Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Goodbye 2014, hello 2015!

It's the last day of 2014, so this is my last blog post of 2014.

Challenges for 2014

This year I haven't covered as many kilometres as I did last year. Still, I'm not too far away from last year's total and not too concerned. That wasn't one of my main goals for 2014 anyway. (There's a slight discrepancy between what Strava says and what I think the distance is)

Coast to coast

I did not attempt this challenge. The reason behind this was I hadn't covered too many miles on the run up to this event and I didn't have a suitable bike. I was going to borrow a colleague's bike as I have once before, but he was in training for a triathlon and so couldn't spare it.

Great North Run

I attempted this challenge and completed the run. However I didn't achieve my time of 01:30:00, instead completing the run in 01:41:21 - 6 minutes and 21 seconds faster than in 2013, so I was very pleased with that.

Super Commuter

This was something that I was very excited to be a part of. It was new and very different. I was to be sent equipment and submit reviews, record my commute route to work and get involved with Cycle to Work day. It was all ran by Cyclescheme and my page can be found here.
Unfortunately, I don't think that this idea was lived out to it's full potential. A lot of the 12 people who won the competition to take part simply didn't participate, choosing just to take the free kit sent to them. I think that is very selfish and I feel for the organisers. With a more committed bunch of people, people who really believe in promoting cycling as a sustainable mode of transport as well as for fun and leisure and competition, the idea could have been pushed a lot further.

As you can see, most people began strong and then tailed off. I know it seems like I'm blowing my own trumpet here, but I'm not. If Cyclescheme run the program again, I hope they get a lot of people who are genuinely excited by the idea.

Other stuff

I joined Spennymoor Cycling Club this year too. This club is ideal for me, as I like to do a lot of varied cycling. Most of the rides this year has been road, with a few rides along the local disused railway lines and short rides to appeal to more casual riders and beginners. This is the good thing about the club, it is not a serious club and if you can't make a ride for whatever reason, there is no problem with that! Next year there are some changes planned, such as new kit and the introduction of mountain biking rides.

The club has also had a couple of riders who have been injured in collisions with cars. I would like to wish all of those affected in these incidents a continued speedy recovery and hope to see them back on the bike 2015.
Whilst I was not there, it has made me think of safety on the road more than ever, especially after these close shaves:

On to the future!

I do not want to finish on such a quite depressing note (as important as it is), so I would like to thank all of you for reading this post and indeed any other posts you may have come across. Thank you for your comments across the various social media pages, I have enjoyed our chats!

I haven't set myself any challenges for 2015 yet...stay tuned!

I will keep blogging in the new year and I hope to keep the conversation going!

What has your 2014 been like? Any plans for 2015? If you have anything you would like to share, leave it in the comments!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

How riding gets harder when the terrain changes

My commute to work is great. It's 90% off road, along Auckland Way, which is an old railway track that links Bishop Auckland and Spennymoor.

The path is used by runners, cyclists, walkers and even horse riders. It's an extremely popular path and consequently needs to be maintained regularly.

Training load

In November I began to feel that my commute was taking a bit longer than usual and I felt I had to exert myself a bit more. Looking into my heart rate information, that was true - it was becoming harder to ride along the path.

My training load from
Looking at the image above, it is obvious. The grey bars are planned rides and red bars are actual effort on the rides. Each commute is a planned ride of around 35 minutes with an expected average heart rate of 135 beats per minute. Before our honeymoon in September, my rides weren't so hard: the red bars are almost all under the grey bar. After the honeymoon, each ride needed much more effort: the red bars are all above the grey bars.


So why has riding along Auckland Way become harder? There are two sections that are now being resurfaced. This started in October:
The surface is very rough and loose. If you have a mountain bike with nice fat 2" wide tyres and a suspension fork, you'll barely notice it. On a bike with 700c tyres and rigid fork, its a real boneshaker. Going around the stiles (as in the first tweeted image, above) can be tricky. A couple of times I've had my front wheel wash out, so you should take care at these points.

I asked Durham Countryside Volunteers (12th November) about the work that has been carried out so far as I wasn't sure that it was finished or not: It turns out that the work is only half finished. There will be another surface applied in March next year, called Fiberdec. This apparently seals the path and makes it waterproof, preventing the path from washing away. Check the comments on the Facebook post.

In the meantime, Durham County Council have finally erected some signs to let everyone know what the status is.
Inclement weather putting a stop to proceedings - maybe start in the spring/summer next time?

Last thought

All of this extra effort through the winter is going to have benefits in the summer! Just remember to careful in the stiles and enjoy your riding!

Has your riding been affected by any work carried out on your normal routes? How did work out for you? Let's hear it in the comments below.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Everyone encouraged to get on y'bike

I think that everyone should have the opportunity to make a decision as to whether they want to ride a bike or not, for what ever purpose - be it commuting to work by bike, for leisure or getting fit.

Cycling can be an expensive pursuit to get into. The important word in that sentence is "can". To be frank, you could spend thousands of pounds on bicycles and equipment if you really want to.

But! It need not be that way. Cycling should be affordable, available to everyone. And that is exactly what this post is about. A new cycling charity shop has opened up in North Road, Durham.

Recyke y'bike in Durham
Image taken from Durham County Council press release
The idea is that you donate your old bike, the mechanics at "Recyke y'bike" refurbish them to their former glory and are then sold at a discount price. Other bicycles are sent to Africa, where there is use is highly appreciated.

If you aren't quite ready to donate your bicycle, the shop does a repair service, which has been very useful for a friend of mine recently.

Read the full press release from Durham County Council below or click here.

"In addition to their successful Newcastle location, we're supporting community project Recyke y'bike to establish a second shop, this one on North Road, Durham City to increase cycling in the area.

You can donate unused bikes which are then fixed up by trained mechanics and volunteers at the charity. The majority of the bikes are then sold by the shop - to fund the project while also providing quality, low cost bikes for people in the area - with the remainder being sent to Africa to support school and community health projects.

As well as helping people who couldn't previously afford to take up cycling by offering cheaper, refurbished bikes, Recyke y'bike's trained mechanics can also help keep people on the road by offering repairs and servicing bikes.
Extremely worthwhile charity

Cllr Neil Foster, our Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: "By supporting Recyke y'bike we're not only helping an extremely worthwhile charity but trying to make sure that cycling is affordable and open to everyone. As well as encouraging a healthier, more environmentally friendly way of travelling, and reducing traffic, it also cuts down on the amount of bikes being sent to landfill."

John Litherland, chair of Recyke y'bike, said: "We're delighted to establish the Durham bike shop in North Road and would like to thank Durham County Council for its support in making this possible.

"At Recyke y'bike our aim is to provide affordable, refurbished bikes and low cost accessories to encourage more people to cycle. To do this, our charity relies on the generosity of people who donate bikes. Most are re-sold here whilst others, some 530 bikes in the last year alone, are shipped abroad to aid disadvantaged communities in Africa.""

Friday, 21 November 2014

Maintenance course at Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op

On Saturday 15th November I had a brilliant day in a bike shop, with other cyclists, playing with bikes all day! It was an intensive maintenance course at the Newcastle branch of Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative​.

Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative, Newcastle
A few days before the course, I received this letter, explaining what would happen and what to expect. I found this a nice touch as nobody likes turning up unprepared.


Karl the head mechanic showed us everything we would need to know to keep our bikes running smoothly - but first things first: we had to choose our sandwich for lunch!

With tools, aprons and work stands provided, all you need to provide is a bike and enthusiasm
The five "students" on the course started by giving a brief description of why we were there. I am confident using tools and have worked on my bikes before, using a manual and You Tube. However, nothing can beat the benefit of having someone teach you in person and iron out any wrong habits you may have learnt.

We started easy with puncture repair, then progressed to cassette removal, hub and headset service before breaking for lunch. Karl explained that being able to maintain these bearings meant that just about half of the bike was now easily serviceable in future as the designs and procedure are very similar. We serviced the rear hub and if we wanted to stay back at the end to do the front hub, we were more than welcome. I duly obliged - it makes sense to do them at the same time. My headset spacers were fused to the fork steerer however and I couldn't get them released - neither could Karl in the time we had, so this job needs to be done soon. I learnt a trick to solve this stuck spacer problem that involves vinegar, so I'll have to let you know how I get on with that!


When we started again, we looked at brakes. With the five bikes we brought along, there was just about every type of brake on all of our bikes - V, cantilever, single pivot calliper, and hydraulic disc. We were also shown an example of mechanical disc brake. We learnt how to ensure that brake blocks are set up correctly in all orientations, including across the rim when looking straight at them. This means that the pressure applied by the brakes is even, keeping the wheel running true. I hadn't even considered that this was a potential consequence.

Gear tuning was next, which proved to be surprisingly simple - it's all in the cable tension. If you think about the problem you are facing logically i.e. which way does the chain want to go? Which way should it go? Then the cable can be adjusted by using the barrel adjusters. Karl showed us this and I think it blew our minds.

We then practised breaking and making chains and some people were introduced to power links. There was a demonstration of crank removal and finally wheel truing, which requires patience, but again, when thought out logically about the direction of the buckle and it's position, it becomes quite obvious which spokes need adjusting.

All of the techniques were supplemented with little tips which I'd never even considered when working on my bike before; I mentioned a few above.

Throughout the day, Karl gave us advise on how regularly to do these jobs and recommended at least a monthly clean (on payday so you don't forget) to keep the bike in top condition.

With a lunch included and free tea and coffee all day, plus a handout of all services we covered plus more we would never have had time for, it was definitely worth it and I really recommend doing a course if you are serious on learning the ins and outs of your bike(s). A major incentive should be the money savings - around £25 for a hub service and after you get the know how and the few tools/grease to perform this, you'll be quids in. Another incentive is that hands on practise, guided by an expert can help teach you the skills you might miss from a You Tube video.

You can find out dates of your local courses here. I did the Intensive Maintenance course and at £49, it is extremely reasonable.

Everything covered during the day is in here, plus much more


All topics in the handout:
  • Wheel removal
  • Puncture repair
  • Hub bearings
  • Wheel truing
  • Brake adjustment
  • Gear adjustment
  • Pedal removal/refitting
  • Crank removal/refitting
  • Bottom bracket adjustment
  • Headset bearings
  • Suspension terminology and adjustments

DISCLAIMER: I just really liked this course and feel it is very worthwhile doing it. I do not get paid for this post!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Endura Luminite II Neon 2014 Jacket Review

As it is now October, the sun is rising later and setting earlier, meaning commuting by bike is generally done in lower light, wetter and colder conditions.

With that in mind, here is my Super Commuter review of the Endura Luminite II Jacket Neon 2014.

Monday, 29 September 2014

A change is as good as a rest

More like a change and a rest in this case...

I've just returned from my honeymoon, two weeks in Cuba, which was absolute bliss.

However, that meant no bikes. Not even a pedalo! There didn't seem to be many bikes in Cuba, except in Havana where there were lots of bicycle taxis, rickshaws.

So today, was my first day back at work and I jumped on my bike, keen as mustard. But, this morning, I went on my mountain bike, to determine whether it was going to be suitable for this weekend's biking weekender up at Glentress Forest. It is in need of a good service, but I'm pleased that it is indeed going to be OK for Saturday. After good clean tonight, tweak the brakes tomorrow or Wednesday and I'll be ready to roll!

I forgot how good it is to ride that bike. Sure-footed, quick and agile, I worked up a sweat on both commutes, blasting up the small inclines and anticipating the trails awaiting in the Scottish borders.

It felt good to be back on two wheels.

So if you feel that your regular riding is becoming a bit stale, do something radical. Don't ride for a week, maybe two. Or simple switch the bike, or style of riding. If you do a lot of trail riding, head on the quiet roads or vice versa.

Excited about riding again after a two week break, or care free rebel?!
On a side note, do cycling specific socks that specify which foot they should go on make a difference if they are on the wrong foot? I don't think so!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Making my commuting bike squeak free - part 3

Here's my final post on how I used Sugru for the first time to make some repairs and improvements to my commuting bike. In cased you missed them, here's the post on the pannier rack and the post on my D-lock.

Front mudguard

I'd managed to crack my front mudguard when I was passing through a wooden gate on my way to work. A half a back pedal, a turn of the bars and my toe came up underneath the mudguard and twisted/pulled it and it cracked. Luckily these have a thin strip of aluminium through the centre of the mudguard, running the full length, to give it it's sturdiness, so the whole thing wasn't a write off.

This was necessary to fix or replace because the mudguards do an excellent job at, well, guarding you from mud and rain! If you are a commuter and don't use mudguards, I would seriously suggest that you consider buying some. The cracks in this guard meant that the guard would rub and catch on the tyre over rough bumps, which is obviously not very good.

Area of cracked mudguard to repair
The two rivets just about
held it all together
First things first, all of that mud needs to be washed off. Ensure that the surfaces are all clean, dry and free from any grease.

Clean and dry
Removing the dirt allows the
damage to be viewed easier
Another crack on the top mount

Cut open your foil packet of Sugru, again making sure that your fingers are clean and dry as you'll need to roll it and warm it up in your fingers to make it pliable.

Mould the Sugru into the cracks, making sure that they are all covered and smooth. I found that by using a damp cloth or wetting my fingers and gently smoothing over the surface gave a good finish. This fix was a little bit tricky because the mudguard had been bent and would not stay in the correct position long enough for the Sugru to harden. I had to ask my wife to wrap some gaffer tape around the guard and stays to keep it in place over night. After I removed the tape, the mudguard was straight and didn't spring back into it's twisted previous self. Also, I think the smoothness of the surface didn't give much for the Sugru to bind onto, so while I was trying to smooth it over, I kept pulling it away from the surface at the edges. In future, I would consider roughing up the surface with some sandpaper, depending on the job.

Using the rivets to help bind the Sugru in place.
Ugly underneath, but plenty of Sugru over the bracket helped
to make a strong repair
I tried to make the repair as smooth as possible on the outer surface
Try not to be too bulky on the inside of the guard for tyre clearance

What do you think?

Any good? What would you have done differently? Have you ever used Sugru to fix your bike? Let's hear it in the comments below!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Making my commuting bike squeak-free - part 2

Last week I wrote about how I stopped the rattle from my pannier rack by using Sugru. I made three fixes/repairs to my bike to prevent rattles and squeaks, so here is the second part.

Kryptonite D-Lock

Taking up the slack with a cable tie
My D-lock proved to be a big source of noise, especially after I fitted the after market mount due to the one supplied originally wearing loose over time. I had to cut down the rubber sleeving around the shackle and unfortunately cut too much off.

Far too much sleeving had been cut away

All of this extra space between the sleeving and the mounting bracket meant that the lock rattled about so much on the frame of the bike; it was very distracting. At first I thought it was the bottom bracket that was causing the problem, then the seat post and eventually I discovered where the problem was.

The rubber bumpers no longer sat flush
against the locking bar

Essentially, the rubber bumpers that keep both parts of the lock still by cushioning the gap just were no longer making the right contact.

It was again an easy fix. All it needed was a length of Sugru rolled out and wrapped around the shackle under the bumper and smoothed over to look more presentable.

One thing I would have done differently was bring the bike in the house over night as I waited a couple of hours before using the lock to secure the bike outside, but unfortunately the Sugru had not fully set. This caused it to be deformed slightly, but not so much that the repair did not work.

Of course, if I had been a bit more careful with the knife, I wouldn't have to be doing this, but this post demonstrates how easy it is to rectify small mistakes.
Roll a length of Sugru between your fingers...

Fill the gap between the rubber bumper and shackle sleeving...

And smooth over with damp fingers to get a nice finish

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Making my commuting bike squeak-free - part 1

A bit of background

I love my commuting bike, my Scott SUB 35. It's a no-nonsense bike, easy to maintain and looks good too. A bit heavy on the back end with the integrated hub gears and steel rack, but it's perfect for my needs.

However there have been a couple of rattles and squeaks coming from it recently. After a few listens over the rough tracks of my commute I was able to pinpoint where these were coming from. They were pretty obvious really, only one proved to be a bit tricky to locate. Incidentally, they weren't coming from the bike itself; rather accessories added after I had bought it.

I'd heard that Sugru was an ideal tool in repairing all sorts of things, so I bought some and gave it a go.

Instead of boring you in one post, I'll spread them out over the next couple of days. First up:

Pannier Rack

This was the obvious rattle. It was behind me and sounded like two bits of steel clanging together. It was the spring loaded clamp on the top of the rack.

Sugru bumpers stop the pannier rack clamp from rattling over rough surfaces

How I did it

Really easily! You first must ensure that the surfaces that the Sugru is to adhere to is clean from dirt and grease. If you washed the surfaces, make sure they are dry. Open the foil packaging, and roll the Sugru in your fingers until it becomes pliable, like Plasticine you used to play with when you were a kid. Then just put in place and wait for it to set. It takes 24 hours to set fully, so make sure you do any repairs when you don't need the bike immediately. In this case, I allowed the clamp to partially close to make indentations on the Sugru, then used some clothes pegs to act as spacers until the Sugru had set.

Clothes pegs allow the Sugru to set without sticking the clamp permanently in place

Friday, 11 July 2014

No cycling, injuries and maintenance

It's been a quiet week on the bike front after last week's ride to Reeth and the Hamsterley 10k. I felt like I'd overdone it; my knees felt sore. Sore from the running I think, I haven't had sore knees from cycling since I got my cleats and saddle set correctly.

I lent a work mate some pedals and cleats for a triathlon he's doing on Sunday from my mountain bike. It was a bit depressing getting that bike out from under the stairs because it's been so neglected. Loads of commuting, the new road bike and upping the running means I can't remember the last time I went mountain biking.

I've still got a voucher from Christmas for a bike maintenance course. I think I'll save some cash for the inevitable replacement parts I'll need and then learn how to fit them properly!

Then I should mix it up a bit and get back to Hamsterley Forest on a Saturday morning.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Aldi "Team" cycling mitts - not bad for the price

Aldi, the low cost German supermarket had one of their bicycle events start on Sunday (29th June). My current mitts are at the end of their long, looong life and as money is a bit tight at the moment, I decided to take a look and see if the Aldi offering would be good enough to last me at least until winter.

Aldi's "Team" cycling mitts

Size and fit

I went for the blue option over pink and yellow. I tried the medium and large sizes, opting for the medium. They are a snug fit, no doubt. The finger webs rest against the inside of my fingers, but the finish inside is smooth and doesn't chafe. The large size seemed to "roll" around my hand, and was ill-fitting with the mitt bunching up around my little finger.

Construction and material

The material seems fairly breathable and giving, the blue section being Lycra and the black/white sections are more robust material. Not sure what it is. The back of the thumb has the all important terry towelling section for wiping away "perspiration", but we all know that means snot. The palms feature sizeable gel inserts (I'll let you figure out where) which do come into contact with the bars and don't get in the way of your grip. The packaging card claims the inner material is wicking to help remove sweat with an additional layer for warmth, whereas the top layer is also waterproof and windproof. You'll just end up with cold finger and thumb ends.


Finishing touches include some reflective trim down the outside of your hand and strong Velcro fasteners. Finally there are two elasticated pull loops to help get the mitts off, which is a bit of struggle due to the snug fit. However, the first time I tried to get them off outside of work, one of the loops came away from the stitching, which was disappointing.


Overall, I'm very pleased with the mitts so far. Especially because they only cost £3.49! Really good value if you ask me. We shall see how long they last and if the water/windproof materials stand up to the elements. And if any other bits drop off.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Update on 2014 challenges

A few weeks ago, I posted about the challenges I had set myself for this year.

So far, I haven't completed any.

Spennymoor Cycling Club did the coast to coast route in the one day, with times ranging from 7.5 to 9.5 hours, which is fantastic. They currently have raised over £390 for +Teenage Cancer Trust on their page; donations are still being taken! ;-)

I decided not to partake in this challenge because I had not ridden very many miles in one ride and the bike I thought I had the use of, I wouldn't have been able to use for the ride. I have since bought a new road bike, a Genesis Volant 20, much to the "delight" of my wife, who wasn't too happy about it taking up space in the dining room. I argued it's a great looking bike, but she wasn't swayed by that so now it lives securely in the in-laws garage!

My new road bike - Genesis Volant 20
I will write a post about this bike in the future after a few more rides.

In terms of big rides this year then, I am doing the Virgin Money Cyclone event again as my friend Sam is doing it with a group with his workplace, but had a drop out. I'm glad to be offered a place, as last year it was a great day out. Other than that, Sam and I are discussing some other options for something a lot more epic.

As for the other challenges I had set, my running is looking OK at the minute but I need to increase my pace if I want to do the Great North Run in 90 minutes.

I will update about Cyclescheme's Super Commuters in another post.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Family fun day in Langley Park & free bike marking

This Saturday there is a family fun day at Langley Park cricket club.

I am mentioning this on this blog because there will be the opportunity to get your bikes and scooters marked up by the police, as part of the ongoing Operation Spoke. I'm a big fan of bike security marking and for free, you can't be, erm, robbed.

Take the opportunity!

Read the full press release below or click here.

"A farm bus, ‘beat the bobby’ penalty shoot-out and zorb balling are among the activities planned for a community day in Langley Park. The free event, at Langley Park Cricket Club on Saturday, 17 May, promises something for all the family. As well as meeting some rare breed animals on the Farmyard Flyer bus and trying out their football skills against local policemen, visitors will be able to try zorb balling and tackle a climbing wall and meet members of their local fire service and police beat teams. The activity day, organised by the Safe Durham Partnership, will also include free bike and scooter security marking, free dog microchipping and much more. The fun starts at 11.00am. For more information call PCSO Debra Robson on 101 (ext 664 2446) or Stephen McCallan, Durham County Council safer communities officer, on 0191 375 2650."

Monday, 12 May 2014

Pearl Izumi Tour Series returns to Durham

I attended this event last year and was pleasantly surprised by the level of professionalism with the whole event. The cyclists are raring to go and extremely competitive, the course demanding and tight. I've ridden down the cobbled hill that the racers will go up and that felt like hard work!

The race is great for Durham as the crowds are large. If you would like to go when the racing starts at 7pm on the 27th May, here's some advice: go early to grab a great spot on the corner of the cobbled descent, half way up the cobbled climb or on the final corner leading to the finish line. You'll get the chance to see the riders warming up and checking out the course.

Read the full press release below or click here.

"Competitive cycling returns to the streets of Durham City this month when the Pearl Izumi Tour Series gets underway.
Eight teams of professional cyclists, plus guest teams, will take part in the race on Tuesday 27 May, which is making its comeback to the city for the fifth consecutive year.
The teams taking part will be competing to be named the top British cycling team and the champions of the Pearl Izumi series.
Durham County Council will be hosting the Pearl Izumi-sponsored event in partnership with race organiser Sweetspot.
Last year’s winners in Durham – Team Raleigh – will be among the teams taking part. The other seven teams are:
Madison GenesisMetaltek CyclingNFTO Pro CyclingPedal Heaven Colbornes RTRapha Condor JLTStarley Primal Pro CyclingVelosure Node4
There are also three guest teams – Haribo Beacon, Achieve Skinnergate Racing and Wheelbase Altura MGD.
The Durham circuit – one of 10 rounds in the series – is renowned for being one of the toughest courses due to the hard cobble climbs, narrow streets and tight corners which form part of the route.
Riders can reach top speeds of between 40 and 50kph on the downhill stretches, which tests the sprint and control skills of the cyclists.
The race takes place on Tuesday, May 27, starting at 7.00pm. Pre-race action, including live music, begins at around 4.30pm.
Spectators are advised to arrive early and plan their journey in advance.
Free evening parking will be available at the County Hall car park and at the park and ride sites at Howlands and Sniperley for people wishing to walk into town.
Further information is available at or"

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Bishop Auckland Food Festival 2014

Bishop Auckland Food Festival logo
This weekend sees the annual food festival taking place in Bishop Auckland. The main event is in the castle grounds and market place, but there will be demonstrations and workshops at Bishop Auckland college too.

As well as sampling food from the local area and internationally, a few special guests will be in attendance, demonstrating their recipes and signing books.

Knowing Bishop Auckland all too well, I'll stick my neck out and say that the traffic in town during the day will be terrible, jams and slow moving. Especially before the start at 10am and close at 4pm. There is parking in Bishop Auckland, but drivers are being advised to park at the college or just out of town at Perfect Homes & Gardens. There will be charges for the park and ride service provided. Follow this link for more information.

What has this got to do with a biking website?'s the science bit, so concentrate.

There are many benefits to riding your bike to the food festival if you live in or just outside Bishop Auckland:

  • Driving the car will hard work as the congestion on the roads will be high
  • You might struggle to get parked
  • You will have to pay to use the park & ride
  • You can park your bike securely just about anywhere as long as you have a suitable chain. See this map for more details
  • Riding your bike is great exercise
  • Therefore you can sample more cake - guilt free!
  • You could if you wanted to, sample a couple of ales - but be careful, riding under the influence can be dangerous
  • Cycling is a fun, family activity

So there's a few reasons for you to consider. If you do decide to go to the festival on your bike, leave a comment below or get in touch and let me know how you found it!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Cycling in Amsterdam

A couple of weeks ago I was married, so my wife and I headed off to Amsterdam on a mini-moon (two nights, three days) while we save money to go to Cuba later in the year for our "proper" honeymoon.

We talked about hiring bikes and how cool it would be to tootle around the city stopping off at the sights and having drinks at the city's numerous cafés.

The bike hire plan went straight out of the window when we got into the centre of Amsterdam. The cyclists were crazy!

Alright, crazy is a strong word. I'm a confident cyclist but Rebecca is not. There was no way we would even ride a bike, despite it being April and the month of 30 Days of Biking. I'm sure that if you rode there everyday you would be used to the style of riding and the traffic conditions etc, but it really was not what I was expecting.

The Dutch have an exceptional cycling infrastructure that cycling campaigners here in the UK would dearly like to see implemented in our cities. According to Wikipedia, here are some numbers:

  • 1,000,000 bicycles in 2006
  • 400KM of cycle paths
  • 54,000 bicycles reported stolen in 2005
  • 12-15,000 bicycles fished from the cities canals in 2005
  • 490,000 cyclists rode 2 million KM everyday in 2012
  • 35,000 KM of bicycle paths in the country
  • 18 million bicycles in the country
  • 1.3 bicycles for every citizen old enough to ride

With that in mind, I expected the roads to be fairly motor transport free, the pedestrian footpaths and bicycle paths would be easy to distinguish and the cyclists would be calm, riding around with respect to other road users and each other. That wasn't the case.

Pedestrians need to be on their toes and have eyes in the back and each side of their heads. Seriously, crossing the road was dangerous, even when traffic lights were red and the green pedestrian signal was on, cyclists would zoom past without any warning.

We saw cyclists riding down the wrong carriageway because the traffic lights were on red. Hopping over pavements was no issue and riding while talking on the phone seemed to be perfectly acceptable. Flying over cross-roads with no hands on the bars or with passengers sitting on the rear pannier racks side-saddle.

I think we saw one cyclist wearing a helmet; there was no high-visibility or technical clothing on show and the lack of hand signals was conspicuous by its absence.

However, saying that, we saw no accidents. Here's a list to some more detailed blogs: (bearing in mind I was on honeymoon and not on official Bishop Auckland Biking business!).

 Have you been to Amsterdam? What did you think of the cycling culture whilst you were there?

Monday, 14 April 2014

It's always nice when customer service is good

I know that Halfords sometimes comes in for a bit of stick in regards to their cycling range. To be fair though, the Boardman road bikes are class - and that's just one of their range.

Anyway, last October I bagged a bargain pair of Schwalbe Land Cruiser tyres for my commuter bike to provide a tad more comfort and a lot more traction on the off road sections of my commute. I fitted them at the same time and they seemed great. However, a couple of weeks ago the rear tyre ruptured in the middle of the tread, shredding the inner tube and leaving me stranded (almost - I managed a basic fix using Sam's empty plastic bag of nuts that let me limp along for another couple of KM). The tyre had become really deformed and had a big bleb in it before it finally gave in. I had no choice but to carry on riding on it though.

Hole in tread of tyre
Seen from inside of tyre
The tyres had done around 500 miles and showed no other sign of damage. The front tyre is still in perfect condition. I checked the Schwalbe website as I was sure that this was a faulty tyre, but the directions on there said to take it to the place of purchase. I thought that I was resigned to having to buy a new tyre as I was sure that +Halfords would not see this as a fault. However, upon explaining the story, the guy on the bikes department checked the stock, found that there wasn't any available there and then and ordered one for me to pick up the next day. Sure enough I got a call and picked up my direct replacement tyre. Moreover, the current price of the tyres is more than I paid originally and I wasn't charged any extra. Fingers crossed that this one is as good as the front!

Sometimes just asking can be beneficial. I might have just disposed of the tyre and bought a new one.

How about you? Have you had any examples where customer service is beyond what you expected and surprised you?

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Challenges for 2014

Last year, the challenges I set myself were to run the Great North Run and to cover 2000 miles on bikes. I managed both so I was pleased with my efforts on New Year's Eve.
This year, I wasn't sure what to do. Do I up the mileage on the bike or try something different?

Well, as it happens I'm trying something different. I've never done the popular England coast to coast cycle route before, so when there was an offer of doing it from Chris from Spennymoor Cycling Club, I jumped at the chance hesitated at first then agreed to do it. The reason for my hesitation? Its in one day only. The route is generally done in a couple of days to break it up, 60-odd miles a day.

As well as that I'm also entered into the Great North Run again, so my aim is to complete it in 1:30:00. I managed 1:47:42 last year, so I think my new goal is possible.

The last thing which I hadn't planned on, but I'm extremely pleased about, is I have been chosen to represent the north east of England in CycleScheme's Super Commuter event. This means that I, along with 11 other cyclists around the UK, will be set a number of challenges throughout the year, the focus on encouraging people to try riding their bikes to work instead of driving. My first challenge is to review a commuting jacket I have been sent and film my commute with a helmet mounted camera. I'm really looking forward to it!

So please keep checking back to see how I'm doing and be sure to follow me on your favourite social network on the right of this page and give me encouragement! ;-)

What about yourself? Do you have any challenges set for this year?

CycleScheme's Super Commuter logo

Monday, 27 January 2014

Operation Spoke - UPDATE

Since I wrote about Operation Spoke here on this blog, PCSO Mark Peacock has been in touch with me via Facebook to provide me even more information on the operation.

If you are active on Facebook, you can like the police's page to receive updates right in your news feed. Operation Spoke is a high priority for the constabulary as bike theft is a big problem. Every bicycle retailer in County Durham and Darlington can mark your bike with the FREE marking or paid marking kits from BikeRegister. All you need to do is take your bike to the shop and they will do the rest.

For Bishop Auckland, the points of contact for Operation Spoke are PCSO Mark Peacock and PCSO Carl Blenkinsopp.

I saw the video below just today which demonstrates the attitude of bicycle theft in society today. This needs to change, so help me help Operation Spoke raise awareness in people and change this attitude.

Blinging your bikes in Bishop Auckland

In an event not too dissimilar to this one, Darlington and Durham County Council's "Local Motion" campaign is encouraging kids from Bishop Auckland's St Anne's CE Primary School to decorate their bikes with the things that they hold dear.

In addition to this, Durham constabulary will be on hand to security mark bikes as part of "Operation Spoke". This is a great initiative that I have written about before and a superb opportunity for kids to enjoy their bikes and be in with a chance to win a prize!

See the full press release below, or click here.

"Primary school pupils are getting the chance to show their love for their bikes and scooters at an early Valentine’s Day event to boost active travel. Some 50 youngsters from St Anne’s CE Primary School. Bishop Auckland, have been asked to “bling”  them with all the things they love for the themed day on Monday January 27. It is all part of the Local Motion campaign to encourage children to walk, ride or scoot to school and make them aware of the health and environmental benefits from an early age. Police will also be on-hand to security mark the bikes as part of Durham Constabulary’s Operation Spoke to clamp down on theft. All those taking part in the event will get the chance to win a prize bike. Cllr Neil Foster, Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “This is another fun event to get across the importance of healthy living and also keeping your bikes secure. I am sure it will be a great day. The pupils will be arriving at school in their specially decorated bikes and scooters from 8.30am onwards."

via Durham County Council Press Releases

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Cycling on pavements - OK or not?

I read this article (link at the end of this post) the other day and it reminded me of the Cockton Hill, South Church & Henknowle area PACT (police and communities together) meeting I attended last week.

The topic arose in the PACT meeting due to some concerned residents complaining about cycling on footpaths around the area. Apparently in the previous meeting, which I did not attend, there was some debate about whether riding on the pavements is actually illegal or not. However, at the last meeting the PCSO (police community support officer) in attendance did clarify that it is part of the Highways Act of 1835, section 72.

How does this tie in with the article below? Well, the PCSO said that majority of cyclists stopped in Bishop Auckland for riding on pavements cite the reason that the roads are too dangerous. Now, Bishop Auckland is nowhere near as busy as London. But, at peak times, the roads do become very congested.

As a result of this, the PCSO said that he would only issue an FPN (fixed penalty notice) if the cyclist was riding on the paths irresponsibly. Some might argue that breaking the law and riding on the pavement is riding irresponsibly enough already. It looks like the policy in Bishop Auckland is to consider circumstances and try to use some sort of sensible judgement. In addition to this, the PSCO said that advice would be given to the cyclists in questions if seen and stopped.

Riding in the dark

I raised the question of cyclists riding after dark with no lights or reflectors, which is also illegal. This article goes into a lot of detail, the main points of which are:

  • Lights (and reflectors) are required on a pedal cycle only between sunset and sunrise.
  • Lights (and reflectors) are not required when the cycle is stationary or being pushed along the roadside.
  • When they are required, the lights and reflectors listed below must be clean and working properly.

The following items are the minimum required, on a bicycle or tricycle, in order to ride it legally at night:

  • Front Lamp

One is required, showing a white light, positioned centrally or offside, up to 1500mm from the ground, aligned towards and visible from the front. If capable of emitting a steady light, it must be marked as conforming to BS6102/3 or an equivalent EC standard.
If capable of emitting only a flashing light, it must emit at least 4 candela.

  • Rear Lamp

One is required, to show a red light, positioned centrally or offside, between 350mm and 1500mm from the ground, at or near the rear, aligned towards and visible from behind. If capable of emitting a steady light it must be marked as conforming to BS3648, or BS6102/3, or an equivalent EC standard.
If capable of emitting only a flashing light, it must emit at least 4 candela.

  • Rear Reflector

One is required, coloured red, marked BS6102/2 (or equivalent), positioned centrally or offside, between 250mm and 900mm from the ground, at or near the rear, aligned towards and visible from behind.

  • Pedal Reflectors

Four are required, coloured amber and marked BS6102/2 (or equivalent), positioned so that one is plainly visible to the front and another to the rear of each pedal.

The PSCO again reiterated the fact that cyclists stopped for this would be given advice about basic cycle laws and safety. In an amendment to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, PCSOs will soon be able to issue FPNs to cyclists riding without lights/reflectors in the spring of 2014, when the bill gets passed.

Right or wrong?

Personally, I think that the majority of people riding bicycles who I would call "cyclists" do ride on the roads and have appropriate lights and reflectors. I think this is because they have sufficient interest and knowledge about cycling to actually enjoy it as a hobby or embrace cycling as a form of transport. Unfortunately, the "cyclists" that the residents originally complained about are people who do not care about what other people think. These people will cite the roads are too dangerous and get away with it and will not buy lights. For a bike to be legal when it leaves the shop, it must be fitted with reflectors and a bell. Sometimes these are deemed "uncool" and removed. This sounds harsh, but it does happen because I have seen it.

Therefore I think that the powers of the police and the police community support officers should be used. For instance, if a car drove on a pavement and a police officer saw it, action would be taken. Same if the vehicle had no lights on at night. The rules are in the Highway Code and should be adhered to.

The views offered from the police in this article come from one PCSO only and not the entire force. I do not know if this attitude of determining the issuing of FPNs depending on circumstances is adopted by all officers or not.

What do you think?

Original article content:

Let cyclists go on pavements if roads are dangerous, minister tells police
He said enforcing laws which prohibit cycling on the pavement is a matter for police, but added that discretion should be exercised “where a cyclist is using the pavement alongside a dangerous section of road out of fear of the traffic”. Mr Goodwill ...
Derby motorists and cyclists in war of words over riding on footpaths
Let cyclists use pavement to avoid dangerous stretches of road, says Transport ...

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Best of 2013 - Le Stag!

Now that we're well into 2014, I've been thinking about what I'll be doing on two wheels for the next 12 months.

But in thinking about that, I realised that  I never got around to blogging about the highlight of my biking year in 2013 - Le Stag!

Due to travelling all day and night from Morzine back home in a slightly tired and emotional state (hungover), the days after Le Stag were used to clean clothes, recover and ride around Hamsterley Forest. Then life took over and the post was "going to be done at the weekend", but things kept cropping up.

So I'm doing it now!

Le Stag, July 2013

What was Le Stag? If you follow Bishop Auckland Biking on any social media, you may know what I am talking about. If not, I'll tell you. This was my best friend Sam's stag do (bachelor party).

Groom and best man (if I do say so myself!)
I was his best man at his wedding in September and therefore charged with organising his "last few days as a single man". That's not really true these days as I feel that stag dos are more a celebration of friendship and show your friend that you are happy for them for their forthcoming nuptials.

A number of ideas were floated around but the one that stuck was heading to France to catch some of the 100th Tour de France and partake in some two-wheeled adventures of our own.

So after studying the Tour schedule, maps and working out some logistics, a plan was devised. We'd arrive late Wednesday 17th July and find our chalet in Morzine. It was called La Maison Rouge, so we would have no problems finding a massive pink building. The building wasn't pink and we eventually found it after driving up and down the valley side numerous times. It was 2am when we finally got in.
La Maison Rouge? La Maison Brun more like


We went to Thonon-les-Bains and white water rafting, "to break the ice" as Sam put it, to get things going. And it did - heart rates, adrenaline and lives were flashing before our eyes. A bet was placed to see who would be the first to fall into the cold water. I don't think I lasted more than a minute before I was in.
White water rafting - huge amounts of fun/fear


The day when the bikes started. This was stage 19 of le Tour, 205 km from Bourg-d'Oisans to Le Grand Bornand and was the final mountain stage of the race. We drove to Thônes and headed up the mountain to wait for the riders to come through. We were approximately 20-30 Km from the finish.

The caravan came through first, with all of the people in the cars/vans throwing out sweets, caps, sausages(!?) and jerseys out to the crowds, keeping us entertained. It was quite a spectacle and lasted a while and between us we managed quite a haul.

Then we started to see helicopters in the distance, more important looking cars coming through and the clouds rolling in.
Helicopter and rain - heading right for us
Pierre Rolland was the first rider to pass us. He led a group by a couple of minutes, but he couldn't hang on to the lead.
Pierre Rolland of Team Europcar
It was as if someone flicked a switch as Rolland came past in the dry, but humid conditions as the rain started to fall. The drops were huge and rumbles of thunder could be heard. Those of us who had come prepared began getting waterproofs on. It was so hot and clammy though, I just stayed as I was.

By now the atmosphere felt very tense, not just down to the rest of the race being a few turns down the road, the helicopters buzzing about our heads, but that impending feeling of a thunderstorm brewing. It was extremely exciting!

Shortly after the rain started, the rest of the riders started coming through. I don't have many photographs due to the downpour forcing everyone to hide their cameras, but the photo below should give some idea as to what the riders had to endure. The stage was eventually won by Rui Costa from team Movistar.
Battling gravity and the rain
As we walked down the mountain back to the car, the thunder and lightening was immense. The thunder and lightening struck at the same time, seemingly right around us. It was exciting but frightening at the same time and was an experience I'll never forget.

On returning to the chalet, we watched the highlights on TV and were surprised when we made a brief appearance on TV!


Mountain biking! We hired bikes from Alpine Sports in Morzine. Despite a mix-up in the booking (we had less bikes than people), I would recommend using Alpine Sports if you would like to go mountain biking in Morzine as the owner, Mark, went out of his way and arranged bikes for all of us, calling in a favour from other rental shops. The bikes we had were a mix of GT Force 2 "All Mountain" bikes and GT Fury downhill bikes. I took a DH bike as some of the lads weren't used to riding bikes and these Fury bikes were heavy! The Force bikes were light and nimble, despite being full suspension.

GT Force looking down on Morzine
To get the best out of the mountain biking in Morzine, the ski lifts are equipped to take you and your bike up the mountain; another first for me. An unusual feeling being so high up in the air, swaying about with only a metal bar in front of you for safety!

The routes were well marked and there were plenty of them, for all abilities of biker.

The first ride we did is shown below:

We stopped at the bottom for some lunch and a drink, and the guys knew we were coming as Mark from Alpine Sports had phoned ahead. Another reason to hire your bike from him! After some petting of the local cows, we headed out for some more riding.
Cows. With bells on.
Unfortunately, on this ride, Sam's father-in-law to be came off his bike and shattered his collarbone. Sam had to take him back and to hospital as they both had hire of the same car. This was disappointing, but it's one of the risks of what we were doing. In fact, despite the experience we had and the terrain we were on, to only have one injury is good going! The rest of us continued on the ride and crossed into Switzerland to ride back to where we had lunch and then down into Morzine.

The end

By far and away, this was the best bike-related adventure I had in 2013. After flicking through the photographs and looking at the routes etc, I'm disappointed in myself for not writing about it at the time. I suppose I have got to relive the adventure to some extent however, so its not all bad! Sam is talking about going back to Morzine for more biking, but in the same sentence he mentions Alpe d'Huez...

At Avoriaz.

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