Archive for January, 2017

Let’s call him Spangles.


I honestly think this bike is a reincarnated sheepdog – he has that playful-yet-hardworking, easygoing-but-robust sense about him that wants to drag you out the door and go for an adventure.

Since I started commuting in June 2016, I’ve been a dedicated roadie – me and the little grey Avanti Giro 1 clocked up around 3,500 miles in 2016. It’s been splendid, even the rain, mud, drivers and wind* have not dented the pleasure of turning the cranks most weekdays.

But sometimes I think it would be nice to hit some of the trails I run on around Blaydon and the Derwent Valley. The little grey road bike wouldn’t be up for it, and commuting on the mountain bike takes an age (and it’s old and heavy, too, like me).

So, after a lot of looking and a lot of calculating gear inches, I got myself a shiny new Marin Gestalt 2 from the great folk at Cycle Surgery through the cycle-to-work scheme. I was attracted to the single front ring (known as a “one-by” as is “one-by-ten”, meaning one on the front, ten on the back, but also sounds like an instruction for a sheepdog, eh?) because it sounded like less things to go wrong, less things to tune up and just bit different.

I’ve had it for a couple of months now, and I’ve ridden the usual road routes – which are a little slower than on the road bike, maybe because of the wider tyres, it’s running 30mm at 70psi rather than the road bike running 25mm at 110psi. That also makes it a smoother ride, mind, and when I got caught in the snow and it lay on the road I felt a good bit more secure.

I think I’ve been changing gears more often, which is a bit of a surprise – because there are less on the Marin, ten compared to the sixteen on the road bike, the “gap” between the gear is larger, so logically you’d think I’d be up and down on the road bike for small gains? I *think* it’s because I’ve got into the habit of using the same gear combination on the same piece of road, so don’t think to mess about too much. Also, the Marin has no gear indicator window in the brake hoods, so you can’t see where you are in the range or where there is to go up or down.

Where the Marin really comes into its own, though, is when you abandon the asphalt. The Derwent Walk, party path and part track is speedy and away from the traffic – the Gestlat takes it all in its capable stride, when you hit the hard-packed trail it positively flings along – the only thing slowing it down is me, I reckon – as I get a bit more confident I rack up another PB.

The trail up Blaydon Burn, with some steep gravel and some flat but tree-root knobbled riverside path is a great workout, and I’ve yet to run out of gears even tired on a Friday night, loaded down with a week’s shirts and towels in the saddle bag.

Last week I was heading home, decided to cut into Jesmond Dene, figuring I’d ride through the dene and head back up to Jesmond to re-join my usual route.

I missed the turn.

Not too much of a problem, I took the cycle path through Sandyford to Ouseburn and along the riverside path to pop out at the Tyne. I’ve never cycled over the Milennium Bridge at Gateshead, so I did that too, meaning to cross back over the Swing Bridge and back along the quayside to join Scotswood Road.

Instead, I noticed a cycle route heading down the south bank of the river signposted for the Metrocentre.

That’s the route home (kind of), so why not? Along a fantastic path, then a slightly less fantastic bit of path and I hit the path to the Derwent Walk. Bingo.

The point is, on the road bike I probably wouldn’t have tried an unknown path without getting an idea what it would be like. With the Marin I had no qualms about taking a jump.

I think for dedicated stick-to-the-roads cycling the Avanti has a touch more speed and a lower riding position that pays off. But for bridle path antics, random exploring and bike packing shenanigans I think the Marin is a proper stunner. If I can learn to build a wheel to hook up a front hub dynamo things could be outstandingly self-sufficient.

Rock on Spangles!

* Ok, so maybe the wind a bit – I could cycle in circles and still get a constant headwind, it seems to be the plight of living inland on the northeast coast and cycling beach-wards.

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What’s a one of those? Well, it’s a one of these:

I think I heard about Jersey Pocket on Twitter – though it might have been Instagram, who knows?

Anyway, a check of their site and products and I discovered that while most of their products are vegan from the get-go, the fridge bars currently use honey but you can ask for a vegan version that uses agave. One advantage of their handy make-to-order model. 

I think they’re changing over to all-vegan soon, but for now you can write a note on your order, I found them to be really helpful and friendly.

So, to the bars! The fridge bars come in three flavours; chocolate, sweet and savoury. You keep them in the fridge and mine had about a three month best before date on that assumption. 

Consistency is pleasingly between cake and biscuit – like a high-class flapjack? Not squishy and not dry, so good for on the go when you don’t want to get sticky hands but also don’t want to drink a gallon of water to get something down.

The chocolate one had a nice smoky chocolate taste, the savoury one had what I can only describe as a savoury/caramel type flavour that was much better than it maybe sounds and the sweet one had a subtle hint of nut about it. Each was maybe the size of a chunky Kit Kat and pretty much did the job of stopping me feel like I wanted to eat. They range between 240-300 calories, depending on which you go for.

I liked them enough that I’ve now got a full selection box sitting on the fridge of the whole range of products, and I’m going to work my way through those and report back. They work out cheaper than breakfast from the canteen at work and taste better than any other bars I’ve found. From a racing perspective, I stopped using gels a couple of years ago when I realised they were what was making me feel ill in long runs. Since then I’ve fuelled all my longer runs with sushi, but these offer a bit of variety to add into the mix – I’ll have to try them on a longer run to see how they fare with the dreaded digestion. Luckily the Dark Skies night marathon at Kielder with the Trail Outlaws is just around the corner…