Monday, August 5, 2013

Putting off jobs!

Monday, 8th July 2013: For some reason I can’t quite recall there wasn’t much opportunity to cycle over the weekend, apart from popping to the paper shop that is. So as I was due to be in Cambridge for work I took a great circle route to enhance the benefits of my trip.

I know that I argue that loss of momentum is very tiring when cycling however there are benefits to extending a cycle ride, if you have the time. Now I also ought to admit that I am not someone who focuses on washing my bike every time I go out for a ride. Although as a lad I used to enjoy stripping down motorbikes and fettling them I no longer get that sort of pleasure for fettling my bicycles and tend not to. Really bicycles don’t require a lot of fettling and there are few critical things anyway.

I do always keep a spare set of brake blocks to make it easy to replace worn-down brakes. Then I usually buy some more immediately and despite the importance of supporting my local bike shops I tend to buy them over the web. (Sorry local bike shop). It is just so much easier to check what I ordered last time and buy it again, I don’t need it immediately either so the slight delay before it arrives is no issue.

For an easy life I tend to select hard-wearing tyres rather than fast-rolling tyres. There was a time when I would pick faster-rolling tyres – but I must be getting older. I probably also cycle on more rougher paths as well. I find it pays to have tougher tyres on Sustrans routes.  My tyre of choice is the Schwalbe Marathon Plus. I keep two of those in the shed as well and when they get used I buy two more!  They are excellent tyres and I find that they greatly reduced the number of punctures I got.

However they aren’t totally indestructible the rubber gets cut, thorns dig in and the tread surface gets compromised. Now for a month or so I have been thinking it would be a good idea to replace the tyres. I don’t normally have to replace the front tyre as often as the rear tyre.

So I took a great circle route out of town and round the Wilbrahams and then back in again. I stopped This field of barley looks pretty good – although I didn’t stop to find out how “plump” the ears were. According to this website it is normally harvested in August.

Barley Blowing in the breeze – between Fulbourn and Great Wilbraham

As I rounded the great circle way that brought me back along on the NCN51 shared-use path I saw a flash of blue in a gap in the hedgerow.

It was the Linseed I had photographed a few days ago when cycling along Lode Road It looked a lot bluer than last time.  It turns out there was another Flax field as well – in front from this direction. Just in case you were wondering here is the linseed production cycle with harvest in September.

Flax at a distance – Lode Road (but seen from NCN51)

There is nothing like a short cycle ride to “work” it is great for blowing the cobwebs away and as I had to present some stuff it also gave me time to mentally rehearse what I was going to say. Mind you it helped that the weather was good – almost too good as I had to speed up a little and got to my meeting a little hot. I think I stopped too many times to take pictures. 

This wheat along the back of the Newmarket Road Park & Ride, or rather the neatly defined footpath through it was another stop. Although my last as the rest of the journey would be punctuated by a bunch of stops. You can see that the person who farms this field takes their duties seriously.

At this point where NCN51 crosses Ditton Lane the road is quite busy and you can wait up to half a minute for the lights to switch. I don’t quite now why that is. Since what often happens is people don’t wait and cross in a gap,  then cars “have” to stop when the lights go red, but no-one wants to cross. I would have thought it could be programmed to turn red somewhat more quickly – oh I forgot, only people in cars are important to the economy. Just after the crossing there is a steep bend, and a narrow shared-use path. You frequently have to slow down or stop as the bushes also protrude.

Path from Newmarket Road P&R to High Ditch Road

Anyway I got to my meeting in time to lock my bike up and change – although I didn’t really have much cooling down time so I was still a bit hot and sticky in my smarter clothes.

Afterwards I changed back into shorts and a t-shirt and I went out unlocked my bike and set off. My brain can’t have been in gear as my first impression was my front tyre must have been pumped up way too hard. It wasn’t it was flat. So I found a patch of grass and sat on it and replaced the inner tube – it is slightly quicker than patching the tube.  The front tyre was pretty badly cut up. I diligently checked the location of the puncture and removed the bit of flint that has caused the problem. I also checked around the rest of the tyre and dug out other bits of flint.

My stinginess economy had bitten, metaphorically. Still it was better than having to use the aerosol tyre inflator that makes quite a mess, although when I am in a hurry is very handy. (At the moment Halfords is advertising it at 20% off - £6.39. I am tempted, but I already have two and don’t really need another one. A bargain is only a bargain if you need it. Although my Grandmother would have disagreed.)

Anyway I cycled home trying to avoid cycling over any dodgy bits of path with sharp grit or broken glass. Having checked both tyres they were pretty compromised. It was harder to avoid than it sounds unfortunately.  I did stop and without thinking stopped in a patch of grit and thought argh. But as I cycled away things seemed ok. At this point I had around 1.5Km to go and the flipping front tyre started to go soft. I really did need to replace the tyres.

I had three options; fix the tube (patch this time), pump up the tyre and see how fat it would get me or cycle as fast as possible before it went flat. I did the latter and got home with a bit of air left in the tyre.

My next job was to replace both tyres with news ones. The only challenge is that the Schwalbe Marathon plus tyres can be a bit tricky to get on the rim when new and need a fair bit of easing. The other problem I had was they plastic tyre levers get a bit brittle over time (several years) and I broke the plastic tip off one. I did make sure to ease the tyres on and push the tyre down under the lip on the rim.

The trouble is doing office type work means I have soft hands. When I went in to wash up after replacing both tyres my thumb had a 1cm blister on it- it didn’t hurt but was just a nuisance.

And finally some pictures – Red Bull Extreme Sports Image Contest, an abandoned New York power station and some nature photography. (Perhaps I ought to get more pictures of the Konik ponies.)


  1. How do you find the Marathon Pluses off road? I went for the tour version, which has a more aggressive grip than the standard Plus as I thought it might be a bit more grippy on mud. They are rather hefty though and feel a little 'spongy' on the road so might try the standard ones next time. Still I'm very pleased with them overall - they survived having a 3" nail stuck well into the tread last week.

  2. I was feeling a bit disgruntled yesterday, my newly fitted (~500Km) Marathon Plus front tyre had punctured. It wasn't the tyre. Some little shards of metal had fallen of the rim, from the spoke drillings. I normally choose hand-built wheels from Ben Hayward - rock solid, but this was a cheaper one.

    You have hit the nail on the head - the Marathon Plus tyres do tend to splip in the mud, especially when climbing. I hadn't thought about using the Tour version - I might try them. I try not to cycle in the mud though.

    1. Thank you replying Jamie. I don't go out of my way to look for mud, but it does seem to have a habit of finding me on the bridleway around here - a rather entertaining mud bath near the farm on the bridleway between Ramton and Weswick springs to mind. A bit hard to know how much more grip the Tours offer compared to the standard tyre without buying a pair of the latter. Certainly not as good as knobbly MTB style tyres they replaced, but they were terrible on the road, so the Tours seemed a good compromise.