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Friday 12 September 2008

Bike To Work [Spiny]

I got a bike through the government cycle to work scheme* last November, but was too much of a pussy to start till the clocks changed. Having done the commute a few times a week since May, I thought I'd share some of my hot tips & gear.
  • The Bike The bike I chose was a Specialized Allez Elite, mainly because a while ago I'd ridden a friends M4 Stumpjumper & been well impressed. That & the fact that they're red & thus fast :) Carbon seat post, forks & stays help reduce some of the road buzz & the geometry is very comfy. Specialized BG fit saddles are also very good, with a cut out to reduce pressure on your perenium so your old man doesn't go permanently to sleep. You may be tempted to remove the (by the law) fitted bell, but I moved mine under the stem & have found it very useful to warn walkers to clear the way. It usually takes a few dings to rouse people from their catatonic state but the courtesy is appreciated. As the bike is a bit of a racer I fitted some clip on mudguards which have been handy for the sub tropical conditions of this summer. They come off nice & easy too for when you take your bike somewhere that has Sun. This time of year you also need lights. LED Rears are much of a muchness, but I've been really pleased with the Cateye EL530 front I bought. I needed to replace the front tyre, as the originally fitted Bontrager got pretty cut up from road crap. Like a fool, I bought the same again, which lasted about a week, and strangely was very noisy. After a few enquiries, I settled on another replacement Continental GP 4000. This was a bitch to get over the rim (I guess Germans have strong thumbs), but it's a great tyre. Robust, grips well & intact after a few weeks abuse so far.
  • Clothing I'm a big fan of Endura stuff from my MTB days and have just bought a second MT500 long sleeve jersey. It's fab, really well made, decent pockets & zips. Wiggle have these as discontinued so I'd pick one up quick if you fancy one. Jut make sure to wash on cool < 40C as some of the Scotchlite bits on mine have peeled. I have a Goretex for the rain, but it's not high-vis (read "eye-burning yellow") so I'd like to grab an Altura Night Vision o Endura Luminite when funds allow. Socks are pretty important & De Feet Wooly Boolies are fab. They're pretty good at keeping your feet nice & comfy in heat or cold. I've been pleased with the Specialized Shoes I got for Xmas too, though I reckon the comps may be worth the extra for the snugger ratchet fit. Again, dead comfy.
  • Gadgets My Nokia 6220 Classic has been a surprisingly great bike accessory with the addition of Nokia Sports Tracker. As well as tracking your ride with the built in GPS it will geo tag your photos, place them on your routes, even place the mp3s you were listening to too. There's also a gadget for iGoogle. For phone protection, I picked up an Aquapac Micro The phone remains fully useable, but nice & dry, which is handy when it's in your back pocket recording your your route home in the pissing rain. This one's even a UK product \0/. Back to the Jerries for a rucksack though & the Ortlieb Velocity has been uber. Holds a stack of shit (tm) and is completely and utterly waterproof, and almost as importantly big and yellow with reflective logos. There's a handy detachable pouch inside for a few shower things & keys etc. The waist and chest straps keep it very stable on the bike, as do the shaped shoulder straps. Cyclecraft is a great book if you're at all unsure about riding in traffic or need to help your kids with the same. I bought it more for reassurance really, but still picked up some useful tips to avoid being knocked off by stupid car drivers. I'd also recommend The Haynes Bike Book. I've had my copy years & could do with another with updated stuff like v-brakes.
  • 'Tinternet Resources
    • Sportstracker, see above. Also has a Widget to put on iGoogle, Facebook or wherever. The dev blog is here.
    • Wiggle Good web shop, often has offer codes.
    • SJS Cycles another good shop, very nice helpful lady on the phone when I rang up for an order inquiry.
    • On line GPS File format converter.
    • Bikeradar new & reviews.
    • The Bicycle Tutor videos
    • MapMyRide for an alternative to Sportstracker. This has a nice feature that it puts markers every mile of your route.
    • Giro. The best helmets. You may think they look stupid, but you'll look more stupid being fed your liquidised Sunday lunch with a spoon for the rest of your life. You may as well get a cool one.
    • Immac for the legs... just kidding ;)

All in all I'm really glad I've started the commute with cycling, I feel loads better for it, dropped two belt notches & filling the car up half as often. Win!

* They don't help the image of cycling by having crap pictures like this twat but you can't have everything I suppose.

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  1. Update:

    Now it's got seriously dark & found the EL530s seriously lacking, so invested some serious dosh in a set of Hope Vision 2s.

    Had my first night commute home with the new set of lights.o...m...g are they good. A completely different experience to my previous Cateyes. I could actually see where I was going on the country lanes. Cars dipped their headlights where previously they didn't. I left the E530 on the bars & when I turned it on it didn't make any difference :) I winced at paying for them but I've now realised they were worth every penny.The only thing I would change is the quick release. The light & bracket goes on the bars as one, so when you remove it you loose any pitch adjustment you may have made. It would be better to have a bracket on the bars & have the headlamp unit clip in & out.Awesome lights though.

    Also been using an Endura Luminite waterproof jacket. Really good for the money. Not as breathable as a goretex, but very visible with lots of scotchlite and very waterproof. Neat napoleon pocket & flashing LED in the tail too. Recommended.

    Some Endua overshoes turned up today too. Stay tuned for a report.


  2. Get yourself a car - comes with lights. Don't get wet. Quicker and uses much less effort. ;-)


  3. I've got one and it's smelly, expensive, not much quicker to get to work and I have to sit next to pe0ns on the park & ride - yuck!

    Won't somebody THINK OF THE CARBONS?!