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



Posted by: audaxing | August 19, 2014

Two stupid mistakes to avoid when wheel building

I’ve built a Velocity Blunt P35 front wheel for my Karate Monkey

The P35 rim is so called as it has a 35mm outside profile. It has a massive 30mm internal width. This means that tyres are spread out to be even wider than they are with narrower rims. This means more air volume with the same sized tyres. Also it is possible to mount very wide tyres.

I’ve got a couple of Schwalbe Marathon Supreme 50mm size to fit on. When measured with a caliper the tyre shows as 51mm on the P35 rim

These kind of tyres will give a forgiving ride on poor roads and off the roads into the rough stuff.

When I was building this wheel I made a couple of silly mistakes. First, when I got to the stage that the wheel is “twisted” anti clock wise prior to inserting the first crossing spoke I didn’t notice that some of the nipple heads had caught on the outside of the rim. So the twist wasn’t correct, it was not far enough. This meant that the crossing spokes could not reach their correct 3 cross hole as the distance was too great. So I compounded this by only doing a 2 cross… of course it didn’t work. My only excuse is that I haven’t built a wheel in a while. In the end I started again and did it right.

Second mistake was using aluminium nipples. Normally I use “brass” nipples which seem to contain some kind of ferrous material as they can be picked up with a magnet. Why is this an advantage? If they fall inside the rim it makes them quite a bit easier to remove. With the aluminium nipples removing them from inside the rim took several minutes of shaking.

I have another P35 rim and I will be making an Alfine rear wheel with one of them, so the bike has fat tyres front and back.

Hoping to use the Karate Monkey in a couple of weekends time to do a 200km event to the lost village of Imber, on lots of tracks and military roads.

Posted by: audaxing | July 4, 2014

Happy Feet

The feet are one of the three contact points that take all your weight on the bike. What’s more, much of the energy to propel it forward goes through the feet. So your feet are a critical area.
Keeping your feet comfortable on a long distance bike ride isn’t a nice to have it’s an essential.

Specialized Comp MTB shoes

Specialized Comp MTB shoes


I find one of the main problems with my feet is the temperature of them. Usually this equates to being too cold. In the winter, due to poor circulation the toes tend to get cold and so uncomfortable. Big socks and specialist winter footwear can help a lot.

In the summer, it’s usual to wear cooler socks and shoes with vents. This is to prevent overheating. I’ve got a load of coolmax socks for summer use. Overheating isn’t quite as bad as cold feet but it is definitely something I’ve had happen in the past. But as I will often ride in the early hours of the morning, even in the summer it can be cold.

One effective way to control foot temperature during cool periods in summer rides is to use some overshoes. Put them on when riding at a cold time of night and take them off as the day warms up.

Toe wriggling

Despite my best efforts at controlling toe temperature I still get stiff and uncomfortable toes. I suppose this is partly due to the lack of movement in them during normal riding. So I make a conscious effort to wriggle them inside the shoes. This seems to help also.

Sorbothane inner soles

As the feet are a “contact point” they are taking some of the buzz and shock from the road. Normally this isn’t a problem but on very long rides it can be. So for last PBP I got some Sorbothane Double Strike Insoles They are a kind of shock absorbing inner sole and do seem to help. I have them in my summer shoes, the rubberiness isn’t an extra heat problem.

Rigid soles

As well as comfort the other issue with feet is power transmission. Riders who are more interested in racing see this as the major thing to optimise.

One thing me and the fast boys can agree on is rigid soles. Fast riders favour rigid soles as more of the energy is converted into power through the cranks and less into flexing the sole. Like a firm saddle a completely rigid sole on the cycling shoe also seems to to be more comfortable in the long run.

Many cycling shoes aimed at “tourist” cyclists that would otherwise be suitable for long distance cycling have a more flexible sole. This is so that the shoe can be used for walking as well as cycling. For long distance riding I favour MTB shoes that are intended for racing. These tend to have extremely rigid soles.

Cleat position

The other power transmission factor worth mentioning is where I disagree with the faster riders. The cleat position I favour is as far back as possible, near the ball of the foot. It is possible to generate more power with a further forward cleat position. But this puts strain in the arch of the foot and on the long ride this can cause problems.

SPD pedals

I also deviate from the racing road cyclist in preferring MTB spd pedal systems. Most of my bikes have Shimano PD-M540 SPD MTB Pedals This is because if you have to walk the MTB cleats are recessed and do not wear with walking on them

Toenail manicure

toenail trimming

toenail trimming

Finally, one last thing to mention is trimming the toenails. This gives just a little more wriggle room. Over long toenails can cause bruising against the inside of a rigid shoe toecap. So keep them as short as possible.

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