Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Gratuitous Bike Porn!

I've had another go at taking a photograph of the new Etape that hopefully shows the current position of the handlebars and brake hoods - also the bike's shape and geometry generally. There is still a zero-setback seatpost to be fitted, but otherwise this is feeling really comfortable.

Thanks to Dave of the Yurtville blog for passing on some very useful bike-photography tips!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

At the Mercy of the Wind

Having posted a 'backup' coffeeneuring post yesterday, I looked out the windows this morning and thought "Hmmm, looks bit breezy but at least the sun is shining, I'll give it a go. Maybe it's time for a Coffee Shop Without Walls coffeeneuring ride?"  I decided I'd just pop out to the new portrait bench on the Upper Lea Valley portion of NCN6 - only about 5 miles round trip but it'd be a lovely spot for a hot drink and a few photos.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Coffeeneuring Challenge: Ride 3

Destination: The Gary Cooper, Grove Park, Court Drive, Dunstable, Bedfordshire LU5 4GP
Date: Saturday, 26 October 2013
Hot drink of choice: Cappuccino
Total mileage: 15km (including my commute)

Ride details/report:

Heads up, this ride may not qualify, as it was on a working day. However, as the country is facing a severe "superstorm" warning tomorrow and Monday (my normal "weekend") and the winds are already picking up, I am almost certainly not venturing out on a bike in the next two days. I therefore respectfully request a substitution day this week. Of course, if this "superstorm" turns out to be a damp squib, then I'll be out on my bike and more than happy to submit another ride as a conventionally qualifying one in place of this.

Isle of Wight Holiday - Of Roman Villas, Aeroplanes and Windmills (Day 5)

-- More adventures on the Isle of Wight in August --

Day 5 dawned clear and sunny (again) with the promise of being a bit of a scorcher. We prepared to leave the house for another glorious day on our bikes. While wheeling my bike from the living room to the front door, I noticed the front brake block rubbing on the wheel.... turns out my little clipless moment had buckled the wheel! (As well as damaging the rear mech - something I didn't discover until a few days later when I really needed that 34x36 gear!)

Thankfully, Adam was able to re-true the wheel. The alternative would have been to take the bike to a bike shop by car.

We set off through Shanklin and Lake, where we turned off and picked up part of the Round the Isle route as far as Brading. Our destination: the Roman Villa.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Titanium #2: Finally! A Test Ride

This post is the next in my series about my journey to having a custom bike built. It covers my first visit to Enigma on 30 July 2013, which was while I was still in negotiations with Cyclefit/Seven.

In July, I began going through the design > order > build process at Cyclefit with a view to buying a custom Seven Axiom S frame. However, I was pursuing that avenue essentially on the basis of Seven's incredible reputation for quality workmanship. There was no possibility of test riding a Seven anywhere. Having not seen one of their bikes in the flesh, I suppose it was a form of blind faith.

However, I hadn't given up altogether on the idea of a test ride of a titanium bike -- any titanium bike. As the weeks went by (and with some frustration with the Cyclefit/Seven process beginning to creep in), I set out to contact a few UK manufacturers of titanium bikes (whether stock or custom), to see if I couldn't at least have a little ride on one of their bikes, to see for myself what titanium feels like to ride.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Coffeeneuring Challenge: Ride 2

Destination: The Blueberry Cafe @ Breathing Space, 2a Thompson Close, Harpenden, Hertfordshire AL5 4ES
Date: Monday, 21 October 2013
Hot drink of choice: Cappuccino
Total miles: 20 km

Today I did a bit of fettling on my new bike and of course had to take her for a spin just to see how things are working. Answer? Brilliantly!

The Blueberry Cafe serve the most delicious coffee. The cafe is part of the private fitness centre where I do Pilates. My job has kept me so busy, I haven't been to a class in nearly three months! Something that will be rectified soon. In the meantime, I've really been missing the cappuccino....

Good Advice on Solving Fit Issues with a Custom Bike

(c) John Weirath, PT http://www.bicyclestudiogj.com/

A call-out to one of my favourite bloggers:  Bike and Body in Grand Junction, Colorado, U.S.A.

The writer is both an experienced fitter and a qualified physiotherapist. I have particularly enjoyed and benefited from his thoughts on Women's Specific Design (key posts here and here) but the entire blog is worth a browse - tons of insightful, detailed yet clear and concise information and advice on performance training, correct bike fitting, physiology and ways to identify and address common problems like knee pain, neck/shoulder pain, also bike reviews, ride reports... and how to approach having a custom frame designed and built up!

This post yesterday chimes exactly with what my own experience has been, both in terms of fit problems and appropriate solutions, resulting in a new bike completely customised for me. I'd love to have had this particular post as a reference at the beginning of my custom-build experience but perhaps it's just as well I didn't, in case I took it too prescriptively. Nonetheless, as it happens, I've done almost exactly what he did here for one of his clients with very similar issues.... except that the custom bike for her turned out to be a Seven after all. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

A Tour and An Introduction

Yesterday, I travelled down to East Sussex to collect my new bike.

Enigma are open only 9am-12.30pm on Saturdays and not all the staff come in that day, but it seemed the only day that Adam would be available to come with me, so I decided not to wait until Monday as originally planned. As it happens, Adam did the Friday Night Ride to the Coast to Whitstable in Kent, then took a series of trains to get to Enigma, arriving at 12.15pm!

As for me, I left home at 6.50am (by taxi as there are no buses from our village that early) and arrived at Polegate station at 9.30am. Paul Smith, the new head of sales who did my fitting and who has been overseeing my build and keeping me updated over the past 2-1/2 months, met me at the station to drive me to the factory.

It was kind of a funny arrival. Paul said "I know you're wanting to see your bike" but took me around the factory on our way up to where it was on the showroom floor. Along the way, he gave me a little tour of all the stages a bike goes through during its construction. While at first I thought "why are we not going straight to my bike?", I quickly began to appreciate that the tour was a form of introduction, building a little suspense but also "preparing" me for what I was going to see when we got there. It was absolutely fascinating to see bikes at every stage and I am very glad Paul took the time to explain each step. That kind of background "briefing" was a great little journey towards meeting my new made-for-me bike.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Tomorrow's the Big Day!

And at 4.30pm - it is now DONE. Or as done as it can be til I go down tomorrow to collect it, taking pedals and saddle. They'll then cut the steerer tube and wrap the handlebars. And I will then pootle off down the nearest Sustrans cycle path.

Gosh. I am very excited, in a stunned had-the-wind-knocked-out-of-me sort of way.

Spoiler Alert!

3pm today - it's very nearly done.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Post Bike Fitting: A Custom Bike? My first serious look at Titanium

Titanium framebuilding (via Google image search - probably a Moots frame)

In conjunction with my bike fitting at Cyclefit in early July, I initiated conversations with Julian Wall about having a full custom frame built. By this time, my investigations into carbon had come to a dead end, so my interest was now focused entirely on titanium as the frame material for any bike I might have built.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Isle of Wight Holiday - The Needles (Day 4)

Back to the series of posts about our cycling holiday -

On the Tuesday (27 August to clarify - a lifetime ago now!), we put the bikes away and set off in Liam's car to see the famous Needles at the far western tip of the Isle.

Thatched house - not at all unusual on the Isle of Wight

Monday, 14 October 2013

Coffeeneuring Challenge: Ride 1

Destination: Markyate Village Cafe, 71/73 High Street, Markyate, Hertfordshire AL3 8PJ
Date: Monday, 14 October 2013
Hot drink of choice: Cappuccino
Ride details/report: below, with photos
Total mileage: 14.92 km


"Coffeeneuring" is the term given to a series of challenges set over the past few years by Mary G at Chasing Mailboxes in Washington, D.C. The basic premise is to ride your bike out somewhere to drink coffee. For most people this will be a leisurely ride, perhaps also social if they go with a friend or three! The "fun" though is in documenting your rides in accordance with The Rules and then submitting them for validation in typical French style. The Third Annual Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge is currently running, with a full complement of 19 rules.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Full Bike Fitting #1: Start from the ground (and work your way up)

You may recall my frustrations back in the spring over the various problems causing me to bail out on longer rides. The excruciating saddle-area pain that kicked in just a few miles into Adam's 'unofficial Dunwich Dynamo' ride back in June was the (literal) kick in the butt I needed to send me back to the fitter to get to the bottom of what may have been causing all my problems. (Sorry about the puns. No, sorry, I'm not sorry.)

The problems weren't just from saddles. I was also having bouts of hand and wrist pain, including sharp shooting pains when I would lift my hands to shift them from one position on the handlebars to another, the 'trigger' being the easing of pressure, the pain being something like hitting the funny bone in your elbow. Except not at all funny.

And there were my everlasting blasted knees.

Monday, 7 October 2013

To Cut A Long Story Short...

I've been working on a series of posts about my bike fitting experiences and journey towards getting a custom-build bike. Included were experiments with new shoes and pedals and a dramatically different saddle. Also up for your perusal were insights I've gained during consultations and interviews with fitters, upmarket bike shops and framebuilders. A lot of those posts -- if not all -- are still in the pipeline and will see the light of day soon, as I do think I have some things to share that some (particularly any women with fit/pain issues) may find thought provoking if not definitely useless.

Meanwhile. After a nearly 3 month long wait, photos are coming in from the company I decided to go with, to build my custom frame and build it up into a complete bike. The company is Enigma Titanium in Hailsham, East Sussex.

Yes, this is a spoiler but I am too excited not to share IMMEDIATELY.

This is Max mitering the tubes.
In the background at the right is Joe, who will weld the tubes together...
before sending over to Jaco who will do magic with the finish!

Anyone curious about the details of my build, you can see most of the components on my Pinterest board.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Isle of Wight Holiday - The Light to the South (Day 3)

My first visit to the Isle of Wight was over the May Bank Holiday Weekend of 2011. I arrived on the Friday (the day of the Royal Wedding - in fact, I nearly missed my train in my delay turning off the television - well, I had to see the dress, didn't I?) and left on Monday. On the Sunday, I attempted the Round the Isle Randonnee, but I bailed due to (a) being tired from my cycling wanderings the day before, and (b) fear in the face of "mountains".

The wanderings the day before the Randonnee had led to my "discovery" of St Catherine's Point. It was so beautiful, it was high on my list of places to see again on our summer holiday this year. 

So after settling in on the Sunday, on Monday we set off from Bonchurch headed south. Whizzing high above Ventnor and through the forests until we broke out into the sunshine: 

St Catherine's Lighthouse

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