much needed side on visibility I need for commuting in the dark without a full on reflective sidewall – very cool indeed.

With a little skill and an awful lot of courage, they’re also great on gravel paths and they’ll even handle hardpack dirt without any problems. They suck like a $2 whore in any kind of mud, though. You have been warned.