Happy days in the cycle carriage

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A decent haul of bikes today in the cycle carriage of my commuter train. Resurrectio was berthed with two Dawes hybrids and a Dawes folder. All rigged for daily use with bags and baskets, lights and bells. All were deposited there by folks dressed in normal clothes, just getting on with their days, blending in and getting to work the smart way. Squint and you’d think it was Copenhagen. Gives a person hope.

NB: no apologies for the crummy mobular phone pic. It is what it is.

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Riding to remember, riding to forget

On 26th May 2011, at around 8pm, my good friend Rob Jefferies was killed in a collision with a car while out training with a friend, near Wareham, Dorset. Rob was a huge character and a massive force for good in cycling, a real individual, super time triallist and track rider and yet an Everyday Cyclist in every sense imaginable.

On Friday, the cycling community woke up to the terrible news and since then tributes have been pouring into both Rob’s facebook page and the online message board of his cycling club, Poole Wheelers.

Today I went out on my bike for the first time since hearing the news, taking a ride around my favourite routes in the city; taking the backroads into the city centre, then along the waterfront and through the parks, linking up with the Loopline and heading for home. I hoped that the meditative rhythm of the cranks and the wheels would help me to remember, help me to forget, help me to come to terms with the sudden, cruel taking of a good friend and great man.For the whole ride, Rob was with me; advice he had given me, the too-few rides we’d had together, the long, rambling conversations we’d shared and the many laughs we’d had in the six or so years we’d known each other; all of these things entered and exited my consciousness, like the air whistling through the spokes of my spinning wheels.

The last ride I’d had with Rob was back in May 2010, when I’d shared a wonderful ride on one of his favourite local routes, near his home, Swanage, Dorset. We rode up onto Ballard Down and out to Old Harry, as the summer rainclouds came in over the English Channel. I took this image of Rob cycling up toward the ridgeway along the Down – using photographic composition as a convenient excuse for the fact that the big man was massively outpacing me.

Ride on Rob, you’ll be sorely missed.

Technomic – tall is beautiful

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The Nitto Technomic is a king amongst stems. This tall, elegant Japanese model has made a thousand uncomfortable road bikes rideable, allowing  countless ‘bars to be raised to that most agreeable ‘level with saddle or above position’.

However I’ve discovered a hitherto unknown virtue of the Technomic; valuable accessory real-estate, as seen here. I’m not fond of handlebar clutter and luckily the periscopic qualities of the Nitto give me space to mount my bell and front LED; out of the way but within easy reach.

Budget bicycling: Aldi ultra light cycling jacket review

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Aldi's Ultra Light jacket (teak coffee table for scale)
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The jacket dans le stuff-sac (tin of soup, also for scale)

Discount supermarket Aldi has for a few years been selling a range of no nonsense highly useful cycling gear and this year is no exception. Hitting the stores at the beginning of may was a great range of gear at real rockbottom prices. Like a decent track pump for 4.99GBP, a multifunction cycle computer for the same price and, the item that found its way into my shopping basket, an excellent hi viz ultra light jacket for a paltry 9.99.

The jacket is gossamer thin windproof, water resistant and breatheable, rendered in hi viz yellow with reflective logos, weighs virtually nothing (3 ounces) and packs down into its own integral stuff sack which is smaller than a can of soup.

The fit of the jacket is slim to prevent flapping and just the right length to avoid bunching up at the front. The ultralight fabric is excellent for keeping wind and showers at bay but thin enough to keep you cool, even on mild but rainy days. In short a better bet than a thicker, heavier full waterproof, which always tend to give you that boil in the bag feeling after a few miles.

The high viz colour, while never winning you any fashion points, does a great job of getting you noticed, especially in poor visibility conditions and the tiny pack size means there’s no reason not to leave it in your commuting bag permanently, always on hand for a chilly evening ride or a freak downpour.

However the best part of all is the price. At a lowly 10 quid, you could buy one for the whole family for the same price as its established rival, the Montane ultra light jacket at around 40 pounds. Of course the montane is better, but four times better? Of course if you’re hell bent on getting rid of your disposable income you could go for Rapha’s Stowaway jacket for £160…

As regular readers will know, I’m not one for cycling specific stuff generally but a featherweight wind/water resisting layer that doesn’t boil you on hot wet days and doesn’t break the bank is well worth bending the rules for.

Primal eating, primal travelling

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For a few years now, on and off, I’ve been following a paleo primal diet, after reading an interview with Mark Sisson in the Rivendell Reader.

Since then I’ve followed the diet, in a far from religious fashion and managed to lose my spare poundage and keep control of my trademark raging appetite.

I won’t bore you with the details here but the diet basically shuns the four main sources of carbohydrates; wheat, rice, potatoes and refined sugars. I’m grossly oversimplifying here but Sisson and others argue that a diet with much reduced carbs and a higher level of protein and fats more closely approximates that of our hunter gatherer ancestors. Perhaps more relevant to us modern folk is the stabilizing and lowering effect the diet has on blood sugar and the consequent effect on fat burning and fat storage.

For full details on the diet Google mark’s daily apple and prepare to put aside some preconceptions on diet, exercise and health.

Of even greater significance for loping cyclers like me is how well a lowish carb diet fits in with steady, plodding exercise. Conventional wisdom says that you need to carb up for cycling. Heck, there’s a whole bogus energy drink business built around it. The truth is, you only need to carb up for long hard rides of two hours or more. For my kind of riding; steady conversational pace I can survive quite happily, even on day rides, on my regular primal diet, a typical day of which usually consists of:

Breakfast – scrambled eggs, Bacon, coffee with cream

Lunch – salad with chicken, tuna, cheese, nuts

Dinner – meat or fish with lots of vegetables

Snacks – nuts, 70 % dark chocolate, berries

All tasty, normal and unimpoverished tucker I think you’ll agree, which allows me to stay relatively slim and allows me to ride my bike in my kind of way, taking in the surroundings, stopping and starting, occasionally sprinting and climbing, expending energy in much the same way as our hunter gatherer genes intended.

Loopline Lope

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Sometimes it’s hard to find an hour to get out on the bike. Work, family responsibilities, iddy-biddy jobs to perform – all of these things conspire to squeeze cycling opportunities out of your life. However, once in a while, a crack opens up in your weekly schedule and a ride opportunity emerges.

And so it was this morning – a golden hour of opportunity presented itself and I was out of the door like a shot. When I haven’t got a destination planned I generally head out onto the Liverpool Loopline, part of the Trans Pennine Trail. The Loopline stretches 13 miles around the outer edge of the city and passes within half-a-mile of my house, so traffic-free loping in never more than a whim away.

The Loopline is a very pleasant place at this time of year; a linear park, you might say, with fresh, verdant foliage on the trees and patches of bluebells in full flower everywhere. Being a Sunday morning, the ‘line was alive with walkers and cyclers – from kids on stabilisers with their mums and dads, to pensioners getting their daily exercise fix. Always a nice place to be on a sunny day – the loopline is a brief glance at how travel could be – human paced, human sized and civilized. People smile and say hello as they pass, make way for each other without conflict or aggression.

The ride was made all the more sumptuous by the armchair like comfort of Resurrectio, making her first proper journey after a two month lay-off. It’s good to be back.