Big Red rocks!

Posted: 23/10/2016 in Uncategorized

We ran out of bread. What finer reason to get out Big Red and cycle to the shops? A bit of finicking with the Apidura bar pack and I had it nested amongst the cables and ready to go.

It rained. A lot. And more. I got wet. Quite wet.

Down to the Derwent Walk and I headed towards Swalwell. I didn’t realise, but the mud had started to build on my back – luckily it was raining, so I had my waterproof on, so a layer of funk built up without it being too bothersome.

Hang on, that’s not the shops, that’s the way to Evans (the bike shop) and I need a spanner to get the old gnarly downhill pedals off so I can put on some clippers pedals – reckon it’ll work so much better now I’m used to SPDs on the road bike.

Bang! Spanner bought – it’s interesting that when I got to Evans and asked for a pedal spanner the guy pulled one out from under the counter and handed it to me, and I had to explain I wanted to buy one. That’s got to be a good thing, right?

Along through Blaydon to Morrisons and I got some bread – sour dough and a small French stick – thin bread, so it’ll fit in the bar pack.

Right, task complete, it’s time to head home, and what better way than up the Blaydon Burn path? It was easier than I expected – granny gears are pretty cool, and I barely notice how massively heavy the bike is with a gold-rated lock and bits of kit hanging off it.

Off the road and on tracks up towards Barlow – a bit wild through the mud, but it all worked out, no need to walk up the big hill.

Home, and at 14 miles, that was a canny trip out – I was gone about 1:50, but cycled about 1:20 of that – takes time to buy bread, you know.

As this is my winter option, wondering how long it would take to get to work – will have to give it a go at some point…

Big Red rolls again!

Posted: 09/10/2016 in Uncategorized

A couple of axles, a quick release, two gear-removal tools, six new spokes and hours of messing on with stuff, trying to sort me cones.

And that’s it – Big Red is rolling. There was a moment when I was going to buy a new wheel, and one where I was seriously considering a new bike, but I plugged on like an ignorant repair man and finally figured it out. The man in Halfords gave me the clue, and that did the trick – rear axle is officially changed and bloomin’ works too.

It’s only been a few years since I rode the heaviest mountain bike ever produced, and after a good clean up it worked surprisingly well. I might replace the cables and the inner tubes just for good practice, but all went well enough on a nimble round the woods this afternoon.

Big Red is officially my bad winter bike for commuting in – once the roads get ice on them I’m not risking it, and this fella will work better on the cycle paths than the little grey road bike. All my swanky Apidura bags should fit on fine, so. I worries there. I’ll probably pick up some SPD pedals as it was really odd cycling without being clipped in.

All of which goes to show you, a relative lack of bicycle maintenance skills combined with a bit of northern bloody-mindedness will see you through.

But how long will it take? I reckon an hour and a half in and mebbes two home, I don’t know – have to find some off-road routes.

What’s it all about?

Back in the early summer you couldn’t cycle anywhere without seeing poor flat rabbits, and sometimes not-so-flat recently-dead rabbits. 

Later in the warm, warm days of summer their was an abundance of pigeons, seemingly all of who had decided to end their days in the cycle lanes of Newcastle. For sheer weirdness, they also seemed to have decided to decapitate themselves on the way out – as themes go, it’s more than a little disturbing.

Now, as we speed through Autumn and on to winter, the rats have decided to head off – perhaps abandoning the sinking ship of Brexit in the most final way they can think. Seriously, I might have seen one or two rats in my entire life , but in the last couple of weeks there’s been maybe a dozen of them – scattered along my route to work. They can’t just be heading to my locality in a concerted effort to give me the willies – it must be happening elsewhere?

What will deep winter bring? Will there be squirrels? Might it be marmosets? I’m voting for unicorns, it has to happen sooner or later?As long as it’s not snakes, I bloody hate snakes…

I’m a runner.

Proud to be a runner. 

Glad to be a cheery runner, who says “hello” and “morning” to other runners, walkers, cyclists and the world in general.

I’ve probably moaned once or twice where I’ve “morning”ed a cyclist and they’ve not responded. Miserable buggers.

Now I’m commuting by bike I do the same, “hello” or “afternoon” to all and sundry. Other cyclists are pretty good, a nod of the head from the other side of the road is international cycle-sign for “get us, what are we like”.

Except the runners. Runners don’t respond to me on a bike.

They do when I’m running but not when I’m cycling, and vis-versa with the runners.

It’s like Romeo and Juliet, two clans that will never meet.

Except I’ll keep saying hello to both of you.

I know, I’ve gone a bit AWOL on the running. I’m sure it’ll come back – it’d better, I’m running with Trail Outlaws in a couple of weeks, so I should probably head out before then to make sure the feet haven’t lost the knack (not that I’d call it a ‘knack’, mind you, more something I have fallen into, like you might a well or pond.

Anyhow, it was my birthday at the end of the week, and it was pretty bicycle-flavoured. I’d ordered myself a long-sleeve jersey (more later), and was given a bicycling t-shirt and book (both funny) as well. I also cycled in to work, which has become a habit now. As in, I don’t really think about it any more, I get my kit on and get on the bike. I’ve figured out how to get a shirt in each day, and I’ve figured out how to bulk-carry pants, socks and towels. I dare say the weather has helped – I’ve only been drenched twice in two and a bit months, and I reckon a teeming morning might have me re-thinking things. As I sit here, sloe gin and ginger ale in hand, in the weather-proof living room I’m saying I’ll still go for it. I think I should take bets on that though, at 6am I might have different thoughts…

Yes, the new jersey. I have a club jersey (the Mighty Mighty Vegetarian Cycling & Athlectic Club) and a couple of cheap tops, so I figured I should get something a bit swanky. That coincided with me discovering Stolen Goat, a bike gear manufacturer who’d just brought out a limited edition jersey, which had tattoo designs on it. Come on, even if you don’t know me very well you must be able to hear my brain chugging along processing that idea. And so I pressed the buttons and ordered one. And it came. And I waited until my birthday to have a go with it. And it was ace.

See what I mean? Lift selfie, eh? Never tried a #whatyourocking picture before as mostly it’s a slightly crumpled shirt, boring pants and a confused look. Not that this is a much more accomplished look…

Compared to the other tops I’ve got, it’s softer, thinner, better in the breeze and just makes you feel like a proper cyclist. So much so that I ordered another one of their jerseys, which has waterproofing built in – that should be good as the Autumn heads towards us.

More detail on the design, and less worrying knees. Definitely recommend the jersey – they’re only making 100 of them, apparently, so you’d need to get your skates on!

Rock on.

One month, 1,000km

Posted: 30/07/2016 in Uncategorized

I just had a look at my Strava distance challenge for July and got a nice surprise.

In total, 1,008km for the month, which is four weeks and one day of work-days. Not quite the 1,000km in 4 weeks that I’m aiming for, but pretty close given I missed a few days in there for one thing and another.


Bicycle Tan Salon

Posted: 09/07/2016 in Uncategorized

This was not in the instruction book that came with my bike.

Who am I kidding? I didn’t get an instruction book with my bike, but it wasn’t in the hastily constructed back-of-a-fag-packet rough notes I made up in my brain, either.

As you might have noticed*, I’ve been riding my bike a bit. I’ve been commuting to work and back, which is many things. Specifically, it is:

  • A long way (to me) – 17 miles each way, or thereabouts.
  • Hilly. Nice on the way out (downhill), tricky on the way back. The four miles around the hill I live at the top of is, well, hill. I tell myself it’s training, and it is, but what it really amounts to is ooooorghhhh as I slog my way back home.
  • Weathery. That’s a word, right? If I start off and it’s raining, then it might be sunny after a few miles. If it’s sunny then it might start to drizzle. Sometimes it stays exactly the same, just to fox me.
  • Windy. Good lord, but it’s windy. How can it always be a headwind when I cycle home? That’s just odd.

Which is all fab – it really is. I cycled a full week last week, the first full week I’ve managed. It was just shy of 180 miles, 5,900 ft of ascent (told you it was hilly) and took up 12 hours and 43 minutes of my time. Though that’s not strictly true, it took up about ten hours of time I would otherwise have spent in the car, and of the other 2 hours 43, about an hour was a trip to the dentist on Friday, so I’ve actually only spent around 1 hour 43 minutes of my time to get out on my bike for 12 hours and 43 minutes. That seems like a good deal, eh?

Being out in the world all that time means you get exposed to a bit of sun, which is lovely, and it turns out that it builds up your tan. In specific areas. If you wear similar gear all the time, in very specific areas. And so you look like this…

Which is fine, but it’s going to look odd when I go on holiday. This kind of weirdness doesn’t happen in running – I have no idea why – I guess I don’t wear gloves and a hat when I’m running, so that takes care of two parts. Running shorts are shorter, and there’s less strict rules over tops – long sleeve, short sleeve, no sleeve, vest, heck – no top! 

As I’m enjoying the commuting, and as it bites so little out of my day, I can’t see it changing any time soon, so I’d better get used to it, and hope no-one worries about the patchwork-tan-man when I make it to a beach. 

Rock on.

*If you’ve read any blog posts recently – I realise this may becoming a bit of a cycling blog instead of the running, but then you hadn’t tuned in to this for my technical critique of running form, had you?