25 April 2008

Arse of bicyle maintenance part II: born-again bike

I had planned it carefully, or so I thought: two weeks before the Coast to Coast, I would take my 20-month old bike to its birthplace (the Biking Factory Shop in Prestwich) to have its maker put it through a complete and thorough service - a refit, an overhaul - ready for the big weekend. I even rang the shop to check what time they opened (and noticed it wasn't the usual gentleman who answered, but thought "what the heck!").

Alas, it was not to be. Said gentleman was not in, but a kind but hapless-looking stranger who explained that the shop owner and chief bike mechanic was in hospital (nothing too serious, I hope) and no repairs or maintenance could take place for two weeks or so.

So, plan B then. I took the bike to the Bicycle Boutique - they had helped me recently with something, for free - and I've used them before. I went through my list - full service, handlebar 'grips' (dunno what they're called - the 'horns' useful for comfort in long rides), spares for the journey, etc.

The chap rang me later - the bill was a staggering £126.50!!! I said yes, after consulting with HQ. It is exactly as much as I paid for the bike, less than two years ago! But... why waste a good frame, plus don't have time to find another bike, plus loyalty, etc etc. Not the best month to suffer this waking bill, but there we go - after all, it is my daily form of transport so I must offset it against what I'd pay in, say, petrol, or tram fares.

Coast to Coast? It'd better be good...

22 April 2008

2nd (and possibly last?) training ride before the C2C

Ian and I went for our 2nd (and possibly last?) training ride before the C2C: Unsworth-Heaton Park-Birch-Heywood-Edenfield-Bury-Unsworth. 28 miles approx. Wet day, but very good cycling: must write a bit more about it. Tried a shortcut Ian remembered from his younger days. I foolishly agreed - it got from bad to worse, a cobblestoned downhill mudtrack, knocked a few months off my aluminium-framed hybrid's lifespan.

Less than three weeks till the big weekend...

17 April 2008


I was in Antwerp for the day earlier this week - family reasons, long and sad story that I shan't explain here. It was interesting to notice though both how widespread cycling is as a form of transport over there... and how different the cycling culture is to ours in the UK. I have not been to the Netherlands (really) but I imagine it must be similar over there.

First of all, in Antwerp lots of people -lots- cycle. Bikes are everywhere, either chained to lamposts or simply propped up against them. Second, the 'system' bears them in mind - roads, traffic lights, pedestrian crossings all seem to have made provisions for the folk in two wheels. Third, cycling there seems just a part of life, not the self-conscious 'cause' we seem to make it in the UK. Most bicycles are of the sort designed for comfort and ease of use, and most people ride them without any special clothing - and positively no helmets. Panniers? Yes. Gears? Yes. Lycra pants and special pedals or shoes? Nope. Rather, men in suits, lasses in high-heels, riding upright, no rush, on bikes not built for speed. I sometimes wonder if in the UK, while we are a diverse lot for sure, the 'competitive' end of the spectrum has pulled us all into a mindset where we all hope to exert ourselves, to perform to some degree, favouring an approach that regards cycling as a sport, a self-contained activity. We don't just 'cycle to work' - we use the journey to work as an opportunity to cycle - or even, to train, ie to improve our performance, perhaps with some arbitrary challenge (the C2C ride?) in mind.

Which is all very well of course - but which we should bear in mind when we moan about how marginalised cycling is in the UK, and look towards 'Europe' (esp. Northern Europe) with envy. If we want to make cycling mainstream we have to separate bicycle-based sports from cycling as a mere form of transport - something routine and boring that everybody can do.

Incidentally, I visited Stockholm last July. Thinking about it now, I get the sense - perhaps wrongly - that cycling over there is sort of half-way between the 'continental' and 'uk' styles, ie I saw as many 'urban' cyclists on 'comfort' bikes as I saw hybrid bikes and chaps in lycra pants. And the odd helmet.

09 April 2008

Lagging behind

Last Sunday, going up to Holcombe, a considerably older chap overtook me going uphill. Yesterday, cyclist after cyclist overtook me going up towards Bury from Manchester. Today, another cyclist overtook me going downhill towards Manchester.

Do I detect a pattern here?

06 April 2008

'Power' training

Made a dash to Holcombe Brook this morning, on my own. Felt OK - no easier than a month ago when I did it with friend Ian. Coast to Coast promises to be hard! But we are increasingly committed - have booked accommodation this week!


03 April 2008

Easter gap

Back on the bike for 2nd consecutive day, after two very irregular weeks due to the Easter break. Worried about major road layout changes in Heaton Park opposite St Monica's High School - now it's becoming clear they are creating new lanes to direct turning traffic early on and ease congestion - car congestion, that is.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm no rabid anti-car or anti-motorist jockey per se, but I fear once more poor Johnny Cyclist has been conveniently forgotten. All shall be revealed in due course.