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”


“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.



A new feature for you this week; something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while now… Random bike porn!

I was out cycling with my girlfriend a few weeks ago when she remarked: “God, it’s just like girls’ arses!” to which I responded: “Eh?”. She was referring to the two mountain bikers we’d just passed coming in the opposite direction who slowed down just enough to take a good long look at my ride and hers just as I’d slowed down just enough to take a good long look at theirs.

Bike envy, we all have it.

I can’t walk anywhere without checking out whatever rolls past me or is chained to a lamppost or whatever and I’ve long thought about taking photographs of the good, bad, ugly and uber cool stuff I see out there. And so, to get us started, here are a couple of pics of some Electra cruiser types I saw up in Tynemouth this weekend whilst visiting a friend.

What you see here is a collection of bikes available for hire, all ready to be ridden up and down the seafront, looking all cool and sexy. Which, I suppose, is all well and good if you’re into that sort of thing. Incidentally, I am not.

You could be forgiven for being seduced by the swooping lines of the frame, the abundance of chrome plated shiny, the fat white wall tyres and the ridiculous handlebars with leather tassles. However, there is something I find unforgiveable about this bike and no, it isn’t the awful green paintjob.

The problem with these bikes is that, whilst they might look very cool, they are actually a bit rubbish. Made almost exclusively from leftover pig iron, these frames are obscenely heavy and with only 1 speed are actually not all that easy to ride. The enormous saddle and massively wide handlebars might make it feel like you’re sat on the couch but have you ever tried pedalling your couch up and down Tynemouth seafront? It’s not so much fun.

And the problems continue, I’m afraid; those brakes are just about the cheapest and nastiest you can get and, on the bike closest to us, the brake pads are set at a rather peculiar angle; I didn’t think much of it at first but now I look closer at the picture, that bike simply shouldn’t be on the road (or anywhere near it).

Take a look at that fork. Spot anything unusual? No? OK, now compare it to the exact same fork on the other green bike a couple of spaces down the rack… See it now? Yep, that fork is horribly bent which tells me that this bike has been involved in an equally horrible front end impact. Not only will that play all sorts of havoc with the handling of the bike but there’s also a very real chance of something letting go in spectacular fashion whilst some poor unfortunate soul is riding it resulting in some rather unpleasant face surfing which is neither cool or sexy.

Fear ye not though, dear reader; not all of these bikes are potential death traps. I was actually quite taken with these tandems, what with the flames painted on the mudguards and the tyres… Sure, they’re made from rubbish old parts, weigh a metric ton and are harder to ride than… well, something that’s particularly hard to ride, but if you’re looking for a slice of Southern California in Tyneside, you’d be hard pushed to find anything finer.

My plea to you is to get to know what’s dangerous… Check the thing over for any obvious signs of crash damage (compare the bike you’re looking at to the others if you’re not sure), beware of flat, worn or cracked tyres and make sure nothing is loose; the main offenders (and those most likely to cause injury) are handlebars, saddles, pedals and wheels. Ask the people in the shop to fix it and, if they can’t or won’t, WALK AWAY.

Considering actually purchasing a cruiser? Well, I can’t stop you… but they are just not practical. I don’t care if Miley Cyrus rides one; in fact, doesn’t that make them worse?

Check out my girlfriend’s bike here; it started out life just like any other Specialized Globe Sport but with the addition of some cruiser type handlebars (alloy, not steel), some nice comfortable grips, longer brake levers and the all important wicker basket and you’ve got yourself a proper headturner.  What’s more, this little beauty came in at about £350, is nice and light, has 24 gears and a carbon fibre fork!

Check out my tips about choosing the right handlebar, get some advice from your local friendly bike shop and I guarantee you can get something which is not only cool looking but also very capable and surprisingly cheap.

Oh, by the way, Tynemouth seafront happens to form part of the C2C (sea to sea) cycle route; more on that in a later post but (having ridden part of it by accident) it’s certainly on my list.


The owner of the shop that rents the bikes I took pictures of and commented on in this post has since been in touch and he informs me the bike with the damaged fork was simply being stored alongside the others whilst awaiting repairs and would not be rented out to anyone in its damaged state. In addition, he assures me that all of the bikes were fitted with quality brakes, weren’t overly heavy, some had more than one gear and the frames were made of quality materials.

The things I write in this blog are purely my own opinions and experiences are are not meant to cause offence.

3 is a magic number

Just a quick entry today; I’ve just come home from picking up my next project which is an Elswick Hopper Safeway town bike circa 1970-something.

And here she is! A beautiful shade of an almost metallic red with steel full wrap mudguards, chainguard and rear luggage rack. The Union dymano powered lights still work perfectly (well, as perfectly as they ever did!) and the 1974 3 speed Sturmey Archer rear hub shifts as nicely today as the day it left the factory.

Overall, the paintwork is in pretty good shape for its age although there are some scratches and chips here and there so it is tempting to repaint the frame but that would mean losing all of the original detailing like this rather nice bit of lettering on the chainguard… I’ll have to have a think and see how well it cleans up before I go anywhere near the wet and dry.

There was an additional odd little bonus to be had with this bike. As I was just about to leave the place I’d bought it from, I spotted this old French tin plate advertising sign up on the wall which I just had to have. Parting with whatever small change I had in my pocket (about £2.73) just seemed like the thing to do! My girlfriend who was waiting with the car gave me one of those “What the hell else have you bought now?” looks as I carried it towards her… She was already annoyed that I’d bought another bike project, I think. But, I’ll ask you what I asked her the other day: Would you prefer I bought old bikes or had affairs?

I thought so.

Anyway, this one (like the Coventry Eagle that went before) is just too small for me so it’s another restore, make cool and sell on job but I haven’t quite decided what I’ll do with this one. Happily the wheels are in great shape and, being 26″, give me plenty of tyre options and the one thing that’s for certain is the bars and stem are coming off too… It may just end up being a laid back cruiser… white wall tyres, anyone?


This has to be one of my all time favourite loads I’ve transported in my BOB Yak; it was the first time I’d tried transporting a whole bike and, with the creative use of nothing more than a few bungee cords, it all fitted in just fine and was perfectly stable for the whole trip.

The bike in question was an uber cool, uber rare, vintage Coventry Eagle frame which was my 1st vintage build. It came to me in a fairly rough state and basically needed new… well, everything. The reason it ended up on the trailer is because the 27″ wheelset I’d bought simply wasn’t working out properly with the brakes and I also needed to get the bottom bracket rebuilt so I broke down and took it into the bike shop for some advice.

After a considerable amount of head scratching with the boys at Sprocket Cycles in Digbeth, Birmingham (one of my favourite bike shops ever, by the way), we finally decided that, despite its age, this frame was actually built for 700c wheels, not the slightly larger 27″ ones I’d bought. Oh well, you live and learn, I guess.

Sprocket also fitted this rather beautiful ‘Phoenix’ chainset I found on eBay with new cotter pins after replacing the bearings in the BB; happily the cups and axle were still in great shape. That’s a Gusset Slink half link chain, by the way, which is the only way to go if you’re running a single speed (or internally geared hub) setup as it makes tension adjustment so much more precise; not to mention the variety of colours it comes in!

Oh, back to the Yak! The other reason this is one of my favourite loads is it was one of the first outings with my riduculously shiny, ridiculously heavy, ridiculously ridiculous gold lowrider wheel with white wall tyre! I’d been looking for a wheel to replace the awful stock one that comes with every BOB trailer for some time and, a trip to Ridelow in Manchester and £40 later, this is what i got… I don’t care how absurd it is, I love it!

All joking apart though, if you’re looking to add some stability to your Yak, particularly if you generally only carry relatively light loads, a heavy steel wheel like this really helps to plant the trailer and stop it bouncing up and unsettling the bike on those bumpy city streets. Those 16 x 1.75″ white wall tyres are rated up to 60 psi according to the sidewalls (I’ve run them at 80 psi very comfortably), have a semi-slick type tread but no puncture protection so again, I’d only really recommend them for light duties.