Monday, December 22, 2014

Review of the Year 2014 and a look forwards to 2015

Following the extreme, for me, efforts of last year when I was training for the inaugural London 100 Event, this year was planned to be much more sedate; and so it proved.

The bare statistics support that fact.

                           Total distance = 5036km
                           Total ascent    = 34321m
                           Energy expended = 101397 calories
                           Time in. The saddle = 266 hours

Whilst more than 20% down on the previous year, I did manage to achieve my goals.

The main event was to complete my first cycling tour and ride Coast to Coast and this was done. In hindsight I have mixed views about this. The scenery was beautiful, the weather gorgeous but, much of the route was on poorly maintained cycle paths were I feared for both my bike and myself. In the event the Mercian managed fine but my body took a hammering from the never ending potholes and rock strewn paths.

It is perhaps a small sign of my progression as a cyclist that on the spur of the moment I entered a 110k audax, an event which had been my major lifetime achievement goal in 2012. This time the weather was the worst ever recorded for the event, but, in spite of this, I rode the distance 45 minutes quicker than my first attempt.

The number of posts published on this blog has dropped considerably and perhaps that is a sign it may have run its course.

I have been forced to end my cycling year early due to a damaged knee but despite this I have begun to look forward to my objectives for 2015.

A friend has kindly invited me over to Harrogate to explore some of the local cycling routes in Yorkshire and hopefully one ( at least ) of their famous tea shops.

I have been pondering a major challenge and toyed with the idea of riding the classic (?) Derby to Skegness route in a day, another 164 km adventure. The route is fairly flat, but that was what they told me when I cycled  C2C and they were lying!

Anyway I have got the route, loaded it onto my Garmin and last night someone offered to tide with me. He is young, very fit and an excellent bike mechanic, so , really, I am not sure I have any excuses left not to attempt it.

So there it is, the big aim for 2015 is to ride the 100 mile Derby to Skegness in a day

All I need to do now is to get fit!!

And with my annuity target this year being 1932km, with again an upper goal of 5000km, the year is planned.

PS. I may also have mentioned something about not being competitive any more

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Vintage Love Affair

something a little different

A Vintage Love Affair

For forty years of married bliss,
A time that's scented with a kiss,
We've toured the lanes both far and wide,
Never looking for a place to hide,
Avoiding every precipice.

Sometimes there's been a small crisis.
But naught disturbs this married bliss.
My trusty friend stayed by my side
For forty years.

Our frames show signs of arthritis.
Long hard trips are given a miss.
Waiting for the incoming tide,
Bicycle standing by my side.
This Mercian has given me such bliss
For forty years.

©Peter Roberts 2014

                                                             My 1961 Mercian Audax

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Final Hurrah...

The main cycling objective for this year was to ride the Reivers Route and go Coast to Coast, and this was completed in the height of summer.  However as the weather has been so dry and mild, I thought I might attempt to repeat a challenge that I set myself in the autumn of 2012 when I was in training for the inaugral Ride  London 100 ( earlier blog posts describe my trials and endeavours of this event ). The challenge was to complete a 100km audax. This is run by CTC Derby and is titled ' Over and Over the Trent ' . In actual fact it is not 100km, but rather 109km and those extra metres can make a huge difference to a doddery Old Age Pensioner.
I have been having a few problems with my right knee of late but I thought if I strapped it up, took a couple of ibuprofen and took it steady, making sure I used all the gears and not be tempted to go with the proper cyclists then I might survive.
Last time I did this event the weather was boiling hot and the biggest danger was sunstroke; not this time.
As about 75 of us gathered at Darley Abbey for the start, the rain, which has been absent for the last  eight weeks began to fall and it fell in bucket loads. To add frisson to the ride, the autumn leaves had already fallen and lay strewn across the lanes and the combination of fallen leaves and pouring rain made descending quickly a very dangerous pastime.
In terms of hardship, the first half of this course is the most testing and the combination of strong winds, driving rain, poor visibility and the hill climb route of Pistern Hill meant that I was really pleased to see the half way stop at Moira and looked forward to a break from the elements. Unfortunately a group of walkers had decided that the weather was too bad for walking and so had decided to invade the tea shop for cake and chat instead, making room for bedraggled cyclists a premium.
Eventually however, I got a seat and tried out the restorative powers of beans on toast. I am not sure if it had any real effect on my energy levels but it certainly made an improvement on the weather as the rain stopped, the sun made a fleeting appearance but the wind remained a constant menace.
My endurance levels are not perhaps as good as they were even over a couple of years ago and on reaching Rolleston-on-Dove I could feel my energy levels beginning to fade

As I passed over the River Dove I felt that these swans, swimming against the flow, were kindred spirits as I rode into the wind.

The last 20km was proving hard work and the route was what cyclists would describe as  undulating but what I thought was proving mountainous.  Eventually though I made it back to Darley Abbey and was greeted by the site of a sumptious tea. I felt that I had well earnt the sandwiches and cake on offer and a heart felt thanks to all the organizers, both admin and bakers, which had made it once again a memorable day.

What did surprise me though was that when I compared my time to that which I achieved last time, I found that I had completed the distance 43 mins quicker.!  Perhaps I am not THAT doddery after all

For those who like stats, then my effort is chronicled here.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Wheel Building... A Magical Art

For those who have followed this blog from its inception you will know that I have tried to become a little more proficient in bike maintenance, though  my skills are very limited and it takes me ages.  It certainly isn't cost effective!  However I do enjoy it and it keeps me occupied

The series consists of

and as I succumbed to the realms of fantasy, ignoring the fact of my ageing body and general overall lack of fitness, I started to look at potential performance gains through the use of  improved wheels

This post takes the whole process to a much higher domain....

The Magical  Arts of Wheel Building

I am quite good at planning and  reading instructions, it is just the following them that causes me difficulty. So the preparation part of my project was good fun;  researching the different sort of rims, the advantages and disadvantages of various spoke lacing patterns, the intricacy of  various hub materials and construction with particular emphasis on the bearing quality. Then there were decisions to be made about spoke thickness and colour to mention nothing of the finer points of material degradation between Brass and Aluminium for nipple construction. And of course I also had to consider the choice between rim tape or the much lighter velo plugs; after all, that saving of 20 grams could be all the difference on whether to have a cream cake or toasted tea cake on my next ride.

After much pondering I came down to purchasing

 23mm width H plus Son Archetype Rims drilled for a 20/24 spoke combination.
Novatech F482SB / A291-SB  Hub set
Alpina AC1 F1 Silver SSDB spokes with brass nipples
and, because Velo Plugs do not fit these rims I went with Velox Cloth Rim tape

All I needed now were some tools, and a helpful experienced advisor who could act as my mentor.  Fortunately just such a man lives close by, and in return for showing him some of the best local Cake Stops ( for which I am rapidly becoming an expert ) he offered to let me borrow his tools and help me with the build.

I chose a radial lacing pattern for the front wheel and a 2 cross pattern for the rear. The whole build process was extremely satisfying, though I expect that Rob found it tediously slow compared to his normal pace. By taking my time and tightening each spoke  in many small incremental steps, the spokes gradually developed that beautiful ' ping ' tone as they came into synchronous tension. ( Though this was helped by having a tensionometer to ensure things were going OK )

When finally finished I installed them on my Giant Advanced TCR SL3 and I do think they look grand

and they certainly ride well.

The only problem that I now have is that I seem to have only 4 bikes BUT I have 6 sets of wheels!
I must think of a constructive solution.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Challenge which is Reivers

'Summer is for grazing, but autumn is for raiding, pillage and rape'

Let us get one thing clear from the outset. I am NOT a lithe, muscled 65kg climbing machine.
I AM a 74kg lump of fat and bone who lacks any noticeable muscle. Also, I am old.
Given the above you can instantly tell I am not a naturally born climber.
Indeed I dread hills - and the Coast to Coast route via the Reivers is jam packed full of them as I was about to discover.

A motley crew of 20 cyclists, with a wide range of youth, experience and fitness, set off from Whitehaven marina in dribs and drabs, riding along the coastal path and waving back to the children on the train as it trundled past.

Then came the first climb of the day, a short test for the legs with a kick at 10% gradient to give an early warning of what was to come, as the path turned eastwards towards Workington. A rolling route over the Caldbeck Fells then followed with some beautiful scenery to give a reward for the suffering my legs took from the repeated 20%+ gradients.

As I looked over to Bassenthwaite memories flooded back of the week I had spent there as part of an Outward Bound Training exercise whilst being groomed as a manager at Rolls-Royce plc so many years ago.

It was then onwards to Cockermouth for a lunch stop. Much of this village had been devastated by the floods a couple of years back and work was well underway to restore the village centre.
The whole ride was well supported by Dave and Mel and the sight of them each day with their chuck wagon was always welcome. A time to grab a banana, a slice of cake and drink as well as meeting up with some of the other cyclists to share experiences before the onward ride to Caldbeck for the first night's stop.

Day 1  Distance 60.5km with 850m of climbing.

Tuesday dawned bright and very hot, the temperature rising to 31degC and proved to be a very arduous day in the saddle.  The climbs kept on coming as we headed towards Carlisle where we stopped for lunch at the Cathedral. The roof in this place is majestic and well worth the detour.

It was not that long ago that strangers here would have been treated with suspicion. It was the nerve centre for bitter feuds and bloody battles created by the long-running dispute  over the border between England and Scotland. During a period of Scottish occupation the ruler of this stronghold was one Macbeth, no wonder they built a castle here.

Escaping from Carlisle proved a challenge but eventually the city sprawl was left behind and the rugged moorlands came into view, something that I could glimpse between the sweat that was running down my face from both the heat and the unforbiding terrain...there MUST have been some downward bits! The steep switchback trails took us down to Bewcastle with its famous cross which has survived 1300 years of relentless borders weather in St Cuthbert's churchyard. Any hope of using the downward momentum to tackle the long gradient with 25% inclines which were then ahead were thwarted by two tractors  filling the road. So it was a lung busting, knee wrenching standing start to get up the climb. 
Day 2 Distance 87.5km with 1035m of climbing

Day 3 commenced with the invasion of Scotland where its defences lay in it being again situated at the top of a very long hill.

Newcastleton proved to be very welcoming and the local tea shop is to be highly recommended.  The countryside is beautiful with many clear rivers and mountains as we rolled along the border before turning towards the Keilder Forest and England.

The tracks around Keilder Water give you many good sightings of what is the largest man made reservoir in Europe and at Leaplish stopped for lunch. It was then just a short ride to the night stop at Bellingham but this proved to be the most hazardous bit of the trip so far.  As I turned out of Falstone, 80% of which had been consumed by Keilder Water, the road rose like a wall in front of me. Two mad dogs lay in wait at the corner deterring any attempt  to gain.momentum. Having climbed the first long steep hill the surface deteriorated as the next challenge lay ahead. Across yet another cattle grid to be confronted by a huge beast of a bull, and very bully he was!  Bellowing loudly and waving his head, his harem of cows also joined in. I had read somewhere that cows don't like to be separated from their calves..and this lot were, with me being the separating barrier. The path was steep, pot holey and gravelly. So far I had managed to complete the ride without ever resorting to getting off the bike and pushing. But I gave in and got off. I was not sure on which side of the bike to walk up the hill, that bellowing monster looked as though it would make mincemeat of my Mercian. So I decided to let my companion face the herd whilst I sheltered on his other side....Mercians are after all very valuable pieces of precision engineering. Once just past the monster I got back on my bike and did a very impressive hill sprint up the remaining 200m to the cattle grid.

Day 3 Distance 75km with 908m of climbing

The next day began disastrously. I had been using my Garmin 800 to keep track of my journey and map the route with the aim that other intrepid adventurers could follow in my cycle tracks. But this morning I woke to find the garmin had failed; completely dead. In this part of the world mobile phone reception is a thing of dreams so even Strava on my phone was useless. So I had to rely on my friends stats for the day and he is not a numbers nerd like me.
The day's ride began by going up hill, again, and it was a very steep uphill but at least it was tarmac. With the temperature continuing to rise we turned right to continue a mountain ascent along sheep paths with the occasional llama eyeing us suspiciously. Mountain goats and sheep were well suited to this terrain of the Buteland Fells. Progress was slow, not helped by a farmer driving a flock of sheep along a narrow path. But at least this gave me time too stay upright recover my strength though I had noticed that after three solid days of climbing, many of them up tracks more suited to Mountain bikes, with the gearing to go with such machines, I was using one gear lower than my normal cycling on a road bike. The scenery around here was bleak and raw and buzzards, or were they vultures, could be seen circling in the sky.
Lunch was taken at a truly beautiful little village at Matfen. With its village green and young boys playing in the stream this was truly idyllic. The journey was now nearly over and the run down into Ponteland was quick with the sun on my back and the speed bringing a refreshing draft of wind.
The route from Ponteland into Teignmouth is best glossed over. The cycle trails were awful and it took all my mental strength just to stay upright. The Mercian was more than capable of handling such rugged ground but I am afraid I wasn't. And then it was down the hill and back to sea level on Teignmouth Quay and time for a celebratory ice cream

The end of the route is just beyond the promentary, looked over by the statue of Admiral Collingwood, and just after that is the beautiful ruin of Teignmouth Abbey.

A total journey of 300.5km with 3336 m of climbing.

It was a great experience and my first taste of cycle touring, though admittedly it was done the easy way with excellent support throughout.

If any of my fellow riders see this and feel drawn to comment, then please do.

For me it is now to consider what next year's cycling challenge will be.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Reivers - A tale of Blood and Guts

Every year I am trying to do a cycling challenge and this year's challenge is to ride the Coast to Coast route across Britain, following the Reivers Route, starting at Whitehaven and eventually ending up at Teignmouth.

The word Reiver means plunderer and the route is named after the murdering bandits who ran a medieval equivalent of the Costa Nostra. This area of Britain was the Chicago or Sicily of its time, when marauding clans terrorized both the English and Scottish sides of the Border for 350 years. They lived by castle rustling, kidnapping, extortion, arson and murder. The route passes many castles like Bew Castle as well as a number of fortified farmhouses like Askerton Castle, all of which reveal the defensive needs of the area as well as its rich heritage. The word 'blackmail ' comes from the Reivers:  a farmer paid 'blackmail'  - rent in the form of cattle instead of the legal 'whitemail' , which was paid in silver, to a powerful Reiver who would give him protection in return.

I am hoping my journey will be somewhat less fraught!

This will be my first venture into Cycling Touring and so the next few days will be devoted to getting the Mercian ready for the trip.

Unlike last year when my Challenge was to complete the London 100 inside the cut -off time, this year is planned to be much more leisurely and so I hope to be able to document my journey.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Nutritional Needs of a Tea Shop Tourist

Cycling nutrition is a complex subject, and many large organizations spend a fortune on research and development before making available to the general cycling fraternity a range of tablets, gels, powders and bars. Maintaining the correct level of salts, fats, energy and other stuff is vitally important and even the dedicated amateur cyclist goes to great lengths to find the right balance.
There is however another breed of cyclist, the tea shop tourist, who would view the idea of entering a 25 mile Time Trial or a city centre Criterium with horror. This article is aimed at cyclists such as these.

I am on a diet!!

I know this because my wife told me .

Hence getting the right balance between input and output is I am told vital.
I also love numbers and among the stream of data that my Garmin Edge 800 feeds to me as I pedal along is one that shows how many calories I have burnt off. Now obviously as cyclists we do not want to suffer the dreaded bonk ( see Nutritional Breakdown ) where all our energy resources become totally depleted; and so, eating cake should be regarded as a necessity and NOT as a luxury or reward. So, in order to give you some guidance on the stuff you should be eating in order to maintain your nutritional balance, I have pulled together the following table from which you can pick and mix.

Toasted Tea Cake with butter   370 cals
Plain Scone                               140 cals
Fruit Scone                                150 cals
Jam and Cream with scone         LOTS
Mince Pie                                  320 cals
Flap jack                                   335 cals
Slice of Lemon drizzle                 399 cals
Choc raspberry brownie             390 cals
Victoria sponge                          599 cals
Rich fruit cake                            780 cals
Tara Carrot Cake with Cream     986 cals

Now obviously, one needs sufficient energy resources to get home from the tea shop, so you need to make due allowance for that in the amount of cake you consume. 

I hope that these guidelines will stop you from fading away when you next go out on a general meander on your bike.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Life with a Brooks B17

One of the most popular posts that I have written for this Blog was all about the breaking in of a Brooks B17 saddle . That particular post was written about a black B17 that I had had fitted to my new Mercian Vincitore Special and was the second in my series of Brooks B17 saddles.  In the event the life ( with me ) of that particular saddle was short as I discovered that the riding position on a road bike was significantly different from the Specialized Sirrus Comp Hybrid, my original bike and the place where I fell in love with Brooks saddles.

The original saddle was a Honey Brown with Copper Rivets and both looked and smelt like the piece of handcrafted excellence it was.

The image above  was taken when the saddle was still relatively new and at this stage the score was

Brooks B17  6   -   My Butt    0

I bought this saddle in the spring of 2008 and sat on it constantly for the next 10000km of cycling by which time the saddle and I were coming to an understanding. I fed it with Neat Oil, wiped it down when it was soaked from the rain or covered in snow, polished the copper rivets and generally treated it with respect. In return it began to change its character, moulding itself to my butt ( or did my butt mould itself to saddle shape ?)

As I started cycling more, my friends introduced me to the algorithm of how many bikes even an OAP cyclist actually needs and so I started to acquire just a few more; all essential purposes of course, no luxury here. With these new bikes came a range of saddles including Fizik Arione and Selle Italia and so the Hybrid, and hence the Brooks B17, got less use.

Recently however I have been going through a period of forced maintanence on the road bikes ( I did  tentatively suggest to my wife that this probably indicated that I  might be in desperate need of another purchase, but the look of astonishment on her face and cries of wonder made me think that I might be better putting that idea on hold ) and so I have returned to the Hybrid and hence to Brooks.

I had forgotten just how comfortable my long lost love had become as she had matured into a grand old lady

I wonder if I made a mistake in exchanging the black B17 on the Mercian, perhaps there was a more fitting model in the Brooks range I should have chosen.

Anyway, off now to give her a polish and take her out for a trip to the local tea shop.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Real Steel.... Mercian of Derby

My last post featured some steel bikes that I had seen and started a bit of a reminiscence. About 45 years ago, just after I had left University, I started work at a Rolls-Royce plc plant in Raynesway and at lunch times, to get out of the office, I often used to walk down the road to Alvaston, buy some fish and chips and then wander back. There was, and still is, a bike shop in Avaston though I never paid it much attention, it was called Mercian Cycles . Little did I know then how much I would come to admire and revere their products. Time passed, my career progressed, I was moved to RR CHQ and I never thought about Mercians again; if I ever did before. I was too busy travelling the world, thinking about business opportunites and trying to do deals.

And then I retired.

Suddenly I would be home for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 52 weeks in a year. My wife was delighted and after about 2 days suggested that I bought a bike, she was obviously concerned about my health and thought I needed to get out more.
My first purchase was a very heavy, very old, very cheap  MTB and it lasted about 4 weeks before the rear wheel imploded with spokes shooting off like guided missiles.  It was then that I discovered Mercians.
A retired friend, who had been riding all his life and was a strict adherent to the N+1  principle regarding bike ownership showed me his collection and invited me to try them. One of these was a 1961 Mercian Audax

My love affair with Mercian had begun and Alan, seeing how smitten I was, offered to sell it to me. How could I resist?
The history of Mercians is well documented on their website but pure words cannot do justice to the feel and pleasure in owning and riding a hand built machine, using the tools, skills and crafstmanship which has been developed over decades and is still in use today.

The lug work on these bikes is exquisite, and as I heard more about about the beauty of hand built machines, made to fit perfectly the owner, a desire began to grow to have one made specifically for me.  I had learnt at work that projects needed an end date and so for me, the idea was to have a bike tailored just foe me in time for my 65th birthday, a Mercian Vincitore Special. The bike took 6 months to produce and a week before my birthday I received a call that it was ready.

I am told that the large manufacturers like Giant et al, have 6000+ bikes a year rolling off their production lines. I dont know how many Mercian produce but what I do know is that each one is invested with love and care that the big players could only dream of.

I now have 2 grandsons and I am giving their mothers strict nutritional guidelines to ensure that both grow to the exact dimensions needed so that they fit my bikes perfectly.

Mercians are forever

Do you have a Mercian story to tell?  If so, add it to the comments box and share it with others.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Steel is Forever

It was the first real day of summer in Derbyshire today and so off I went for a tootle around the local lanes.  There are many beautiful lanes in the countryside of Derbyshire but today's route is one of my favourites.
About halfway round the loop one comes to the bridge over the river Hilton in the  picturesque village of Longford. Next door to the bridge is the old cheese factory.This was the first cheese factory ever to be built in England and was opened on May 4, 1870 under the management of Cornelius Schemanhorn, an American cheesemaker. and the bridge itself is a favourite stopping place for cyclists.
As I pulled in there was an old lady , an OAP like myself, already present and soon we got talking. She had been a cyclist for decades and in her youth had, with her husband, climbed many of the Cols made famous by the Tour de France. In her case, loaded with panniers, and intent on enjoying the view, the ascent of these legendary peaks had taken her a day in stark contrast to the elite riders of the peleton.
As we chatted, a variety of bikes whizzed past, their pilots intent on getting the last ounce of speed from their carbon steeds. These bikes were in stark contrast to her bike

This Hetchins had been with her since the beginning, constructed from Reynolds 531 though modified now to have straight bars and a little mirror fitted as turning her neck was now problematical. With a double chain ring and just 5 cogs on the cassette it still did her proud and the friction change gears still sufficed.  No cleats for this lady as she still relied upon toe straps. The pump itself was also still original and the wheels with their 36 spokes were built to stand the ardours of touring.

As we went our separate ways I thought about her real steel as the young racers of today sailed past me on their lightweight frames with just enough spokes to stop the wheels collapsing.  Being warm I obviously needed to find a place for tea and as I cycled down a shady lane to the local tea shop I espied another vintage machine whose owner was also in need of a rest. What caught my eye was that it was a Mercian

Again constructed from Reynolds 531 and again with just a double chain ring. This bike had also been modified to have straight bars with the shifters on the bars though you could still see where the bosses had been on the down tube.

I did not find the owner so do not know the bike's history but it made me think that these old bikes both had a history, a story to tell and I wondered if the modern machines constructed from Aluminium, Titanium or Carbon would ever be loved in the same way.

And, still wondering, I mounted my Mercian and pedalled off home.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Local Bike Shops - Birkins Cycles

As I started doing some research for this series of posts on Local Bikes Shops in Derbyshire  I was quite amazed at the number of such shops which exist(ed). The last article talked about Wylds which opened for business in 1928 and continued trading for almost 70 years.
And the increase of the  number of shops entering the market seems to show no sign of abating. One of the latest to open for business is Birkins Cycles which is on Sutton Lane, Foston. Let's get one thing clear from the start. The owner is Tim Watt and the place gets its name from the land on which it is situated, Birkins Croft Small Holding. Tim opened for business in December, 2012 when he took a large garden shed and converted it to a work shop. Obviously a cyclist himself, I think it is fair to say that he proved to be no elite cyclist and discovered that he enjoyed tinkering with bikes as much as, if not more than, riding them.
He now provides three lines of business,  Servicing, Repairs and Restoration and from the number of bikes waiting attention then the business seems to be going well.

Being a pretty small enterprise, Birkins do not stock spare parts or accessories but buy them in as and when required. For me the most interesting part of the business is the restoration side and when I was there Tim was working on a 1970s Dawes Galaxy which had been stripped down and the frame resprayed, the forks and stays chromed using local craftsmen for these specialized tasks.

Like many local bike shops, Birkins are keen to promote cycling in the local community and are helping to set up and support Hilton Cycling Club as an umbrella group for local leisure cyclists.
Whilst Tim has ideas of where he would like the business to grow, that is for the future, and for now he is happy just consolidating the business and providing lots of tender loving care for a steady stream of restoration projects.

I am hoping to visit Mercians for my next post in this series, a Local Bike Shop with a World Famous reputation.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Novice Bike Mechanic and Wheel Rims

Am off later today to see a Local Bike Shop for a tour of the workshop and a chat with the owner, but I will report back on that in another post.

Those of you who follow my blog will realize that I am a bit of a numpty when it comes to bike maintenance and repairs, but I am trying to do more things myself just to learn a little more about the machine. As part of this self education exercise I am stripping down ( though a proper bike mechanic would say I was just cleaning the easy bits ) my Specialized Sirrus Comp Hybrid, my first bike, and replacing the worn out bits. Given that the front tyre is now almost transparent I thought it could do with a change and whilst at it I would give the rims a good clean as they were looking a bit black and stripey.

Despite my efforts using boiling hot soapy water and then cleaning with rubbing alcohol, the streaks remain.

Closer inspection shows that these streaks are in fact very shallow grooves. I knew that brake pads sometimes leave deposits of the pad on the wheel but I suspect from looking at this that the pad has had grit embedded which has subsequently scarred the rim.
I dont know if different pad compounds are better but I think that perhaps I should be examining the pads more frequently and looking to remove grit which has become embedded.
These Alexis Rims are 6 years old now ( I say rims but the rear wheel rim cracked long ago and I had to buy another wheel ) so perhaps wear and tear is to be expected

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wylds Part 2

Tomorrow morning I am off to talk to Tim Birkin who runs Birkin Cycles, so watch this space. However my last post generated some interchange on our local Cycling Network and Mark had a story to tell, which I thought worth repeating

I had my second Raleigh 753 from Paul in 1980. 
It was stolen from Alvaston around 1983. 
TWO weeks ago it appeared on ebay in Long Eaton! !!!
I now have it back. 
Now fully stripped currently undergoing full nut and bolt restore Inc full respray Inc original decals. 

Mark reckons it will be fully operational in 5 weeks..though I doubt the engine is quite as powerful as the original version shown in the first image!

I am also off to Mercians soon... so, if you own a Mercian, have a story then please get ready to share it when the article is posted.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Local Bike Shop

Do you use your local bike shop?
Or are you a devotee of those vast emporiums which inhabit the internet and sell at highly competitive prices?
Perhaps, like me, you use them both but in so doing am I leaching the life blood and history away from our Local Bike Shops?
Readers of this blog will know that I am both a novice to cycling, an Old Age Pensioner,  not very competitive and a real beginner at cycling mechanics. I am good at finding cake stops on rides and love to talk about the world of  cycling, both past and present. And so I thought I would post a series of articles on the Local Bike Shops of Derby and its surrounding areas.

Most, if not all, of the cycle shop proprietors are keen cyclists themselves and many have turned their hobby into their livelihood. Ralph Wyld was a fine example of this and in each of the three years prior to the 1928 Olympiad in Amsterdam, he with his three brothers won the National Team Pursuit. The brothers were however split up for the Olympics itself where the Wyld brothers Harry, Lew and Percy were joined by Monty Southall and won the Bronze Medal in the 4000 metres Team Pursuit

Ralph started Ralph Wyld Cycles at 61 Nottingham Road, Derby in 1928 and his brothers also helped him out there. Five years later in 1933 the business moved up the road to 95 Nottingham Road and continued trading there until 1995 when it closed.

It is thought that the site was a Carpet Shop following its life as Ralph Cycles but now it has become a Sandwich Shop.

I was not interested in cycling in those days but a friend who was provided the following reminiscence

" When I went there regularly for my bits it was Ralph who was serving - a benevolent and slightly balding man of light build who treated me, as a very young cyclist, with respect and was ever ready to give cycling tips. He was stooped around the shoulders - probably from working on bikes :-)  The shop was old fashioned even then, and that was 50 years ago,  and contained lots of wooden drawers full of mystery and had bike bits like wheels and frames hanging on the walls. He must have had the odd ready built bicycle but I do not remember any. The shop was a labour of love and all the cyclists loved him. I remember Ralph dying but I cannot remember who served after..I think the shop was later sold.

Ralph was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire on 7.June.1907 and died, aged 64 years in 1972. The shop continued trading for another 23 years but I dont know whether it stayed in the family or was sold.

This article has been all about a local bike shop of yesteryear. The next one will hopefully cover Birkins  Cycles, a new kid on the block

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Mobile Mechanic

I am not sure whether every cyclist used to be a Boy Scout, but their motto of " Be Prepared " is something that all cyclists should adopt. In the case of cyclists this often boils down to the stuff they carry with them in case of the need for urgent repairs on the road. Whether or not they know how to ACTUALLY  use this kit is another matter entirely. And it is this which started me thinking when I misplaced my Multi-Tool the other week and was in need of a replacement. The modern tool is really a mechanics wonderland

Allen keys  of every size, tyre levers,flat and phillips screwdrivers, spanners and even a chain splitting tool; a cornucopia of instruments. And of course with this wide range of Allen Keys I could even remove and maintain the pedals. You never know, the next generation of multi-tools may even allow me to re-program my Shimano  Ultegra Di2 Electronic Gear Change System.   Perhaps.
Of course there is a minor downside of having this mobile workshop, it is heavy and we all know that weight kills especially when climbing hills.
But it was not always like this, though cyclists have always loved toys as shown by this travelling tool kit from Mafic.

Tyre levers were missing from this kit so had to be purchased separately as shown in this early tool manufactured by  Terrys

But compared to the vast array of tools for the mobile mechanic available today, some of us remember the first ever multi tool, and this set contained something all the others still miss....a pair of spoons which doubled as a musical instrument or essential when eating strawberries and icecream.

My lightweight cycling friends carry lightweight kit and one of the best I have seen are these, though I have my doubts over the life expectancy of those plastic tyre levers which double as a case.

My eldest son however has embarked on a plan which eschews all this modern paraphernalia and relies upon an Oyster Card, a £10 note and a mobile phone plus a bunch of flowers to a hopefully helpful wife .

Have you got any essential kit ? New or vintage?  Post a photo in the comment section below

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

An Unfortunate Interlude

I have done very little cycling this year so far and hence the Blog has suffered too.
The reasons are many including needing a boat, not a bike, an increase in the number of grandchildren, injuries to legs and shoulder, but mainly due to downright laziness.

Last year I had a major project, to get fit to ride in the inaugral London100 and the training and fundraising for this dominated my life. It also included an attempt to capture in a few photographs, my cycling year and I published these in an earlier post.

But now I am re-energized!

And this years Blog Posts will have a different theme.

The other day I lost my multi-tool and in enquiring about  a suitable replacement I got involved about how tools had changed over the years. And then onto "Cycle Shops We Had Known" in Derby(shire).
Now those who follow my blog will know that I have only been cycling since I retired , about 6 years ago now, and so my personal knowledge is limited.  However, one of the great things about the OAP Tea Shop Tours thst I regularly embark upon is that they give us plenty of time to chat. So, with the help of a couple of old time cyclists to help with the research, this Years blog will aim to show the history of Derby Cycle Shops both present and extinct

Watch this space!

Research commences this morning where I am meeting my Research Staff.
Where are we meeting?
Why, in a Cake Shop of course

Monday, January 6, 2014

Turning To The Dark Side

I am ill

I am very very very ill

Indeed I thought I might be next to death's door.

I have had the first signs of an  extreme case of man flu.

The men I have spoken to have understood perfectly and been most sympathetic. Indeed one said that he had heard a rumour that the  local hospital had opened a special ward for OAPs in my condition and staffed it with particularly young, attractive nurse to dab my fevered brow..

However, the response I have had from the females that I know has been completely different!

My wife has ignored me!

Others have gone * pfft, humbug * and just walked away!

And those who are cyclists have told me, in a very scornful voice, to obey #Rule 5  from The Way of the Cycling Disciple

There seemed to be only one cure for my illness, and that was to follow #Rule 12, the correct number of bikes to own is N+1 where N is the number you currently have.

So, I have acquired another bike !!!!!

It is a Giant  TCR Advanced SL3 but equipped with Ultegra Di2

The specification sounds very impressive but some of you may be asking :-

 "  Is not that an aerodynamically contoured racing machine constructed out of Advanced SL CARBON Composite Grade Frame ?  And does it not have a Compact Group Set and hence only two chain wheels?
I thought you were wedded to Steel?  And high quality Reynolds Steel Tubing at that ? "

Another friend has pointed out that the Giant P-SL0 Wheel System seems to be short on spokes compared to his 1983 Raleigh Royal with 36 spokes in each wheel.

I also had to defend myself by pointing out that, though it did indeed have an electronic Ultegra Di2 Groupset, it was not all of Ulregra build, the Bottom Bracket is Dura Ace.

I can only put down this turning to the Dark Side and acquiring a Death Star down to the fact that my extreme illness must have rearranged some of the neural pathways in my brain and caused a moment of insanity

It is very nice though :-)