Friday, 30 April 2010

Old Frame & A Bike Book

As promised, although a bit redundant now, here's a picture of the old frame I was doing up for Ben before we got the "hot rod" last night...which by the way is a beautiful bike and it has 6 more gears than mine!

Anyway that's it. I'm kind of disappointed in a way that I didn't get to finish the build, however that's countered by the practical side which tells me it was going to get too expensive. to have done it cheap would have meant ending up with a bike I was unsatisfied with.

Yesterday in Wycombe town I popped into Waterstones book shop and saw "The Man Who Cycled The World" by Mark Beaumont.

What caught my eye was the picture of him on the front cover as just a few weeks ago I caught an episode of a series on TV of him cycling down the American continent. It was fascinating watching and I deeply regret missing all of the other episodes. I hadn't realised that he'd cycled around the Earth too (sounds more impressive that way I think..."cycled round the Earth").

Anyhow, I bought the book. I can't tell you what it's like as I have only finished the first few pages.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

South Chiltern's "Ride It"

Evans Cycles does a monthly "Ride It" event at different places around the country where they organise routes to cycle around, from long road routes down to short off road courses. On May 8th they are doing a local one to us starting from Goring, which is only a half dozen miles away. I think Ben and I should do the short 15 mile course, which is described as 90% off road. Sounds brilliant!

It costs £11.00 for an adult entry - children are free, so its not cheap but it should be a lot of fun and if I can keep the map they hand out then we'll have an additional route to add to our choices. Kick off starts at 8.30 am so Ben will have to get up earlier than the usual slovenly time he decides to and for a change show more intellect than Neanderthal Man in the mornings. Now there's a challenge!

You get a free energy bar and drink, on site mechanical support, waymarked routes, a free Memory Map O.S map (whatever that is...hope its a pucker map I can read), plus their time in organisation. Probably quite a decent deal really if I think more about it. Not so hot for the missus and eldest son as they'll have to make their own way into work that day muhahahaaaaa!

Scrap Bike - New(ish) Bike

It looks like I've been a bit of a plum with Ben's bike build. A couple of days ago I took the stem/quill/handlebar clampy thingy to a specialist cycle shop near work. They couldn't match it and the size is a U.S one or something so not readily available in the U.K. My only option was to either get this one sandblasted and painted or source one online. While in the shop I looked around at other parts I'd be needing, such as chain, derailleur, handlebars, grips, gear changer thingys, brakes, saddle, pedals and I know I could "go cheap" but I really wanted to do him a nice bike, so the decent looking stuff would have set me back nearly £100.00.
That's a lot of wonga! Especially when I could buy a new, and frankly better, bike for that money. I had to come to a decision, and tbh it was quite simple - ditch the build before I throw any more money away.

However this would leave Ben upset, and I couldn't do that to him so I looked online at new bikes and the cheapest I could find was about £80.00. Still a lot of money, so I checked out eBay and saw a couple of bikes which I knew were Ben's size and that were good looking. I bid on one yesterday, which fortunately only had a few hours left to run and guess what? By 2pm I had Ben a new bike...well nearly new. He's quite pleased, and hopefully I pick it up tonight.

Red Apollo 24 speed mountain bike, 12" frame good working order. A few wear marks, ridden a dozen times. Shimano gears, 24" wheels.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Weigh In & Eye Test

Just come back from having my annual Diabetic eye test at the quacks. I hate those things! I'm totally anti anything being put into my eyes, and they put these drops in which make your pupils huge so they can photograph them to see if there are any problems.

Fortunately for me I only live 3 or 4 doors away from the docs so getting home isn't an issue but as soon as you go outside the daylight hurts. This is why they don't allow you to drive or operate machinery for 4 hours afterwards. A real PITA when I have a tender to get in for work tomorrow!

On the plus side, you may notice that there is an extra tab at the top of the page. I stumbled across Google Docs over the weekend and decided to chart my weight loss progress. This morning it had gone down to 219.6 lbs. I'm flabbergasted because as you can see I haven't weighed myself for 4 months and what with Christmas, a large birthday lunch for my brother in law a few weeks ago and generally not a lot of cycling I have still lost weight. In fact I'm pretty damned pleased as I was sure it would have gone up :) .

The chart explains it a load better than just seeing intermittent numbers every few blog posts and its a great impetus to carry on - or rather get started on it again. The only downside is next month is my niece's wedding and that's bound to be a blowout feast akin to a Viking orgy of gluttony and drink.

Okay off now to rest the old peepers as this screen burnsssss my eyesssss...

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Bens Bike Build

I got the painting of Bens bike frame finished yesterday and this afternoon we popped to Halfords and bought a tin of lacquer. A quick rub down with 1200 grit wet-and-dry paper before as a key and although I guessed about 2-3 coats of lacquer would be fine I decided to use up the whole tin so it got about 5 or 6 coats before the sky began to cloud over again. Next weekend I can begin to put it all together again - assuming I can remember how.

While in Halfords we looked at the bike bits. I need to get him another handlebar tube and a new quill stem / handlebar clamp. The reason I know these names now is that I bought a copy of "Zinn & The Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance". I don't plan on reading it as its massive - just using it for reference for now. Anyway Halfords is okay for basic stuff, plus its cheap, but it only seems to stock the handlebar clamps that have a clampy thing at both ends and no quills.

Looks like I'll have to go to a specialist next week, but I was planning to do that anyway sometime as there are apparently two different derailleur makes I can have and the bike shop needs to see the frame to know which one I need. Seems like a load of nonsense to me; I just want him to have gears. Whats so complicated about that?

Anyhow the frame looks good. It could be a lot better but lets face it hes only going to drop it, fall off, etc so it wouldnt be in good nick for long and I (& Ben I think) was getting tired of the length of time its taking. Frankly by the time Ive finished spending I probably could have bought him a semi decent bike. Unfortunately no pics of the frame right now as its still a little too tacky to move around.

As for the gardening, we planted seeds for about 13 Little Gem lettuce, a pot of Spinach, Spring Onions, 15 seed Potatoes, 5 pots of dwarf Beans and 3 rows of Carrots....and we still havent finished.

Rain Stops Play

Well today was supposed to be "the hottest day of the year so far" according to all the weather reports. Instead its overcast and belting it down with rain! Indeed even on the news this morning they were talking about todays London Marathon and still saying its going to be a bummer for the runners in the extreme heat. I'm thinking to myself that the commentators must have gone to work blindfolded in a packing crate or something!

We were going to go back to Swinley Forest again today to cycle some more trails but it looks like the rain has put a dampener on that - literally. Hopefully it will clear by midday (although I doubt it) and we can at least go out and do something.

Friday, 16 April 2010

e-mail from

I checked my e-mails this morning, mainly to clear out the chuff that people send on the chance I want a time share or to win ten thousand pounds, and was surprised to find one from

The e-mail was really nice - I mean in that it was really nice of them to take the time to send it when they could have just ignored me. When I went to their site for the first time (see my post of a few days ago) I applied for some freebies they were giving away. Of course I pretty much knew that I hadn't got a hope in hell of receiving the items because (a) I don't live in the U.S.A so there isn't any reason to send the things to me, and (b) because of the shipping. However stranger things have happened so you never know!

Here's the main part of the mail. I've not put the nice ladies name in case she didn't want it given out.


Thanks so much for your interest in  Unfortunately,
sending our complimentary water bottles to England costs a great deal
more than the water bottle is actually worth.  We apologize that we
will not be able to send you a water bottle.

If you ever have any cycling questions, please do not hesitate to let us know.

Happy cycling,

Isn't that great? Yeah okay I'm a big softy and I bet some would say "whats so nice about getting an e-mail turning you down?", but it's the thought she went to which makes it nice - at least to me anyway.

Of course the idea of a water bottle with their contact details on it is a very good one. If you're in an accident on your bike and need to contact them chances of having their details with you are slim, but you always have fluid in a bike bottle with you, and did I mention its free?

(Of course if the altercation is with an eighteen wheeler and the bottles smashed to a pulp then you're probably knackered. Actually you're probably also beyond their ability to assist too).

So if you live in the U.S.A then I reckon its a great idea to head over to their website and get one while they still have them. Then let me know how good they are because this poor Englander and his boy have to make do with cheap ones from the Pound Shop!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Swinley Forest Ride Part 1

On Sunday Ben & I went for a ride in Swinley Forest in Bracknell. The weather, although not as hot as Saturday, was great. As we needed to drive to get to the forest it also gave me a chance to try my car bike rack for the first time since getting it for Christmas and I was quite nervous about its stability. No matter how tight I pulled the straps holding it onto the boot of the car, I still had one eye on the bikes and one eye on the road ahead as I drove, especially on roundabouts which gave me visions of it all twisting and throwing off to the side.

Nevertheless we made it all the way there without any issues, arriving just 15 minutes after the area opened to find the car park full to bursting and only one space left in the overflow car park! I was amazed at how busy it was.

We quickly unhitched the bikes, deciding that there were so many people around that it would be okay to leave the rack on the car, paid the pittance of £2.00 for a days cycle pass and hit the trails at 10.30am.

Swinley Forest is a huge area owned by The Crown Estates (hence the reason for the fee to ride there) and one corner is dedicated to mountain bikes with lots of narrow technical tracks winding through the trees, linked to moderately easy trails, and then the rest of the forest is covered by narrow cleared paths which are again linked with wide paths that are probably a car and a half wide.

The majority of it is reasonably flat with long gradual hills, except when you get to the "offroad" mountain bike trails which are very uppy-downy.

Ben managed most of the trails with ease once he had come to grips with the perils of tree roots causing the wheels to slip sideways and spongy and muddy ground which grips the tyres unless you have the power to get through. The randomness of the ground was a challenge and he initially found that he wasn't putting in enough power to get the bike up the hills.

We did attempt the more technical area but it was just too tough for Ben to manage all the very tight turns and we gave up when on a bend he lost it and fell. His forehead hit a 1 inch diameter branch laying on the ground and snapped it in two! Talk about thick skulled - it didn't even leave a mark! What upset him was another large branch that managed to get wedged in his shoe and grazed his ankle, so we Indiana Jonesed our way on foot out of the area by carrying the bikes through the woods. Not an easy thing.

Ben following the "I destroy trees with my forehead" incident

The scene of the crime - Exhibit A; broken branch

Looking back at the technical route

After that we stuck to mainly narrow paths which were a lot easier and we covered a lot of ground. Around midday we found a nice spot to sit and eat our lunch - and boy were we ready for it. I'd bought some mini baguette's the previous day and we had half each, which I'd stuffed with chicken, cucumber & lettuce, then a pinch of crushed pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, followed up with a packet of crisps and a chocolate biscuit.

One of the more open "easy" paths as we head towards lunchtime

Ben just as we stop for lunch - looks a bit knackered eh?


Swinley Forest Ride Part 2

The reason for splitting this post into two parts was because for some reason Blogger doesn't seem to like me adding extra photo's. As soon as I tried to add another one, it not only removed it, but it also removed the previous one! After several attempts I gave up and decided to split the post. The Blogger software has other kinks in it too which can make it really annoying, such as mis-formatting fonts and sizes, removing all paragraphs. It's maddening! However, onward with the "finale"....

Our bikes taking a breather while we have lunch

Suitably rested and refreshed we continued on our ride and it was only at this time that we found a marker which we could relate to a point on our map - oh and if you ever go there, print off the map from their website rather than pay mo
ney for exactly the same one in their shop. Whichever you decide its not very practical anyway as there are so few markers to know where you are at any particular time. However now knowing where we were we headed back to the main entrance where ice lollies awaited these two brave adventurers.

Ben enjoying a 'Twister' despite my insistance that it looked like bogeys and cream

Me eating a much more 'manly' chocolate ice lolly as I consider downing it in one go.
Badly need a haircut too!

Following a bit of R&R we hitched the bikes back onto the car (phew! the rack was untouched) and headed home for around mid afternoon. To say that our asses felt like they'd been whipped by an ugly pagan war god, and that our legs felt like strawberry jelly would be putting it mildly. We had only cycled about 5 miles but it was a very hard 5 miles on heavy bikes - at least for us anyway.

Would we do it again? Too freaking right we would. The entrance fee is so cheap to not even be a consideration, and we both really enjoyed ourselves. We are talking about doing it again next weekend if the weathers nice.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

I chanced upon this website today

We need more people like this.

Go have a look at some of the cases they have dealt with and if you didn't already, you can get a handle on how thick some drivers actually are behind a wheel. Scares the heck out of me to think they are "in control" of a vehicle capable of going 100mph and killing you at 25% of that speed, which they only do on their driveways.

It's a damned shame they are only based in Carolina, although they can practice in other U.S states and its a no win, no fee basis. Not that I have a need of them seeing as I'm a complete ocean away, but it makes me feel good to know that there are people out there that will stand up for the cyclists rights with a passion because they are cyclists too.

The website also has some basic tips of things to do in an accident. Pretty obvious but its the simple things we tend to forget.

(Bet I dont get my free swag they were offering on their website though lol)

Friday, 9 April 2010

Love Cogs

I do a lot of random link clicking in my spare time while browsing. Mostly cycling related, & you get to visit some very interesting sites that way.

One which I came across this morning over breakfast was which is what passionate cyclists call a "fixie" related site i.e one which is based around the love of cycling without gears.

Whilst this is a very valiant and noble thing to do, you wouldn't catch me cycling up even the shallowest incline without using my gears!

Scrolling down the posts, I came across these two beautiful photos and it occurred to me that some people really put a lot of time into crafting special things.

Shame it's too late for Valentines Day, but they would make a great gift for the lady love of your life who is also a cycling fanatic.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

£58.00 Roadrunner Folding Bicycle

That's $88.03 U.S for the guys across the "pond"! The bike is a design by Wayne Hemingway and thrown in with the price is a pump, pannier rack and some tools. Okay I'll admit that despite coming in a wide range of colours its not exactly the most beautiful thing to look at in the world, but few folding bikes really are. What is really innovative is the the hell did he manage that?

Well for starters its a fixie - only single speed, and isn't technologically advanced; weighing in at just over 13kg. In order to keep costs down, they are made in China for about £20, in a factory where checks were made to ensure workers were treated well & didn't employ children, and then shipped over to the U.K. I'm still surprised at the cost though.

Unfortunately, Hemingway is only currently selling the Roadrunner to companies. The original concept in 2007 was for a housing estate construction company where they were building only one car parking space per home, and the bikes when bought in bulk were cheap enough to be thrown in free to the buyers as an incentive to accept this. Recently Portsmouth University has bought them to sell to their students as a cheap mode of local transport.

However there are a couple of reasons why all is not lost & to keep an eye on this.

Hemingway Design are unhappy with the cuts they had to make to the bike to get it to such a low price. They feel that they can develop a better, more attractive bike for only a small additional cost. Sadly Hemingway Design are busy on other projects for the next year and so it will be a little while before they can get around to developing the new version.

The second good thing is that if you or your company is interested in purchasing a minimum of 250 of these bikes, Hemingway will be more than happy to sell them to you.

Personally I think this is a fantastic idea. Just think how much you get as a bonus each year (okay I got sod all last year because of the recession, probably like you, unless you're a banker), but in theory they are well within a company's budget to offer employees or as a gift to clients. Just think of it as helping people get fit and generally help the environment.

Big cheer for Hemingway design is what I say!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Team Sprocket Does Charity Cycle Ride

Yesterday as I was continuing the saga of building the utility room cupboards I was listening to the local radio station "Heart FM". I'm not a particular fan but the missus likes it and I cant be bothered to search for another channel. It annoys me in the car because it seems Heart has a national dominance of local stations and so virtually every channel I switch my car radio to is intercepted by freaking Heart FM.
Anyway I digress. While listening, I caught a bit of an advert for a charity cycle ride. When I had a coffee break I browsed their website and found that on Sunday 6th June there is a charity 3 counties cycle ride commencing and finishing in Bracknell (about 5 miles away).
They are doing three routes, one a 50 mile ride, a less demanding 33 mile route and an easy 13 mile one. I asked Ben if he was interested in entering and he was keen to do the 13 mile route so I am filling in the application for us. We decided that Team Sprocket was going to be the name which would lead us to glory.
The event is organised by the Rotary Club of Bracknell and is in support of 5 local charities; Have a Heart, McMillan Care, Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, The Eyeless Trust and Thames Hospice Care.
The entry is only £7.00 if booked advance and you can be certain the Ben and myself will be harassing people with the sponsorship form for the next couple of months.
Really looking forward to it, although I will have to do some training with Ben on riding on roads beforehand as a lot of the route (which you can see on their website) seems to be down back roads without cycle paths. When I was a nipper schools used to do Cycling Proficiency Tests - kind of an exam/test of how well you could ride a bike and whether you were safe to do so, but I think these must have been stopped.
The ride website is here:

Sunday, 4 April 2010


4.30 in the morning on Easter Sunday!

I think I was woken up by the fridge beeping. It does that. Very annoying, and if we could find the manual, or if the website even listed our model then perhaps we could sort it out, but we've tried fiddling with the three dials inside and it still beeps and the only thing that will stop it is a quick switch off and switch on again. Its probably developed an attention whore personality. WTF does it need three dials for anyway? Its a fridge!

Well I've had too much sleep this weekend already anyhow I guess. I fell asleep on the sofa again last night and no one woke me up. Probably due to the amount of food I ate yesterday. What a meal! Ben and I went around to my sister Madeleine's house for "lunch", and as you'd expect lunch to be a relatively light affair we were surprised - but joyously pleased - by the roast dinner that appeared on the dinner table. Madeleine is a brilliantly fabulous cook & baker and so even a "lunch" would normally be greeted by a rumbling of the stomach and drooling.

Roast Pork stuffed with Apricot & Sultanas that was cooked to perfection and almost fell apart in your mouth. Roasted Tomato & red Pepper pieces, boiled rice with Parsley, a medley of green vegetables such as Broccoli, French beans, Mangetout and Peas in the pod. It was wonderful. Then for desert she had made a large - bordering on huge - chocolate cake with cream inside. Its hard to find a word to describe it except "aaaahhhhhh!". Everyone had a massive piece except me as I asked for only half the bucketful the rest were eating & that was accompanied by Strawberry and Blood Orange pieces. To say we were bursting would be an understatement.

That was the great thing about yesterday. Unfortunately it transpires that Madeleine is moving to Africa to be with her husband Paul who is seconded over there for a work project. Well obviously this is a good thing for them as being apart must be terrible. I think I was the last to know about it though. I got wind of it in an email from Paul a few weeks ago but no one replied to my query about it and I asked again last week which was when I was told the basics. I know my brother must have known before I did as he'd had a chance to reply by snail mail letter and I suspect my other sister knew before me also. Sigh! Never mind though.

The thing that Ive been mulling over while laying on the sofa for the past hour is that every ones moving away from me. Hence the title of the post, as this is the word which keeps reoccurring in my head as the most apt description. Ever since my parents passed away things seem to have been breaking apart, mostly amicably, but still we are a family who appear to be splitting like a slow motion film of a star exploding.

Parents deceased and buried so far away as to make it difficult to visit them.
A brother who relocated to the north of Scotland who feels we all dislike him, who treats me like a child and who I cant be bothered to argue with any more.
A sister who relocated to Cornwall (and another amazing cook by the way).
Her daughter who emigrated to the US.
Her younger daughter who now lives in East Sussex.
Now Madeleine relocating to Africa.
In September Chris will move away to Wolverhampton to attend university.

hah! if I was being humorous I might think it was something I said! Do I smell?

Its hard to explain, but we've always been a close family and within a matter of a few years it just all fell away. I guess I'll get over it. Its just the middle of the night and my head was wandering with thoughts, and one depressing thing leads to another before you can stop it. No doubt when everyone wakes up it'll clear and then as days progress on other things will become more important.

I do miss everyone though. Despite living in this so called modern age of communication, people get on and do their own things and forget to talk. When everyone used to live within a few miles of me it was kind of the same, we wouldn't chat massively regularly, but it was a feeling of knowing they were there that was comforting. Now they aren't.

Sod it. Cheer up! Happy Easter!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

The April Fool

The April Fool

On April Fools Day every year,
I awake in the morning filled with fear.
What dirty tricks are in store for me on this day?
Will people be upset with the ones that I play?

So I get out of bed checking clothes and the floor,
For marbles, toy spiders and things I abhor.
I pour out my cereal and get a mug of hot tea,
Checking the box for Lego bits and the odour of wee.

My work shoes are often the things that I miss,
containing pine cones, tissues or pieces of crisp.
When I get in my car the heater's a worry,
In case when I turn it on it blows out confetti.

When I arrive at the office I relax with a sigh,
Now the worst that can happen has well passed me by.
Its time for me to plan on what I can do,
To my colleagues who will suffer on this April Fool's.