Monday, 31 January 2011

Nexus 8 DIY Steering Stabiliser (Part 8)

Steering Stabilisers are available from Hebie or come fitted to some Dutch & other utility bikes. They serve two purposes mainly. First they stop the front wheel from flopping to one side when the bike is parked on it's kickstand. Second they provide a slight dampening to the steering when the bike is in motion, which in theory makes it easier to hold a straight line & cruise for long distances.

I can't remember when the idea first came to my attention, but I liked the look of them and they seemed like something that should be fairly easy to bodge together a DIY version to see what happens. A bit of research turned up the various designs - some shown below. The general design is a spring suspended in tension between the back of the forks and a fixing of somekind on the downtube. All easy enough. The trickier part would be making the spring adjustable, but that could wait until I'd had it fitted and tested for a while.
The spring I used came from an old angle-poise lamp. It's quite a strong one, certainly stronger than the same springs on a newer lamp I have from Ikea. Once fitted it's obvious that the springs needed for this have to be quite powerful springs if they are to take the weight of the front wheel.

I made a small bracket from a piece of plate steel (powder coated orange helpfully) and bent it to a right angle. The idea being that this would fix behind the nut on my mudgaurd mount and provide a fixing point for one end of the spring.

For the time being I just held the other end of the spring onto the downtube with a cable tie.

It's pretty effective at keeping the front wheel from flopping to the side when parked and you can feel a difference when moving. Trouble is this was all about 3 months ago and much the same as with the chainglider, I've gotten so used to it just being there that I don't notice it doing it's job anymore. So it's still in it's cable-tied half made state :) in fact I'm not sure if I'll even bother finishing it because it does the job just fine as it is.

On a side note, whilst looking into steering stabilisers I came across 'flickstands' which are purely for keeping the wheel from flopping and look like they are more suited to sportier bikes without mudgaurds.
I'm afraid I saved these examples so long ago that I've no idea where I got them from so can't credit them. I do know the top right stabiliser is the Hebie retrofit version that's available from SJS or Velorution for about £15.

Edit: The bottom left seems to be a Hebie as well - from Practical cycles. 

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Canal ride home from Wheeler's Brunch

After having a great time at the Wheeler's Brunch organised by LC of NaturallyCyclingManchester I decided to ride back up the Canals to get back to Hyde. It's a bit more hard work in this direction as the locks are all uphill so it's easier to jump off and push on some of the cobbled sections especially on the 20" wheels of a Triumph Twenty.

Someone has done a bit of  work to the towpath around Dukinfield. Last week this stretch had got some very big potholes, which have now been filled with a gravel sand mix. It's better than nothing of course, but  little more than a short term fix.
A little further a tree has fallen and blocked the canal completely. Doesn't look like it will be the easiest task to remove.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Hopper build (pt 7)

It's been a pretty long time since my last post about the Hopper so here's an update.

All the various parts of bottom bracket, headset and cranks got a good soaking in turps and a rub with some wire wool.
The forks, frame and mudgaurds got sanded down with a combination of a cupbrush on an angle grinder and a dremel for the fiddly bits. No sand papering because thats boring. Then all the bits were given a good wipe down with meths to clear off any dirt as best as I could without actually putting much effort in :-).

In the past I've repainted a bike frame by going through the entire rigmoral of sanding it down, cleaning it up, applying undercoats, colour coats and then layer upon layer of laquer and you know what?'s a complete waste of time and frankly the most boring process imaginable, plus the results are just not worth the effort to me.  So this time I decided to Keep It Simple Stupid and bought a tin of good ol'Hammerite. 

Then the entire lot was hung on a wire from the garage ceiling and given a liberal coating of dark green Hammerite. One thick coat is all it needs (ish) directly onto the bare metal, giving a tough shiny finish when you come back the next day which means it takes approximately 1 million less man-hours than spray painting and looks better in the end as well.
After that it was just a case of putting all the bits together, doing a bit of fiddling to get the chain tension right and the gears changing nicely then go for a test ride. (this is near the court in Ashton, just past a big gyratory of mortal peril)

The chain gaurd went on later (when I'd found it). The test ride exposed the rear mudgaurd as being rattly as hell, so the metal hanger for it got a piece of inner tube glued to the underside of it - which worked a treat.

Here it is in all its finished glory :-) its alot of fun to ride and actually has a very relaxed comfortable geometry. The drum brakes are amazing in the 20" wheels and just confirm to me that every bike I own from now on should have internal hub brakes where possible.
Unfortunately its out of action again now until I get round to replacing the lock washers for the rear hub. The ones I had weren't up to the task and have crumbled to pieces under presumably the torque of the drum brake and me standing on the pedals to test it out. Oops....

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Sunday canal ride

On Sunday me & my brother went for a trip round the Peak Forest Canal, Ashton Canal, Bridgewater Canal then a nip down Seymour Grove in Firswood (?) to get to the Fallowfield Loop. We took the mountain bikes, this wasn't really necessary but it's fun to bounce around on the suspension just for the day.

The canal system has never had a great reputation, but parts of it, especially the Peak Forest canal in Hyde are looking very neglected compared to the last time I explored a few years ago. The ruts are bigger, the litter is worse and the boggy bits are boggier. British Waterways is to be changed into a Charitable Trust as part of the quango axing, which is apparently a good thing as it will give them more access to grants and funds, so hopefully some of that (probably pitiful) dosh can make its way towards Tamesides canal system and upgrade the paths to the quality found closer to the city centre.

If you put the parts of dereliction aside, the canal system is a fantastic resource that goes totally unappreciated in a country thats prepared to spend £3.1m on making congested motorways more dangerous for instance. It's the fastest route to get from Hyde to Ashton for example and involves no hills at all. It's the same on the otherside of Manchester where to get from the city centre to Trafford park would involve a steady climb whereas the Bridgewater canal is a flat, unhindered & quiet route to the same destination. And even on a nippy Janurary afternoon a ride around the canals makes for a really pleasant day out, it's even nicer on a summers day when the sun's out.

Anyway, enough waffling. Here's some photos of the Peak Forest canal to get to Portland Basin in Ashton. (By the way I've taken some of the photos facing forwards, some back the way we've come from.... just in case you think the towpath is switching sides all the time!)

This spot is in a noticeably bad state, I've no idea how long its been like this but eventually the edging stones will collapse completely into the canal and become a much bigger problem to fix than if it had been seen to now. (near the Snipe retail park). There are a few other spots similar, but this is the biggest. The towpath has been collapsed in someway near Asda in Ashton for a long time, but I haven't been over there for about 10 years so haven't seen the state of it myself.

You then get to the Motorway bridge, which is the darkest and gloomiest part of the journey. The main problem here is the lighting is insufficient for any time of day & most of the bulbs have gone now anyway.
Just past here you get to the only 'posh' bit of the journey with a range of expensive looking canalside homes. The surface on this stretch is pretty good but I'm not a fan of this sandy gravel surface (whatever its proper name is). It's seen as being more 'countryside' and natural, when in reality canals are anything but natural and it would be a benefit to everyone if these towpaths were resurfaced with the wide tarmac like surface that can be found further on as you get towards the Sportscity.

The search for Alien life continues in Droylsden.....

A little further on you start to find the good old British tradition of 'Cyclist Dismount' signs. At least these ones are signed with British Waterways so you know who to blame for wasting money. From this point on there are quite a few shoulder gates, but there is no need to use any of them as some are off to the side for no reason and at others the gate next to it is permanently open.
From here onwards the surface is good and a decent uniform width. This is all part of when the Commonwealth games was held in Manchester and the whole stretch got a thorough refurb.

This bike rack caught my eye because it's a shining example of form over function. It's a fantastic piece of manufacturing and looks good, but it's quite obviously a useless piece of crap for locking bicycles to (the bent rusty front wheel illustrates this nicely!). Plus it's hidden out the way down the side of the building instead of outside the entrance & visible.....sigh.

This spot is obviously the favourite nicked bike dumping area. We counted at least 7 bikes and 2 shopping trolleys amongst other stuff.
Near Great Ancoats now and you start to find some big apartment buildings. The new metro line goes right past here as well and there is a fair bit of ground works going on. You can stay on the towpath here and come off somewhere near the BDP Architects building on Ducie St, but we chose to come off and zip down the roads to get under Picadilly train station and over to Canal Street where you can rejoin the towpath.

Canal St is one of nicest parts of the city centre. Infact such a good job has been done of creating a pleasant, relaxed, traffic free daytime environment on Canal St that I propose British Waterways should join forces with the LGF and embark on a pioneering revival of the Northwest's waterways.

Once you are back onto the towpath you are heading towards Castlefield with it's city centre living atmosphere,  bridges, viaducts, bars & restaurants and.......hmmm what is it that makes this place so nice? cars blasting around.

Once you are outside of Castlefield the towpath reverts back to the thin sticky sand-gravel stuff. 

Our journey on the canals ended at Throstle Nest Bridge where we used the excellent segregated facility (Pavement) to partially negotiate the Mega roundabout of death and begin to head towards the Fallowfield Loop.

On the Loop we met this little fella who I saw again the next morning, but this time at the complete other end of the Loop. So there you have it, the canals are good but the Loop is so good that stray kittens think its worth making Home. That's a seal of approval to be proud of :-)

Friday, 21 January 2011

Tesco Stockport cycle trolley shed

As part of the Megasizedhellholewehaveeverthingontheplanetunderoneroof Tesco development in Stockport they were of course obliged to provide a certain amount of cycle parking. This will have been proportional in some way to the size of the development*. Which is why Tesco Stockport has got the biggest cycle parking shelter in the whole world area.

Unfortunately because of the nature of MEGA stores like this and the surrounding MEGA lane roads and MEGA roundabouts its pretty unlikely that anyone will fancy popping to the shops on their bike. Which is why this nice big shelter with its nice big sheffield stands is nothing more than an employee smoking shelter and a shopping trolley dumping spot. Shame really, because it's better than what you might find in much more deserving spots.

At least part of the development meant building this segregated two-way cycle path which leads to a section of shared pavement (sigh) and allows access to NCN62 across Tiviot Way.

If the photos look a bit weird, that's because I seem to have had the camera set to the 'what's it like to have a visual impairment mode?'.

Another supersized retail park of somesort is being built opposite this Tesco on the site above the motorway, next to the allotments. Can't wait to see it's cycle parking.

Now if every A & B road in Stockport and Greater Manchester had Dutch style continuous cycle infrastructure this sort of cycle parking might well be packed with's hoping we can find out if that's true in the future.

*naughtily built 20% larger than the planning permission if I remember correctly.Quietly forgotten about by now I would expect.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Manchester Velodrome: Taster Session

A couple of weeks ago I went on an hour long taster session at Manchester Velodrome. The omens were good as I cycled straight there from work, setting off at the same time as everyone else (all going by car) and arrived a good 10 minutes before anyone else. I rode up Ashton Old Rd then up the partially segregated lanes on Alan Turing Way. When you get to the point that you need to turn right off Alan Turing Way the traffic lights have a cyclist only phase to allow you to pootle across the massive expanse of tarmac safely. It's a shame every mega junction doesn't have this style of setup!.

There is a good number of Sheffield stands up the steps out the front, but they are on thier own,in the dark and pretty unappealling. Luckily as part of the new work being done (building an indoor BMX track nextdoor) they have installed a new sheltered cycle rack directly outside reception. It was still fenced off though - solution?....move the fence and use it anyway. Note my cunning use of a Tesco bag which I put on to protect my saddle from the rain......then I realised the shelter has a roof......

Once inside I realised that if you are willing to carry your bike down a short flight of stairs then it was ok to take your bike indoors with you, as a couple of other people had done in the session that was just finishing.

The taster session itself was brilliant. Most in our group got the hang of cycling up on the banking even if there was some apprehension beforehand. It was a bit of a free for all really, with people cycling round at all speeds and over & undertaking on both sides. I guess the idea being to let you have a feel of what it's like to cycle a fixed wheel on a track rather than learn all the rules and etiquettes.

A few random impressions:

  • Listen to the man in yellow and do what he says
  • The blue concrete is slippy as hell in daft clown road shoes.
  • Don't stop pedalling
  • Power through the bends
  • I found it worked best for me if I looked at the exit of the corner
  • Hold the bars gently
  • Shoulder checks before doing anything.
  • Pootling around daily on your slow utility bike is ideal preparation
  • Say thanks to the man in yellow afterwards.
Even if you've got no intention to become a track cycling aficionado and have never been above 15mph on your bike I'd still recommend having a go at a taster session just for the experience. Bonus points are awarded if you ride your bike to get there :-)

 When we had finished there was quite a big group of riders waiting to get on the track so I took a couple of blurry snaps of them doing things properly before heading off.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Dutch win again - this time road building

The Dutch company is called Vanku. More details & photos here.

Almost everything you see online from The Netherlands is fascinating but depressing at the same time!, Why can't we do this?

In contrast here is a recent photo of road maintenance in Manchester ;-)

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The gas men are here

Gas works on Peter Street this week (and probably for many many weeks further) which means we get the pleasures of signs like this slapped in the middle of the cycle lane yesterday. 

Fortunately it makes almost sod all difference to the everyday experience of this cycle lane because without fail there will always-always be a white van man parked up outside the newsagents in Peter house.

Oh look!'s todays white van man. DG07 XMZ
On the flip side of things, its not just cycle lanes the gas workers have screwed up this morning. The huge jam of cars in the photo is because the temporary lights up ahead are stuck on red in all directions (do temporary lights have any other setting?). Oh well, at least on a bike it's almost impossible to be made late for work by traffic like this :-)

UPDATE: The sign has now been move forward a bit and put on the pavement. Hopefully this was done by the gas workers to correct their error and not a pissed off member of the public, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Brooklyn Vs Denton

In an entirely uneven comparison I present you with Denton's finest piece of cycling infrastructure - Denton roundabout bridge.

It's features include:
  • A conflicting mixture of 'No Cycling' signs on one side and shared path signs on the other. 
  • It's only supposed to be used heading west, whilst heading East you must either illegally use the pedestrian crossing or take your chances with the RLJ lorries (because for some reason the equivalent cycle route was never completed and is now blocked off with fencing)
  • Many people, unsuprisingly, forego the last option and simply use the bridge in the opposite direction - which means having to use the pavement down the side of a motorway slipway for a short stretch.
  • Bizarrely in the photo below the sign warns to 'Look left', even though technically all cycles should be coming from the right. So this signs hints that the bridge is actually allowed to be used in both directions? even though that wouldn't legally be possible.
  • Best of all. This schizophrenic oddity represents the single best piece of infrastructure available to cyclists heading into Manchester on Hyde Road - which only goes to show how abysmal things really are.

Meanwhile in Brooklyn they are busy creating this:
The Taming and Reclaiming of Prospect Park West from Streetfilms on Vimeo.