Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Commute decisions

Until my mudguards arrive I'm commuting on the roads. Its quicker by around 5-10 minutes depending on how fit I'm feeling and the weather, but the traffic is really busy. Its an A-road all the way whereas the quiet way is a disused railway.

There has been a lot of rain in the north east of England since Sunday although its eased off a bit now. I certainly didn't fancy making my way through the slop of the railway and having to clean up before I go into work. And vice versa tonight. So roads it was and I got wet - not on the inside, I have appropriate clothing. Mudguards, please hurry up!

I'm lucky however as there is a  showering facility at my workplace. Its always a great feeling to finish a ride with a hot shower and fresh clothes. The feeling is second to none.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Change of blog title & URL

I've decided to change the name of my blog from "All Things Bikes" to "Bishop Auckland Biking", along with the URL.

I just felt that "All Things Bikes" was a little bit generic and it didn't stand a chance in search engines with all the other All Things Bikes sites. The title now is much more specific to what I do and where I am - this makes more sense to me.

Friday, 23 November 2012

RC helicopter trail footage!

Sadly, not of me pulling some sweet moves on my local trails but some really lucky buggers out in Fruita, Colorado. Apologies if you have already seen this amazing footage captured by a remote controlled helicopter carrying a camera, but I had to share it. It looks fantastic. I especially like the shots with the trail dog running along the ridge.

Have you ever ridden anything like this? It looks so smooth and flowy - no chance of anything like this in England!

The video is below or head on over to for the full post.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

New commuting bike

As you may be aware, I went to a bike sale over the weekend in search of a singlespeed/fixie for my commute. In the end I opted for a nice looking hub geared commuter bike.

It's a Scott SUB 35, where SUB stands for (Speed Utility Bike - I like it!) and the spec of said bike can be found as a note in my biking Springpad notebook.

Low maintenance commuting, here I come!
Initially, the plan was to get a singlespeed cheap. That wasn't an option in the sale, so after some discussion with a nice staff member who advised a great deal on the frame of this bike, I decided to snap up a bargain. It has 8 gears in the rear hub, which is quite heavy actually. All I need to do to convert to singlespeed is get a new wheel and hub, ensure it's correctly spaced for chain alignment and tension it all up. Seems pretty straight forward. There are also mounts for a mech hanger, should I want to go down this route in future. There are also disc brake mounts too, should I decide to upgrade from the bog standard V-brakes. This is a bike that has a lot of potential for a lot of guises!

Eccentric bottom bracket for chain tension
Option for mech hanger
Option for disc brake

First Impressions

I had my first commute yesterday and it went really well I thought. The 700c wheels and no fork are the biggest and most noticeable difference on each surface type. Tarmac roads are silent and the bike glides along but the hard pack disused railway section (65% of the commute, one way) is a bit of a bone-shaker in some sections. I might have to consider bigger tyres. A couple of other niggles are I wear 5Ten Impact 2 Low shoes, which are really wide. This means the pedals feel tiny under my feet and my heels occasionally rub against the chain stays. Not too much of a hassle, but this is more due to the fact I've ridden the same bike for two years now and the new bicycle feels unusual. This reminds me, I've never written a post about my Revolution Triad itself, just the rides. I must do that at some point!
The shifting is pretty amazing! Instant changes as soon as the grip shift is twisted means acceleration is fantastic. The ratios seem pretty sweet too, with one being a perfect granny ring if I ever encounter a particular hefty gradient. Being able to shift into gear when stationary is a real boon too.

Next Steps

  • Full length mudguards will be so handy as the commute is a muddy one and getting home dirty after a day of working is a bit of a chore. Plus the bicycle needs to come into the house at the minute so the less dirty it is, the easier this task will become.
  • I need a new mounting bracket for my D-lock. The old one has become distorted from prising it off my other frame due to a woeful design, so I've sourced another one of a different design (I suppose Kryptonite have realised the error of their ways and changed the design). At the minute, the lock is in my backpack, which is very heavy.
  • Decide whether to switch to singlespeed. The gears are so smooth and being enclosed in a hub, should be low maintenance.
  • Upgrade the brakes to disc? Only the rear is possible.
  • Get a rack and panniers for cargo.
As you can see, I have a lot of things to get excited about with this bike!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Flooded bike shop back in action

Recently the north east of England has seen some pretty wet weather, with many floods in places.
One such place was Newburn in Newcastle, where a bike shop succumbed to the deluge. As well as that, thieves broke in and stole £20K worth of bicycles. Its bad enough the owners livelihood had been destroyed by natural causes, but for thieves to make it much, much worse is a real low blow.
The fact the shop reopens on Saturday 10th November with the remaining 200+ bikes cleaned and serviced shows just how much could have been salvaged from the flood - if it had been left to be salvaged in the first place.
I'll be going to the sale in order to find myself a single speed commuter bike to save running my hard tail into the ground over winter. Sam and Stuart will also be there, possibly just browsing but also on the lookout for full suspension trail bikes. The sale will also include clothing and shoes.
I must admit I'm looking forward to picking up a bargain, but a little part of me feels like I'm taking advantage of people whose hand has been forced to sell their stock at really low prices. If the get rid of the flood damaged stock, they can rebuild the business, which I suppose is the redeeming element of helping the business out.
You can read a full news article by following the link below.

Newburn cycle shop is back in saddle after floods - Chronicle News - News - ChronicleLive

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Keeping your bike secure in town

Bicycles are expensive and desirable items that get stolen all the time. It's coming up to Christmas so it's even more of a good idea to learn how to lock your bike securely. You don't want to come back from Christmas shopping to find your pride and joy is now some thief's pride and joy/quick buck.

First off, you need a good quality D-lock, the smaller the better. The smaller it is, the harder it is to prise the lock apart. This is because it is harder to get a crowbar or car jack into the open space in the lock, especially when the secure bike rack and frame of the bike is also in there.

A secondary lock is probably also needed to secure the front wheel and/or saddle if it's easily removable. A lighter duty cable lock is all I use, and is admittedly the weakest link. The way I see it is that it's cheaper to replace a front wheel or saddle than it is the whole bike.

Let's see how to secure the bike with a D-lock

D-lock securing rear wheel and frame
As you can see above, the D-lock leaves no room in it to be forced open. The U-section of the lock goes around the bike rack, in the rear triangle of the frame and over the rear wheel. Nothing can be removed here without cutting the wheel, frame or bike rack. The lock I use is shown in the link below. It's a great lock, not too big or heavy and the cable is really heavy duty. I only use the cable on weekend rides where I need to lock 2 or 3 bikes up. The smaller cable fits in my back pack easier.

Now let's look at the front of the bike

Securing the front wheel and saddle
I've used my cable lock by passing it through the front wheel, around the bike rack and through the rails on my saddle. This isn't fool-proof, as the saddle could be unbolted from the rails and the seat post and saddle would be freed. I should have wrapped the cable twice around the bike rack to make it harder for potential thieves to gain any purchase on prising it open. Unlike the D-lock however, a cable lock is prone to bolt-cutter attacks.

The whole picture

A fully secured bike
When the bike is secured as above, you can go about town safer in the knowledge you've probably prevented your bike from being stolen. But remember! If a thief is determined, he'll have the right tools, so nothing is 100% safe from being stolen. Park in a busy and well lit area of town and try not to be too long if you are parked in a less than desirable part of town. Always remember to remove any lights and pumps too.

One last thing...

Below you will find a map of secure bike racks I have used in Bishop Auckland and Spennymoor. I'll be adding to this map in future so keep it handy. If you would like to add any bike parking, get in touch or leave a comment below. Also, any tips you may have for securing your bike leave below in the comments section too.

Thanks for reading and here's to stopping bike thieves!

View Secure Bike Parking in a larger map

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Kirroughtree ride review

Last Friday/Saturday I went up to Kirroughtree with 5 friends. This is the first time I've been to this trail centre, hotly tipped as one of the best of the 7 Stanes, vying for position with Glentress. We've been to Glentress twice before, so it was only fair that we give this one a shot.

We stayed at the Galloway Activity Centre, with a view to stay in the big cabin. 6 men needs a bit of space. Sam however, decided to mix things up by changing the booking for us to stay in a Mongolian yurt. He actually arrived there first as he was working in Scotland that day. After viewing the yurt, he then decided that it was too small and rearranged the cabin booking. It was probably a good thing that the centre was quiet (it was October and the weather is getting colder) and the cabin was available for us.

I drove up with Alec (first time biking with us) and arrived when it was dark, so we couldn't get a feel for the place. Ben (has been to Glentress with us), Colin, (has ridden with us plenty of times before) and Stuart (ridden many more times with us before) all arrived in a short time of each other. The cabin had two heaters - one of which didn't work. Never mind, we'll leave the functional one on while we go into Castle Douglas to eat and it'll be warm when we get back, we thought. Not quite. After arriving back to the cabin with a few bottles of beer and snacks after a fairly sub-standard steak and chips, the cabin was still freezing cold. The car thermometer was registering -0.5 degrees Celsius. 
The less than comfortable bed
 So we all climbed into our sleeping bags and had a few drinks and a bit of chat. At this point, I'll mention that the bed I was to sleep on was also less than functional. The slats weren't broken, but just had enough flex in them to allow them to slip off the lip that supported my weight. "It'll be OK" I thought, "When I'm laid on it, the weight will be spread and it won't collapse". Sure enough, at 3 AM, whilst turning over, it collapsed.
Although to be fair, I was glad that I didn't draw the short straw and have to sleep on the fold out sofa bed. Poor Alec and Stuart didn't sleep too well. How the centre could advertise the cabin as "comfortably" sleeping 6 adults, I don't know. A complaint was made in the morning.

The view in the morning was stunning though.

A beautiful day for riding.
We ate breakfast and lost two riders. Sam had hurt his back lifting his bike into the car the previous day and it had only gotten worse during the night. It was deemed too unsafe for him to ride, so he sadly went home. Ben also succumbed to some illness, dubbed by Alec as "Scottish Night-time AIDS", as he was fine before going to bed but sick in the morning. So he also went home. The trail centre was 45 minutes drive away so the 4 remaining quickly made tracks to the trail head.

We got going and the trails were in great condition. Nice and dry and feeling quite fast. There is some nice climbing through the trees and some quite technical descents. I felt that the single track sections were quite short and finished really quickly and spat us back out onto the fire roads too often This meant frequent saddle height adjustments which got a bit annoying. Not annoying enough for me to fork out £300-ish on a remote dropper seat post though. Still, it was nice to be able to regroup often for a bit of chat and Jaffa Cakes. We were taking it reasonably easy along the red route and would decide whether to do the black route when we made it that far. The first black route trail feature we came across was a really steep rolling drop, about 2m high and caught me off guard. After some discussion, I attempted it and cleared it well. That set the adrenalin going and after that the black route would be getting ridden!

After a couple of hours, Colin decided to call it a day as he had to be home for a party and it was a good 3+ hour drive home. We bade him farewell and continued on.
Colin left us at the top of the climb called "Stairway To Heaven". This was one of the two climbs I could recall the names of after studying the map, the other being "Heartbreak Hill". I was recording my ride with Strava, so I decided to really attack the climb. I'm glad I did because I recorded my first King Of The Mountain achievement! I was very pleased with myself.

It was at this point that I had to stop recording as my battery was just about flat and I wanted to see how I had done on the climb. I'm glad I did. Because of that, I had to estimate the rest of the route (16.7 miles):

View Kirroughtree - estimated in a larger map

It was a good ride, but I don't think it's the best trail centre in the 7 Stanes. It loses out on being a much longer drive to get there and facilities are nowhere near on a par with Glentress. The trails are relatively similar too. The only thing that Kirroughtree has over Glentress is "McMoab". This was by far the hardest part of the ride, even with the best route indicated with arrows painted to the surface.
Stuart in the distance, taking on McMoab. McMoab won, Stuart's saddle rails almost snapped!
I'd go back to Kirroughtree and fully complete the black route, by making sure we had more time. And also booking better accommodation!

A whole load of photos of the ride can be seen here.
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