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Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

Hello again..

Friday, May 18th, 2012 by Mick Allan

I do try to keep this blog on topic as much as I can. About cycling and the issues facing cyclists and shiz. But this post isn’t about cycling. It’s about cancer.

I had cancer in 1990, testicular cancer, from which I recovered very well after they removed my right one and blasted me with chemo. So when I started to feel the same nagging ache a few months ago I didn’t need too much cajoling to get myself to the GP’s surgery. To cut a long story short, it wasn’t until I awoke from the general anaesthetic that I knew I’d managed to keep goolie number two. So, actually I didn’t have cancer, only a cyst. But they don’t know for sure until they remove it – and very few hospitals have the skills to put it back in once it’s out. So I still have half a set of balls for which I am grateful. I guess I’m supposed to be happy that they didn’t find cancer but I just feel battered. Three weeks on and I’m only now considering the possibility of returning to work. And I’m not feeling much compassion for the slowly deflating mango-sized object between my legs. The source of all this pain and suffering, part of me whishes it gone. My hormone levels are erratic so my moods swing between weepy and angry – for no apparent reason. Male PMS!? It’s hard on the people around me.*

So there we are. Normal service will be resumed as soon as poss. But the reason I’m writing this is to say, please guys, pay attention to your lumps and bumps. I was lucky, I got it quick – and in the event it turned out not to be cancer. In a couple of weeks I’ll be back to normal. Lance Armstrong had testicular cancer, but I like to think that it wasn’t the cancer which emigrated from his balls to his brain which nearly killed him, but his stubborn refusal to visit the GP.

* But the worst thing of all is that I can’t ride my frickin bike!!!!!

New Practical Information Articles in Bike Culture

Monday, September 26th, 2011 by Mick Allan

We’ve been beavering away recently, adding more articles to the Practical Information section of Bike Culture – our archive and general information resource. The latest articles concentrate on easy-to-do jobs we can undertake to keep our machines in good working order (such as lubing chains and control cables) and as time goes on they’ll come to address ever more complex tasks (such as replacing chains and cables). Other new articles include advice on handlebar set-up, tools, installing tyres and even washing your bike.

If you’re interested there are a couple of ways you can get involved in this process.

Firstly, if there is a particular subject you’d like covered please ask. We have a panel of experts sitting around twiddling their thumbs just waiting for the opportunity to write a piece on – how to fit mudguards, buying a saddle, setting up a kids bike, choosing a trailer, etc, etc…

Cyclorama Technical Department.

Cyclorama Technical Department.

The other way you can get involved is to write an article yourself. Paul Johnson contributed an excellent ‘Introduction to Clipless Pedals‘ earlier this year, and our mate from ‘down under’ – Peter Tremlett regularly provides us with articles which chart his freakbike builds.

Don’t be shy! We’d love to publish your stories if you think your experiences can help other cyclists – let’s spread the knowledge!

Mick

Senior Cycling Citizens

Thursday, February 10th, 2011 by Mick Allan

Originally published in Bike Culture – Cyclorama’s archive of useful articles and inspiring stories.

Cycling in Older Age

Recent research shows that regular cyclists have, on average, the health of someone ten years younger. .

There is no age at which cycling stops being an option, and anyone who cycles regularly into older age adds years to their life expectancy. Regular exercise can reduce stress and depression and cycling is a particularly low impact activity (second only to swimming) which keeps you fit and alert. Cycling can also be a very cheap form of transport for anyone on any budget. It gets you from A to B at virtually no cost, whenever you want to go. No waiting for lifts from other people: no reliance on buses.

senior_lady_lovely_moulton

There are more good reasons for cycling in older age: cycling involves smooth, regular movement: it doesn’t put big stresses and strains on your body. Cycling four miles daily reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by 50 per cent. It’s good aerobic exercise, yet puts no load-bearing strain on joints or muscles – good news if you are arthritic, a bit overweight or generally unfit. Cycling for half an hour regularly should help shed any extra pounds. Regular cycling improves lung function: very beneficial if you are prone to bronchitis or asthma.

Cycling may not be the Secret of Eternal Youth but it comes pretty close. It has been calculated that every minute that you spend on a bike can be added to your lifespan – with odds like that you’d be mad not to ride a bike!

If you have not cycled since your younger days, you may not be aware of just how light and efficient modern bicycles can be. The wonderfully diverse range of cycle types means that there’s a bike to suit everyone, whatever their age. With innovations and advances in technology, manufacturers continually strive to offer improvements in terms of comfort, reliability and ease of use. There are puncture proof tyres, exceptionally comfortable saddles, and chain guards and mudguards to keep you clean. Compared to your heavy old all-steel roadster, today’s lightweight bikes are easy to lift and agile in hilly terrain.

The best of today’s folding bikes ride like conventional uprights and fold in seconds to a compact bundle. With a low ’step-through’ it’s easy to hop on and off. Modern materials and design developments mean that they are light and responsive. Kitted out with quality components, and often with suspension, you can ride them comfortably all day long. Owning one will open up a whole new area of recreational possibilities. Load them aboard a train or stash in the car boot and seek out somewhere nice for a spin in the countryside. Alternatively cycle out to visit a friend, fold the bike down and catch the bus home.

Need an extra boost to your pedal power? Electric bikes and trikes are everyday cycles with an added battery-powered electric motor offering transportation solutions between walking and driving. They work by assisting your pedalling. Although capable of pushing you along without your help, electric bikes perform noticeably better when you pedal. You can go 50% faster for the same effort with a range of at least 15 miles. With baskets or a trailer they become surprisingly practical vehicles. Do you remember that easy pedalling after you get your bike up to speed? That’s the cruising feeling you get all the time with an electric bike.

People choose to ride electric bikes because they:

• help overcome hills, starting off, and headwinds

• make local journeys easier

• save money, meet new people, and protect the environment

• offer extra opportunities to exercise – even if it’s just a little

• offer convenient, A to B transportation, and no need for a driving licence

Manufacturers are now thinking beyond youth-culture cycle fashion, realising that there will soon be, in most industrialised countries, many more active 55 to 70 year olds than there are teenagers. And young people can be a difficult market, with fashion changing like the shifting sands. For older people image is important, but so is quality, and anyone getting into active cycling at the age of fifty-five may well cycle for twenty or more years yet, as opposed to the five years of active cycling for many of the younger generation before they ‘graduate’ to motorised transport.

Take up cycling now and you can enjoy expanding networks of cycle-paths and other facilities. But there is still much work to be done. Millions of cyclists with decades of experience to call on, and the leisure time to apply it, can put further pressure on government for ever better facilities. Older people, with a lifetime of knowledge and experience can be a highly effective campaign group, mindful of the power of their vote and the authority of their voice.

Already, some older people are showing an independence of spirit by recognising the specific advantages which recumbents, and especially tricycle recumbents, can bring them, such as a low frame, relaxed position, lower wrist fatigue and, for tricycles, easy low speed manoeuvrability and very low no-wobble gearing on hills.

Recumbents are great but they are often expensive and challenging to store. For everyday cyclists what are some of the important features to look for in a regular upright bike?

Dropped top tubes, step throughs and ‘ladies’ bikes: We all know that our joints lose some of their range of movement over the years. As the passage of time makes it more difficult to raise a leg over a saddle there comes a point where a step through frame starts to make a lot of sense – for gents as well as ladies! The ability to get off the bike safely and quickly is a real boon in traffic and the removal of the gent’s style traditional top tube has little or no effect on the performance of a modern city bike.

Upright bars = upright riding position: There comes a point in every cyclist’s life when the appeal of high-speed dropped racing handlebars gives way to the need for a little less efficiency in the name of comfort. Upright bars may be less aerodynamic but they are safer, they give you greater control of the bike and a commanding riding position. There are side benefits too – if you find it difficult to turn your head as far as you once did an upright position makes it easier to see around you and it reduces the amount of body weight carried by tired hands and wrists.

Modern technology can come to our aid – Controls: Strong brakes are safer for tired fingers, GripShift gear shifters allow us to use our whole hand to change gears rather than individual fingers.  Modern saddles (some featuring ‘gel’ inserts) ergonomic grips and active suspension can all help to banish discomfort.

More relaxed frame geometry: Without going into too much of Pythagorus’ Theorem… A more ‘layed back’, less racy geometry achieves two things. Firstly it makes it easier to achieve the optimum leg extension without placing the saddle too high for comfort and secondly it makes the bikes’ handling less twitchy and nervous. A bike with relaxed geometry may not win many races but it’ll get to the finishing line safely and comfortably.

Many cycling holiday companies cater for the needs of the more mature cyclist. It’s a great way to meet new people, and to discover what you are capable of in a supportive and controlled situation. There’s time to explore at your own pace, and to experience different environments and cultures. One very welcoming international cycling holiday which our sister company runs every year is the Get Cycling Week.

The very adventurous can follow in the tyre tracks of intrepid retired English headmistress Anne Mustoe, who has cycled alone all round the world. Read one of her many books and be inspired!

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Cyclorama’s Bike Culture archives are full of great advice for new cyclists (no matter how old they might be!) and for people returning to cycling after a break. The Practical Advice and Beginners Guide are great places to start to find the information you need.

Check out our Types of Bike section and the corresponding sections of our Product Pages for further reading.

We welcome comments which might help us make Cyclorama more useful to new cyclists, old cyclists and everyone between, please feel free to email us via our contact page with your suggestions for articles, or indeed if you’d like to contribute.

If you’re a ‘newbie’ – welcome to cycling. And if you’re returning – welcome back!

The Eds.

Eight Ways to Stop Your Bike Being Stolen

Thursday, July 29th, 2010 by Mick Allan
This chap's particularly enterprising.  Not many bicycle thieves operate in this fashion.

This chap's particularly enterprising. Not many bicycle thieves operate in this fashion.

You may have read George’s diatribe a couple of days ago about carrier bag culture – he thinks one-use items like plastic bags are terribly wasteful.  And so they are.

But, what he neglected to mention was a very practical use for these bags – namely, that they can be used to act as a deterrent to pond-life. Put one over the saddle, and would-be bicycle thieves won’t look twice at your bike.

This is a good thing, because losing a bike is a most unhappy experience. Aside from the inconvenience of having to find one’s way home by unfamiliar public transport, there’s the not inconsiderable cost of replacing your pride and joy. We’ve come up with eight ways of making sure no-one spirits your cycle away:

  1. Spend between ten and twenty percent of the replacement value of your bike on your main lock – this should be a sturdy D- (or U-, depending on how you look at it…) lock.
  2. Make sure you secure the frame – too many folks have returned to find their front wheel still safely locked up and the rest of the bike gone.
  3. If you have quick release wheels, use a security cable to secure them too – or you can replace quick-release levers with bolts, which makes it harder for crooks to detach your wheels.
  4. Always lock your bike, even if you’re just popping into a shop – it only takes a few seconds for a thief to ride off on it.
  5. Always lock your bike up to something substantial – a plastic drainpipe is not enough!
  6. Find a bike that’s nicer than yours and park next to it!
  7. Personalise it and make it unique! Covering it in stickers and changing the colour of the saddle and grips etc. make it easy to identify – which makes it much less attractive to thieves.
  8. Try to make your bike look unattractive – put a plastic bag over the saddle or wind gaffer tape around the frame tubes. If it looks worthless it’s less likely to be stolen.

So there we go! Do you do any (or all) of these things when leaving your bike? If you have any other tips you’d like to share, tell us using the comment form below.

Want to read more?  This is an edited excerpt of a series of articles on Bike Culture – “A Beginner’s Guide to Cycle Commuting

“That’s what I’m talking about babay!”

Thursday, July 15th, 2010 by Mick Allan

Extended Africa Bike

The Van Andel heavy-duty frame-mounted front rack and Leco top-tube mounted kid’s seat were not particularly easy to fit but they have immensely increased the usefulness of the Africa bike.

The rack went on first, after removing the fork mounted rack which has been on the bike for the last few months. Heavy loads are more easily controlled when attached to the frame rather than the fork or handlebars. The first issue I encountered was the installation of the down tube mounted bracket. The Africa bike has a lovely curved down tube. The bracket is straight. Before I ordered the rack I’d had a good squint at a picture of it on the website of Practical Cycles and had figured that it would likely fit ok, and if it didn’t it would find a home elsewhere. In the event it went on with much fumbling and grumbling and the help of a few hammer blows to the clips which clamp it to the frame. The rack is designed to be removeable, two long prongs, plastic covered extensions two of the rack’s struts, slot into two tubes which form part of the bracket.

I’m guessing that some folk might like to swap the rack between bikes with the purchase of extra brackets. In use this removeability feature causes the rack to rattle over every imperfection in the road. And since it rests on the head tube (on my bike at least) it scratched the paint on the head tube within 100 metres. I’m not bothered about this, this is a utility bike after all, but it’s something to watch out for if you value your paint. But I do mind a rattle and it was easily silenced by strapping the rack to the bike with a toe strap (nb. There is a similar frame mounted rack available which attaches instead, without quick-release-ability, to the head-tube). In use it has transformed the bike. Front mounted loads no longer have any detrimental effect on the steering and the load capacity has increased substantially, so mission accomplished. It achieves precisely what I’d hoped it would.

Upgrade in all its glorious detail

My girlfriend’s boy Rufus is approaching his 4th birthday, until now he has been hauled around in a good old Burley trailer. The morning school run features a great volume of barely moving traffic heading in to York city centre. The Burley, useful though it is, doesn’t excel in this environment. It is a royal pain threading its wide track through the stationary cars lining the route, all you need is one schmuck to stop too near the kerb and you’re stuck, sometimes for an age. Hence my interest in the Leco top-tube mounted child seat, again from Practical cycles. The Leco was a proper fiddle to fit and, it appears, uses medieval agricultural machinery technology. The seat itself is a rather fetching black plastic number. A bracket with a welded-on seat-post stump bolts to the frame via a sheet of rubber strip, to which the seat, with a rudimentary back rest bolts to with a regular old school seat clamp.

I’m not looking for carbon fibre in a product at this end of the market but Jeebus. I’ve been to museums, I’ve seen how blacksmiths used to make things. Actually I reckon that a medieval blacksmith would have drilled the holes so that the supplied bolts could fit through them. No matter, I own a drill. High tech it isn’t. Getting the bracket tight enough to stop it moving on the frame required so much tightening of the bolts that the bracket itself bent. Hopefully it’ll stay tight in the long term but I anticipate that I’ll have to adapt it at some point (but actually, having used this product I’m almost inclined to strip the frame down, take it to the engineering shop down the road and have them simply weld a seat post stump to the top-tube).

In use this little seat is an absolute delight. Rufus and I went for a test ride around the block and we just laughed the whole way. Half way round he shouted; ‘That’s what I’m talking about babay!’ We can communicate easily and he can ring the bell and wave to people as we glide by. The back rest, which is also the mount for the ‘safety belt’ lasted only a few minutes before I took the hacksaw to it. It really got in Ru’s way when climbing on and off the bike. And actually if the worst happens and we do have a fall I don’t want him to be attached to the bike. He rests his feet on the new front rack and he’s big enough to hold on all the time. We love it.

We’ve been to school on it a couple of times and most evenings we pedal with his big sister Phoebe up the lane to feed the horses but the real test was last Sunday when we rode ten miles to a picnic spot and back. At the end of a very long day he was falling asleep and wanted to climb into his trailer but it was a total success and we got smiles and nice comments from people all day long.

More on lube.

Thursday, March 11th, 2010 by Mick Allan

Sprockets are invariably plated, nickel on entry level and chrome (on top of nickel) for the posher stuff. They wont rust. Where the plating wears through the tooth leading edge what little lube is deposited from your immaculately clean chain will prevent rust. What little rust might appear is not a big deal anyhoo as your sprockets are made from a high quality treated steel alloy. Tough stuff, very unlike car body type mild steel. Lube will do nothing of note if applied to your sprockets except provide a sticky surface for dust and crud to accumulate.

Expensive tranny

Expensive tranny

Degreaser will remove lube from inside the chain where you actually want it.
Degreaser must be washed off with water from the inside surfaces of the chain lest it degreases and breaks down any fresh lube applied thereafter. Emulsion. Yuk.

If you are happy to degrease your chain, wash the degreaser out completely, dry the chain completely and then relube it then go ahead. I tried it. Its a waste of good Top Gear watching time.

Bear in mind that there is close to zero friction between the chainring/sprocket and the chains exterior surfaces. All the action happens within the chain between the rollers and the pinsand where the sideplates meet. So thats where you need your lube.

Cycle specific chain lube is formulated to be;

Tenacious, to adhere to the surface of the metal, yet….. non sticky, so that it repels dirt.

Robust, to survive the enormous pressures it suffers within a chain, yet…. freeflowing, so it can get to where it is required).

One popular multi-purpose oil (Several in One) for example is freeflowing but cannot cope with high loads. Is not tenacious so it will end up on the hall carpet, yet is incredibly sticky if you throw dirt at it. It is oil, it is categorically not chain lube.

For more in-depth advice on getting started with Do-It-Yourself bike maintenance read the:

Bike Culture guide to setting up your own home workshop