A limerick a week #194

If you’re gonna be stupid, be lucky too!

So, there I was on my bike, peddling in an easterly direction along the South Deeside road and trying to impress SID, the Speed Indicating Device, as I entered the new-build settlement at Riverside of Blairs when, BANG!

I thought “Gosh, that was loud!” (or words to that effect) and although the flapping-cum-graunch sound of a deflated tyre implied a puncture, the explosive retort suggested it was just a tad more serious than that.

The truncated route!

And indeed, it was. I’d just experienced a catastrophic failure of my front tyre at about 21mph. Fortunately, I was on the flat heading straight ahead and the tyre stayed on the wheel. Had I been tanking downhill or on a corner then I suspect it would have come off the rim, jammed in the forks, and I’d have crashed – perhaps heavily.

What a catastrophic tyre failure can look like from the outside.

And d’you know what? I’d have only had myself to blame.

I’d inspected the bike before setting off and the front tyre looked a bit bockety in one place. I actually took it off and re-seated it, but the distortion remained. If I’d examined the inside of the tyre before re-fitting it, I would have seen something that shouted out loud when I examined it after the event (I also wouldn’t have ridden on it!).

Nearly all bicycle tyres are manufactured cross-ply. That means the rubberised woven material that forms the casing has its warp and weft at 45° to the direction of travel. In my tyre the weave had split at one point along the angle and compromised the structural integrity of the carcass; hence the distortion when fitted to the rim and inflated to 100 psi.

… and from the inside. In this case, the woven casing had split along the direction of the warp (or weft, whichever) distorting it when pressurised and it became a blowout just waiting to happen.

The simple moral of the story is to never trust a tyre that doesn’t look right. That’s even more true if, like me, you’d considered the tyre to be a bit ‘iffy’, but decided to ride on it anyway whilst assuring yourself that things would be fine as long as you never went too fast down hills or around corners. It was lucky that I did take things cautiously. It was also lucky that ‘management’ was just about to start her lunch break and was able to rescue me several miles from home.

… and the good news, if you believe the advertising, is that the new tyres I have ordered will turn me from a ‘trundleur’ into a speed merchant – aye, right!

Here’s the limerick:

As a cyclist you’re playing with fire
If you ride with a bockety tyre
‘Cos if it explodes
When you’re out on the roads
The outcome, I fear, may be be die-er!

Postscript#1: From the late-lamented Pâtisserie Cyclisme website… 

“The trundleur is a cyclist who enjoys riding any kind of bicycle, at their own pace for the sheer enjoyment of it. They frequent cafés, stopping to enjoy the view, converse with friends or simply sit and reflect. The trundleur does not care for recording their rides obsessively, nor do they obsess about their speed or beating their fellow cyclists.

The trundleur finds a simple joy in the act of riding a bicycle.”

Je suis un trundleur and ‘management has decided, that being the case, then she can only be a pootleur

Postscript#2: The website www.bicyclerollingresistance.com rates, ranks and compares bike tyres. My road bike’s tyres were originally Schwalbe Lugano and the new ones on order are Continental GP5000. So why not see what that website comes up with?

No contest, apparently. The GP5000s get a 5/5 rating and come highly recommended whilst the Luganos score a measly 1/5 and are not recommended at all. In terms of rolling resistance, the GP5000s each consume 10.7 watts at my riding pressure of 100psi travelling at 18mph whereas the Luganas each come in at a whopping 22.6 watts.

The graphic, below, shows the ‘performance’ of the tyres at each of nine variables. No tyre is ‘best at everything’, so the outer limits of the nonagon are an amalgam of the best performing tyre for each measure individually. Basically, it shows that the Luganos have better puncture resistance at the tread, but much greater rolling resistance at all pressures. The Luganos are only on sale as clearance items now, but originally came in at around £39 a pair whereas you’ll only get one GP5000 for that price!

Continental GP5000 performance vs Schwalbe Lugano tyres. The closer to the outside edge of the nonagon, the better. The cycling world seems generally to consider the GP5000s to be the best ‘all round’ tyre (which implies some may not be all round – octagonal, perhaps or just plane square?)

A limerick a week #189

On yer bike!

I’ve embraced an up-and-down cycling route that is close to home for some exercise during lockdown. There’s a couple of uphill drags on the route and a short ramp into one of the vlillages en route, but, what goes up must come down, so there’s a couple of fast downhill sections too.

It struck me that riding it would provide an interesting contrast between my road bike and my electric bike, a Brompton-with-a-battery. Would the benefit of power assistance on the uphill sections be sufficient to allow a folding commuter bike to beat the time set on a road bike over the entire route? Would the Brompton’s commuting pedigree make for a more comfortable ride? Dare I wear lycra on a Brompton? There was only one way to find out!

It wasn’t obvious to me which would be the fastest over the entire route. In UK law, power assistance on a bicycle is only permitted up to a speed of 15mph; at greater speeds it drops out completely. And the electric Brompton isn’t a road bike. It’s a heavy, folding, commuter bike with platform pedals (no toe clips) and on the flat (or slight incline) it takes a bit more effort to maintain speeds above 15mph than on a road bike.

Power-assist should make the uphill drags a bit easier, but on the fast downhill sections I suspected that the Brompton would be outclassed by the road bike due to the latter’s lower gearing, an inability to adopt an aerodynamic tuck whilst riding it, and my cowardice – beforehand, I wasn’t sure if the Brompton’s handling characteristics and brakes were conducive to a reckless downhill thrash.

(The Brompton’s small wheels make little if any difference to performance, per se, as has been shown by the Moulton stable of road bikes – as Cyclist magazine said in 2017: The Moulton bicycle can lay claim to a number of accolades. Jim Glover set the (still unbroken) conventional riding position, unpaced land-speed record at 82.52kmh aboard a Moulton AM Speed in 1986.)

So, this is the route (the lettering indexes the different sections that I found useful to define – two sections, A→B and C→D are traversed in both directions):

Brodie Wood / Maryculter / Blairs – South Deeside

And this is the elevation:

Route elevation (relative rather than absolute as my Garmin’s altimeter was uncalibrated)

The length and ‘classification’ of each section are given below along with the time taken per section on each bike. NB. The weather was similar for each ride, dry and sunny with a fresh easterly breeze, and if the times look modest then be aware that although I am not quite un citoyen âgé, neither am I un poulet de printemps and I carry ‘excess baggage’!

Positive speed & time difference means ‘electric’ is faster

Well, it turns out that for this route, the uphill power-assist trumped the downhill and on-the-flat speed of the roadbike. I was right about the Brompton’s gearing. I spun out at about 30mph on the fast downhills whereas I could have kept pedalling beyond 40mph on the road bike, but there were too many blind corners on the narrow roads to do so safely.

Nevertheless, I was impressed by the Brompton’s handling and brakes when going fast, which meant that I could be braver on it than I thought, so the downhill advantage of the road bike was not as great as I’d anticipated.

Going uphill with power-assist was still quite hard work ‘cos I was giving it a good shot, but it was nowhere near as hard as using leg power alone and the speed advantage was considerable.

Anyway, the Brompton was, on average, just shy of 2mph faster on this route than the road bike, but did it give a better ride? Well, the Brompton was comfier en bas à l’arrière, but that was only noticeable on the most broken bits of tarmac and what let the Brompton down, comfort-wise, in my quest for speed was its gearing. It has a wide range, but only 6 gears compared to the 22 on my road bike.

That made for an uncomfortable ride because too often it was impossible to ride at my preferred cadence. I would either be spinning too fast or grinding it out at too few revs. That doesn’t matter if you are riding purely for recreation because you can modulate your speed to match the gearing and your favoured cadence instead of trying to go flat out all the time.

You also need to take account of trip duration. Full power-assist on the steeper uphill sections and low-assist on the gentler uphills and flat does, of course, eat your battery. I once pedalled the Brompton up a long drag on the Black Isle sans battery and it was hard, hard work, so it’s a good idea not to run out of juice or, as the Moulton people say: “if you want a folding bike, buy a Brompton. They’re really rather good. But if you want to ride a bike, buy a Moulton!”. Battery life aside, platform pedals and power-assist at junctions and roundabouts makes for an altogether more pleasant experience if you are riding around town.

So, in my little comparison, the Brompton won on speed and the road bike provided the more pleasant ride, but, horses for course, and both are more suited than t’other for doing what they do best. 

Here’s the limerick:

A cyclist went out for a ride
And thought t’would be fun if she tried
To freewheel downhill 
And show off her skill, 
By perfecting a motionless glide

A limerick a week #185

Two tyred to train…

So, we’re all in lockdown and socially isolated, the gyms are closed and it’s cold, wet and windy outside. How am I going to keep bike-fit?

You may remember the ‘Peleton’ advert from last Christmas in which a husband gave his wife a ‘smart’ bike trainer so that he could whole-heartedly patronise her and reduce her to a chattle. The whole tone of the advert was, at best, condescending, but was, in reality, closer to the Graun’s description of ‘sexist and dystopian’.

This is what another limericist, @Limericking, thought at the time:

A Peleton ad has made clear
Just what it can do in a year.
The Peleton wife
Has a beautiful life
And a general aura of fear

Apart from belittling your partner, the Peleton business model is based on a smart trainer that allows you to take part in live-streamed ‘group’ spin classes with other Peleton riders and to compete against them if you wish, and to access a library of recorded workouts too.

At nearly £2k for a Peleton bike and around £40 a month to subscribe to its service, it ain’t half pricey, and if you stop subscribing or the company folds then your bike’s USP (and usefulness) disappears too.

or

You can go (mostly) low tech and (mostly) free and hook-up an old road bike to an old ‘dumb’ turbo trainer.

A simple cadence sensor on the bike’s crank arm paired to the Cateye Cycle app on a smartphone allows you to monitor your revs whilst one of the many Global Cycling Network’s free YouTube training sessions puts you through your paces…

The old tech…

A 30 year old steel road bike, a Peugeot Optimum 14 (Reynolds 531 frame and forks, so a nice bit of retro kit) coupled to an equally old dumb trainer

The new tech…

The free Cateye Cycling app loaded onto a smartphone and paired to a cheap cadence sensor on the bike, and one of the Global Cycling Network’s YouTube training videos running on a tablet.

If you have a heartrate monitor, then you can pair that with the CatEye app too. There’s no power readouts unless your bike’s pedals have power meters incorporated and if, for example, you’ve subscribed to Zwift, then you have to guess how resistance will change according to terrain. Personally I’m happy to take the low tech approach outlined here for as long as I can’t get to my regular spin classes, but I’m happier still, on a fine day, to get out on the road itself!

Here’s the limerick:

A chap whose brain was quite numb
Saw an advert, to which he’d succumb,
For a very smart trainer,
But he missed the disclaimer
That the advert was utterly dumb!

Postscript#1: I was recently sent Jonathon Watson’s ‘Only an Excuse’ parody of the Peleton advert and, for once, he made me laugh…

(needed to be maximised on my android phone)

Postscript#2: For an authoritative review of Peleton vs ‘other’ smart bike approaches, this article is well worth reading.

A limerick a week #178

I fancied cycling out to a café yesterday afternoon up the Causey Mounth road in Aberdeenshire, an ancient drover’s road and a long uphill drag, but didn’t. Hills are one thing, but a hill with a gale of wind blowing is quite another. So I wrote a limerick instead…

A fair-weather cyclist once tried
To go for an afternoon ride
On a late winter’s day,
But got blown clean away
‘Cos’ twas blowing a hoolie outside.

A limerick a week #148

Biking on the Black Isle

I’ve always wanted a Brompton folding bicycle, so what do you think was the chance of Management getting herself a new electric Brompton and me acting in an entirely composed and mature manner?

Quite right, no chance; “If you’re having one then so am I!” was the measured response, so, many £££ later, we find ourselves camped at Rosemarkie with his’n’hers e-Bromptons at the ready for a 21 mile power-assisted round trip to Cromarty.

The outward leg on a single-track road along the spine of the Black Isle was a hoot. The first part was all uphill for at least three miles and it was a breeze; cue a pair of smug grins. Then downhill into Cromarty – our first time there and it’s a lovely wee place – for a hardly-deserved tea stop.

The route.

Unfortunately we then got drenched in a heavy rain shower and thought about folding the bikes and catching a bus back to Rosemarkie (try doing that with a normal bike), but decided instead to set off and cycle back via the Cromarty Firth coast road.

Or at least I thought we were going to set off. Looking back I couldn’t see Management so, after a few minutes, I retraced my steps thinking she must be chatting to someone. She was, to a German chap who was asking if she was all right as she lifted herself off the grass verge after a controlled fall that was her only means of getting to a position from which she could untangle her shoelace that had wrapped itself around her chainwheel.

The route back was slightly longer than the outward trip and involved another seemingly endless uphill drag. We’d swapped batteries at the bottom because Management’s was already partly discharged when we’d set off and her’s was running out of juice. That meant she got full power assist to the top using my battery whereas I had to be more cautious using hers and work harder.

It is testament to the capabilities of these batteries and motors that she gradually pulled away to crest the hill several hundred metres ahead of me when I’m supposed to be the cyclist in the family. Still, we both got there and had a long, fast downhill run back into Rosemarkie.

The Bromptons at rest while their batteries are recharged

… and here’s the limerick…

To avoid a whole lot of pain
A lady should always refrain
From crashing her bike
– or exploits suchlike –
When her shoelace gets stuck in her chain. 

… and Management at rest while her batteries are likewise recharged

A limerick a week #105

Dear Diary… 

… went on a 38 mile round-trip cycle ride…

…set off from Newton Stewart to Port William all hale and hearty…

…a bit nippy so wore unpadded winter bib tights…

…didn’t wear proper padded cycling shorts underneath this time…

…tried instead some swanky new padded sports boxers for cyclists…

…big mistake…

…no; massive mistake…

…in trouble before the halfway stop in Port William…

…somehow got there…

…spent 45 minutes drinking tea; struggled to get back on bike…

…barely able to sit over another 18 miles of cracked, broken and pot-holed tarmac…

…quick stop at Wigtown on the return for an ice-cream…

…didn’t know whether to eat it or sit on it…

#ShouldHaveBoughtTwo.

While out on a bike ride one day
On the Machar of old Galloway
The absence of padding
To my rear-end cladding
Left my a**e in complete disarray.

A limerick a week #87

A bad day on the bike…

A friend recently decided to tour Orkney and Shetland by bicycle. Remembering Orkney from a childhood holiday, I thought “It’s flat. I’ll see if I can join him for a long weekend.” I did, but it wasn’t as flat as I remembered! Forty-five years between visits had led my memories astray.

The western Mainland had some long uphill drags. Hoy was the same and both islands had hills that were just a bit too long so, on occasion, I had to push. My friend didn’t – he just ground out a slow cadence on a middling gear; he was the Duracell bunny of our trip and I was the also-ran.

The sub-heading of this post comprises part of a well-known aphorism that A bad day on the bike beats a good day in the office. Once you get out there it’s true – my problem is getting out there in the first place. Nevertheless, I didn’t really have any bad days (I had great days!); it was just a reminder that I still need to lose many kilos!

We cycled on Hoy to the set-off point for a three-hour round trip walk to its most famous feature, the sea stack known as The Old Man of Hoy.

A beautiful day on Hoy, with the Old Man standing proud (No, missus, don’t – oh, please yourself!)

We both remembered the Old Man from our childhood when, in 1967, the year after it was climbed for the first time, three pairs of climbers repeated the feat on live TV (including the original duo). Three of the six climbers that day were Chris Bonnington, Dougal Haston and Joe Brown; legends of 20th century UK mountaineering. Apparently it’s now climbed fifty times a year on average.

The figure on the cliff (upper left) indicates the sheer size of the Old Man

It’s certainly impressive to see the Old Man up close, and as the sun was shining with no wind we could have stayed there for a long time. We didn’t because we had a ferry to catch and a café to visit. (I can heartily recommend the apple and rhubarb crumble, served with Orkney ice-cream, at the Beneth’Ill Café at Moaness).

Naturally, the trip inspired a limerick…

I thought that I’d really enjoy
A trip I once made as a boy
To Orkney, up north,
So I sallied-on forth
And became the next Old Man of Hoy’!

The (Not-So) Old Man of Hoy!

 

Postscript: A few other pics from the Islands…

Quotes that made me laugh #42

No, Minister!

The Dutch reach has been in the news a lot recently, although cyclists have been aware of it for longer. It’s not a mis-translation of an Amsterdam ‘coffee shop’ special (Dutch roach) or a nauseous side-effect of hanging-out at such places (Dutch retch) or even a visit to a rather lewd nachtclub (Dutch raunch). It’s simply a way of making you look out for cyclists when opening a car door from the inside.

By reaching for the door with their arm furthest from the door, drivers and passengers are forced to swivel round, increasing the likelihood of seeing a passing cyclist. It’s been a part of Dutch driving proficiency for 50 years and its adoption is supported by the police and the cycling communities.

The idea hasn’t gained much traction with the Department of Transport though. I wonder why? Let’s ask the BBC …

“The Department for Transport previously dismissed the proposal – but that was just after the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was filmed having knocked a cyclist off his bike opening a car door.”

Laugh? I nearly fell off my bike!

Perspectives on cycling #1

In 2012 Beatrix Campbell was in the World Pride Power List of the 100 most influential gay people of the year and is a self-styled “republican with politics rooted in Marxism and feminism”. Although she is not a person without flaws, I was impressed that she had this to say about cycling:

In the context of the great debates about identity politics – are you gay or straight, nationalist or republican, British or English and so on – I would ask, “Do you ride a bike?

Of course I do!

View looking upstream from Park Bridge on the River Dee on a cold Valentine’s Day ride

It’s a vicious cycle …

The cyclist’s conjecture

n’ = n+1 for n=1..∞

states that n’, the number of bikes that a cyclist needs, is always one more than n, the number (s)he already owns, for any value of n.

That’s my way of saying “I’ve just bought another one”!

My oldest road bike is almost vintage having been bought in 1992. I used it in a group ride about four years ago only for a lycra-clad short-a**e riding a carbon-fibre bike to sneeringly tell me that “You don’t see many of them nowadays” …

Ca. 1991. ‘Steel is real’. Good old 531 tubing and a horizontal top tube. Classic lines and still in use!

… which is why I was rather pleased to win a modern aluminium-framed bike a year later with carbon forks and a Campagnolo gearset. It’s amazing what the purchase of a shrink-wrapped block of Wensleydale cheese can lead to – I’d bought a promotional competition pack to mark the Tour de France’s Grand Départ from Yorkshire.

My Tour de France winning bike or, rather, the one that I won for buying a packet of Wensleydale (“Cracking cheese, Gromit”).

So why buy another bike? Simples! The road bikes are terrific for tarmac, but not so good over slightly rougher surfaces and my travels with Priscilla (posts passim) lend themselves to both tarred and non-tarred outings. So I need a bike for each (of course I do).

The new one is of the ‘adventure bike’ genre: carbon forks with generous tyre clearance for fatter tyres, disc brakes and reduced gearing on the chainset (ideal for a moderately overweight recreational cyclist aka a MORC), but with road bike geometry and clearance for mudguards it makes for an ideal winter bike too. Win-win!

… and the new addition is finished in ‘stealth black’ (as if a MORC could even dream of being stealthy 🙁 )

Postscript: I was given a road bike for my 21st birthday, but remember little of it other than its saddle was nicked when it was securely racked outside a hall of residence in Dundee. Some while later the rest of it was nicked too.

I wondered at the time whether the thief followed the advice that I was given when I asked a girl off my course (who I thought of as a rather reserved and quiet lass): “How can I ride it without its saddle?” Reserved and quiet maybe, but also blunt, coarse and to the point: “Stick it up your a**e and pedal like f**k!” she said. I never saw her in the same light again!