Monday, 20 November 2017

98 miles and counting.....

98 miles to to till I finally ride through the 10,000 mile barrier on one bike.

Now is this a miles stone? Maybe, Maybe not. Many have done this, many never will.

I've been commuting regularly since 2012 and I've cycled a fair distance in that time, 47,000 ish miles. I cycled 10,000 miles in a year once in that time. Cycled London to Barcelona and a fair few in between but I've never cycled 10,000 miles on a single bike.

This is my fault. I am the most indecisive person on earth, maybe. I've had more bikes in that 5 years than I care to remember. Now this, in part is the reason I've never passed the 10,000 mile mark. Perhaps the size of my garden too. We've tried to make the garden look bigger to sell the house, this meant reducing the size of our outside storage space.

The wife has a bike (she never uses) and the boy has a trike. I therefore have space for 1 bike. I totally would have bought another bike before this point had space allowed it. That in itself is half a reason for the 10k bike.

I do love this bike. My 2016 Specialized Allez. It's just a great bike. It's comfortable, fast enough, strong, light, durable, you name it. If I had the money, I'd own a winter bike, a summer bike, a cross bike, a mountain bike. Ow no, wait, I don't have the storage space or the cash. So there it is.

I got this bike in July 2016 and if I'm honest, this has been my least miley year since 2013. So on previous form, I could have done this sooner. Injury, Holidays, new baby, illness, LIFE has gotten in the way and I'm honestly ok with that. I used to chase mileage but I'm not that bothered anymore, it's not like I'm training for anything.

So what is the reward for 10,000 miles? I did think a good full service. I may still do that but the bike has recently had new chain, cassette, brake shoes, jockey wheels, headset bearings and re-grease and a new set of wheels. So that's nearly it, right? The way I see it only the BB and the cables would need repairing/replacing?

I might get smashed by way of a celebration but that's not really a gift for the bike. Funny, I want to celebrate it. It'll come and go just like the rest of the miles I've ridden. I feel like I want some kind of fanfare. Maybe a banner at the side of the road, with some peeps cheering me on as I pass this magnificent milestone.

Sadly, it'll just be another mile, on another commute, probably windy, probably raining, probably too dark, probably solo and to be fair, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Here's to another 10,000 miles.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Hit by a car, for the first time.....

I seem to be getting most of my 'firsts' on this Allez. Maybe its jinxed, who knows but I got knocked off my bike for the very first time yesterday.

Wasn't too bad to be fair, all things considered I got off quite lightly. I was turning right at a small roundabout in Frimley Green, following a car which was also turning right. A driver was sat in her car, waiting to go straight on, she saw the car but not me.

She was accelerating from a standing start, so the impact wasn't fast but it was still impact. It's made me think what I could have done to make myself more visible to her, I'm not really sure, my front light would have been flashing directly into her line of vision, I can only assume she wasn't looking in front of her at the time, its hard to say. She saw the car.

The accident seemed to play out in slow motion in front of my eyes. Normal route for me, normal process, following a car round a round about. I saw she started moving and I thought 'she'll see me, she'll stop, she'll defo stop OMG SHE'S NOT STOPING' and then contact.

Too many drivers nowadays don't wait for other drivers to leave the roundabout before entering, the new trend seems to be to enter the roundabout while the other driver is still exiting, this was a classic example of this, she simply didn't wait to see what was behind the car, in this instance, me.

Was I too close to the car I was following? I didn't think so. A few factors to take into consideration here, it was 7am (ish), in October, so low light, possibly low sun breaking through the clouds, I just hope she wasn't starring at a phone.

There was no CCTV in the area but I ride with a rear facing camera/light combo on the bike, yeah that Aldi one actually, its literally 2 days old and its already caught me being knocked off my bike. Ok it was rear facing, as luck would have it, my bike landed facing the opposite way to the impact, so I have the driver getting out of the car and the car registration. Happy days.

In fairness, she did stop and we did exchange details. She seemed nice enough, cried a couple of times, said her husband cycles. I like this idea, if you have a family member to relate this incident to, its all the more real.

As a result of the accident, I've bought a new helmet. My head hit the road pretty hard, the lid was 3 years old and now compromised, silly not too. I bought the same lid, Specialized Echelon II. Previous was black, new one is red. It has a 'hair port' too, for my pony tail, being a bald man, this sold the deal for me. It's unisex, honestly.

I also needed a new front wheel, I currently ride Shimano Ultegra 6800 wheels, my LBS quoted me £250 for a replacement front wheel. 'Don't be silly' was my reply. £270 a pair on Wiggle. I like to spend in my LBS if I can but don't take the piss out of me. I did buy my lid there mind. Wasn't cheaper elsewhere.

Didn't see the point in buying the same wheelset if a slow accident can write off a wheel. Mavic Aksiums have been ordered. Nice wheelset, nice price.

Anyway, the bike will ride on as will I. Thankfully no broken bones. I'm still chasing 10,000 miles on this bike. Currently I'm sat at 9137.7 and I WILL get there.

No more drama please.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

My first off on the Allez

I've ridden this corner 100 times. Easy. It's under the cover of trees, So always on the wrong side of damp.

It rained last night with wind gusting up to 40mph.

This corner is at the bottom of a slight decent, so can be approached quite quickly, especially when you decide to approach sitting on the wheel of a car. Too fast.

It was 100% my fault, I knew instantly, when on the corner that I was about to go down as I was going way too fast. I was in too deep at this point and BOOM, down I went.

Initial thoughts 'Don't let the bike get damaged' I didn't, it was in between my legs so I held it up as best I could, just the pedal and rear wheel QR got scratched, ow and my butt. 'Watch for the accessories', didn't want my Garmin or lights pinging off and ending up under the wheel of a car. They didn't. 'Crap, I'm wearing my new shorts', These wore well. Zero damage as far as I can tell.

So all in all, quite a nice, safe crash, in the grand scheme of things. Thankfully, there were no cars on this corner during or immediately after my crash, which was nice.

So its a badge of honour crash. Completely of my own doing and completely avoidable. Funny thing hindsight. I wanted to carry the speed, I wanted to hit the corner hard, I just picked the wrong corner on the wrong day. Chuffed my bike is fine.

It is Cycle to Work Day after all, so I managed a decent selfie, after the off obviously. Love it!

Monday, 11 September 2017

My First 10k bike

Now I've had a few bikes.....

These are only my bikes post 2012, when I found Strava. Their was a Tricross that I used for a few years that got me into commuting, none of its mileage is shown here. But as the saying goes 'If it ain't on strava, it never happened', so I have no clue how many miles I racked up on that thing.

When I started commuting, I would put a star sticker on my cross bar when I'd cycled 100 consecutive days. This was working week only, not including weekends but I had access to a car at the time, so consecutive days ridden to work felt like it needed rewarding and a sticker on the frame it was.

I got bored of this idea when I'd gotten 2 stickers on the crossbar and sold the bike. Then came the Cannondale and numerous single speeds, the Giant, a brief fling with a Raleigh and here we are. I only have one bike now. This makes me both angry and sad but I have no where to put a second bike.

I only have the Allez. I did want a cross bike and I had one in the Raleigh, in hindsight, this would be a better option for winter but as a single 'year round' bike, it was just too heavy and too slow. Summer would come and roadie's would just pass me with ease. Don't get me started on electric bikes......I'm still trying to find the funny side of that.

So to my Allez. Great little bike, its already done one winter and will be my trusty steed through the next few I'm sure, after all, bikes are supposed to be ridden, their is no point being delicate about them. The only upgrades I've made are saddle, wheels, brake pads, that's it. It's a break fix bike.

Anyway, it's now done 8500 miles and it made me think, this could be my first 10k bike. How exciting is that?! Ok, not overly but its a milestone. The closest i've gotten so far is 9304 on my old Langster. I do love a single speed. I didn't realise i'd done so many miles on that, it was literally my go too bike just because it was so damn easy and reliable.

Screw it. I'm always looking at new bikes. Always wanting something additional to what I already have but 3 kids and a wedding round the corner, it's just not doable. So the Allez IS my bike of choice and it WILL be my first 10k bike.

I might even get it a sticker for the crossbar to celebrate our time together. It's probably worthy of more to be fair, carrying my sorry ass about for 10,000 miles is no easy task. I might get drunk, possibly even clean the bike. Whhhooopp

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Jockey Wheels, who knew!

I've changed numerous cassettes, numerous chains, one or two chain rings.....

Now I've had a few bikes in my time, MTB and Road, done some serious miles on some, not so much on others. Ok so i've done a fair bit of mileage on Single Speeds, which in this case doesn't really help. (This isn't all my bikes, just those post 2012 when I found Strava, I'm very indecisive, nothing hangs about too long)

I have never, ever changed a set of jockey wheels. Not sure why. Never quite sure I've known the worth of it.

I recently had a chain/cassette swapped out by my LBS. The bike was in there for something else, which ironically couldn't be done, so I thought they might as well do the chain/cassette while the bike was there otherwise it would have been a pointless journey. I got the bike back and the shifting was slick as expected, sadly this was only in the outer chainring, in the granny ring, it was a different story altogether.

I couldn't get the bike to stay in gear. Now I had two issues with this, one, the bike shop hadn't told me to expect this, which is crap and two, I clearly couldn't ride with a bike like this. I felt quite let down that my bike had been given back to me in this state. I mean, it wasn't even mentioned. The bike was fine when I dropped it off.

So I called the LBS and arranged to take it back. They apologised, which is fine, that's all I needed. They set to work on seeing what the issue was. The initial 'has this bike been in an accident' threw me a touch, it hadn't, and clearly not since they last saw it.

Anyway, after a bit of 'this mech might be bent' we decided that swapping out the jockey wheels was the best option. They had none at the shop, bit odd, simplest of jobs, I'd have thought that would be a stock must. I had some mind, at home, obvs.

They made my bike rideable until I was in a position to swap out the jockey wheels, so then we set about talking through the new range of Whyte MTB's, which are incredible. Missing the point slightly though. I do love a bike shop full of new bikes, its a thing of beauty. Sadly I don't have £3500 for a new bike.

Swapped out the jockey wheels with a bud at work today, it was very simple, literally removed the rear wheel. Held the mech and replaced both wheels, without even taking the chain off.

WHAT a difference. Honestly. From a jumping, jiggering rear mech, to a crisp, smooth shift (after a bit of mech altering). The pair of Shimano 105 OE jockey wheels £6.50 from Merlin cycles what a bargain. I don't know why I've never done this. I've literally not even thought of it as a fix. I've even had a rear mech replaced previously. Fool!

Apparently, the rear mech should last the duration of the bikes life. Minus any accident. It's really opened my eyes to the function of these two small wheels. I mean, they are subject to the same wear the chain/cassette go through, so why I've never changed them is beyond me.

It's made me think about spending money on them the next time I need to replace them, so to this Ceramic Speed..... If you're going to upgrade, then do it properly.

Friday, 21 July 2017

The tale of the 52 tooth chain ring

So I bought a Specialized Allez, a 2016 one. An Aluminium one. To basically be my one and only bike.

On paper, I've had better bikes, faster bikes, carbon bikes. Man that Giant TCR, a white one. Every pissing stone chip and paint was missing, that god awful seat post. I mean yeah aerodynamic teardrop seat posts look cool but not once you've over tightened the poxy thing and cracked the paint. Could never get a rear light to sit right on that post either.....PAIN.IN.THE.ASS

I wanted something I could just ride, every day, in every weather that would look good doing it. I don't want disk brakes, at least not until lower end road bikes have hydraulics that don't weigh a kilo each. Plus, I can service rim brakes, yes, even I can service rim brakes.

So the Allez was perfect, this one in fact. That frame finish is a thing of beauty.

Great bike, love it. BUT, Look at the front chain ring, its HUGE. It's a 'Semi Compact' apparently, not quite a standard at 52 teeth but close enough. Initially I thought this would be fine, I could handle it, I'll just smash the flats.

Ow, how wrong I was. Ok, I am a year older than last year but basically, I blame the 52 tooth chain ring for my getting slower. I blame it completely. Rightly or wrongly, I tend to climb in the big ring on all but the steepest climbs, its clearly not that hilly near me. So my climbing has suffered. My legs refuse to commit to climbing pace now, they just instantly start to hurt. My best times on my local segments are 3 years old and I'm not even remotely close to touching them.

So the granny ring is too small and the 52 tooth chain ring is too big. FFS. Why Specialized, Why?

Today, this arrives:

And look at these numbers:

Hooray! A 50 tooth chain ring! I am so excited about having this on my bike. I'm not even near my bike, nor is the new chain ring and still, I'm excited. Even the mission that was finding it, buying it, having it delivered couldn't dampen my excitement. It was close though....

Bit of a double edged sword this one though. I've been using the chain ring as an excuse for a couple of months now, what if I fit it and I still can't climb! No more excuses.

Maybe I'll keep it in the cupboard for a bit, make out I haven't had time to fit it. We'll see.......

Friday, 23 June 2017

Budget (sc)Rubber

My cycling budget has never been large. In fact, some times it's barely even a budget, its non existent.

I'm constantly on the look out for a cycling bargain. I'm not great with maintenance of my kit, especially components and when it comes to clothing, i want function because its basically going to get rinsed by me. I don't want lovely gear because i'll ruin it and that would make me sad.

I buy DHB, I shop in Decathlon, great prices for great functional kit. Wiggle have bought out more incredible kit under the Lifeline brand. Some really good kit at great prices. Cleats for less than £6 is mental!

So I need some new rubber for the bike. I've had a set of Gatorskin's for far too long. Well over 5k miles to this point, they just keep on going....I don't want to mention the number of puncture's i've had on this set of tyres cause i'll instantly get one the next time i ride but the total is countable on less than 2 fingers.

Such an incredible tyre, I could just buy more and i probably will at some point. I get that some people use lighter rubber in the summer but lets be honest, no one can actually tell the difference between summer and winter tyres unless they ride 'Marathons' during the colder months. I simply want puncture protection.

Nothing worse than being stood at the side of the road fixing a puncture. It'll always happen in the dark, on an unlit road, probably when its pissing down.

And then I found these The Lifeline Prime Armour Road they have some cracking reviews and for £13.20 (I'm a Wiggle Platinum customer) a tyre, what's not to love.

If I get 2000 miles out of them for that price, its an absolute bargain.

Check this review from its the review that made me give em a punt.

All this said, i haven't actually fitted them yet but i will, at some point. I'd like to imagine i'd give some handy feedback on the tyres, like how they handle in different conditions but truth be told, I'll just smash them in to the ground and not be able to tell a blind bit of difference over the current tyres i have. Just as long as they work, that's fine by me.

Yay cat on a unicorn. obvs.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Drafting or should that be 'dafting'

I like drafting. It makes my life easier. It's also nice to share the responsibilities for breaking the air and in turn making the ride seem effortlessly faster.

But I'm not talking about drafting with another bike. I'm talking about drafting like Guy Martin, Drafting something big.

It's bloody dangerous and something I've never done before.

I recall being at a sportive in the New Forest on a quiet road and my ride buddy jumping in the slipstream of a passing lorry. I didn't as I took the moral high ground, never saw him again until the next feed station. His instance pace was EPIC.

This morning, on one of the busiest roads on my commute, I did the unthinkable. It just seemed too good to turn down.

Just to clarify, there was very little traffic, due to the Easter holidays. This thing was crazy big. One of those movable crane things, yeah one of these:

I just couldn't help myself. It seemed effortless, I maxed at a mental 39.8mph behind that thing. I was too close to comfort and constantly staring at the break lights so I never intended to do it for long.

Got a Freaking KOM . Though, it's a joint one at an average of 29.6mph, so I'm feeling perhaps i'm not the first to do this on this section of road. It's not a climb, why do Strava offer KOM's for flat and downhill segments? Surely they could use a different term.....

A couple of miles drafting max, if that. It felt silly and I shouldn't recommend it but like everything you shouldn't do, it seemed right at the time. Like a good drink up on a Sunday when you've been off all week and have to work on the Monday. You've had all week to do this but no, Sunday is the day.

So wrong, its right. Just this once.

Made me feel like Wiggins, if just for a moment.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Cornering like a beast

I'm not sure I've ever paid attention to my cornering speed before, not overly anyway. Not that I can re-call.

Just today I rode an errand to my local collect+ petrol station to collect some new tyres (ironically) and it dawned on me that I seem to be hitting round abouts and corners really quite fast.

I don't really know what this is all about, is it the frame, the tyres, confidence, the conditions?

I noticed it the other day too, just on a random commute, really feeling the corners, getting a good lean and carrying some good pace.

So I ride a 2016 Allez, shed with Conti Gatorskins. Nothing out of the ordinary there. The Gators have done over 3000 miles and will be swapped out very shortly. Am I missing a trick here, surely this is false confidence on a heavily warn tyre.

Those two little holes which are tread checkers on Conti's are barely there, I can see them but only just.

I did read an article about the 2016 Allez having the same geometry as the Tarmac, perhaps this is the connection with the road I'm feeling. I've never ridden a Tarmac so can't clarify.

I like this comment:

'Although 2mm shorter between the wheels, this bike shares much of its geometry with Specialized’s more readily raced S-Works Tarmac, with identical head tube, chainstay and fork dimensions.'

So a short wheelbase and a racy geometry. I used to ride a Giant TCR and I'm sure I never noticed cornering like this, honestly that bike might actually have been to small for me so potentially not a fair comparison. That said at some point, it was ridden with Gatorskins.

I do recall falling on ice when cornering a few years back which murdered my confidence to the point of slowing for a corner in all but the driest of conditions, perhaps I'm just now finding my cornering nads again.

Anyway, whatever, never cared about the science of things. I'm just really loving this bike and its ability to be thrown into corners at will.

I wonder if changing the tyres will make a difference.....

Monday, 13 March 2017

5000 miles and running. LBS Save.

I love this bike.

5000 miles done, since I bought it in July of last year. It's been my only bike. I've ridden it through all conditions. Rain, wind, -7 temps and it's been spot on every time. It's not had many upgrades, just efficient ones. 1 set of Ultegra wheels, one set of Swiss Stop brake pads. That's literally it.

I rode through winter on the original wheels that the bike came with, upon hitting 3k and a spoke pinging off, leading to another spoke pinging off and my LBS telling me 'You've got like 3 weeks on these' the Ultegra wheels are now a permanent fixture.

At 5000 miles ridden, I felt like the chain and cassette were long overdue for replacement. I'm fairly sure the manufacturer would recommend less miles before swap out but I wanted to hit that 5k mile stone. So I did.

So new 105 chain and cassette. Like for like replacements. A good clean up was had too. I hate cleaning, I really do but this Muc-off kit really did the job. Esp that drive chain cleaner, spot on that stuff.

This is my idea of giving the bike a service prior to the summer months. A good clean and a chain and cassette replacement. That'll do. 

Now I don't really like doing this type of stuff, I know its not difficult, I'd just rather someone else did it for me. So I had 2 spare pins, just in case I ruined one whilst fitting the pin on my chain. Or did I. seems Shimano have gone all Apple on us. 10s pins are not compatible with 11s chains. Yay. Obviously I buggered the one pin I had and my worst fears came true. I couldn't fit the chain. Such a simple procedure......

I have a couple of bike shops near me, both cracking shops with exceptional product. It's the little things though right. I call both because I need a replacement pin, a 2 minute job at best. I do realise this isn't the mount Everest of problems or a high priority but do you want my custom? One is too busy, the mechanic has work booked up til 9pm, apparently. The other said 'yeah bring it in', so I did. 

'I'll do it now bud, it'll take me longer to book it in than it will to do the work'. 5 mins later and £2 for a replaceable link. JOB DONE. Now that's what I'm talking about. 

It's not even about the chain, it's about where I'll now take my bike for servicing. It's about where I'll now go as my first port of call. It's further away but it's worth it because it feel's like they gave a sh*t. Nicely done. 

So the bike is ready for the ever improving weather and its next 5000 miles. Let's go!

Monday, 20 February 2017

My First of 2017

I've completely forgotten about this blog. I guess life just gets in the way.

I'm only commuting now, which doesn't really seem like it's exciting enough to talk about, perhaps I'm missing the point.

3 days a week has been this years norm. Not done a 200 mile week yet, the shame......

Over 100 miles off my yearly target progress, although I feel that may suffer more as the year progresses. On a more positive note, tonight I'll pass my first 1000 miles for the year, no mean feat in itself.

I've been out for one weekend ride. With my new next door neighbour. I knew we'd get on when I saw him pull up for the first time, entire contents of his house in a lorry, bar his 3 bikes, lovingly packed into his car. He has a garage, the bikes don't live in there, he has a bike room. Too cool

Anyway, think I managed about 13 miles in total. Spoke snapped at about 7 miles, the remaining miles were me limping home at a pathetic pace with the wheel rubbing the frame and no rear brake.

So that's that. A very uneventful first 1000 miles.