Sunday, 27 June 2010

Gears n' Pasta

Gears - Who needs 'em! I'm pissed off with frigging gears, specifically the ones I fitted today. If it wasn't for the England - Germany match Id have been messing about with those poxy things all afternoon, covered in oil and crap off the bike, chain, derailleurs, sweating under the sun and with one eye buried in the Zinn maintenance book trying to figure out why the hell they wont work properly.

The front one goes on the small or middle one depending on how tight I do up the cable. The rear one seems to skip gears and either wont get to the inner cogs or wont get to the outer. Slacken the cable, tighten the cable, adjust the high screw, adjust the low screw...I eventually gave up in frustration.

I will probably have to work late almost every night next week so I doubt I can get to do anything with a clear head in the evenings. I might just take it into the shop & beg.

The only good thing about today was I made this in the morning.

A nice chilled pasta salad for dinner, which went with a bowl of mixed lettuce I drizzled in rice wine vinegar & poached chicken breasts which I had been marinading in a chilli, lemon & dry white wine solution all day. Absolutely fantastic on a hot day like this. Plus theres a good 2/3rds of the pasta left over for meals during the week.

As for the England match, well I don't blame the referee - it was all the lines mans fault who should have had his eye on the ball like every other person in the world watching the match. As for FIFA and their stance on no goal line monitoring, they need a good kicking. Its not fine to say "well it wouldn't have made a difference in the end", because we don't know that! If England had equalised its possible this would have  driven them mentally & given them the edge they didn't have being a goal down. Maybe it wouldn't, maybe it would. Of course our defense was non existent anyway. I mean the Germans had nearly the whole England half to themselves sometimes!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

More "New Bike" Stuff

Well the brake problem is solved, with great thanks to John, Clive and Welsh who provided astute back-up. Really great thanks guys!

Yesterday I popped into Halfords Metro in High Wycombe looking for brake spacers. The shop was dire. It's like a mechanics Primark where everything looks just cluttered up or strewn about and cheap. However, and I bet much to Halford's disgust, a few months ago a pucker bike shop opened up right next door to them Freewheelin' . While maybe not the cheapest shop around, they aren't wallet breaking and certainly have a great deal more interest and experience in bicycles of all types - and they have a beautiful racing bike in the window.

So I popped in there, had a chat with one of the great guys who was working on a bike at the time, and he agreed with John, Clive & Welshs' assessments and so I bought 2 pairs of brake blocks. He also informed me that I ought to toe them in to stop squeeling noises, which I didnt know as Bens bike does that, and how to adjust them. I hadnt realised they could swivel at all. If I hadnt gone in there I would have just resorted to washers as spacers. The brakes I removed were only a screw directly into the rubber. Very odd.

They work a treat now!

One other thing I mentioned to the guy was that the brake levers were not matching nad asked how much a new pair were. After some discussion about which ones I wanted & the merits of twist grip gears I bought these:

They're combined 21 speed quick shifters and brakes in one unit. I can't wait to fit them, although opening out the instructions gives you two double sided sheets of A1 paper which looks very daunting. Thats todays project.

I also noticed that the main outer gear on the front seems to have had 2 or 3 of the teeth partly ground with probably bottoming out on concrete (aka shitty care of the bike). The photo isnt too clear but I think you can see the ground teeth.

Its a bit of a concern, but hopefully wont cause any damage to the chain. One of the teeth is bent over which I can file / straighten and so maybe it will be okay.

So my list this weekend is:
  • replace the gear/brake levers with the new Shimano ones
  • sort the teeth out
  • properly clean the bike
  • fit my old trip computer
  • fit a water bottle holder
  • clean the car inside and out ready for its service and MOT next week
  • cut down some of the tree branches at the bottom of the garden
Its going to be quite a busy weekend for me.

P.S I got a reply from the ebay seller. He cant think why the missing parts arent in the box and says he will look for them and forward them in the post...yeah right! I'll not hold my breath for that.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Bike Assembly

Got home, had dinner, got bike out of the car, got bike out of the box, assembled it in one fell swoop, which isn't bad considering that it isn't something Ive done before. Okay it was pretty simple. Not come across them but the wheels are quick release things with a long spindle through the hub. Very handy - for thieves!

First a question for you bike aficionado's:
I cant seem to adjust the brakes so they grip properly. This is the rear brake when its not squeezed in.

This is the rear brake when it is squeezed in

As you can see the nipple hits the nut which grips the cable.
Ive tried adjusting the cable adjuster at the point the cable enters the brake lever on the handlebars.
Ive tried bending the spring behind the brake blocks.
Ive tried undoing the nut and moving the cable you can see above.

The front brake grips the best, but when moving its almost useless, whereas the rear brake may as well be made of lard. I fiddled with them for a good hour before giving up. Can anyone offer any suggestions I haven't tried? Is there a trade secret method to this stuff?

Okay onto the rest of the bike. Well actually its not in as bad a condition as I first thought, and is certainly the most modern Ive owned...ever. Its also quite light; not as light as a racing bike but a good half the weight of my MTB, and as you can see the tyres will do just fine for bumpy tracks, fields, towpaths etc as well as having a Kevlar inner to prevent punctures.

More pictures (click them to enlarge):

This is how I assembled it all together and tested the brakes & gears (all 21 of the little beauties!)

It also has a spring loaded saddle post. I tried it out and damned if it works really well, plus its a very comfortable saddle.

The back end. As you can see he didn't bother to clean any of the bike before selling it. Personally I would have but maybe that's just me. That's a job for the weekend.

The front end, and you can see some of the scuffs and scratches. The paints even been partly removed from the bell. The bell FFS! I mean how the heck do you ride a bike so badly that the paint comes off the bell? I like the bell though - haven't had one since I was a kiddie :)

And finally yours truly, in my special protective cycling shoes, risking life and limb cycling around the garden.

Anyway any help with the brake thing would be really appreciated.

Has Bike - Will Travel

3.30pm - got a phone call from our reception who I had warned to expect a large delivery for me. The bike has show up. On my way down to the ground floor I had 3 people ask me about it as they had seen it on their way past, and when I saw it I was a bit surprised to see it was in its original (I presume) box with "Carrera" on the sides!

I rarely keep boxes my purchases come in. Its not because I hate boxes, but solely because I just haven't the room for them even if I flat packed them. Also my wife would never let me keep any boxes even if I told her it was 'special' in some way.

I couldn't really get the bike out of the box while at work, but I had to open up the top and see my purchase and sure enough its scuffed alright...perhaps a tad more than you'd expect unless your trip to work was via a sandblasting machine or through Broadmoor Prison. Having said that, its not the paint that makes it a good ride, and if I was really really bothered I could strip the bike to bits and send the frame to our factory near Bath for re-powder coating.

Somehow during the night I did my back in - lower right hand side. Only noticed it on when I got to work & its been agony all day but at the very least I'm determined to assemble the bike tonight and give it a go. I'll get some pictures of it up then.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

e-bay annoyance

uhh! The sellers being painful. I accept some people want to protect their anonymity but they can stretch the bounds of it a bit far really! I deliberately source local sellers up to 30 miles away when I want to buy things, and this blokes only in Hook, a 15-20 minute drive away. I've just heard back from him (24 hours after the acution completed) & hes upset I dont have Paypal & suggests recorded delivery of my payment.

Well buddy thats going to cost me another £5.00 on top of your demand that the bike be delivered by courier at a £25.00 cost to me.....youre only 20 frigging minutes drive away!!

Jeezuuus I even offered to go 50/50 with you on the delivery cost if I collect it so for us both its win-win.

EDIT: Just set up a Paypal account and transferred the money. Have to admit its a lot easier than it used to be a few years ago when you had to do forms and forms and then a transfer of a penny to test it blah blah blah. None of that now!

Monday, 21 June 2010

A "New" Bike

WooHoo...I won a bike on e-bay!!!

It's been nearly 2 months of searching for the right bike, bidding, losing, etc - I have had a vision of the type I wanted in my head so just any bike wouldn't do. With yesterdays fun on bikes experience under my belt, plus reading a couple of other blogs, I changed my mind as to exactly what I wanted. Rather than a racing bike I decided to go for a Hybrid bike (sometimes called a "City bike").

The reason? Well I wanted a racing bike because of its lightness and ability to get some distances cycled, however I also realised that with their thin wheels & tyres all these miles would have to be on roads. However, yesterday I went on what I would say was a racing bike in everything except the drop handlebars & thin tyres. It had the lightness of a racer, but straight handlebars & slightly thicker tyres. This was just what I wanted; a lighter bike than my MTB for speed plus the ability to cycle down unmade tracks / roads without such a great risk of a puncture.

Immediately on coming home I changed my search parameters and found a few to watch, and put a relatively small bid of £80.00 in on a used Carrera Subway finishing at 9pm last night. I expect that as the footie was on that may have distracted a number of other possible usual bidders because when I checked this morning I had won it. This bike normally sells for around £200 - £300 I think. Mixed reviews, but as they say, "you get what you pay for" and Bike Radar gave it a 4/5 here .

Sorry about the text beneath. For some reason Blogger has thrown a wobbly and wont change the text to any colour other than that dark blue! If you highlight it with the mouse its ledgible. Damned teknology!


Sunday, 20 June 2010

National Bike Week & A Present

Long time - no post. Sorry about that but this past week has been truly one of inactivity and sloth what with the trials of the football on TV in the evenings and my lack of desire to get on the bike after work.

However yesterday was the start of National Bike Week here in the UK with many events and activities being organised up and down the country. Yesterday our local CTC body organised a ride from Reading to Newbury & back again - way to far for Ben to handle, but today there was a "thing" going on in Prospect Park which we went to. I have to confess I was expecting something more substantial than the 2 stalls with leaflets, but they had also taken over two double tennis courts.

One of them had a large selection of bikes of all sizes for people to have a go on, and another had trikes which are designed for people with ambulatory disabilities to get their strength back again. We had a go on all of them!

(Click on the images to make them larger)

Ben had a go on a modern day Chopper - they no longer do the centre gear shift and one piece saddle / back rest of the Choppers of my youth. He had trouble steering it and wasn't keen. I told him when I was young you weren't "hip" if you didn't have one of these.

We both had a go on these "recumbent" style trikes. Ben loved these, however with my wallet, phone, car keys etc threatening to fall out with every revolution of the pedals I had to stop after one circuit. Ben went miles on his one. Great fun but bloody death traps on the road though I expect.

Hes not unhappy in the above picture. I think that's determination...or maybe hes trying to let rip a stinker!

They also had a tandem which we both went on. We really enjoyed this and it was so easy to ride too.

A general view of some of the bikes on offer...all free to ride. There were a couple I really liked. Ben tried out a racing bike just his size and although he said it was fast he didn't get on with how light it felt.

These things were nightmares. The spongy ground made the wheels spin and the gearing was about 500:1. We had a go on a...well I'm not sure what its a trike-tandem. I was pedaling like Road Runner and going 0.001mph and Ben couldn't get his feet to stay on the pedals they were turning so fast. After one circuit I was bushed and out of breath.

In other news

This weekend my boss and a few other guys and girls were cycling in a 24hr charity race around the Top Gear test track. His team (and others) must keep one of their 5 riders on the track at all times and last year they won the Veterans event. However this year word must have got around a bit as the number of competitors has increased dramatically, so they aren't expecting to do as well. Last I heard this morning was that there was even a Commonwealth Games cyclist in one of the opposing teams! Do I hear you saying "ringer"?

Anyhow on Friday my boss had some of the cycle tops on his desk which the company paid to get made up with our corporate logo and colours on. On seeing these I thought "wow I'd love one of those!" and so not expecting any to be spare, let alone in my size, I asked and he said I could take one...fantastic!

However I thought he was taking the piss when he said the largest size he had was 5XL - even I'm not that fat, but he explained that the sizing of cycle tops is odd and true enough it just fits me. Something to work towards eh? A looser fit. These tops are proper cycling tops with 3 rear pockets, one zipped, fully zipped up front and if I do say so myself, rather snazzy. I got Ben to model it for the blog below. I really can't wait to get on my bike with it next week.

what a poser!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Weekly Weigh In & National Bike Week (Coming Soon)

Last week - 217.1 lbs (15.51st)
This week - 219.2 lbs (15.66st)

In fact I'm the same weight as I was 2 weeks ago! BUMMER!!

To be honest after the little scare with the blood sugars last week I havent been doing any exercise, and this weekend I spent two full days replacing the gate & extending the frame on the side of the house. I actually enjoyed doing it, however this is probably only because for one of the rare occasions in my DIY life everything went right...ish - well no major problems anyway.

Next weekend is the start of National Bike Week (19th - 27th June). There was a 4 page spread on it in the free local paper (thanks go to Mr Paperboy who for once in a blue moon actually delivered it to us), with activities in Reading all weekend and throughout the week. I'll post more on that during the course of this coming week.

For now if you are interested in whats going on Nationally, or just in your area, take a look here LINK

Friday, 11 June 2010

Thoughts For The Day

Why the hell is it called a "push bike"? Over 90% of the time its ridden!

Oh and heres another one:

Why are they called "handle bars"? Shouldn't it be a "hands bar" if anything?

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Overdoing the Exercise

Last night I got home from work & was in two minds whether to fix my MTB & go out for a ride, or to just go on the exercise bike. I figured the better workout would be the exercise bike and duly got changed and did 8.5 miles at a fairly constant 20.5mph. A good sweat was built up but fortunately the weather has cooled down some since last week although it was still a punishing pedal for me. I thought at some point this was supposed to get easier?

On getting off the bike I found my knees both felt kind of wobbly and throbbed a bit which was unusual, but duly jumped...well the shower. On turning off the shower and getting dry I suddenly felt very weak, shakey, sweaty hot and kind of ill - exactly the kind of way I feel when my blood sugar levels get dangerously low. Its at these times you must get something sugary inside you ASAP and I called for my wife to see if she could get me something. My first thought was a chocolate biscuit, which isnt a good sugar suppliment because it actually releases into your blood stream very slowly (chocolate isn't a problem for diabetics to eat hence why so called Diabetic Chocolate is a total waste of money). However it was better than nothing and served to at least get me a little energy to get dry and dressed.

I have to say that I then wolfed down my plate of Chili Con Carne, side salad & pitta bread like an animal. It wasnt until nearly half way through the meal that I completely stopped shaking and felt better.

So a lesson has been learned there, or rather a lesson has been re-learned. Its happened a half dozen times before, although not for a long time, and even though its always in the back of my mind, I only carry something to eat if Im out & about for a long time. Quite possibly if I had only gone for a proper bike ride last night my sugar level wouldnt have got so low, but I wouldnt have had anything with me to eat if it had, and I wouldnt have been near a shop either. These things can come on so damned quick its like you're fine and then literally 10 seconds later its full on sweats, shakes & you feel like you're going to pass out - which eventually you would.

However, I managed to scratch off another one of my goals which was to do a cumulative total of 70 miles on the exercise bike. I'm really glad I made these exercise bike mileage goals in 10 mile spans because its an incentive to get on and scratch off another goal if its close.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Cycling Courtesy

The past few times I've been out cycling its struck me that as a general rule other people are less 'friendly' than I am.

For instance, when I'm on a track or path and pass someone going the other way, whether they're on foot or on a bicycle I will always either say "good morning / afternoon" to them or nod at them. I'd say that less than 10% return the greeting, despite clearly having heard or seen me.

If someone moves out of the way for me I will always say "thank you" and yet if I move out of the way for them I rarely get a reply.

Is it something to do with the part of the country I live in? Perhaps its to do with age, although I get the same from equal ages it seems. Do I look like the Grim Reaper? Personally I think I have the face (& attitude) to make most feel at ease, even at a glance.

When I used to ride a motorbike in my youth, and later on when I drove my VW Beetle it was more uncommon for someone not to signal "hello" with a wave or a raised hand when passing another motorcyclist or Beetle owner. Its part of what made the driving/riding of those vehicles a real pleasure. So what is it about bicycles - surely the most eco friendly and open form of transport that seems to alienate passers by?

Don't get me wrong though; there are some cyclists such as those we were briefly passed by yesterday who will call over a few cheery words as they zoom past on their carbon fibre lunicycles. Not for them is there any 'class' barrier between us slow MTB'ers and their sleek racing bikes. To those guys & gals I salute you. We have never really met and yet I know you are people who I would willingly share a pint with.

Unfortunately Ben, who used to follow my lead and say "hello" to other cyclists & hikers has decided he doesn't want to bother any longer as they are 'too grumpy & not worth the effort'. Can't really say as I blame him.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

3 Counties Cycle Ride (Completed) & Weekly Weigh In

This morning was the dawn of the 3 Counties Cycle Ride. Last nights weather forecast had given for "occasional showers" however upon rising at the ungodly hour of 5.00am I was pleased to see it was promising to be a nice day with a kind breeze keeping the heat down to a decent temperature. After wolfing down breakfast I went to stick the bike rack & cycles on the car as my wife kicked Ben out of bed.

We were both ready and rolled out of the driveway about 6.55am although I misjudged the time it would take for us to get to Bracknell, resulting in us arriving at the designated car park at 7.15am, well before we needed to be there (they had asked us to be there 30 minutes before our 8.10am start). However the car park was locked and after us and half a dozen other cars queued up for half an hour we were told to go park somewhere else.

We parked up, unloaded bikes, cycled to the start area and saw a load of cyclists there. This is what group cycling's all about! There was even a stand with Heart FM - the "local" radio station there.

After registering we were there, we then had to cycle to the start line a short distance away, where we and about 30 others in our time slot were to wait for the "GO". There was a little grumpy fat bloke with a loud haler giving orders (whom we ignored) plus the Mayor & President of Bracknell Rotary Club with a large George Cross flag. The Mayor gave a short but inspirational speech before waving the flag and setting us loose. While we waited, Ben & I asked if we could have our photo taken with the dignitaries. Wish I'd had the time to shave this morning :(

This ride was all on roads, mostly back roads, & as it was also still relatively early on a Sunday morning we initially saw few cars. Those that did pass us were all kind enough to wait or pass widely by.

Having said that I'm not keen on seeing people cycling 3 abreast either from a cyclists or a drivers point of view. It's an accident waiting to happen in my opinion either from blocking traffic making cars use the other carriageway or from frustrated drivers.

(No idea where Ben's going in the above pic but he looks a bit squint). When we got to the 7.5 mile point there was a marshall at a turn off so we stopped and had a fruit bar each. He was a nice old geezer whom we chatted to for a while before setting off again. The route we were taking formed a kind of figure "8" circuit and there was some debate whether it was 12, 13, 14 or 15 miles long. I had an e-mail last week advising me it was 15 miles, all the signs said 12 miles, and the marshall said it was more like 13 miles but that they were told it was unlucky or something to do a 13 mile ride so they were now calling it 14 miles. Go figure!

As with our last ride, we were overtaken by a lot of people, however we did manage to overtake 3 or 4 on the back half. As well as managing to take pictures while riding one handed, I also got one of this pretty bloke. I think he's oriental lol.

We had a couple of issues on the ride. Firstly, a few miles from the end either someone had spun a 3CCR sign around or it had moved itself. It didn't really phase us as we knew the way, however after we'd finished and were driving home we could see some who must have taken the wrong turn as they were well off course, although fortunately heading in the right direction.

The second thing was my bike started making loud creaking noises. Now I know I've added a bit of weight, but I was afraid the whole thing was on its last legs (wheels?). It wasn't until loading up the bikes onto the car rack that I noticed the large nut around the bottom of the pedal crank where it goes into the bottom bracket was hanging off, flopping around the crank. Looks like I need to give it all a once-over before we go out next time.

Anyway despite that it all went very well. We arrived at the finish line to pick up medals and certificates, plus a bottle of water.

In total we have raised £171.00 for charity through generous sponsorship from Ben's teachers, family, friends and my work colleagues.

My bike computer data:

Distance: 15.6 miles
Duration: 1hr 59min 20sec
Average Speed: 7.5 mph
Maximum Speed: 22 mph

I had told Ben I was expecting about a 2 hour time so not a bad guess, especially considering we stopped whenever we drank, then had a fairly long chat with the marshall half way round. I have to say that cycling on a road for 15 miles is a darned sight easier than cycling off road for 15 miles. My bum still feels like its been kissed by an unshaven hippo, but the difference in effort and time is astounding. Ben also did really well, despite the early rising & we're both looking forward to whatever our next event is.

Finally, before you fall asleep from boredom, when we got home I decided it was an optimal time to weigh myself. Yeah I know its cheating, doing it before I scoffed a ham, cuecumber, lettuce & mayonaise sandwich down my gob, so sue me!

Weight on 6th June 2010 = 217.1 lbs
Previous weight on 29 May 2010 = 219.2 lbs

Friday, 4 June 2010

Hot & Wet

Last night I got home from work and told Mrs Sausage that I would be going on the exercise bike before having my dinner. I kind of dislike doing this because its not a regular thing that I arrive home in time for me to sit down with the family to eat, often working late at the office coupled by a near hours drive home. And so it was last night that that despite being home on time I felt I had to get some exercise in before dinner as I wouldn't feel like it afterwards.

The sun lounge where my exercise bike is sat is on the rear of the house & faces south, which means that its in sun virtually all day. The heat build up in there is sometimes equal to that at which gold melts. We have in the past refused requests to use it by NASA to test their space shuttle shields, the government to test volcano resistant suits & Jordan to get a deeper tan. Its so hot a dog turd would go white and rumble in 10 seconds.

Into this blast furnace I nonchalantly walk in my shorts and t-shirt, a water bottle in one hand and a wholly inadequate single sheet of Bounty toweling in the other. By the time I've walked the 4 steps to the bike I need a drink to replace lost fluids. On lowering my buttocks onto the saddle I know what cattle branding feels like from the cows point of view. Oxygen levels aren't even worth measuring.

I rode 7 miles on that bugger last night & could do no more, even with the outside door open. By the time I'd finished the tile floor was speckled with small puddles of sweat, the driest part of my shirt was under the armpits, the sheet of Bounty towelling was in tatters & the water bottle had given all it had. Through all this I'd had to watch the rest of the family through the patio doors as they sat and ate dinner, Ben occasionally tapping on the window and asking "how many miles dad?" at which point I'd blink the sweat away and grimly look at the display.

The lines of the film 'Good Morning Vietnam' come to mind when Robin Williams asks "How hot is it today?" and gets the reply "Hot n' wet man. Its alright when you're with a woman, but it ain't no good in the jungle".

But you know what? After getting off I actually felt good. Not the good you feel when relaxed and sitting with a beer in one hand, but good in the knowledge that I had done something which my head and body didn't want to do, would have looked at any excuse to shy away from, but despite those feelings had been forced to do anyway and as a result I had overcome & won.

This is my Olympics - a supreme effort for me & every night I can accomplish a few miles like this is my gold medal. I might have to up the kit a bit to include an additional sheet of kitchen toweling though!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

3 Counties Cycle Ride

I just realised that this Sunday coming is the charity Three Counties Cycle Ride which Ben & I entered ourselves in for a while ago. For some reason I'd thought it was at the end of June!
Long range weather forecast is giving out for "effing hot man" so better pack extra water even though our start time is 8.10am.

As Corporal Jones would say "Don't panic Captain!"

June - An Epic Month?

Completely forgot to weigh myself on Sunday night. However this is not a bad thing as I would not have liked to see the +++ weight gain on the scales caused my my week of debauchery & gluttony...well maybe not the debauchery bit...sadly.

Last month, (ignoring weight loss or gain) I cycled 36.8 'real' miles on the mountain bike & 54 'phantom' miles on the exercise bike. For a lot of people reading those figures, they may seem piddly and lets face it a fraction of what many of you do in a day, but for me its a major step from zero to at least something. Also a good 50 percent of those real miles were fairly heavy going off road terrain.

This month though is going to be E.P.I.C. I may not come close to or exceed the real miles, but I'm going to make those exercise bike miles crumble. Right now I feel that I can achieve my lowest weight yet by the end of the month & as long as I can maintain this state of mind I will feel better & stronger for it in 30 days time.