Monday, 27 December 2010

Snowy Cycle Path

Spending some time at the in-laws over the Christmas period and not wanting to vegetate completely I took a bike up with a plan to fit in a few short rides at least. Went out today and it wasn't the best experience. The main roads have ridges of slush running down the centre of each lane and every car that goes past you is forced to cross it to overtake you - not pleasant at all. The side roads do offer a much better environment with hard packed snow for the studs to bite into, no slush and very little other traffic about but they only go so far before needing to rejoin a main road for a while.

Leaving the motorised traffic behind though is not a great option as the cycle paths are absolutely atrocious. They have not been cleared at all and are full of lumpy, frozen footprints (who am I kidding? do I live in The Netherlands!!). This video shows a section of path along the A1 and is a main cycle route into Morpeth. No wonder I never saw one other cyclist while out and about.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Painful...But Funny

Well even the Dutch cycling  infrastructure doesn't cope sometimes. It was this kind of ice that sent me to the ground last year. I hope my studded tyres would cope with it.

I tell you though if I knew this black (ice) spot was being filmed I would be furious with cameraman for allowing it to go on...and on. What a sadist, although if we are watching it does that make us complicit too?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Deer Oh Deer

And here is one of those Deer I mentioned on the previous post. The wide angle lens does not do the occasion justice. This was only 200-300 metres from the M60!

Traffic Filtering

Yesterday I had the misfortune to drive the car through Bury centre. It was stop-start traffic for 40 mins, over which time I covered less than 1 mile. There was loads of room for my bike to filter through and I really, really missed it. Today, I had a ride along route 6 (mainly through snow covered woodland with deer and birds and then along a frozen canal). It came out in Bury where I had to go for some last minute chrimbo shopping. 

The traffic wasn't quite as heavy but you can see from the videos what I mean about being easy to get through heavy traffic on a bike. I rarely cycle in this kind of traffic but am not shy about filtering (I would have failed my motorbike test if I didn't filter appropriately). In the past though I have filtered to the front of standing traffic at lights and then been verbally abused by motorists who squeeze past you as the lights go green only to have to stop at the next lights where I once again filter to the front. 

It got me thinking how others cycle in heavy traffic and if any of you suffered abuse - verbal or otherwise - for doing it?

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Snow Cycle Fun

I have been using the new mountain bike on my local urban woodland paths, some of which join up with National Route 6. This one is about 1/4 mile from my front door and runs near the M60. At the start there is a fair bit of motoway noise but as the path descends it becomes very peaceful and relaxing. Great fun in the snow!

View Clough in a larger map

Snow Commute

The start of my 4 mile commute yesterday morning at 06.45hrs. Brrhhh!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Rocky Road

I promised another post about my trip to south Manchester to see a secondhand bike and here it is.

The bike I was looking at was a lovely example of a 2009 Marin 'Rocky Ridge' XC hardtail mountain bike (Bike Radar Review of '09 model). I used a hire model when I did some mountain bike skill development last year, thought it was a great bike and have been keeping my eyes peeled for secondhand one coming up in the right size and within easy travelling distance since then. Well I saw and handled the bike last week and decided to make it the one to go for. I bid with 10 seconds left on the auction and got it for £200.00 less than I was willing to pay. I'm collecting it Wednesday. And I did come clean to the wife about the purchase too!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Blog Feed Problem

I had a message from Will recently to say the blog link on his site that directs to mine was not refreshing with my latest posts. This is apparent on other blogs as well and I cannot find why. If anyone does know I would appreciate some help. I have noted though if the link is deleted and then reloaded it seems to work again.


Thursday, 2 December 2010

Cycling Studs

Fitted my newly purchased studded snow tyres - Schwalbe Marathon Winters - the other day and these are my first impressions.

Schwalbe Marathon Winter Tyres

The tyres were easy to fit by hand over the rims and didn't require gloves for protection. The studs are flat ended carbide rods and are not sharp at all. I've covered about 26 miles since - had one return trip to work in a thin covering of snow and ice and today 18 miles to/from south Manchester (to see a secondhand bike I'm thinking of getting but that is another post to be hopefully). This last trip was mainly on clear gritted roads with some banked slush in the cycle lanes which I took care to avoid as well as a mile or so along national cycle route 6 covered in compacted snow.

National Route 6 crossing the M60
It was good to be able to compare handling in both snowy and clear conditions. The tyres handle pretty well on the tarmac, although they are quite noisy and there is a little bit of vibration through the handlebars. The ride remains comfortable however and there is no noticeable drop in speed compared to my normal Schwalbe Marathon Supremes. On the snow/ice the ride is grippy and assured and while I still took it easy, I'm sure as I gain in confidence with them I'll be back to cycling almost as if the road was clear - almost!

I'm happy I bought them as I'll be able to get to work whatever the weather. I know some committed cycle commuters are making alternative arrangements for their commute while the roads are snow and ice covered but I would just miss my cycle fix too much for that.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Bus Bully

Attended my first Bike Friday this AM. Joined 30 or so other cyclists who came from various parts of Manchester to present a letter to a representative of the GM Passenger Transport Executive detailing the Friends of the Earth's response to the Local Transport Plan (LTP3). It was very cold but nice to go for a coffee and warm up after the photoshoot (should be in the Evening News on Saturday). I met Coco from Cycling and Working in Manchester at long last and chatted to a nice bloke who also works in healthcare and has some experience setting up a Bicycle User Group. Hopefully a useful contact.

I had arranged to meet my wife in Manchester for brunch after the ride. On my way to our rendezvous point I cycled down Lever Street from Piccadilly. Approaching my left turn into Dale Street the lights were red and a bus was stopped in the bike box signalling left. I approached with caution down the inside cycle lane and reached the lights as they turned green. I made eye contact with the driver and swung left into the bus/cycle/taxi lane. I was quickly up to 14 mph and as the lights shortly ahead at Oldham Street were red I just coasted toward them. Next I know the bus driver was behind me, leaning on his horn and screaming at me out his window to get off the road. I was cycling in  primary within the bus lane but the lights were red for gawd's sake. These went to green before I needed to stop and after crossing the next junction with Tib Street (where Dale Street becomes Church Street) the so called 'professional' bus driver overtook me with less than 30 cm clearance. He got about 3 seconds ahead and then had to stop at the High Street junction where the lights were already at red. Needless to say some words were exchanged before I cycled ahead of the bus as the lights went green. The beautiful thing was the traffic was now at a standstill and so while the bus was well and truly blocked I happily filtered along to meet my wife at The Printworks. The annoying thing was I didn't get any details of the idiot. It's events like that which make me wish I was still using the headcam regularly. Never mind!

Start at the yellow marker and continue to the red for a breakdown of the encounter

View Bus Bully in a larger map

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Winter Preparation

Last year I took a tumble on some black ice while cycle commuting to work - the iced banana episode. Apart from this I loved my winter commute and arrived feeling alive and refreshed at work. Because I work shifts I cycle at silly times so it is inevitable I will be on the road in the crappiest winter road conditions. I decided to do my best to prepare for this years challenge and hopefully avoid any further such incidents. 

Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded tyres
I cycle a variety of side and main roads and previous conditions were a mix between ice, black ice, slush, snow (powder and compact) and clear tarmac. A quick bit of Google research to see which tyres were best suited came up with Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded tyres. These can run at different pressures and are OK on tarmac alone - essential for the variable conditions we have in the UK. I ordered some last night from Bike24 in Germany as I couldn't find any in stock in the UK. 

Now the decision is should I get some body armour as well?

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Heart Rate Monitoring

The Polar FT1
Basic but does everything I need it to
I have lost 17kg since I started cycling without really trying. I would like to lose more but have been finding that difficult to achieve over the last 9 months or so. I think my appetite has increased so despite being more active I have reached a plateau (either that or I find I can eat and drink what I want and not put weight on!). So I have joined a gym.

Getting out on the bike is something I love doing but some other varied exercise can only make the cycling easier and being that much lighter will also help. Never one to do things by half I now have a personalised gym plan and aim to attend three times per week. To make it useful I have been given heart rates to aim for while doing various exercises, so while not essential I thought this was a great excuse to get a heart rate monitor. 

I wore it out on my normal cycle commute the other day and was amazed at how quickly I went from resting heart rate (56bpm) to moderately active (75bpm) to very active (140bpm) and more importantly how quickly I returned to my resting heart rate after arriving at work - less than 2 minutes so quite chuffed. Will be using it at the gym today for the first time so will find out how I do using different muscle groups and movements.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Thank Evans

I am not a great fan of cycle helmets. I took one on my Pennine Cycleway trip but rarely wore it. I found it uncomfortably hot over long periods and ended up with sweat running into my eyes - not pleasant or safe. My wife thinks helmets make all the difference and would rather I wear one despite my reluctance. For the sake of marital harmony I decided to get one with big vents to avoid the heat/sweat issue and so at the end of July I bought a Specialized Propero from Evans on Deansgate, Manchester.

All was happy with my purchase until yesterday when I pulled it from my pannier and in doing so slightly depressed the adjustable retaining band with my thumb and it broke in two! I was very surprised by how little force caused this to happen and was dismayed because it cost £70.00, had never been dropped and was well looked after. 

I attempted to source a new retaining clip from Specialized but was told they do not provide parts for helmets as "... it's a safety item and any tampering could lead to the helmet not working correctly and to serious injury". Fair enough I suppose but was a little put out by their offer to replace the helmet via their crash replacement service for the princely sum of £32.00. It hadn't been crashed and I felt there must have been a fault in the manufacture of this helmet at the very least and maybe in the design of the retaining band. 

I contacted Evans to see if they would exchange it. It was 3 months old and I no longer had the receipt so after a phone call and confirmation they would accept my CC statement as proof of purchase I made my way to the store to plead my case. I was ready with quotes from the Sale of Goods Act (1979) about satisfactory quality but these were not needed. They couldn't have been more courteous and I left the store with a brand new helmet within five minutes. The guy had never come across the problem before but was happy to exchange it.

Great service that will result in further business from me. Thanks Evans.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Traffic Beater

Started work the other day at 09.00hrs rather than 07.30hrs as per normal. The traffic heading into Manchester was standing or crawling for the whole mile and a half where I follow the main road. It was wet and miserable weather. Don't normally commute in such heavy traffic and I loved it!

I whizzed past the cars at 15-24 mph and was at work within 15 mins as per normal. The weather was no hardship either and the drizzle just helped cool me down. Part of the route takes in a bus lane and I was the only user. I stopped counting cars passed when I reached 50 - most of them with only one occupant. Madness!

To celebrate I have just commented on this local newspaper article about the Council fining drivers who use bus lanes. The article suggests drivers feel "...they are forced to use the bus lane...due to the sheer volume of traffic". That's all right then. Congestion? Never mind just drive down some road you are not allowed to use and most other motorists respect. Despite this the article is reasonably impartial, giving the Council view as well as the motorists. The replies though are definitely anti bus lane. As a cyclist, I am no great fan of cycle or bus lanes but felt honour bound to add some balance and give a cyclist POV.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Cycle Quest

All 42 answer cards (10 checkpoints per card), the question booklet and poster map for the British Cycle Quest arrived the other day - total cost £10.00!

I have now completed 5 checkpoints and have at least one more I can complete this month. I had a great ride the other day through Northumbria, taking in some lovely countryside I would never have cycled through otherwise and am really keen on the whole idea. I am going to string several checkpoints together for my weeks cycling holiday next year. I will aim for some checkpoints further afield but just not sure where. Should I head to Cornwall or The Shetlands? Wales or The Outer Hebrides? The Isle of Man or the Isle of Wight? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The Cycling BUG

I attended the inaugural meeting of the Bicycle User Group (BUG) at my hospital site this evening. There were a total of seven people including the Travel and Access Manager and myself. Although not a great turnout considering the hundreds of people employed on the site, there was plenty of enthusiasm and a willingness to try and move cycling higher up the agenda and press for better on site facilities.

We decided our main objectives should be:
  1. To press for better, secure cycle storage
  2. To encourage the implementation of a cycle to work scheme (long awaited)
  3. To promote cycling as a healthy activity for a healthy workforce
  4. To start a 'bike buddy' system for new cyclists
  5. To press for separate toilet and shower facilities for any new site buildings
We also hope to establish some links with local cycle shops and get a reduction on kit for BUG members and on a social agenda encourage BUG members to enter the Manchester SkyRide in 2011 as an identified group.

Plenty for me to help out with and nice to know our Travel and Access Manager actually cycles to work!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The New Bracket

As promised some pictures of my new Rixen Kaul KLICKfix bracket in use. It is fitted with the extender section and accessory bar, both of which are extra. 

Just did a 48 mile ride with a loaded bar bag and never had a moments worry about it. The light is fitted when I'm commuting to work and so don't have a bar bag attached then but the two would fit at the same time just as well.

Sunday, 3 October 2010


Planning a  route for a weeks cycling in 2011 I had kind of decided on Scotland and a journey through the Outer Hebrides but a few days ago all that changed. I received my copy of Cycle - the magazine of the CTC (Cyclists Touring Club) and read about The BCQ or British Cycle Quest. Intrigued, the more I learnt about it the more I liked the idea.

According to the CTC the BCQ is a unique cycling challenge and a great motivation to discover new places. There are 402 checkpoints - 6 in each county including various off shore islands - so they are pretty widespread and there is no time limit or order in which to visit them. You just need to answer a question at each one and send in answer cards. I can visit as many or as few checkpoints I want at a time, do it whenever I like, take as long as I wish and devise my own routes to get to them. I can visit local ones on day trips from home and will string a few together on longer trips. 

I'm starting this month with either a cycle into West Yorkshire or over to Liverpool and will also knock a few off around Newcastle towards the end of the month. I liked to bag a 100 or so in the next year and will use my weeks cycling holiday in 2011 to visit some in Scotland. I'll be blogging each trip (on the BCQ page) and will tally the total miles cycled while 'questing'. It's all a bit nerdish but what a great way to see the country and visit some places I would never even knew existed.

Wish me luck!

Friday, 1 October 2010

Entering The Red Mist

Red Mist: a feeling of extreme anger that clouds one's judgement temporarily.

I really lost my rag with a motorist last night. I was sorry almost as soon as I did it - not because what I said was factually wrong or it didn't correctly express how I felt, but because what I said was only ever going to inflame the situation and give the motorist the excuse I was just a yob. 

It was 21.00hrs. I was cycling in secondary along the inside lane of a 30mph dual carriageway, fully lit up and wearing my hi viz reflective jacket. There was no traffic in front of me as I approached some traffic lights. A third, left turn only lane, began about 50m before the lights and this is where I was aiming to be. So travelling at 18-20mph I moved into primary within said lane as the lights changed to red. Next thing I knew a small car overtook me with less than 12-15cm room, it barely passed me when it moved into the gap between myself and the lights, forcing me into the gutter. It then stopped at the junction. 

Within a couple of seconds I was level and began attempting eye contact with the driver - something she wouldn't do until I banged on the nearside window. I asked if she knew how close the overtake had been? whether she had seen me? and so on. She said she had seen me from some distance behind and stated I should have been "against the kerb" and not "in the middle of the road". I made clear I had every right to be where I was and irrespective of my position her overtake was highly dangerous. She would not concede or apologise and I just got angrier. I asked if she: was an Advanced Driver? knew the Highway Code at all? had any cycling experience? I answered my own barrage of questions by shouting she obviously did not. And then I did it. The lights were changing to green and she was getting ready to make her escape and so I ended my rant by calling her a stupid cunt with as much venom as I could muster.

Like I said I was sorry almost as soon as the words left my mouth - almost! I blame the fact she had almost seriously injured or killed me a few seconds prior. She made it quite clear she had seen me, didn't think I had the right to be in that position and so it seems had no compunction in driving as close as she could. I would certainly not apologise to the driver if I had the misfortune to meet her again. However, I have renewed my personal vow to keep my cool when dealing with some of the prats on the road. It is just very, very difficult sometimes.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Cycling To Work

Not the remains of my bike
I have been cycling to work for almost two years and credit this fact with a 17 kg weight loss and commensurate increase in fitness. I cycle through snow, rain and in the dark. I am a pretty committed cycle commuter. I wish my employer would make it easy though.

Despite being a large NHS acute hospitals Trust they still haven't managed to set up a cycle to work scheme. This doesn't bother me greatly but does indicate the importance the top honchos place on encouraging a healthy lifestyle - something I thought we were supposed to be doing! It might happen in 2011 but I'm not placing any bets.

The cycle storage is also dire. A few outdoor racks of various types dotted around the site. None of them are in a secure building and all are exposed to the elements. Some bikes that have been left outside have been vandalised and others stolen.

I rarely leave my bike locked outside. When I do it is secured with a heavy duty Abus City Granite chain through the frame and front wheel which is secured to an immovable metal object, the rear wheel locked into the frame with an Axa Defender wheel lock and the seat post/saddle removed. I would never leave it in the same place 3-4 days a week, 14 hrs of the day from early morning until well into the evening. Never mind the area of Manchester I work in which is populated by some very unsavoury characters.  

So, for the past eleven months, with the tacit approval of my bosses, I have been leaving my bike in the male changing room, up against a wall and out of every ones way. Not been a problem except this week a note went up to say no bikes were to be brought in doors and they should be locked outside. I was not a happy bunny. It transpires a couple of other people have been cycling in and one of them had been wheeling a wet muddy bike through the main clinical area - hence the blanket ban.

I arranged a hasty chat with the boss involved and we have agreed the status quo can be maintained while alternative secure cycle storage is looked into. One of the other bosses is keen for this to happen as well (he is an infrequent cycle commuter) and we have already identified a courtyard that can be accessed from outside, which could be easily gated and would have space for ten or so cycle stands. 

All this coincides with the setting up of a Bicycle User Group (BUG) for the Trust so guess what I'm going to be joining this week? I just hope the honchos whose permission we will need for this to go ahead are amenable to our arguments. A nearby Trust has excellent cycle storage provision, would force a slightly longer commute (a good thing as my current 3.5 miles finishes just as I am getting warmed upped) and a job there would not harm my CV at all. I really like my current job though so I hope we can work it out. 

Friday, 24 September 2010

Bar Bracket Bagged

Rixen Kaul KLICKkfix bracket and handlebar mutli clip
I love my Ortlieb Front and Back Roller panniers and would not use any others by choice. I like my Ortlieb bar bag (an Ultimate 4 Classic) but feel it is let down by the bracket which, while OK when first fitted, is spoiled by the method used to secure it to the bar. It fastens by tightening a single bolt into a female thread on the end of wire which is looped around the bar and stem - the whole held in place within a plastic frame. Not too bad when first used but if removed for any reason it is very easy to find it jammed or to even strip the plastic housing with obvious difficulty reusing it. The wire itself also wears where anchored and will only stand so many attempts. Also, in use (with a moderate weight in the bag consisting of sunglasses, wallet, GPS and compact camera) the whole assembly can sometimes slip around the bar, particularly over rougher ground. The bag itself is great though and I have no wish to replace it.

So knowing I needed a new bracket at some point, I came across the Rixen Kaul KLICKfix system which has great reviews and fits many types of bag and accessory. Online information was mixed on whether it would accept the Ortleib bag mount though. So today I headed into Evans Cycles in Manchester with the bag and tried it on a KLICKfix bracket. Despite the two parallel mounts being narrower than the Ortlieb design they do provide a secure fit for the bag and the bar fixing design looks significantly more substantial. I bought  one and have also ordered the extender (for curved/butterfly bars) and a multi accessory clip for fitting extra lights to for wintertime commuting. I'll post some pictures when it is all set up.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Charity Thumbs Up

While I am still to complete the Pennine Cycleway page, I have been busy reminding various persons and collecting monies I was sponsored for the trip. The whole sponsor thing was hard work but worthwhile. Lots of people have been very generous but it has taken longer collecting it than planning the trip and seemed harder at times than actually completing the route! Still, I will be sending off my cheque tomorrow and along with the online component and adding Gift Aid where appropriate I am chuffed to have beaten my target and raised £2150.17 for The Marfan Trust.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

A Slower Pace

My wife never got the hang of cycling as a child and so has never pursued it as an adult despite my enthusiasm.

A recent trip to see the in-laws saw me encouraging a family cycling trip along the prom at Whitley Bay one fine sunny day. I dusted off her old bike and the two of us + Golden Child had a somewhat mixed cycling experience. My wife did better than she expected but the daughter - who is so close to losing the stabilizers - was obviously not keen and started complaining of "tired legs" within 30 seconds. The upshot is the wife and I went for a ride around Heaton Park this morning at her suggestion!

We covered less than 2 miles, she almost fell off once after misjudging her approach across some tram lines but apart from that I think she had a good time. She managed to cycle back up the hill from the boating lake and even having to slow for excitable dogs didn't dent her confidence or resolve.

She is never going to be a road going cyclist (unless they are very quiet) but I think we can look forward to some more family days out on our bikes. Just need to work on the Golden Child now.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

I Am Not A Mamil

From the BBC article
I have read several articles recently about middle aged men donning lycra and buying a flash, race ready, carbon, race bike instead of a flash, expensive impractical car as part of middle age crisis thing - the so called Mamils (Middle Aged Men In Lycra). These stories all seem to stem from some recent research by Mintel.

I would just like to point out my bike is a Touring bike and has no carbon components, I do wear Chamois pants but only under some baggies and my tops are all breathable walking tops from Berghaus. I would never want to subject anyone to seeing me in skin tight lycra! And while I did justify getting the bike instead of a car, that car was going to be a little run around mainly for my wife who now instead has primary use of our very practical but hardly exciting 2.0 TDCI Ford Focus C-Max.

I am middle aged but my cycling is no crisis. Now how do I get to Mont Ventoux!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Pennine Cycleway. Done!

I recently returned from my ride of the 355 mile Pennine Cycleway (cyle route 68). It was a great mini adventure and hopefully a taster of future journeys.

I have created a new page - Pennine - which has a description and photos from the route.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

No More Training

Hoped to get in another fully loaded 30+ mile ride tomorrow AM but plans were dashed when I found out the Golden Child's nursery school is shut for a trip and I will have to look after her all day while the wife is at work. I managed to fit in about 12 miles today and have two more days to cycle to and from work but that is it before the big ride. Still, I am spending a full "Daddy Day" with my girl, making sure she has fun, ice cream and swimming. And if I am not ready for the Pennine Cycleway by now what is an extra 30 miles tomorrow going to achieve?

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Whatever The Weather

Typical Cyclist Tan Lines
The long range BBC weather forecast (always with a pinch of salt) is looking good. Will need that sunscreen for sure. 
Monday 28 June 2010 to Sunday 4 July 2010
A hot start to the week will continue in England, Wales and often Scotland and Northern Ireland. Atlantic fronts are still likely to attempt entry into the northwest of the UK but will lose most of their rain before they reach land. Nevertheless sometimes cloudy and breezy weather will affect the northwest.
Monday 5 July 2010 to Sunday 18 July 2010
Even more of the same...Except that this time the Atlantic fronts are held even further at bay: Scotland and Northern Ireland should enjoy more of the sunny and warmer weather. Some showers are still possible which may be thundery. Temperatures, of course, look likely to remain above normal.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Trans Pennine Taster

Trans Pennine Trail
Went on a training ride yesterday and also stayed overnight checking out the camping kit. No real problems found but will make a few changes to kit selection.

I went through Manchester centre and picked up the Trans Pennine Trail (Sustrans route 62) around Stockport, following it to the reservoirs along the Woodhead Road (A628) before rejoining the road to the Crowden Camp Site. This section is also shared with the Pennine Cycleway so I will be seeing this route again soon. Just before the first dam/reservoir at Hollingworth I noticed two touring cyclists a couple of minutes or so behind me. I expected them to pass me in a short while but we seemed to be going at the same pace so when I stopped to consult the map/GPS I waited for them to catch up and have a chat. 

Jason and Graham were cycling the full length of the Trans Pennine Trail having started from Southport the day before. They hoped to climb the steep section of the route along the Woodhead Pass over the Pennines and stop at Penistone for the night but hadn't made the intended distance and were considering the Crowden Camp Site option. I said I might see them there but had to get a move on as my wife/daughter/mother in law were meeting me there in 45 mins and so I bid them farewell. They seemed nice and I hoped we would meet up later.

Got to the site with 15 mins to spare, had an ice cream, set up camp and was just getting some water for my noodles when the guys arrived. They had taken a different crossing over the reservoirs and ended up pushing their bikes up some steps and navigating a difficult stile. My route was much more bike friendly up to the A628 but then I had longer cycling with the 60+ MPH traffic along the road. Not too scary as I was happy to  take the primary position when needed to stop potential idiots passing on left hand bends or very narrow sections. No doubt there were a number of comments made in the following traffic but none had to wait longer than a minute or two to pass I care? 

My wife and crew arrived after another hr or so having got caught in Manchester evening traffic. We had a lovely couple of hrs in the balmy evening weather - my little girl running and skipping around the campsite with Grandma chasing behind while my wife and I sat and let them get on with it. The guys  meanwhile had set up their tents near mine and decided to buy a disposable BBQ and various tinned meat products from the camp shop as they did not have any cooking gear with them. They planned to camp nr pubs/chippies and of those there were none nearby. I did try and persuade my wife to drive 6 miles or so to the nearest pub/shop and back to pick up some beer for us but strangely she was reluctant. Graham managed to acquire two tins of Strongbow from a fellow camper and generously gave one to me (he doesn't drink apparently. Strongbow in particular or alcohol in general I'm not sure). We chatted for a while before heading for cover in our respective tents as the midgies were out in force.

The tent was fine, new sleeping mat great, lightweight sleeping bag warm enough (just) but will have to wear socks, tracksters, and long sleeve top, compressible pillow very comfy, Trangia stove great (as always), noodles for tea worked well and the dried milk for the cuppa adequate. Will take a cable lock rather than U-lock (more options to secure the bike), long matches as better than lighter for stove and I must, must remember to buy some midge repellent (they were awful). 

One change to the bike set up. I found one of my SPD pedals was loose on it's bearings! I changed to flat pedals and multi-activity shoes just before the ride and found no problems and several tangible benefits. Being quicker off the bike on a tricky, loose, steep uphill section, far better when walking/pushing the bike on rocky terrain and lastly being able to wear the shoes comfortably while camping. I have decided to go with this set up rather than SPD pedals/shoes but will likely still take my trekking sandals to give my feet chance to breathe!! 

I covered a fairly hilly, mixed surface 32 miles to the site with about 3 hrs cycling and felt great. The next morning I did a faster, mainly tarmac 30 miles back home in 2 and a half hrs. No stiffness, knee problems or...ahem...chafing issues. I even managed to get some free coffee and cake at the Bike Friday meeting in Manchester and bumped into Nigel who lives near me and blogs on cycling/triathlon stuff. 

A great taster for things to come.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Two Weeks Tomorrow!

As I write it is only two weeks until I will be packing my panniers (and no doubt unpacking various bits again) and checking the bike over in readiness for the next morning and a shortish train journey to Derby and from there the start of the Pennine Cycleway.

The preparation has been going well and I have been able to easily complete at least one 35-50 mile ride per week with full panniers + my normal commuting miles. I know the minimum daily distance I plan (50 miles) is eminently achievable and the kit is more than up to it. The only thing I won't know is how I will feel after 3 or 4 days consecutive riding? Only experience will answer that one I suppose.

The kit list is (almost) finalised. 2 Ortlieb Front Roller and 2 Back Roller Panniers will carry most of it and a an Ortlieb bar bag will carry some small/valuable/frequent use items. Here's the breakdown.

Left Front Pannier
A washing/utility line, Ortieb 3L water/shower bag (empty), Trangia stove, matches, wash cloth, fuel bottle, cutlery, bowl, cup, Swiss Army Knife and rain/wind jacket.

Right Front Pannier
Food for the next day. This will likely be weetabix for brekkie, bananas/flap jacks for snacking and noodles/risotto/pasta for tea. Tea bags and dried milk also included for morning and evening cuppas (lunch will be bought along the way). A cable lock, maps, paperback and electrical stuff completes this bag.

This balances the weight nicely and keeps the fuel and potentially wet coat away from the food, electrical kit and sleeping sac. 

Left Rear Pannier
A Vango Micro II tent (an old friend no longer in production) which although a little bigger/heavier than I would have bought just for cycling it is still more than adequate for the job. This pannier will also will house my head torch, sleeping bag and...ahem...a compressible pillow! I make no apology for this item as gone are the days when I will just roll up my sweaty clothes and make do - I am a middle age cyclist after all.

Right Rear Pannier
Various clothes (split into daytime cycling and evening camping/pubbing attire), a pair of lightweight trekking sandals, wash bag, wet wipes, small towel, toilet roll, small first aid kit, chamois cream, various plastic bags (multiple uses) and bike repair stuff including: a small foot pump and gauge, puncture repair kit, spare inner tube, cycling multi tool, electrical tape, cable ties, rubber gloves and chain lube.

Bar Bag
Notepad and pen, Nikon Coolpix 8400 camera with 4 Gb card, "Gorilla" pod, GPS, iPod/Sennheiser PMX680 sport headphones, Oakleys (if not wearing them), small sun cream, mobile, wallet and keys. On the top of the bag (in a waterproof sleeve) will be the current map. I may also have the Contour HD bullet cam in the bag but am not sure if I will take it yet. I am reluctant to wear a helmet all the time and would need to put this on to film 'on the go', the battery would need daily charging and the card would be full after 2-3 hrs recording with no option to download the data. Is it worth it? I can video with the Coolpix after all. I may just take the bullet cam, use it sparingly for sections I cannot do with the camera and when it is full it is full. Decisions, decisions!

I have decided to take mains chargers whereas I was hoping to be reliant on a solar charger. Tests on the solar charger were not good as even on a sunny day it took 8 hrs to charge the battery and this would only then just about fully charge the mobile/iPod or instead could only make very small inroads into the GPS battery. So I have decided to take 3 chargers for the phone, iPod and camera and will use these at cafes, pubs and the like en route. I had no problem doing similar with a laptop when I travelled before and none of these items require daily charging or a huge amount of 'mains' time.

The GPS (a SatMap Active 10) is a different beast entirely. The rechargeable battery I have for this is normally good enough for a several hrs moderate to heavy use when hill walking. I found though even in low power mode when cycling (minimal map viewing, low backlight, screen off after 30 secs, position update every 4 seconds instead of 1) I could not reliably expect it to last more than 2 days and so would need to charge it each evening. As I plan to camp/wildcamp this is not really doable and so have gone with the 3 alkalines per day option instead. Even when these will no longer power the GPS they are never completely drained even so I will then further use them for a small radio.

Cycling clothing
I will be wearing something along the lines of an orange or yellow breathable short sleeve top and, if cold, a long sleeve Merino wool top under it, a pair of padded lycra under shorts and a pair baggies over them, some breathable/waterproof socks, multi activity shoes, pair of fingerless cycling gloves, a microfibre buff on wrist to wipe the sweat which can double as a headband (God forbid) if I am really leaking.

A Cateye trip computer, 3 bottles/cages and a great little "dinger" with built in compass that came with the bike and is surprisingly useful. I will also have front and rear LEDs I don't plan to use. I will bungee the helmet on the rack and use it for any technical or high traffic sections.

Now I just need to decide on some new music to take. Any suggestions for good cycling tunes?

Friday, 28 May 2010

In The News

Just had this article published in my workplace bulletin. If you have come to the site after reading it...welcome. If you know someone with an interest in Marfan Syndrome I would be very grateful if you could tell them about my site.

If you would like to sponsor me the easiest way will be via the money giving link on the left. It is not currently operational but should be soon I am promised. All the money I raise is going to the Marfan Trust and every single penny is very welcome. 

I will be 'tweeting' about my trip as I go so if you want to follow me click on my twitter feed. I will also make the twitter gadget larger and centre page on the blog for the duration of the trip so it can be read here easily too.

As the route passes near Manchester, if anyone want to join me for a section please drop me an email. I will be leaving Whaley Bridge on 04 July and intend to finish somewhere between Hebden Bridge and Colne that day. Lovely countryside if a rather hilly section. 

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Mountain Magic

Atop Rivington
I am the orange one and my brother is the pink one!
I organised some mountain bike vouchers from all the family for my brother's birthday July 2009. He still hadn't used them up to April 2010 which is just like my brother. As I was quite keen to enhance my somewhat basic off road skills I suggested I join him for the course and so we arranged a day.

The vouchers were for Mountain Bike Skills which operate out of Rivington, The Lake District and The Yorkshire Dales. As we live near Rivington it seemed the obvious location to go for but what was less obvious was the course to choose. Did we class ourselves as beginners or intermediates? A phone conversation with Mike Stafford from the school pointed us towards the beginners course and so one sunny day last month we found ourselves meeting up with Mike at the Rivington Great Barn car park for a briefing before 5-6 hrs of skill development.

The day was very, very good. Despite there being 6 advertised places on the course, Mike had actually scheduled the day to fit with us as short notice and so we were the only two attendees. We practised bunny hopping, low speed turns, how to cycle down a steep hill and back up a steep hill before breaking for lunch. In the afternoon we cycled up the big hill, practised descending some 70-100cm drop offs as well as riding some single track. My brother was certainly more able than I with the drops off (he is a mad keen skier) and so later I took the fast gravel track from the top while he and Mike took the more technical route before we all met up for a fast and very enjoyable downhill back to the car park. 

I was happy with my performance and definitely learned a few things. I am certainly going to be getting off road when I can (more after the Pennine Cycleway ride) and may even go for an intermediate course next year. For the day I'd hired a Marin Rocky Ridge from Mike and loved it. It is obviously head and shoulders above my old Marin Bear Valley and so now I am on the lookout for a good second hand one. Just don't tell my wife I am getting another bike!

Friday, 7 May 2010

Unexpected Charity

I will be getting the train to Derby for the start of the Pennine Cycleway ride on 03 July and so will commence cycling about 11.00 hrs. As I want to finish the whole ride by Friday 09 July I need to complete an average of 50 miles per day and I have worked out where I will roughly end each day and checked out accommodation in the area. No real problems except the first day as I end in Whaley Bridge and have not been able to find a local campsite. I emailed a B&B in the area - Spire House - to see if I might be able to throw a tent up in their garden (and pay for the pitch of course). This is their reply:
Dear Darrell
We do have a large garden but it is not very suitable for a tent. We would however be prepared to give you a free night bed and breakfast and packed lunch in support of your charity. Let me know if this would be of help and not affect your challenge. If you want to take up the offer let me know as soon as possible because we get booked up very quickly and have only one room left for July 3rd.
Hope this helps.
Hilary Lomax
Needless to say I have taken Hilary up on her kind offer and will be giving the money I would have spent on a pitch and lunch to the Marfan Trust instead. Thanks ever so much Hilary for you generous act. It's great to find how charitable complete strangers can be and it's one of the lovely things about doing this sponsored ride

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Destination Foulridge

Went for a training ride with full touring kit the other day. Didn't quite manage the 40 miles as I'd hoped because the route took me to a relatives house where I stopped for tea and cakes and met the wife and child for the return car journey.

Some of the ride was very steep and I did have to get off and push a couple of sections between Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall which obviously brought the average speed down a bit. Still, although I was passed by some roadies going up the hill towards Blackstone Edge they didn't open up a huge gap and I was happy with the progress I was able to make.  

The bike feels great and just as importantly I felt fine at the end as well. I could easily have managed another 15-20 miles that day and have stopped with loads of time to make camp. The next day didn't bring any aches and pains either. All bodes well for 03 July!

Total distance 36 miles

Total height gained 3269 feet

Average speed 10.2 mph

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Travel Master

I've been back from my shopping trip to Amsterdam almost three weeks now and in that time have been able to cover  a few miles on the bike. So these are my considered first thoughts. It's gorgeous!

I thought I had got the old commuter bike well set up, what with road tyres, Brooks saddle and Ergon grips but the Travel Master is just a revelation. Don't get me wrong. I wasn't contorted by the old bike but after 20 miles or so the lower back started to ache, the hands craved a new position and I just had to get off and stretch. 

I've not had this with the new bike and feel 30-40 miles could be done before any significant rest was needed - it is just so comfortable. It also rock steady carrying the front and rear pannier and the power is easily translated to the road - it just seems to eat the miles! The butterfly handlebars were a shot in the dark but I knew I wanted more hand positions than a flat bar offered but don't like drops for touring so I went for it - no regrets at all. They look a bit different and have been the subject of a couple of comments but they work and that is what I wanted. 

The other shot in the dark was the Rohloff Speedhub internal gears. This was the most expensive non standard option and was a significant portion of the bike cost. I decided on them mainly as they are: very robust and very much maintenance free (compared to a derailleur set up). I was also influenced by the number of long distance touring cyclists who use them, such as Mark Beaumont, James Bowthorpe, Ivana Coria and Harry Kikstra, and Cass Gilbert to name a few as well as Eric's recommendation at the shop. So far they are working well, I like being able to change gear while stationery, the range is more than adequate for touring and I don't find them too noisy (some people comment they can be noisy particularly when new). I am so used to thumbs shifters though I keep forgetting which way to turn the handle! Certainly not a required option but I like them and am sure they will last well.

I am planning to ride a mixed surface, variable terrain, 40+ mile route this weekend with full panniers so I'll know more then but I don't really anticipate any problems - just need to decide on my route now!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Marfan Banners

In aid of getting as much interest in the Pennine ride as possible I have been messing around with Photoshop and a laminator this morning. I'd rather be out cycling but really should be at work all day. However a nasty cold/manflu has knocked me for six at present and pressing a few keys is about all I can manage today.

I plan to put the banner around the top tube and the triangle hanging off the rear rack. Hopefully it will drum up some more interest and maybe a bit of money at work as well as when I am out and about, particularly on the ride itself.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Hill Training

In preparation for cycling 50-60 miles a day on a fully loaded bicycle for 6-7 consecutive days up hill and down dale on the Pennine Cycleway I thought I better start doing some hill training. I know I can do the distance but want to make it a pleasant journey rather than an outright struggle to complete each day. To this end I have devised a 38 mile loop that goes from Prestwich to Rivington and back and hope to complete it once a week or so.

I did part of it yesterday and only cut it short because I promised to meet my wife, daughter and associated nieces at Rivington Great Barn. So I completed 22 miles of mainly up (some of it very steep 'up'), on a fully loaded bike and averaged 11 mph. I am hoping to do the whole loop at an average speed of 13 mph but we'll have to see about that.

This is the elevation profile going from Prestwich through Bury, Brandlesholme, Greenmount, Hawkshaw, Edgeworth, Turton Bottoms, passing Turton and Entwistle reservoir into Belmont and finally the very fast (42mph fast!) down section to Rivington and a lovely ice cream. A very nice ride indeed.

Map Help

I have been in touch with a fellow blogger called Andrew from Eurovelo5. He is riding from England to Italy this Summer. I stumbled across his blog as last year he cycled the....Pennine Cycleway!

I was interested in any tips he might have but also to see if I could buy his maps from him as some of them are currently out of print. Not only did he give me some good info he also offered to send me his maps to use and then return completely free. Good as his word they arrived this morning.

Thanks ever so much Andrew and good luck with your prep and trip this summer. I'll be following you.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Pennine Cycleway Ride 2010

This is the route of the Pennine Cycleway I am cycling July 2010. It is 355 miles long and I intend to complete it in 5-7 days, camping along the way. I will be tweeting about the trip as I am doing it and you will be able to  read them on this blog. If you know the route and can suggest any places worth visiting or staying at then I would be very interested hearing from you. Leave a comment or drop me an email here.

While I am doing the ride for fun I am also hoping to raise some money for, and awareness of, The Marfan Trust at the same time. The charity is very small and does not have a 'Just Giving' affiliation at the moment as this costs them. If you wish to sponsor me (even a small amount) the charity does accept donations at its website. Please leave me a comment if you do this so I can thank you. All the money I raise will be going to the charity. My trip is entirely self funded.

Oh, you can zoom into the map for more detail if you wish.

Pennine Cycleway - National Route 68

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Cycling and the City

I have just returned from a family holiday to New York and Florida to help celebrate my sister in laws 50th birthday. I knew I was going to miss my regular cycling fix while I was there but had noticed some guided cycle tours when I was in London last year and thought New York must do something similar. A quick Google search led me to Bike the Big Apple and so with the blessing of the wife I booked a tour. While I was busy she was going to take the Golden Child to an indoor play area called Bloomingdales or something similar so all were happy.

I found the bike shop where I was to meet, having left lots of time in case of difficulty and so arrived with an hour to spare. I was a little disconcerted when the guys at the counter didn't seem to know what I was on about and thought I just wanted to hire a bike. Suddenly something clicked and they explained the guy running the tour would call by later. It appeared he used the shop as a meeting point but they were a separate entity.

Marc duly turned up and bikes were distributed and adjusted. In addition to Marc and myself the tour group consisted of two couples – a father and son from Florida and a young Canadian couple. After introducing ourselves Marc gave a little briefing on the tour route and what we were likely to see along the way, some background about the increase in bicycle lanes in the city and how to ride in a group and so on. Then we were off.

Marc - our guide

Essentially we headed across lower Manhattan from east to west, and south along 5th Av. and by the Hudson River before turning north at Battery Park with a return western lurch up the Brooklyn Bridge at dusk to return to our starting point 9 miles and 4 hrs. later. See the Google map for a better idea of the route.

While the pace was leisurely to say the least, there was so much to see accompanied by Marc's regular little narratives about various places, it was easy to maintain a high degree of interest. One of the highlights included having a look into the Ground Zero sight from the elevation of a nearby public building called the Winter Gardens.

Ground Zero

This video shows the Hudson River. We had just left the Winter Gardens and you can see the Sun is going to be setting soon.

This video shows the view from the Brooklyn Bridge. I was running low on video battery by then so saved it for the return leg of the bridge trip. The ride up the structure was the only part where I felt I was having to work a little bit! The picture shows the view from the tower nearest Manhattan. On the left is the walk/cycle way.

I can heartily recommend the ride. Marc was an interesting and informative guide and although, being from the UK, I was the target of a few digs about American Independence, I really warmed to his easygoing and relaxed manner. If you are ever in New York and fancy a guided tourist trip with a difference then you should definitely book a place.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Police Crackdown On Cyclists

Police in London are targeting lawbreaking cyclists according to the BBC Inside Out (London) programme broadcast on 22 February 2010 (available here for a few days only).

I have been known to go through a red light or two in my time but only when stuck at one of those traffic activated, induction loop controlled junctions at 06.30hrs, there is no other traffic about and my presence has not triggered the green in my favour. There you go. I admit my guilt. Saying that, while I don't routinely RLJ, with road planning favouring the motorist and cycling infrastructure being somewhat lacking in the UK I understand why some cyclists do. I believe though if you are using the road you should stick to the law as it stands - even if it is an ass. Failure to do so just weakens your position when trying to argue for better provision.

Some of the cyclists shown were riding recklessly  - mounting the pavement at speed and cycling through pedestrians on crossings and so could easily have caused injuries. This programme demonstrated though how easy it is for all cyclists to be tarred with the same brush as others were not disregarding or breaking any code or law. The tone of the article was still anti-cyclist despite this.

I just wonder though how many injuries or fatalities the driver of the blue truck could have caused and why all bad driving and law breaking is not being addressed by the Met'?

Monday, 22 February 2010

A Cycle Commuter Route?

Following my recent entry about National Route 6 I got into conversation with a local cyclist who also has a blog. I made the point the route was an enjoyable ride but could not be considered a suitable commuter route for most cyclists. I think this video demonstrates why most people wanting to commute between Manchester/Salford and Radcliffe/Bury would not choose to use it on a regular basis.

The video was taken on 17 Feb 2010. It had not been raining along the path that day but had done so slightly (for Manchester) the day before. I ended the ride covered in mud and had to remove my chain to adequately clean the transmission.

Other sections are of better quality and while it does offer a reasonably direct, car free route with only a moderate gradient it is a shame this section negates the overall user experience from a commuting stance.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Integrated Transport

Two stories caught my eye today and made me despair slightly.

The local tram network - the Metrolink in Manchester - is reconsidering allowing bicycles to be carried on trams during off peak times. This follows a recent decision to maintain the ban, including folding bikes unless in a case. Local cycling groups made a concerted effort to force a reconsideration. Protesters took ironing boards, amongst other things, on to the trams in order to show how ridiculous the current bike ban is. The non-bike objects are allowed to be carried as the regulations stand. I had no part in the local effort but certainly applaud those who took the time. There is still no reversal of the ban but maybe there is hope.

Contrast this with a posting by David Hembrow from Holland. He describes a bike scheme for users of local rail services - the OV-fiets. Apparently 40% of rail passengers in Holland arrive at the station by bicycle. As so many bikes cannot practically fit on the trains the Dutch have developed a bike hire scheme with a difference which integrates with the rail services, is available at a minimal cost and for a decent hire period. This allows commuters to make the local journey to and from the stations without having to use a car.

What a difference in attitude. Is it possible we will ever be that forward thinking in the UK? I think we might get somewhere near at some point in the future but it will take a major shift to get people out of their cars and that has to mean a major increase in cost. We are just too selfish as a species and so appealing to people to consider the environment just doesn't have the impact to make the difference needed. I'm sure when oil is next pushing towards $200 or $300 a barrel we will see an upsurge in car share schemes, more people cycling and so on. Roll on the day is all I have to say.