Thursday, 29 July 2010


The first time I tried cycling to work I lived North of Rochdale. Meaning it was a pretty serious bit of riding each way to make it the 14 miles or so into work. It would take around 1 hour in the morning and maybe 1 hr 20 to get home because the area I lived was at a higher elevation than the city centre. I did this journey for a short while, but mostly carried on getting the train because the distance and time it took was a bit overwhelming for a daily commute.

My previous experiences of commuting by train from Hyde were fine, but getting the train from Rochdale was soul destroying. It was constantly late, constantly cancelled, always dangerously overcrowded and bloody expensive. As soon as I stopped getting the train I stopped catching colds....go figure.

Luckily Woman changed jobs and began working in Manchester. Meaning we could commute together and get rid of one of our two cars*. This presented a new problem, we could park for free at her new workplace, but I would still need to travel the last 3.5 miles myself to get to the city centre. So at first I was driving the last few miles in and parking up in one of the cheapo car parks further out of town. But that was no fun, and all those £2 a days etc add up to alot.

So I started looking at folding bikes. The idea being the car would be parked up for free, then I would cycle in the last few miles. After a bit of umming and arring I stuck to my principle of 'buy cheap, buy twice' and went for the best folder there is - The Brompton. Second hand off ebay, it was a red basic M3L version, with 3 speed Sturmey Archer hub & mudguards. I worked out that if I rode it in everyday for around a year it would pay for itself courtesy of the savings on parking & petrol. But frankly, I would have paid that money just to be free of the train.

Of course none of that takes into account that the train used to cost £80 a month, or £960 a yr. hmmm... maybe I should have got two Bromptons....

Over that period the B recieved a few upgrades, some because I felt like it, some because they were required. It got a pair of the ever dependable Schwalbe Marathons, some ergo grips, new front brake cable, a lefthand folding pedal and recently a new cheapo right hand pedal.

The most important addition was my Dad's 30+ yr old Brookes saddle to replace the terrible spongy thing that Brompton's used to come with.

I'd definately recommend a Brompton to anyone. It might not beat other folders in a spec war and it might not look quite as racey as some, but its far far better than any of its competition.

*getting rid of a car is like giving yourself a payrise, nothing has changed but now you are richer.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Transporting bits of bicycle by bike

The cheapo forks I ordered for my old MTB arrived. I'd had them delivered to my designated pick up point (parents house) so I had to go pick them up. It fitted quite easily on the Trek's rack, even if it did stick out a bit.

Not so long ago I would have nipped up in the car to pick up something like this, but since I was on my way home from work I just rode the 3 miles or so further and got them. It was also a good excuse to go down the section of Hyde Road that crosses the River Tame. It's always fun when the car drivers find they can't enter 'must past the cyclist' mode because I'm going faster than them.

Heres the forks in all their 'New Old Stock' glory.The MTB is purple so they should look suitably odd when fitted.

Thoroughly Modern: The Bicycle


Great program about the beginnings of the modern bicycle.

Nice mention for Pashley and their deal to provide the Royal Mail with Mailstars too. Interesting to find out the shear number of Mailstars and the fact that the fleet is continuously recycled and replaced by Pashley.

Also Rob Penn's Story of the Bicycle which puts the idea of a new golden generation of the bicycle coming forth quite well.

Just a shame the BBC shows these types of programs on BBC4 where they are probably only preaching to the choir.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Fallowfield Loop

On Saturday, me, her and my brother went on a gentle ride along the river Tame to Reddish Vale then across to the Fallowfield Loop to see what’s what.

I’ve never been to the Fallowfield loop and wasn’t disappointed. Just like the section of section of old railway line that runs through Hyde, it felt like a bicycle commuters dreamland. Straight open flat and smooth with not a single R*nge R*ver in sight. What a shame that it doesn’t go directly into the City Centre, although I sure it must be amazing for anyone who does commute in the particular direction that the loop follows.

Unfortunately I forgot my camera!, so I have no photos to upload. Here's a crude map instead:

This was the Nexus’ second outing and it performed well. Our route took us over a mixture of gravel paths, smooth tarmac and a section of rough lumpiness here on Ross Lave Lane, which I took quite gently because of ‘new bike paranoia’. But it was great fun even at a slow pace.

Not really a link here, but the day ended with me buying a suspension fork off ebay to put on my old Raleigh Mountain bike. Once that’s on, we are going to visit the Marin Trail in Wales and do some slightly more adventurous offroading.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Nexus Mudguards (pt 2)

I got the Mudguards today after a visit to the local royal mail depot, where they have a nice collection of Mailstars parked up*

Nice and shiny with some go-faster stripes.
They didnt come with the various fitting bolts I would need since they were a cheapo (ish) set off ebay. But I knew the tin of bit'n'bobs in the garage would easily solve that issue.

Fitting mudguards is easy and they weigh barely nothing. So it amazes me sometimes when I see people cycling along in the wet, sending a huge splatter of mucky road water all over themselves and anyone behind them. Seems to me its yet another symptom of how cycling is viewed in this country compared to say Holland or Denmark - i.e. over there most biycles with come with mudguards already fitted.

This being a big fat 65mm wide set of mudguards means that a set for skinny tyres must weigh less than nothing.

The only tricky bit was getting the line of the circumference of the guards to match the tyres closely. the stay are adjustable to help you do this, but there was still a huge gap between guard and tyre down near the bottom bracket. So I hacksawed a little aluminium spacer in half to give a slightly better profile.


*Mailstars are under threat of extinction if the previous head of Royal Mail gets his way as I found out from posts on Manchester cycling.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Nexus 8 Build (part 1)

I'd been thinking of building up a hub gear bike for the everyday commute for a while, when I came across the bargain singlespeeds they are selling at Decathlon.

£69.99 sounded to good to be true, but after a quick inspection and ride up the aisle its easy to see that, for the money, its suprisingly decent piece of kit.

Heres the basic bike, it's a B'twin Vitamin in a lovely bright orange! (ignore the floppy chain, I'd already started the build when I took the photo)

So the plan was, get the bike then scout out ebay for potential hubs. Plenty of choices available. 3 speed Sturmey Archers?, 5 speed sachs?, nexus 7 or 8 speeds among others. Initially I thought it would make a good project to try and do my first wheelbuild, but when a full 26" wheelset with a Shimano Nexus 8 speed & tyres came up and decided wheelbuilding would have to wait for another day.

Here's the wheelset:
They came with a 20 tooth sprocket, twistshifter and decent Schwalbe City Jet tyres.

Now the 20 tooth rear sprocket combined with the 36 tooth chainring already on the Vitamin would give me gear inches of approx 24-75, which is fine, but not quite high enough for what I think I would like. So a smaller rear sprocket will be getting bought later on.

The Vitamin came with a an 18 tooth bmx style freewheel on the rear, meaning I would have to extend the chain by a couple of links. Luckily I an sram pc-1 leftover from when I changed the chainring on my Brompton. The sram chain was even the correct length already.

Slotting the rear wheel in is pretty straight forward. These nexus hubs have a mechanism on the drive side which rotates centrally around the axle in order to change gear. As opposed to the in and out mechanism I'm used to seeing on Sturmey Archer hubs. This Shimano solution works very nicely though and and is easy to adjust as there are a full set of yellow and red markers which will all line up correctly when the Hub is in 4th gear (1:1 Direct Drive)

There are a variety of anti turn washers for these hubs, depending on what kind of dropouts your frame has. The idea of the Anti-turn washers is to align the shifting mechanism in the correct direction and keep the axle fixed in one direction. Mine has the traditional horizontal dropouts because it is built to be a single speed, which is perfect because it means less fuss for me and it makes is easy to adjust the chain tension. Virtually any older frame will be similar though. As usual with cycling, for more detail turn to Sheldon.

Here is the locknut that attaches to the shifter cable and slots into the mechanism on the side of the hub:

Once the rear wheel was in it was just a case of routing the cable down the chainstay arm and up the frame. Cable ties for that job. making sure the cable routed away from the chainring, just in case.

Another beauty of hub gears.....only one shifter to worry about. Easy to mount on after moving the brake lever a bit to give enough room for the grip to go back on ( I might swap the grips later on as they feel a bit gummy for my liking)

Here's the job done. Simple. when I orginally bought the wheelset I had been thinking I would swap the tyres for some dependable Schwable Marathons, but after seeing it complete I really like the extra chunk that the 1.95 city jets give, so I'll be keeping them for now.

Just waiting for some black mudgaurds to come in the post and it will be ready for all weathers.

Monday, 19 July 2010

First Post

Currently we've got 6 bikes in our household, 5 of them mine.

Ok I don't need 5 bikes and having that many doesnt really fit with me being such a stingy bastard, but to be honest our entire collection cost less than the price of just one of the bikes that I regulary see people riding , only for it to go back in the shed at the slightest hint of rain. So at some point over the last year or so, messing with bikes has become a hobby (note I didn't say I'm good at it). It started when I began riding my Brompton to work in early 2009 and continued with me building a fixie out of an abandoned 80's Raleigh Racing bike. I've never made much use of the fixie, infact I don't know why I made it... maybe I'll do something about that later.

Anyway I'll use this blog to try and keep a record of what Ive built and modified as well my own take on what life is like trying to use a bike for everyday boring stuff in a country that's in love with the car.