Friday, 8 August 2014

Busy

Well it has been quite some time since I posted, however I have been busy.

I am now a qualified bike mechanic. I passed a course (in the UK) with a company called Bike Inn. The qualification includes and exceed the "standard" City & Guilds qualification.

The course covered all the main areas of cycles - headsets, bottom brackets, gears, brakes etc. etc. and I also spend a while learning to build wheels.

I found the course quite difficult - some of the things did not come intuitively to me - unlike some people on the course who were naturals. I think I've spent too many years of my life living in the virtual world of computers, and I need to practise on my own bikes before I ever contemplate taking on paying customers. In some ways it was quite disappointing to find this out, as one of the reasons for attending the course was to see whether I'd be happy (and competent!) doing this kind of thing for a living.

But overall, I am very glad that I did it. Great fun just in itself, I certainly know a lot more about bikes than I did before the course, And as for the future......who knows?


Monday, 30 June 2014

SMIDSY [sorry, mate, I didn't see you]

I was out for a ride the other day. A lovely, bright, sunny day, just in the next village from home. Lovely long straight stretch of road, which then gently curved to the left, and dropped down. You can really get a decent ride along there.

Along this stretch, at the dip, there is a side road. I've ridden this route hundreds of times, though, never with incident. Until Friday, when I'm probably travelling along there at around 40km/h, and someone decides they're going to pull out right in front of me.

Needless to say I jammed on the brakes, but had to loosen them quite quickly as my back wheel started to skid. Fortunately I kept control of the bike and managed to stay upright, although I only just managed to avoid read-ending the car.

There was lots of shouting at this point too, in fact it is fair to say I turned the air blue. Even moreso when she stopped the car and wound down the window. "Are you fucking trying to kill me?" I yelled at her. The adrenalin was really flowing.

She looked like she was in shock. "I'm not trying to kill you, I just didn't see you", was all she could say. I'm standing there in bright red and white lycra. "Well I'm fucking dressed brightly enough, you should have seen me."

At this point I rode away, still very wound up.

I was thinking about it a couple of hours afterwards (it took me that long to calm down) and wished that I had been able to keep my cool. It'd never good to look undignified and possibly this woman was genuinely upset that she'd nearly caused an accident.

But then I happened to drive that road yesterday. With my car where the woman's had been, I had a clear view at least 250 yards down the road. Absolutely no excuse for not seeing me, other than not paying attention.

It just serves as a reminder that you can be as careful as you like, but if the guy in the car is being careless and not paying attention, you're toast. Simple as.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Tyre Delays

I was just about to set off for a ride yesterday, but on my pre-ride bike check I got a bit worried by the state of the tyres.

For the last few years I have been running Vittoria Corsa tyres, the "Open" or clincher variety. I got these because they looked good, professional, and might make me go faster (some hope!).

But last summer I had a fair amount of trouble, bot just with punctures, but with punctures that also did a fair job of damaging the tyre. And for the first time I started looking at how the tyres were made. My Corsa tyres had a very high TPI (threads per inch) value of something over 300. This high thread density made the tyres soft rather than durable. Fine if you're riding the Tour de France and will be running a fresh set every day. Not so fine if, like me, you only really want to be changing once a year or so (bearing in mind I will change what bike I ride depending on time of year).

Anyway, at the time of the punctures (end of summer) my tyre stock had dwindled to just the one, and I decided to drop Vittoria altogether. As regards brands, I was able to narrow things down quite quickly to either Continental or Michelin. I've used Conti Gatorskins on my commuter bikes over the years, and have been very impressed, so for my nice road bike I got some up-market Grand Prix 4000s. They duly arrived, and lo.....no more punctures. So these tyres just sat in the box they arrived in over the winter (during which time I mostly rode my audax bike).

Anyway, to yesterday, when checking the tyres before the ride I discovered a bit (quarter-inch) gash in the rear tyre. Sufficiently large that the tube was actually making a noticeable bulge. Also each tyre had smaller gashes.

So of course I'm torn.....on the one side I'm already in my lycra and shoes, I'm ready to go out now, the gash has probably been there for a while, what are the chances of something happening on this journey? The thing that swung it for me was the question: I'm gonna have to change this at some point, do I want it to be in the garage or at the roadside?

So the snap decision was to change both tyres before I went out, although give me my due, I swapped them in just 25 minutes, which I thought was pretty good going.

And at the end of all that, I had a lovely 50km ride in the heat (well, low 20s). And I saved myself a job for next time.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Ride Cancelled

I was planning on going for a ride today, and for a short while I've been hankering after getting on my hardtail and doing some off-roading in the New Forest.

But I went out this morning and found the bike's front tyre was flat. I think the last time I rode this bike was January, so I expected to have to put some air in, but not to find a flat. Anyway I pumped the tyre up and promptly went out for lunch. Poached egg and bacon on toast - delicious.

Anyway, back from lunch and the tyre was down again. So I sorted it this afternoon and all appears well again.

Plan B - I'm going to do the ride tomorrow. Beautiful weather at the moment and it'll be a shame to miss out. I'll post the ride data when I get back.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Skyride Blog

Here's another blog entry I wrote, this time about going to the Sky Ride in Southampton last year.


Monday, 9 June 2014

Disappointing


I just finished watching highlights of yesterday's Dauphiné. I'm watching all these famous riders time-trialling around Lyon, and I can't help but feel a tinge of disappointment.

A lot of these riders, we're seeing for the first time this year. All part of their prep for the Tour de France. Neither sight nor sound of them in the Classics, or in the Giro.

I find it disappointing that, for these riders, the Tour de France is the be all and end all. I think in this climate, we will never see a truly "great" cyclist again, because today's riders simply don't ride enough races.

I look back at the post war years, from Coppi right through to Merckx, I think that era will forever be known as cycling's golden age.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

A Visit to the Tour de France

I wrote this blog entry for a cycling site I belong to, regarding a couple of stages at last year's Tour de France. What do you think?