Archive for the 'cycling' Category

Chilly Out

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

I realise it’s winter, but tonight’s cold snap surprised me: I got changed, got gloves on, and got the bike out, and then when setting off had a surprise: the front gear mechanism literally would not move, and investigation found that it was frozen mud, rather than any mechanical failure. It seems this time I strayed too far the other side of sensible cleaning, and was foiled in my attempt tonight by the fact the outside tap had frozen too…

The ride itself was “bracing”, but it was a lovely still, crisp night, and the cold means fewer disturbances on the towpath: two brave souls fishing, and on the way back, one fellow cyclist, one deer, and a pussy cat that bolted and was about to consider trying to jump the canal at the narrow bit here, but reconsidered, and happily didn’t try to cross the ice, as it didn’t look that thick.

Getting to Chasewater, the gears had re-frozen partially, making the climb to the dam hard going, but a shove freed it, and the park itself was deserted: I would have stopped a while and enjoyed the peace, but the cold was also knackering the batteries in my lights, the front one of which doesn’t last long on full brightness (which would be very antisocial on the road) on a warmer night. Thankfully they lasted out, and I got home, then having to heat the shed padlock before I could lock it…

Some you win

Friday, November 4th, 2016

Time I blogged a bit more…

A week of differing days: starting with a very long day, and a failed Internet connection and firewall migration (which had to be reverted), followed by another late finish, followed by a hospital appointment with a long wait (and having arrived early in order to park, that made it a very long one) and a vile, stop-start rush hour drive back through Brum, along with the accompaniment of an ominous rattle from the car, sounding like I was dragging a wind chime.

Today was improved: the rattle went, and after a check by my friendly local VW specialist, we agreed it was probably nothing more than a stone trapped in a brake disc shield, which then dropped out at some point. A grim drive from there to work, but then things start to improve later in the day: I did have a spare PCI ethernet card in my desk to connect a failing wireless network, the IPCop firewall PC did have a spare slot and the drivers for the card, I did know the password, and it all just worked, which meant a 4pm finish, and a surprisingly good journey home.

With a bit more time on my hands, it’s easier to persuade myself go for a quick spin on the bike to Chasewater. Rush hour was still in progress on the roads, but the towpath was literally almost deserted (I met one person, one cat and one fox in over 6 miles) and peaceful, but tough going after a week and a half not riding. The compensation for dragging my corpulent carcass out on a dark and relatively cold night is that I’ve reclaimed my towpaths from the armies of dog walkers, anglers, fair-weather cyclists, and pokemon hunters that are all over the place on the lighter, warmer evenings (though to be fair there was one pokemon hunter at Chasewater itself).

I’m now hoping my plan to leave early today (Friday) comes to fruition. A plan for the cinema, some beer and some food is forming….

Off The Rails

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

More bike fiddling. In a draft post I never published back in January, I noted the front gear mechanism was getting stiff, despite recent cable changes, and it got to the point that lubricating it would ease the problem for a short time, but it always returned. Time for a new mechanism.

Things got complicated. Top swing, conventional swing, different diameter clamps, no clamps, and a range of speeds it’s intended to be used with- not just the 3 chainwheels, but for 7,8,9 or 10 rear sprockets- and the elusive combination of not too cheap, not too expensive, 8 sprockets, 3 chainwheels (biggest 48 tooth), Shimano SIS and top swing (to clear a water-bottle cage bolt) seemed impossible, but after advice from BrownhillsBob and someone else I now owe another pint to, and a bit of web searching, it seemed that the FD-M770, though technically for 9 speed, should be fine, contradicting one shop, and so it proved to be (though I should have known that- the general font of all knowledge bike wise on the web says so): the cage is a little narrower, but the 8-speed chain clears it if set up correctly (which I managed second time, the first test ride had it shifting OK, but rattling slightly in high gears), and gear changes are now fast and easy. The build is better too, so I’m hoping this will stand up to the towpath a bit better- as can be seen, without full mudgards it is right in the line of all the mud.

That Time of Year

Monday, December 21st, 2015

No, not the festive season. It’s the time of year again when I have to get the bike in the kitchen for cable replacements. It’s always this time of year, it seems. Christmas: ’tis the season to strip and replace gear and brake cables, so I took up the festive bike maintenance position in the kitchen, and this time didn’t lose any pingfuckits.

I had hoped my lower mileage this year might have avoided this, but obviously the last couple of runs to Chasewater in the mud (after which I hosed both the bike and myself) have made a mockery of that, with gear selection getting tricky and the brakes less effective. I’ve bought a different gear cable this time, with extended ferrules in places, so hopefully I might get a bit longer out of these.

Horny Cock

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Now I’ve got your attention, you’ll be disappointed.

The current roadworks on the A4124 have pushed a good bit more traffic over the amusingly-named Black Cock Bridge. Anyone that knows the bridge knows that it’s fearsomely steep- slightly less so than the pre-1994 Clayhanger Bridge, but still steep and narrow, and blind at the summit (this side is slightly less steep than the other):

This means that, except at night, it’s an appropriate place to use a car horn.

My recovery from surgery dictates that I should try to walk a reasonable distance each day, and a walk to the bridge and down the towpath is both not too inconvenient and fairly pleasant, but with the extra traffic it has revealed to me just how many people are both incapable of using the horn correctly, and indeed of realising why others might do so, and it is, as one might say, boiling my piss too a disproportionate degree.

For the record, as there’s not room for two cars to pass, the idea is to approach at a speed you could stop in, sound your own horn once, maybe twice, and listen for the same from the other side, so that only one of you passes the narrow bit, and causes the minimum of noise nuisance. This might mean, for example, muting the stereo.

The idea isn’t to approach fast, sounding the horn repeatedly, with a mobile phone held to your ear, just for one (twattish) example.

A few years ago, residents near the bridge wanted the bridge closed when a long-lost consultation took place, citing danger and noise. I had little sympathy, given that the bridge has been there longer than them, but really, with the number of idiots I’ve heard of late, I can hardly blame them.

Break the Cycle

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

I’ve noticed that subtly, people are starting to label me as a cyclist: family bought me cycling based gifts, for example. I’m not actually that much of a cyclist- I cycle short distances around 5 times a week, depending on weather- and that probably makes me “not a proper cyclist” amongst certain members of the community.

Of course, the whole labelling thing is dangerous, it makes me uncomfortable. I’m a driver, a cyclist, a pedestrian, and a public transport user, and all of these groups can be (and are) labelled:

1) All car drivers use their mobiles when driving
2) All cyclists jump red lights
3) All pedestrians walk out without looking
4) All Public transport users cannot afford a car, or they’d have one.

just for example, to pick four statements I know to be untrue.

I’ve seen something while in Cardiff that did, however, awaken the millitant cyclist in me, and also make me think about the ineptitude of road planners, indulging in a bit of box-ticking.

Cyclists will campaign for seperate infrastructure. A cycle path physically seperated from the road. This seems like a good idea. Let’s see that in action.

This is LLoyd George Avenue, linking the city to the bay. I walked down it several times, noting the totally unused cycle path to my left, and a few cyclists coming past on the main carriageway.

Bloody cyclists, eh? Provide that lane, and they don’t use it.

Let’s look at it from the ground.



In the pic, the road is to my right. I’m on the footpath, and the cycle path is to my left. In front of me is a side road, with a set of traffic lights to stop traffic on the main road, and a pelican crossing I can operate to cross (though in practice, the side road is so quiet, you don’t need to, and the delay on the lights changing is ridiculous, so you won’t bother).

You’ll notice that the cycle lane comes to an abrupt halt at a barrier.

So, yes, the designers thought that it was a good idea to make cyclists stop every few hundred yards, dismount, push a button, wait for a crossing to change, walk over, get back on the bike, and rinse and repeat.

What the very fuck?

That’s why all the cyclists are on the A470, and the cycle lane is unused.

Why on earth the cycle lane wasn’t built alongside the road, sharing priority over the side roads, is beyond me. It could still be seperate- in fact, just swapping position of the footpath & cycle way and reconfiguring the junctions a little would seem to have achieved that to me: The cyclists would get space, and have equal priority to cars, the pedestrians would be isolated from the cylists.

People are *paid* to do this.

He Slimed Me

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

My continued effort to cycle more is working: I manage to drag myself out several times a week now, but this is noticeably having an effect on the bike- my sketchy cleaning and lubrication regime combined with the grit and mud of canal towpaths means I’ve been through a good few cables, and had a few instances of gears misbehaving. On top of this, the pedals I fitted almost a year ago have developed a nasty click and some play, so they’re next on the list, having spent some time yesterday cleaning and lubing things, and putting slime in the tyres, after having 2 punctures in as many days. I don’t carry a pump (in fact, I don’t have one, as I hate pumping tyres, and use an electric compressor), so I’ve been very lucky up to now and not got stranded, although I’ve ridden home on a soft tyre a couple of times- I’m hoping the slime will prevent the risk of a long walk.

A Frosty Reception

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Having fixed my bike on Christmas Eve, I thought I’d take advantage of the daylight and fully functioning gears and go to Chasewater for the first time in months. The canal was frozen, and the towpaths covered in frost, but the only time I had a slip was climbing Ogley Junction bridge, making it neccesary to walk over it. Other than that, the frost hissed away under the tyres harmlessly, though I took it very carefully over the railway aqueduct, with it’s exposed brick path covered in frost.

I’ve biked a bit in the recent cold and since the fix, but only short hops on main roads, and it was nice to get back on the canal: few people were about, the sun was bright, and while it was cold, the sharpness of it felt good.

The local swan family were about, but split by the icy canal between Clayhanger and Anchor bridges the cygnets now pretty much fully grown but still grey in places, and hoping for food from me:

A fully-grown cygnet at Anchor Bridge

A fully-grown cygnet at Anchor Bridge

The neighbourhood cats around Ogley Hay were making use of the ice to cross the canal and extend their territory, but didn’t stay still long enough to get my gloves off and photograph them.

Chasewater itself was almost deserted: a couple of joggers and dog walkers- and the seats were all covered in frost or water, so I didn’t hang about. I didn’t even attempt to ride up Ogley Junction bridge this time, but it was still a bit of a game: evidently my cheap and nasty “whatever it came with” bike tyres, while a conmpromise most of the time, are better than one would expect on ice: perhaps bike and car tyres have some similarities at the budget end of the market.

I ended up home by 9:30- with cold hands and face, but feeling better than when I left out.

Off The Rails

Friday, December 26th, 2014

I’ve been frustrated by my bike of late: gear changes were getting sluggish, and at times it was plain refusing to shift gear. I replaced the obviously tired chain, and got an improvement for a while, but then things got markedly worse. I misguidedly tried fiddling with the adjusters (some of it in desperation while riding and needing a higher gear), which resulted in me buggering up the thread of the adjuster at the shift lever. The levers are SIS combined brake and gear levers, and come as a pair, so it was off to Halfords website (as the usual suspects like CRC didn’t stock them) for replacements.

Fitting them was mostly fine, though delayed by one pingpuckit (the cable clamp on the front deraileur) making a bid for freedom under the cooker (the kitchen being the only practical place for bike maintenance in December), but adjustment took a while. If you ever have need to adjust bike gears, this is the place to go, but read the rest of this post first.

Deraileur (or derailer) gears are a pretty crude device, just pushing the chain sideways to change gear, and they’re also prone to damage, and in the line of all the mud, grit, and water from the road or canal towpath. I don’t do hundreds and hundreds of miles, but this year has seen me increase my mileage by a lot, and I’ve been out in the mud and had to hose down the bike a fair bit.

Long story short, is that I hadn’t noticed how stiff the control cables had become. As the new levers came with brake and gear cales, all have been replaced, and the smoothness and ease of both braking (my bike has cable-operated discs) and gearchanges is amazing. I suppose I should realise that increased miles on gritty towpaths means increased maintenance, and also learn that generally, adjustments are sometimes better left alone- look at the basics. This also shows why hydraulic brakes, hub gears, and even electronic shifters (yes, bikes now can have CANBus and ECUs) are popular with more serious cyclists- in fact, BrownhillsBob’s quote that (IIRC) “If deraileurs were invented today they’d get laughed at” seems even more sensible for a mountain bike or hybrid. On an outgoing road bike, their efficiency over a hub gear might make more sense.


Thursday, May 1st, 2014

I’d always been a bit doubtful of disc brakes on bikes: I’d always thought that the idea of braking at the centre of the wheel would mean less performance, given the torque needed, but I was proved wrong: even my cheap hybrid bike with simple, cable brakes (I was amazed to discover hydraulic brakes on a bike…) offers much better braking that the old one with rim brakes, surprisingly so: I’d guess that the leverage can be greater as the gap between the friction surfaces can be closer (as there’s no need to take account of a out-of-true rim).

Tonight though, I discovered the best advantage: the rim brakes on the old bike fouled the tyre when removing the wheel, which meant removing the shoes or deadjusting the brake, a right pain in the arse. Disc brakes? no bother- undo the quick-release and the wheel drops out (mental note: this must be a theft potential…). This means that when I had the puncture fairy’s first visit in 12 months of having the bike, I got it fixed quick, and still had time for a quick spin taking in the delights of Brownhills, even after the tedium of finding the tyre levers and patches.

[edit: fixed my woeful grammar and typing]

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