Tuesday, 7 May 2019

May 2019.

6th May: It was a fairly cool today at around 10 °C but otherwise fairly pleasant so I took Awesom-O out for a spin. It's rained a bit over the last few days and drizzled this morning so I figured it probably wasn't ideal weather for the Strael. Incidentally, I bought a new chain checker recently, a Birzman one that measures 0.5%, 0.75% and 1% wear and when I checked Awesom-O, the 1% tester dropped straight through the chain so I decided to fit a new one. I checked my spreadsheet however and found one more ride would take him over the 1,000 mile mark so I left it on and went for a spin. I wore full winter togs, long bibs, merino, overshoes etc but with mitts rather than gloves and was perfectly dressed for a change. The roads were fairly wet so taking Awesom-O was a good idea. It was a bit windy heading 'up' the track but otherwise a fairly enjoyable ride and 25.1 miles to kick May off.

12th May: After a few days of cold wet weather it was an absolutely gorgeous day today, warm and sunny. Because it was so nice I took the Strael out but I was kind of hoping to take Awesom-O out. I decided to replace his chain recently because the new checker said it was completely pooched so I fitted a new cassette at the same. Anyhow, the test ride can wait until it next rains and the Strael got a run out today. The BBC said it would be around 16 °C so I wore my Castelli jacket over my stolen goat jersey and my new Orro bib shorts but took the jacket off when I got to the track. My arms were a bit chilly for a while and was soon enjoying topping up my sun tan. An uneventful ride and another 25.0 miles.

15th May: Another gorgeous sunny day today so the Strael got another spin after work. It had cooled to maybe 16 °C by the time I set off but it was still nice and warm so i wore my stolen goat jersey and short bibs and set off to do the usual. It was a pretty bog standard ride aside from the slightly higher than normal number of cyclists and walkers out and about. One thing I'm starting to get mildly annoyed about is encountering insects as I ride. On this ride I almost got something large and furry in my mouth but just dodged it and I also got whacked in the face under my left eye by something quite weighty which smarted somewhat.

There's been a gauze mesh type device on sale in America for years but it velcros onto the rim of your helmet and I don't wear one so that's out the window. Something like a small dust mask but made out of mesh would work. I might look into the matter further... Oh, and I almost forgot, I saw a young hare cross the path and dive into the vegetation and a buzzard perched on a telegraph pole, both cool encounters. Anyhow, 25.2 miles.

19th May: I don't remember a lot about this ride because it was a few days ago and I've been away on business for a couple of days since but I do remember the BBC website said it was around 15 to 16 °C but my Wahoo said it was 14 °C as we rode along. Either way, I wore my short sleeved top and shorts and, although my arms occasionally felt a bit fresh, it was rather pleasant in the sun. I'm spending five nights up near Sellafield soon with work so I'm planning some potential routes and it will interesting to see what it's like. Anyhow, another 25.0 miles.

25th May: It was cloudy today but warmish and not too windy so the Strael got a run out. We've got a huge project on at work at the moment so I've either been too knackered or working to get as much riding in as I want. Anyhow, I set off with my summer gear on but with the Castelli jacket on top and headed for the farm track. Oddly, as I was cycling along the bypass it started drizzing slightly which wasn't forecast but I like cycling in the rain when it's warm so I carried on. It dried off at the track so I took my jacket off and did my usual three ups and downs. My legs felt good and it was quite an enjoyable ride with a few other cyclists out enjoying the warmer weather. About half way around the ride a constant drizzle started which got me rather damp. I must have looked quite Rule #9 as I stood in the queue waiting to pay for a bag of Hula Hoops in the Co-Op on the way home though! Anyhow, another 25.0 miles.

28th May: After a lot of reading on-line about crank lengths on bikes, when I bought my Ultegra 8000 cranks recently I went with the 170 mm version rather than the 105 ones that were fitted previously which were 172.5 mm. Since then, the seat has felt ever so slightly low so before today's ride I raised it about 3 mm to compensate for the shorter cranks. Surprisingly, and I've had this conversation with my dad, it was extremely noticeable on the bike. It felt more efficient but it also gave me some minor muscle twinges, I think where bike fit is concerned, you really do adapt to a bike and the tiniest change is quite noticeable. Anyhow, it was extremely windy going up the track but pleasantly warm when the sun came out so a quite enjoyable ride overall and another 25.0 more miles.

Well, the final stage of our huge project at work has finally started so we're getting one day a week off and working twelve hour plus days so I didn't manage to get out on the bike again and May finishes with a less than ideal 150.3 miles. The project at work will be over in a couple of weeks so I'm hoping to get back to more regular cycling after that!

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Review: Garbaruk anodised Aheadset stem cap.

I can't remember if I've mentioned this little part but I found it when I was building the Strael. When I bought the Strael, I opted for the optional orange Hope Aheadset and seat clamp so was looking for other orange bits to go with the overall theme.

A quick search on Google images found Garbaruk components who were based in Ukraine when I bought my cap but moved to Poland this year. The cap is CNC-machined from 7075-T651 alloy and are available in anodised orange, yellow, red, blue, green, silver, black or purple. It's a lovely little finishing touch to any bike and at €10.50 from r2-bike.com it won't break the bank!

Friday, 19 April 2019

The reach adjustment screw on Shimano ST-RS685 hydraulic shifters.

Finally! Ever since I read that the ST-RS685 shifters on the Strael do have a reach adjustment feature I've meant to find out how it's actually done. I did a bit of searching this morning on Youtube and finally found where the screw is located.

If you roll the rear of the hood rubber forward as far as you can and then look into the back of the mechanism on the inboard side, you will see a 2 mm screw head. This is the reach adjustment screw, it seems to be glued in but if you use a good quality 2 mm allen key you can crack it loose and and adjust the reach of your levers!

Sunday, 7 April 2019

April 2019.

6th April: We've had a few days of strong winds and a lot of rain but it was a gorgeous day today so the Strael got another outing. I've been dying to get out because the Strael's had a bit of an upgrade. I've been toying with going one-by for a while so I bought an Ultegra RX-800 rear mech and fitted it only to discover the clutch lever hit the drop-out and didn't work. Undeterred, I sold it on and bought an Ultegra R8000 derailleur and fitted it instead. Then my OCD kicked in and I replaced the 105 front derailleur with an R8000 model as well. They were very easy to install because the JIS screws have been replaced with 2 mm Allen screws instead.

Anyhow, I set out to do the farm track but got bored after one up and down so I did the rest of what I used to call the 27 miler. The new mech's were brilliant. I've never had much luck setting up front derailleurs because I don't use my big ring much but this new style front derailleur was brilliant. You can cycle along in quite a hard gear and swing both the brake levers in and it instantly and silently changes to a similar gear but using the big ring - very impressive! Anyhow, the weather was lovely so an enjoyable ride overall. The photo shows an empty office block in the middle of Knowsley Industrial Park, it's supposed to be empty but I could hear yelling coming from inside it so I guess the local kids have found a way in! Anyhow, 25.4 miles to kick April off.

9th April: A gorgeous sunny day again so I took the Strael out for an evening spin. The weather was supposed to be 11 °C dropping to 8 °C and I've been a bit warm on last couple of rides so I adopted the bold strategy of wearing long bibs with overshoes but my stolen goat short sleeved jersey under the Castelli with mitts. I felt a bit cold on my upper half initially but soon felt OK, it's definitely better to start a ride slightly cold rather than slightly warm if you want to avoid cooking. It was dry and sunny but there was quite a strong wind. Going up the track was great fun cruising at 18-22 mph but a struggle to maintain 14 mph coming back down it. Anyhow, I did three uneventful ups and downs calling in at the 'rents on the way back to pick up a delivery for another 25.3 miles.

19th April: Finally, after a few days of cold windy weather, the first hot and sunny day of the year! The BBC were predicting pure sunshine and 22-23 °C temperatures so I was itching to get out today. To go with the new Ultegra R8000 mech's, I'd bought and fitted the matching crankset because the clash with the 105 kit was triggering my OCD. I'd also let the brake levers out a bit and quick-bled the brakes so as well as the lovely weather, there was some testing to be done.

I wore my stolen goat jersey and new Orro bibs and headed out to do the usual. Apart from seeing a few more cyclists than usual, and a few walkers, it was a pretty standard ride. The cranks are lovely, light and stiff, but I might just wind the levers in a bit like they were before. I have pretty normal sized hands and thw way they came from the factory actually feels a bit better. Anyhow, a great ride to start the sun tan off again and 25.4 miles.

20th April: Another hot day, 23 °C according to the BBC website, so another trip out on the Strael. As I've ridden it this year, I'd started to feel that the Strael felt a bit 'sit up and beg' posture-wise. I originally set it up with two 10 mm spacers under the stem and one above it so I switched it to one 10 mm spacer under the stem and two on top. I headed out to do the Siding lane plus the usual and found the bike felt a lot better so I've ordered some 5 mm spacers and I'll trim the steerer when they arrive. The brake levers felt good back in their original positions and it was fun ride overall, the weather was very hot and a lot less windy than it had been yesterday and it was an odd ride in one other respect.

I can't remember another ride when I've had to spit out so many flies, including a large furry one that landed in the right hand corner of my mouth which I managed to manoeuvre and spit out fairly quickly. Another thing I don't recall seeing before occurred on this ride. A couple of times on the ride, I saw what looked like huge plumes of smoke billowing high up in the air. As I got closer, I could see it was farmers in tractors either tilling or ploughing and causing huge amounts of dust from the soil to rise up and float away. Having caught laryngitis breathing a load of dust in following a tractor a couple of winters ago, I made sure to hold my breath and I passed by. Another 25.8 miles.

28th April: After a few days of very windy weather, culminating with storm Hannah yesterday when it rained all day, I managed to get out for a ride today. I was pretty sure there's be standing water and puddles everywhere so Awesom-O got his first trip out for a couple of weeks. The BBC weather said it would be around 12-13 C so I wore my merino under-layer for the first time in ages with my Castelli jacket over it and my new Orro bib shorts and hoped for the best. It turned out to be quite windy but not too cold and quite an enjoyable ride once my legs woke up. I had a couple of cool wildlife encounters on this ride which made it quite memorable. Firstly, I saw the biggest grey heron I've ever seen flying over then field, it's wingspan was easily six feet which was impressive. Then, later on in the ride, I was cycling back down the path when a young hare ran out in front of me from the field on the right hand side, ran across in front of me and ran down into the field on my left - very cool! A much needed ride and another 25.2 miles

30th April: Well we've had a couple of dry days so I was glad to be able to take the Strael out for a spin for a couple of reasons. As you probably know, I run a waxed chain on the Strael. This is great from a cleanliness and chain wear perspective but I find it a bit noisy because as the chain is effectively dry there is nothing to dampen the noise. I replaced my Park Tool chain checker recently with a new one that measures 0.5 mm, 0.75 mm and 1.0 mm and when I checked the Strael's chain, it barely even registered 0.5 mm wear which was amazing given it has just over 1,750 miles on it.

There was quite a lot of lateral wear though which was noticeably affecting the shifting so I decided to switch back to wet lube and fitted a new KMC X11EL chain and lubed it with White Lightning Wet Ride. I'm hoping the Wet Ride will be the lube I hoped the Pedro's would be ie not too thick and claggy and keep the chain from rusting. Anyhow, it was great being out on the Strael again, especially since I lowered the bars recently, and another 25.0 miles. Not a brilliant month with a total of 152.1 miles but hopefully the weather will stabilise a bit soon and I can start getting some proper miles in.

Friday, 5 April 2019

Top winter cycling tip if you ride in summer shoes.

As anyone who reads this blog will know, I suffer badly from frozen toes in winter. I'm sure part of this is down to poor circulation in my feet but the fact I ride in cycling shoes with mesh panels in doesn't help. The panels are to let your feet breathe when the weather's hot and you're riding hard but they let a lot of cold air in.

I'm not sure where I first heard of it but this is a great tip. Pull out about nine inches of foil and fold it in half width-wise. Now put it across the toe end of your shoes and tuck the edges down and underneath around the front of your shoe. Now simply put your overshoes on as normal, over the foil, and no drafts will get through and you should have much warmer feet! 

Friday, 29 March 2019

A useful tip for keeping your shifting sweet and accurate.

I flipped the bike up onto it's back wheel the other night to wheel it into the back yard and happened to noticed how dry and dirty the under bottom bracket cable guide looked. I wheeled the bike over to the lawn and flipped it upside down (apologies to disciples of rule #49...) and brushed out the cable guide and lubed the cable where it ran through it. 

For this sort of lubrication, cables especially, I like to use a semi-wet lube. In this case White Lightning Epic Ride which I didn't rate much for chains but is great for this sort of job. Anyhow, slightly to my own surprise, the rear shifting is noticeably smoother and more accurate following this simple job. One to keep on top of in future!

Monday, 4 March 2019

March 2019.

3rd March: The weather was looking pretty poor today but I've started taking vitamin D again and was keen to get out. I took it last winter and felt it really helped my cycling so I was eager to get out for a ride. To that end, it was back into the stolen goat and long bibs and I took Awesom-O out to do the usual. We must have had a lot of rain recently, although I don't particularly remember it, because there were puddles everywhere on the ride although the two big were still mysteriously absent. It wasn't cold, maybe 8-10 °C, but it started out drizzling and ended up raining pretty consistently and I was soaked by the time I got in. It turns out the stolen goat climb and conquer is largely waterproof although, rather strangely,it was the points of my elbows that felt wet first. Anyhow, despite the wind and rain I felt perfectly warm and it was actually a very enjoyable ride and 25.0 to kick March off.

20th March: Well, after the longest break I can remember taking, I finally got out for a ride tonight. We had a week or so of crappy wet weather earlier in March followed by a good week of ridiculously windy weather centred around storm Gareth but, finally, an area of high pressure has arrived over the UK. The temperature display in my car read 19 °C at lunchtime today and there was barely any wind so I was looking forward to the ride. It had cooled down by evening but I wore my new Orro bib shorts with the Castelli over my merino underlayer with my Giro mitts and headed out.

It felt fresher that it should have done and my legs felt a bit off at first but I soon got into it and had a really enjoyable ride in the end. It was still just about daylight when I headed out and night fell as I rode which was interesting, bats flitted across the path in front of me on several occasions chasing the flying insects which was very cool. Anyhow, I did the usual and then headed back via the kebab shop for a very enjoyable 25.1 miles.

23rd March:  It was quite a pleasant, sunny day today and it hasn't rained for a while so I took the Strael out for it's second spin of the year. Because it was quite sunny, I wore my new Orro shorts and my Giro mitts and then realised it was actually only 8 °C or so but it was OK when I warmed up. Talking of the weather, I have finally replaced my cycling shoes! My Shimano MT31s are at least 19 years old and they've always felt slightly tight, I suspect that's why I get frozen toes so easily because they restrict the circulation. The Giros are a lovely fit and it feels like there is room around the toes to keep the circulation going in winter so fingers crossed. Anyhow, it was very enjoyable ride and I saw loads of other cyclists out enjoying the sun which is always good and another 25.0 miles on the clock.

25th March: I wanted to get three rides in this weekend because I had Monday booked off but Sunday was ridiculously windy so I stayed home and gave the Strael a much needed wash instead. Anyhow, the weather was gorgeous, lots of blue skies and around 9 C, on Monday so took the freshly washed Strael out for another ride. I didn't do anything unusual, a quick look up Siding Lane and the usual three ups and downs of the farm path. Because I set off at about half two, I knew there'd be a small flurry of cars at one point as the local schools finished and parents picked their kids up. On my second down I saw a freshly run over hedgehog on the path which I'm sure I'd have noticed on my first 'up' if it had been there. I can only assume one of the cars got it as it tried to cross the path. Unfortunate but we live a car oriented society unfortunately. Anyhow, 25.4 miles.

27th March: The area of high pressure is still with us and it was a very pleasant sunny day today so I took the Strael out for a spin after work. It had been quite warm today but I heard on Radio 4 that some areas of the UK could freeze overnight so I was in something of a quandary as to what to wear. It was a bit chilly so I wore my Castelli bib longs and decided not bother with overshoes. As I set off, it did feel cool and my fingers were cold as I was wearing my mitts because they're so much more convenient than gloves which get sweaty and hard to take off and on. I soon warmed up and my hands were fine but at around 8 o'clock, as I was coming down the last 'down' the temperature absolutely plummeted and the the Wahoo said it was 36 °F which is 2.2 °C. I don't think it was that cold but by that point my feet were in agony and my fingers were starting to get really cold. One thing I forgot to mention is that as I was cycling along Barrow Nook Lane, I glanced up and it was a huge heron, it looked to have a good five foot wingspan. You see them all the time driving along the M62 to and from Manchester but I haven't seen one around here before. Anyhow, I manfully made it back and stopped for a warming kebab on the way home for another 25.1 wintery miles.

28th March: It was supposed to stay cloudy today and be a bit warmer than it was yesterday so I wore the same gear as I did yesterday and headed out to do the same ride. Like the ride yesterday, my legs felt great but the sky was fairly clear and I ended up with cold feet again so from now on I'm adopting a new rule: If it's cold enough for long bibs, wear overshoes! Anyhow, I had another strange animal encounter on this ride. I was on my second 'down' and was just puzzling over why about fifteen youngsters were coming along the path in dribs and drabs in the opposite direction to me (without a single light between them...) when I came across four miniature horses just milling around in the path.

Not wanting them to wander off and get run over I headed to the big horse farm half a mile up the path and cycled into the yard and chatted to a very nice young girl who said she thought she knew who they belonged to and would round them up on her way home, result! My feet were cold by this point so I headed home and cycled right down the bypass and came back through the industrial estate and the shared use path for 22.7 miles.

30th March: Today's ride turned out to be rather longer than anticipated. It was slightly warmer than it has been recently so I headed out to do three ups and downs of the farm path. I'd done two when I stopped to check something on my phone. As I put my phone away and was about to set off, I noticed a kid on a mountain bike passing me who said "Race, race, I'll race you on them skinny tyres!" I laughed and carried on soon proving that mountain bikes aren't as fast as road bikes and then decided I was bored of the farm path so I decided to do the 27 mile route because I've not done it for ages. As I was riding along, I noticed a rattling sound which was very hollow and plasticy and getting louder.

I stopped at the top of the overpass behind Kirkby and found that the screw holding the plastic cap on the top of my left brake lever was loose. I was paranoid about the screw falling out and disappearing so I had a quick think and then tore a small amount of grass from the verge and stuffed it into the gap between the lever and the shifter body, no more rattling and the screw trapped in place - sorted! I took the screw, and the one from the other side, out when I got home and refitted them with some blue Loctite. Another 29.3 miles.

31st March: Finally, a completed month!!! The weather was slightly warmer today so the new Orro bib shorts got an outing. I took the newly quiet Strael out to do the usual and initially thought, 'Hmmm... not much wind today, this is fun!" before I got to the end of the track and turned around and realised it was because I'd been cycling with the wind - doh! Anyhow, I was getting bored of the track so I did two full ups and downs of the farm track and the road to Holt Green as far as the Derby Arms pub and back for a total of 25.5 miles and a monthly total of 203.1 miles.