Thursday, 21 August 2014

Clipless pedals that aren't clipless, but do have clips, sort of.

When I first saw the kickstarter project for 'ANYKICKS' my first thought was 'I don't get it'.  Then as I thought about it a little longer my next thought was 'that's genius'.  The concept behind the ANYKICKS system is that you can attach cleats to any shoes without having to actually bolt them on.  Now why would that matter I hear you mumble?  Well let me give you a scenario:

Sometimes I have to visit clients who have factories that I theoretically can't go into without steel toecap boots, but there's no way I'm going to cycle to my client with flat pedals on my bike - once you've gone 'clipped in' there's simply no going back.  So I have to cycle to my client in cycling shoes and then change into a pair of safety boots that I have stashed at my client's factory.  You see, you just can't buy steel toecapped cycling shoes.  I know; I've looked into it.

So with these rather clever devices I would strap them around my safety boots, jump on my bike, clip in and go.  At my destination I'd simply unstrap.  These are safer than old-fashioned toe-straps because with a twist of the heel you can still clip off the pedal like you can when wearing actual cycling shoes.

Neat.

Find out more here...

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Beating Type 2 diabetes with cycling

A few years ago writer Simon Elson was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, and quite naturally this came as a bit of a shock.  So what did Simon do next?  Did he sit with his head in his hands and despair at the diagnosis?  No he did not, he got on his bike.

Simon has now published a book detailing how cycling has helped him manage his diabetes, and we think it's book well worth reading whether you're new to this disease or if you've developed your own methodology for positive living after diagnosis.  Here's a few words from Simon introducing his new book:

A few years ago as an overweight 40 year old with Type 2 Diabetes I decided to take charge of my health by eating healthily and cycling. I started by commuting to work, I now cycle wherever I need to go. Here's my story that includes helpful advice (whether diabetic or not) on sugary foods and healthy eating. It's a concise book written in a light hearted manner.

Buy 'Sugar Beat: How I controlled T2 Diabetes through cycling' at Amazon.co.uk

Buy 'Sugar Beat: How I controlled T2 Diabetes through cycling' at Amazon.com

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Dunwich Dynamo - what to pack?

Not sure what to pack for the Dunwich Dynamo?  Well here's what I'm taking with me this year, although if this year's ride is anything like those I've done previously I won't be needing any of this stuff!


Dunwich Dynamo packing list:

Sub-crossbar bag

  • Chilango hot sauce
  • Phone / GPS battery booster
  • Ibuprofen
  • Paracetamol
  • 3x AAA batteries
  • 2x Mini-tangfastic
  • Half-tube High-5 Zero (lime!)
  • 6x zip ties


Top crossbar bag

  • Cleat bolts
  • iPhone in waterproof case
  • Debit card
  • High-5 Energy bar


Saddle bag

  • 2x Inner Tubes
  • 3x Co2 cannisters
  • 1 Lenze tool kit
  • Swiss army knife
  • Latex gloves


Elsewhere on the bike

  • Zip-tied to the back of the bike are a pair of budgie-smugglers so I can have a swim at Dunwich!
  • CREE light
  • 2X battery packs for CREE light
  • 1X CREE torch zip-tied to stem
  • Garmin
  • 2x bottles

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Understanding the Rules of the Tour de France

To the uninitiated, the world of cycling and specifically, the Tour de France can be a bit confusing.  With all the talk of yellow jerseys, time trials, race leaders and feed zones, the Tour de France is sometimes a bit intimidating to new fans.  And what in the world is with the teams?  It’s an individual sport, right?  Well, have no fear, cycling newbies: your initiation is here!

First, let’s discuss the whole team thing.  Riders group up in teams as a part of their strategy, more than anything else.  You might wonder how much strategy can be involved in riding a bike as fast as you can to a finish line, but you’d be surprised!

Each team member usually has their own objective and role in the overall team strategy.  The goal is for a member of the team to win the overall classification, or first place, in the Tour de France.

Teams must adhere to rules, just like individuals.  First of all, team members all wear matching outfits.  However, the jerseys can deviate from that of the team designation if a rider of a team has earned an honour that gives them a special jersey.  These honours include being the overall leader of the race (yellow jersey), the best rider on climbing, or mountain stages (polka dot jersey), the best sprint rider (green jersey) and the best young rider of 25 years or younger (white jersey).  These jerseys are updated as the race continues, and can change hands several times during the race, or even with every new stage.

Stage, you ask?  What’s a stage?  Well, long races such as the Tour de France, which typically lasts over three weeks, are divided into one-day portions called “stages”.  The stages themselves are usually based upon a certain theme or type, of which there are a few.  There are climbing, or mountain stages, sprint stages on flatter ground, individual time trials, where riders race alone for a great time, and others.

The stages are generally mixed up and spread out throughout the overall race, and are balanced so no one type of rider can dominate the race.  Since most riders specialise in a certain type of racing (for instance, climbing), you can understand how important it is to balance the stage types within the race.

One of the newer requirements, or at least a requirement that is stricter than before, is the required use of a helmet in all stages of the Tour de France.  It’s hard to believe, but there was a time when helmets weren’t required at all, even during 50 mile per hour descents down steep mountains!  With injuries and even a rare death contributing to concern over rider safety, helmet requirements have stiffened over recent years.

The feed zone may sound like it’s from the world of cattle raising rather than cycling, but the eating and drinking of Tour de France cyclists is actually serious business.  Tour officials closely monitor what goes into their competitors, and things like water bottles have to be approved by them before they can be used.  The feed zone is just what it sounds like, an area where riders can grab some quick nourishment as they roll by on their bicycles.  Sometimes, cyclists can also be handed water or snacks on other areas of the course by team officials in vehicles or motorcycles (no, seriously), but that’s also closely monitored by Tour de France officials.

One relatively sad, but necessary, evolution of Tour de France rules is reflected in the mandatory drug testing that takes place at every stage in the race.  Every participant is tested before the race, and once the race starts, random cyclists are selected at each stage to be tested as well.  The stage and race leaders are given a drug test at each stage automatically.

The Tour de France is a simple, yet complicated affair.  In essence, it is simply a bicycle race, with riders trying to finish as fast as they can.  However, the level of competition has made many rules and policies necessary to ensure fair and efficient competition.  Knowing the rules can help you enjoy the Tour de France much more.  Make sure to learn all you can before this year’s Tour de France kicks off!

Monday, 5 May 2014

How to replace a QR skewer on a fixie or singlespeed.

Unless you have a very vintage or retro fixie (or singlespeed) the chances are your wheels have been upgraded or amended from modern wheels. Sure custom wheels are very nice but not everybody can afford them, so a lot of folk end up bastardising modern 700c wheels to fit thier steed.

Problems can arise when using modern wheels because they are factory-fitted with QR (quick-release) skewers.  While on geared bikes quick release fewer wheels would be a good thing on a fixed cog or singlespeed bike they're just not strong enough to hold the wheel in place under pressure. I didn't know this for a long time, and therefore spend at least two years constantly pulling my back wheel tight, more often than not in the middle of a commute.

Another reason some people prefer not to have QR skewers is that in theory your bike wheel is a lot more nickable with QR. I understand this logic - why would you make life easy for a thief?

I did some research into how to replace a QR with a straight bolt and a lot of the answers came back suggesting removing the axle, changing the cone bearings, and many other complex things I didn't want to have to get involved with.

Eventually I found the Halo hex-nut skewers, and that's more or less where this blog posts ends.  The old quick release skewers slid out, and the replacement Halo skewers slid in.  The conversation was ridiculously easy.  I was particularly impressed that the Halo replacements even had a recommend torque setting.  Nice!  Now my wheels will stay in place and no bugger can nick 'em!

You can buy Halo QR replacement skewers at Chain Reaction Cycles...

I've included some photos of the conversion to give you an idea of what the new wheel nuts look like.

The old front QR

The replacement skewers on the front wheel.  The other metal bits you can see are the mounts for my mudguards.

I forgot to take 'before' photos of the rear wheel, but you can see the new fittings in place and looking good.





Sunday, 4 May 2014

Camelbak Podium Hydration Bottle

Last week I found myself far from home and in quick need of a water bottle for my bike.  I was lucky enough to find a friendly bike shop and had taken the precaution of taking my debit card out on the ride with me so for the first time in many years I actually bought a bottle.

You might be wondering why buying a bike bottle was such a big deal for me, but the truth is I've long wondered why anyone would pay for a bottle when High5 bottles are almost always available for free (or very cheap!)  I've had so many High5 bottles over the years they're littered about my house being used to grow plants in, hell, I had so many at one time I stopped buying toddler drinks bottles for my daughter and gave her High5 bottles to use instead!

So what's the big deal about actually forking out hard-earned cash for a bottle?  Can they really be all that much better?  Well the first hint came when (back in the saddle) I took my first drink from my new Camelbak bottle, and nearly drowned.  I'm used to having to really crush hydration bottles while sucking hard enough to start a porridge syphon, so a bit of a squeeze and a suck on the Camelbak was a bit of a shocker.

Once I'd figured out how to drink from the bottle (without emptying my hydration fluids over my ugly mug) my new bottle and I got on very well indeed.  These bottles are sort of always open, but kinda also closed.  Lordly knows what the technology behind the valve is but I did appreciate the large nipple that I could use to make sure I had hold of the bottle when drinking, I've lost bottles plenty of times on busy rides, something potentially lethal to those around me.

Camelbak Podium Hydration Bottle - review conclusion.

On the whole I don't think the moderate investment needed to secure yourself a few Camelbak bottles will revolutionise your cycling experience, but they are very nice, and I will be buying some more.  I'm not going to be letting my daughter use them though...

If you made it to the end of this review without snorting in a 'fnar' type way then you've done well.

Camelbak Podium Hydration Bottles can be bought at Wiggle, Evans or Amazon.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Bombtrack bikes (by Wiggle) - a review

Bombtrack Arise.  Want.
The Bombtrack bikes stand was the first exhibition stand that really smacked us between the eyes when we visited the SPIN London show a few weeks ago.  This may have been the case because it was the second stand we came to after walking through the door, it may have been because we cycled across London to the show on Boris Bikes that weighed as much as a baby elephant (only less maneuverable) and the sight of a nice simple fixie really appealed.  Who can say, not us, we've already spent too much time considering why the Bombtrack stand looked so good, so let's move on...

Bombtrack bikes - what the hell?

From what we can figure out Bombtrack appears to be an attempt by mahoosive online bike retailer Wiggle to tap into the increasingly popular single-cog market.  We've always thought half the fun of owning a singlespeed or fixie is the trials and tribulations you go through building the bloody things.  But having had a few painful (and costly) build errors recently we can see a real appeal to buying a bike 'off the peg'.

So do the bikes look any good?  Well yes they do!  We weren't quite awake enough to ask if we could lift one of the display models off a stand and take it for a quick razz, but in terms of looks the bikes really were 'all that'.  Bombtrack / Wiggle have certainly given a nod to the retro look with this range of bikes, but they are also quite brashly modern in appearance.  I guess with a name like 'Bombtrack' you give yourself licence to rock the lookbook boat a bit.

So the range has enough odd-shaped handlebars to keep the most hardcore hipster happy, but also has bikes fitted with modern shaped 'proper' drop-bars.  We were a little surprised to see so many flat-bars fitted to these bikes, but hey, I'm sure Wiggle have had focus groups on this sort of thing and know what they're doing.

Bombtrack Arise - yes please!

Paint jobs are minimal almost to the point of being monotone, but it kinda works.  This simplicity over whizz-whazz works best on the 'Bombtrack Arise (Black)'; a sleek, simple looking bike that we don't mind admitting we fell a little bit in love with.  We were a surprised to see the 'Arise' fitted with direct-pull v-brake style brakes, but we can't say much more as we've never lived with this style of brake, we've just seen a lot of them snapped in two on knackered £50 mountain bikes ridden by the sort of people who wear tracksuits but never exercise.  For all we know they're lovely (the brakes and the tracksuit fans).

The tyres on the Arise aren't the super thin boneshakers that us roadies love, but seeing as how this bike is set up for commuters a little bit of comfort would likely be most appreciated.  I guess the only way we'll know for sure whether these Bombtrack bikes are worth the modest price tag would be if we either bought one, or if Wiggle sent us a 'review copy' *cough*.

See the BombTrack bikes at Wiggle...