Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Out With The Old, In With The New

Thank you for reading vélovoiceWishing you all the best for 2014!

via Google images

Monday, 30 December 2013

Last of the Year's Sunshine?

Today the wind is howling and the rain beating a relentless tattoo against the windows.

Was yesterday the last sunny bike ride of the year?

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Rides To Remember (2013)

I'm already planning my 2014 rides -- are you?

But right now, I'm enjoying looking back at a few cycling highlights from this past year.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Boxing Day is for...

I used to go for a walk around Christmas Common (a National Trust site) with friends every year on 27th December to "walk off those mince pies". Many fond memories.

Just a few days ago, I said to Adam "let's go up to Dunstable Downs (our local NT site) just after Christmas". Good way to blow away those cobwebs after the relatives have been to visit!

Then I saw this at work -- sorted!

Monday, 16 December 2013

I Am Now... A VeloVixen!

(C) Phil Bingham/VeloVixen Rides

Last Sunday I went on my first VeloVixen Ride -- a road cycling club launched in November for ladies of all riding levels, especially those who have been "left feeling isolated, intimidated or simply bored by existing clubs".

To be honest, I don't feel at all isolated, intimated or bored with my long-standing club, The Fridays, but because we're a night-ride club, we don't do many rides through the winter as it's difficult to ask 60+ people to commit to a ride that may end up cancelled if there's any chance of ice.

Meanwhile, though, I'm keen to keep the legs going round right through the winter as much as I can, so have been looking around for rides on offer by other friendly groups. I've been a big fan and very pleased customer of online retailer VeloVixen (for women cyclists) since I met them at the London Bike Show last January, so was very interested when they announced they were organising road rides for women (via a new Facebook group) catering to differing needs if possible in terms of pace/speed and distance -- with the emphasis on enjoying the ride, making new friends, and always including a good coffee stop!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

I Know What I Like, and I Like What I Know

[Long Post Alert]

As alluded to previously, things have not been Quite Perfect with the drivetrain of my new road bike. So this past weekend, we took a closer look at the gear changing and formulated a plan of what things to try (and in what order) to try and improve it... and I learned a valuable lesson. 

Sometimes the latest kit isn't always better. 
Sometimes it's best to stick with what you know. 
Especially when it works. 

In fairness, I did set out on this Build My Dream Bike journey with the right instincts. My priority was to get absolutely the right frame and to spare no expense on the fork and headset. Everything else, I figured, could be sorted out later. And that is indeed true. 

Unfortunately, after barely more than a month, I have had to admit to making a few mistakes on the drivetrain (gearing) setup. I seem to have got a little distracted and thought "yeah, whatever..." on a few things, letting my trust and confidence in people advising me (which was not misplaced, I do assure you) quell any promptings from my inner Princess (you know, the one with the Pea Problem). I simply didn't pay enough attention to join up the dots of what people were telling me with what I knew from my own experience.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

In A Fog

Over the past few days, I haven't heard anyone with a single positive thing to say about cycling around in the thick fog we've been having.

Safety issues aside, I love it -- the world is calm and peaceful and somewhat mysterious.

And then... on your way home... if you're lucky... as I was yesterday... this might happen: 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Isle of Wight Holiday - Of Beaches, Blossoms and Birds (Day 6)

-- More adventures on the Isle of Wight in August --

On the Thursday, we decided to have another local "rest" day, this time without even taking our bikes. 

We walked down the steep hill to Bonchurch. 

Cuttings through rock: one for the street, one for the old footpath. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

Double The Gears!

Unfortunately, my experiences with the brake levers were not entirely successful. I like to ride on the hoods, which wasn't the fashion back in the days of so-called non-aero levers. They're just not comfortable on the hands or wrists over a period of time. They had to go.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Siobhan's St Albans Ranger Ride

Yesterday, we cycled down to St Albans to go on a group ride organised by Siobhan, our local area volunteers co-ordinator, for Sustrans volunteer Rangers in that area. Since the Alban Way is one of the main routes for which they are responsible, it was nice to use that as the core part of our ride.

The Alban Way is a shared use (walking and cycling) path that runs along the old railway line between St Albans and Hatfield. There are a number of such routes in our area.

It's always interesting to me to see old abandoned platforms in various states of disrepair.

Monday, 2 December 2013

From Horse Manure to Urban Cycling Style -- A Day of Two Halves

Too much horse manure on country roads has caused a row to erupt at a Cotswold parish council

For last Sunday afternoon, we had tickets to the SPIN x LCF Xmas Fayre in Shoreditch. Meanwhile, though, Adam has two upcoming rides that he really needed to reccie.

So we left home about 10.30 in the morning and made our way to Luton Airport Parkway rail station to pick up the start of Adam's 15th December ride. This runs down the Upper Lea Valley part of NCN6, from Luton to Harpenden, entirely off-road. The plan is to stop for coffee, or even lunch if people desire, at the Amber Inn, situated next to one of the exit points of the cycle route. Then the group will ride back to Luton.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Public Art II: Grove House Gardens

A few weeks ago I kicked off a new series of posts featuring items of public art in the Luton & Dunstable area. The first post introduced a few sculptures from the Busway and from Stockwood Park. Today, I'd like to show you two distinctly different styles of sculpture, all within Dunstable's Grove House Gardens

Wooden Animals

While the wooden animals in Luton's Stockwood Park are somewhat fanciful, those in Grove House Gardens aim to be more realistic.

At one end of one of the three main paths across the centre of the Gardens sits a majestic golden eagle. He doesn't face the path directly.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Winter Closes In... Time For An Indoor Trainer?

Photograph: Getty Images via The Guardian

Today I should have gone to Pilates. Local bus services to the nearest town with a proper Stott Pilates studio are rubbish, so I cycle instead:  6 miles there and 6 miles back.

I woke up this morning feeling a bit under the weather. Literally not just metaphorically as it happens, but more on that in a moment. I stumbled bleary-eyed downstairs in time to see Adam off to work but then crawled back into bed and slept another two hours.

Cue an hour sitting on the sofa with a sleeping cat on my lap, watching the rain falling steadily on our backyard patio. Hmmm. The idea of getting up and suiting up for a really wet cycle ride just didn't appeal.

.... Then the rain changed to sleet. The noise against the patio doors was incredible.

Then the noise stopped. I looked out again.... only to see big fat sloppy sloshy snowflakes falling amidst the rain drops. No chance of it settling (or 'sticking' as we say back where I come from) but the trees were swaying in a moderate breeze (~10mph).

Cycling outdoors lost whatever appeal it had remaining.

I logged onto Facebook. The first thing my eyes landed on was a friend's comment that it was time to get out the turbo.

Hmmm, turbo. 

Monday, 18 November 2013

Custom Enigma Etape Update: Final Set-Up

I think the fit set-up is now pretty much final: 

10mm set-back seatpost has been fitted to accommodate the "sitting further back" effects of the... 

This is a new saddle I've been riding since July, which has completely resolved the intermittent-torture-sessions experienced with previous saddles.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Things I Learned Today

Photograph:  (C) T. Pettinger 2009

1.  When the BBC says the day will be bright, sunny but cold but the Met Office says it'll be foggy and misty... they may both be right.

2. A cycling outfit chosen for dry, cold weather can also prove effective in damp, not-so-cold weather. As long as it's not actually raining.

3. There's a first time for everything. Chapeau to Michele for completing 28 miles on a brand new road bike - the first time with clipless pedals!

4. Smiling through mishaps wins respect. I witnessed three falls today, yet Michele's smile never wavered.

5. Practice does make perfect. I remember my first clipless moment vividly (in the middle of the junction, London Bridge and Tooley Street).  And the latest series of crashes in August upon switching from MTB pedals to road pedals.

6. Never leave home without bright lights.

7. Never leave home without a camera. (Or you may have to run a Google search for images of cyclists in fog! Apologies and thanks to T. Pettinger, whose image is featured above.)

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Coffeeneuring Challenge: Ride 4

Destination: The Gary Cooper, Grove Park, Court Drive, Dunstable, Bedfordshire LU5 4GP
Date: Sunday, 10 November 2013
Hot drink of choice: Tea
Total mileage: 35.5km

Ride details/report:

The local cycling group has been working hard the past few months to develop a programme of led group rides suitable for beginners and returning cyclists. The first series was held the last two weekends of September, on both the Saturday and Sunday. The route was almost entirely traffic-free (what is called "off road" in the UK), totaling about 7 miles along part of the new Busway and returning along part of the local section of National Cycle Network 6. We've had more interest than we expected! The first two weekends, we had more Forumites than new cyclists, but the fourth and final day saw several returning from previous rides, with a ratio of 5 new cyclists to 4 Forumites. 

Friday, 8 November 2013

Public Art

"Art" is not exactly what comes to mind in connection with the Luton and Dunstable area! However, on my various cycle rambles round the area, I've come across a few examples. The two I'm sharing today, I would never have discovered if not on my bike. I am hoping more local cycling will reveal even more.


There is a series of sculptures along the busway in Dunstable and Houghton Regis, commissioned by Central Bedfordshire Council. The artist is Peter Morehouse.

This particular installation is at the northern end of the guided portion of the Busway, at the end of Blackburn Road just north of the Portland Ride stop.

Monday, 4 November 2013

This Is What I Do

Advance Notice.  We started the 4-day project with 5 of these signs.
By the time we packed up at the end of Day 4, we only had 2 left
due to theft and vandalism.
In my Coffeeneuring #3 post, I described a current work project: 

[This involves] counting everyone using one of our local National Cycling Network routes. Our survey point is situated where the cycling route intersects with a footpath between a housing estate and the town's main park, which borders the main downtown shopping route. It's an extremely popular walking route. We are counting everyone using both the footpath and the cycling route at this junction, and recording each user according to gender, age bracket, mode of transport and destination (as they leave the crossroads). Additionally, we are conducting random interviews with users, asking where their current journey started and where it will end, the purpose of their journey, whether it involves another mode of transport (e.g. car, bus, train) and finally, whether they could have used a car but didn't and if so, why they didn't, in particular teasing out any reasons why they may have actively chosen not to use the car in favour of walking or cycling instead. 

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Gratuitous Bike Porn!

I've had another go at taking a photograph of the new Etape that hopefully shows the current position of the handlebars and brake hoods - also the bike's shape and geometry generally. There is still a zero-setback seatpost to be fitted, but otherwise this is feeling really comfortable.

Thanks to Dave of the Yurtville blog for passing on some very useful bike-photography tips!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

At the Mercy of the Wind

Having posted a 'backup' coffeeneuring post yesterday, I looked out the windows this morning and thought "Hmmm, looks bit breezy but at least the sun is shining, I'll give it a go. Maybe it's time for a Coffee Shop Without Walls coffeeneuring ride?"  I decided I'd just pop out to the new portrait bench on the Upper Lea Valley portion of NCN6 - only about 5 miles round trip but it'd be a lovely spot for a hot drink and a few photos.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Coffeeneuring Challenge: Ride 3

Destination: The Gary Cooper, Grove Park, Court Drive, Dunstable, Bedfordshire LU5 4GP
Date: Saturday, 26 October 2013
Hot drink of choice: Cappuccino
Total mileage: 15km (including my commute)

Ride details/report:

Heads up, this ride may not qualify, as it was on a working day. However, as the country is facing a severe "superstorm" warning tomorrow and Monday (my normal "weekend") and the winds are already picking up, I am almost certainly not venturing out on a bike in the next two days. I therefore respectfully request a substitution day this week. Of course, if this "superstorm" turns out to be a damp squib, then I'll be out on my bike and more than happy to submit another ride as a conventionally qualifying one in place of this.

Isle of Wight Holiday - Of Roman Villas, Aeroplanes and Windmills (Day 5)

-- More adventures on the Isle of Wight in August --

Day 5 dawned clear and sunny (again) with the promise of being a bit of a scorcher. We prepared to leave the house for another glorious day on our bikes. While wheeling my bike from the living room to the front door, I noticed the front brake block rubbing on the wheel.... turns out my little clipless moment had buckled the wheel! (As well as damaging the rear mech - something I didn't discover until a few days later when I really needed that 34x36 gear!)

Thankfully, Adam was able to re-true the wheel. The alternative would have been to take the bike to a bike shop by car.

We set off through Shanklin and Lake, where we turned off and picked up part of the Round the Isle route as far as Brading. Our destination: the Roman Villa.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Titanium #2: Finally! A Test Ride

This post is the next in my series about my journey to having a custom bike built. It covers my first visit to Enigma on 30 July 2013, which was while I was still in negotiations with Cyclefit/Seven.

In July, I began going through the design > order > build process at Cyclefit with a view to buying a custom Seven Axiom S frame. However, I was pursuing that avenue essentially on the basis of Seven's incredible reputation for quality workmanship. There was no possibility of test riding a Seven anywhere. Having not seen one of their bikes in the flesh, I suppose it was a form of blind faith.

However, I hadn't given up altogether on the idea of a test ride of a titanium bike -- any titanium bike. As the weeks went by (and with some frustration with the Cyclefit/Seven process beginning to creep in), I set out to contact a few UK manufacturers of titanium bikes (whether stock or custom), to see if I couldn't at least have a little ride on one of their bikes, to see for myself what titanium feels like to ride.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Coffeeneuring Challenge: Ride 2

Destination: The Blueberry Cafe @ Breathing Space, 2a Thompson Close, Harpenden, Hertfordshire AL5 4ES
Date: Monday, 21 October 2013
Hot drink of choice: Cappuccino
Total miles: 20 km

Today I did a bit of fettling on my new bike and of course had to take her for a spin just to see how things are working. Answer? Brilliantly!

The Blueberry Cafe serve the most delicious coffee. The cafe is part of the private fitness centre where I do Pilates. My job has kept me so busy, I haven't been to a class in nearly three months! Something that will be rectified soon. In the meantime, I've really been missing the cappuccino....

Good Advice on Solving Fit Issues with a Custom Bike

(c) John Weirath, PT http://www.bicyclestudiogj.com/

A call-out to one of my favourite bloggers:  Bike and Body in Grand Junction, Colorado, U.S.A.

The writer is both an experienced fitter and a qualified physiotherapist. I have particularly enjoyed and benefited from his thoughts on Women's Specific Design (key posts here and here) but the entire blog is worth a browse - tons of insightful, detailed yet clear and concise information and advice on performance training, correct bike fitting, physiology and ways to identify and address common problems like knee pain, neck/shoulder pain, also bike reviews, ride reports... and how to approach having a custom frame designed and built up!

This post yesterday chimes exactly with what my own experience has been, both in terms of fit problems and appropriate solutions, resulting in a new bike completely customised for me. I'd love to have had this particular post as a reference at the beginning of my custom-build experience but perhaps it's just as well I didn't, in case I took it too prescriptively. Nonetheless, as it happens, I've done almost exactly what he did here for one of his clients with very similar issues.... except that the custom bike for her turned out to be a Seven after all. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

A Tour and An Introduction

Yesterday, I travelled down to East Sussex to collect my new bike.

Enigma are open only 9am-12.30pm on Saturdays and not all the staff come in that day, but it seemed the only day that Adam would be available to come with me, so I decided not to wait until Monday as originally planned. As it happens, Adam did the Friday Night Ride to the Coast to Whitstable in Kent, then took a series of trains to get to Enigma, arriving at 12.15pm!

As for me, I left home at 6.50am (by taxi as there are no buses from our village that early) and arrived at Polegate station at 9.30am. Paul Smith, the new head of sales who did my fitting and who has been overseeing my build and keeping me updated over the past 2-1/2 months, met me at the station to drive me to the factory.

It was kind of a funny arrival. Paul said "I know you're wanting to see your bike" but took me around the factory on our way up to where it was on the showroom floor. Along the way, he gave me a little tour of all the stages a bike goes through during its construction. While at first I thought "why are we not going straight to my bike?", I quickly began to appreciate that the tour was a form of introduction, building a little suspense but also "preparing" me for what I was going to see when we got there. It was absolutely fascinating to see bikes at every stage and I am very glad Paul took the time to explain each step. That kind of background "briefing" was a great little journey towards meeting my new made-for-me bike.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Tomorrow's the Big Day!

And at 4.30pm - it is now DONE. Or as done as it can be til I go down tomorrow to collect it, taking pedals and saddle. They'll then cut the steerer tube and wrap the handlebars. And I will then pootle off down the nearest Sustrans cycle path.

Gosh. I am very excited, in a stunned had-the-wind-knocked-out-of-me sort of way.

Spoiler Alert!

3pm today - it's very nearly done.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Post Bike Fitting: A Custom Bike? My first serious look at Titanium

Titanium framebuilding (via Google image search - probably a Moots frame)

In conjunction with my bike fitting at Cyclefit in early July, I initiated conversations with Julian Wall about having a full custom frame built. By this time, my investigations into carbon had come to a dead end, so my interest was now focused entirely on titanium as the frame material for any bike I might have built.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Isle of Wight Holiday - The Needles (Day 4)

Back to the series of posts about our cycling holiday -

On the Tuesday (27 August to clarify - a lifetime ago now!), we put the bikes away and set off in Liam's car to see the famous Needles at the far western tip of the Isle.

Thatched house - not at all unusual on the Isle of Wight

Monday, 14 October 2013

Coffeeneuring Challenge: Ride 1

Destination: Markyate Village Cafe, 71/73 High Street, Markyate, Hertfordshire AL3 8PJ
Date: Monday, 14 October 2013
Hot drink of choice: Cappuccino
Ride details/report: below, with photos
Total mileage: 14.92 km


"Coffeeneuring" is the term given to a series of challenges set over the past few years by Mary G at Chasing Mailboxes in Washington, D.C. The basic premise is to ride your bike out somewhere to drink coffee. For most people this will be a leisurely ride, perhaps also social if they go with a friend or three! The "fun" though is in documenting your rides in accordance with The Rules and then submitting them for validation in typical French style. The Third Annual Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge is currently running, with a full complement of 19 rules.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Full Bike Fitting #1: Start from the ground (and work your way up)

You may recall my frustrations back in the spring over the various problems causing me to bail out on longer rides. The excruciating saddle-area pain that kicked in just a few miles into Adam's 'unofficial Dunwich Dynamo' ride back in June was the (literal) kick in the butt I needed to send me back to the fitter to get to the bottom of what may have been causing all my problems. (Sorry about the puns. No, sorry, I'm not sorry.)

The problems weren't just from saddles. I was also having bouts of hand and wrist pain, including sharp shooting pains when I would lift my hands to shift them from one position on the handlebars to another, the 'trigger' being the easing of pressure, the pain being something like hitting the funny bone in your elbow. Except not at all funny.

And there were my everlasting blasted knees.

Monday, 7 October 2013

To Cut A Long Story Short...

I've been working on a series of posts about my bike fitting experiences and journey towards getting a custom-build bike. Included were experiments with new shoes and pedals and a dramatically different saddle. Also up for your perusal were insights I've gained during consultations and interviews with fitters, upmarket bike shops and framebuilders. A lot of those posts -- if not all -- are still in the pipeline and will see the light of day soon, as I do think I have some things to share that some (particularly any women with fit/pain issues) may find thought provoking if not definitely useless.

Meanwhile. After a nearly 3 month long wait, photos are coming in from the company I decided to go with, to build my custom frame and build it up into a complete bike. The company is Enigma Titanium in Hailsham, East Sussex.

Yes, this is a spoiler but I am too excited not to share IMMEDIATELY.

This is Max mitering the tubes.
In the background at the right is Joe, who will weld the tubes together...
before sending over to Jaco who will do magic with the finish!

Anyone curious about the details of my build, you can see most of the components on my Pinterest board.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Isle of Wight Holiday - The Light to the South (Day 3)

My first visit to the Isle of Wight was over the May Bank Holiday Weekend of 2011. I arrived on the Friday (the day of the Royal Wedding - in fact, I nearly missed my train in my delay turning off the television - well, I had to see the dress, didn't I?) and left on Monday. On the Sunday, I attempted the Round the Isle Randonnee, but I bailed due to (a) being tired from my cycling wanderings the day before, and (b) fear in the face of "mountains".

The wanderings the day before the Randonnee had led to my "discovery" of St Catherine's Point. It was so beautiful, it was high on my list of places to see again on our summer holiday this year. 

So after settling in on the Sunday, on Monday we set off from Bonchurch headed south. Whizzing high above Ventnor and through the forests until we broke out into the sunshine: 

St Catherine's Lighthouse

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Isle of Wight Holiday - Arrival and Settling In (Days 1-2)

We enjoyed our weekend on the Isle of Wight in May so much that we decided to go back again for our summer holiday. We booked a house for one week, in Bonchurch near Ventnor. Adam and I travelled down by bicycle and train, while Adam's adult daughter Amiiee and her boyfriend Liam came down by car - with the bulk of our luggage!

We arrived mid-afternoon on Saturday and set about settling in.

Monday, 9 September 2013

The 100 Mile SMILE Ride (8 Sept 2013)

A few pics from yesterday's event. Adam and I went to the Hub for a group "off" at 8am. We cycled to Bedford, where we then caught the train to Leagrave, from which we had a straight dash (punctuated by a puncture) home. 75km for us.

(c) Alvina Farrow/Travel Choices

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The 100 Mile SMILE Ride

I've been just a bit preoccupied the past few weeks planning this:

Not sure if this is work or play. Both really.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Sartorial Identity Crisis?

Sorry for the radio silence in the past few weeks - I've been working, cycling, bike fitting, new gear testing and continuing to investigate the world of custom bikes, all of which are grist to my mill and will feature here shortly.

Meanwhile, it occurred to me today that my jersey wardrobe has Jekyll & Hyde characteristics.

On the one hand, there are the classy merino jerseys by Vulpine, Ibex and Smartwool, which, to be honest are what I wear most often -

But then there are the 'novelty' jerseys, for which I have no credible excuse -

Any other ladies out there want to confess about their lycra?

Sunday, 7 July 2013

CYCLING LOG: 1-7 July 2013

Not a very exciting week this week -- 95.51 fairly routine kilometres. The exciting stuff all kicks off tomorrow!

Sun, Jul 7, 2013 - 9.10 km 
9.10 km in 00:32:02 hours at 17.04 km/h on Surly Cross Check.
Home to Aldi (Hatters Lane) for the cycling sale; then back home - conquered the mountain up Chaul End Road for the first time! end odo 1404.9
Sat, Jul 6, 2013 - 19.55 km
19.55 km in 01:18:38 hours at 14.92 km/h on Surly Cross Check.
Home to Creasey Park football grounds, then to the Hub, then to Lark Rise school, then home. end odo 1395.8.
Fri, Jul 5, 2013 - 13.48 km
13.48 km in 00:46:13 hours at 17.50 km/h on Surly Cross Check.
Home to the Hub and back. end odo 1376.2
Thu, Jul 4, 2013 - 13.70 km
13.70 km in 00:47:23 hours at 17.35 km/h on Surly Cross Check.
Home to the Hub and back. end odo 1362.7
Wed, Jul 3, 2013 - 19.66 km 
19.66 km in 01:28:06 hours at 13.39 km/h on Surly Cross Check.
Home to the Hub, then round Dunstable doing the cycle parking audit, then home. end odo 1349.0
Mon, Jul 1, 2013 - 20.02 km
20.02 km in 01:09:45 hours at 17.22 km/h on Surly Pacer.
Home to Harpenden for a full-body sports massage - bliss! Was so relaxed, couldn't work up much speed on the return journey. end odo 3282.8

Share This