Monday, 21 January 2013

BLAZE bike light is funded!

A while ago I talked about the BLAZE bike light project on Kickstarter. The project is now funded, having raised £55,000, more than double its original target of £25,000. Its had some good coverage on the BBC One show too.

As I pledged to back it I should be getting one through the post, sometime soon hopefully. I don't know whether this will be a pre-production model or one from the first proper production runs. When it does arrive, I'll test it and post the results here. I'm really exited!

Monday, 7 January 2013

A new bike joins the family

A short while ago we got a new bike in the family, which came to us in an unusual way. My wife discovered the bike in a ditch on a nature reserve she was working on. She dug it out and found it was in reasonable condition. Thinking it was likely stolen she contacted the local police. They had a look, found it was security coded and were actually able to trace the owner!

The owner claimed the bike had been 'lost' and they didn't really want it back. A more likely story is they the owner had dumped the bike. The police said that as the owner didn't want to claim it my wife, as the finder could have it. It was a good bike in decent condition so my wife decided to keep it. The bike is a Dawes City Vision 7.

It has Shimano Nexus 7 hub gears. It also has a rear pannier and a basket mount on the front. I have christened the bike "The Shopper".

After cleaning the bike off I gave it an inspection. The mechanicals are in surprisingly good order; I suspect it hadn't been in the ditch very long, just a few weeks perhaps. Wheels are true, brakes work, shifters and hub gears work, the tyres even hold air although I discovered the rear is leaky having had to reinflate after a few days. The only thing needing immediate attention was the chain, which was dirty and rusty beyond hope with several links locked solid.

A new chain came from Wiggle in the form of a KMC B1 1/8th single speed at the bargain price of £4.91. The chain comes with a snap link.

To replace the chain I first had to remove the chain guard, which was held on with three screws. The I removed the old chain with a chain splitter tool.

Here is the old and new chain laid side by side. I used the chain splitter tool again to shorten the new chain to the same length as the old chain. The length doesn't have to be exact as the chain is tensioned by adjusting the rear wheel forwards or backwards in its mount, but it needs to be a similar length as the wheel mounts only adjust an inch or so.

Don't put a new chain on the floor like this. I didn't realise how dirty the floor was and had to clean the chain before I put it on the bike.
Don't put a new chain on the floor like this. I didn't realise how dirty the floor was and had to clean the chain before I put it on the bike.

I gave the chainwheel and hub sprocket a thorough clean. First I used a high pressure hose to blast off dirt and grit, then I sprayed with degreaser and wiped with a clean cloth. The hub gears are a sealed unit but I wasn't sure if the seals were still good, so I was careful with the hose and degreaser around the hub sprocket. I spun the crank and it turned freely and smoothly, so the bottom bracket is in good order. The hub sprocket turned OK, but was a bit stiff and clunky.

To put the new chain on I loosened the wheel. There is an additional bolt attaching the hub mechanism to the chainstay, and this needed to be loosened as well. With the wheel loose it can be moved forward in the mounts and the new chain put on. Then the wheel is moved back in its mounts and three fixings tightened when the chain tension is right.

Here you can see the third fixing bolt attaching the hub to the chain stay. The mount has a 4cm track for adjusting the position and hence the chain tension.

Finally the chain guard is reattached. I also attached a child seat. Here is the bike in its finished glory.

I had another test ride and the bike was much improved. Pedalling was smooth and squeak free with the new chain. the hub gears were still a little lumpy but serviceable. I think I might need to give them some attention shortly.

One last modification was needed before the first ride out with my daughter. The bike seat has exposed springs below it, which are right in front of the child seat and a 2 year old can't resist poking fingers into small gaps, which could have nasty consequences. I'm looking for some sort of cover for the saddle/springs but until I find one I have just gaffer taped the springs.

Make sure you don' have exposed seat springs when using a child seat

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A reminder of why I hate commuting by train

In an earlier post I compared commuting by cycle and train. Yesterday was the first day of work for me after the Christmas holidays, and consequently the first commute of 2013.

Things have got worse.

Rail fares are up 5% (£4.20) and the First Great Western railway monkeys still haven't fixed the broken information signs on the platform.

On approaching platforms 4 to 6 passengers are cautioned that the train isn't stopping at the platform, despite Reading station being the terminus of these lines.

Presumably the trains are going to smash through the end of the line and onto the station concourse, which is a really good reason for passengers to stand clear.

Joking aside the failure of these signs is a real problem. The trains on this line can depart from platform 4, 5 or 6. Often there are two or three trains waiting in the station. The trains depart at roughly 15 minute intervals so the signs are useful in indicating which train is next to depart and therefore which train I should get on. Without the signs I have to guess. As you might expect helpful railway employees are rarely present.

Guessing wrong is infuriating. You get on one train only to see the train next to it set off, giving you the awful realisation that you're going to have to sit on the train waiting for 15 minutes before it goes anywhere. On my bicycle, in that 15 minutes I could be more than half way home.

Roll on the better weather and lighter evenings please. I can't wait to say goodbye to the train for another season.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Cycling Kit Review

Lets face it, most men with a interest or hobby have a pretty strong appetite for 'kit', by which I mean the vast array of things one can buy to enhance or further one's enjoyment of said interest or hobby. If you're into computers there's a vast array of upgrades, expansions, gizmos and gadgets for all levels of enthusiasm.

Cycling is no different. I manage to resist most of the time, but I have bought a few bits of clothing this summer season and I thought I'd share my experience.


I bought a pair of Altura Airstream shorts and am really impressed with them. At £27 they're much cheaper than most other brands. They've got reflective detailing, are comfy and have lasted a few hundred miles so far without problem.
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I bought an Altura Airstream Jersey and am similarly impressed. Again, at £27 the competition can't get close with replica team jerseys costing more than twice as much. The jersey has all the features you need; reflective detailing, good pockets at the back, a silicon gripper around the bottom hem, and a half length zip. I guess for bib shorts you'd want a full length zip but as I only have hip shorts, this doesn't matter to me. The jersey is a good bright colour and is really comfortable.
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My most recent purchase is an Altura Night Vision Windproof in orange. I bought this as autumn is coming and its getting a bit cold. The early mornings and late evenings are getting darker so the extremely bright high visibility design is useful. At £63 its good value too, compared to some of the competition which are over £100. Its comfy and manages to keep me warm without getting sweaty thanks to different materials on the front (windproof/water resist nylon) and back (nylon fleece). The arms have a similar design with a windproof front and breathable back. It has three pockets at the back, two standard pockets and one smaller with a zip.
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You might have spotted a common theme here. I didn't go out specifically to buy the Altura brand. Each time I identified a need for something and had a look at what was available. It seems like Altura just came out as a winner each time based on a decent product at a decent price. I love all three items so much I think next time I want something I'm probably going to go start looking at Altura first.