Tag Archives: Evans

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…

Evans Cycles Maintenance Videos

These are quite good (although probably a bit basic for some of the regular readers of this blog!); I really should learn how to look after my own bike a bit better…

Kevin Koga? Perhaps Not…

Darren from ??? (his Facebook page only gives a few clues – Australia? Camden town? Somewhere where it has been snowing recently from his picture so anywhere in the UK?) has messaged me on said social network…

Hello Andrew, I am a complete novice cyclist and am considering attempting the Eurovelo 5 route in summer 2011 as I see from your blog you have done. Could you please help me with the type of bicycle I will need and possibly some suggestions where I can purchase one? I assume an ordinary bike wouldn’t work as I will need some way of carrying my bags, etc. Cheers Darren

Now bikes have been on my mind slightly over the course of the past couple of weeks since making the decision to (probably) cycle along the Eurovelo 8 in summer 2013. Reggie Ridgeback – my “pimped” Ridgeback Panorama that I bought to cycle along the Eurovelo 5 (“pimped” by the addition of the flat, butterfly handlebars) – will, by then, have commuted his way back and forth along the back roads from Reading to Henley for three full winters as well as the 3,200 km from Reading to Brindisi. He may be looking forward to retiring. And, let’s face it, I’d love another bike! It would be hard to resist the allure of a machine from Koga Miyata (or Koga as I think they have recently renamed themselves), the Dutch company that has supplied so many of the serious long-distance cyclists, including, of course, Mark Beaumont. The one shown here is the Koga Randonneur – what a beauty! The problem is that they are bloody expensive. But they are presumably robust and reliable. Reggie’s back wheel spokes were his Achilles heel en route to southern Italy (remember the fun I had south of the St. Gotthard Pass? See “I spoke too soon“). Another Darren, Darren Whittle actually bought himself a Koga Miyata prior to cycling along the Pennine Cycleway earlier this year. I was very jealous at the time but I seem to remember it costing him…. take a deep breath…. £2,500. Ouch! But it did come with ready-fitted butterfly bars. So perhaps I am dreaming but it will give me reason to save up.

So back to Darren’s question; what type of bicycle should he buy? Well you are correct that you would need a bike with some pannier racks (although I assume these could be fitted to an ordinary bike). I went for the Ridgeback Panorama after much thought and research; it had pre-fitted racks front and back and recieved some good write-ups in the magazines. And it’s still going strong. When everything is working (which it usually is), it cycles like a dream. Would you be able to manage with a “normal” bike? Probably. Chris Hammersley (see his own blog here) didn’t invest a fortune in his bike and he made it as far as Greece (albeit with a few train journeys). You may want to get in touch with him to find out what make and model it was.

As for where to buy one, I’m going to assume you are in the UK. I bought my Ridgeback Panorama at a local specialised bike shop – AW Cycles in Caversham, Reading (although they weren’t happy about me changing to the flat handlebars; I had to go to the chain shop Evans to get that done without a battle). Most bike shops have people who can give you better advice than me with the exception of Halfords which tends to employ wide-boys who are more interested in blinging their cars (they are the ones always parked nearest to the entrance of Halfords shops with their unemployed mates sitting on the bonnet all day) than acquiring a good knowledge of touring bikes. And then there is the Internet although I would imagine most bike shops would match an online price if you quoted it to them…

Good luck with your efforts to cycle along the Eurovelo 5. Why not start a blog?!

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

So far my dealings with Evans Cycles regarding the change of the drop handlebars to the butterfly bars have been good; both assistants I have spoken to have been knowledgeable and encouraging, discussing the issues I may have and finding solutions. I took Reggie down for the work earlier this evening and immediately bumped into the guy I had chatted to last Friday (see post below). Unfortunately another assistant happened to take a passing  interest in my plans and his face said a thousand words. I hope mine said “f*** off”. What is it with some people who work in  bike shops? What happened to the customer always being right; you are supposed to go out of your way to accommodate the whims and wishes of your customers boys, not to turn up your nose and make them feel 2 inches tall. Mr misery lost interest quite quickly while the helpful assistant sorted out the paperwork. To repeat what I have said on here before; sorry to disappoint you purists but there is a second way of doing most things, including, believe it or not, cycling. Stick to your Audax cycling and enjoy the view of the tarmac; I prefer to watch the view in my upright position. My butterflies are staying put!

A Date for Reggie’s Surgery

I headed off into town last night to chat to Evans Cycles about having the butterflies fitted. There is no way I am going within a mile of AW Cycles with the intention of discussing arranging for the bars to be changed by them; they have made their opinions very clear on the subject and I have discussed why I disagree with them at length on here before. The deed is done and they are bought! It seems only reasonable and fair that I give my custom to a shop that actually helped me along the way rather than implied I was just being a novice idiot (I can feel my blood pressure rising as I type). It is time for Reggie to be wrenched from his midwife and put in the hands of a consultant pediatrician (warning: the medical metaphor continues in the last paragraph…)

Clearly Friday nights are the best time to visit bike shops as it was deserted. I looked around for the chap who I had chatted with a couple of weeks ago but he wasn’t there and I ended up in conversation with another one of the assistants. I was a little apprehensive that he may have tutted and taken sharp intakes of breath in an AW Cycles manner but he didn’t; just like his colleague had done previously, he checked a few details on the computer, looked at the specifications of Reggie Ridgeback, discussed with the grease monkies behind the shaded glass panel at the end of the shop and then headed off to search for suitable boxes. I must have been on good form and given him the impression that I knew what I was talking about as it was only after having found all the bits and pieces that I needed that he realised that I wasn’t going to be doing the work myself! We decided upon the Shimano M770 XT 9-Speed Rapidfire Shifters (I think)…. as I would like to replace good quality with good quality and will hopefully be able to recoup some of the cost on flogging off the Shimano Tiagra ones that are currently fitted to the bike (which, I’ve just discovered, cost about £200 new – bloody hell!). That’s a sentence that I never thought I would write but am proud to have created; perhaps I should be saving a few quid and fit them myself! But no – this is a job for the pros. We weren’t sure whether it would be necessary to change the stem or not (the stem btw is the horizontal bar that attaches the handlebars to the frame). I suspect it will need changing as the clamp at the handlebar end of things looks too big. The Yuma Modolos are 1 inch wide – a standard fitting apparently – but the clamp isn’t (it’s more like an inch and a quarter).

So Reggie is booked in for his (bicycle) facial next Wednesday. I will leave him down there on Tuesday evening and pick him up 24 hours later once he has come round from the anesthetic. I am about to enter the premier league of long-distance cyclists; I am about to have a customised bike (of sorts). :)