Tag Archives: Evans

On Your Marks, Get Set…

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 09.10.24Under two weeks now until departure and I’m finally beginning to piece things together in a serious way. The flight is purchased and the Spanish course booked but you already know that as you have read this, no? Yesterday I spent the day in Leeds in search of some of the ‘equipment’ I need to get hold of before I leave, notably the Mountain Equipment Firefox jacket that I mentioned a few weeks ago (now discounted in Cotswold Outdoor) along with an Icebreaker merino base layer, a nice beanie and a ‘buff‘ (all with those potentially chilly days in Spain in April and Norway in July in mind), a pair of Endura ‘8-panel Lycra mesh liner’ padded cycling undershorts to wear with a normal pair of shorts or trousers from Evans Cycles (if they are good I’ll probably buy another pair at some point) and a replacement Swiss Army knife from Blacks (the scissor function being problematic on the old one). Oh, and a book about the modern history of Spain from Waterstone’s called Ghosts of Spain. (And two pints of beer.) I should also be receiving at some point today* (yes, get ready to groan…) the black Ortlieb Classic Roller Plus panniers (with QL2.1!) that I mentioned a while back. Not the most essential of things in that I already have a perfectly serviceable set of Ortlieb Roller Plus panniers (without QL2.1), albeit with a slightly twisted support in the case of one of the rear bags.

Let’s move on to something that is essential: travel insurance. I already have worldwide bike insurance from Bikmo and I was expecting to use Harrison Beaumont for the travel insurance. I used them when I cycled along the Mediterranean in 2013 and the product was a good one (although thankfully I didn’t need to use it). I was expecting to use the same company for this year’s trip but the Harrison Beaumont insurance didn’t come cheap – about £250 I seem to remember – so I did a quick search and was surprised to find much cheaper options available. The length of the trip – in my case six months including the period in Cadiz – is always an issue, or rather I thought it was. Using Google comparison a whole string of travel insurers were listed and having looked through them I didn’t go with the cheapest (just £80) but with a company called ERV who sell a specialist touring cyclist insurance and who were able to sell me their product for the comparatively low cost of £144. Why did I not find them two years ago?

One thing that somebody might be able to offer me advice upon is how I can use my mobile phone cost effectively during those six months. I’ve been thinking a bit about this recently and I have concocted the following plan… Back in 2013 I abandoned Orange (now EE of course) in favour of Vodafone for two reasons. The first is this (I’ll just leave you to read the details via that link but needless to say it lead to me abandoning my Orange contract as soon as I was able to do so) and the second is this, the Vodafone Euro Traveller product. In 2013 whilst cycling ‘Along the Med‘ (not bought the book yet?!) I paid £3 every day to Vodafone-EuroTravellercontinue using my phone (calls, texts, data…) just as I would have done back in the UK. Perfect! (Apart from in Montenegro of course – more details on the post I wrote at the time.) I seem to remember that last summer, Vodafone actually reduced this charge to £2 a day in the summer months and I am hoping that they will do the same in 2015. Anyway for most of my trip – all seven countries are included in Vodafone’s ‘Eurozone’ – this time I’ve checked!) – I am happy to pay the extra £3 (or £2) which will add around £90 to my bill per month between May and July. However (and this is the complicated bit) when I’m in Spain, there is a cheaper option: buy a local SIM card. I could do this in France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway but quite frankly I can’t be bothered will all the hassle of constantly swapping over cards in the phone (and can you imagine looking for a micro SIM card when you drop it at a campsite?!). But in Spain I’ll be in Cadiz for a month learning some Spanish and then in April travelling north on the bike. For that period it does seem sensible to try and save myself £180 by buying a local SIM. So, I travel to Spain on the 25th February and probably pay £3 for the first couple of days by using the Euro Traveller, I then text REMOVE to 40506 (I’m writing this here so I can refer back to it later) which will stop me being charged £3 a day. I then buy a local SIM and use it in my iPhone (which belongs to me, not Vodafone so I’m free to do this). Brilliant! However, how will people from back home contact me? Well, I could tell them the new number (a bit of a faff) or I could put my UK SIM card into a cheap phone that I’ve bought back in the UK. By stopping the Euro Traveller service I won’t incur the £3 a day charge should I very occasionally use the phone but I will still have access to any calls or texts that are sent to me. At the end of my period in Spain towards the end of April I text ADD to 40506 and the Euro Traveller service starts again for the remainder of the cycle. Can anyone see a flaw in my cunning plan? If you can, please let me know.

So, what do I still need to do? Well, I require a new stand for Reggie (I’m tempted to get hold of one of these, the Pletscher double leg center kickstand. Anyone used one?) Then I need to start sorting through the packing boxes from the move north to fish out all the bits of kit I will be taking to Spain (or rather than Luggage Mule will be picking up on the 23rd). That’s going to be a long job. Even more pressing than that is a questionnaire for the BBC. I’m being interviewed on Monday at 2pm on Radio Leeds by Martin Kelner and I need to pick some music! It’s Yorkshire’s answer to Dessert Island Discs. I thought I’d put that in at the very end of the post just to see if anyone reads this far – well done if you did.

One very last thing; my sister-in-law has asked me to buy an Acme Thunderer whistle as a present for someone training to be a teacher at her school(!). On your marks, get set… GO!

(*So long is this post that they have now arrived!)Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 09.59.20

The Great Winter Cycling Glove Dilemma

Raynaud’s phenomenon is not a great thing to suffer from. It’s even worse if you are a cyclist. And cycling in winter can become a pain, literally. Also known as ‘vibration white finger‘ (as it can be a symptom of having used a vibrating device – such as a pneumatic drill – over prolonged periods of time in your job [I use them all them time when teaching Year 9]), it results in circulation of blood being cut off to the ends of the fingers leaving them very cold indeed. For me it seems to kick in at temperatures below about 5 degrees and this week, for the first time this winter, I’ve begun to suffer on my cycling commute to and from work. It’s a cold ride at the best of times (even in the so-called ‘summer’) as I have to cross from Reading to Henley-on-Thames through the Oxfordshire countryside and choose to do so in the morning between 6:30 and 7am. For years I’ve suffered in silence (what a hero!) and have gone through numerous pairs of gloves in the hope that one of them would be the ultimate cold weather glove. I’ve not yet found it. But extreme weather gloves are available, albeit at a price…

Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 08.26.26As with all things cycling, there is a myriad of choice out there. I sometimes wish shops would just make the decision for me and only stock the stuff that is any good. But then I suppose what is good for me is no good for the next person and visa versa. I was in my local Evans Cycles shop earlier this week standing in front of the dozens of gloves that they stock. Fingers, fingerless, waterproof, windproof, summer, winter, extreme, non-extreme, Gore-Tex, Teflon… I’ve just checked on their website; they sell 214 different pairs of gloves made by 30 different manufacturers (see right)! I suppose that I can discount many of the 214 pairs however because I’m in the market for the warmest gloves on sale and my eye is caught by those made by a company called SealSkinz. Putting aside the possibility that they actually sell gloves manufactured from real seal skins, with a name like that you’d think they’d be warm and the top of the range glove is the SealSkinz Extra Cold Weather Cycling Glove which comes in at a whopping £49.99. Whenever I spend money on cycling related apparel, I always think of the cost in terms of tanks of petrol. I don’t own a car and so don’t have to go to the expense of filling one up every month (or probably for many, every week or even every few days). This ‘saves’ me shed loads of cash (it’s more of an opportunity cost I suppose but this isn’t an economics lecture for goodness sake!). Back to the gloves. £49.99? That’s about one tank of petrol, no? What might surprise you even more than the price is the fact that Evans sell 21 pairs of gloves that are more expensive than the SealSkinz Cold Weather ones; the most expensive is an eye-watering £120. Yes, that was one hundred and twenty pounds. Fortunately I’m the wrong sex for the ‘Team Sky 2013 Women’s Grand Tour Mitts by Rapha‘. Rapha must have a smile on his face especially when you consider that he is flogging gloves that don’t come with fingers. I suppose that’s another reason not to invest. I like the sound of the Castello Estremo Full Finger Gloves but then again I’m a sucker for anything with a foreign name. These Gore Bike Wear gloves are cool but on my early morning commute across the Oxfordshire countryside there aren’t many people out there to appreciate my coolness. So I am still very tempted by the SealSkinz. The big question remains; should I break my long-term vow never to buy anything that is purposefully spelt incorrectly? A dilemma indeed…Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 08.50.14

Blogging, Shopping & Dithering

I need to get back into the habit of blogging while on the move. Apart from this summer’s epic cycle (is it really ‘epic’ or is it just me trying to spin?), I’m off to France in just under three weeks with a small group of 15 year olds on the French exchange and then, only a few days after my return from the Normandy town of Falaise (worryingly the Apple spell checker wants to correct the spelling to ‘malaise’ – Falaise incidentally means ‘cliff’ in French which only makes me wonder if there is a ‘Bob’, ‘Eric’, ‘Colin’ & ‘Norman’ dotted around France; there must be a ‘Norman’ somewhere in Normandy, no? But I digress…). So, after the trip to France, I’m off to the High Tatras in Slovakia with a couple of friends for a walking holiday. Then on the 1st July it’s the, err… epic cycle from Greece to Portugal. All that to make the point that I need to get blogging again!
So, here I am, sitting outside the Caffè Nero by the canal in Reading after a couple of hours trawling the shops for some of the things I need for the aforementioned trips. Phone mount for Reggie, cycling clothing, walking clothing, guide books for the cycling & Normandy are the items that come to mind on my mental shopping list. But in two hours of wandering I have bought only two things; a Mother’s Day card & a large bag of value tea lights. Hardly the stuff of adventure travelling and as far as the tea lights go I’m sure it would be cheaper just to turn on more lights. I’m a bit of a ditherer when it comes to making purchases. It’s not that I am reluctant to spend money, it just terrifies me that I am not buying what I consider to be the best things at the best prices. Take guide books for example. In W.H.Smith they have an offer of ‘buy one guide book & get a second at half price’ which is not a bad deal when you consider that your average Rough Guide is priced at the wrong side of £15. Unfortunately (well actually it is fortunately if you think about it), the publishers are in the process of creating a ‘new edition’ of the range (and making a big thing of doing so by stating that the new versions are just that it big letters on the spine) and so far I have the new edition Rough Guides to Greece & Spain at home. I still need the Croatia, Italy & French new editions. Anyway at Smith’s they have the new France guide but only the old Italy one. In Waterstone’s they have both new versions but since the Russian guy took over, they have ditched the ‘buy two get one free offer’. Result: I buy nothing… Similar situation in Blacks where I went to buy a new fleece for the mountains (and the chilly evenings along the Med – I know what you are thinking but don’t say it; I will be making a couple of forays into the mountains). Different brands, different prices, different deals, different meanings of ‘medium’. I end up buying nothing as the devil on my shoulder keeps reminding me maliciously that there will be a better deal next week or down the road at Cotswold Leisure. And then there is of course the Internet where there must be better deals but where you can’t discover whether ‘small’ means ‘small’ or ‘large’. In Evans I took a cursory glance at the cycling accessories, clothes (& briefly the bikes themselves) but not with any expectation of buying anything. I did wonder why I had made the effort to walk just outside the town centre to pay them a visit; I was just a cycling pilgrim paying my respects but with no intention of putting any of my money in the collection box.
So here I am with my card and my tea lights, listening to Don McLean who is reminiscing about driving his Chevy to the levee. Perhaps it’s time to buy a car and join him. But is March the best time to buy vintage American cars? And they are probably cheaper on the Internet…

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The Soma Fabrications Crane Suzu Lever Strike Brass Bicycle Bell

How about that for the name of a bicycle bell! You may recall that last week I was bemoaning the quality of bells fitted to modern-day bikes in my post A Bell Of A Problem: Hornits, Pings & Brings. The ‘bring-bring’ bell I bought from Evans in Reading looked as though it would do the business but it ended up being just as pathetic as the one I removed from Reggie so it too has now been removed. Then along came ‘amateur photographer & frivolous cyclist’ John ‘The Monkey’ who suggested the Crane Bell Suzu adding that ‘the brass model has a lovely, sonorous tone, and seems loud enough to penetrate iPod earphones.’ It sounded like a contender worthy of being fitted to Reggie and I have just looked into it online. The American site Bikereviews.com has the following to say about the bell;

The Soma Fabrications Crane Suzu Lever Strike Brass Bicycle Bell is seen as nothing less than beautiful by almost every reviewer online. In fact, even music experts who have heard its ring agree that it brings out a very clear tone that is capable of resonating for up to 15 seconds with just one solid strike. It can be a great accessory match for any kind of bicycle. It comes with the timeless gold-plated designs which are kind of retro-stylish that has remained a classic for over a decade now. This bike bell is made popularly in Japan and fits up to around 22mm. You can avail it via Amazon for just around $12. So make your search easier for bike bells by just settling for Soma Fabrications Crane Suzu Lever Strike Brass Bicycle Bell to install in your very own bike.

I’m about to do just that if I can find a supplier in the U.K.!

Sunday night update: I have found a UK supplier – see here – but unfortunetly they ‘cannot be ordered at the momen’ :(

Update, Friday 17th February: The bell has now arrived – you can hear it here!

A Bell Of A Problem: Hornits, Pings & Brings

Were I ever to become the Prime Minister of this country (which admittedly is a long shot as I don’t belong to a political party and Prime Ministers recently have been getting younger and younger), the second thing I would do is to ban people from designing things which do the job of something already in existence, only worse. I can live with bad design per se (we are on a long quest to design Nirvana and not everything can be done immediately), but designs which take a step backwards are annoying to say the very least. So annoying in fact that they should become illegal.

Lest this become a rant, I’ll pause and explain why this second great act of my premiership has been playing upon my mind in the last few days. On Friday, I listened to the podcast of Jack Thurston’s Bike Show on Resonance FM (yes, the one I am supposed to be appearing upon in a couple of weeks’ time and which I am now  avidly listening to in order to get a sense of what it is and, I have to say, I’m loving it – why wasn’t I listening years ago?). In last week’s show, Jack took himself down to the London Bike Show (I was planning on doing so but it had been a long week…) and interviewed a few people who had some innovative new designs to introduce to the cycling world. You can read about them by visiting The Bike Show’s webpage. I thought the clothes were interesting & the pedal thing intriguing (I was trying to visualise it from its description on the podcast but when I saw the picture on the manufacturer’s website, it looked nothing like the Heath-Robinson image I had in my head). But what most attracted my attention (and no doubt most of the attention of Docklands when it was demonstrated at the Excel Centre show), was the Hornit ‘seriously loud cycle horn’. The Hornit’s website describes the horn as “the loudest cycle horn on the market.  It emits a piercing 140 decibel sound which is enough to alert lorries, vans, buses, cars and even ‘in-a-world-of-their-own’ pedestrians. Compatible with all styles of bikes, including road bikes, it gives cyclists a way of letting all other road users know where they are and makes cycling much safer.” (Watch the video at the bottom of this post and get ready to jump out of your skin!) Now, let me first make clear that I don’t think that the Hornit is a step backward in design terms. I have to admit that it’s not my thing however, and the sedate people of Reading and Berkshire may have a few things to say if they had me blasting their ear drums with 140 decibels every time I wanted them to move out of my way. In London, perhaps it has a function. I’ll let others debate that point.

The interview on The Bike Show did get me reflecting upon my own inadequate ‘bell’. Here it is in all its pathetic inglorious state, being outshone by the magnificent glory that is the Cateye front headlight. It’s attached to Reggie’s handlebars and, lest you think Reggie is no more Reggie Ridgeback and has become Reggie Giant, I’ll set your mind at rest; I have no idea why I was sold a Ridgeback bike with a Giant bell. Anyway, when it does go ‘ping’, it is barely sufficient in decibels to alert even the most attentive of pedestrians, let alone those in the evening who have other things on their mind such as how much their petrol bill is this week or how disgraceful the parking charges are (yawn…). As for alerting any cars or passing lorries, I am whistling, if not shouting in the wind. And it is this rather than the ‘hornet’ upon which I will vent my prime ministerial anger and which will encourage me to wage my legislative war on bad design. It is just crap! Bicycle bells used to be just that, bells. They went ‘bring bring’, quite loudly but politely to tell others you were on your way. There was nothing wrong with them whatsoever; they were a brilliant example of classic design simplicity. But what did society have to do? Yes, we had to replace them with the pathetic, useless, pitiful ‘pinger’ (I shall henceforth remove even its status as a ‘bell’ as it is simply not worthy of the name). Probably for reasons of, well… I don’t know; is there a good reason why the traditional bicycle bell had to be replaced with the ubiquitous pinger? Answers on a postcard (or the comment box below). It was purely and simply a massive step backwards in terms of design and under my regime, such a thing would never have happened.

Having calmed down somewhat, I took a walk down to my local Evans bike shop earlier this afternoon. It came as no surprise that of the four so-called ‘bells’ on show, three were of the ‘pinger’ variety. The other one was a ‘Disney Princess Bell’ which ticked the box of being a bell, but there were crosses in ever other imaginable box and I didn’t invest. Would you? I was pounced upon by one of the sales guys and I did ask if they had any normal, traditional bells (without references to Disney cartoon characters) and he suggested I try the website… A little dejected I went for a wander around the rest of the shop and just as I was inspecting the bookshelf to see if they had come to their senses and decided to stock Good Vibrations (which they hadn’t), the sales chap pounced upon me once more but this time with something that looked like a real bell that he had found in the workshop! My delight was uncontrollable (although I did manage to do so), I paid my £3 (bargain!) and am now the proud owner of a proper cycling bell. Well, nearly… It’s still a bit more ‘ping’ than ‘bring’ but it is a move in the right direction. I shall report back later this week as to the effectiveness of my shiny new bit of kit. Update, 8.30pm: Just fitted the new ‘bell’ and it is rubbish. Crap. Pathetic. Embarrassing. Not even worth £3. I need to real bell ‘bell’!

Sorry, what was that? Ah yes, the first thing I would change if I were to become PM… Here is not the place for a full manifesto but it involves Golf Clubs & the housing shortage. You fill in the details. Right, get ready to jump;

Good Vibrations: Shelving Plans

Fear not; my marketing campaign for Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie continues a pace. It is my current mission to get the book onto the shelves of a bookshop. So far I have proof that Good Vibrations has made it as far as Iain Harper’s bookshelf and this morning, Chris Hammersley sent me a picture of Good Vibrations on his bookshelf – here it is in the picture. However happy that makes me feel, I still strive to see my book on the shelves of Waterstones or another high-street bookshop. I was in London today for a course, handily taking place just off Regents Street so I took the opportunity of wandering over to Charing Cross Road to see if, by any chance I had made it into Waterstones, Blackwells or Foyles. Of course it hadn’t! Why should I? That didn’t really come as much of a surprise. I was however on the lookout for any independently-published books that would give me hope that Good Vibrations was in with a chance. I couldn’t find any on the ‘travel’ shelves at Waterstones, Blackwells or Foyles, but I did find something of interest in Stanfords, the travel bookshop. This book – You’ve Gone Too Far This Time, Sir! – by Danny Bent is also a self-published book about cycling printed by the same printing company as Good Vibrations. I’ve already sent some information and a copy of my book to Waterstones, but I don’t hold out much hope. Perhaps I should, however, send a copy to Stanfords. I think I’ll do so at the weekend.

In other publishing developments, I got a very positive email from a company called Cordee – “travel & adventure sports book shop” – saying that they would be interested in listing Good Vibrations. I need to get back to them with distributor information but I think they supply some high-street cycle shops, notably Evans, so it’s not impossible that their customers may also one day enjoy reading my book… We shall see!

Good Vibrations: The First Book Tour

Well, kind of. More of a poster tour really which consisted of me cycling around the bicycle shops of Reading asking them if they could possibly put up the poster in the window. But they all did, so a big thank-you to A.W. Cycles (Reggie’s spiritual home of course and his clinic when not well), Evans Cycles (who were not just willing but enthusiastic about changing Reggie’s handlebars, brakes and gear shifters when others weren’t…), Cyclezone, & Berkshire Bikes. In addition, the University of Reading Sports Park were very keen to take some of the posters (even an A3 one!) to display up at the sports centre and Cotswold Leisure in Whitley (who supplied much of my equipment last year) also took one off my hands. Thanks to everyone for doing that.

It seemed fitting that as I cycled around Reading delivering my posters that I should get drenched by the inclement August weather; it was very reminiscent of cycling from northern France to Rome…