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.  🙂