Sunday, 18 May 2014

#ScotTour - 10 Days of Scottish Heaven

Here is our revised itinerary, now leaving Thursday morning instead of Tuesday night.

Day 0: all day on the train: Luton > London > Glasgow > Mallaig

Day 1: Mallaig to Elgol

Friday, 16 May 2014

Bespoked Goes Back to Bristol in 2015

The organisers of the Bespoked UK Handmade Bike Show (see here for my review of the 2014 event) have just announced the dates for next year:

And... as you can see... the event is moving back to Bristol.

I have mixed feelings about this. Okay, mostly negative through a positively selfish lens.

Yes, it's nice that it might again be a more intimate event.
But wasn't the Lee Valley VeloPark pretty darn amazing??

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

#ScotTourTrain - Lessons Learned

(C) Stephen Bowler *

1.   Being "fit enough to ride" is about the state of my mind, not the state of my body. 

2.   I must not pre-judge how my body will feel over the course of a long cycle ride. How I feel when I wake up is not the same way I will feel when I walk out the door.... or when I get on the bike... or several hours in... or when I get off... or when I fall asleep in utter exhaustion... or -- perhaps crucially -- whether I'll wake up feeling ready to repeat it all over again. 

3.   So often I feel pain and think "if I keep cycling, I'll make it worse"...  I won't. It won't. Keep going. Don't look for trouble. 

4.   In practical terms?  I've been working on muscle control awareness. Knee tracking is always an issue but I'm practicing conscious control of the interplay and exchanges between different muscle groups as my pedals move my legs around in endless circles. Key to this has been reminding myself to point my toes straight ahead. And work those glutes! And for the left leg, more glute medes.

Am I ready?  Getting close. Will I be "fit enough" on departure day? Yes, I will.

*Photo re-published under license

Monday, 12 May 2014

#ScotTour - What To Take?!

Photo via Google

At the beginning of April, there was some doubt that we'd be able to go through with our planned cycling holiday in Scotland, with me not having an income. So I haven't talked about it in recent weeks. Then quite out of the blue came a job opportunity (just a little different to what I had been looking for) -- and it's now Game On!

In the dark winter months I read a number of online articles and blog posts about what experienced cyclotourers recommend taking on tour. What you take -- and don't take -- can be the difference between completing an enjoyable journey and cutting a miserable one short due to lack of crucial equipment or supplies.

With our itinerary, we'll be on the isle of Skye on all except the last two days. (Oops, I see I haven't posted the latest itinerary - will do that shortly!)

Yes, there are a number of villages but they are quite small and with minimal facilities -- perhaps a small store. Moreover, they are separated by rugged countryside where anything could happen and leave a rider stranded a long walk away from the nearest settlement -- which may not be able to provide what's needed. We'll be based in Portree, the only real town, for four days but for the most part we'll be off each day exploring much more remote areas.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

So Far, So Good

As I complete three weeks in my new job in central London, Liesl has completed one week in hers.

The verdict: pretty darn near perfect*. A few rattles from the chaincase (hers, not mine) but otherwise silky smooth and not too heavy. Cruising in third gear, she really moves!

On Thursday, Itsu (the sushi restaurant chain) "saddle cover bombed" all the bikes parked on Charlotte Street to publicise the opening of their new restaurant nearby.

My favourite saddle cover has nearly disintegrated and it's been a gruesomely wet week, so -- even while I maintain my boycott of Itsu due to their sexist advertising -- I'll go ahead and use their new, fairly waterproof, cheery yellow cover. For now.

Friday night and another week over:
Liesl's weekend home at St Pancras International Station. 

 And yes, she still has her bell!

* And I'm loving my new job too. 

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

London Town Bike Attempt #3: Meet Liesl

With Lucy the Brompton too heavy for trains and too valuable to lock up and Swoopy 'fessing up to a collision history, the job as London Town Bike was vacant again.

Meet Liesl. You may already "know" her if you've looked at the My Bicycle Stable page at the top of the righthand side bar. On the other hand, you don't know her at all.

And neither do I. I've never ridden her before.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Swoopy Is Dead. Long Live Swoopy.

I am sad to announce that Swoopy -- after just a week of life -- is no more.

Swoopy outside St Pancras station

Through a week of commuting, I struggled to figure out why and how Swoopy kept throwing her rear wheel askew, hard into the lefthand chainstay. Nothing we tried made the wheel axle stay in place in the drop out.

Swoopy's wheel strops were sudden and seemingly unprovoked. One minute, we were gliding along, the next we would come to an abrupt wheel-locked halt, with the rear wheel hard fast against the chainstay. Time after time, I loosened off the wheel nuts, re-centred the wheel and re-tightened -- only for it to happen again. Tantalizingly, not immediately -- usually the next day.

We experimented with the position of the axle in the drop-outs. We changed which cog in the cassette the chain ran on and slid the axle hard against the back of the dropouts. No difference... except to add fender rub to the equation.

Then Thursday morning, standing in the shadow of Birkbeck College on Malet Street -- in the rain -- I re-centered the rear wheel yet again and then noticed that the axle was positioned very slightly differently in each rear drop-out. Hmmmm. Had one rear triangle been bent? In other words, had Swoopy been in a crash somewhere in her dark mysterious past?

I got home that evening and told Adam what I'd spotted and my suppositions. He was doubtful -- there had to be another "more likely" i.e. "possible to fix" explanation.

However, Friday came and went with the same problems so I rode her to St Pancras and instead of locking her up for the weekend, rolled her onto the train to Luton, where I bundled her into a taxi and brought her home.

After a thorough investigation, Adam came into the house and announced "you're right; she's bent".

We tossed around a few ideas to change the build in ways that might compensate for the discrepancies in the two rear triangles, but the most obvious is the one that we won't have an opportunity to do in the foreseeable future: build her up a set of singlespeed wheels. And even then, there might still be problems.

So.......... that's the end of Swoopy's brief but glorious life as a London town bike. All a bit sad but at least I'm glad the problem has been diagnosed, as life was a bit bumpy and I just couldn't trust her and that made me sad too.

Post-script added 10 May:

Adam just read this post and said (with some surprise and even indignation): "Swoopy's not DEAD! She's just gone back into hibernation after being woken briefly from a deep slumber."

A nice way to look at it. She'll wake again one day.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Nostalgia: A Day Trip to the Seaside

Yesterday, we and five other members of The Fridays cycled from south London to Brighton to eat fish and chips on the beach. But we had company -- unusual company.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Swoopy Comes In To Land

I've had an old Puch loop-frame mixte frame banging around in the garage several years. I bought it on Ebay. I didn't have any firm plan of how I might build it up into a complete bike. I suspect I bought it on the rebound... feeling some regret that I had resisted the temptation to "liberate" just such a frame (shown above, with more photos here) on my morning commute over the course of one summer.

I then made a serious attempt to pick up this immaculate and original Motobecane mixte on ebay, but gave it up when bidding reached £200.

Then a Puch frame appeared on Ebay, listed by an older chap down on the south coast who commutes into London by Brompton every day. He slung the frame over his shoulder one morning and brought it into town to hand over to me after work in Waterloo station.  Included were the original stem, headset, bottom bracket, brakes (without full cables) and seat post. 

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