Sunday, 29 April 2012

Customer service

I popped up to City Cycles to sort out the back tyre of my Dahon on Saturday.  To be honest, although I'm certain that it shouldn't have worn in the way it has, tyres being consumable and all, I was primed to have to cough up for the replacement.

However, after a quick chat with one of the guys in the shop, I was given a replacement tyre at no charge.  They'd have fitted it if I'd wanted them to as well but I couldn't leave the bike with them.  Not a difficult job to do though.

I fitted the new tyre today and it's a Michelin - a really good one.  It has a nice thick tread to keep out the worst of any puncturing objects and feels much sturdier and generally tougher than the Dahon one I took off.  It's also slightly narrower than the original so has less rolling resistance too.  I think they're only about 13 quid so I'll definitely be buying a matching one for the front wheel as well.

Maybe a set for the hybrid too...

Anyway I can't speak highly enough of City Cycles.  They're a Raleigh dealer mainly and as Dahon are a recent Raleigh acquisition, they are a little bit new to them.  However that hasn't stopped the few minor issues I've had  from being dealt with fairly and professionally.

A big thumbs up all round, I'd say.

Friday, 27 April 2012

My other steed

As I mentioned, I've had to be unfaithful to my Dahon this week.  Fortunately, as the Dahon is an inanimate object (unless I'm pedaling and then it becomes a very slightly more animate object) I don't have to worry about my pet rabbit getting boiled.  Better yet I don’t have a pet rabbit, although I do have a dog although I doubt we have a pot big enough to get her in.  I digress…
So here is a snap of the bike I've been on for the last few days:

I bought it about five years ago from Halfords and since then it’s been used for very infrequent leisure riding.  It’s not very flash, isn’t made from carbon and doesn’t have a fancy Italian name.  However, I do like it - quite a lot in fact.  It’s higher gearing means that it’s a bit faster than the Dahon and it is very smooth and comfortable to ride.  This week’s weather mean it would have benefited from having mudguards front and rear but needs must and all that. Happily, last night I actually managed to find an old seatpost-mounted rear mudguard that I bought many years ago in my previous incarnation as a commuting cyclist.  So although my feet got wet this morning, my bum remained blissfully dry.

It could use a set of bar ends for comfort and the slightly vain side of me thinks it could do with a better looking saddle (though it is fairly comfy) and thinner tyres.  The very vain side of me thinks it needs a fancier looking headstock and flat bars too but by the time I’ve done that lot, it’d be easier to buy a new bike.  Obviously.  

As it happens, my eldest daughter has outgrown her small mountain bike and this one fits her very nicely with the saddle lowered.  This, I am hoping, could be all the excuse I need to shell out on a nice new road bike.

I’m sure if I managed to overlook the Dahon folder, manky old fixed-gear mountain bike, and 1980’s Raleigh project fixie (as yet unfinished) I could swing it past the wife…

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Sans folding bike for a bit

A confession:  I was not "bloke on a folding bike today" but rather "bloke on an ordinary bike.  Allow me to explain...

Last night I took the rear tyre off my Dahon and found the source of my woes.  The rim has worn through the sidewall down to the reinforcement in two places.  I don't know how it happened as I only rode about 100 yards with the puncture before re-inflating the tyre.  But happened it has and, while I'm not very happy about it, the sorting out is a story for another day.

However, once I'd seen daylight through the hole in the side wall, I didn't fancy trusting my neck to that tyre again.  Call me "Old Mr Overcautious" if you like.  Anyway, cutting to the chase, with the car not being a palatable option, I had to use my other bike.  It's a nice hybrid on 700c wheels that I bought from Halfords a few years back,  Nothing to write home about but a nice enough bike really.  Crucially however, it has not got mudguards.  And today the rain was little short of torrential.  End result, I got soaked!  At no point did I wish I was back int he car though.  There's still a certain air of smug superiority that one can exude when pedalling hard in wet traffic surrounded by company car idiots drivers in their BMW 520s and Audi A6s.

I was also pleasantly surprised at how fast the bike was.  It's much higher geared than the Dahon and the extra turn of speed really helped to make a wet commute a more fun commute.  Quite a convincing argument for up-gearing the folder so I'll look into it after next payday.  The closer spaced gears (21 in all) also made it easy to find a comfortable cadence instead of the spin/heave options available with only three.  I do love the simplicity of the 3 speed hub gear though so overall I think it wins.

I can't do anything about the Dahon's tyre until the weekend at least so Friday's commute will be back on the hybrid as well.  OK not a folder, but a bike none the less.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Wibble wobble

I'm suffering from a loose and wobbly rear end.  No need for alarm dear reader and no need for a trip to the doctor's.  I have a wobbly back wheel on the Dahon.  It's been like it since that puncture the other day and is really noticeable at high speed down a hill.  Not the time for a wobbly anything to be honest.

Now in best engineering mode, I've done a bit of fault finding:

  • The bike has a new inner-tube so it's not that causing the issue
  • The rim itself is running completely true
  • The run out follows the tyre.  In other words if you rotate the tyre but not the rim or tube, the tyre runs out side to side in the same place on the tyre, not the rim
  • I've lubed-up the rim, tyre and tube with Fairy Liquid so they aren't binding together

It's almost as if, in a couple of places, the tyre is blowing up the wrong shape.  It's definitely not always done that - I would have noticed.  The only thing I can think of now is that maybe the puncture has split one or two of the reinforcing cords in the tyre making it inflate wrongly.  Sounds iffy I know but I'm now at a loss to be honest.

Back to City Cycles on the weekend I reckon...

The scores so far

I had a fantastic ride in to the office this morning.  Lovely and fresh out and the hedgerows are bursting with (mainly bird) life!

So the scores on the doors thus far for my folding bike and I are as follows:

Week 6 - 88.5 miles (includes short day after puncture on one day and full ride home on another)

Total to date - 422.5 miles

There are a few of us at work who are into cycling and we're planning a weekend away in May.  We're going to do a 100 mile route with an over night stop though for convenience (i.e. not having to carry everything on the bikes) it'll most likely be a "figure-of eight" route.  In other words, out from and back to a base location on both days.  I'd always though that I'd use my hybrid for the weekend with it's wider gear range, but I'm growing so accustomed to my Dahon folder that I may just use that instead.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

My bike (actually this time)

I gave the Dahon a wash and check over this afternoon and took the opportunity to pinch my wife's iPhone in the process for a few snaps.  So here is is:

I've changed one or two things since buying it such as:

  • Removing the awful plastic chain guard
  • Taking off the rack.  Useful but it places the load too close to the pedals meaning your heels hit whatever it is on every rotation
  • Fitting lights and a bottle cage 
But other than that it's standard.  Here are a few more images:

Here's the "clickety, clickety" Sram 3 speed hub:


The front and back brakes - both bite hard, even in the wet:

...and fifteen effortless seconds later, here is folded up.  

I love it to bits but as one of life's "modifiers" there are a couple of other changes I'd like to make.

It could really do with being higher geared.  It's fine for tootling around town I suppose but even in third (top) gear on a modest downhill you end up spinning out and coasting a lot.  Conversely, first gear is so low it's rarely ever used - only at the top of a steep hill when I'm knackered and carrying a lot of weight.  Such occasions are few and far between and could be dealt with equally well by gritting my teeth, standing up and heaving in a higher gear.  So I'm planning to add a 46 tooth chainring and crankset soon to increase the gear range by about 20%.

I'd also really like a set of bar ends on it to increase the number of positions that I can rest my hands.  I think it may effect how well the bike folds though so a little experimentation is in order before shelling out some hard-earned.

Finally I'm not keen on the pedals.  Most of the time they are fine and, on the plus side, fold really easily.  However, they are made of a hard smooth plastic so if riding in anything other than trainers or in the wet, your feet tend to slip about a bit.  Again it's livable with but ideally I'd like a set of metal ones from MKS.

However, they are only a few minor mods really and without any of them it's still a great bike. 

Bit of maintenance

I popped to see the fine fellows at City Cycles in Leicester yesterday.  When fixing my puncture the other day I noticed one of the serrated washers (designed to help stop the wheel slipping forwards in the frame under load) had broken.  Bit disappointing but nevertheless, they replaced it for me without hassle.

While I was there I picked up a replacement inner tube for the rear wheel of the Dahon.  The patched one seems OK but all day Friday the rear tyre was running out of true quite badly even though the wheel itself ran straight as a die.  Puzzling but I did wonder if the patched tube was causing the tyre to inflate in a odd shape.  Besides, given the miles I do, I'll be much happier knowing that the rear tube is a good one while keeping the patched one as a spare.

So I asked the guy in the shop if new ones come with Slime already in.  He showed me what is apparently a better option - an inner tube of such massive thickness that I doubt a .50 calibre sniper rifle would put a hole in it!  So I bought one and fitted it when I got home.  It really is thick - I have owned thinner wellington boots!  There's still a "belt and braces" part of me wants to put some slime in just in case, though.

I also took the opportunity to clean, lubricate and tighten up the chain and drive components (hot soapy water, a rag, elbow grease and "3 in 1" oil) before having a brief test ride around the block.  The tyre still has a slight run out but chatting to the bike-shop guy and having a bit of Google on the subject reveals that it could just be the tyre not quite seated properly.  So it'll either solve itself or I'll have a bit more of a fiddle later in the week.

Let's see what Monday's commute brings...

Thursday, 19 April 2012


Well it had to happen sooner or later.  I got my first puncture on the new bike this evening on the way from work to the train station.  When I bought the bike, it came with puncture resistant tyres (the operative word being "resistant" not "proof") and they put some of that green Slime puncture sealant in each tyre as well.  

So I pulled over and, as instructed, pumped a bit of air back in before spinning the tyre to get the Slime in the right place.  I say pumped like it was straight-forward activity but I'd not used this pump before and it had me baffled for a stressful moment or two!  Once the tyre was about hard enough, I packed away and headed off to the station.  I arrived there with two minutes to spare before the train pulled out.  Phew!

So one or two lessons learned then:

  1. Always leave a bit of time spare when heading to catch a train
  2. Make sure you've tested out how to use your bike pump before you actually need to!
  3. Slime works!  I'd have missed my train if I'd tried to patch or replace the innertube at the roadside
So now you want to read about how I manfully limped home the remaining 11.5 miles on a dodgy back tyre?  I'd love to oblige but I ended up ringing the 4th Emergency Service (AKA my wife) from the train and negotiating a lift from the station.  Well I did ride all the way home on Monday - can't be a hero all week!

After tea I whipped the back wheel out (not the chore I'd been led to believe that it was on hub-geared bikes) and found a neat little hole punched in the innertube.  I also found the corresponding hole in the tyre itself although nothing was stuck in it - a "straight in and out" job.  So I duly repaired the puncture with the "help" of my very eager but equally vocal four year-old apprentice.  Still, she knows the difference between a nut, bolt and washer now and how to locate a puncture - she's coming along nicely!

So the Dahon's ready to go in the morning - fingers crossed for a less eventful journey!


The other week I installed a bottle cage* to my Dahon.  I thought it would save me a little bit of time by removing the need to stop and fish around in my rucksack for a drink.  Indeed it has been very successful and  I can now drink when the fancy takes me without needing to stop.  However, when taking a drink after a hard climb or fast sprint (which is pretty much the only time I'd bother) the sensation is not unlike what it must feel like to be water-boarded!  I find myself hastily swallowing much-needed fluids in order to gasp desperately for air immediately afterwards.  Horrible!

Surely it can't be possible to drink and breathe through tour nose at the same time?

*Incidentally, I bought it from Wiggle online ( whose service I cannot fault.  It was a very small order but was dispatched promptly and came complete with a couple of free bags of Haribo sweets.  Awesome!

We'll weather the weather

I woke up this morning (incidentally I can never read or hear that phrase without starting to sing “The Blues”) to hear heavy rain outside.  No small surprise there as it had been doing its very best to drum through the top of the wheelie bin when I went to bed last night.  So I dressed appropriately – big gloves and most waterproof coat.
However, when I left the house the rain had stopped and it stayed stopped all the way to the railway station.  The whole of the train journey was rained on but by the time I started the “station to office” leg of my commute, it had stopped again.  I arrived at the office nice and dry if a little warm from the unnecessary use of my waterproof.  It seems someone was smiling on me this morning.
Out of idle curiosity this morning, I checked the Met Office website and found the following on the front page:

Note special mention of the East Midlands in the “Yellow Warning of severe weather”!  A bit more digging revealed the following:

Issued at: 1153 on Wed 18 Apr 2012
Valid from: 1100 on Thu 19 Apr 2012
Valid to: 2100 on Thu 19 Apr 2012
Slow-moving heavy showers are expected to develop across eastern parts of England through Thursday.  During the afternoon in particular some heavy downpours are likely, with a chance of hail and thunder. The public should be aware that localised surface water flooding may occur, leading to difficult driving conditions. The showers should gradually ease during the evening.

Translation:  You and your Dahon will get mightily pissed on all the way home.
Mind you, in an odd way, I’m quite looking forward to the prospect of riding through a thunder storm.  Although I ride the same journey most days, there’s never any shortage of variety. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The story so far - parte the seconde

The first week that I had my shiny new Dahon folder, I was blighted with illness.  I don’t get that ill very often (my wife would beg to differ, but I don’t) but the net effect was that I wasn’t up to trying out the cycle commute until the Thursday.

Like a good boy Scout I got all of my kit ready the night before and got up nice and early on Thursday.  It was very, very foggy but I made it to the station in surprisingly quick time and in one, slightly sweaty, piece.  By coincidence, my wife was taking the kids to a party across the city from where I work so rather than train-commute home, I cycled the 9 miles across town to meet them and get a lift home.  On the whole, I have to say, I felt brilliant and ready to rock the following day.
The scores so far are:
Week 1 – 42 miles (Includes a preliminary, lunchtime “pootle” round the block)
Week 2 – 115 miles (The full, five-day commute – although Thursday was a huge psychological effort!)
Week 3 – 46 miles
Week 4 – 47 miles (Bottled it and used the car one day, also a Bank Holiday hence the short week.)
Week 5 – 81 miles (Also a short week but used it for transport on the weekend too.)
Which brings us up to date.  Circumstances and holiday have conspired against doing more than one “five-dayer” but the miles are certainly racking up.  In an uncharacteristic burst of attention to detail, I started a log of weekly miles from the outset – mainly to keep a record of repairs and maintenance.
So including miles to date this week, I’m up to a total of 384 miles on my new bike.  Not bad for little over a calendar month.

The rain it raineth every day*

I’ve had quite a few rain-lashed commutes now.  This morning was no exception so at least I was able to plan ahead and put on my “Really Good but Heaviest” waterproof (as opposed to packing my “Really Small but Barely” waterproof in the rucksack just in case).  To be honest, I doubt the difference between them is more than a handful of grams but like all good cyclists, I have become obsessive about weight.  I don’t bother with parachute-like waterproof trousers either, preferring quick-drying but slim-fitting Ron Hill Tracksters.  They are warm even when wet, as are my Berghaus fleece gloves so no problems there.  Prefering as I do to wear trainers when cycling, I’d like some waterproof socks too but at £35 for a pair of Sealskinz, that can wait for a wealthier day I feel.  OK so my legs and feet get a bit wet but I can shower and change into dry things at the office and have all day to dry out my cycling kit for the journey home.
On the plus side however, I had the benefit of a strong tailwind which more than offsets the inconvenience of a bit of damp.  That may yet turn out to be a headwind on the way home though which will be received with considerably less jollity.
Being outdoors in the rain, has taught me one or two things about the stuff that we don’t tend to experience being cossetted indoors or in the car:
  1. It is rarely raining as heavily as it looks once you get outside.
  2. The really heavy “big” rain is usually only a quick shower, no more than a few minutes long.  The residual stuff is actually not that bad.
  3. Spray and splash from the road wet you much quicker and more thoroughly than actual rain.  Mudguards are a must.
  4. Fog, although not actually rain, wets you more than you’d think.
  5. A philosophical point:  Once you are wet, you don’t get any wetter.
  6. A further philosophical point:  It’s only a bit of rain and you won’t dissolve so get out there and get on with it!
We shall see how stoical I manage to remain in the face of it this evening, especially if there’s that headwind…

*With apologies to W. Shakespeare

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


Is it not ironic that the spell-checker on this blog doesn't recognise the word "blog"?

My bike (sort of)

This blog would be more than a little random if it did not have any pictures of my folding bike.  Were it not for the fact that any pictures I have are utterly crappy ones taken on my BlackBerry, it would have. Indeed it shall have but for now we must turn to the Dahon website for information.

This one is the same as mine (only mine's blue):

And here it is folded (only black, not blue):

Now just for kicks, here is something that is high up my "want" list (and which, given the typically parlous state of my finances, will stay there for a very long time).  A folding bike that will perform like a racer and which would (I feel certain) see me capable of keeping up with the peloton on "Le Tour".  It's utterly off-the-wall and I love it, ladies and gentlemen je vous presente:

The Dahon Vector X27:

Awesome n'est pas?

Once more into the car again...

I needed to use the car to get to work today.  Occasionally, I have to be in at a time that doesn't work with the train that I would usually get when bike-commuting.  It doesn't happen too often but today was one of those days.  The journey in was OK but coming home was awful!  Nose-to-tail traffic all the way across the city and despite the heavy rain showers, I spent most of the journey wishing I was on my bike.

To crown it all I arrived home feeling wound up and stressed so I doubt my family has had the best of me this evening either.  In short, car commuting sucks.  On every level.

On the plus side, a good friend sent me this today via Facebook:

It kind of explains something of the madness of the modern world, no?

Monday, 16 April 2012

The story so far

OK then, there's a little bit of catching up to do.  In general I have managed to keep myself fit and reasonably in shape.  Certainly no worse than many of my peers and perhaps better than some.  A job that for many years kept me moving around for most of the day helped a great deal.  However, about five years ago, I changed to job that involved a lot of sitting at desks and a regular car commute.

Ah yes, the car commute. 

Door to door it's about 23 miles which ought to take (and out-of hours does take) about 35 minutes.  However, at the times I travel, it takes anything from an hour to ninety minutes, most of which is spent grumbling in stationary traffic queues and desperately trying to find something worth listening to on the radio.  Coming home at night is the same in reverse, only worse because by then I'm tired, stressed and thoroughly grumpy.

I have, over the years looked at many, many other options from the practical to the downright bizarre.  However, the one I kept coming back to was to cycle to train station, get the train to the city where the office is located and cycle the rest of the journey.  Some weeks ago (and I can't recall the exact catalyst) but I'd finally had enough.  I decided to go for it and cycle/train/cycle to work.

I did the maths and at present (with fuel prices having risen the way they have) it costs me £10 per day for the privilege of sitting in a car in traffic jams twice a day.  On the train, it's £5.50 for a day return.

I also knew from colleagues who are keen cyclists about the Government's Cycle Scheme.  Basically, the company buys you a bike (and helmet, lock etc.) and you pay it back over 18 months from your pre tax earnings.  So you pay less tax and NI and effectively get the bike at a cheaper total costs than the ticket price. 

Finally, I figured that I'd need a folding bike.  I knew from train travel experience that some rail companies are funniy about allowing full-sized bikes on at busy times of day. It seemed though, from a bit of a Google search, that most allow folding bikes at any time, no problem.  However I was a little bit concerned about the distance involved.

It's 7.5 miles of mainly country lanes from home to the railway station and then 4 miles more from the station to the office.  I wasn't at all sure that a folding bike would be up to the job!  How wrong I was...

Two of my friends have folding bikes - one a Brompton and the other a Dahon.  Both lovely bikes and casual enquiry revealed that that both of them manage distances of over 15 miles regularly and with ease.  I was surprised but encouraged.

With the Bromptons being a little pricey, but still wanting a quality bike (and not a Halfords special) I opted for a Dahon.  Fast forward a couple of weeks and courtesy of the fine chaps at City Cycles in Leicester, I became the proud owner of a nice blue Dahon Vitesse D3HG.

The rest, as they say, is history...

It begins

So here we are, a new blog.  I'm doing this for a few reasons:

1.  I like writing
2.  I like to tell people about things.  Often too much to be honest but hey ho.
3.  Someone said I should do this and I'm easily influenced

So among a plethora of other cycling, travel and folding bike related blogs, here is another.  Enjoy!