Sunday, 8 April 2012

Chain Guards, not pretty but effective

Given a relaxing Easter Sunday I was reading a few comments on various hot cycling blogs on the subject of chain wear and replacement (Yes I know...I really should try to get out more!). I have been riding my Pash for over 2 years in all weathers and through the long cold winter with the same chain, yet despite my concern that it must be wearing out and my best efforts to bugger the thing up, it refuses to die. This is the case despite a mileage during that time of at least 14,000 miles. Given all of that, the little steel darling has hardly elongated it a jot and my handy Birzmann Chain Checker still indicates I have not yet even reached the 75% wear limit upon which I normally change the chain. 

When I look at other websites this seems somewhat extraordinary! Despite all and sundry rabbiting on about Chain Stretch bicycle chains don't actually stretch like a piece of rubber. What happens is that the chain's pins actually go through a process of elongation over time, and taken across the whole length of the chain this leads to the chain getting slightly longer in length.

Now the hirsute Sheldon Brown, cycling God and guru in chief to the two wheeled cognoscenti, seems to be a bit of a fan of the chain guard, but even his best efforts at preserving his drivetrain seems to have fallen short of my story. Why should this be? Why does this chain of mine appear to go on and on...especially since I have forsaken the hairy north Americans advice and gone for synthetic motor oil as my lubricant of choice. This last admission is seen as an absolute NO-NO by his beardfulness....the very heresy of it makes me quake to think what the old Colonial's reaction should be if he ever gets wind of my foolishness. However I have a theory about lubricants, when in doubt try it out....given the millions spent by the motor industry to improve performance of engines and the loving care and attention lavished on the top marques surely they would not put anything in the heart of their automotive beasts that might cause it damage? 

My considered view is that synthetic motor oils are probably a damned sight better made than any rubbish pitched at us as specifically made for the bicycle...and a damn site cheaper! Synthetic oils are made to operate in extremes of temperature & engineered to deliver far superior mechanical and chemical effectiveness than conventional mineral oils.  In addition, they seek to lubricate far more complex drivetrains in an environment far tougher than any bicycle will encounter.

I actually think that not over molly coddling ones bicycle is the heart of the matter. Every three or four months I remove the chain case and use an old sock to run over the links as I wind the pedals round by hand. I then use a little, and I mean a little, synthetic motor oil on the chain and the Bobs is your uncle or Charlie is your aunt. This is the only maintenance my chain gets. To get any crud off the rear cog and the chain wheel I do almost the the same thing with another sock, disposing of said socks afterwards. This hardly seems much of an effort, and a damn site easier than the sort of stuff advocated by many North American websites that seem to have an overly complex view of bicycle maintenance urging us to take chain the off, bathe it in a balm of special chain cleaner (retailing at $87,000 dollars a bottle!), and then using Uncle Bobs Special Velo specific, lavender-scented, uber-organic, environmentally-friendly, whale-blubber-enriched, non-toxic chain-lube.... replace.

Perhaps the secret to the longevity of my chain is the fact that the old Pash is a beast that does its damnedest to keep the elements off the chain through the application of a simple but effective method...namely the chain guard. So if I get over 14,000 miles abusing the old drivetrain in my cavalier fashion....perhaps one of the worried cycling elite who always appear to be somewhat horrified that I treat my mount with such irreverence might reach the giddy heights of 24,000 before needing a replacement. Just one more reason to go for hub gears, get a real bicycle and dump the modern for a traditional and common sense alternative.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Accidental encounters of an Eastern nature

Quite what a Japanese Taxi driver was doing, driving a French made Taxi cab in an English town, I am not quite certain? Suffice to say his skills of observation were somewhat lacking, as were his collision avoidance skills, but what the blighter had was manners.....damn fine manners...... worthy of the best of British.

I refer of course to a sad turn of events which in part has kept me from my gentle readers and saw both myself and the faithful old Pash being knocked over by said nipponese bounder at the entrance to a seaside Tescos. Dashed if I wasn't poleaxed, sent west by the rather more than a glancing blow of a ferocious side swipe as the little Jap Chap swung his vehicle into my path desperately seeking to pick up an old bint hailing for all she was worth!

The really impressive thing was that although I saw it coming, as I span up into the air a rather rarified calm came over me, and once deposited on the ground I was rather more astonished that annoyed. Our Rising Sun protagonist was by my side quicker that you could say "samurai sword", bowing low and proffering me a hand. Lifting me up he proceeded to dust me down uttering a "Hawwwww......apowogies, my humbrul apowogies , so sowwy, so sowwy.....I hope no damage done done.....apowogies"....he then helped me pick up the Pash....pedal askew, handle bars twisted.....and bowing low once again shook my hand and quit the scene with his new female spinster fare firmly deposited in the back seat?

I really had no idea what hit me, and like the English man I am, I felt only the sort of reluctant modestly uttered shame that a misfortune not of ones own making can engender in an English male. A number of tender souls managed to rush to my aid and offered their support but I really was far healthier than anyone who had been sent over the top of their handlebars had any right to be.  I remember feeling a tad giddy and the pain in my knee where the Hackney Carriage had first struck me took on a throbbing sensation of rather alarming quality, but other than that, I felt reasonably normal.

I remember thinking clearly that darkness had played its part in the collision. It was very dark, yellow sodium "eco-bloody-friendly" street lamps making little difference to the gloom, and I had had a couple of close shaves the day before in similarly darkened circumstances. That had made it clear to me that poor light is a threat to the cyclist almost as much as it is to myopic English Batsmen, despite the fact that I have four separate illumination systems on the old Pash, all four being of a incongruous modern stamp on so fine a vintage machine.

In a rather odd moment of lucidity I managed to look up to see a veritable oriental angel standing over me, and despite the darkness of the day, & the strangeness of my recent encounter with the cab, I could not help but notice the shapeliness of her stockinged legs and the whiteness and diaphanous nature of her skimpy panties beneath her dress.

Of course being the type of jolly throwback that I am, stiff upper whatsit (and an increasingly stiff upper "whatsit" given the view, despite the proximity of unhappy circumstance) I put on my best Blitz spirit and laughed the whole thing off. She gazed down upon me sympathetically and in a charmingly genteel manner offered me a refuge in her flat nearby.

Suffice to say having taken the offer up with gusto, she seemed impressed with the "carry on regardless spirit" displayed by yours truly and to her enormous credit she managed to make considerable acrobatic effort to ensure that she reached high up into her cabinet to obtain a glass exposing once more the slight lace covering beneath her flowered skirt. Bravo thought I and drank down with gusto the orange juice she had kindly poured me hoping to sample both sweet and sour during the course of the evening ahead. It should be enough to say that it was not only my wounded knee that enjoyed the gentle and tender ministering's of my new found oriental Florence Nightingale.

During a rather pleasant sustained romp I discovered that if Japan had caused the injury, it was to South Korea that I owed my rescue, which just goes to show that one should never look adversity in the eye without a smile.....I may have been sent west for a moment but was dragged back east to my eternal gratitude and pleasure!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Christmas Shopping Cycling

Sleigh bells ringare you listening
In the lane, snow is glistening. 
A beautiful sight, 
We're happy tonight.  

Cycling in a winter wonderland.  

My deepest apologies to Bing ...but its almost right and I'm sure he would forgive me the error.

I want today to discuss the madness on our streets at this time of year and the supremacy of the bicycle over the car or public transport. Few who have any familiarity with this blog would ever doubt my love for the bicycle. It is a supreme method of transportation, being at the same time economic, ergonomic and environmentally neutral..... and yet at the same time I often feel it is the philosophy it imposes on its rider that is the bicycles most unique factor.  For with the possible exception of the steam engine, a machine rarely imposes any philosophical influence on those travelling upon it or viewing it. The bicycle teaches the rider that less is very often more, that speed is less important than the manner of travel, and that in the journey joy is to be found, above achievement of a destination.

Having just been out Christmas shopping it was with a glad heart that despite the bitter wind I sped along a long, long line of stationary traffic, the occupants of said vehicles visibly fuming at the delay. Most probably appreciated that this was but a prelude to their desperate and often futile search for a town centre parking place. Bus drivers honked, pedestrians looked fearful of the diesel and petrol driven behemoths, white van man veered and ranted, in short it was far from the Christmas dream. The charioteers in their metal coffins looked positively Scrooge like.

Yours truly on the other hand was full of Christmas cheer, clad in tweed and moleskin and fortified by a very fine lunch of fresh anchovies, black bread and Chase English Vodka (the front wheel wobble giving rise to my suspicion that the much vaunted 48% proof might be a tad understated). Traffic chaos might be the kindest way of describing the devastation wrought on the town centre by a combination of simultaneous multiple gas works, increased christmas traffic volume and a propensity of delivery trucks to stop inappropriately in the most bizarre locations, but the nimble Pashley Sov took all in its stride.

With a joyous shriek I swept up through the cycle lane, and within minutes had the Pash on its stand sequentially at the butchers, grocers and off-licence. It was here I began to realise that Christmas shopping on a bicycle is an object lesson in zen simplicity, and the best way to avoid the post Christmas bloat. Just how much food & drink can one man get into his right hand pannier? So too the situation with shopping for presents. My mother, at just under 5ft, was a firm believer in the fact that "The best things come in little packages" and how right the old girl was! The bicycle teaches you, if you are to load said vehicle in a way that permits it to be ridden home, to buy little and of a lightweight nature. 

Onward I pressed into the heart of Darkness, the main shopping area. 12 Christmas presents later, all were contained within the left hand pannier, the only heavy thing about my purchases was the damage to my bank balance.....never mind...the exquisite little filly that I shall be riding all Christmas will be beside herself with joy and desire once the little charmer spies the Cartier packaging! Money well spent say I! The bicycle imposes its will upon me in a subtle and gentle manner.....I  could pile the old velo high with packages and wheel the thing home like a mechanical mule staggering under the weight of purchase.....but the connoisseur of two wheels feigns to walk when the prospect of being astride the lithe form of his first love offers so much pleasure. It strikes me that small gifts often seem to have a bigger impact, perhaps because they require thought to get right and intelligence choosing. It is the very difference from the norm that will set you apart when Christmas morning arrives and the house is festooned in acres of wrapping Christmas as in life, quality often comes about through small things.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and all the other proverbial seasonal thing is for sure.....Christmas day will see me on two wheels, come sleigh bells, snow, hell or high water!

Thursday, 1 September 2011


"Bugger Bognor!" were reputedly the last words of King George V (1865 – 1936). There is some debate about the actual phrase uttered, some sources claiming that he actually replied "F**k Bognor!" when it was suggested to him that he might soon be well enough to visit his favourite seaside retreat. Sadly today it is probably the best know thing about him. Before such an utterance he was best known for his obsessive stamp-collecting, love of shooting and the industrial scale of his slaughter of pheasants and tigers. However, in earlier, and for him much happier times, he was much beloved of the British public for his dedication and frequency in touring the front lines during WW1 as well as taking a firm stand against his cousin, and doppleganger, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.

So why am I wittering on about him now? Well in the spirit of getting off my seated backside and making something happen I wondered if anyone thought there might be mileage in a "Proper Cycling" Bognor to Brighton run? The sort of thing I had in mind was something along the lines of my previous posing about a real cycling club (see previous post ). Vintage clothing and real cycling machines preferred...LYCRA STRICTLY FORBIDDEN!

The route would appear to be reasonably practicable, (and at 27 miles not too strenuous!) there are some interesting locations along the way for elevenses, lunch, and tea, lashings of bracing sea air (and the wind should be at our backs HOORAY!) a few historical and cultural sites along the way for a minor educational interlude, not to mention a few hostelries at the climax of the ride. I was thinking of running the event for some time in May, probably a Saturday so people could stay overnight in Brighton should they wish to enjoy the saucy joys of a Sunday by the seaside! Brighton to Bognor has the right era feel to it. I propose to arrange suitable Blitz Spirit/Queens Jubilee bunting etc at the allotted refreshment locations at start and finish, provide all food and drink during the run and have a rescue Charabanc (hopefully in full vintage livery!) to pick up the walking wounded!

Do you think I might get any takers for such and event? If so let me know?

Friday, 5 August 2011

Velorbis v Pashley ...Gentleman's relish?

I have for some months now intended to do an objective comparison of the Velorbis and Pashley marques. In my earnest search for a second bicycle with which to Cycle the entire Rhine Valley this Autumn, I was in the happy position of really being unconcerned as to price...for as a true Gentleman Cyclist I was motivated only by the desire to purchase the very best mount available.

Having scoured the internet for "Classic Bicycles" "Real Bicycles" & "Gentlemans Bicycles" etc. etc. etc. I decided that it pretty much came down to one of the two marques above.

I cannot deny that my leaning in the early stages went towards the Velorbis. It felt a little like I imagine it feels for a man intent upon selecting a new whore....the old one has proved serviceable, it has taken good care of you, you are comfortable with what is being offered but their is a yen for something new...the grass is seen as greener on the other side of the hill.....the lure of a sophisticated well put together European model having slightly more kudos than the old familiar British version. Once more, a bit like choosing a lady of the bed-chamber, the front of house element is important however much you try to tell yourself it is not, so I was a little put off by a certain dismissive arrogance displayed by those offering the Velorbis for sale. On entering a certain London cycle boudoir I was met with a deep sense of sympathetic, haughty, distain by a salesman who had watched me secure my ageing Pashly to railings. I grant you that it's probably not the best move to take leave of your old mount at the entrance to a place where you hope to find a new one,...... but needs must!

So, to the Velorbis; the model I selected was the rather impressively named Churchill Classic......forgive me but the name of "Churchill" seems an out and out marketing ploy intent on pulling on the heartstrings of forty-somethings English speakers and readers of Military History. I'm not certain if the bike is marketed under this name across all European countries....if it is, I imagine that sales might not be going too well in Dresden?

The Velorbis website ( I viewed I can only describe as "Nazi Bike Porn".....  with strapping Aryan chaps resplendent in their blondness with leggy short skirted females looking ripe for the bedding.....the website is certainly slick and stylish and works very well....sucking you in. The bike itself on first viewing is I have to admit a tad disappointing. The luscious pictures of well oiled tools, smooth paint, glossy leather and rugged chiseled components on the website is, in my humble opinion, not supported by the reality. Pushing the whore analogy further, a bit like entering a room to find that the advertised 21 year old leggy goddess is a 39 year old stunted hag!

Well...not like that really.....I exaggerate for comic effect, but it was just a little disappointing. The badge struck me as a rather curious amalgam of pseudo-euro-royalty-coat-of-arms and an alpenstock badge. Unperturbed I decided to get up close and personal and examine the merchandise from the bottom to speak. The first thing that struck me was the chain guard. Velorbis have made much on their website of the fact that theirs is metal, powder coated rather than plastic. The point I thought of a chain guard is that it protects not only the rider from muck but the chain too....but the Velorbis chain guard is not a complete cover...only covering the off side of the chain and not the rear most section. While fine for keeping muck of the's not going to help much with keeping detritus off the chain. I am sure that the company has an explanation for that but if you are going to have one it might as well go the entire distance?

Other components appeared to be well chosen.....the bike had a sturdy tight feel to it, the frame a taughter prospect than the Pashley, and all had been well assembled. However, it somehow lacked the heft and quality I expected to find given the description on the Velorbis website. Paintwork was good without being great, a couple of blemishes from spraying here and there, the rims looked solid & the wheel rims and tyres well chosen ....but nothing was really out of the ordinary, and while the leather handlebar grips were hailed by the manufacturer as a luxury feature I wondered at their longevity and durability after a few seasons sweat and grime had penetrated their initial lustre?

So what of the test ride? Well gentle reader I cannot lie. I failed to make one. The sniffy attitude of the sales person, the rather lacklustre overall impression of the bicycle upon me, the uninspiring ambience of the machine, all conspired to put me off it.......but there was more to it,....something else.....something about the "look" tried hard...but somehow it just did not add up to the mount of an English gentleman. Perhaps it really is a well put together sophisticated European model that would have provided me with the ride of a lifetime, but in it's soul it did not have the character I craved.....and in the end, for my money the Pashley delivers a better total package.

So like the conservative (small "c") I am, I return to the familiar.....the Pashley may have a plastic chain guard (but it works superbly I have come to discover), it may not have leather hand grips, the frame might be considered rather soft and lazy, and in the quality of its seperate parts it might very well not be up to the Velorbis...but we do not choose our mounts for such reasons alone. Taken as a whole in it's quintessentially English character the Pashley was and still is the ride I desire. It may not have the gimmicky sophistication of a European Boutique Hotel, but it has the class, comfort and refinement of a fine British Club.....and at almost two hundred quid cheaper, I still have change to get my leg over with a rather glamorous Latvian blonde who is advertising her services in the neighbourhood!

Bon chance mes amis!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Return from a spot of "Donkey Walloping"

As some of you will no doubt remember, besides appreciation of the fairer sex, my other passion is riding horses. You find me now at home after a rather wonderful period of several months helping out on a Wyoming Ranch, a new experience for me but one which I have very much enjoyed. That gentle readers is the reason for the lack of recent additions to this veritable velopeida!

While I appreciate that this blog should have nothing whatsoever to do with horses, I do think that there are some similarities between riding a nag over open country and pedalling oneself across the land. The speed of passing countryside, the ability to go off piste, and the fact that you are not nearly so channeled in the route to be taken on bicycle or horseback than you are when driving a motor car. HOWEVER, having tried a bit of cycling in Wyoming I have to say that I am beginning to doubt my own first principles on this subject!

For I venture to suggest that there is something about cycling in the countryside that is particularly suited to a European environment and certainly not to a North American one!....I cannot accurately put my finger on it other than to say there is something to do with the distances and vistas of the American West that is absolutely not conducive to the Bicycle. Having set off on one particular jaunt (utilising a 1950's clunker I found in an old sheep wagon and then repaired) I spied a rather wonderful distant rocky was 6 hours before I managed to even get within what I thought to be spitting distance of it...another three and I was still not actually at the bottom of the climb! Giving up and getting a lift back to the ranch in a passing pickup I began to muse upon why in Europe cycling seemed so much fun and in the USA, outside of a narrow number of bespoke locations, a mere drag. In the end it comes down to size (and who said size does not matter ladies?...for we all know it damn well does!).

The vastness of the USA, the huge distances between cities and geographical features militates against those great joys of European Cycling..."variation & proximity".....while the USA probably has the most varied terrain of any country on is the lack of proximity and variation within a geographical space that tends to drive the "homus-pedallous" to distraction.

Oddly enough such lack of variation on horseback plays better with the soul, I have yet to fathom why? 

Friday, 27 May 2011

Hubs versus Derailleurs, an unsound judgement.

I have been pondering the views of an individual who I might dare to call an acquaintance (for he is certainly not a friend) and who is considered by some females of my acquaintance as being a rather fine example of the modern man.

I think that in some circles his type are referred to as "metro-sexual" whatever the devil that means. Amusingly when I first heard the term I was rather under the impression that a Metro Sexual was a man who exposed himself to women on the tube... you know the type... raincoat?.... fiddling with his bits?... leering?

Anyhow this acquaintance seems to see no harm in talking about his feelings endlessly...dons "cleanser" every night and talks endless rot about "relationships". I shouldn't wonder if he could barely bring himself to kiss a woman, let alone perform any other exchange of bodily fluids as he seems an inveterate hypochondriac. However, he considers himself to be a REAL cyclist, is certainly a fit bugger, and cycles wearing normal clothing even if he does ride a dutch gals bike.

However..... I digress,.....said chap was discussing the benefits of derailleur gearing over hub gears and encouraging me to ditch the old hub and go for a derailleur. Our discussions went something like this..... 

GC.....Hub plus points; less wear, less maintenance, easier to keep clean, gear changing when stationary (a very BIG plus in my book), chain runs in line so wears less, thicker stronger chain is......well.... stronger, chain-guard keeps clothing clean.

M-S....Hub negatives; heavier, slower gear changing, power stops while changing gear, gear ratios cannot be changed, limit to number of gears, lower efficiency in power train energy transfer, repairs can be expensive. 

M-S....Derailleur plus points; lighter, faster changes with less loss of pedal power, gear ratios can be changed, more gears, higher efficiency of power transfer, repairs are cheap. 

GC.....Derailleur negatives; needs regular adjustment, needs more lubrication/attention, gets dirty, difficult to clean, chain weaker and often runs out of line so wears more, exposure to physical damage, chain-guard not really viable.

I also rather unwisely pontificated that Hub gears were rather more "old worldly" and traditional than the derailleur ....he demurred.....and I have to grant him the fact that as far as biking gears are concerned he was right.....there really is not a lot in it. 

Fixed wheels were the norm until experiments with hubs started in the 1880's, but it was not until the turn of the century that things really got off the ground. In 1903 Frank Bowden, head of the Raleigh cycle company, formed "The Three-Speed Gear Syndicate", having obtained the rights from two separate inventors of hub gears. That same year the first Sturmey Archer 3-speed was born, by 1909 there were 14 different 3-speed hub gears on the British market, and by the 1930's hub gears were used on bicycles all over the world.

However, at almost exactly the same time others were looking to a different method of gear change, and the derailleur became a practical option around 1905, although it was not until 1928, when the "Super Champion Gear" began to be sold, that the derailleur really started to capture the imagination of the public and become a truly viable option.

So...there you have snobbish preference for the presumed "old world" hub gear over the new fangled derailleur gear was stuff of nonsense. Not the only shock administered to yours truly recently....for returning home the other night I happened, somewhat ironically, on said "Metro-Sexual" acquaintance going hammer and tongues at the rear of a young female who had assumed an inviting position bent over the cycle rack of a derailleur equipped bicycle! Obviously there is more to this Metro-Sexual lark than I imagined!