Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Decisions Decisions Part 2

I blogged back in December about my new bike for 2012, and I thought it was time for an update.

I’ve been measured up(massive thanks to Brian Rourke!), picked the colour scheme, and decided on much of the finishing kit. But as the old saying goes, the devil is in the detail, and this has never been truer than when you’re putting together a custom build.

With even the pros riding ‘off the peg’ machines these days, it’s really quite a privilege to have a frame made especially for me. This isn’t something I’m likely to be able to afford again, and so I want to make sure it’s right.

Since my blog in December I think it’s fair to say there’s been a fair amount of scope creep in the build. There’s nothing wrong with the wheelset on my current #1 bike, but they just wouldn’t look right on the new Rourke, and so I’ve taken the plunge on a set of Hope Hoops in black. You can keep your fancy Zipp carbon wheels, for me Hope make just about the finest hubs money can buy. These have been matched to a set of Hope Skewers. The Mk1 variants were dire, but I’ve been assured the new versions are a marked improvement. Let’s hope so! A nice new cassette finishes things off nicely in the wheel department.

My original plan was to pretty well move the entire groupset across from my current Rourke, but incident a couple of weeks ago put paid to that plan. An incident with a ford(not the automotive type) left me with a smashed shifter pod, and so I’ve had to think about replacements. After hunting round on the web I found myself looking first for a replacement LH shifter. As only the internet can do, I was led down the path of temptation, and have ended up purchasing some quite lovely new Record 10 shifter pods. My first step towards a fully equipped Record road bike. It won’t happen overnight, but I get the feeling I’ve started something I’m going to have to finish!

I’ve always been a lover of headtube badges, and to me these can really set off a frame. A few years ago I had a headtube badge made up for a bike that’s now left the Shifnal Cycling Society stable, and I’ve got the same guy to make up one for the new Rourke. It should be here before too long, and I’m looking forward to seeing what it looks like. I’ve even colour matched the paint to the colours being used on the frame. Anal? Yes, absolutely! But as I said earlier it’s the little things that can really set a custom build apart.

Less than 3 months to delivery…….

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

February Mixed Social Ride Report

With the worst of winter (hopefully)behind us it seemed high time that we organised another mixed social ride. With the testosterone left behind, it was a ride to enjoy. No need to worry about average speeds or distances covered, it made a nice change.

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The Runners & Riders

And what a day we picked. Amazingly warm considering it was still February, and it even tempted Scott and Mart to bare their knees and go with shorts. I however, opted for a more conservative approach.

With the inevitable last minute pre ride faffage complete we were off, and were soon heading out of Shifnal towards Cosford. I’d put a route together with the aim of avoiding any serious climbing, and it was nice to spin along and have a chat with some of the newcomers to the group.

Old habits die hard though and on the rise up to Boscobel House there was a cyclist in the distance getting ever nearer. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss, and off I went. As I got closer it was hard not to notice the bike he was riding. A stunning late 90’s steel Cinelli. 100% original, and sporting the original Campag kit. Just lovely! I had a chat with the guy and complimented him on his bike. I used the opportunity at the top take a few pics and we were soon all back together.

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Not So Fresh Now
From here we headed south through Pattingham and onto Seisdon, before turning westwards towards Claverley. We were well past the half way mark and it seemed the perfect place to stop for some refreshments. And what were they serving in ‘The Plough’? Yep, Enville Ale! I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a nicer pint. It would have been far too easy to stay put and spend the afternoon there, but we had to get back on the bikes and finish off the ride.

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Mid Ride Re-Hydration
Through Worfield and Badger, we said goodbye to Marika in Kemberton, before the rest of the group headed back to Shifnal. As with all good rides we finished off in The White Hart for a couple of well earned beers. It was in the Pub that Andy F showed off his answer to leggings that don’t want to stay up, “Rock on Tommy!”.

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A fine figure of a man!
A great ride; we must do these sorts of things more often.  More Photos can be found here and Ride details coutesy of Garmin Connect below.

Friday, 17 February 2012

The Joy of Fix(ed)

Sometimes it’s the things that on the surface appear the most irritating, that can be turned to one’s advantage. This afternoon’s ride contained one such example. Coming out of Beckbury about 10km from home I felt the unmistakeable sensation of a rear tyre losing air. Never a great thing to happen whilst out on a ride, but it’s inevitable every now and again.

Forgive me for an anorak moment, but fixing the puncture gave me the opportunity to marvel at my Lezyne Trigger Drive CO2 inflator. An inanimate metallic object granted, but a real cycling trinket, and quite beautifully engineered. Every serious cyclist should have one! <Anorak removed and placed back in cupboard>

Puncture fixed it was time to put things back together. That’s when the thought struck me. Why not ride the last 10km or so fixed? It had been a while, so I flipped the hub round and put the wheel back in.

Immediately the feel of the bike changed. Everything seemed more focused, slightly sharper. My fixed ratio is a bigger gear as well, so the speed was also up. 30km/h and my legs had plenty left in them.

As I turned back towards Sutton Maddock on the Rabbit Run I planned to use the bigger gear to full advantage. On the drops it was time to apply some V. Riding fixed wheel really is a pure experience, all you have to do is pedal. Everything had come together, and I was fairly rattling along, I managed to get up and over the Wyke a fair bit faster than normal, and the final run into Shifnal was a blur of legs going round much much faster than any cyclist’s should. Dangerous, almost certainly, but bloody exhilarating nevertheless!

A great way to end an otherwise fairly mundane ride. If only every puncture was so much fun….

Thursday, 16 February 2012

On Tour in Lancashire – Feb 2012

After the success of last year’s cycling holiday to Bridgnorth, we thought we’d give it another go. This time we were to use the in-laws'(big thanks to them for babysitting!) place as a base, and head off up the Lancashire coast to the historic city of Lancaster.

I managed to persuade Anna to leave the straighteners behind, but the Pompino was still well loaded down with both panniers full to bursting. I was just glad that the route was pretty well flat, as I’m not sure I’d have made it up anything too steep.

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One very heavily laden Singlespeed!

From Goosnargh we headed out on the quiet lanes through Inglewhite and on to Garstang. It’s just outside of Garstang that you pass under the M6 and the west coast mainline, before crossing over Lancaster Canal, all in the space of about 200 metres. This always strikes me as a wonderful illustration of the way that transportation has evolved over the years.

We were quickly through Garstang, and making away across the top north east corner of the Fylde Plain towards Cockerham. From here we turned north and headed up the coast road towards Lancaster. The plan had been to follow this road all the way to Lancaster, but at Condor Green we saw the signs for the Lume Estuary Millenium Cycle Path, and we took the opportunity to get off the road, and onto this traffic free path.

It was on this path that I had to remind Anna of the rules of ‘The Catch’, and especially the fact that small children are not considered fair game! In no time at all we were in Lancaster and it was time to re-fuel. Route details are at the bottom of this blog for those interested.

Bikes locked up, Pizza and beer won the popular vote. Bella Italia please take note however, £6.10 for a 660ml of Moretti is taking the piss a little. Beer and Food consumed, it was time to find our Hotel.

After checking in and getting out of the Lycra, we enjoyed the lack of kids and installed ourselves in the excellent Water Witch, enjoying a Pint or two of the Blonde Witch ale.

The rest of the evening involved more beer, more food, and a bottle of Fizz. It was Valentine’s Day after all…..

What could be better?

Friday, 10 February 2012

Rule #9 Commuting – More Smiles than Miles!

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Not the usual commuter.......

To me, without doubt the finest feature of the bicycle is its versatility, and weeks like the one we’ve just had illustrate this perfectly. A week of snow and ice have made cycling on the road a pretty unpalatable prospect, so it’s been time to call the Mountain Bike into service for commuter duties. And what a fun week it’s been.

Granted it means I have to plan things more carefully owing to its lack of carrying capacity, but the trade off is the ability to spice up the mundane commute with a bit of singletrack. On more than one occasion this week the prospect of yet another dull early(ish) morning meeting has come second to seeing where that trail leads. I’ve even managed to ride trails for the first time this week as well as re-discovering some old favourites.

Off road commuting in this weather also makes you much more aware of how the conditions change from day to day. If you use a tin box to get to work, it’s all been one long round of de-icing cars and moaning about how cold it is. However for the cycle commuter we’ve seen how fresh snow has given way to slush, and then to ice. All these subtle changes making the challenge of the commute slightly different each day.

I especially enjoy the way that the conditions this time of year dictate the way you ride. The hard packed icy paths call for smooth inputs and spinny, low torque gears, whilst the snow offers massive grip levels at the expense of pretty serious drag.

So, all in all while the mileage has suffered this week, the grin factor more than made up for it.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

A Weekend Off

With my SO away for a couple of days, i've been off the bike all weekend. It's the first time i've had two cycling free days back to back since last August. No big deal really, but being off the bike just makes me realise how much i've become obsessed by cycling in all it's forms.

The time's not been entirely wasted though. As well as finishing Graeme Obree's training manual(an excellent read!), I've managed to make some changes to the website, and have included an events calendar, containing all the events that we'll be undertaking in 2012. Keep an eye on it, as i'm sure more will be added as we move through the year.

Putting this list together has made me realise how much we've got to look forward to in the coming months. From mixed rides, to Cycling's monuments, riding across Wales in the dark, as well as visiting the greatest sporting event on Earth.

Our first event is three weeks away. The route's planned, and i'm hopeful of a good turnout. Fingers crossed that by then the snow will have gone, and it will be a little warmer.......

Oh, and i'm looking forward to being back on the bike tomorrow!