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Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

What a tool.

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 by Mick Allan

It started millions of years ago when our ancestor first used a stick to prise the remnants of dinner from her teeth. For cyclists it starts at the moment we make our first adjustment to a bicycle.

As a young beginner cyclist I remember watching in wonder as my uncle Jack wielded his tools to make a pile of scrap  into a rideable bike for me. I got proficient at mending punctures and tightening the seat clamp every ten miles and I never looked back. Being self sufficient, having the ability to get myself home after a mechanical breakdown became a big part of the enjoyment I derived from cycling. Later I became a cycle retailer and for a while the workshop manager of a busy London shop. And when I started it was with the same sense of wonder that I watched the experienced mechanics use the pro tools – treating the boxed Campagnolo frame finishing tools with the sort of reverence and respect usually reserved for religious relics.

The line between on-the-road tools, the ones you take along for roadside repairs, and workshop tools is sometimes a blurred one. The most useful tool of all time – for everything – is, for me, The Nest, a set of Allen keys which fold out of a moulded handle in the manner of a Swiss Army knife. I don’t know if they were the first but Cannondale made the first one I remember buying. Soon others followed with similar products. It helped that the cycle industry introduced decent universal fastenings. For the road you pack the tools you’re most likely to require. And this brings us to the issue that keeps the weight weenies awake at night. You can’t pack every tool that you’re ever likely to need, your bike would weigh a ton, so you choose which tools to bring according to the results of a complex equation which takes in to account: tool weight, tool multi-functionality, the likelyhood of mechanical failure, the length of the ride and your confidence in your bike’s mechanical integrity.

This is my (now retired) weight weenie tool kit: chain pup and mini 62.5, 4, 5, 6mm Allen keys, Phillips head driver (Topeak Mini6), chain rivet extractor (Finishline Chainpup with the handle filed off), patches (glueless Park Tools patches) and tyre lever (Lezyne). I’ve had it a very long time and I’ve never had to use it, because my bikes never break down! Modern tyres don’t go flat and I’ve never broken a chain. These days, for everyday adjustments I carry a Park Tools Allen key nest in my bag. Simple.

teeny tool

Lots of companies have spent an awful lot of time and effort to give us road-side bicycle tools we want to buy. US company CoolTool were amongst the first to realise that there was a vast market for lightweight, combination tools. Topeak have gone on to dominate the market.

And in to this environment comes Full Windsor, a London England based company who started out making a rather nifty clip-on bicycle mudguard. This is one of those tools that bike nerds pick up and coo over. It’s a lovely thing, very tactile. It’s essentially a steel ring spanner and the tip of its handle has been formed to make a tyre lever (and plastic coated to protect the surface of alu rims). It comes in a fancy carrying case made of leather and recycled inner tubes. It feels good in the hand and it has a some nice angles which indicate that it’s been designed with a great deal of thought and consideration. It’s the perfect tool for the single-speed/fixed-wheel riders out there. As a simple spanner which doubles up as a tyre lever it does a fantastic job. But … I wish it stopped there, because then there’s a square cut-out in the side of it which is intended to function as a spoke wrench. It doesn’t. And the pouch is full of little compartments, each of which contains a different hex driver bit, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8mm plus a couple of screw driver heads and a driver extension. These are intended to be used with a hex socket in the side of the handle. And if you like you can rest them in couple of little magnetised nesting positions inside the handle. I don’t know why you would. You have to ask; is this tool better than a generic spanner with an Allen key set and plastic tyre lever? It looks nice enough but there’s no real functional advantage. And as a cyclist, as a bike mechanic, and as a tool geek  that irks me a bit. It’s all a bit fussy.

I admire Full Windsor for getting out there and doing it. It’s not easy to start up a new business in a saturated market and during a global economic turndown. And good luck to them. I suspect that they’ll sell a lot of these things. But. And it might be just me, I suspect that most of them will end up on the bench or in the toolbox at home. A good tool, but not one that I’d take on the road.

Pedal Powered Wedding Transport

Thursday, October 18th, 2012 by Mick Allan

My working life has changed a bit since the Cyclorama.net desk was absorbed into the Get Cycling office. Instead of my lonely little office out in the sticks I’m now surrounded by humans, which took a bit of time to get used to. One of the upshots being that occasionally one of those humans leans over and asks me to do something.

Last weekend that something was decorating this! It’s a lovely thing.

(though Caz did do most of it… TBF)

Wedding Rickshaw
Wedding Rickshaw Bike
pedal powered limo-shaw
Pedal powered wedding limo trike
Note the 'high security'.
Note the ‘high security’ cable tie around a lamp post!

So if you know a Yorkshire based cycling couple (or non-cycling couple for that matter) who are making wedding plans – you know where to send them!

Almost makes me want to make an honest woman out of Caz, though I expect I’d have to do most of the pedalling…

Haaienfiets!

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012 by Mick Allan

Or Sharkbike in English…

sharkfiets

grrrrr

no guts no glory

Exciting new Brompton bag!

Monday, July 30th, 2012 by Mick Allan

Yes I know. The words ‘exciting’, ‘Brompton’ and ‘bag’ don’t sit comfortably in the same sentence. But bear with me. Brompton bikes are no longer the exclusive preserve of a particular kind of cycling geek. As the venerable Brompton’s domination of  the global high-end folding bike market has increased it’s come to be appreciated by a whole new generation of international urbanites. The Brompton is now, officially, cool.

This is my latest one (or at least it will be when I’ve finished paying for it…) the very coolest Brompton of all, (IMHO) a 3spd with Titanium ends. I haven’t even ridden it anywhere that isn’t carpeted yet but it’s great to once again have a Brompton in the family.

Anyway, waffle waffle. I was approached recently by Demano a Barcelona based bag maker, whose range includes a Brompton bag. Very few companies make Brompton bags, Brompton’s own are the most numerous, unsurprisingly. And then there’s offerings from tradish’ Brit’ companies like Carradice and Brooks which, though extremely high quality and desireable, seem to hanker after a ‘Tweed Run’ view of the world. They’re nice and all but, you know, I don’t wear brogues and a Barbour and a deer stalker hat.

One of the things which attracted me to the Demano bag is the very thing which attracted me to the Dutch Clarjis bags which now grace most of the families’ bikes – their recycledness. Just like Clarjis Demano use old vinyl advertising banners. The result is an attractive, tough, waterproof and durable range of bags which has strong environmental credentials. And they’re all individually unique. And a big chunk less expensive than most.

The Demano Brompton bag is available from CitiBici, Barcelona (who ship worldwide).

The one they sent me was manufacturered using a banner which once advertised a Barcelona sketeboarding event, and to my delight, features the city skyline which includes a glimpse of one of the loveliest buildings on earth, Gaudi’s Basilica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia. Wonderful.

So, I await an opportunity to test this bag with eager anticpation. Full test coming soon.

demano bag on ti brompton

brompton three quarter

Bespoked. The last word.

Friday, March 30th, 2012 by Mick Allan

Last year’s Bespoked was, genuinely, the best bicycle show I’d ever attended. This year was even better. The quality was outstanding, easily on a par with anything coming out of the US or EU. If you love exotic bicycles and you fail to attend the show next year you’ll be kicking yourself. After two storming years it’s into its stride now. It has momentum. You can bet that the assembled engineers, artisans and craftspeople will spend all year thinking of ways to outdo each other next year. I can’t wait.

One of the best builders who attended the show didn’t have a stand. In fact he turned up unannounced and wandered around on his own. The ‘bike’ he brought to the show was one of the most innovative and forward looking I’ve ever seen. But he left it locked up to a railing outside where passersby largely ignored it. Over the last few years Steve Parry of SP Designs has produced a small fleet of innovative small bikes largely based on Bromptons. When I worked in a Brompton dealer in Bristol he would pop in from time to time to show us his latest machine. Steve is a man seemingly possessed. His purpose in life is making the Brompton folding bike better. I should add that Brompton are not great fans of his work. He’s made ‘Bromptons’ with Titanium frames, with front and rear deraileurs, with carbon fibre forks and seat posts and ‘Bromptons’ with disc brakes. He’s made ‘Bromptons’ which weigh a fraction of the weight of the bikes which roll out of Bromptons own factory. Parry’s bikes may or may not be suitable for production. Perhaps there is no great market for hand made super folders. Whatever. They might never make it to production but it warms my heart to know that there are people like Steve out there pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the world of pedal power. He’s a man on a mission.

The thing he rolled up on is no less innovative than any of his previous machines, and true to form it uses Brompton components. Its an electric scooter which folds. And it’s a brilliant, brilliant thing.

SP Design Folding lecky Scooter

Here it comes....

Voila!

Folks in other parts of Europe have embraced scooters for their short distance convenience. They fill the void between walking and cycling perfectly. An electric one makes a lot of sense. I goes without saying that I want one…..

Cyclorama Book Now Available!

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 by Mick Allan

Woop!
Cylorama Book - front cover

Available to buy now – Follow the link..

Enjoy!