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?

I don’t want to get all trumpet-blowy about it, but I’m really quite enjoying the commuting to work by bike. It’s 17 miles (26 km) each way, which often feels like quite a distance. Especially coming home; the last four miles is uphill and a properly good workout* at the end of the day.

When the wind is low it’s fabulous, when the wind is high (and invariably in my face) it’s a struggle to keep going forward. When it’s dry, or better yet, sunny, it’s warmingly lovely. When it’s raining it’s head down and keep plugging away.

I’m aiming for a full week this week for the first time – three days down so far and two to go. I have to go to the dentist on Friday, but I’m going to cycle there from work and back – it’s only a few miles and nice and flat, so it might just work.

It’s possible I’m getting fitter – it’s hard to tell – I need a new battery for the bathroom scales to see if I’ve shed a pound or two, though I suspect not.

I reckon I’m getting the hang of traffic and gears and that. I’ve sorted carrying stuff to work pretty much and I’m even getting better at packing / unpacking and making the transition from bike to office more efficient. A nice frame bag would give more options, but maybe I’m just getting greedy to pick up more tasty Apidura bags.

I fancy the idea of a #microadventure some time, but I reckon there’s a bit of planning before that might come off.

Anyway, bikes are cool, you heard it here first; I’m more alert when I get into the office. I thought it was making me tired around 2pm until I had a couple of days in the car and realised I just get tired around 2pm.

Keep turning the cranks!

*By which I mean knackering slog.

It used to be the case that I ran or swam at the weekend, maybe occasionally cycled. During the week, I was lucky to scrape a half hour plod around the woods. 

A few weeks ago I started commuting in to work. One day at first, then a couple of days. 

Then, I had one week where I did four days – FOUR DAYS! 

Now I’ve done a few four day weeks, and precious little running at the weekend.

I think I may have unknowingly turned into a regular bicycle commuter, and I’m quite liking it. 

I need some jazzier tops, though, I have one club top (the mighty, mighty Vegetarian Cycling and Athletic Club) and a couple of plain tops. Ideally a nice tie-dye jersey, I reckon, or maybe something gin related, I don’t know. At this rate, I’m going to end up making my own… 


Posted: 09/06/2016 in Uncategorized

That was the Blaydon Race – fifth time for me, and beautiful weather. 

The only road race I enter. 

It’s not over till you’ve had a pickled onion.

47:35 for what it’s worth, not my fastest, but not bad.

No reason…

I’ve commuted into work once or twice over the last few weeks, it feels like exercise, it gets me out and about and let’s be honest, it means I arrive at work slightly more alert than if I’ve had an hour of sitting in traffic jams.

I live 17 miles from work, so it’s a bit of a commitment – I’ve not cycled that kind of distance for ages, well, ever, so it is a bit tiring, and it also means I try to choose nice days when I can enjoy the journey.

Except today.

The weather forecast said “fog”, but I know now that this was a lie. The actual weather looked like this:

A bit dreich as you’d say if you were north of the border. I like Scotland, so dreich it is when the weather is pants. So much so that I had to keep the peak of my hat down so I could still see through my specs.

Anyway, that’s just setting the scene; I made a discovery.

I don’t like wearing waterproof trousers when I’m running, they feel a bit weird. So I got a pair of OMM Kamleika waterproof shorts a while ago, to stick in a bag and whip out to put over shorts / tights / whatever if the weather turns dreich when I’m out.

They look like this:

Only with chunkier legs sticking out of them…

I bunged them on this morning and I have to say, they kept my nethers well and dry despite the rain, mist, fog, spray, and all the wet the world could throw at me.

And you know what? They’re tiny, they weigh nothing, I’m going to keep them in my bag all the time, they’re perfect for taking care of unexpected downpours and such. Highly recommended for cycling as well as running.

That’s the fella, right there. It’s compact, it goes on your handlebars and you pack it. In short, it’s a compact handlebar pack. From Apidura. (My bike had normal brake/gear shifters that are vertical, not odd turny-out ones like the photo above).

More required?

Ok, you may have noticed I’m more of a runner than a cyclist. You might have seen me trying a sneaky triathlon the other week. What you won’t know is that I’ve always had a bike since I was wee, which I’ve used more or less frequently. A year and a bit ago, I got a new road bike through the Cycle To Work Scheme, a nice grey road bike that feels speedy even when it’s me at the pedals. It says it’s an ‘endurance’ fit, which I think means it’s a bit more compact and kinder on the joints?

The idea was to save the planet by commuting to work, as well as being  something I enjoy that fits a bit more fitness into the day. The problem is carrying stuff – I can leave most of the stuff I need at work, take a shirt, etc. when I’m in the car. But there’s always bits and pieces – a rain top, my wallet, phone and keys, a natty hat and so on; the little necessities.

When I stick ’em in a backpack it feels like a chore and extra weight, and puts me off taking things I should probably have with me (like a pump).

So, when I saw uber-bearded adventurer Sean Conway was sporting a handlebar pack that didn’t appear to need any mounting faff on his round-the-UK triathlon I looked up Apidura. And that was enough; I managed to find one and put my order in. It turned up and looked ace, from the cool grey-and-black-and-yellow colours to the simple but robust looking roll fastening.

I got the smaller Compact version, to more easily fit on my road bars, which says it fits 9 litres. It goes on the bike really well, leaving enough space between the bars and the pack and sitting in a nice position leaving good space between the bottom of the pack and my front tyre. I managed to get a jacket, some underwear, a cycling cap, my wallet, phone, keys, a couple of Cliff bars, a sketchbook, a pencil,  my work pass and a phone charger in without stressing things – I figure I could have got a fair bit more in there. 

It was a brisk morning, and overcast when I left the house, so I’d stuck a light fleece on over my cycle top. Part way through the ride the sun came out so I took the fleece off, folded it up and stuck it in the elastic webbing on the front. It fit in really well and stayed in place through the next ten miles no problem.

The only downside is that it wasn’t so easy to get into mid-ride. It may just be a case of getting familiar with it (and I’ll update after more use), but I found the easiest thing to do was take it off and then put it back on when I was done. Saying which, I’m thinking about getting the additional front pack, which looks ideal for phones / papers / wallet, etc. and has a top zip. Either that or the top tube bag, which would fit the things I need easy access to. Also, using a backpack, I’d have to stop, take that off and rummage around, so maybe I’m being picky?

There was no particular noise from the pack while riding, which was a pleasant surprise – I did hear my keys rattling, but that was down to my poor packing. When I had a pack with a handlebar mount a few years ago it rattled every time you went over the slightest lump. It also means I don’t need to leave mounts on my bike.

If I were a richer person and was ever likely to get the opportunity for full-on bike packing then I’d have the lot – the seat post bag looks like you could fit a towel and used clothes in to take home and probably a spare elephant too, it seems cleverly designed to use the available space. The frame bag makes me immediately think “tent poles” and then we’re into bike camping, eh?

In summary, the Apidura Compact Handlebar Bag fits well into a daily commute, and holds a Tardis-like amount of stuff. It felt so much easier not having a pack on my back, and I could keep an eye on my stuff as I went. Being able to stuff a top into the webbing was a handy extra to keep up to speed with the weather.

The pack costs £70 from where you can also find some ace stories of people bike packing all over the world.