Blue skies, wet roads and early morning sun

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The ride into town today was dreamy. It had rained overnight and I was greeted with blue skies, sunshine and tarmac glazed over with night rain.

The world whipped by for 16 blissful minutes like a younger, more optimistic, high saturation version of itself.

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Clothing, context and bike/train commuting

A commute that involves a bike and train element presents a unique sartorial challenge, the likes of which the garden variety commuter simply doesn’t have to contemplate.

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It goes something like this; aboard your cycle, sporting attire is entirely appropriate. As you speed towards the CBD nobody bats an eyelid as you pass, swathed in tight, moisture-wicking fabric. Indeed it’s almost expected. One’s co-workers would be almost disappointed if “that bloke who cycles to work” didn’t arrive in Lycra, funny shoes and helmet.

If however one steps off one’s bike and climbs aboard a crowded train clothed thusly, one has crossed the rubicon. One has shifted from being appropriate and in context to square peg, out of line, borderline perverse.

Sitting down clad in cycling clothes, next to a normal office clad commuter feels like one of those dreams where you suddenly find yourself naked in public, surrounded by everyone you have ever known.

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Bike train commuters exist in a sartorial netherworld, caught in the brackish waters between function and form. Thankfully bicycle outfitters are beginning to cater for inbetweeners like me, who like to ride free and unfettered yet wish to blend anonymously into the background when the bike is put aside.

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Urban cycling apparel, whether purpose made from Rapha, Swvre, Muxu and the like, or carefully picked from outdoor and regular clothes shops, means that one can live the dream of looking and feeling good on the bike and not looking like a monstrous pervert on the train.

My regular commuting outfit is generally a variation on the following theme:

Top: merino base layer for comfort and moisture wicking. Looks just like a normal t shirt.

Trousers: lightweight black cargo pants. Fast drying, cool, unrestrictive.

Jacket: Softshell jacket from an outdoor shop. Breathes well, holds off water, looks normal.

In short ‘technical’ clothing that doesn’t look technical.

I’d love to hear from other bike commuters who need to ride and look normal and hear about their solutions to the context conundrum.

Big tyres for the Ridgeback

Today I though it was about time to exploit the versatility of the Flight frameset by swapping in some bigger tyres.

The Flight comes stock with Continental Contacts in a 28mm width, a great all round road tyre that’ll take on towpaths at a pinch. I’ve ridden to work through winter and completed big day rides on the 28mm hoops with no dramas.

However the Flight frame has clearance for 35mm tyres under its brake bridge and fork crown. So I felt duty bound to give them a try.

I had a set of Schwalbe’s Land Cruisers in the shed, that once shod Resurrectio. They’re from the German company’s basic line but don’t let that put you off. They’re a quality tyre with tough sidewalls, knobbly shoulders and a central strip for smooth running on the roads.

A quick spin in the Liverpool evening sunshine was promising. The bigger tyres rolled well, slowing down the Flight’s quick handling a touch, making it feel more relaxed and steamrolleresque on the road.

I cut across the park by the city’s iconic Littlewoods building and cut through the woodland trails at its edge, used for winter cross races, the tyres soaked up the roots and bit well into the gravel.

Back on the tarmac and the Flight felt smooth over the ruts and broken road surfaces of our fair city. Sure enough, the bike was a little slower getting up to speed but once there maintained momentum well, feeling more relaxed and able to deal with rough roads.

Looking forward to some country park trail riding and maybe a summer evening ride home from Manchester on the Trans Pennine Trail.