Posted by: audaxing | March 13, 2015

Best bike out of hibernation

The best bike was cleaned at the end of last year and hung up in the garage. I knew it had a few problems …


Over the winter mildew had grown on the leather saddle. This was easy to clean off. More wax went on the saddle too

A coating of mildew

A coating of mildew


I noticed at the end of last year that the freehub bearings were starting to be a bit rough. So I put the wheel into the bike shop (Richard’s Bikes in Exeter) for a service. They sorted it out nicely


After I cleaned the chain last year I checked it with a gauge. This revealed that cleaning it had been a waste of time! The chain needed changing. I put a new KMC chain on it

Bottom Bracket

So with a new chain, clean saddle and new freehub bearings I took the bike out for a test ride. A problem immediately showed up. When I put any power at all into the frame – even something as minor as accellorating on the flat caused a loud creaking noise from the frame. It had done this last year a little bit but only when really straining such as on a steep climb. As the problem happened all the time when power was supplied and was in the frame I took the bottom bracket apart, cleaned it throughly, packed with grease and reassembled.

bottom bracket action

bottom bracket action

This seemed to work and the creaking stopped

Hopefully it is all fixed now and ready to do it’s thing!

Posted by: audaxing | March 11, 2015

Sunshine, Hail and a Cracked Frame

I’ve entered another 200km Paris-Brest-Paris qualifier, the “Mad March 200″ from Exeter. So last weekend I started out. Would I get further than last time, when I packed after a few hours?

At the start

In the car park 7:30am

In the car park 7:30am

I actually drove in a car, the 15 miles to the start. I don’t normally do this for events in Exeter but I wasn’t feeling like a power house so I thought I’d miss out on the bonus miles.

Sunny Morning




It was a great morning. But lunchtime we were at the turnaround point in Blue Anchor

Cracked Frame

Around this time I noticed that the welds on my frame had developed some new cracks and were coming undo. I decided to carry on but to ride carefully. So no 40mph descents.


Just before the Dead Woman’s ditch climb the heavens dumped a load of ice on us
I put on a balaclava and continued. Up the hill. On my broken bike

The route passed our house so I switched bikes to my generally offroad bike for the last 15 miles

Several groups overtook me due to my plodding pace on 2″ tyres

Finished in 11 1/2 hours and I was glad that the car was there to take me home, even if this meant missing out on a pint at the pubbe

But woo hoo! That’s the first Paris-Brest-Paris qualifier done!

Posted by: audaxing | January 4, 2015

200km fail

The “Mr Pickwicks January Sale” ride from Tewkesbury was to be my first Paris-Brest-Paris qualifier. But this was not to be

The plan was to get there promptly and ride as fast as possible, with a group and dodging light showers to finish in 11 hours or so.

After driving 100 miles from Devon in heavy rain, starting 40 minutes late, going back to get my wallet that I’d left in the car I finally left Tewkesbury at about 9am

After 20km in heavy rain I was not warming up. In particular my legs weren’t. A quick reckoning of my ETA for the Arrivee based on current performance seemed to suggest a 9pm finish. I’d checked the weather forecast for the area before and the temperature was due to drop drastically as the sun went down, getting to -1 by 9pm. There was quite a bit of higher ground covered later in the ride too – and higher means wetter and colder. If I couldn’t get warm in the “warmer” day then I’d be in trouble at night. So I packed. I retraced to the start with my GPS track, changed into dry clothes in my car and phoned the organiser

If I’d have had water proof trousers with me and if I’ve have got off at 8am it would have been a different outcome. But to be honest with perfect foresight I wouldn’t have started at all!

Thanks to Mark Rigby the organiser for making the event happen despite his nasty cold

Posted by: audaxing | January 2, 2015

New Year Old Route

I started the New Year the way I like to with a 100 mile ride

I was planning to do the route I always do for New Years Day: over the Blackdown Hills to Taunton, up the A361 almost to Glastonbury, cut across lanes to Bridgwater, through Bridgwater to the A39, past the nuclear power station, Minehead then back home via Dunster, Wheddon Cross and Black Cat on the A396

It was a grey morning but it was great to get up and out all the same

Grey Day for a bike ride

Grey Day for a bike ride

However, just 20km in at Taunton it looked like the planned 100 miles was a bit optimistic. My bikes rear wheel was making nasty rattling noises. When I stopped to check the wheel it had far too much lateral play in the bearings.

Hub repair with rubber solution glue

Hub repair with rubber solution glue

I discovered that the nuts tensioning the bearings were doing the same as last week. They had come loose. I think that at some point in the past I’d left a washer or nut out of the assembly and that it doesn’t now lock tight like it should. To adjust this properly I’d have to remove the cassette and use cone spanners. And I don’t carry an entire workshop with me. But I don’t give up that easy! I used my pliers to tension the hub bearings correctly by applying friction to the burred surface of the nut that had come loose. Once it was ok, I put rubber solution glue around the top of the nut to prevent vibration from shaking it loose again. I was off once more. I checked the wheel at regular intervals and it was fine all the way round

The ride was fairly pleasant until the last 30km. I stopped for a coffee with family in Minehead and then got within a few miles of Tiverton before the rain really came down.

Good day out though!

Posted by: audaxing | December 15, 2014

Three ways to avoid punctures

Punctures are not inevitable! There’s plenty you can do to avoid them. If you spot the broken bottle in time, you can take evasive action. But this article isn’t about that. I’m looking at the measures you can take to make your tyres better able to withstand normal road wear and tear.

Fit indestructible tyres

There are tyres that are really thick and strong and can resist even quite large sharps. Tyres have 3 zones on them, the centre tread that is on the road most of the time, the shoulder that the bike tips onto during cornering and the sidewalls that don’t normally touch the road.

On normal tyres the centre tread is toughest, the shoulder is grippier but maybe not so tough and the sidewalls, as they are supposed to flex, are the thinnest.

From the outside in, the tyre has an outer casing of a rubbery material and this is on a carcass
The internal construction of puncture resistant tyres includes an extra strip of material underneath the centre tread. Additionally, the really resistant ones have reinforced sidewalls and an extra thick outer casing. All this extra stuff means that they are extra heavy. The lack of flexibility in the sidewalls makes them less comfortable. Usually the compound in the outer casing is designed to be hard wearing first and fast or grippy second. So the trade offs in the really puncture proof tyres are quite severe.

An example of this kind of tyre that I’ve used is the Schwalbe Marathon Plus. In 28mm they weigh over 600g compared with less than 300g for a really light weight 28mm like the Schwalbe Ultremo ZX

Ultremo ZX last approx 2500km summer riding (without puncturing) and are incredibly fast and grippy.
Marathon Plus last an incredible 15000km before all the tread is worn off

Use tyres that aren’t worn

After thousands of km, any tyre is worn out. The casing is so worn, you can see the carcass. It’s clear at this point that the tyre is ready to replace. Unfortunately, most tyres start puncturing often long before this. One tactic to employ is to look for small nicks in the tyre and replace it when there are a limited number of these: they show a real world wear metric

Front tyre, not worn

Front tyre, not worn

Nick in back tyre

Nick in back tyre

On my best bike with relatively light Michellin Optimum tyres I replace when 4 or 5 nicks are visible. On heavier tyres it’s more difficult to judge. Some damage to the casing on tyres with more casing material is not a problem so perhaps only counting larger cuts is a good idea

Use sealant

I haven’t tried this final tip! But people who have gone tubeless tell me that it works well for them. Tubeless systems (with no inner tubes) rely on sealant to make them work. And the sealant prevents small sharps from causing much pressure loss

But in summary..

You can try and reduce punctures but you will never entirely eliminate them!

Posted by: audaxing | December 14, 2014

Most popular posts from 2014

Pictures of most of the bikes that completed one of the more difficult 600km audax events in the UK. Good for seeing what luggage, lights and wheels experienced riders use

Pictures of a few bikes from the Byran Chapman Memorial 600km audax seen at the overnight stop

I tried out building up a bike with no freewheel and one gear. It wasn’t a success!

Over coming adversity during the the Elenith 300km

Cheap rear lights and how to not deal with them
smart light
Trying out Foss tubes

Factors that will ensure that if everything hurts your feet don’t

This years Bryan Chapman Memorial
approaching cadir idris

I built a wheel. And was stupid

Updated for the 2015 event

Posted by: audaxing | November 11, 2014

Route Check Trip

Route Altered

I’ve altered the Avalon Sunrise 400km route where it goes through Glastonbury to avoid heavy traffic.  There were comments about this bit of the route so I’ve changed it.  At the weekend I went to Glastonbury to ride around the new bit and get the route instructions

Bit of a problem

I’d only got as far as Taunton when I noticed the SQR saddlebag clamp was broken.   Lashed the saddlebag to the rack with a bungee strap and pressed on

it's not supposed to look like that

it’s not supposed to look like that


Soon I was winging across Somerset



The open road

The open road

Stripey House

The new route skirting around Glastonbury was good, a bit more ascent but goes via a nature reserve instead of a series of A road roundabouts.  The only place where the turning would be easy to miss someone has gone berserk with paint.  This is opposite a L turn

Stripey House

Stripey House

Homeward bound

Then I was past Taunton and near home.

inearly home

nearly home

Posted by: audaxing | November 1, 2014

3 SPD pedals compared

All the bikes I’ve owned have been fitted with PD-M540 pedals. These are double sided SPD clip in pedals. They are quite minimalist, shed mud well and last well. They aren’t the bottom of the range item but they aren’t the super light bling top of the range either.

PD-M540 on the Surly

PD-M540 on the Surly

However, last year I decided to try something a little different. I got some second hand PD-A520.
These are designed for touring. I assume the idea is that the much larger plate to support the shoe means that they work better with more flexible shoes that can also be worn for walking. This is certainly my experience. The PD-M540 work best with super rigid shoes or boots like Sidi Diablo or Specialized Comp MTB. The PD-A520 are ok with more bendy ones like my much loved Shimano MT-60 Goretex shoes.

PD-A520 pedals

PD-A520 pedals

The disadvantage of the PD-A520 is that they are single sided. This means they are more difficult to clip into. Especially in the dark when you aren’t quite used to them. After a while though, it becomes second nature to feel the pedal and flip it the right way up. I was hoping that these pedals would be good with non SPD shoes. They are not too bad provided they are the correct way up!
I am doing a short commute to a nearby train station every day and it is more convenient to wear normal shoes without cleats for this. So I got yet another pedal to try out, the PD-T780

PD-T780 pedals on the Setavento

PD-T780 pedals on the Setavento

These are again single sided. But I am used to the flipping over now. Also they have a handy marking on the non clip in side to make it easy to see which way up they are. They work well with flat shoes or spd shoes. They have the additional benefit of orange reflectors on the pedals. It’s always good to be just a bit more visible during those dark winter commutes

Posted by: audaxing | October 26, 2014

Dartmoor Devil 2014

At thestart

At the start


I drove up from home in the Berlingo and got there early enough to see the 8am start. Then there was a bit of hanging around and chatting. As 9am approached the car park at the back of the pub filled up with bikes

Then we were off. The first thing that happens is a short 25% up Hind Street. All this did was remind me that my Karate Monkey with a 2″ wheel climbs like a stuck pig.
Quickly after this we were into a twisty maze of lanes covered in leaves – but this year – uncharacteristicly dry and safe to corner on down hill. Most of the hills seem to be up anyhow.


After the second control at the pub in Chagford and a minimalistic snack the character of the ride changed as we got onto the high moor. It was a wind blasted undulating bright cold but sweating experience

Don near Grimpound

Don near Grimpound

Then the best control, the cafe at Princetown. It was too warm but I didn’t complain. Uncle Ian was there stamping cards.

Tail wind

The last bit of the ride has a fast bit with a tail wind, then 3 big climbs. The last one is Widecombe hill. Apparently, (according to Strava) it only goes up 163m in 1.4km but it seems bigger and longer than that. I had to apply mind over matter to ignore the signals from my legs to get up to the top quite slowly. Mind you after getting to the top my legs felt quite ok. I felt warmed up. Unfortunately it was then too late in the day for another lap of Dartmoor.

If I did the event again on the Surly I’d alter the gears to make them lower (19T instead of the current 16T Alfine sprocket) and use some lighter tyres, Schwalbe Marathon Supremes of some sort maybe.

Posted by: audaxing | September 1, 2014

Gravel Roads in the Sun

On sunday I rode 200km, including 40km of gravel tracks on the “Old Roads and Drove Roads” event. This event is special as it uses tracks across the restricted military area and can only go ahead if the firing ranges are shut. It visits the lost village of Imber which was depopulated during WW2 when the whole area was used by the army for training



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