Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Roadrat lives!

It has been a busy week and a lot has happened, it is not long now until the cycle tour over to France and the preparations are going pretty well with only a couple of problems to work out, mostly bike related. Next weekend we are planing on having a ride on the bikes carrying a full load and having a familiarity session with the new tent.

The past week has been spent getting Sam's new bike sorted, last weekend was assembling the basics and just getting it rolling.

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We are still waiting for the wheels to be built and in the interim she is using my spare wheels, I am quite looking forward to seeing the dynamo hub in action, I am very impressed so far with the lamp unit, it has variable beam and a USB charging port perfect for both winter commuting and touring with.

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The frame is lovely and the Surly Disc Trucker fork really suits the bike well, my reservation about the frame set is the chain stay mount for mudguards, it seems to be in the wrong place and should be 25mm further away to give clearance for the front mech and easy of fitting for the fenders.

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My poor trek is in the wars, it has suffered another broken spoke and is now off the road until my spare wheels can be readied for action once more, I doubt I will be taking the hand built wheels to France and maybe take a chance with the machine built ones instead.

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In the mean time the Onone has been pressed into service, I have fitted the Trek's rack to it to make it easier to commute with, it may even be used to tour with, we will see.

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One upside with riding the On One to and from work is I can now head off the beaten track so to speak and get a little trail time on during my ride home, a few weeks ago I took ride along the new MTB trails in Plymbridge woods, although not normally my cup of tea I enjoyed it.
I have recently discovered a way of linking my normal route home up with the last part of the cycle trails so now I can take the fun way home more frequently.

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The first time I rode the trails with the panniers on the back I did get some odd looks from one rider, I guess racks and panniers are not common place when riding down swooping single track and riding the berms, I guess I am a little different or at least try to be; the Troll is due to arrive at the end of April, I can see this alternate route home becoming a common fixture on my regular commute in future, I might even shoot some helmet cam in the summer.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

New Bikes and Tour Prep.

This past week has seen quite a turn around in the weather for us, gone is the constant rain and it has been replaced with sun and misty mornings and warm sunny afternoons, I am not sure how long this will last but I put the dry spell to good use and put in a solid week of riding by using the extra time I have in the morning to good use by putting in some 10-11 mile rides on my commute into work.

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New bikes are a big feature of this post and first off is Sam's new bike, we have all the parts now and are just awaiting the wheels to be built before we assemble the rest of the bike; it is based around the Cotic Roadrat 2014 frame set and an almost full Shimano Deore group set and hydraulic disc's.
First impressions of the frame are very impressive indeed and it is a lovely colour, not too dissimilar to Bianchi's Celeste paint scheme. For 2014 the frame has seen some improvements that will make it much more suited to carrying loads when touring, I am quite looking forward to seeing it all built up.

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Last weekend we took a trip up to Swannage to visit Charlie the Bikemonger, probably the best stockist of Surly bikes. I had only intended on it being a research trip to get an impression on size and fit of the Surly Troll. Well it was a lovely day and although he did not have a Troll to let me try he lent me a Surly 1x1 single speed to ride around for a bit which was very kind.
Well to say the least I was very impressed and I ordered one there and then, I have opted for  a size bigger than I would traditionally go for compared to my On-One, partly to give me more space in the frame for bottles and secondly to give me a little more reach on the top tube as the size below felt a little cramped.

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Build wise I am thinking of stripping the STX parts off the Trek and transferring them over to the Troll but I know I can sell it for more if I leave it as island use the 9 speed set up from the On-One to build the Troll up and use the money to help pay for the frame and new wheels plus a set of Avid BB7 mechanical disc's to complete the build out. I will be running two sets of wheels with the Troll, a set for off road and a second set for commuting/touring with an SP Dynamo hub for the winter months.

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The preparations for our tour are going well, al the campsites are booked now as is the ferry over, we are starting to build up some miles in the legs ready, with that in mind we took ride from Bodmin down the Camel Trail to Padstow and back again, simple enough a ride and nothing too taxing but it gave us an opportunity to get used to a tour pace. The equipment is building up, we are almost complete now, the only thing left to pick up is food and the battery packs for the Garmins, we have decided to use Veho Pebble to give us 5000mAh or 5 charges of my Edge 800 and charge the pack off the 3w Shimano dynamo hub as we ride.

Well that is all for now, I have started to ride off road a bit more again which has been enjoyable, I am hoping to get some more pictures or video of the new trails up in Plymbridge for my next post.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Rain Dance

There has been no escaping the extreme weather we have been enduring here recently be it the daily commute or breaching sea defences and flooded homes, they have been very tough times indeed.
I have not been in the best of health recently, over indulging in an extra ride pushed me a bit too far and I succumb to a nasty flu bug that has taken 2 weeks to clear and I have been forced off the bike for my commute.

I have had a run recently of breaking things, first off I broke my little point and shoot camera, a silly accident really but I dropped it onto the lens, next I managed to break a spoke in my rear wheel, a first for me in all my years of cycling, lastly I have had the cones break up in my Deore hubs for the Crossrip, strangely al down one side, the side I run my pannier bags on, related? I am not sure but it certainly looks that way as there was no water ingress in the hubs and the bearings were intact and as far as I can surmise in good shape.

The camera I have now replaced, I took the opportunity to upgrade my camera and ager much research I went with the Olympus XZ-2iHS and thus far i have not regretted it at all; it ticks all y requirement boxes, RAW, manual control and a fast lens. It is very much like an old Olympus C-5050z I had when I first started taking photo's and I loved that one as it was equally as capable.

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Olympus XZ-2iHS

We had a lovely break in the weather this weekend and we took advantage of an improvement in the weather to head down to Slapton Sands; it is hard to believe that only a few days ago the area was swamped by the sea and the road to Dartmouth blocked by sand, you can still see the homes with their flood defences intact and with the weather set to change for the worse again tonight we can hope that the residents are not in dangers way again.

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As  you can see it is quite a capable camera, I have only played with it in manual mode so far but I am really happy already; I am quite looking forward to to taking it with my on our travels this year, with two France trips and a New York holiday in the planning stages we are broadening our wings quite a bit this year.

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Post repairs, the fleet.

Oh did I mention that I am entering a race? No, oh. Well as it happens my brother Jim and I are entering the 12 hour race at 24/12 here in Plymouth this year, I have not had the best of luck with this race, but times and most of all Simon is different. I never thought I would race again, I have not had the desire to compete at all but I have had the urge to challenge myself more and push my limits. I will see over the next 12 months riding and diet progress and see how my riding develops once more.

Well that is all for the time being, I am hoping to photograph more and update much more frequently not to mention the lengthy travelogues I intend on writing this year.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Fruits of my Labour.

Happy new year to you all, I hope it has been a good year for you. Despite feeling a bit under the weather I had a pretty good christmas, for once I was actually not working and thus able to spend time at home with Sam, this alone was my best christmas present.

This year I have not made any resolutions, instead I have decided to put more resolve into the projects I have attempted to get going in the past 12 months. First on the list is to take more photographs, to help me focus on this I have kept my Photo a Day project rolling along over at Pbase.
I am currently looking at a new camera, yes another, I have been looking at something with better optics and manual control to replace my little compact camera for when I go cycle touring or for times when my Nikon D300s or F80 are too big and bulky, I think some time to review my options over the next six months.

I took delivery of my reward this weekend, a reward for completing my 1500 mile challenge that is and thanks to the Amazon sales my reward was upgraded from the Garmin Edge 500 to the Garmin Edge 800 performance bundle.




I am really loving the unit already and I have updated the unit with improved mapping and a nice rubber case and Sram mount.
The rest of the bike has seen some changes of late as well, the conversion to straight bars has now been completed and the correct length stem fitted to get me in the correct position, the transmission has also been replaced with the fitting of a 10 speed SLX mountain bike transmission and hydraulic discs.



The bike is ready now for nut just my daily commute and putting some miles in touring for which we are planning out first, this easter we are working on a trip across to France, just a couple of days but it will be a good taster and preparation for a longer tour.


That is all for now, next time I am hoping to focus a little more on my blog from here onwards and definitely more photo's.


Sofia Helin

Sofia Helin

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Sunday, 1 December 2013

1500 Miles

Well, I managed it, as of the 26th November I passed my 6 month goal and cycled over 1500 miles in less than 6 months. I must admit the last 2-300 miles did not go as quick as I had hoped, or at least as fast as my summer miles, things have got a little on top of me, between the new job and evening classes cycling has had to take a bit of a back seat for a while. But come the new year I will treat myself to a nice new Garmin Edge500 unit and maybe a new HRM belt and then start putting the miles into the bank for next years goal, 4000 miles in 12 months.

The miles have been quite tough on the bike and it is in dire need of a service, the bar tape is hanging off I am almost through my second set of disc pads, the transmission itself feels pretty good and it shifts well still but you can tell it is worn and is going to need some attention real soon. So with that in mind the bike is going to undergo some changes.
The drop bars and cable discs are heading into the spares bin and I am putting strait bars and some bar  ends on, why? Well, I am more comfortable with strait bars, I have more control and it is much better when I have a full load on the bike come touring rides and being comfortable is the most important thing, a comfortable rider is quicker and more in control of the bike. In addition to the bars I am putting the SLX 10 speed MTB transmission, although I have become accustom to the road gears I sometimes feel I could do with some slightly lower gears when loaded or the weather is bad, I think I miss the ability to spin most of all.

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My ride to work has had to change with the advent of my new job, I am still at the same company but I have moved into the office now, so I am wearing a shirt and tie and loving it. The change in hours has meant that I have had to alter my riding, I have less time to get the miles in and my later start time means that I have to wade through the insanity of rush hour traffic, this fact alone has made me re think my route of a morning.
I have now settled into the habit of two routes, the first is a traffic free version of my old ride into work, a little longer but so much more peaceful, the second is a nice 10 mile ride in. I am really enjoying both routes but I still miss the longer rides I used to do, fingers crossed come easter I can start some longer rides once again.

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I have been doing a little thinking recently, my riding this year has been wonderful, I have been enjoying the mixed trail capability of the Trek but I sometimes feel it is not quite tough enough for the variety of riding I enjoy.
I have taken quite  a liking for the Surly Troll, a 26" wheeled touring /trail mountain bike,  it is not the lightest thing in the world but then again neither am I, it all stems back to the utility part of my cycling, it would provide me with an almost perfect platform for touring and trail riding, I have seen builds known as "apocalypse builds" normally based around a hub geared set up that literally can keep riding through an apocalypse.
For mine I have an idea, 2.0 off road touring tires, full racks and mudguards for the winter miles.
Don't get me wrong the Trek has been incredibly good fun and I will still keep it albeit in a cyclocross/winter bike format, I will ill it over, I have 6 months to finalise it in my head.