Search This Blog

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

I can't quite put my finger on it...

I managed to squeeze a 300km Audax in the last weekend of Summer before heading back to work. As I rolled in late at night all I had done to keep warm was put on a windproof.

Over the course of the next week's commuting it was like the Summer was flicked off like a switch and it had got COLD. Ok, not arctic but Summer gloves no longer cut it.

After the demise of my Polaris windproof gloves I was left with Summer vented gloves or chunky winter ones. Looking for a happy medium I heard about the Roubaix gloves which seemed to fit the bill and only £16 delivered.

Roubaix of course means fleece-backed lycra and the white stripes are in silicone rubber else there'd be a shortage of grip. The other feature that sold them to me is the longer cuff, gaps between jackets and gloves are a pet hate of mine! 

They got their first run out today and of course there was an upturn in the temperature but first impressions are good and the silicone pattern provides plenty of grip on the brake levers.

I'll report back once they've seen a bit more action!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

My Tour Divide 2016 (Yeah, I know what a slacker...)

Oh man, the Tour Divide. What a ride, a dream come true, taking part in the legend and all that. I had great plans to write up my experiences and a couple of technical cock-ups put paid to a detailed account. 12 months on I still have my notes here sat gathering dust so I'll commit them to a blog, they'll be disjointed but what the heck.

T-7 Friday 3rd June 2016
Flew West-Jet into Calgary, the original plane was grounded so I arrived via stand-ins Omni, could have put me onto a Dakota with a folding chair and I'd have been happy. I'm off to Canada baby! :)
Airport to Motel transfer

It was to be the last flight for my trusty Salsa Fargo cardboard box as I dumped it without ceremony in a Calgary Motel dumpster. Popped into MEC to buy bearspray and endured the obligatory training and signed the waiver. Can't remember if it was to say that I wouldn't spray humans with it or I wouldn't sue if I got eaten by a bear.

Bears weigh heavy on my mind as I pop into Tim Horton's for a coffee and snack...a bear claw.
A bear claw, to feed my body and my paranoia
T-6 Saturday 4th June 2016
Ah, a 5.30 am start and time to put the bike together and breakfast at 7am. Iced water in my bottles and off we go up the 1A towards Banff.
Leaving Calgary is a right faff, the bike paths don't follow the 1A so I say sod it and join the freeway and hug the shoulder. It's now Smokey Bears I expect to run into as surely I shouldn't be riding my bike up here....
Road's calmed down a bit
To relieve the boredom of the freeway I divert into the the Glenbow Lake park and crucnch some gravel to Cochrane via Glen Eagles (Yes, with it's own golf course). The Garmin craps out in Cochrane after I've ridden about 26 miles, Lord no, please don't let this be the theme for the next three weeks!

Stopped at one of the oldest churches in Canada for a bit of shade and to take a few snaps. Getting a real Little House on the Prairie vibe.

It's 80 miles from Calgary to Banff and the emptiness of Canada is soon driven home, past Cochrane I find one Gas Station to buy snacks before arriving in Canmore. It's also a quick lesson in North American cuisine, bigger is better and there's no such thing as too much of a good thing.
90% Mystery meat sandwich
I decided that Canmore would be my base before the TD kick-off, if for no other reason that it was waaaay cheaper than staying in Banff. I find myself a reasonably cheap cabin to lodge in and enjoy the strolls into town playing gopher spotting.
As common as pigeons on a UK high street

Everyone loves ice cream
As suggested by Gabes I seek out some Poutine. Chips, gravy, cheese and bacon, what's not to like?!

T-5 Sunday 5th June 2016
Starbucks has become my Canmore eatery of choice. The staff seem baffled by my request for a pain au chocolat and insist it's a chocolate croissant. Whatev's, the wifi is much better here than in McDonalds.
Poutine from Wendy's-very authentic I expect
T-4 6th June 2016
I move from downtown Canmore into Harvie Heights, even by cabin standards it's rustic. Still it's got a big TV and a variety of terrible TV channels to keep me amused.
As the weather looked good I decided that I ought to hit some gentle trails, enough to be fun but not so much that I break myself or the bike before the Grand Depart.

The ride up to Goat Creek was dusty as hell, I ask a chap for directions and it turns out he's from Halesworth, crazy huh. We ride into Banff together and I tell him about how Suffolk has evolved since he emigrated.

T-3/T-2 7th and 8th June 2016
Mainly mooched about town and enjoyed the river walk in Canmore.

So goodbye Canmore, next stop Banff and TD butterflies!

Arkose and Audaxing

If you've made it through my previous blogs you'll see that I've A) got a new bike that doesn't quite set my heart racing and B) given up on short circuit XC riding.

I can't remember what got me interested in Audax riding but the appeal was obvious, long rides, cheap entry fees and no doing short laps....

The Arkose by now has transformed from a reluctant purchase into the bike I enjoy riding most. I don't feel like I'm ruining it like I do my "nice" road bike and it makes my Fargo very sluggish.
With two wheelsets, one with Nano 40cs and the other with Panracer Gravel King 32c slicks it's 90% as good as anything you'll need here in Suffolk.

So, with a pair of Crudracer Mk3 mudguards fitted I pressed the Arkose into service in January at my first ever Audax, The New Year QE2 100k starting from Swaffham.
The all important Brevet card
For those unfamiliar with Audax events the long of short of it is that you ride a set route in a given time and use a Brevet card to record evidence you have visited a series of controls. What could be better, a bike ride where you collect stickers!?

Langham Dome, a resored WW2 Anti-Aircraft gunner training site

Since then I've ridden the Norfolk Special 200, the National 400 and the biggie, London-Edinburgh-London a 1440k ride with a 117 hr limit, that deserves a blog all of its own...

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Jumping on the Gravel Bandwagon

I'll be the first to admit I love a good niche. Fatbikes, yep had a few. Plus bikes, yep, had one. Alt-bars, yeah, use those, and so on. Gravel bikes (All-road, Adventure-road, etc) are currently all the rage, so there was little chance I was going to let this one go by...

I'd managed to resist buying a Gravel bike, mainly as the focus of a my attention (and wallet!) for the last 12 months had been the Tour Divide. My first Gravel event was the inaugural Dirty Reiver: DR200 #notarace which was a good opportunity to try out my TD bike on a decent length ride in some hills. The next time around I swore I'd be on a 700 x 40c rather than 700 x 65c bike!

An opportunity arose when my team mate James decided to treat himself to a new Specialized Sequoia which at the time was putting the various media channels into a frenzy which meant his trusty Arkose 4 was up for grabs.

I'll be the first to admit I had trouble getting excited about the Arkose, the general picture painted online was of it being competent, steady, reliable, you know, just a bit.....boring. Still, it seemed a good deal and the 105 Hydro groupset might lend itself to a transplant onto a more exciting frame later on.

Our first ride out together was 100k around Cambridgeshire on a mixed-route devised by James and I was hooked.

Arkose and it's replacement having a Coffee break

James had seen my pretty pictures from the DR200 and we're always looking for an excuse to pack the van and go somewhere new so we decided that the Gravel Rocks DR200 training weekend would be worth an outing.

The Arkose with the Sequoia that replaced it

Having been held in October 2016 it's too long ago to go into detail but it was a fun packed weekend, the opportunity to ride with Mike Hall, and listen to his excellent talk being all the more poignant now. The scenery and terrain in Kielder Forest having as close an "out there" TD feel as I was going to get in a brief weekend away from Suffolk!
Gravel as far as the eye can see!

The DR200 itself, in the subsequent April was a hard, but rewarding outing. Yeah, it's #notarace but nobody was really hanging about. I must admit to not having put in as much training as I had for the previous year so I was happy being within 20 minutes of my 2016 time. Riding the Arkose on 40c Nanos vs my TD set-up I should have been quicker but hey, that's the price of taking it easy!
Way out there, right?!

Post TD comedown

It's been a long while since I've blogged, but having just finished The London-Edinburgh-London Audax I thought it was time to dust off the old blogspot.

So, turn back the clock a year or so and I'd just finished the Tour Divide, had a thousand photos and crazy stories to tell and.....nothing. I tried typing up my ideas but had trouble motivating myself and after a couple of crashes where all the content was erased I gave up.

The TD  was simply fantastic, nothing to worry about apart from getting on my bike and riding as far as I could each day and therein lies the rub....arriving back in Suffolk to traipse the same old trails when you've been riding a fresh century each day is a bit of a comedown.

Still. there was the Winter XC Series to look forwards too, right? Really, 4 hours of lapping the same 5 miles of forest. No thanks.

So, how do I get motivated to do some longer rides, see new places and reignite that spark? Turn to skinnier tyres!

To be continued...

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Bikes take up more road space than cars......mmkay!

In this tweet @pperrin says :

"Bikes use more road space than cars when moving... << Not plugged this for a while... bikes are waste of road space!"

The link takes you to his blog. To save flicking between them I'll copy it across verbatim and have a look at the points he's made.


Got into tweet exchange with some loony^H^H^H^H^H misguided cyclists over insurance, licencing etc... Got to the usual 'bikes take less space so cause less congestion bit with the usual image...

I'll ignore the above for the time being and look at the theme for this particular blog post, the idea that bikes take up more space than a car.

However this image has always annoyed me as it shows *parked* vehicles, not moving ones. If you are designing a car park, fine, but for road planning it it nonsensical.

So the figures... (from first reliableish looking google search result in each case).

An urban cyclist rides at 10mph, a bike is approximately 6' long, and needs about 13' to brake from 10mph (thinking distance assumed to be the same car/bike so ignored) - and minimum recommended cycle path width is 5' (1.5m) - so at 10mph a bike (carrying a single person) uses 5' by 19' of road space. About 1.5m by 6m

I'll take the braking distance and dimensions for granted but using recommended cycle path width as a metric for a bicycles width is problematic, it assumes that recommendation has A) been followed and B) that a cycle lane exists at all. The widest handlebars that are used on any appreciable number of bicyles would be around 800mm and that's at the extremes of a mountain bike handlebar, for a road/commuter bike 500-600mm is much more common. As with the reaction times ignored by @pperrin I'll ignore the distance from the kerb as both cars and bikes will need to leave some space. I think therefore, it's safe to say that the 5' wide assertion is a bit of an exaggeration.

A small car is about 5' wide and 13' long, at 10mph it needs 4' of breaking distance (thinking distance ignored again as same as for bike, so cancel out). So at 10mph a small car (regardless 1-4 occupants and luggage) uses 5' by 17' of road space. About 1.5m by 5m.

A small car is indeed about 5ft or 1.5m wide if you look at the very smallest cars on sale in the UK. The narrowest being the Citroen C-Zero/Mitsubishi MiEV/Peugeot ion. Hands up if you see one of those daily? The next narrowest car is the Smart ForTwo at about 1.55m wide. That measurement, however, ignores the wing mirrors so unless you plan to clatter into other road users on your travels you'll need to leave a space of 1893mm or just over 6 feet. The smart fortwo of course as the name suggests only carries two passengers and has a tiny boot, so hardly much advantage over a bicycle in that respect, particularly compared to a cargo bike like a Surly Big Dummy. The Smart car does, of course, come in shorter than the 13' quoted above but as we've noted, it doesn't hold four passengers.

So to travel safely a bike uses over 1.5sqM of road more than a car (whether the car is carrying 1 or 4 people!).

I think therefore we can ignore this conclusion. If a bicycle width is measured by the recommended lane width rather than its handlebars (it's actual widest point), then surely we should be measuring a car by the width of the lane that it too inhabits? Or if we are sticking to actual vehicle/bicycle widths then we should make sure that we include the wing mirrors as well. It's clear that the narrowest common car is wider than an uncommonly wide bike and it'll be longer than a bicycle even if it scarifices 50% of it's passenger capacity and luggage space. This whole argument of course also hinges on the fact that the smallest car you could possibly have isn't that much bigger than a bike which ignores the reality of how big the most likely to be used motor vehicle is on Britain's roads. To turn this on its head it's as silly as me saying bikes take up only 5% of the space a Chieftain Main Battle Tank takes up on the road.

In addition a car can reliably and consistently go at a particular speed - right up to the speed limit (or other safe speed) so meaning no passing is required. Whereas a bikes speed depends on the fitness/strength/recovery of the cyclist - so closing up/passing may be frequently needed - causing confusion, stress and conflict.

This is an interesting statement. Have you ever been on a motorway (where bicycles are prohibited and therefore can't be blamed for holding everyone up) and found that no cars, lorries or coaches have ever had to pass each other? Instead they sit in an orderly queue and everyone joins/leaves the carriageway without the slightest change in velocity? Of course you haven't, it's nonsense.

The last sentence also worries me greatly, the concept of driver licencing as being a guarantee of road-user quality is clearly flawed. What is the point of a system whereby it allows someone to drive on the roads and that when they come across a slower vehicle (bicycle, school bus, invalid carriage, tractor, etc) they can be expected to suffer "confusion, stress or conflict". These don't sound like people that should be allowed to pilot vehicles capable of 270mph (as of course, pass a single test in a 60bhp Nissan Micra and you've done enough to be allowed to drive a Bugatti Veyron supercar)
And if a cars are travelling faster, then they are (of course) using the space they occupy for less time... So at 10mph a bike and solo driver may be on par, but in most other circumstance, the car uses less road space than a bike - a quarter with 4 passengers, and half for each additional 10mph of speed.

I suppose this makes almost sense if you are talking about literally the space a vehicle occupies during a snapshot of it's travels but it ignores the practicality of the real world. The car will be taking up much less space at 100mph than it would at 30mph but really as a pedestrian/cyclist/driver what is going to make you hesitate more to join a road from a stationary position, a bicycle coming at you at 10-15mph or a car travelling upwards of 4x that speed? In effect the car is occupying all the space in front of it that it would need for a safe braking distance.

So there you go - bikes need smaller parking areas, but use generally use more road space to get you there later and unfit to do anything once you arrive!

This description of fitness is problematic. I'm assuming that @pperrin means that a bicycle can't shift as many people/bags of stuff. To be able to assert this you'd have to have data on what the average person does when they get where they are going by whichever means of transport they use. I haven't a clue where to find that data and would be interested to know if @pperrin knows either. For every carpenter that needs their large van of tools and equipment, I'm sure there are many more office workers who need to shift nothing larger than their knowledge or a laptop computer around.

**Edit** to put some linkable data in - the highway code breaking distances starts at 20mph, but going with that... And giving the bike figure the benefit of the doubt that it does include thinking distance.

Highway Code (UK government body): The breaking distance for a car at 20mph is 12m/40'
The CycleScheme (a pro-cycling group): The breaking distance for a bike at 20mhp is 18m/60'

(Notwithstanding the fact cars have anti-lock breaks, are regularly MOT tested and are driven by trained/licensed drivers who are required to be alert/sober etc.Whereas a bike has what ever brakes it happens to have, in whatever condition they happen to be in and may be ridden by absolutely anyone).

Notable bias here and a cringing use of breaks instead of brakes. Without wanting to sound pedantic not all cars have ABS brakes, MOT tests only verify the condition of a vehicle once a year and as the SMMT discovered a third of all drivers admit to driving with no MOT

Training/Licencing for the majority of road users means a handful of lessons and one test in your teenage years and then you are free to drive until your dying day. Of course not having a licence doesn't physically stop you driving a vehicle as noted by the Telegraph when it reported 70,000 drivers get points despite not holding a licence, how many more out there just haven't been caught yet? It also ignores the fact that many cyclists, like myself, are also driving licence holders so have the exact same training, and possibly more than many car drivers.

The requirement to be alert/sober is also pretty worthless as an argument, when 20% of road accidents are caused by tiredness and when through drink driving 260 people are killed, 1100 are seriously injured, 8000 become lesser casualties and 70,000 (12%) tested drivers are over the drink drive limit it's clear that making something a requirement doesn't actually make it happen. @pperrin would have us believe that it was some sort of a magic bullet to road using saint hood. Would you prefer to take your chances against a poorly maintained bike or against one of the 70,000+ drink impared drivers bearing down on you in two tonnes of metal?

Monday, 15 August 2016

Tour Divide Day 1

Tour Divide Day 1: 110 miles, 7000+ft ascent and a lot of rain!
Banff to Elkford

This is my third attempt at this bloke, the previous attempts disappeared into the ether and I lost motivation. Apologies for the perfunctory and artless prose but it's this or nothing!

Day 1 started with my usual pessimistic multiple alarms planned that generally prove unnecessary as I wake up in good time anyway. I met up with John (Russell) and Greg (May) and we waited out front of the YWCA for the Grand Depart, group photo and most importantly.....the Salsa "free-pie" top-cap to be handed out (The stem cap when presented in Pie Town would get you two free slices of pie!)
John, Greg and Me
 The Grand Depart started much like the mass start at every XC event I'ver done, a mad rush and multiple slown downs and mashed gears as if every climb came as a big surprise. As we rode along together John and I laughed about how this was it and we were really on the divide!
Everyone decides to stop and get their rain kit on
90 minutes of euphoria elapsed the harsh realities of the TD emerged. Rain, gentle at first, heavy soon after. Along with most others, I donned my rain kit and grit my teeth. First stop was the Boulton trading post at the 60 mile mark, a welcome supplier of hot coffee but I could tell the staff were getting tired of wet cyclists dripping water and grit all over their shop.

Thoroughly soaked
Past Boulton there's one last big climb and then it's downhill all the way into Elkford. Well, the elevation charts say that but I remember it being a pain the whole way! By this point people start falling into their natural rhythms and the adverse weather brings you together with your shared adversary. I chatted with Matt (Godwin) from Oregon until I stopped for a call of nature (We'd meet up again) and rode the last few miles into Elkford with Steve Dickson.
One last big climb.....
 Rolling into Elkford gave me two options. Do I push on another 30 miles in the rain? Or, do I stop as 110 miles is still a decent figure, besides the rest might pay dividends rather than riding until complete exhaustion!
There has to be *some* benefit to riding in the rain!
 It didn't take long for myself and Steve to decide that sharing a Motel room with a bloke you've only just met was the sensible option. We hosed ourselves off and bought snacks at the Gas station and set about finding a motel. Once we'd stowed our bikes in the basement and rinsed all the grit from our clothes we headed out in search of food.
Yep, that's an Oreo/Reeses cupcake mash-up!

Pre-rinse kit
The hotel manager pointed us towards a Pizza restaurant and as we arrived I recognised it as Kapp's Pizza from Ride the Divide. Sadly there was no Pizza to be had, the staff thought that the Grand Depart was going to be next week and hadnt the staff or the dough to deal with demand. I settled for Chicken & Chips. Despite a week in North America and having ridden 100 miles I still hadn't acclimatised to the portions so donated my leftovers to a fellow rider waiting for the overworked kitchen to get his dinner prepared.

Steve and I headed back to the Motel and I drifted off to sleep while Steve waited up for his pal Joe who was still out on the trail.