Monday, 30 July 2012

Mileage to date

Well last week was a pretty big week for me, mileage wise.  I was already up to four full days commuting to the office before choosing to cycling all the way home on Friday night and then popped out for a short spin through the lanes on Saturday with my eldest daughter.

That was a lovely 8.5 miles actually, fairly short but at a reasonable pace.  It wasn't so long ago that she had to climb the hills with me pushing her for help - on Saturday we bombed down one at 35.1 mph! :-)

I haven't done a mileage post for a while so here are the stats:

Week 17 - 64 miles
Week 18 - 64 miles
Week 19 - 1 mile (ish.  On holiday - bike only used for odd trips to the campsite shop or toilets)
Week 20 - 111 miles (That's more like it!)

Total to date:  1,238 miles

It was only the other week I'd topped 1,000 miles, now I'm rocking on towards another 1,000!

On another note, it's always a pleasure to find another folding bike related website or blog.  Dahon popped a link up to this one on Facebook this morning:

It looks really good and hopefully full of information for others like me who want to do some big miles and over-nighters on out "little" bikes

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Dahon saves the day

Generally, the train I use to commute is very reliable but once or twice recently has been delayed. There's a lot more rail traffic at the moment as a result of the Olympics, but last night it was cancelled altogether. No bus alternative either just the option to wait an hour for the next one or go miles out of my way via another city. Fortunately, I always have a third option - cycle all the way home.

Well it was a lovely evening so I girded my loins, ate a banana and headed off. From the station home, it's eighteen miles in all and quite a pleasant rise really. Once clear of the city, it's miles of rural A road and do I put the Red Hot Chili Peppers on my iPod and pedalled.

I did this once before and seem to remember some relatively harsh hills but yesterday was different. I must have got fitter and stronger because at no point did I need first gear (I rarely ever do these days) and spent most of the journey rocking along in third gear. The D3HG really needs higher gearing for me now. The stock gears are fine for sedate town riding or the relatively unfit but I need something more to push on. I've considered a new crank and larger chain ring before but noticed this week that a smaller 14T rear sprocket is still available at some places to replace the stock 16T one. It looks at first glance as though the chain may have to run close to the hub cover, but for under a fiver I'm prepared to try it! That mod should raise the gearing quite nicely and give me a faster bike.

All in all though, it was a really pleasant ride back and far from any sort of inconvenience to be honest. People I know are amazed that folding bikes are so capable on little wheels but they really are. With the higher gearing mentioned earlier, my bike would be capable of serious distance at a decent pace. Good old Dahon.

Another mod I've considered for a while is the addition of some bar ends to increase the number of hand positions available when riding. I have worried though that they may impede the way in which the bike folds. Until recently, I had completely forgotten about an old set that I fitted to my beater fixie mountain bike. They are a little bigger than I was planning to fit but nevertheless earlier today I whipped them off the MTB and fitted them to the Dahon. A bit of minor adjustment later and it all works a treat! Plenty of hand positions and a fully foldable Dahon. Brilliant!

All of the cleaning and greasing the other day seems to have done the trick as well. I'd still like better pedals and maybe a small saddle bag for breakdown essentials and I'd love. Brooks saddle too. That's all part of the fun of living with a bike for many miles. Making changes that you know are needed for functional reasons based on experience and not fashion or vanity! OK so the Brooks saddle would be a fashion thing but they are cool (and I believe comfortable too)...

On my daily rides, I often spend time in my head planning longer and more adventurous bike journeys. Some are really fantasy goals at the moment but I have some great ideas for doable long rides in the next year or two.

And of course, they will have to be on my Dahon!

My bike leaning against a bush.  Arty.

Cockpit porn.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Another car day

In a rare break from the norm I took the family car to work yesterday. No excuses, I was absolutely knackered in the morning and with the kids on summer holiday, my wife didn't need it.  The drive in and back weren't even that bad traffic-wise but I still didn't enjoy it more than cycling.  There is a big difference between car and bike commuting and to me, it's one of engagement with your surroundings.

On the bike, you can see, touch, smell and speak to what's around you. In the car you are sectioned away from all of that behind metal, plastic and glass. Throw in some music on the car stereo and air-con and the car-commuter really does drive around in a bubble. In their own little world.  We then only see other vehicles competing for the road with us and not the humans driving them.  We lose connection and empathy with our fellow road-users and they become an adversary - someone to be beaten across a roundabout or overtaken as soon as possible.  The unpleasantness of "road rage" is inevitable!

On my bike I feel much more closely connected with my environment, immersed in it and part of it and, because I move at a slower speed than a car, much better able to notice things.  Although the railway station is pretty busy each evening (even more so now that the city where I work is hosting some Olympic sports) it is also vibrant. I love the variety of people that I see and sometimes chat to and you really don't get that experience in the car.

For all that, I'm not anti-car at all. We have one for the family and until recently owned two. I sold my old Peugeot (complete with 175,000 miles on the clock) recently as I had not driven it in months and it was going to cost too much to get through the annual MOT test. A faithful old thing but too costly and unused so it had to go.  A family car is a necessity for my wife as we live a distance away from down and I'd have had a tough time towing our trailer tent on holiday behind the Dahon!

Cars certainly have their place but as a society we've just become too dependant on them.  Jumping in the car has, for most, become the default position and journeys that could be accomplished by another means become just another road-clogging car trip.

I'd love to see more people out on their bikes and using public transport to get to work.  Pricing and services (which I don't find too bad personally) will only get better when volume of use goes up.  In our privatised world, it's all about supply and demand.

I did enjoy a bit of a physical rest yesterday but I won't be making too much of a habit of car commuting.  Been there, done that, had the blood pressure and growing waistline to prove it.  So despite being tired at the end of the week, I was very happy to jump back on my bike this morning and head off down the lane to work.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A little bit of maintenance

One of the things about my Dahon being a folding bike is that it has a number of quick release fasteners.  The handlebar stem, the bars themselves, the seatpost and the hinge in the frame all have a quick release mechanism of some sort.  However, as with any such system, these are prone to wear slightly and require periodic adjustment.

I hardly ever touch the handlebar stem height adjustment, having found a position that is comfortable and yet does not need moving in order to fold the bike properly.  Happy days!  However, the adjuster which allows the handlebars themselves to be unlocked and rotated to facilitate folding has always been a little more problematic.  Either it has had to be done up so tightly as to make the mechanism squeak (!) or the handlebars have, over time, rotated slightly downwards.  This isn't as serious as it might sound, although is slightly annoying.  I'm afraid the engineer in me requires that once something is tightened up, it does not move until required to do so!

There is a similar quick release which holds the seatpost in place. Up until this week, I've had no problem at all from this mechanism.  However, recently I've started to notice the seatpost slipping down into the frame slightly while riding the bike.  This has been pretty irritating as an incorrectly adjusted saddle reduces the efficiency with which you push the pedals round.  Annoying!

The final quick release holds the frame halves together when the bike is fully unfolded.  I've not had to touch this since having the bike either but recently traced a slight creak (only present when pedalling hard, out of the saddle) to small movements in this mechanism.

So all in all, the folding bits of the bike needed a bit of TLC which last night I gave them. 

The two clamps that concerned me most were the perennially slipping handlebars and recently slipping seatpost.  I have cleaned both previously and noticed that, over time, an accumulation of fine, grey, dusty "crud" builds up around the parts being clamped.  I assume that this is a combination of some dirt from the road and tiny particles of metal that have worn from the mating surfaces under load.  Whatever it is, it really isn't helping the quick release mechanism to grip things tightly and so, a liberally application of hot soapy water and a good drying later, both were nice and clean again.  In order to be able to tighten the quicl release clamps up without metal-on-metal squeaking, I also applied a slight smear of light grease to the relevant areas.

The folding mechanism clamp is different but simple enough to adjust (once you have figured out which way to turn the adjuster...)  I adjusted it until it required a satisfying "click" to close without requiring so much force that something would obviously be over-stressed.

Job(s) done.

Tools required:

Small adjustable spanner
Phillips screwdriver
Light grease (Vaseline)
Hot soapy water

Time taken:

About half an hour in all

Unfortunately I'm not on the bike today but will give it a thorough testing on tomorrow's commute.  Hopefully, I'll have fixed what have become a couple of irritating niggles.

P.S.  I realise that this post would have been much clearer with a few pictures but didn't have the presence of mind to take any at the time.  I'll snap a few later on and rectifiy the situation!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Feeling hot, hot hot!

There's no doubt about it we've had a pretty wet early summer in the UK.  For several weeks, I got wet pretty much every day on the bike and while it's not really so bad, it did get a little wearing. 

However, things have really changed for the better!  Since last weekend we've had some absolutely scorching temperatures, sunny days and clear blue skies.  It has been a blissful week to be commuting by bike.

The slight downside is that it's only Wednesday and I feel pretty knackered!  I've been eating plenty, taking water with me and a week's rest from the bike last week gave my legs some nice recovery time.  However, the heat is really taking it out of me.  The journey into work is not too bad as even though it's been bright, the morning temperatures are nice and cool.  A shower and change at work followed by a mug of tea and a banana see me set up for the day and ready to go.

Coming home is something else though.  I have been arriving home a hot, sweaty mess fit for little but collapsing on the sofa with a cold drink before mustering up the energy to eat something!  I'm really not complaining as when it's dark and miserable in the winter, I'll be praying for a day like today. 

I cling to the hope that working out in this heat will shift even more spare tyre from my waist and give me a lovely T-shirt tan for the summer!

I also have another good cycling related book on the go.  It is "The Man Who Cycled the Americas" by Mark Beamont and documents the author's cycle journey from the top of Alaska to to Southern tip of South America.  As is that weren't enough of a challenge, Mr. Beamont also threw climbing the highest peaks in North and South America (Denali and Aconcagua respectively) as well!  It's an engaging easy read and like all good cycling books makes me want to fetch out the Dahon and go for a ride.

By far and away the best way to travel!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Technical hassles

I'd hoped to update my blog a bit while on holiday this week. However, what I did manage to achieve is empirical proof of the following equation:

Four year-old + keylock-secured iPhone = iPhone memory wiped in a jiffy

I didn't have a laptop with iTunes to reconfigure it either so I spent the week without a phone. While it was a pain in the bum in some ways, in others it was quite refreshing.

Unfortunately, poor weather curtailed our holiday so I was able to spend a couple of hours today getting my phone set back to how it was.

Normal service, as they say, should be resumed shortly...

Sunday, 15 July 2012

I'm not dead!

It's been a busy few weeks with things, work and getting ready for our holiday but now I have some time to breathe again! We've taken our trailer tent away for the week to a holiday park and, despite the recently dreadful weather in the UK, it's lovely at the moment.

And of course, I've packed the Dahon for a bit of folding bike, holiday adventure...

Thursday, 5 July 2012

1,000 miles and counting!

Well on Wednesday morning, somewhere on my way to work (I know roughly where), I passed the 1,000 mile mark on my Dahon!  It's mad how the miles start racking up once you make the commitment to cycle regularly.  It did feel a little weird to be back on my folding bike after having used my hybrid for a week, but not for very long and no more so than when switching to any other new bike.

I had Monday off work and so I took the bike back to City Cycles in Leicester to have the broken spokes replaced and a general service.  When I went back to pick it up, they'd serviced the bike, sorted my back wheel and fitted new brake pads as well - all at no charge!  What a great bike shop. :-)

I reckon with 1,000 miles on the clock and counting, it's about time I did a proper review of my experience with the Dahon so far.  I'll get around to it in a few days or so.

And so I'm back commuting by Dahon and train.  Whizzing through the lanes dreaming of all of the lovely upgrades I'd like to do to it, if only I had the money...

And just to add the icing on the cake, when I got to the station this morning, my usual train was cancelled.  They only go once an hour and I had an important meeting to get to, so waiting for the next one was not an option.  To address the problem, the train company had arranged for a fleet of executive minibuses to take us all to our destination.  Popping the Dahon into the boot of one of them was no problem at all - on a full-sized bike, I'd have been left high and dry!

There's no doubt about it, folding bikes rule!