More new toys!

I’ve been a bit too ill to cycle over the past week or so, with my head and lungs all full of snot and bogies.  It’s not pretty, and on Friday, I didn’t even get to work!  As bad as the trains are (they are really bad), I haven’t missed cycling – the weather’s been awful!  I don’t mind the rain; it’s the wind that I hate the most, and it’s been particularly windy of late.

My life hasn’t been devoid of cycling stuff, though – I found some excuses to buy a few new bits!  🙂

First on the list is an Electronic Digital Vernier Caliper.
phoaaar!  Electronic toolage!  It’s a digital ruler, basically.  🙂  I bought it primarily to measure my seat tube, but I’m sure it’ll come in useful for measuring lots of other things.  I can measure the width of my toes, or.. er.. why is that the only thing I can think of?  :s

The seat tube was roughly 26.2mm, by the way.  Measuring it with the caliper was trickier than expected..


The inner-width measurement guides had flat outers at the top, so it wasn’t completely flush to the inside of the tube.  It could’ve possibly been 26mm, so I looked it up on Sheldon Brown’s Seatpost Size Database.

No Carlton’s from the right era, so check Raleighs..  1974-ish..  26.2mm…  Super Course Mark II!  531 plain guage.

Wanna know what’s interesting about that?  When I was trying to identify my bike from photos on the interweb, I only found two bikes that had the same lugs and seat stays as mine – a Carlton Ten, and a Raleigh Super Course Mark II!  All 531-tubed Raleighs were built by Carlton in those days, so there’s a pretty good chance that they’re the same frames.

Add a 26.2mm seat post to the list!

The last purchase is something that I wasn’t sure if I needed; a helmet camera.  Well, in my case it’s going to have to be a bag or frame camera, or a wooly hat camera, maybe.  😛  I bought it as a sort of security, and also out of curiosity, but mostly out of outright nerdiness!

I didn’t want to spend much on a camera, though.  £40 tops.  Without resorting to dubious-looking Chinese imports, that limited me to 640×480 resolution cameras.  The Veho Muvi had good reviews, and came with a wealth of fitting options, but 640×480 seemed too small for the money. In this day and age, cameras with that resolution must be dirt cheap, so they must be absolutely raking in the cash!  I don’t want to support that kind of operation, so I investigated something else that I’d seen recommended an awful lot – A Chinese ‘Mini DVR 808 #16‘ keychain camera.

This thing costs £30, has a 1280×720 resolution, and a lot of options.  Battery life is a bit naff, but it can be upgraded with an external battery.  They’re actually built by the ebay seller himself, which is pretty cool.  Kind’ve like someone selling their amateur electronics projects, I guess.  There’s a wealth of information about the cameras.. more than most ‘professional’ cameras have, so I feel a lot better about buying this than some of the suspicious Chinese stuff you see on ebay.

The only downside is that it’s going to take a couple of weeks to arrive.  Naturally, I’ll update the blog a lot when I get it.  🙂



oooooh, yeaaaaah!  I got my first ‘KOM’ (king of the mountain?) on Strava last week!  You’d better all watch out – I could be overtaking you at any moment!
ImageAs long as you’re cycling through a park, that is.  A park that apparently only 4 people are cycling through…

So, yeah – I’m the top out of 4 people, and I wasn’t actually trying.  The first time I got onto the segment was when I went into the park to swap my 16 speed cog for a 14 speed, and spent 15 minutes at a park bench doing the swap.  Strava only tracks moving time, so the time stopped wasn’t counted, but I still veered offroad, braked to a stop, then had to accelerate out again.  That got me second place, so gawd knows what the other three have been doing!  Jogging, probably.  😛

I’ve ran Strava on my phone since I found out about it a few months ago, mainly just to see if my speeds are improving, or if variations of routes are faster than others.  I never expected to be beating anyone elses times, because I don’t jump red lights, I’m not great at filtering through traffic, and I’m just too cautious in general.  That’s one of the reasons why I’m a softy (should that be softie? I need to consult the Beano!).

While I’m talking about me, I suppose I should mention all my cycling foibles, then you can guage the kind of cyclist I am. From good to bad to personal taste..

1) I stop at red lights
2) I always have lights fitted
3) I don’t cycle on the pavement
4) I never undertake HGVs or buses
5) I don’t wear a helmet
6) I’ve always got headphones in
7) I usually filter on the left
8) I don’t wear lycra
9) I wouldn’t be seen dead on a hybrid

When I’m on my bike, I’m a road vehicle, so I try to abide by the highway code, even if I’m the only one.  Sometimes I’ll use pedestrian crossings by getting off the bike and walking, but I never cycle through.  I think cyclists who jump pedestrian crossings are the worst kind of cyclist, because they could really hurt someone.  By all means risk your own life around cars if you have to, but don’t risk injuring the peds!

I’ve never found a helmet that fits, so I don’t have much option with helmets.  Having said that, my life has been saved by my peripheral vision on a couple of occasions, and I’m not sure how I’d like having my head restricted, so even if I had a choice, I might not take it.  I never have my headphones turned up very loud, as I hate not being able to hear traffic.  It effectively removes one of my senses, and it’s a bloomin useful one.  I’m the same in the car – I have to be able to hear the engine, and can’t stand it when the radio’s on too loud.

My left filtering is just me being a bad cyclist, and it should improve with time.  It’s a hard to get into the habit of filtering on the right, though, and every time I try it, I get stuck in the wrong lane while HGVs surround me.  It’s no fun!  :s

Lycra.  lycra, lycra, lycra..   I don’t care what benefits it has – it looks ridiculous!  I’d rather be one of those lunatics who cycles in their work suit than wear lycra.  A few people can get away with it, but I dunno if most lycra wearers realise that what might look passable while standing in front of a mirror looks positively repulsive when they’re hunched over a bike.  One guy on my commute has the proportions of Greg Davies, yet wears lycra.  I’ve now started altering my commute when I find myself behind him – my poor eyes can’t take it!

I don’t think I need to say anything about hybrids.  Also; lycra on a hybrid?  What on earth is wrong with some people?  😛

The bikes

I suppose I should set aside a post to share some info on the bikes that I’m abusing..

First up is my current steed; a Specialized Hardrock XC.


Suffering from new shoe syndrome! Hope they don’t stay pink.

I bought it new back in 2004, and it’s served me well over the years, despite my neglect.  Back down south, it was only really used for jaunts into the New Forest and around Dorset.  I never really took to cycle commuting, as I lived in Southampton, but worked 25 miles away, in Salisbury.  Too far for my liking, and taking bikes on trains was too hit and miss.

Up north, my commute is way more manageable, so it’s been getting much more use!  It felt a bit slow at times, so I bought the other two bikes to improve my commute times, and I intended to sell the Hardrock.  I didn’t really want to, though.. I bought it new!  It was mine!  Plus I might get the opportunity to go off-road again, someday..  maybe when my son is 6 or something..  So, when I realised that the racers weren’t too well suited to icy roads and snow, I had a good excuse to keep it!  Not just keep it.. I changed it to a singlespeed, as I’d found I really liked the feel of riding with just one gear.  It’s slower, but it’s more fun!

Next on the list is my Carlton Cobra.

Swanky.  🙂

I bought this in September this year, with the intention of modernizing the components, and then using it as a daily commute bike instead of the MTB.  The frame was entirely chrome, but it had seen better days, so I decided to get it powder coated.  That required taking all the bits off, and as I researched how to get bits off, and how to upgrade said bits, I started coming across talk of singlespeed bikes.

I’d heard of singlespeed before, and pretty much ignored it as the domain of people with more sunglasses than braincells.  But from what I was reading, normal people were using them too.  People were being converted, saying it’s something that has to be experienced.  I wanted to know what they meant!

And so, the plan changed, and I made it a singlespeed instead.  I managed quite a few commutes before the front wheel started making an awful noise (cheap wheels – bad idea!), and the singlespeeders were definitely onto something!

It’s off the road at the moment due to the aforementioned front wheel.  I should probably take it to the bike shop to get them to fix it, but then again, I could always try and do it myself……

Next up is the unknown Carlton.


Does the fork look bent in this photo?  :s

I’d bought a lot of components before the Cobra plan changed, and I still wanted to see how fast a geared road bike would go.  That seemed like a good enough excuse for buying another bike.  🙂

And so, I ended up with a Carlton with no name.  The only things I know about it are that it’s a 1974 Carlton, built in Worksop, with 531 tubes.  I’ve searched all over the place to find a frame that exactly matches it, but I’ve never found one.  There are many 531 Carltons of that era, but every one I’ve seen has a bridge for the rear centrepull brake cable.  Mine doesn’t.  It’s possible that it was a custom build, and it never had a name.  It’s kind’ve a shame, really.  Bikes should have names!

The bike is pretty much built, but I need to take it to a bike shop to get the seat tube measured.  In theory, it’s either 27mm or 27.2mm, as it’s 531 tubing, but I tried a 27.2mm post in it, and it looked like it was 4mm too large. That’s worrying, as the previous owner had cracked the tube slightly from tightening it too much, and I suspect he did it using a powertool.  What if he managed to bend the tube into an oval?  :s

So those are my bikes.  If I knew what I know now, I wouldn’t have bought bikes that were practically just frames.  Components are expensive, and I could’ve bought brand new bikes for the amount I spent!  They wouldn’t be as swanky, though.. if there’s one thing I hate about new bikes, it’s all the logos and silly technology that they’re splattered with.  And oval tubes.  And no lugs.  And deep V rims.

Money well spent, then!

Stealth limpet


Well, the Blogger blog hit a hitch – my workplace blocked, which meant I couldn’t add or edit posts via my work computer.  That’s fair enough, but I don’t get much time for this sort of thing while I’m at home, and I’m certainly not going to start trying to do it using my phone!  So, plan B is to try WordPress.  I’m fully expecting work to block this, too, but we’ll see..  maybe it was just a coincidence that it was blocked not long after I started writing a blog!  😛

To recap; I moved from Southampton to Stockport, and began commuting into Manchester by bike on a daily basis.  I caught a bit of a cycle bug, and I now own three bikes:

A 1974 Carlton with no name, 14 speed (not completely built)
A 1977 Carlton Cobra, converted to singlespeed
A 2004 Specialized Hardrock XC, which I’ve owned since new, also converted to singlespeed

Both Carltons are off the road – the Cobra is having a spoke tension issue, and the nameless Carlton has no seatpost or rear brake.

The Hardrock is supposed to be a bad weather bike, for when the ice and snow hit.  I converted it to singlespeed because I really like the way singlespeeds handle in traffic.  It’s lighter, more responsive, and I don’t have to worry about gears.  All good things!  It’s not so great on the long slogs, though.

And that’s where this blog post starts proper!

Last night was not a fun commute home.  I was stuck in traffic all the way from Manchester town centre to the other side of Levenshulme, and when I finally got to put foot to pedal, I found that I didn’t have much energy!

My tactic for low energy is just to put my head down and try to get into a rhythm.  It helps that the worst bits are on bus lanes, so I don’t have to look up.  I just focus on the road just in front of the front wheel, and keep the rhythm going. huff huff huff huff huff… overtake a hybrid… huff huff huff… go around a bus… huff huff huff.. did I just jump a red light? (no) huff huff huff…  before I knew it, I was going down the valley into Stockport, back into traffic and some nice traffic lights to let me have a bit of a rest!  🙂

Going up the other side of the valley, I became aware of someone cycling VERY closely behind me.  The hybrid?  I’d overtaken him ages ago.. I’d hit a couple of traffic lights, but at the speed he was going, there’s no way he could’ve caught up.  I didn’t want to look around, but I could see a shadow.  For a while, I wasn’t even sure if it was the other cyclists shadow, as it was so close.  It could’ve been my shadow, just from different streetlights.  But the head didn’t look like mine, and at one point I glimpsed what looked like drop handlebars.  A road bike?

I’ve ridden road bikes and mountain bikes back to back, and I know just how much faster a road bike is.  I can understand hanging back when the traffic’s busy, and you don’t want to get splatted, but the guy kept on my tail even when we got out of the town centre, and the traffic dissipated.  He didn’t overtake until we got to the Davenport Park hotel, a mile later, and what overtook me was a bit of a surprise!

It was a lycra-clad guy on a very sleek-looking singlespeed racing bike.

Not your usual logo-strewn mess, either – this guy was all about low profile.. grey bike (I think), grey lycra, grey helmet, little strip lights.. more like a stealth bomber than a cyclist, and when he overtook, he was off into the distance!  So why did he stick to the rear wheel of a slowcoach knobbly MTB being ridden by a baggy clothed amateur for just over a mile?  Was he having a rest in my mahoosive slipstream? Did he spot my SS conversion, and was curious to see how fast I’d go? (he was probably disappointed)  I just don’t get it..

It did get me home a lot quicker, though, as nothing makes me keep my speed up like someone following behind me.  🙂