Sunday, 31 July 2011

Coast and Castles

My week long Summer cycling tour 2011 has been dealt a fatal blow. First put back from June to August it has now been ruled out completely. Family commitments, work schedule and the fact we have limited annual leave to juggle with (because we are having a 5 week tour of the USA early next year!) means I just cannot fit it in. However, I am managing a three day tour elsewhere and it two days.

I'm catching a train to Edinburgh on Tuesday morning and will then cycle the Coast and Castle route towards Newcastle before veering off to family at Morpeth. I am going in fully loaded mode with the tent, Trangia, headtorch, noodles, etc. Hope the weather stays nice.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Fully Focused

Done about 35 miles on the Focus Cayo 2.0 test bike to date. I've now got it well set up for me and it is a lovely, lovely ride. I thought about using it today when I went out with the family but that would have meant leaving it on the car for 3-4 hrs and chancing the weather. I decided to take the Travelmaster instead for a 15 mile return cycle from Hollingsworth Lake.

The bike will be packed up and returned next week. If I continue using it it's going to get scratched or blemished and then I would have to keep it. I think it may well be the bike I get in the end but I want to try a few out first and anyway, I can only spend what I lose - 1 kg = £100.00. So far I can only afford £300.00.

A few things have been confirmed. I know I'm more than happy with a compact ring rather than triple and have got used to integrated brakes and shifters. I've also found the correct position for the handlebar for me (it's a small sweetspot!). For the next test bike I'll choose one with 105 groupset rather than Ultegra. For the fun/club riding I intend I very much doubt, for me, that Ultegra is worth the extra premium. But I'll see!

Friday, 29 July 2011

More Fun In The Park

Me, the Missus and Golden Child went for a family bike ride today. We cycled to Heaton Park, cycled around and around, went to Simister for a drink and then returned home. The Golden Child did brilliantly and the Missus is getting better too!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Fun With The Golden Child

Don't worry. It's not all carbon road bikes from now on. I am still just as enthusiastic about other types of cycling.

I've been having fun the last few days with my daughter. She is so close to losing the stabilizers IMO but balks at any suggestion I remove them, even for a trial period. Difficult to bargain with a 5 year old when her mind is set and I'm not going to force her to give them up. She is happy with them and that is the main thing for me. I am disappointed because I would like to go for family bike rides with her and the missus, particularly while we have some Summer left. She used to love riding in a trailer buggy when she was smaller, which we hired on a couple of occasions, but she is getting too big for these now and I certainly don't want to buy one. 

My brother in law had a 'tagalong' to take his youngest out for rides. It is a saddle on a single wheel driven via a standard pedal/chain arrangement but no front wheel. Instead, at the front comes a pole which sports a handlbar. There is a hinge at the end and a clamp which fastens to a seatpost on an adult bike. The hinge moves up and down and left and right. I say he had one because his youngest has outgrown it and he got rid of it, luckily he did this when I asked him if I could borrow it. He just gave me it and said he was glad of the room! Thanks Andy.

My Marin hardtail has been chosen as the steed to pull this rather than the Santos. I miss being able to throw a pannier on for picnics, etc, but know I'm mainly going to be using it on trails and tracks with various grades of mud and stuff but generally in good weather. I can still take a small picnic and toolkit in my trail/hydration backpack. I also didn't want to have to move the seatpost mounted light on the Santos. I cut up an aluminium can to make a shim for the seatpost as it was a little loose without but apart from that and putting some air in the tyre it was ready to go. 

I suggested to the Golden Child we had a ride and she said yes (cautiously mind you. She's like that). We ventured to the park down the road from us and she loved it. Just a short trip the first time but when I asked her if we go further the next day she was over the moon. We went through a local park/clough and picked up National Route 6 along The Outwood Trail through Ringley Woods all the way to Radcliffe and back - a trip of 10 miles. She had a cracking time, pedalling some of the way and singing her heart out most of it.

View Tagalong Bike Ride in a larger map

The whole assembly with child handles much better than I expected. We have been leaning into corners and she isn't getting worried when we are going slowly. I thought it would wobble a fair bit but have not really found this an issue. I can pull it quite easily and only needed the small ring once to climb the hill up to the motorway bridge. I see it as good training really. Tissington Trail here we come. Just have to get her Mum as enthusiastic now!

Having an ice cream in the park

Monday, 25 July 2011

Focus Cayo 2.0: Initial Impressions and Test Ride

Well Wiggle have lived up to their normal, great reputation. The bike was delivered on Saturday - two days earlier than expected. It came well packed but was ready assembled bar putting the handlebars on and adding some pedals. It looks great and tips the scales at 8.4 kg. I had one short ride on Sunday evening to set up my position and then did a few miles tonight.

The last time I had a road bike was as a teenager - 24 years ago. I am familiar with dual position, 'safety' brake levers and having the gear change levers on the downtube. Getting used to combined gear and brake levers on the drop bars and using SPD pedals is ensuring I am taking it quite cautiously at the moment. The brakes/shifters are very slick in action (Shimano Ultegra) but just don't feel second nature yet.

I am finding the drop position OK but am used to being more upright so know this will feel strange for the moment. Some reviewers say the bike has a 'race' rather than the slightly more relaxed 'sportive' geometry. I have no comparison to make at the moment but know if all the bikes I try are similar to this I will be using the hoods and tops for most road riding and keeping the drops for when really needed.

Anyway, onto tonights ride. I followed a route I am familiar with which includes a longish incline (the A56 through Whitefield). The bike handled the road surface really well. It delivered good feedback and the steering is very responsive. The carbon frame really damps down the crap that passes for roads around here - I generally try and avoid potholes, drain covers, etc but some just have to be ridden across. I expected to be shaken to bits and was amazed not to be.

On the climb up the road on my tourer/commuter (Santos Travelmaster 2.6 Alu) I normally settle in at 8-9 mph at the steeper start and then manage 11 mph on the longer section as the angle lessens. I was concious not to go 'hell for leather' and then try and compare performance/speeds, so I kept some power in reserve and settled into a comfortable cadence. The bike felt quicker but the speedo confirmed it as I sailed up the steep section at 12-13 mph and the faster section at 14-15 mph. Going downill was more comparable to the Santos at 22-25 mph, which is not a surprise really. 

I am hoping to get a ride of 20 miles or so at the weekend if the weather stays nice. This will really give me more of an idea if I am going to find it comfortable and a definite possible for the road bike I will finally get. As it is at the moment I really like it though.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Time For Focus

I've been having lots of fun over the last few days looking at what I can get for my money when I hit target and splurge on buy a new bike. I have scoured several cycle magazines and many cycle related websites. The bikebuilder site from Preston based company Ribble is a great find. You can choose from several Ribble frames and spec them as you want - opt for a less expensive groupset and upgrade the wheels and tyres, etc. 

This has been an education in itself and the bikes also get some brilliant reviews. I have been basing my choices around a Ribble Sportive Bianco. I like the look of the bike but would really want to test ride one before I could consider buying. As Ribble is a web based company (although they have a shop/warehouse in Preston) the chances of doing so are going to be limited to say the least.

That's the problem with buying from t'internet I suppose - you are relying on the opinions/advice of others. Or is it? Wiggle is an internet based company and I've used them a lot for various small cycle related  items. Their service is excellent and prices very competitive (I declare I have no connection to them apart from being a satisfied customer).

I was browsing through some of the bikes they offer and found I could buy one, have it delivered, test ride it for up to 30 days, return it (for free), get a full refund and then do it all over again with a different model - the 30 Day Test Ride. Brilliant! They want it back clean and with only normal wear and tear but that is the least I can do. So, I have ordered one. An Ultegra specced Focus Cayo 2.0. It should be here next week. Really quite excited.

This is purely in the interest of research you understand. I am not going to make a final decision until I have tried a few different bikes and will not make a final purchase until I hit target. But you can't be too clued up really can you?

A Focus Cayo 2.0 compact

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Becoming a MAMIL

I think it's going to happen. Maybe not this year but likely quite early in 2012, I will join the ranks of the MAMIL's! (Middle Aged Men In Lycra). Gasp, Shock, Horror!!

The Blackpool cycle was the turning point. There are three reasons. 1. I now know I can hold my own with many club roadies out there, 2. I had a great time cycling in a group, and 3. I want to get under 4 hrs for the Blackpool cycle next year. 

The only place I can ride with lots of cyclists on a regular basis is by joining a local cycling club for weekend runs and also entering organised rides and that means a road bike. If I am going to increase my average mph I also need a lighter bike. A nice carbon bike is therefore required/justified and that means lycra to match it. No team colours though. I draw the line at that!

I have set myself a target before I make the leap though. My fitness has increased incredibly since I started cycling but my weight loss has become static over the last few months. I have decided I must lose 15 kg before I can treat myself. That will be 1 kg for every £100.00 I am willing to spend on the bike. This is the bargain I have made with the missus.

Now can I lose the 15 kg by Christmas? I've done 2 kg already this week but know it will slow down in the coming weeks and months. By going public I hope to motivate myself in the dark seasons ahead. Your support will be appreciated.

What a motivation though. Do you want to see my early possible contenders for a road bike? Going to show you anyway. Any other suggestions more than welcome. Happy cycling everyone.

The Cube Agree GTC Pro
The Boardman Team Carbon

The Felt Z6

Monday, 11 July 2011

Blackpool Cycle Video

Blackpool Cycle Report

A great day cycling the 63 mile Manchester to Blackpool ride, despite the 06.30 hrs start.

Two of my five colleagues didn't turn up on time and so started later. I set of with three + one guy we all know who is a roadie. He planned to "take it easy" as he was cycling there and back so he left us behind very quickly (he did the 126 mile trip in just over 6 hrs!). We four soon found our own paces and split up, meeting at regular intervals along the way. We lost one but knew he was meeting his brother on the ride so felt we could push on. 

The two I completed the trip with had never done more than 10 miles before and both were on less than ideal bikes. We got into the pattern I would go ahead for 8-10 miles and then wait for them to catch up 45 mins or so later. They tended to be within a few minutes of each other as they would meet on any incline where they would get off and push. They both kept apologising for holding me up but it was my suggestion we do the ride, so stopping for them and offering some words of encouragement was the least I could do. Anyway, I was having a great time watching the thousands of people of all sorts on abilities go past and when I cycled ahead had a brilliant time overtaking some guys on nice racing bikes and holding my own with several others. I could hear the exclamations and exertion to catch up as I went past on my pannier laden tourer!

We got heavily rained on once which was not too bad except for the fact some motorists were trying to muscle into the throng of cyclists and heavy rain + lots of cyclists + impatient motorists = a dangerous mix. Luckily no accidents from this I was aware of but I did see two roadies come off on the wet and heard of a cyclist whose back pack strap dangled into the rear wheel causing her to come off badly losing skin almost down to the bone - ouch! The rest of the weather was very pleasant, mainly overcast with a slight breeze.

The guy we lost early on finished OK, the two who started late crossed the line around 18.00 hrs after 10 or so hrs in the saddle and the two I finished with are very sore but happy. We finished around 16.00 hrs making it a 9.5 hrs ride at an total average speed of 6.6 mph. I knew my average moving speed was around 14 mph so I could have done it in under 5 hrs but that was not the point of the ride. I now have several colleagues who are bicycle riders and some more who want to do the next ride and that is a great result. And me? Well I feel fine and am wondering about getting a nice racing bike for next year!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Blackpool Cycle

05.00hrs and just ready to set off to meet several colleagues at Old Trafford for a 60 or so mile sponsored cycle to Blackpool. Most of them have never cycled more than 10 miles and one only got back on a bike for the first time in 14 years last week - at the same time as giving up smoking! What trouble have I got myself in to?