Saturday, 28 December 2013

Operation Spoke

I received an email from PCSO Mark Peacock from Bishop Auckland Neighbourhood Policing Team:

"Please see the information below about Operation Spoke. If you have bought a bike for a family member for Christmas or would like your current bike security marked, then there is a Bike marking event at Bishop Auckland Police office on Monday 30th December 2013 from 9.15am-1.00pm. Please pass this on to your family and friends."

Operation Spoke is a Durham Constabulary led operation working with other partner agencies to significantly reduce cycle crime by uniquely marking and registering cycles in County Durham and Darlington. Success of other property marking schemes at reducing the overall levels of acquisitive crime is well documented and now we are expanding this concept to cycles.
The benefits of marking and registering cycles is that they can easily be identified by Police should they ever be stolen or go missing. Easy identification means that cycles can be quickly reunited with their rightful owners and thieves can be quickly arrested and brought to justice. Property marking also deters would be thieves in the first place by increasing their chances of being arrested and by making the cycle harder to sell on.

· Registration
· Protection
· Recovery
· Prosecution

You can have your bicycle marked at one of your local cycle retailers participating in the scheme, or at any other location displaying an Operation Spoke cycle marking poster (such as your local Police Office). There will also be a number of registration events organised by your Safer Neighbourhood teams.

You have the choice of a bespoke 'BikeRegister' component marking kit for £9.90 or FREE bike marking system. Both allow quick identification of a bike and its owner and are proven to reduce cycle crime.

Durham Constabulary has linked with BikeRegister to provide a bespoke marking kit for your bike at a substantially reduced cost to you. This kit would normally retail at over £20 but is available via Operation Spoke at cost for £9.90 with all money going back into tackling cycle crime.

The 'BikeRegister' component kit includes:
  • 4 Permanent Stencil Etching marks (which are only visible in UV light)
  • Unique microdots (for marking components and equipment on your bike)
  • QR Code label
  • Tamper resistant 'BikeRegister' warning label

This marking system is almost impossible to remove from the bike without causing damage or leaving a trace.
By choosing the 'BikeRegister' product you will be protecting your bike and valuable component parts with four types of unique property marking. This will give the police four times the opportunity to identify and recover the cycle. You will also have the benefit of your cycle being registered with 'BikeRegister' and Immobilise.

This product is strongly recommended for moderate to high value cycles.

The Free Marking Kit:
This involves marking your cycle and components with a unique number via a permanent UV Pen (which is only visible in UV light). You will also be provided a tamper resistant 'Immobilise' warning label. Your cycle will be registered with Immobilise.

This product is recommended for lower value cycles.

Your bike will be given a unique identification number that will link your personal details and cycle details with the national property register database Immobilise ( This means that should your cycle leave the local area it can be quickly identified by officers from other police forces. It will also give you the opportunity to register other valuable items such as computers, mobile phones etc. using the free IMMOBILISE service. The marking of your cycle will take less than two minutes and you will not need to do anything else. Your details will not be used for any other purpose other than the prevention and detection of crime.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Counting down the miles

At the beginning of the year, I decided I would try to cover 2000 miles by bike in 2013.

I've been on Christmas holiday since the 12th December, so I am trying to complete my goal. After today's ride, I need to ride 92.6 miles to get 2000! I'm pleased about this as I think that is achievable in the remaining days of the year.

I aim to ride the blue (9 miles) and red (14 miles) routes at Hamsterley forest this Saturday afternoon and complete the Spennymoor Cycling Club sportive route (62.4 miles) that I attempted and failed sometime after Christmas. That leaves a not too difficult 7.2 miles to complete the challenge! I'm feeling confident!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Brighten up your bike this Friday in Durham

This Friday (29th November 2013) sees a bike festival aimed at promoting being seen and therefore being safe when riding at night. The event takes place in Durham city centre, specifically starting at 3:30pm in the market place. The idea is you turn up on your bike, having decorated it beforehand with as many fancy lights as you can. There is then a guided ride around Durham starting at 4:30pm. You will need to book your place by 4pm on 27th November for this. There are plenty of other activities also on going to keep you interested - read the full press release below.

I would really like to go to this; I think it would be a great spectacle to see a whole load of bright bikes going through the city. I'd also take advantage of the bike marking on offer too.

However, I'll be up at Glentress when this starts, so I'll have to miss out. If you go, leave a comment on this post, or use one of the social links in the right hand pane of this page and let me know how it was.

Decorative bike lights! Image taken from

Read the full press release below, or click here.

"Hot on the heels of the Lumiere festival, residents of County Durham will be able to enjoy another, smaller light festival when BicycleBright takes place on 29 November. Cyclists are being asked to ‘bling their bikes’ by decorating them with lights and all manner of sparkly things before joining a guided ride around Durham City. The event, a collaboration between Durham County Council, Durham University, Local Motion, Sustrans, Durham Constabulary and Breeze, will see prizes handed out for the best blinged-up bikes. Before the ride gets underway, there’ll be free security marking on offer from Durham Constabulary, information on bike safety and security, help from Dr Bike and other freebies and giveaways. The cyclists will also hear from Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration Cllr Neil Foster and Durham University’s dean for environmental sustainability Professor Tim Burt. Cllr Foster, said: “We’re looking forward to welcoming cyclists to what promises to be a unique and fun experience. We hope that seeing blinged bikes cycling round Durham City will remind everyone of the importance of being visible when cycling during the dark winter nights. We would also love to see more people getting excited about cycling and taking up a healthier and greener way of travelling after seeing a pack of brightly decorated bikes touring Durham.” Professor Burt, said: “This is a good opportunity for us to promote and raise awareness regarding safe cycling to all our students and, at the same time, take part in such an exciting event. This also assists the university to promote alternative modes of transport and helps meet Green Travel Plan targets benefiting both the University and the local community.” The event will start at 3.30pm in Durham market place before the 3.5 mile guided ride around the city gets under way at 4.30pm. Cyclists who would like to take part in the ride are asked to book their place by emailing by 4.00pm on Wednesday 27 November."

via Durham County Council Press Releases

Friday, 15 November 2013

Dark week for cyclists in the capital

5 cyclists in the past 9 days have been killed in collisions with heavy vehicles in London.

This is an abysmal statistic, but from reading several stories and comments posted on them, it seems that a lot of people unfortunately aren't surprised, especially at the scene of one of the accidents, Bow roundabout. Read this post from the As Easy As Riding A Bike blog and tell me you know what is going on. After reading that, I can understand why people aren't surprised.

Of course it is a terrible tragedy for all concerned. A lot of questions need to be asked to determine what happened in each case. When I've been thinking about it, I've asked:

  • Was the cyclist taking a risk?
  • Were they using lights? (most accidents have happened at night)
  • Was the driver concentrating properly?
  • Was anybody confused by the traffic signals?
  • Is the cycling infrastructure at fault?
There's many more and if you're a cyclist, you'll have probably been thinking your own questions.

The last one is the one that is causing the most controversy at the moment. The fact is, cycling infrastructure is particularly poor. I mean, go back to that link and have a look again, or visit this link.

Infrastructure on Cycle Superhighway 2 (Image taken from Cyclists in the City)
Today everybody's favourite bumbling buffoon of a politician, Boris Johnson has gone some way to upset many cyclists. Normally an advocate of cycling, Johnson has been quoted in the news as saying "there's no amount of traffic engineering that we invest in that is going to save people's lives", hinting that unless people obeyed the laws of the road, this would continue to happen. So far there isn't anything released to say why the accidents occurred, so these comments are extremely ill-judged.

At the end of it all, this problem will not be easily solved. To put proper infrastructure in place will take billions of pounds, years and years of road works. In that time, more cyclists will, unfortunately, be killed. The only thing that can help at the moment, in the present time, the next time you are riding your bike or driving your car is to be vigilant. Don't take risks. Be seen when riding at night. Be patient, a few seconds longer will not hurt.


Just flicking through Twitter, seeing reports that ANOTHER cyclist is reported to be killed:

Friday, 25 October 2013

DurhamGate - bicycle hire in Spennymoor

I work at Tridonic UK Ltd in Spennymoor. Very close to Tridonic, is an area in which several large businesses operated from. A lot of work has been carried out on the area, with old buildings demolished and new housing and businesses being erected in their place.

What is DurhamGate?

From the website:
"DURHAMGATE is the largest mixed-use regeneration scheme in the North East of England, incorporating commercial, living and leisure opportunities. The developer is investing over £100m and the site is recognised as having key, strategic importance for the region."

All of this regeneration is having a big change to the way that current employees in and around the area commute to work. Roads have been re-routed and restrictions put in place. For me, when I commute by bike, I'm not affected. However, when I travel by car, I am affected.


A large regeneration like this requires a dedicated travel plan. Obviously the major mode of transport through this area is via car and the roads have already been taken care of. An alternative travel plan has been put into place for the site, with the aim of encouraging sustainable travel options and making pedestrians and cyclists feel secure. There will be dedicated bus services, plus on the 17th July 2013, DurhamGate announced that there would be an opportunity for cycle hire.

DurhamGate cycle hire

To understand what exactly what the hire scheme offers, I spoke to Helen Attley, DurhamGate Concierge Manager.

The bicycles are available to all residents of DurhamGate. Residents include people living in the new housing estates and also the employees of the businesses in DurhamGate. The cycle hire runs in a one day period, from 9am - 4:30pm, Monday to Friday and is free of charge.

I was expecting that the bikes could be hired for longer periods.
For example: the weather forecast for the forthcoming week was looking like glorious sunshine, so instead of driving the 3 miles from Middlestone Moor to DurhamGate, you would be able to hire a bike and commute for the week. This isn't the case and Helen gave some examples of why a resident might consider hiring a bike:
  • Getting from one part of the site to another a few times a day, quickly and easily
  • Car sharing/buddy systems: share a lift to DurhamGate and then cycle to workplace
  • Fresh air and exercise on your lunch hour - take lunch outside and have a picnic
  • Visiting friends for a coffee
Helen expanded a bit more on the bikes themselves. There are currently four available to hire, with a view to more being available in spring next year. Although I didn't see them, the picture below (taken from the Life@DurhamGate website) should give you an idea. Mudguards will keep your clothes clean, panniers on the rear can keep your lunch and other items safe and easily transported and a front light will enhance your safety by making the bicycle more visible. They are single speed, so will make cruising around the flat site a breeze. Helmets are also provided.

DurhamGate bicycle (image taken from life@durhamgate website)

Since the bikes were bought in August 2013, they have been used a few times by DurhamGate, Carillion and livin staff members and also used to promote the green transport message. Helen told me more about the green aspects of the site, including the "green spine", which will run between two housing estates and will be grassed areas, with trees and shrubs. Hiding amongst all of this greenery will be exercise equipment, such as step machines, rowing machines and other equipment you'd normally see in the gym, except this will be free to use and maintained by DurhamGate. There is such equipment in Hackworth Park, Shildon - and I've seen that being used. I think that this is a great idea to make exercise appealing and affordable to more people.

Helen told me that as more businesses open on the site, secure bike parking would be available outside the premises. For our meeting, I parked my bike up at the Fox Cub pub, pictured below.
Secure bike parking at the Fox Cub pub, DurhamGate, Spennymoor


I think that in time, DurhamGate will become an extremely busy area and travelling around the site by car could become a chore. By offering the bikes to all, for free, DurhamGate have the right balance between promoting sustainable transport and offering people an opportunity to revitalise their work day. I love arriving at work by bike; I'm awake and energised, ready for the day. A quick spin at lunch time to clear the mind, get some endorphins circulating could eradicate the mid-afternoon slump in productivity!

If you are interested in the cycle hire scheme, you can "get on your bike by booking your slot today by e-mailing or telephone 01388 424103."

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Durham County Council starts Bikeability again for the new term

A press release from Durham County Council today announced that Bikeability will be introduced to schools around the county as the new school term has started.

This is great news to get kids aware of safety aspects whilst cycling and I hope many kids do take up the opportunity. I remember doing my cycling proficiency in the schoolyard as described below!

Image taken from

Read the full press release below, or click here.

"Thousands more children will be taught how to safely ride their bikes as this year’s Bikeability programme begins once again. As the new school year gets underway, Durham County Council’s Road Safety Team is embarking upon Bikeability cycle training to year five and six pupils across the county. Over 2500 children were trained in the last academic year with the aim to train a further 1250 pupils this year making a total of 3750. The ultimate goal of the project is that no child will leave primary school without being given the opportunity to take part in the training. Bikeability is the Government approved national standard for cycle training, the new cycling proficiency course. Traditionally safe cycling skills were delivered on the school playground but as a result young cyclists lacked the skills they needed to ride on the road. Bikeability has been developed to address this by delivering lessons in the ‘real world’ among moving traffic on specifically chosen quiet roads to better prepare young people who eventually have to cycle on the roads themselves. Alan Kennedy, road safety manager, said: “As roads get busier and more and more people have cars it’s even more important that young people are given the chance to learn basic yet often vital skills to enable them to ride their bikes safely. “The feedback we receive shows that young cyclists find the sessions both informative and fun and most can’t wait to move onto the next level.” Durham County Council’s Road Safety Team has secured funding from the Department for Transport to deliver training across County Durham schools over the next two years. Training is offered at three different levels; Levels One and Two are taught together and cover basic cycle control skills on the playground, before moving on to on the road training which takes place on quiet roads amid vehicles. Level Three is for secondary school students and training is delivered on busier roads incorporating more complex junctions. Badges and certificates are awarded upon completion of each of the three levels. Bikeability is managed locally by Durham County Council’s Road Safety Team who provides the instructors, who are accredited to the National Cycle Training Standard."

via Durham County Council Press Releases

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Quick blast on the Triad

On Friday night I was telling restless after a week off from cycling and running, following the Great North Run last Sunday. So with an hour to kill before tea, I headed out on my mountain bike. My intention was to blast right along Auckland Way as quick as I could, see if I could improve my time on the Strava segment leader board.

The track was way too busy to ride like that, it would have been irresponsible and could have hurt someone. So I turned off and rode down through Bluebell Wood. This singletrack was quite muddy and overgrown with holly bushes. I couldn't ride too quickly through that, I'd have ended up pricked and scratched to bits! This ride taught me a couple of things.

1) I have neglected my mountain bike, it needs a bit of TLC. The headset is loose and the front wheel seems to have a bit of a buckle in it.

2) I have neglected my MTB skills. I used to ride my mountain bike regularly and I don't anymore due to commuting on my hybrid bike and I've been running much more. There were a couple of sections on the ride where I felt I was pushing the bike or myself too far. In the past I'd have been more confident about it, but I want this time.

I got home, covered in mud and feeling good for getting out in the fresh air. I feel like I have been reminded just how fun it is to ride my mountain bike again and I hope to get out to Hamsterley Forest soon.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

My take on the "helmet/no helmet" debate

A couple of days ago I read an article about a 16 year old lad who was knocked off his bike by a van. He wasn't wearing a helmet because he did not want to mess his hair up. The accident happened 5 weeks ago and he is still in a coma.

Now I could start ranting and raving and demanding everyone who owns a bike should have a helmet, that the government should make it a law, or even that today's teenagers are too fashion conscious for their own good. But that would do absolutely no good at all.

Cycling popularity

Let's look at this rationally. The number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on the roads today is on the increase, simply because cycling's popularity is on the increase worldwide by 7%. In the UK alone this number is 17% over the last decade. The Olympics and Tour de France victories from Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and even stage wins by Mark Cavendish have endeared cycling to the British public and there has been a boom in cycle purchases. The high street store Halfords makes cycling affordable and easily achievable to beginners with budget lines. People who are wanting to start cycling are not likely to be scared off by buying a bike at Halfords - I think Halfords demystifies cycling and makes it seem less "specialist".

Killed or seriously injured (KSI)

The facts

  • The number of cyclists killed increased by 10 per cent from 107 in 2011 to 118 in 2012.
  • The number of cyclists reported to the police as seriously injured in a road accident increased by 4 per cent to 3,222.
  • Pedal cyclist traffic levels are estimated to have risen by 1.2 per cent over the same period.
  • Cyclists have the second highest KSI rate per billion passenger miles travelled of any road user group. 
The facts you see to the right are taken from the Government website, Think!, which aims to raise awareness for a whole range of road-related campaigns. I think it can be put simply that the more cyclists there are on the road, the more chances there are to be accidents.

Compulsory helmets?

There is a debate raging as to whether helmets are worth it or not. Some people call for helmets to be made mandatory and some people say the choice should be with the cyclist. This quick Google search shows this opinion-dividing topic perfectly. A study in Western Australia showed that a mandatory helmet law actually had a negative impact on cycling, from increased admissions of cyclists into hospitals to a decrease in cycling in general. When you look at cycling in Amsterdam or Copenhagen, you'd struggle to see a cycling helmet amongst the thousands of cyclists.

My conclusion

I always wear a helmet. I have done since I was little, my Mam made me! Now I'm older and can make my own choices, I still wear a helmet. Why? Today's helmet materials and designs make helmets light, comfortable and airy. They are affordable too.
I wear a Specialized Tactic for every type of riding I do. It's highly adjustable, the peak is removable and it doesn't stand out and there's plenty venting to keep me cool.

Specialized tactic - peak on
Specialized tactic - peak off
When I lived with my parents, our neighbour was always out on his bike, with no helmet. My Mam always told him he should be wearing a helmet. He kept saying no, until he came off and had a bad crash. He wished he was wearing a helmet then, and has ever since. That must have been 5/6 years ago. That's not a massive revelation, but it was enough reinforcement for me to keep wearing mine.

Now I'm a bicycle commuter, I need to take a bag and my helmet into the office. This could be a lot to put people off, carrying lots of extra stuff about. The answer is simple: a backpack with lacing or a net to hold the helmet.

I use a Deuter Bike 1, which isn't available anymore. I've linked to an equivalent. This solves the problem easily and doesn't take much space under my desk.

Rucksack and helmet combined
Easy to store


 So that's my take on the helmet debate. I choose to wear one. I think that if compulsory helmets were introduced, I think we'd see similar to Western Australia. Some people hate wearing them and if the law was properly enforced, they just wouldn't ride. The key is awareness; not just from drivers, but cyclists themselves.

How about yourself? Which side of the fence do you stand? Let's hear it in the comments below.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Hamsterley Forest: Top 10 forests in England

An article published on the Guardian website has listed County Durham's Hamsterley Forest in it's top 10 in the country - and rightly so!

The forestry commission are doing a great job of maintaining the trails at Hamsterley. And with the size of the forest, there are routes for every level of cyclist. Families can ride the forest fire roads, you can brush up on you mountain bike handling on the skills loop, tackle blue (moderate), red (hard) or black (severe) trails. The harder they get the less you see of fire roads and more technical single track in the forest itself. With a permit, you can even take on the forests downhill course, Descend.

Over the years the trails have had some serious development, especially on red/black graded routes. This is clear to see on sections called Section 13, Transmission, Nitrous and Accelerator. These are fun to ride fast on an appropriate bike, but there are "chicken runs" if they seem too gnarly. Always stop and check out an unfamiliar route, making sure nobody is haring down behind you.

It costs £3 to park there and with toilets and a visitor centre/cafe, bike shop/hire/jet wash, its a great place to spend a weekend morning or afternoon testing your ability.

You can find directions using the link below:

Hamsterley Forest Tea Rooms

For more info on the trails, visit this awesome webpage:

See the full Guardian article below:

Article content:

Whether you're looking for family-friendly trails or a mountain-bike challenge, England has woods for every cyclist

Cardinham Woods in Cornwall only opened its new mountain-biking trails – including the fearsomely named Bodmin Beast and Hell's Teeth – this year, but it's already becoming a favoured spot among informed and experienced mountain bikers.

Leigh Woods and Ashton Court in Bristol are perfect for a fast fix. Just moments from the city centre, they couldn't feel further from urbanity. Cycle three marked Leigh Woods trails against a stunning backdrop with views of Avon Gorge and Clifton suspension bridge.

New Forest You won't find trails for the extreme cyclist here, but you will enjoy 100 miles of traffic-free routes on flat, gravel track that is perfect for families.  Summer is an extra-special time as the adorable New Forest foals are around, but do not disturb or attempt to feed the forest ponies.

Grizedale Forest in Cumbria has ancient oak woodlands and glorious views over the Lake District and across to the Old Man of Coniston. Of the six way-marked cycling trails, only one is technical and challenging while the others follow forest roads. All include hills, though.

Kielder Forest in Northumberland (pictured below) is awesome both for its size and variety of routes. This is England's largest forest, so if you are planning to cover more than a fraction of it, you've really got to tackle it by bike.

Forest of Dean offers family routes, such as the Peregrine Path, and mountain biking in the Sallowvallets area. It doesn't promise the biggest terrain or gnarliest descents but fast, fun trails – and incredible bacon butties – have made it the English forest of choice for mountain- biking experts at Wideopen magazine.

Dalby Forest in Yorkshire is one of the best mountain-biking sites in the world. The four-mile, black-graded World Cup cycle trail is challenging, but there are less frenetic blue and green trails (graded easy and moderate), too.

Sherwood Pines mountain- bike trails range from green (easy) to orange (extreme) in the East Midlands' largest forest open to the public. Route 6 of the wonderful National Cycle Network runs right through it too, so cycle tourers get a taste of the woodland as part of a longer ride.

Bedgebury Forest in Kent has an eight-mile single track for mountain biking or a six-mile family trail, which is easy to cut short if needed. It's not possible to cycle in the National Pinetum, but take time to explore it on foot.

Hamsterley Forest in County Durham is a well-known mountain-biking spot, renowned for its downhill trails and offering technical, challenging riding. The Walney to Wear long-distance cycle route passes through this forest, too. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Originally from: Environment: Bike blog |

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Auckland Way - Community Conservation - EVENT

My previous blog post detailed information on what Durham County Council had planned for this morning (4th August 2013) along Auckland Way. A two hour session (10am-12pm) was held to try and remove a lot of the rosebay willowherb weed that has taken over large areas of the verges.

I walked Melba along this section of the path yesterday and thought two hours would be nowhere near enough time - the plant really has taken over.

I rode up to the meeting area about 11ish so I could do at least an hour's work. I wore jeans and a long sleeved bicycle jersey in order to avoid being nettled. That worked, but it was a pretty hot morning.

Upon arriving I was asked to fill in a short questionnaire about how I found out about the event, preferred communication from the council (Twitter, website, leaflets, newspaper etc) and my reasons for volunteering. As I said in my last post, I commute along here a majority of the week so it felt right to give something back.

Full trailer of pulled rosebay
I was reassured my bike would be looked after so I locked it to a fence behind the big council van and information displays and set off down the path to find the group. I was given some heavy duty gloves so I could grab the weed with no fear of being nettled or cutting my hands on thorns. The group (around 12 in total) had filled the trailer by the time I'd arrived so the plan was to pull the weed out and lie it at the bottom of the embankment.

Where the group had been working before the wasps got angry

I set about working about half way down the bank, which was quite steep. After around 10 minutes I felt something sharp on my neck. I thought I'd been nettled.
Another two minutes more of pulling weeds and it was apparent I'd disturbed a wasps' nest as they were swarming about and started stinging me and another gentleman. One flew into his glove and he received a few stings on his wrist. I was stung on the wrist, neck, ear and one lodged itself in my hair and started to sting my head. This was hurting quite a lot and it was difficult to scramble up the embankment swatting wasps away.

We moved a lot further down the path to an area where there isn't as many large bushes, trees or wasps and set to work again. There is a bench overlooking a nice view here so it was a good area to clean up. I was hesitant after the wasp incident but I soon got back into it. We worked for about another 30 minutes before packing up and heading back to the meeting point.

Pulling the rosebay out

You can see the bench in the distance with the rosebay on both sides of the path

The rosebay patch we were going to tackle

After we'd finished - looks much better!
When we had all gathered back at the meeting point I grabbed my water bottle and had a much needed drink. There had been talk about a cake being cut but I thought it was in jest. But I was wrong and I was offered a slice of cake, which I thought was a very nice touch. Everyone loves cake!

I was given a brochure which contained more information on the council countryside service and what they do, as well as a leaflet telling me about volunteering. I'd do it again in the future as the staff were helpful, friendly and very knowledgeable.

If you would like to find out some more you can:

  • Phone: 0191 372 9103

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Auckland Way - Community Conservation

This Sunday (4th August), Durham County Council have organised a two hour session (10am-12pm) to help clean up Auckland Way (scroll to table at the bottom of page).

It isn't litter that the council are targeting, but rosebay willowherb, which they describe as an invasive plant. They hope to improve the nearby wild-flower meadow.

Rosebay Willowherb - Image from

As I travel along Auckland Way on my bicycle commute, I think I should go along and help out. The path is maintained by the council and I don't do much in return - so this is the least I can do.

Here is the poster found from the council website, which has been stapled to numerous fences along the path:

If you would like to attend, here is the address:
Auckland Way Railway Path.
Park at: Coundon Station picnic area, New Coundon, off A688.
 DL14 8QD
Grid ref: NZ 227 301

Monday, 1 July 2013

Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge 2013

On Saturday 29th June I participated in the Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge 2013, which is a sportive event organised by Virgin Money. The event was one of a series over the weekend, aimed at helping to promote cycling across all levels. In this case, there were family rides, the sportive for more competent riders and professional level races.

I was lucky to partake in the event as I was offered a place by Sam. His work had a team of staff members and guests, but one guy dropped out at the last minute. I was asked to fill in, and in securing the use of another friend's road bike, I gratefully accepted.

The "team" consisted of around 7-8 Banks and Banks Renewables staff members, 11 or so guests and then myself. We all had matching jerseys, which we got to keep. We did look the part, almost co-ordinated!

I borrowed a bike as the bikes I own would not have been suited for this particular situation. 63 miles on a mountain bike or 8-speed hybrid is certainly achievable, but ridden on the road in a group of riders on lightweight road bikes I'd have struggled to keep up. So my colleague Adam loaned me his Trek 1200, which meant for the first time in my like I would be riding a proper road bike! I have been wondering what it would be like, as I am pretty fit. How fast could I go? Would it be nerve-wracking? Would I be able to manage the the bent over position for a long period? I absolutely loved it, getting down on the drop handlebars on descents and climbing the ascents with ease. I rode at the front of the "peloton" for a while, taking my turn before getting my gearing completely wrong and being dropped like a sack of potatoes! Adam, in return got a tuned up bike and a commemorative Cyclone finishers water bottle in his cage.

I didn't take any photos on the day as I wanted to record the whole 63 miles in Strava. This was shaping up to be my longest ever ride and I wanted to keep the route and effort I exerted logged somehow. So no photos, occasionally checking distance and conserving battery life - I managed it, stopping recording after I crossed the finishing line with 3% remaining. The Strava route is shown below. No achievements as I have never ridden in this area before.

Riding time according to Strava is considerably less than official timing, as Strava only counts moving time. Where it reads "Michael Brown", that's the guy who dropped out. We had one major stop of over 30 minutes at the first feed station as we had to wait for a guy who had a mechanical - his pedal wound out and ended up being cross-threaded, presumably in efforts to hurriedly get it back in to carry on. Instead, he conveniently lived nearby so limped off to get another bike before rejoining us at the feed station.

After the ride we all decamped to a local pub and enjoyed a great meal and some fun prize giving. In the case of Stuart, it was no consolation "winning" the "Biggest Crash" category as his carbon framed seat stay snapped in half in a freak crash. Luckily no one was hurt, but the damage to the bike will be fatal.

Other than that, everyone had a great day out. The weather was superb, no overly competitive riders with too much adrenaline there was a general feel good factor tot the day, with spectators cheering us around the course.

I will definitely be back next year!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Simple Rewards

Today I set my "driving" alarm when I intended to cycle into work. This meant I didn't get up early enough to cycle - no worries, Fridays are a noon finish at the moment. I planned to go for a ride in the afternoon instead.

We also needed some chicken for tea. We generally go to a wholesalers and stock up, so as the weather was looking good I would combine the two. My 20 litre rucksack is big enough for the packs of chicken so I got ready.

After a morning of sunshine, the rain started as soon as I stepped outside. Fairly typical! The ride to Sedgefield felt quick, I was really enjoying it as I was on a route I'd never been on before; or at least majority of it. I spent about 5-10mins at George Bolam's meat emporium, mainly faffing with Strava and music on my phone.

The ride home was much harder with 5Kg of chicken breast on my back! Nevertheless, it look me a similar time, despite going an alternative route.

I made it home just before my battery died, so my whole ride was captured. You can see this in the Strava widget in the right hand side bar, or by checking out all of my Strava activities on the tab at the top of the page.

After showering and getting changed I had that familiar feeling of accomplishment: rewarded with a hot shower, fresh clothes and feeling totally refreshed. I love this feeling after any exercise, whether it be cycling, running or football. It makes all the sweat and grimacing through the tough bits worthwhile! Tonight I also had the added reward of a meal made with some of the chicken I'd lugged around f for 12 miles or so. It was pasta and chicken breast in a pesto/cream/white wine sauce with onions and mushrooms. I don't if the dish has a proper name but it was delicious!

So simple things: a shower, clothes and food. On a typical day, these things generally don't get appreciated. But for me, after exertion, these are my rewards. I look forward to them as the routes winds it's way closer to home.

How about you? Do you reward yourself after cycling, or exercising in general?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Support Sustrans' Cycling to Work campaign

"Support Cycling to Work: More and more people are desperate to get on their bikes but only 3% currently cycle to work. We are campaigning for a national cycle-to-work standard for all workplaces, to give everyone the choice of a smarter, healthier, cheaper commute."

The above quote comes from the Sustrans charity and is well worth signing.

I'm a firm believer that cycling to work results in a happier, healthier workforce. At least when I cycle into work, I'm happier and healthier (plus a little bit richer!)

I have calculated that:

So far I have done 47 commutes this year, so my bike is already paid for and I'm now saving money! (Focusing only on the bike purchase against fuel).

My bike was purchased by myself, not through a cycle to work scheme. I did try to get my company to enter into the scheme, but after much deliberation they decided it was not worth their while. Which is a shame, because there are maybe 6 or 7 bikes parked up in the rack on a good day. Had they participated in the scheme, the rack could be full, especially now that summer is here. Car parking is a problem at work, it really doesn't make sense that they made the decision they did.

As well as keeping fit, reducing congestion, helping the environment (albeit by a tiny amount), cycling to work can really help financially.

I also read this blog post yesterday from an American personal finance blog. Please have a read of it as it may be able to give you a better idea as to why bicycle commuting is a really great option.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Shimano M475 freehub problem

Last Friday I rode my Triad 2.0 mountain bike to work as a bit of change and as it hadn't been out of the cupboard under the stairs for a while. I posted some basic tips on what to check over on a bike that has been stood idle for a while.

However, I didn't anticipate having the problems that I did encounter, especially on the return home. Pushing hard on the pedals was producing some strange slipping from the drive train. At first I thought it was the chain slipping on a worn tooth but it started to get worse. By the end of the commute I was able to pedal forward but get no drive at all from the rear hub. I was able to make a video of this:

It was after putting the bike away and thinking about what had happened to it that I remembered the problems I had on last year's big Lakes ride. I had the hub serviced at my local bike shop and if I remember correctly, I think the guy said it was on it's last legs.

I could try to clean it all out and re-grease and see if I get any joy. If not I could get a new hub relatively cheaply (£22) but as you'll see from the video, I'll need a new rear tyre, possibly replacement chainrings which will surely bump that cost up. Factor in getting the new hub laced in with the rim (because there is no chance I could do that), it's looking like a costly repair.

It's a real shame too because the weather is turning warmer and the trails are drying out.

Have you ever had any issues like this and if so, how did you overcome them?

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

30 Days Of Biking - End of month report

Two weeks ago I posted about #30daysofbiking and how I was faring.

Sadly, I haven't been out as much as I had since then. In total just 3 outings, covering 31.8 miles and taking my April total to 119.9 miles in 9 rides. That's still over 13 miles a ride, so not too shabby!
My year total at date of publishing stands at 550.7 miles, which is over a quarter of my 2000 mile goal for 2013 in a quarter of the year. So far I'm on track!

Things could be looking up physically as I've consulted a chiropractor about my leg issues and he has discovered I have some pelvic rotation which would go a long way into explaining why I have these problems. I'm confident that Andrew will correct any problems and I will continue the year injury-free.

How about you? Did you manage the full 30 days? Leave a comment below!

Follow me on Twitter @BishAuckBiking for more cycling information, opinions and stories.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Get Britain Cycling?

Wednesday 24th April was a big day for cycling in Britain, as the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (snappy title) published their resulting report from their inquiry into how to "Get Britain Cycling".

The report is a lengthy document, which I confess, I haven't read in it's entirety. Or much of it at all, to be honest, just the summary.

I have however, read many news articles, blogs and tweets about the subject. This blog post is merely my own opinion thrust into a myriad of others out there on the www.

My overall feeling can be summed up as such:
Whilst I think that such a report is warmly welcomed by cyclists the length and breadth of the UK, there are many factors in place that could make the recommendations made in the report come to a slow, disappointing end, like getting a pinch flat after hitting a pothole in the road.

The biggest of these is convincing the Prime Minister that cycling is an extremely valid way of decreasing obesity, saving money everywhere and increasing "the quality of life in our towns and local communities". If it comes from the top down, getting Britain cycling could become a very real possibility. If, and it's a big if, David Cameron is on board. The best way this can happen is if this petition can get over 100,000 signatures - this will force a parliamentary debate on the subject. It currently has over 20,500 signatures.

How does this affect me?

To be honest, a lot of the reading I have done seems to be London-oriented. OK, it's where all the politicians live, where the publication was launched and was the focus of Great Britain's Olympic triumphs in the London Olympics last year. The capital is always going to be first. If (there's that word again) Britain does indeed get cycling it will undoubtedly start in cities, then the bigger towns and then eventually the small towns and suburbs. This is of course dependant on local councils getting involved - a council may have a cycling enthusiast at the head so measures may come into place sooner than others.

I found this handy page on the Guardian website, which shows the population density of travel modes in areas of England and Wales, as found in the 2011 Census.


This is how my area fares:
Less than 5% of people regularly cycle commute
Compare this to the percentage of people driving to work:
Lots of areas where 30-60% of people drive to work
In fact, we have to go to York, (30 minutes south on the train), to find a city with a population of regular cyclists that colour the map anything other than that awful beige:
In York, 5-15% of people are regular cyclists
From the same Guardian website, the data can be downloaded to a Google spreadsheet. Here's how the North East of England stacks up against the rest of England in all categories:


Whilst the inquiry is undoubtedly good news, I think it will be a very long time before I will see any benefits of the report - but city dwellers: you are in luck.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Cycling in your 20s (Not the 1920s)

How should I cycle train in my 20s?

I read the article above yesterday and felt, for the first time, like I'm past it, over the hill. I should point out that I am 30 years old.

The article makes it clear that if you are cycling competitively, explosive power and speed is your strong point in your twenties, not endurance. Which is good to hear, as I think I lean towards endurance and stamina-testing bouts of physical exercise.

I suppose more than anything, the article made me feel like I'd missed out on a lot of two wheeled excitement over the last decade. Truth be told, I've been cycling since October 2006 when I was 24, but I was just getting back into it and really just riding for the enjoyment.

The next article about training/riding in your thirties was published today but I haven't read it yet. I think I'll save it in Pocket or my biking Springpad notebook and comment later after reading thoroughly and contemplating it's advice/wisdom/foolhardiness (delete all applicable).

Monday, 15 April 2013

30 Days Of Biking - Half Way Report

If you don't know what 30 Days of Biking is, I'll tell you. Or you can click the link and take a look yourself! Basically, you sign up and pledge to ride your bicycle everyday during April. You don't need to go far, just down, the street would do.
The idea is that you share your stories, blogs, photos and other media on Twitter using the hashtag #30daysofbiking.

So far, I've only managed to cycle 7/15 days, covering 88.1 miles. This is pretty poor compared to previous months and is down to a knee injury I've picked up - but from where and how, I don't know!

The physiotherapist I have to see about my meralgia paresthetica says I might have overdone it when I covered over 38 miles on the 1st April. Last week I cycle commuted on Monday and was in pain so I did nothing all week, bar a 3/4 mile spin to the police station and back on Friday night. A week off must have done some good, resting up. Commuting on today confirmed that it in fact hadn't helped. I'm thinking of getting a second opinion from another physio.

So for now, I think that I will be missing even more cycling than I have done in a long while. I cycle commuted all through the perma-winter we've had in the UK and now that the weather is fine, I can't ride! Grrr!

It's even more annoying as Sam and I are planning a ride called Coast & Castles, 200 miles from Newcastle upon Tyne to Edinburgh.

I hope I get my knee fixed soon.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Fixed gear bikes - a dying breed?

When I was looking at getting myself a commuting bicycle, I had a fixie in mind. Simple/almost no maintenance required, a fixie is a get on and ride, get home and put away kind of bike. You barely have to think about it other than when you are riding it.

However, I went for a geared hybrid and I'm glad I did. Having any gears is worthwhile, despite the weight penalty. When you feel tired coming home from work, pick up an injury or the weather is hindering you, gears are your friend! A helping hand when the going gets tough out on the road.

Last week, I read this article from Bikeradar. It seems I have made the newest fashionable choice! To be honest, I haven't seen many, if any, fixed or singlespeed bikes in the area. I have however, seen one electric bike - a man was pushing it towards Halfords as he'd suffered a flat.

I'll keep my eyes peeled!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Google Map Maker - UK

Today Google announced that their map editing service is now available for UK users.

I am quite excited about this because I know that some cycling routes around the area here in Bishop Auckland are not shown on Google Maps. I think if the quieter, more scenic routes were shown, a lot more people would be interested in cycling between towns.

Hopefully I can contribute to this. I have started, by submitting the Auckland Way byway I use on my commute between Bishop Auckland and Spennymoor. The route drawing method is the same as making your own maps for private or shared use. However, defining the route seemed confusing and I'm relying on guidance from moderators for this.

A handy way of doing this would be to ride the route while recording using any GPS app that allows you to export the data as .gpx, .kml or .kmz and simply upload it. Maybe you can do that? Worth a look!

There hasn't been too many additions to the area yet, but it's early days.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Repairing 5Ten Impact 2 Low shoes


I've had these shoes from +Five Ten since October 2010. Since then I've done all of my riding in these shoes, until February this year, when I got a pair of SPDs. I still use these a lot though. That's a lot of miles! They are extremely warm, very sturdy with reinforced toe boxes and heel cups and a wrap-around tongue which stays in place no matter what. The tongue is very well padded, as are the ankle cuffs which provide more protection from rock strikes and flying debris.

5Ten Impact 2 Low shoes - love the way that reflective 5 pops out in the flash.

They are still extremely snug, warm and have a grip like a vice. Do you know that feeling when you have spilt some sticky juice drink on a linoleum or laminate floor and have only wiped it down, not properly cleaned the floor? When you walk across it, it makes that sticky, cracking sound when your foot lifts up? Yes? These shoes make that sound, have that feeling and all without the sticky mess. Adjusting your foot position on flat pedals with pins means you have to actually lift your foot off to reposition - it's difficult to swivel on them. That's down to the patented "Stealth Rubber" compound.

As with all products they have cons as well as the pros I've just mentioned. They aren't waterproof, so in rainy weather or if you splash through streams or becks, all that thick padding becomes waterlogged, which makes them heavier than what they already are. Each shoe weighs 600 grams when dry. If you plan ahead with waterproof socks, this isn't too much off a problem. They are quite wide and can rub on your crank arms, or catch on your chain stays if they are holding a wide hub (My Scott Sub 35 does). One of the most annoying cons is that the nylon loops holding the laces in place eventually snap, meaning you can't fasten the shoe up properly. This has happened to three of the loops so far on my pair.

...whole loops and nothing but the loops...
...So help me God...
I was pretty upset when this happened as I wasn't sure how I could fix it. They are quite expensive shoes so I didn't want to just get rid of them. I did some Googling and came across this blog entry. The guy there had the same problem as I had and resorted to drilling his shoes! I was nervous about doing this so left a comment on his blog asking advice. He replied, and I got busy with the drill.

Repairing the broken loop

If the drill bit is sharp, you don't need to mark the hole
Basically, you just need a sharp drill bit and a steady hand. I used a 4mm steel bit. I just set the point in the middle of the band of leather that holds the loops in place, in line with the loop itself and started the drill going slowly.

Clean hole

You will need to drill the hole a couple, maybe three or four times so that it is totally clean through.
When you flip it over and check the other side, you might find that the hole doesn't look so clean, or you might not be able to see it. There is a flap of material that covers the underside hole, so just push the lace up through the hole and you'll have a fully functioning pair of high quality MTB shoes again.

The finished result
I realise that this is a very specific tutorial/piece of advice. I'd say if you feel relatively confident using tools, and what you are working on is of solid construction, you should give it a go to try and repair it. If it works, you just saved a load of money and gives the item a more unique appeal. If you were considering disposing of the item and the repair job doesn't work out as intended, you've essentially lost nothing, but gained some experience.

How about you? Have you ever fixed anything that looked as if it was beyond repair? Let me know in the comments.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Have a scrapyard nearby?

I saw this video on you tube and thought..."If only".

I doubt many people have the time, equipment and circumstances to be able to do this. I'm sure some people do, but it may take them months, even years, to finish the bike off.

For most of us life is too busy to be able to make a custom bicycle. I'd hazard a guess that life is also too expensive to be able to buy a custom bicycle like this.

I know I sound like I'm being hard on the people who do this sort of thing. Maybe I'm jealous or I don't have enough cash!

Either way, take a look at the video and I'm sure you'll agree that it looks pretty cool and a great use of scrap cars.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

St Patrick's day via bike

St Patrick's day is generally celebrated by everyone whether you are Irish or not! I love St Patrick's day; Guinness and Jameson's whisky are such a treat to the taste buds and I've been lucky enough to visit the brewery and distillery respectively.

So the day falls on a Sunday this year, which turns out to be pretty convenient for me. I always visit my parents in Toronto for Sunday dinner, as does my sister Gemma and my little nephew Jack. Its a good chance for us all to catch up. There's normally two cans of Guinness with my name on in the fridge too :-)

Thanks to the March Hare pub in Tindale, they emailed a voucher for BOGOF Guinness. Now there's an offer! I was to be meeting my friend Marc for football watching but he was having lunch at the March Hare. I formulated a plan:

- Get showered/changed
- Get on the bike
- Have lunch, catch up with the family, drink Guinness
- Get on the bike
- Go to March Hare, drink Guinness
- Get on the bike
- Go home and put bike away
- Go watch football, drink Guinness

So far I'm half way through this plan but I'm way behind schedule. I blame the Guinness!

Mam and Dad's to pub. Check it out on #strava:

Monday, 11 March 2013

Wonderful Winter Commute

Today there was going to be a chance I'd wake up to snow. I did wake up (happy days) and there was snow. Only a dusting, no more than 10mm.

Whilst out walking Melba, who loves running around in the snow, I was able to check the conditions. Was it icy under the snow? Is it windy? Is the snow melting? It seemed fine so I decided to carry on with the commute in.

Having breakfast I thought about the bike. I switched my pedals back to my SPD last week as I thought the bad weather was finished with. I thought that the conditions outside weren't too bad and I have enough confidence to ride clipped in on the snow. I also decided to take some pressure out of the tyres to give a bigger footprint. The thing with I found this morning with 700C x 35 tyres is it is very easy to let too much air out. I pumped some back in, and conscious of beginning to run late, set off for work.

Every bump and stone had me on edge as I thought I was going to pinch flat at any moment. Looking at the tyres though, they weren't deflated that much. It was just the spongy feeling keeping me worried. I arrived at work just in time to clock in, but I needed to shower to freshen up and to warm up.

During the course of the day, the weather was up to something weird. One moment it would be tossing hailstones off the windows, the next huge snow flakes fluttering down. Look again and there was brilliant sunshine and blue sky. A colleague originally from Poland claimed he'd never seen such crazy weather before! There was no way of knowing what it would be doing at leaving time.
Hailstones on the windowsill
I pumped some more air in my tyres and set off. The snow was just starting and took a while to get going. I was enjoying the ride a lot and was still on the roads in Spennymoor. The studs in the tyres were making their unmistakable crunching noise so I knew I was safe as I kept the pace up. Within 10 minutes I had hit the start of the Auckland Way, a 4.5 mile public bridleway linking Spennymoor and Bishop Auckland. It used to be a railway line, but has been long since abandoned. The winds that had been gusting had snapped twigs and branches off the trees and they were scattered everywhere, like little arms reaching out of the snow at my wheels. A lot of swerving was required! By the time I reached the outskirts of Binchester, the wind was really howling and the snow was horizontal.
Arriving at Binchester
This proved to be a good photo opportunity - only my phone crashed after a couple of shots. I thought the sudden drop in temperature had affected the battery severely or it just crapped out as it was recording my route via Strava and trying to get the position of the photo and upload the photo to my Google+ Stream. I stuffed it back into my pocket, jumped back in the saddle and let it reboot.

I was really enjoying myself now and it dawned on me that it because it was light and I could see my surroundings! The mornings have been gradually getting lighter, at the moment sunrise is generally when I set off for work, about 6:35 am  As I'm going to work, I'm conscious of being against the clock; but coming home there isn't as much pressure (it depends on what is for tea!).

As I dropped down out of Binchester and in towards Bishop Auckland golf club, I stopped at the top of High Park (a pretty useless link, but shows you where I mean) and took some more photos. There is a series of stone bridges here and they looked quite picturesque. The icicles hanging from the inside of one of them looked quite threatening though!

Approaching High Park bridges

Steps leading up to footpath into High Park

I once tried to ride my mountain bike down these...I didn't get far!

You are wearing your helmet - right?!
After snapping these pictures, I carried on homeward. I noticed the traffic to my left at Park Head bank crawling as I cruised past the golf club. I looked right and saw the sun setting.
Snowing and sun setting. The golf course is beyond the trees on the right
I made it home in one piece. I could ride in the traffic of the town at the pace of the cars; it was pretty busy. The traffic in Bishop Auckland is pretty bad when rush hour arrives and I try to avoid driving at these times if I can as you're in 2nd gear 3rd tops for most of the time.

I got the bike locked up, changed into a different jacket, switched boots and headed back out with Melba for even more snow fun.

Rides like this aren't just rewarding for the physical exercise, the great views, the challenge of adverse weather conditions or being the only person out on the trail - one of the best things is coming home, having a hot shower and getting into some clean, warm clothes and sipping a steaming cup of tea. That's the gold medal right there.

These photos and a couple more can be found here.


I have just checked the historical weather data for Bishop Auckland as I had forgot to mention temperatures:
Setting off home: 4:20 pm, 0 C with a windchill of -6.4 C.
Arriving home: 5:20 pm, -1 C with a windchill of -7.5 C.
These are the observations taken from Wunderground here.
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