Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year

I just wanted to take a couple of minutes to say Happy New Year to everyone who's been a part of the Shifnal Cycling Society in 2012. To those who've taken time to read the ramblings on here every bit as much as those who've ridden with us.

And what a year it's been. From our local roads around Shrops and Staffs, to much further a field, it's safe to say that we've ridden further, higher, and faster in 2012 than ever before.

However, 2013 will be with us soon and it's time to look forward as we enjoy our memories of this year. We've already got some very exciting projects on the horizon, and it's looking to be another vintage year.

So thanks again, and can i wish you all a happy and healthy 2013. Now get out there and ride your bike(s).


Saturday, 29 December 2012

My Top Ten Rides of 2012

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPad App
Great Riding, Great Beer!
Almost all of my best thinking is done either when I’m riding my bike, or during the malted recovery beverage consumption which often follows. It was during the consumption of the fine ale in the picture above that I had the idea to list my favourite rides of 2012. Many great ones have missed the cut, but here’s my top 10, with a few words to describe what made them so special.
10 – The Shifnal Cycling Society Summer Social Ride; A summer’s day, the lanes of Shropshire and Staffordshire, and a social ride with friends. What more could you ask for?
9 - The Summer Solstice Century Ride; To mark the longest day of the year we devised a simple plan, complete a metric century, and then drink beer. A match made in heaven!
8 – Project 330; This was all Martyn’s idea; He threw the gauntlet down early in the year to cover 100km in under 3 hours and 30minutes. Date selected, route chosen, it was time to pedal! A great night and in the end we made it with time to spare. Will we beat our time in 2013?
7 - An Mtb ride with my eldest daughter; If there’s anything nicer than watching your kids enjoy the simple pleasure of riding their bike, I’ve yet to see it.
6 – Shifnal 2 Parkend/Brian’s Last Stand; The first a2b entry on the list was a ride from Shifnal south to meet the rest of the family deep in the heart of the Forest of Dean. A great day in the saddle, made all the more poignant by saying goodbye to an old friend.
There’s already some epics from 10 to 6, but the top 5 is full of rides out of the very top drawer. My legs are aching just writing about them……
5 – The Cambrian Challenge; A ride across Wales in the Dark. Starting from Ironbridge at midnight, and arriving in Barmouth for Breakfast.  Riding along the estuary towards Aberdovey as the sun came up was a truly magical experience.
4 – Shifnal 2 Goosnargh; My in-laws live in Goosnargh just outside Preston, and when the opportunity arose to ride up there instead of using the tin box, I grabbed it. Another epic day in the saddle.
3 – The Welsh Epic; 13 hours riding, and 314kms covered. The Moon lit both the start and end of this most epic day of cycling. From Shifnal to Aberdovey, and then back to Shifnal. Just awesome!
2 – The Velominati Shropshire Hills Cogal – Would anyone turn up to this ride? Organized for the web based community Velominati, I could never have imagined things turning out so well. You can read all about it here.

And the winner is.......
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
On Top of the World!
1 – The Alpine Cogal – Riding in the wheel tracks of the greats of this great sport. A triple whammy of the Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier, finishing off with the Col Du Glandon. A post ride beer has never ever tasted so good!
What a year of cycling, and the list could have been so much longer. I’m not sure how I’m going to top this in 2013, but I’ll certainly be giving it a good go!

Friday, 28 December 2012

The last #BikeToWork of 2012

It must be said that cycling does provide the ideal opportunity to absorb more of the surroundings that would normally be overlooked if travelling by car. Things like the gradient of the road, the road surface, the weather and the scenery.

Whilst commuting to work this year I have been lucky enough to witness an array of these sights, sounds and smells that are oblivious to motorists in their tin boxes. Beautiful sunrises, thick fog, torrential rain, ice, floods and great wildlife such as squirrels scurrying between my wheels.

As @936ADL and I set off for the final #BikeToWork commute of 2012 our minds were focused on where we would be able to acquire coffee and bacon on our arrival in Telford as our regular eatery is closed for the Christmas break.  The rain had eased off and the temperature quite comfortable as we dipped into the Ironbridge Gorge seeking out the disused railway line known as the Silkin Way that would deliver us into Madeley.

As we circumnavigated Sutton Hill island in Madeley, I happened to spot the greatest example of stealth parking I've seen in a while. We went around the island again to get a closer look.

@936ADL admires the parking
Concealed parking
The reality of the matter was that the driver of the vehicle had obviously failed to recognise that the road on which they were travelling (probably at great speed) was punctuated with a rather large island.

Unsuccessful application of breaks resulted in the little red hatchback becoming deposited, and rather neatly concealed, amongst Telford & Wrekin Council’s finest shrubbery.

The hilarity of the situation was suddenly quelled as @936ADL asked “Is there anyone in there?” I rubbed the rain off the rear window and looked inside. Thankfully, the car was empty. Its occupants had been able to flee from the scene. Recognition must be given to the trees and shrubs in the middle of the island that probably saved someone’s life last night by providing a soft landing for the out of control vehicle. Had it have been a brick wall, or lamppost, then @936ADL would certainly not be smiling for the #BikeToWork picture.

You will pleased to know that the commute into work reached a pleasantly satisfying conclusion at the Sainsbury's (Telford Bridge Retail Park) restaurant where sausages and coffee are served up in abundance.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Derailed Thinking

I always wondered what the attraction was with single speed cycling.

It was always my belief that the more gears you had on your bike, the better it was. Back in the late 70s, I recall my dad buying me my first road racer. It was a Kalkhoff German machine with cotter less cranks, Weinmann centre pull brakes and 10 speed derailleur gears, yes 10!!! This was a massive step up from my previous bike, the Raleigh chopper, which only had a measly three gears.

My mates at the time were also upgrading from Choppers to road racers. My best mate Andrew Jones had a vary nice matt black Raleigh Record, 10 speed too.
The 3 speed Sturmey Archer internal hub gear grew to be the victim of much ridicule from us now that we had bikes with 'real' gears. After all, the Sturmey Archer was standard fit on the old 'sit up and beg' Rod Brake Roadster bikes that our granddads rode to work.

The introduction of the mountain bike in the 90's, as cycling was experiencing its second wind, further enforced the argument that the quantity of gears was directly proportional to the caliber of the bike.  
Gear envy was rife amongst the new breed of MTB masses. Not only was it the number of cogs on your chainring-cassette combo but the make. 
Throwing the brand name 'Shimano' into any conversation would also certainly boost your bicycle's status. "Oh, I've got Shimano gears in my bike". 

The Change

Then, there's the method for changing gears. On my old chopper it was made easy with the huge lever positioned in a console on the cross bar just like the throttle on a jumbo jet.
On road bikes, prior to the luxurious indexed flight deck integrated brake/gear levers, there were the paddles on the down tube that required an element of manual fine tuning to get the chain on the right cog without making that irritating noise. It still concerns me that some cyclists are oblivious to that chain noise caused by incorrectly engaged gears. They cycle for miles without realising.

So, we have established that gears are king - or are they? 

Last year I became intrigued with the whole single speed thing. Prior to this, I had little knowledge of this branch of cycling except from noticing that fixies had become most fashionable amongst the London messenger set. Once upon a time I got talking to a hardened cyclist in a bike shop and he impressed me by telling me how he cycled everyday from Stafford to Cannock   on a bike with only one gear. In fact I was more than impressed, I struggled to understand how this was possible.  Even closer to home, upon joining the #ShifnalCyclingSociety, our very own 936ADL would occasionally turn up for our social rides on his Langster but I never really paid much attention.

I began to wonder what it would be like to ride single speed and whether or not I would get any pleasure or benefit from it. More importantly, was I physically capable?


My daily commute on the 27 speed Genesis Croix de Fer became a test bed for the single speed experience. The experiment involved riding the 10 miles round trip back and forth to work without changing gear. Most of the journey was spent with me out of the saddle in an attempt to turn the biggest gear possible. The result was indeed quite satisfying and synonymous to fell running in that it posed more of a challenge and required considerably more physical effort (I do enjoy a bit of a challenge). 

The conclusion from experimentation was that I really did fancy a go and I made the executive decision to acquire n+1, my first single speed (except for my Raleigh RSW11 which I had as a toddler).
 The online bike shops, including eBay, were trawled for many weeks before I eventually reached the verdict that the best option would be to go for a new On-One Pompino. A most versatile, aesthetically pleasing bike and great value for money. My decision was supplemented by 936ADL's comments in his posting The Pomp from September 2011 "A fantastic bike, I'd recommend to anyone who's after a no nonsense bike for all seasons".


In September we took a trip up to On-One bikes in Sheffield so that I could take a closer look at a Pompino. We were very impressed with the set-up of the establishment (big shop with lots on display) and the staff were very helpful. Unfortunately, there wasn't a blue Pompino in my size made up so I tried a white one for size. It felt great but I really wanted a blue one. After a few minutes of private deliberation, and much to the surprise of my wife who thought that I'd only gone to have a look, I agreed to buy one and drive back later that week to collect. Job done!
So we drove back to Sheffield two days later to collect my shiny new blue Pompino. 

My new Pompino
I've owned more than 20 bikes in my life but I can honestly say that, so far, the Pompino is my favorite. I love the look of it. I love the feel of it. I love its simplicity and I love riding it. 

In the eight weeks that I've had it I've ridden everyday to work and back. The morning rides (inspired by 936ADL) are so exciting that I find myself waking up and setting off earlier to get in a few more miles. I've never been one for getting up early but the Pomp has changed all of that! 
I've become a little addicted the 9% climb up Jiggers Bank out of The Ironbridge Gorge (it's probably close to the limit of the 48x16 setup, especially with loaded panniers). 

In those 8 weeks I've also treated the pomp to a few new bits. A longer stem, traditional dropped handlebars, red bar tape, leather saddle, mudguards, lights and the obligatory 16T White Industries ENO freewheel.

The Pomp in action Commuting through Ironbridge Gorge
My love affair with the single speed continues to grow as I develop a passion for the challenge and simplicity of cycling at its most basic.