Saturday, 28 June 2008

Forest trails expand in England

There may be a long way to go to catch up on Wales and Scotland for mountain bike trails, but every bit helps. The recently (partly) opened Altura trail in Whinlatter Forest in the Lake District looks nice. Singletrack MTBers will want to add it to their todo lists. There is a map on the Forestry Commission website of where these man-made trails are in Whinlatter. They circle round Hospital Plantation, Comb Plantation and Beckstones Plantation through some steep and windy forest.

Looking at that map brought back memories of cold November days watching the RAC rally as powerful rally cars tackled the tricky forest roads. These days Rally GB doesn't get out of South Wales, so it is fitting that man-powered craft have replaced them in the Lakes.

Single Track Magazine reviewed it here.

Forestry Commission link.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Gear review: Dawes 'Sport/Touring' saddle

I originally titled this post 'What is this instrument of torture?', so you can guess the conclusion of this review.

Having recently got a touring bike, I thought I'd post some of my experiences with it. More details about the bike and ride will follow in future posts, but this entry is about the immediate changes needed to be comfortable on the initial rides. The bike is the entry level Dawes tourer, the Horizon model. Being at the entry level means some 'value engineering' and one of the parts that must have saved some money is the 'saddle', seen above. The brochure describes it as a 'sport saddle' on one page whilst on another it calls it 'touring'.

I put saddle in quotes because it is a euphamistic term for this perch looking approximation for what cyclists might sit on, but it transpires it isn't anything of the sort. In fact it is something far removed from that and should only be used to inflict pain on an unsuspecting enemy. It was obvious from the start, the saddle was uncomfortable and probably had to go but I decided to try it just to be sure. I was soon wishing I hadn't.

If you're a regular reader, you probably realise I
frequently ride but I don't often do large mileages. Recently, I've been on a few longer rides and can use those for comparison of this new saddle. My existing commuter has a Specialized spongy rubber type saddle and has been comfortable when I've done 30-40 miles. My mountain bike has a stock Scott saddle that came with it and is not so comfortable for a full day out but is tolerable nonetheless.

One of the first rides on the Dawes was for a distance of 27 miles. Three days later I was still suffering. I like to think of myself as fairly normal when it comes to body shape (though others might dispute this conjecture) but this Dawes saddle was definitely not made for a human. Whilst it looks like it has been anatomically designed with a cut out for the perineum, there is insufficient area at the rear to spread the load and nearer the nose of the the saddle, the edges of the cut-out create pressure points that cause soreness after only a few miles.

So the saddle has to go. It'll probably end up in the bin although I'm tempted to offer it for sale on an SM site!

What to replace it with? There are so many saddles to choose, many having elaborate and scientific designs using high tech materials and gels. Having had a Brooks leather saddle in the past, I decided to eschew these modern contraptions and replace it with a B17 standard. I'm taking a long term view, understanding these saddles adapt to the shape of the rider and therefore need a 'running-in' period, which can be about 12 months. Some riders find them comfortable from day one. I'm certainly anticipating a better initial experience with the new Brooks
but if I'm not totally comfortable with it before our tour in July, I'll temporarily swap the saddle from my commuter.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Carboard bike - whatever next?

I don't know what they're smoking over in Sheffield but it must be good stuff. Final year student, Phil Bridge, has designed a hexocomb structured cardboard bike that costs only £15 to make. The concept is based on the idea that companies wanting to advertise can use these disposable bikes to promote their wares and because the bike doesn't cost much it won't be attractive to thieves.

It sounds like a wacky idea until you realise this is a serious project of the Product Design course at Sheffield Hallam University. It's waterproof and should stand up to 6 months of constant use.

Sheffield Hallam article link

BBC video link

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Cycling demonstation towns announced

The winning bids in the Government's £100m investment in cycling has been announced. Bristol is going to be the 'Cycling City' getting £11.4 to invest in cycling infrastructure and training. This figure will be matched by local funding seeing the Bristol area having £23m to spend on cycle lanes and training for children and adults.

Following the cycling city are the eleven cycling demonstration towns. These have now been announced and are:

  • Blackpool (nearest to here ~25 miles)
  • Cambridge
  • Chester
  • Colchester
  • Leighton/Linslade
  • Shrewsbury
  • Southend on Sea
  • Southport with Ainsdale (next nearest)
  • Stoke
  • Woking
  • York.

Let's look forward to seeing these beacons as examples for our local councils who can aspire to provide matching facilities.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Rolling in the river

I had already penned a small blog entry about how nothing much seems to have been going on along the roads of my commute. I've been busy commuting every day in most pleasant weather and racked up, on average, about 100 miles a month (not much added to the 2.5 mile journey there!). Before I could post that entry, the daily landscape was transformed. This week I've noticed more activity going to and from work. I've seen more cyclists, perhaps because of 'Bike to Work Week' but maybe just new commuters because of the fuel prices - today's new find was a guy on a Hewitt, a rather nice looking tourer.

It rained heavily most of the day today. I can't remember a time, even in winter, when I got so wet. It had an effect on the motorists as well as Psychalist was on the scene of this incident this evening to practice his photojournalism. A driver of a Mitsubishi Shogun demolished the wall on Beechwood Road and rolled his vehicle into the River Blakewater. No other vehicle appeared to be involved. I didn't stop to interview anyone as it was raining hard. The police had the road blocked and were keeping people away whilst waiting for the recovery truck.

Is Bike to Work Week working?

I'd like to say more cyclists are trying cycling to work this week, but my statistical samples are not very significant. I have actually seen more cyclists. Yesterday I joined a stream of four, which is unheard of for commuting in Blackburn. At the lights there were three of us. I asked this chap if his efforts were for 'Bike to Work Week' and his reply was no it's just a regular Tuesday. Even better.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

What (not) to expect from a cycling holiday?

The Daily Telegraph travel section last week included an report by Johnny Morris of his family cycling holiday along the Danube in Austria. It was full of criticism and disappointment because it turned out to be a nightmare holiday for them. He booked a holiday with a fixed daily itinerary, pre-booked hotels and a luggage courier service. That just left him to get himself and his family a distance of about 25 miles from A to B every day. But what did he expect? Something easier it seems. A more leisurely start in the morning, a few days off, more support when things went wrong, and probably not a cycling holiday.

The writer naively arranged the wrong sort tour. For some gentle cycling, he should have arranged to stay in one place and have some hire bikes to explore the locality on easy cycle routes. Having done no preparation, he had no idea whether his family could cycle 20-25 miles, which on one day they struggled to do and ended up off the route on a busy highway because they missed the ferry. The holiday company could hardly be to blame for his tardiness but he criticised them them anyway and even had the gall to complain he had to pack his luggage to be ready for dispatch by 8:30am.

It sounded to me that the holiday he booked with Hooked on Cycling did everything advertised but he didn't adequately translate that into the needs of a non-cycling family with a young child. To be fair, he concluded with some thoughts on how to improve it next time if there is one and, hopefully, he will try again and stick at it. Like any adventure, there are bound to be highs and lows. With some anticipation and forethought he should hope for mainly highs and few lows.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Bike Week 2008

Bike Week this year is 14th-22nd June. Event are to be held all around the country. Nearest appears to be Bolton.