Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Link to the Indian Pacific Wheel Race here
I’ve been watching this ultra-bike race across Australia since it kicked off at the end of last week. It’s an astounding thing, with distances that boggle my mind even after tracking the Transcontinental as it wound across Europe last year.
In the back of my mind I keep coming back to thinking about a coast to coast ride, from Whitehaven to Tynemouth, which is around 100 miles. Is it possible (for me) to just start off and ride it, without breaking for a snooze? Mind, my Strava profile reveals the truth – longest bike ride to date is 20 miles.

Watching the Indian Pacific Wheel Race and the distances covered there day after day I feel a bit of an idiot – clearly I’m not in the same league as Kristoff Allegaert, Mike Hall, Sarah Hammond and the other racers, but it makes 100 miles (say 160km) in one go seem fairly ‘normal’.

Muse… muse… muse… 

I’d love to ride the Transcontinental too, that’s something to aim for.

Dark Skies approaching!

Posted: 20/03/2017 in Uncategorized

Yup, that’ll be a night time Marathon around Kielder Reservoir dark skies park on Saturday. Such a lovely run if we can avoid last year’s atrocious storm.

I reckon I could have trained more, but I’ve been busy cycling back and forth to work, so I’m trusting to the power of cross training.

I managed a comfortable 10 miles a week ago and all went well, so I could even be right.


I did a wee map of the site, fingers crossed people can tell where to go before, during and after the run.

Right, the last thing I should do is eat badly and drink anything, right? No chance of that then…

Fingers crossed.


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.

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…

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…