Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A couple of short rides - first puncture - some good cycling kit in 2009

My cycle rides over the last few days have been relatively short. Yesterday I had meetings in London and so cycled to the station to catch the train. With all the recent fuss concerning lack of cycle parking it was slightly annoying to see loads of car spaces but no spare cycle spaces. Mind you I had already made up my mind to leave my bike at Station Cycles. It is on the way through to the station and as I was certain to be returning before 6pm still open on my return from London. I did toy with the idea of using my Brompton - but I was going to a place I had not been to before so it seemed easier. The cycle parking costs £1.50 which for peace of mind is not too bad. Mind you it really does annoy me that the provision for bicycles is so poor. Modern society is ridden with class - transport class. We sit in when flying - !st class, Business class and tourist, but it is also more subtly embedded into the fabric of our transport system. In my view buses are noisy and uncomfortable and here in Cambridge my daughter finds the journey to school less than reliable as she has to catch two different buses with over-crowding.

Until it is accepted that alternate methods of transport to the car should provide a comparable level of comfort and service then the car will always remain the first choice for most people. The alternatives need to add up to an acceptable compromise - but, because a car requires large amount of upfront cash to be spent one generally takes the view that having spent it you might as well use it.

This thoughtlessness then pervades out use of the public highways. Yesterday on my way back from the station, as I was waiting at a junction which controlled the pedestrian/cycle route on a different phase to the cars a car came straight at me - despite his light being red and mine being green. As I passed him I pointed to the big red light - I am not sure quite what he was trying to do - if he was jumping the red light he was very very late.

Later as I cycled along another bit of the shared use pathway I came across a car half parked in a house driveway and half blocking the path. It was a dark car and just after a bend - I saw it - but it demonstrates the sheer thoughtlessness of some people. I am sure that the intent was not to make life dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. The driver probably thought that as it was dark then not many people would be cycling and also having spent a lot of money on a car probably did not want to leave it in the road where it might get clipped by another car.

The other problem I had was self-inflicted, the brakes were really, really in need of replacement. I did not have any near misses because of them, I did have to cycle more slowly though to allow for my greater braking distance! So this morning first thing I replaced both the front and rear brake blocks. Hear is a closeup of a rear brake block before replacement. That rusty nut thingy to the left of the picture is what holds the whole thing in place. The rear blocks were actually worn right down to a pin which sits within the rubber and once it has worn down rubs along the rim and makes a noise. At least that is what I think it is there for - but I am not sure. Here is a useful website for fettling brakes. It did not take long to replace all four brake, the real challenge is to ensure that nothing gets dropped when putting the on - there are a whole bunch of washers and things that allow the brake block to contact the rim properly (almost flat but with a slight angle so that it does not squeal). I also put a bit of grease on the thread of the unit to make it easier to remove when at some point in the future they have to be replaced. Having changed the brakes I then only gingerly use them and brake progressively harder to ensure that they are ok. For the first couple of rides I also carry the appropriate Allen key around for any slight tweaking.


Since I had the camera out - here is the zip tie holding the rear mudguard in place - I will get a bit more wear and tear out of the mudguard yet.


The zip-tie holding the speedometer sensor to the fork. Although you can't see it the sensor with the cable attaches to a bracket on the fork with a couple of bosses. One of the bosses has broken so I put a zip-tie round the sensor and fork. The only problem is that water will also be able to get into the sensor. I might put in some silicon grease. I have looked on the web for a replacement - but the speedometer was bought in 2002 and you can't get spares for it anymore. A shame because it has been very reliable. I do have one sensor/cable/holder left - but it only has a thin cable rather than the tick cable in the picture. Once again the chain looked a little rusty from the salt - I must put some thicker lubricant on it/


My son joined me for a spin today, he wanted me to show him the White Fen route I take. The temperature is around 5C so despite the temptation to put lots of layers of clothing on it was actually quite warm for cycling. I rode my Marin-hybrid bicycle with a fairly upright riding position and flat bars, he rode his lightweight racing bike with very skinny tyres. It was very pleasant having someone to talk to whilst out cycling - pretty quickly we came across White Fen and the new path and bridge built as part of the Connect2 initiative. At this point it went wrong - his front wheel punctured. For the last few weeks I have been living "dangerously" and not bothering to carry puncture repair stuff with me, my Schwalbe marathon plus tyres have been remarkably puncture proof. My son had not bothered either - I think it is the grit they use on the path as I had also had a lot of punctures when using skinnier tyres on it- one of the reasons I switched to the Schwalbe tyres. So he started walking and I cycled home to get my car to pick him up. Thinking back I could have just gotten a puncture repair kit.

I did stop on my way back home (to get the car) and take a couple of pictures across Bottisham Lode towards Stow cum Quy Fen. As you can see it was quite a grey day again. This is near the spot where a Heron roosts, we saw it fly off on a way through the first time.

The brakes were fine - no tweaking was required - although I do plan on taking the Allen key along a couple more times, just in case.


The same aspect but a closeup of the trees across the fields.


The puncture got me thinking on how good the Schwalbe tyres - follow the link for more information. They have massively reduced the number of punctures I get down to one or two a year. The fact I do not always carry puncture repair tools with me shows how reliable I think they are.

The second product that has been great is my Edge 605 GPS unit (Note the 605 has been discontinued - there are the 705 and 500 models though). Whilst there have been challenges with the software I am very impressed with its reliability, battery life and ease of use. I Generally just use it for recording my cycling data (where, when, how fast etc). It has also been great when used to routes I did not know - when I cycled from Hull to Cambridge for instance. I tended to use it to highlight a downloaded route rather than give turn by turn directions. That is more in keeping with the way I cycle.

I have to mention my USE joystick lights - so good I got a second. They are small and light and ideal for commuting. I also use them when cycling along byways and bridle-paths at night - generally with both on full-beam. The level of service I got from them has been great too.

Lastly my Altura Night Vision Waterproof Cycling Gloves have also been great. They are warm but not so warm that my hands sweat and make the gloves smelly - which is a problem cyclists have. The inner glove/out glove combination also makes them really good for my photography. It is really easy to stop slip off the outer glove take pictures and then slip the out glove back on - without losing too much heat.

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