Never underestimate the power of one wheel drive!

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Thursday, 23 June 2016

Biting the 29'er bullet

Most of my riding recently has been road bike stylee but, historically I loved a bit of filth and rough stuff so have done a few miles on a mountain bike. Until I got the job at the bike shop, all mountain biking was done on a 26 inch wheeled steed, including the years I spent doing bike patrol when I was a police officer.

The main brand we sell at the shop is Trek and Trek have gone for the large wheel format in a big way. In fact, most of their off road fleet is now 27.5" or 29" depending on frame size or discipline. As a result, I have had the chance to test ride a few bikes and have got to say, a 29'er makes a lot of sense. The larger diameter wheel gets up to speed faster on tarmac and holds it's speed much better. It also makes for faster and slightly smoother off road riding. This is because the wheel, being bigger, deals with roots and rocks at a shallower angle than the smaller 26" wheel. It also doesn't drop as far into potholes or steps when descending.

Recently an opportunity came up for me to get a 29'er of my own so I took it and acquired a 2013 Trek Stache 8-


Here it is in all it's dirty glory. This is a 17 1/2" framed version and is equipped with Shimano SLX 10 X 2 gearing. I went for the 17 1/2" as the bigger wheel made the reach on a 19" just a little uncomfortable for me.

My bike is equipped with a Rock Shox Reverb dropper post-




This allows me to lower the saddle when required without stopping and dismounting. It operates on a hydraulic system and is activated from a push button on the bars-



A very funky bit of kit which gets used a lot. The ability to get the saddle out of the way when negotiating something a bit technical or sphincter puckering is a bit of a treat.

All in all I am very pleased with the Stache though it does get me into trouble. Often when I use it to commute too and from my day job, I find myself spying tracks, paths and bridleways and thinking to myself "I wonder where that goes?" That way my friends, lies being late for work and dinner being in the dog.....




Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Life in a bike shop

About 3 1/2 years ago now, my Local bike Shop (LBS) relocated from a converted slaughterhouse to a converted house and outbuildings that had been used for a number of years as a computer shop. Prior to the move, much modernisation and extending was done and a shiny new shop was born.

As a customer of old, I was invited to come to the grand opening where tea, coffee, juice, wine and Rebellion Brewery Beer was to be had, along with nibbles.

Whilst perusing the wonderous bikes and stuff I got chatting to the owner and said that if he ever needed any help, to give me a call. Well, he called and a week later, I was issued a shirt, taught how to use the till (cash register) and card machine and let loose on the public. I was a part time bike sales droid and minor repairs wonk.

Working in a bike shop for me is like being a kid in a sweet shop. I absolutely love it. I get to talk with like minded folk (and beginners) about my passion, helping them choose new bikes, pointing them in the right direction for equipment, clothing etc. sorting their problems, mending their bikes, getting them back on the road after a mechanical. The list is endless.

I also get insight into new developments, early sight of new models (having a new Trek Domane SLR in the shop 3 days before they were launched was a bit special), passes to trade shows and the like.

One of my favourite things though is to see the look on a kids face when they come in with Mum and Dad or Grandparents to choose a new bike. I remember the feeling when my parents got me my first shiny new bike. It was miles too big for me (they were right though, I DID grow into it) but I loved it. That bike and me had some adventures over the years. Some adventurew would turn my parents hair white if they ever got to know about them but that is another conversation.......

Another good thing to do is to help folk either gain or maintain independence. We recently had a young man with a physical disability come int the shop wanting to see if we could help. We managed to get him mobile on an recumbent trike with an adapted pedal system to deal with his particular needs. He had a huge grin on his face after his first test ride.

We also stock electric assist bikes  that use the Bosch and Shimano Steps systems. These are much better specced and more reliable systems that we have previous experience of and I thing electric assist is going to be a big thing in the future over here in the UK.

Oh, and staff discount ain't bad either!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Hand Cycles

As I mentioned the other day, having established the bike club at the school I work at, I realised that a number of students were excluded through disability (the school is SEN and all students have a disability, physical, cognitive, mental or a combination). To help rectify this I started searching for options. One that I decided to explore was hand cycles.

After a bit of research and fundraising I acquired a pair of hand cycles for the school. These came part assembled and required a bit of work from me so I finished the build and took them for a spin around the car park. Both seemed to work fine but I was unhappy about letting the gang loose on them until I had had them checked Iut by a qualified spanner jockey so, grabbing the bull by the horns (or the hand cycle by the pedals in this case) I decided to ride one home after work one Friday evening and take it into the shop on the day i worked at the weekend.

Now, my commute home is between 7 1/2 and 8 1/2 miles depending on the route I use but, both options are relatively flat. Being unfamiliar with the cycle I decided on the shorter option. This would usually take 28- 35 minutes depending on traffic, bike used, weather etc. This evenings ride was a doozie! Light traffic, perfect conditions- apart from the rider. 1 hour 15 minutes or there abouts! On the flat it was OK but, as soon as the gradient started to rise, even slightly, the progress slowed. I'll put my hands up and admit that, from about 2/3rds of the way into the ride, there were occasions when the gradient had me walking and pushing. Descending was fine. In fact, as much fun as descending on any recumbent trike- go like stink, lean in to the bends and try to get the back end out a bit if you can.

By the time I got home I was an quivering, exhausted wreck. My upper arms and shoulders were killing me. In fact, I was still feeling the ache caused by the unfamiliar muscle use a week later.

The hand cycle build got the nod of approval from Mike, the senior spanner jockey but, this riders wimp factor had me putting the machine in the back of the car for the return to work on Monday morning.

My respect for anyone who uses a hand cycle went way up and remains there. If you get the chance to try one, do so and then understand why Alex Zanardi is so ripped.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Has it really been over 18 months?

I can't believe it has been that long since I last posted on here. Time really flies when you start to edge towards crumblyism!

Since I last posted, I reached full pensionable service with the police so I did the right thing- retired! Not before I had found other employment though. I cast my net far and wide and was offered a job as a caretaker/ janitor/maintenance bod at a Special Educational Needs (SEN) school in Berkshire.

A number of positives in this job- a) I still cycle to work. b) After 5 years or so of driving a desk and developing the expanded waist line to match, being on my feet most of the day has slimmed me down good and proper. c)The school, the students and the staff are great to work with.

One of my first jobs was to get the schools fleet of donated BSO's into a useable state and initiate a once weekly lunch time bike club. As a result, a number of older students are riding around on cheap MTB's, BMX's and upright trikes. I have also managed to raise some funds to obtain a couple of hand trikes and an ICE Adventure recumbent trike.

I have got to say that the change in career has been a breath of fresh air and I love going to work again. I continue to work part time at the local bike shop Saddle Safari and do one day a weekend, sometimes two as a sales droid and minor repairs fella.

As a result of this job I have attended some excellent trade shows, taken part in some events providing start line support and met some fantastic people. One of the good moments recently was when ICE came to the shop with their demo fleet. This included their legendary Full Fat trike which I got to play with for a little while (are you watching Coastkid?). A number of folk asked why anyone would want such a beast. My answer the them was "If you have to ask the question, you will never understand the answer". ICE (Inspired Cycle Engineering) make some fantastic machines. If you want fast, they've got the VTX. You want versatile, they've got the Adventure. Quick but versatile? The Sprint. And now we're back to the abslutely nuts- the Full Fat. Whatever you want ICE have it covered. I now have to convince my wife that we have room (and funds) for a Full Fat of my own. This could take some time......

Just a taster of the last 18 months- two years of The Secret Cyclists life. Hopefuly I will be a bit less tardy in future. Keep on riding folks.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Jens Voigt- well hard bastard!

Fantastic job on the new Hour Record Jens!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Bryton let me down

Bloody technology! I went out for an hour in the saddle this morning before reporting for duty at the bike shop. I thought I would do a bit of a hilly ride so, having set out and ridden down Marlow High Street, I crossed the river and turned left onto Quarry Wood Road. On reaching the climb I was nicely warmed up so set to the ascending. I topped out, turned round and descended and followed this with another two ascents. I then did a Cookham Dean- Cookham- Winter Hill loop and then descended Quarry Wood Road again. Before going home I decided to turn round and top off the ride with another ascent of the hill before a screaming descent and riding home. On arrival at home I checked the Bryton GPS computer to find out distance, speed, accumulated climbing etc to find that the unit had frozen half way through the ride and lost all my data. Not a happy teddy bear. The unit is going back and I'm replacing it with a Cateye Stealth. Lets see how that one gets on. I'm furious really, as plotting the route I took on a mapping app doesn't show the profile i would expect, nor does the accunualted height gain tally with what it should be.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Well, that was a long absence!


Hello again folks! Remember me?

Sorry about the lack of posting since August last year but, hardware and software incompatibilities meant I was unable to write new posts.

What’s been happening since I last wrote?

Well, I continue in my full time job with the majority of the commutes being by bike so still getting the riding in. I also continue with my part time, one day a weekend job as a sales droid for my LBS- best job in the world at the moment!

Towards the end of last year I was able to babysit one of the shops demo bikes, a Trek Gary Fisher Superfly AL Elite (2013 model) which was a) a lot of fun and b) troublemaking. Troublemaking because I kept getting 'lost' on the commutes home when I saw tracks etc that just had to be explored. Another bike to add to the want list...
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I have also been trying to deal with the floods- one of the roads I ride to and from work has been under various depths of water since before Christmas. As I posted on YACF last Monday-

'Kinell but the Thames is cold this time of year!

As I got to the bottom of Marlow High Street I could see that Higginson Park looked to be full of water up to the slope from the entrance gates. I crossed the Tierney- Clarke bridge and the downstream side of the weir looked to be a meter or less lower than the upstream side. I then turned left into Quarry Wood Road, passing the road closed signs as I did so. I hit water immediately and remained riding through water until I got to the climb up the hill. Usually the road emerges from the floods for a couple of hundred meters at about midpoint but not this morning.

The trick I have found is to stay in the middle of the road where you can see the white lines through the water.

As I progressed I saw blinkenlights approaching and I passed a guy I regularly see riding the other direction. He called a warning about the other end of the road. A timely warning it was too.

As I got to Longridge, the water got deeper and I lost sight of the white lines. I looked down and the water level was above the axles of my wheels. My feet were submerged at the bottom of my pedal stroke and shoes were full of very cold water.

(Thinking about this now, the water was deeper than the bottom bracket as my shins were wet up to mid point)

Riding into wind or with a cross wind is hard enough but, what I discovered this morning was that flow is worse. The flood water at parts of my voyage was still due to adjacent building lines, walls or embankments. Progress was fairly good but fluid (hydraulic?) resistance was noticeable. At Longridge, the water was flowing quite fast across the road. It was like riding through treacle.

I kept going though and made it to the climb Feet were frozen and got colder. The bike got lighter as I climbed as the water it had taken on board flowed out again. Wore my socks in the shower to start with to rinse them out

Once again I failed to underestimate the power of one wheel drive'

After posting that, I monitored the situation and the waters continued to rise. The strength of the cross flow from the Thames was so strong that I felt the bike being pushed across the road. I didn't fancy getting dumped into a water and debris filled ditch so I bottled it for the rest of the week. If the flow had been a head or tail flow I could have managed but I wasn’t risking the cross flow.