Friday, 18 October 2013

When Less Is More

The march of technology in the cycling world is relentless. We’re currently being told all about how badly we need disc brakes on our road bikes, whilst electronic gears and 11 speed groupsets are now the norm. What’s more, there’s a seemingly unending number of wind tunnel tested, Asymmetric, monocoque plastic frames out there to choose from, all offering huge gains over last year’s model. Really? I’m not so sure…..
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Exhibit A

My latest bike is the absolute antithesis to this marketing lead clap trap. A fully custom frame, hand crafted in Reynolds 853 by one of England’s finest builders, and just a single gear. No dodgy electrics and certainly no disc brakes. Just a good, old fashioned bike.
The only thing that’s better than the way this bikes looks(please forgive my obvious bias), is the way it rides. Beautifully stable whatever the conditions, and super responsive. Stomp on the pedals, and the reaction is instant, whilst at the same time offering a lovely compliant ride as only Steel can do. Steel really is real!
I’m sure the latest wizzbang Pinarago Di15 Asymmetric Aero XL is a lovely thing, but I’ll stick to my bike any time.
Vive La Velo

Monday, 14 October 2013

ShifnalCyclingSociety Time Trial Championship 2013 Report

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More Ears Than Gears

Our society goes from strength to strength, and alongside the growing numbers on our regular rides, last weekend saw the completion of our inaugural time trial championship.
There’s been whispers of a new Shifnal based ten mile time trial course for a while, so when I heard that the SCCA season ending TT would be the first event to use it, it was too good an opportunity to miss. The plan was to high jack this event, without telling the organisers of course, and to make it the society’s very first Time Trial Championships.
Even with a couple of late withdrawals the turnout was good and 8 of us, including two from our ladies section, rolled out of Shifnal heading for the start line. The pace was gentle as we all balanced the need to warm up cold muscles with the desire to save our energy for the main event.
Signing on was our first hurdle, as we immediately seemed to incur the displeasure of the rather fearsome lady  running the entry process. Amazingly she’d never heard of the society, and refused to recognise our existence. Ignorance is no excuse, but she wouldn't budge, and instead we signed on under the ‘Come & Try’ banner.
A quick espresso in the excellent Horns of Boningale, and it was time to line up at the start. The nerves were making their presence felt as the first few riders rolled away from the line.
To capture this momentous occasion we had not one but two official photographers out on the course. Both society fellows who couldn’t make the race itself, a big thanks go out to Adam and Simon for the pictures.

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Get those elbows in!

So, to the race itself. The course is certainly not flat, and the windy conditions on the day didn’t help matters. The consensus amongst the other riders was that this was a power course, and would reward riders who could maintain speed up the long drags which were its defining features.
My own personal low point was the last hill with about a mile to go. It felt like I was down to a crawl as I laboured up the climb, and all I could think of was trying to leave something in the tank for the downhill run to the finish. Round the final corner, and one last effort to get over the line. The encouragement from the other riders was greatly appreciated. Pain and pleasure in equilibrium.
The thing that appeals to me so much about time trials is the fact that is makes no difference where you come in the final standings, it’s about you and the clock. For some of our group it was a first ever taste of time trialling, and for us all it was the first time on a new course.
A special mention must go to the ladies, Anna & Annette, both riding their first ever TT and giving it all they had on the day. Anna was convinced up until a couple of hours before the start that it was only 10 kilometres and not miles. However, this didn’t stop her from taking the spoils just over a minute ahead of Annette. Just don’t mention the fact that she was caught metres from the line by a charging Johnny.  A great ride from both Ladies; chapeau!
Chapeau also to Shaun and Max for popping their TT’ing cherries, and to Scott, for dipping under the magic 30 minute mark by the narrowest of margins.

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Every Second Counts

A great afternoon all round, and the full results are included below.

Course K21/10B - New Course(Shifnal)

Position                No            Name                                    Actual Time
1                              22           Andrew Loveland              26:31
2                              19           John Sanders                      27:33
3                              18           Scott Jackson                     29:59
4                              14           Martin Brown                    31:10
5                              20           Max White                          31:45
6                              13           Anna Loveland (L)             33:34
7                              17           Annette Lawrence (L)      34:27
8                                  21           Shaun Hanson                       34:49

Vive la Velo


Saturday, 5 October 2013


So, it’s been just over 12 months since I purchased my first single speed bicycle – The On-One Pompino which I have been using ever since for my daily commute. I enjoyed the simplicity and challenge of the single speed so much that shortly after I treated myself to a Specialized Langster - another single speed but much leaner and lighter.
Both machines have flip-flop rear wheels providing the capability to literally flip the wheel between single speed mode (with freewheel) and fixed with no freewheel. However, up until today I haven’t ever tried riding fixed. So, on a beautiful sunny, dry autumn Saturday afternoon I flipped the rear wheel on my Langster and set off on a brand new cycling mission. Here’s what I found…

Setting Off

“How the hell is it done without looking stupid?”
Normally, I kick back the right pedal until it’s in the right position just to push off. However, with wheel fixed there’s no option to get the pedal in a good position without lifting up the bike to allow the rear wheel to move. So I found myself walking forward to get the pedal in a suitable position to clip in. Once the right foot is clipped in and the bike is in motion there’s a limited short period of time to get the left foot clipped in. I guess the best way to avoid having to set off is never to stop!

Just Pedalling

I proceeded with caution and at a very conservative pace to begin with. It’s fair to say that concentration levels were very high. It reminded me of my first time with clip in pedals. However, after a while I gained confidence and felt at ease just riding along. In fact, it’s a great feeling being ‘as one’ with the bike and in total control.


The secret is to never forget that you’re riding fixed and not get too blasé as I did on the approach to a fairly steep downhill. My natural instinct was to stop pedalling and freewheel. Big mistake! I was almost launched into the air as the pedals continued to turn and force me out of the saddle. My concentration returned immediately.


In normal riding circumstances (with freewheel) I always generally stop pedalling and freewheel when looking behind to check for traffic prior to turning right. No such luxury when riding fixed – you just keep pedalling or face getting launched over the handlebars. Not really a problem though and easily dealt with after a bit of practice. Tight turns, where the level of banking may cause the pedals to touch the ground, are impossible. I guess that such turns are to be avoided. 

Flatulence Management

It’s fair to say that I managed to accommodate all of the above issues and hope to improve with more practice. However, there’s one thing that I could not master and that is the passing of waste gas from the saddle contact point. It’s a natural function that has to happen especially after consuming protein-packed energy bars and electrolyte drinks. In the absence of a freewheel situation I was just unable to relax the appropriate muscles in order to squeeze one out. No doubt I’ll be scouring the Fixie cycling forums for the solution. 


An overall enjoyable experience and I can now understand how it would benefit performance in a time trial. Being ‘as one’ with the bike at high speed minimises the opportunities to relax when fatigue sets in.

More practice required! 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

My Favourite Bike

Owning multiple bikes is undoubtedly one of life’s great pleasures, each one carefully selected to fulfil a specific role, and each slightly different from the next.  However, along with this pleasure comes a problem, which one’s my favourite?
This conundrum has caused me a fair amount of anguish over many years, and I’ve gone back and forth between my bikes too many times. When the axiom of N+1 is applied, it’s just too much.
But recently, and in a rare moment of clarity, it’s become clear. I’ve concluded that in the end it all comes down to the ride. That most simple act, learned as a child, which defines the interaction between rider and bike. So, back to my original problem, what’s my favourite bike? It’s just too close to call, and after a photo finish,  and I can’t separate the two winners.
The first of the winners is the last bike I rode, whilst the second is the one I’ll ride next. Rule #4 applies!
Vive la Velo