Thursday, 21 February 2013


It's funny sometimes how a day pans out .

Been working up on a windy roof . Big flat thing . Dont worry, you can't fall off  . Anyway , freezing cold up there , but being construction types , not too bad with the proper layering system on , and the industry standard brew : work ratio .

I'm away this weekend , no bikey bikey , so I'm kinda keen , and double motivated for a midweek eve sesh .

On the drive home , I convince myself it's do-able , providing the Ministry for Fun does'nt have other ideas , and start to plan a local , quick , pre-tea , route .
 Upon arriving home the daily in-law visit is still ongoing , and it could have gone into extra time , but I mostly avoid eye contact , and the kettle ,and head for the shed .

I still have 9/10ths ownership of Alan's Charge Cooker Hi 29er thingy , that, it's fair to say , I have'nt totally been at one with . 
I was at pains to point out that the rides themselves had been unfavourably muddy , and did'nt really suit the nature of the bike , and that it needed a spin up Rivi , maybe . 
So last week when we went up Rivi , I , er , took my old Fisher ...

It was a pre-emptive logistics issue . We went out on the Saturday , and the 29er was cleaned , thinking I might return it , so I took  my old bike instead . 
So , I open the shed , and there's the Charge at the front of the quiver .All cleaned and ready for action ....

It really has been a quick turnaround since I arrived back home . I have my kit on in 10 mins or so , and I grab my lights etc . Only then do I notice the early stages of bonk . I was kinda rumbly tumbly on the drive home , and I've eschewed the usual post work coffee and bickies .
Decision time . I can grab some food , which will delay me getting out , OR , I can just go out .
Remembering an article on how hunter gatherers could'nt possibly have hunted and eaten large meals daily , and how hungry bodies can find energy as a survival mechanism , I head out the gate .

Straight away the Cooker is flying .  Should that be frying ?

I havent got tons of time . Teatime is " at six o'clock !" . I have an hour at the most , and that's allowing for a little bit of  " the chips are ruined !" , lateness .
I have a country mile , or so , before the tarmac gives way to a farm track , still a touch wet from last weeks rain /snow / melt , and I hit it at speed with head down . There's the odd pothole here and there , and some less firm bits , but with the extra speed , and the big wheels I guess , it just munches them up . The track rolls up and down a bit too , but I just dig in , and keep on top of the gears , even getting out of the saddle for the climb over the railway bridge .
I can see that this type of riding suits the bike perfectly . It's been a brutal warm up though , and as I keep it going down the other side , I think if I'd had a snack before I went out , I might be saying hello to it again , right about now .
The circuit around the 3 Sisters is more of the same . The paths are OK , but in places quite wet , with long boggy puddles . Again , with the momentum kept high , it's not a problem , but I'm really feeling the effort now . I thought I was maybe a tad underdressed , as it is very cold , but right now I'm as warm as toast. The sweeping corners around the perimeter of the karting track make up for the hill I have to push up . In my , and the bike's , defence , it was very muddy . Sticky muddy . I ' zipped ' the back wheel on a root , and that was that . 

A half lap of the lake , and then the path turns for a slight downhill . Not steep at all , but about a half mile long , and all but straight as a die .
It's a bit of a rest , I suppose , but I still kept it hammering along into a stiff breeze . At the end theres a sneaky chicane and then a squeeze past a fence and stile . The bars are too wide .
Who needs a 700mm handlebar ? I realise we've moved on from the 22" bars of the early 90s , but these need an appointment with a hacksaw.
While I'm at it , I'd bang some bar-ends on .

The rest of the pain in pretty much every part of my cardio vascular system , means I didnt feel the pain in my hand when it hit the fence , and besides , I'm a construction worker . I have another perfectly good hand.

From here I'm heading over to Viridor Wood . It sounds like some Pratchett world , but in reality , its just a pile of old crap that's been grassed over with a few trees . Its coming on nicely though .
Its a gentle mound of a hill , and very exposed to the seemingly stiffer headwind . I've backed off  a little , and settled into my groove , but as I'm aware that the wind is shoving me back , I dig in again and try to get back on top .   I suppose it's those bigger wheels again , but fully wound up they do keep rolling well .

As it's a circuit , the wind ' shifts ' to assist me on the back straight , at the bottom of which is a tight left hander . I'd felt the other week that the Cooker was a bit wobbly at slow speeds ,and noticibly so on techy stuff in the woods . This is a slightly less techy corner , with a sprint out , and carrying some speed in , it rails around nicely as I head back.

I'm basically doing an out / back circuit , so I need to get through the 3 sisters again . Looking at my watch the chips must be just going in the pan , so I grit my teeth and get on with it .
The path back is mostly uphill now , all the way to where I can get back on the road in the Industrial Estate for the last few miles on the road .
The key really is to keep on top of the gears . Once it's on top of you , it's harder than a regular 26" to get back up to speed , so I'm fairly blowing hard as I hoof it up , and thinking about hacksaws as I squeeze through the gate.

I'd said the other week that I did'nt like the 2x10 gear set up . I'd still have a triple , but tonight it was'nt a problem . As I kept hammering along , I only used about 4 cogs at the back , and only once engaged the bottom granny ring ( on the 'tyre zippy' climb ).
It's a matter of horses for courses. In the end I was out for 41 mins , and had time for a shower before the chips were done. I'd gone at pretty much ' race effort ' for a good portion of that . Riding like that , the cooker was shining . Really nice . I'm sure it'd be great out with the lads up Rivi at a more sedate pace, or at a trail centre carving corners, but bogged down in the woods won't bring out it's best side .

So the day panned out good . It just means I have a bike to clean. I'll have my tea first.


  Alan's Charge Cooker Hi ....

Schwinn Hollywood

Just built one of these for a customer!

Sunday, 10 February 2013


Took Alan's new 29er  ( ChargeBikes Cooker HI )  for another spin today . See if I can manage to get on with it a little better .

It's not that it's no good , just that it's not quite right . Maybe it's just me , though . As I have said , I've been MTBing , like , forever , so it's fair to say I'm pretty stuck in my ways , and know what I am looking for from a bike .

I like the simple things .

The main issue last week was the gears . A newish idea . Drop the triple rings at the front for a double , and stick a wider spread of gears on the back to compensate . Mathematically , at least .
In practice, I was finding myself grinding along in the taller front ring , up to a point where it was getting tough , then , dropping down to the easy ring at the front , ( as you would traditionally ) , but the gear ' jump ' was too much .

So , this weeks spin was a similar affair to last week's. Wigan wetlands , and woodsy bog snorkelling . Slight change of plan . I figured , and by looking at the chainline , could see , that it might be better to ride more in the easier front ring , and only change up when it was fast fast .

It did seem a little better . On balance , I still think a traditional setup is better . I can't really see the benefit to just swapping the chainset for a double . All the shifty bits are still needed . BUT , if I could forget for a minute that I was riding mostly in the granny gear ,and changing the rear gears ,  it was actually OK .

Had some seatpost slippage again . Minor gripe . Easily sorted .

Brakes , ( Avid Elixir ) , not dead good . Probably a new ' out of the shop ' thing . Bit mushy .  The first service with maybe a quick bleed , would firm them up . I've read mixed reviews on the newer versions of these brakes , but earlier ones we had a few years back I really liked , and were no trouble . I dunno .

Overall , the bike is really good . I think the conditions ( V.V .V wet / boggy / muddy / gloopy ), did'nt do it any favours . On the odd bit of well surfaced path , it wants to roll along . It's good with the speed turned up a bit . At slower speeds , it's a little front heavy , and in tight turn situations , it's like turning an oil tanker , but , we did the odd bit where conditions allowed us to turn it up a notch , and it's a flier .
The front end requires a considerable heft to manual wheelie over stuff ( compared to my bike ), but the bigger wheels with their ability to smooth the trail a little , is ample compensation .

There's definitely an argument for including one in your quiver . On fast trails , ( say trail centres ) , flicking the back gears and keeping the speed up , it'd be a blast .

I'll take it up to Whinlatter or somewhere and let you know ....

Here , a picture of some bikes outside a cafe ....


Todays ride route , here .....

Sunday, 3 February 2013

29 er . Errrrr

                                                      " Edit that bit out ..... "

OK , Today's local spin . Mostly a ' local ' woodsy affair . I'm on Alan's new 29er . I've never ridden one before , so |I did'nt quite know what to expect .
I've read a bit about them here and there . Basically , if you dont know , it's a regular MTB , but with bigger wheels than the standard 26" . The science behind it says it will ride smoother over bumps and hollows , as the wheel hits at a less severe angle . Whatever .

First impressions are good . This is a ChargeBikes "Cooker Hi " . Decent spec bits and bobs , fastened to a nice , classic looking Tange infinity steel frame . Thin tubes .
I can see why Alan got it . People of a certain generation are suckers for skinwall tyres .  At a squint it definitely has a look of a big BMX cruiser about it .

 So , local woodsy . We've had some rain and snow , and allsorts , since forever . Last week was the week of the great flood . The ground is pretty soggy and the going is tough . Its hard to say if the big wheels are any advantage at these slower speeds , but , the first climb or two it felt OK . The WTB tyres , in keeping with the theme , are a version on a classic MX style blocky tread . Seemed to work well enough .
At the top of these short sharp climbs , there's the inevitable drop in . Hanging off the back , hiding behind the big front wheel felt good.
We headed over to some local woodland trails . Its a mini trail centre of sorts . A winding singletrack , punctuated with some logs across the trail every so often, and some troll bridges . The front end feels very " XC " , - planted , compared to my regular bikes , taking a bit more of a heft to get over the obstacles . No big deal once you get used to it . Bunnyhopping the odd one seemed really easy though .
The bars are pretty wide . 700mm ish . A bit wider than I'd usually ride, especially through the trees . I guess they'd be superb on a faster downhill , but on the more techy stuff , seemed a bit too wide . A little wallowy . Nice grips . Classic BMX Oakley stylee.
The Charge saddle is quite comfy , as I didnt notice it .

If I was nitpicking , the seatclamp arrangment is not so good . Out of the box it comes with an Allen key clamp . You know , it might look neat and clean , and all that , but a quick release is 100% absolutely required kit . So , on Saturday before I left the shop I fitted one . Whether it's a bit of a shit one , or whether it was a brand new seatpost/frame issue , I dunno , but I was suffering from some slippage . Bit of a wind-up, as its such a small, cheap , yet inversely important part.  
Moving on .The rest of the ride was kinda more of the same really . We had a little play on some rocky drops . Semi steep , in places . Hard to say if it was any better at this than my 5" forked hardtail , this is a 4"er , but certainly no worse.
Forks are a Rockshox Recon with a lockout . Due to bike switching , I inadvertantly did about half the ride locked out . The handle is opposite handed to my fork . I suppose its a compliment to the big wheels then , that I really didnt notice .

The above video was in some more local woods . The fact that I got my feet wet was no reflection on the bike . The stony riverbed was superdooper slippery , and honestly could have provided some much more entertaining footage if we'd stuck around.
After a cuppa in the local Haigh Hall cafe , we headed down through the trees , but first there's a killer little uphill on cold legs . It didnt end well .
 Now , less of a nitpick . For 25 ( + ) years I've ridden a triple chainset . A few bikes nowadays are coming with this 2 x 10 setup . Just a double up front . Throughout the ride I'd not really got on with it . Shifting up the cogs at the back , in the big ring , when you get near the top few cogs the chain isnt in a happy place . You either know what I mean , or you dont . It's a chainline thing . So , to keep it happy , and my legs, I needed to shift lower at the front .At the risk of getting all ' Sheldon Brown ', the tooth difference between the two is quite a bit , causing a jump that the legs dont like either . Too low , too soon .
At the risk of getting all 'Jens Voigt ' , " shut up legs ".

I just cant see any benefit at all to the 2 ring setup , apart from the miniscule weight of one chainring . It still needs a mech and a shifter . The outer ring is taller than my regular middle ring , but , not as tall as my regular outer . I suppose , mathematically , you could theoretically get all the same gears, but in practice it means quite a bit of shifting jiggery pokery . With the 10 spd at the back , and a regular triple up front , it'd be great . I think .  It was also a little undergeared on the road , where a taller triple would again help.

Back to the killer uphill . As we crossed the boggy field , I shift up the cassette . I'm bogging down quickly , and as I get to the top cogs its not happy again ,and I'm running out of leg, so , my only course of action is to shift the front down . It's instantly too low spinny , and I zip the back wheel and spin out to a stop .
If I'd changed the back down first ( harder ), I might have muscled it through , then changed down , but I doubt it . If it was a one-off I'd dismiss it , but a few times I found myself suddenly in between gears .
OK , in its defence , the conditions were super boggy , mostly flat , with sudden steep ups . Ordinary people would stay indoors. I'm sure carving around a trail centre it would be fine . The big wheels are probably happier at a higher rev , just flicking between the middle few gears in top cog, but this is the real world in Orwells northern winter. Also , these are SRAM gears , and I'm used to Shimano , which work a little differently at the shifter , which might have been subtly significant.

So , all in , really good , looks superb , rolls along great , downhills well ...... just not sure about the gears .


Saturday, 2 February 2013

Follow the cycle lane to our new Road Showroom

Follow the cycle lane to our new Road Showroom! Got the new 2013 cannondales and Scott road bikes inside.