The Monsal Trail (almost)

Hello again! Told you it wouldn’t take long.

After spending two weeks in hospital due to an infection, I found myself really craving a bike ride.  The weather had been perfect for cycling while I was in hospital, and the infection had somehow sorted out the water retention in my legs, so walking no longer hurt.  Trouble is, my exit from hospital coincided with the wind going a bit crazy, and our child minder going on holiday, so each day was spent either cursing the wind (I don’t have the energy to cycle against wind, yet), or looking after my son.  I spent a bit of time planning where I might cycle, and everything seemed to align for the Friday..

On Fridays, my in-laws look after my son, meaning I’d have practically the whole day to cycle.  The weather was forecast to rain, but the wind was only 5-6mph, which I don’t mind at all.  One of the routes I’d found was the Monsal Trail, which normally sounded a bit nightmarish due to walkers, but I figured the rain should see most of them off!

So, on Friday, after lunch, I put the Muddy Fox into the boot of my car and drove the 25 miles to Miller’s Dale.  Why Miller’s Dale?  erm.. because I mis-read the map when I was telling the sat nav where to go.  I was supposed to start at Blackwell. 😛  Anyway, it turned out that the car park required exact change, and I didn’t have any change at all (too used to paying by phone), so I had to drive back to a village called Tideswell, which looked like a lovely place, but I was only interested in the co-op, a carton of milk, and a pack of Crunchie bars.  One parking ticket later, and I was on the trail!

I decided to head in the direction of Bakewell, as 8 miles seemed do-able.  I had 2 hours before having to head home for dinner, and 8mph should be easy peasy, even for someone in my condition!  Of course, I forgot to consider time taken admiring views, or reading the information panels that’re dotted along the trail.  The trail is a disused railway track, which heads over viaducts and through the hills via tunnels.  The tunnels are pretty spooky at first!

Monsal Trail

I got used to them, though. 🙂  Also, the views from the trail are awesome;

Monsal Trail

I lost a lot of time gazing at old mills, rivers, and outcrops! So much time that I’d only managed just over 6 miles before I had to turn back.  I didn’t quite make it to Bakewell, and the end of the trail, but I was pretty close. On the way back, I realised that the trail was not quite as flat as I’d hoped – it was a lot more uphill going back!  I had been right about the rain putting off walkers, though – there were hardly any, even though the rain had stopped just as I’d arrived.  A few had appeared once the rain had stopped, so the way back involved a lot more pedestrian dodging (there’s a keep left rule, but almost all of them were on the right).  I got back to the car with wibbly legs, and something really weird had happened to my stomach (hard to explain.. I looked pregnant, but the bulge was largest just under my rib cage, as if all my organs had been pushed up), but I was sooooo glad to have got the bike ride out of my system.

Since then, the weather’s been shite, but the next time the wind slows, I’m heading out again!  I don’t know where to, but I’ll try and post an update when I do.  🙂


Flippin eck – 3 years??

Well, umm.. sorry to anyone who’s interested in my ‘adventures’.  It seems I’ve neglected this blog a little, but I have got a good excuse; my liver died, so I got a second-hand one, then that died, and then I got another one.  That one hasn’t died yet!

So, all that has kind’ve put me out of action for the past couple of years. My last major illness was back in September last year, which resulted in 4 months in hospital, and the loss of almost all my muscle mass.  It took 3 months of protein supplements and physio to get me on my feet again, and another 2 months to be able to walk normally.

After a few local rides to the supermarket, I finally managed a proper ride on the Middlewood Way in February.  I only had a small amount of time, and I’m pretty slow at the moment, so I only managed about 7 miles in total.  I’ve ridden there a few times previously, and it’s a nice place for a pootle.  Just watch out for the horses!

ooh – the Muddy Fox is complete!  I actually completed the build back in 2015, and the Kili’s been out of action due to setup issues, so I’ve used it quite a lot since then.


There’s also been another addition to the fleet, which I bought *just* before my liver keeled over; a Lynx Parrilla.  If you google the name, you get motorbikes and barbeques, and practically nothing about the bike (except my own posts to retrobike).  Info on the bike is rarer than it was for my Courier, so I have no idea how many exist, or what their spec is supposed to be.  Luckily, the frame under the branding is not so rare; it’s an early Roberts Genesis!


So that means it needs a decent spec, but as I’m a cheapskate, XT is about as far as I’m willing to go.  I’ve got the crank and mechs so far, and I bought some Project 2 forks.  I just need to get some brakes and put it all together! Once I’ve built up the strength to hammer in the headset, that is.

I just noticed that I never posted an update about the Kili Racer, or the ALX89 for that matter.  Shameful!  The Kili worked for a little while, but after the ride down south, it was clear that I’d set it up badly, and I never quite got around to finishing it properly.  I’m gonna finish it soon, though – honest!  Here’s how it looked just before heading south:


Not bad, eh? Since then, I’ve put on some silver chainrings, swapped the front brakes for some that work, put on a black handlebar with some Yeti grips, and the tyres are now Panaracer Smoke and Dart.  The brakes are Suntour SE XC self-energising brakes, which are spring loaded to pull the brake in as they grip the wheel.  Only the rear are spring loaded, but the front brakes are a lot more expensive, despite being basic brakes.  Originally, I had rear brakes on the back and the front (they’re reversed, so the spring does nothing on the front), but the shape of the brake meant the fork got in the way when trying to adjust them.  In the end, I bought proper front SE XCs, but now I’m pondering fitting some Maguras that I’ve got…

As for the ALX89; I sold it.  It was just too small!  Shame, though.. that bike was ace in every other respect.

And that’s everything up to date!  Except for my most recent ride, which I’m gonna stick in the next post.  It’s gonna be a lot sooner than 3 years!  🙂

Dahn saahf

I had a pretty good weekend, last weekend; I took the Kili down south and cycled in the countryside with an old friend! 🙂

On Saturday, we headed into the New Forest, for a cycle up and down forest paths around the Minstead area. It was absolutely tipping it down, but we ventured on regardless, directed by a friend of my friends who seemed to know the area quite well (and had a map). The bike performed admirably, despite not having fully operational brakes, and having a crank that was getting more and more wonky. My bike did look a bit odd next to their modern 29ers, with no discs or suspension, but I held my own. Only the brakes were a true embarrassment. Best bit of that day was a section where the path disappeared and became a very rooty slalom through trees (I was convinced we’d gone the wrong way, but apparently it was a path). For some reason, the other guys slowed down for this bit, but I couldn’t help but speed up and enjoy some proper offroading. No more commute through the forest – time to bounce off some roots! It was fun, and reminded me of how I used to ride mountain bikes about 20 years ago (that makes me feel old!).

On Sunday, the weather was lovely, and it was just me and my mate, so we headed to a trail that goes from Titchfield to Lee On Solent. It wasn’t a race, or a test of our abilities – we just chilled out and took our time. Sometimes it’s nice to just admire the view..


When we got to Lee On Solent, it seemed right to stop for a bacon butty on the beach before heading back, even though I’m supposed to be vegetarian. It’s a good job I’m not a very strict vegetarian. 🙂

The trip hasn’t cured my home sickness. I miss proper forests. I miss being able to see the sea. I miss pubs that sell decent beer. 😐

Dammit – I forgot to get a pea fritter! I must go back!!!

Raleigh Twenty: Proper photos!

I had nothing to do at lunchtime today, so I used my 30 minutes to take photos of my bike.  I didn’t pick a very good day for taking photos.. even at lunchtime, it was so dark that my camera wanted to use the flash!  It didn’t get it’s way – I’d rather take a blurred photo than a photo using a flash.  😛

All the photos are in a set on flickr, which is here.

So, here’s the bike in most of it’s glory.

Rear view

I’m probably keeping the paint the way it is, btw.  The blue’s grown on me, and who doesn’t love a bit of patina?  okay.. I don’t like patina much, normally.. but I’ll let it off just this once.  I’m just going to clean off the sticker residue, treat the rust, and leave it at that!

RH View

The crank’s staying too, but the 18T freewheel will probably swapped for a 16T.  I’m cycling a bit manically at the moment..


It doesn’t fold up particularly small, but it’s better than trying to fit a full MTB on a train!  The handlebar causes a bit of a width issue, which is more annoying than the general size.

Front view

The headset needs a spacer added, and the stem is still giving me issues.  It turns out it IS a 22.2mm clamp (so the shim I bought is way too big), but the clamp is deformed.  I think I need one with more forward reach anyway..

So, this project is nearly done!  Just lots of fine tuning to do.  🙂

Raleigh Twenty: First ride

So, yeah – the Raleigh Twenty (or Triumph Traffic Master, if you’re being pedantic) is now pretty much assembled, and had it’s first test run this morning! Naturally, things didn’t go quite to plan..

As the front brake isn’t set up (the brake blocks are too close to the rim, and rub like nobodies business), I was relying on the coaster brake working.. which it did! It’s actually quite a good brake, although it’s a weird experience not being able to align the pedals. If I align them for a dismount and coast, I can’t brake! If I brake, I lose alignment.. I’m sure there’s a knack to it, as fixed speed must be even more difficult to stop, and plenty of loonies ride fixed. I’m not sure that I’d like to lose the front brake entirely, though. That just seems like an accident waiting to happen.

The coaster brake can also be quite powerful, I found. Or at least, it felt like it was powerful as I braked and the handlebars swivelled forward! I knew they’d be the biggest potential issue, but I’d hoped I’d managed to tighten them enough. The stem I’d bought was supposedly for 22.2mm bars, but it didn’t seem to want to grip the bar properly. I tightened it up some more on the train, which resulted in the bolt snapping in half, so I think I can safely judge that it’s actually intended for 25.4mm bars. 😛 I’ve ordered a shim, but I’m not sure where I’m going to find a replacement bolt. I’m sure I must have something in all the spares that I’ve got at home.

Everything else worked alright, though! It’s a weird old thing to ride.. the crank is in front of the saddle, rather than underneath it, so my riding position is very laid back and relaxed. Getting up on the pedals makes it feel more BMX-like, with it’s short wheelbase and low center of gravity. I can’t work out if 18 teeth is right for me or not.. it’s alright for cruising, but pedalling is a bit frantic when I’m standing up. I reckon a 16 tooth cog might be better, but I’ll give it a while. It was hard to get a proper feel for the bike when the handlebars kept pitching forward. 😛

A really poor photo - sorry!

The current plan is now:

  • Fit shim to handlebar
  • Fit new bolt to stem
  • Fit a headset spacer (there’s a 2mm-ish gap between the clamp and the nut, so it’s not as tight as it can be)
  • Sort out the front brake (it doesn’t seem very adjustable. Tempting to swap it for a dual pivot or center pull)
  • Strip the paint
  • Paint?

I should proooobably have stripped the paint before I assembled it, but I’m not blessed with that kind of patience. Instead, I’ll probably end up stripping stuff I wanted to keep, and painting stuff I didn’t want painted. I still don’t know what colour to paint it!

Raleigh Twenty: Starting to wish I’d left it standard!

Another day, another issue!

I got the new fork over the weekend, so I started putting things back together.  I got the old lower headset race off, put on the new one, and then attempted to fit the new crown race to the new fork.

  • I tried hammering it using the old headset cup and a screwdriver.  It wouldn’t budge.
  • I tried hammering a piece of plastic pipe, to even out the force.  It wouldn’t budge.
  • I filed down the fork crown a bit, then tried hammering it via the pipe.  It wouldn’t budge.
  • I tried using a hammer again.  It budged!  Then it got stuck.
  • I hammered more and more and more…


So, it turns out that there are different measurements of fork crown.  Just because a fork is 1″ diameter, and you have a 1″ headset, it doesn’t mean they’ll fit together.  In my case, the fork had a JIS crown, which is 27mm in diameter, whereas the headset had an ISO crown, which is 26.4mm.  ISO has been the standard for years, with JIS only being adopted in any kind of number in Asian countries.

The fork I bought has a German-sounding brand name, so it surprised me to find that it had a non-standard crown. My theory is that it makes more sense to make the larger diameter, and let bike shops face it down to 26.4mm if needed.  That way it can fit anything! That’s probably why it also has such an enormous steerer – let someone else cut it, rather than limit the appeal.

Anyway, this lesson in crown diameters has now cost me a crown race, and judging by the stuff available on the interweb, and what I’ve got at home, I might have to buy another headset.  For £10.  I guess I should’ve taken this job to the bike shop.  😐

ooh, and while I’m here – I forgot that the locknuts from the old fork won’t work on the new fork, because the old fork has Raleigh threading.  It never bloomin ends!

Raleigh Twenty: Forking it up

I know, I know.. no-one likes a wall of text like the last update.  I’m the same – all we really want are nice pictures of bikes to marvel over!  I don’t have any new photos, though.  It’s not that I forgot to take any; it’s because I’m too embarrassed to take photos in front of the wife!  She thinks the bike obsession is weird enough, without me sitting there taking close-up photos of bolts and bushings.  😛

But that doesn’t stop me putting up photos of other people’s bikes, wot I have found on the interwebs!  Therefore, before further ado, here is the only photo I’ve ever found of a Raleigh Twenty sporting mag wheels:


It appears to be a near-stock bike, with just the wheels, tyres, and seat replaced.  It’s quite stylish!  I particularly like that shade of bronze paired with black wheels and tyres.

Anyway, why was I posting?  Oh yeah – my fork issues!  It turns out that I should’ve seen my problem coming.  Standard R20 forks only have a 90mm gap between the fork dropouts, which is quite narrow.  For a little while, I was tempted to replace the fork with a small BMX fork and a tube extender.  It would mean there’d be no thread, but I could use a couple of seatpost clamps to hold it in place.  However, in the end I decided on getting a fork that’s not actually much different from the stock fork, except that it can take normal wheels.  One of these:

It not only works out cheaper than the fork/extension plan, but it has a thread.  Quite a lot of thread – the steerer is 20mm longer than the stock fork!  It’s most probably a fork intended for use on recumbents, as they seem to be about the only type of bike that has a steerer that’s anything like a Raleigh Twenty.

of course, this will mean more hammering, as I’ll now need to replace the lower head race and attach a crown race.  Nearly there, though.. nearly there..

Raleigh Twenty: aaargh!

Time for a project update! It’s been a while since I last made an update, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m practically finished. I’m not. In fact, I’ve barely progressed at all since the last update! Since my 3-year-old son dropped his naps, I no longer get the 80 minutes of nap time on Saturdays and Sundays that I used to use for doing bike stuff. I can do some stuff in the evenings, but if it requires hammering/sawing or using something messy and/or stinky, the project stops in it’s tracks.

Hence, my projects are at the current states:

  • Saracen Kili Racer: Stopped due to requirement of hammering and probably need for using acid to get rid of the seat post and BB.
  • Reflex ALX89: No longer riding due to cracked headset. Need to hammer it out, then hammer the new one in.
  • Saracen Tufftrax: Needs a dose of stinky linseed oil. Can only really do it outside, when it hasn’t rained for a couple of days. It hasn’t stopped bloomin raining! I’ve also got a new headset, but it’s not essential.
  • Raleigh Twenty: Need to file the fork dropouts to fit a 10mm axle, and hammer out the cotter pins. Need to saw off chain guard fitting.

Despite all that, I have managed to progress the Raleigh Twenty a little bit. I found out that the axle on the front wheel was removable, so I can avoid having to file the dropouts for a bit. Knowing that, I decided to fit the new headset…

The plan for getting the headset on was to use a threaded bar, some nuts, and some large diameter washers. The washers push against the races as the nuts are tightened, and should seat the headset race perfectly! If the race can be kept straight. Which was apparently impossible. 😐 I tried and tried and tried, using different washers, different ratchet spanner heads, and bottom bracket cups. It would all be aligned, I’d tighten the nuts a tiny bit, check, tighten, check, tighten, gah! Every time, the race would slip slightly to one side. It didn’t seem to matter how careful I was.. the washers just weren’t a precise enough fit, it seems.

The reason I tried to be clever, rather than just hammering it home, is because the top of the head tube has a notch taken out of it, which is used to seat the nylon bush. I was worried that hammering it in could result in accidentally splitting the head tube if done badly. After wasting several hours trying to get it in cleverly, I decided to just hammer it using a steel hammer and a piece of wood, which meant hammering it in while my son was about.

Recently, my son has not been very happy when he hears weird noises. He was getting upset whenever he heard something rattling, or the sound of an extractor fan. Even loud lorries were scaring him, which was bizarre – he’d always loved lorries, no matter how loud they were! Guy Fawkes night had gone alright, though. He wasn’t at all scared by the fireworks (even the crappy airbursts), so I hoped that meant he was over that weird phase.

I brought the bike in, and got the hammer and wood out. The sturdiest place to do the hammering was on the step between the kitchen and the lounge, so I put the bike in the kitchen, with the head tube resting on a bit of wood on the step, almost dead straight. Seeing the bike got my son’s curiosity, so he came to sit in the chair opposite and watch. I explained what I had to do.. “I need to get this silver bit into this blue bit, which means I need to bash it in with a hammer! Is that okay with you?” This was met with a “Yeaaaah!”, and much bouncing up and down in the chair. I put the other bit of wood into position, and lifted the hammer in the air.. “Are you ready?” “Yeaaah!” BAM! BAM! BAM! He still seemed okay.. he seemed happier, if anything! So I started hitting it properly, and watching the angle. It didn’t take many hits to get it into position, and it didn’t look as though I’d bent the head tube at all. I finally had a proper top race on my Raleigh Twenty! Huzzah! Also, my son didn’t dissolve into tears, so I can probably hammer my other bikes, too. Huzzah!

Anyway, last night, I set about trying to put it all together. The headset fitted together pretty well, and now it just needs about 10mm of spacers to go where the QR used to be. No biggie! With that (nearly) in place, I set about putting the other parts on, starting with the front wheel. I had to disassemble the hub to put it on, as with the axle removed, a pointless-looking metal bar falls away. I guess it’s there to stop the hub from being over-compressed. I put the axle through the RH fork dropout, through the hub, and.. I couldn’t get it to align with the other dropout? What was stopping it? The axle seems loose enough at one angle.. but when I.. oh.. oh nooooooo!

One of the good things about Acorn Freestyle mag wheels is the hubs. Unlike most other mag wheels, the hubs can be dismantled and serviced. The hubs are quite snazzy looking.. they’re kinda bulbous, with 5 bolts going through them – one for each spoke. What I hadn’t noticed is that the hub is also quite.. erm.. fat. They’re designed for BMX forks, where the dropouts are level with the inner of the fork arms/blades/whatever you call them. R20 forks have short dropouts that aren’t level with the inner of the fork arms, so the fork protrudes out to where the hub wants to be. I’m sure there’s probably a nice technical way of describing this, but I don’t know what it is, so I’ll just say that the Acorn hubs are too fat for a standard R20 fork. The only way it’d fit would be to cold set the fork, but it’d require expanding the width by about 10mm in total, I think. Maybe more.  I don’t really trust cold setting forks by that much distance.  I barely managed to align the rear stays when I did them on the Cobra, and from what I can remember, forks are more vague.

So, what now? Do I get different wheels, or a different fork? Maybe attempt cold setting the fork?  I wouldn’t mind a different fork, to be honest, but the ebay seller who had them (one of the bankrupt parts sellers) has been sold out for over a month, and I can’t find an alternative. Wheels are easier to come by, but I’d have to sell the Acorns at a loss, and I’d lose the coaster brake..

What a pain in the bum!

Going Retro

People who glance at my blog may have noticed that I’ve gone full on retro with my bikes. The oldest bike I own is from 2004, and that’s been dismantled for storage because I consider it too modern. 😛

To be honest, I’m a bit of a retro nut generally.. I’d much rather have a car from the 70s than my Honda Jazz (the wife’s not averse to this plan – we just can’t afford it). I have a small collection of VFD (vacuum fluorescent display) calculators from the late 70s/early 80s. I’ve still got an old Sinclair ZX Spectrum and a Commodore 64 in the loft. My main buying criteria for my phone was how well it’d adapt to playing emulated 80s computer games (slide out keyboard – pretty good!). My music taste is currently EBM, which is a genre that never really progressed since the 80s..

Other than just being old and funky, retro stuff also carries vague memories of the year of their construction. A 2010 bike is just a bike. A 1981 bike is a bike which carries 1981 with it!

So, today I’ve been looking up exactly what was going on in film and music when my bikes were constructed. I’m not going to list everything – I’m just going to list what’s interesting to me, because it’s my blog and I can do what I like! 🙂

1977 (Carlton Cobra)
I was 3 years old in 1977, so you might be able to forgive me for not remembering this year from my own memory. Presumably some of it must’ve filtered into my brain, affecting my tastes in later life.

Punk and disco were just starting to become popular in 77. I’ve never been a huge fan of punk, so I’ve chosen I Feel Love by Donna Summer, which was released that year. Bob Marley also released Exodus, and Kraftwerk released Trans-Europe Express.

1977 was the year of Star Wars, and I don’t think you can beat that. 🙂

1981 (Raleigh Twenty)
I was 7 in 1981. I had a vague taste in music, but not very well developed. My mum liked the new romantic stuff, however, and it definitely filtered in.  I think I was probably riding a Raleigh Striker at this point!

The New Romantic stuff was just starting to take off in 1981, with Vienna and Fade to Grey both being released that year. Depeche Mode released their first album, Speak & Spell (the only one with Vince Clarke), and Kraftwerk released one of the best albums of all time; Computer World! This was also the year that DAF released Der Musollini.

A really good year for films! Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman II, Escape from New York, Evil Dead, Mad Max 2..

1988 (Reflex ALX89)
I was 14 in 1988, and my musical taste was just starting to form properly, thanks to Cold Cut and Bomb the Bass. I remember one of my friends from school being heavily into hip hop, taking pride in owning lots of albums that were imported or having the ‘Parental Advisory’ stickers on them.

I wasn’t much into hip hop at this point, preferring the slightly more genteel sounds of Bomb the Bass, Stakker, and MARRS/Cold Cut. A super-special mention has to go to The Timelords (aka The KLF), who ripped off Cold Cut to make Doctorin’ The Tardis. This was also the year that the Pixies released Surfer Rosa, which is a phenomenal album.  Despite all that, I’m going to stick up a video of Eighty Eight by Public Relation, which was released that year, but has only recently come to my attention.  It is awesome.


1995 (Saracen Tufftrax)
Poor old Tufftrax.. it’s not been liking all the wet weather, and has been leaking orange water from the dropouts and headset. I really need to do something about that. Anyway, I was 21 in 1995, and I’d just started university. It was a year of heavy drinking and heavy partying, so I don’t really remember much about it. 😛 I do remember lots of nights of watching Chill Out Zone on MTV when I came home.

I was heavily into IDM at this point, and I was buying albums and singles by the shedload. Autechre, Aphex Twin, Seefeel, Black Dog, Spooky, Scanner, Panasonic.. the list goes on and on! I reckon the best album was Vakio by Panasonic.

Some good ones this year.. Twelve Monkeys, Strange Days, The City of Lost Children, and.. er.. Judge Dredd! If you try to blot out the main characters, and concentrate on the scenery, it’s a pretty good film!