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A Grand Day Out – Pedal On UK (London)

The Prologue

PedalOnBlog23In order to start PedalOnUK me, my Condor bike, the Co-pilot, the pannier rack bag combo had to get from work in Isleworth to the pre-ride meet up, meal and overnight stay in down town Stratford (London E20). A micro adventure seemed to be in order. Therefore, I commissioned BikeHub to devise one by giving it the start and finish locations. Once created, it was fed into the faithful Garmin Etrex GPS and we were ready to ride once the home time bell rang at work.

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Given that the plan was to pedal rather then make donations to TfL each end of the Pedal On UK leg, keeping the luggage to a minimum was the order of packing. Various cunning plans were deployed, including leaving the Co-pilots sleeping bag at home. I was swiftly informed that ‘he wouldn’t be able to ride like the Sky boys’ if he couldn’t sleep in his own ‘bag’ the night before a big ride. I informed him that he was an international randonneur so could sleep anywhere, including the Holiday Inn, Stratford.

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For almost 100% of our journey to the inky depths of London, E20 BikeHub provided a delightful route. It saw us threading our way through some of the hidden gems of London, including some brilliant tucked away cobbled mews. We used the London Cycle Network several times and so got to experience bike rush hour, which although a little frenetic is a delight as it consists of bicycles and people of all shapes and sizes. Then, about 5km from our destination; The Holiday Inn Stratford, the joy of riding expired as we alighted onto CS2 otherwise known as the A11. If Dante had written about bike paths, this one would have featured in purgatory. Shortly after CS2 expired without warning we were at journeys end.

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The Stage (Stratford E20 to Cheshunt)

After a good pre ride feast and a nights rest at the Holiday Inn, the London Pedal On UK peloton was ready to ride. Our ride guides would be Saddle Skedaddle. The ride would be short, but with lots packed in. Our first port of call would be to pick up our ‘celebs’ and do one of many official photo shoots. The ride was short and sweet to rendezvous with Dame Kelly Holmes, David Stone (Paralympian road race trikie) Wayne Hemmingway and Lydia Rose Bright, which would provide the perfect back drop of the Olympic stadium to the shots that the Press would be taking.

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Then it was another short spin to Victoria Park for the bike breakfast where Pedal On UK was officially launch by Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans director. Some socialising and ride reporting onto the PedalOnUK blog and it was time Pedal On. The next destination was the unveiling of the South Bermondsey portrait bench. We arrived to the most marvellous carnival atmosphere, despite persistent drizzle. With the portraits of Michael Caine, Phyllis Pearsall (of A-Z fame) and local cycling hero Barry Mason unveiled, it was time to pedal our way through central London via the Rotherhithe ferry which disembarks into the reception at the Hilton hotel Canary Wharf and then to the Paddington portrait benches where our celebs would end their ride.

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We continued to turn the pedals onto lunch in the Finsbury Park cafe, bagging the Downhills portrait bench on our way. After a fantastic lunch organised by Saddle Skidaddle a leisurely ride was taken via the Lee Valley Park to our arrivee at Cheshunt. Despite his inadequate sleeping arrangements (the rack bag), the Co-pilot’s form had been top notch. The local Sustrans group and Mayor welcomed us with the most marvellous cakes plus the cyclist staple of tea or ‘if you must’ coffee. It was then time to bid our farewells to our follow Pedal On UK peloton members and Saddle Skidaddle tour guides as we each made our way onwards in many different directions.

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 Heading for Home

It was time for BikeHub via our Garmin to show us the way home. All started well as we went up and over the Paul Culley Bridge. At the bottom of the bridge, rather than continue on NCR1 we had to make an awkward turn to take a grassy footpath. There were not dramas in riding this until we came to this kissing gate that would not let cycles pass. By detaching the pannier bag, then hefting the bike over the metal fence we were able to make our right turn onto a metalled road. All went smoothly for less then 2km, where we arrived at a set of big and very shut electric gates upon which was a notice that said ‘phone reception to open’ and gave a number. Not wishing to retrace, we took the phone option. The lady at reception duly released the gates for us and we were on our way. PedalOnBlog210Everything was going smoothly, BikeHub taking us on a quite and pleasant route. That was until a certain psstttt fairy struck. Front wheel inner tube swapped for one that would contain air rather than deflate, we were a-wheel again, arriving home at just gone 8pm after a rather grand day out with Pedal On UK and a 100km offering for the 2013 Mile Eater diary.

Photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/swift_swallow/sets/72157635198866152/

Pedal On UK – A Welcome Change of Pace

Pedal On8Back in 2012, with the Olympics just about on my door step, my preferred involvement was ‘hands on’ rather than buying a ticket and going to watch one of the events. Sustrans provided just the right opportunity, firstly by asking for volunteer Active Travel Champions from within the NHS (my employer) and then asking those volunteers if they would like to support BikeBuddies with their led rides to the Olympic events in London, including the Olympic Park. I volunteered for both as I love using my bike as transport as well as for leisure and formerly for racing. I particularly liked the idea of trying to get more people cycling and walking to work as I’ve personally found it of great benefit to my physical and mental well-being as well as my wallet.

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Leading the rides to various London Olympic sites was a lot of fun and enabled me to meet up with both Sustrans volunteers outside my immediate area and members of the public. The routes we used, particularly to the Olympic Park used quite back roads and Sustrans routes, so were a delight to ride thanks to the careful and meticulous planning / route testing of Lynne from BikeBuddies. It also unexpectedly provided an excellent opportunity to see the Olympics at first hand; the cycling time trial.

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Post 2012 and a change in work location; Charing Cross Hospital to West Middlesex Hospital I continued with being an Active Travel Champion. I’m not too sure if I have made a particularly big impact on people’s travel habits as the NHS is a slow moving organisation that is set in its ways. However, when I do get the chance to encourage people to walk or cycle to work I’m happy to chat and provide encouragement. As a result one colleague is now walking as part of his work travel a couple of times a week.

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Much to my surprise, I was invited to be part of the London Pedal On, which I happily accepted as it sounded like a great event to be involved in. It would also provide a welcome change of pace from the long distance riding that I was already planned, including London Edinburgh London 1400km brevet, which would be ridden just shy of two weeks before Pedal On. The promise of a mini urban adventure mainly on cycle routes clinched the deal.

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An unexpected spin-off of being part of Pedal On is to be asked to be a Ride Reporter for the London leg of the event. I’d been reluctant to ‘do’ the blog, Twitter and Flicker ‘thing’ back in 2012. But with the encouragement of the Bike Butler, it’s something that I’ve come to enjoy. The only problem has been that you can’t write a blog and spend lots of hours a-wheel at the same time. Thankfully the Ride Reporting will be done real-time, so a perfect fit with the riding.

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The London leg of Pedal On UK departs from the Victoria Park (Bonner Gate) on Friday 16th August 2013, 07:00 to 12:00. There are events for members of the public as well as the pre-arranged riding group. If you have time to come along, please do.

What The Bike Butler Saw

CAMBIUM15The Bike Butler spotted that Brooks were going to do the unthinkable and produce a saddle with absolutely no leather.  Brooks wanted people to test their new creation, the CAMBIUM.  Given the amount of miles that I ride and the somewhat disappointing performance of my Brooks ladies Imperials in the longevity department, I put my hand up. I thought little more of it until an e-mail pinged in saying I was one of the lucky 100 cyclists chosen as CAMBIUM testers.

The original blurb said that the test saddle would a gents. Having started club cycling when the only options were saddles of the male persuasion, this wasn’t too big an issue but I was delighted when Brooks later said that a test batch of ladies CAMBIUMs were going to be made.

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The saddle took a little longer to arrive than I’d expected.  I’d figured that being ‘plastic’ (actually rubber and canvas), making 100 test saddles wouldn’t be too big an issue but I was mistaken. One rainy morning a few weeks ago, I pedalled down to the local post office to pick up a ‘Brooks’ labelled box.  The CAMBIUM had arrived, hence forth known as L004, handwritten on her underside. 

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The CAMBIUM doesn’t have that signature Brooks shape.  It looks more like a wider Turbo saddle; at the rear slightly rounded and not as wide as its leather counterparts like the Imperial.  The nose is longer than the B17S Imperial, but roughly equal to the Rivet, a gents saddle.  The colour of the fabric bonded over the rubber is ecru.  There are saddle bag loops, but moulded into the backplate.

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The next step was deciding which of my stable would get the privilege of testing L004.  Casper, the Little White Moulton, was a non-starter. He’d already formed a close relationship with a Rivet saddle and, as he and I were looking forward to a succession of long rides including London Edinburgh London (LEL), changing saddles wasn’t on. There would be insufficient time before LEL.  The mountain bike was spending more time in the bike room than on the road as it’s my winter commuting bike, so not really an option.  So the Condor, my summer work / winter rando bike won.

The Bike Butler removed the Condor’s Terry Butterfly saddle and installed L004.  Testing was full steam (pedalling??) ahead.

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I have to say that the Condor looked a littler strange and not quite visually right with L004, due to the pale colour.  The appearance of L004 hasn’t grown on me; particularly as with riding, the ecru colour is now  moving towards a murky shade of paper-mache grey in several areas.  However, despite initial concerns regarding comfort when L004 was removed from the box and protective bag, I have to say she has performed excellently on the daily commute (87km round trip) and for these journeys it’s a saddle I really like using.  Despite looking and feeling similar to a Turbo saddle, the ride is that of a stiff leather saddle, rather than a plastic rock.  However, I am reserving final judgement until I’ve done a 200km brevet on L004.

All my other saddles, except for the Madison G11 which gets occasional use on the tandem trike, all have cut outs, which I find significantly more comfortable for long rides (200km+).  The CAMBIUM doesn’t, which I was a little worried about.  However, I discovered that L004 gets along with shorts that don’t quite work with the Rivet, so delivering a comfy ride.  So far, the fabric finish to L004 hasn’t been abrasive to the stitching on shorts, unlike the Terry Kevlar Liberator, which quite happily chomps through the zig-zag stitching used on the chamois inserts by some manufacturers.

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Conclusions so far……..

To date L004 has been ridden for 1,000km and has proved comfortable.  I like the stiff feel of the saddle, similar to that given by the Rivet.  The real acid test to comfort will be using the saddle for a long ride (200+km).  Other than the colour, which I feel isn’t dark enough; I can’t find any fault with the saddle.  I have yet to ride the saddle in the rain, but looking at the construction of the saddle, L004 should be perfectly happy to get wet. In my experience, the Brooks leather saddles that I’ve used and owned to date aren’t happy in the rain. 

I’ll do another review of L004 once she’s been used over several thousand of kilometres, seeing if this saddle is really up to the rigours of long distance riding.

Utilitaire Challenge

Go to Sans Brevet Card for the full report on MG’s utilitaire challenge

A Night with Graham Obree

The Building Centre, home to the Engineering Club held a ‘cycling night’ on Thursday 22nd September 2011. There were three fascinating speakers; Mike Taylor of Hopkins Architects, Klaus Bode of BDSP and the Olympian and hour record breaker, Graham Obree.

Mike Taylor spoke about the considerable thought and choices that had gone into the design of the track. Many of us have ridden on a variety of velodromes in the UK, both outdoor like Welwyn or indoor like Manchester, but very few of us would imagine that a slight change in the shape of the track can make it a pursuiter’s delight but a sprinter’s nightmare. This is one of the many choices that have gone into the Ron Webb track that will be raced on in London next year.

Next Klaus Bode spoke about the building and in particular the optimum environment for racing at international level and in particular to break records in an olympic setting. It was impressive the amount of thought that has gone into not only creating the perfect environment for the Olympic track racing (hot and humid) but in providing a good, ecologically sound environment for when the track is used post-Olympics for both training and competition.

If Mike and Klaus were concerned about talking before Graham Obree, who I guess the majority of the audience of 300 had come to see, they shouldn’t have been. Both held the audience spellbound and set the scene in a way very few other speakers could have done for Graham Obree to come and speak about the rider’s interaction with the track.

If you get the chance to hear Graham Obree speak, don’t miss it. He is a great speaker, giving you an entertaining mixture of insight, humour, passion and pathos in describing his journey as a bike rider who went on to be an Olympian and hour record breaker. For any level of cyclist, whether racing, randonneuring or just out to enjoy their bike, Graham Obree dispenses nuggets of knowledge and insights almost every minute he is talking. He’s not just a guy who rides a bike incredibly quickly, he is also an obsessive thinker who goes the extra kilometre to get things as perfect as he can. It is therefore no wonder that he has achieved what he has and done it in incredibly inventive style with ground breaking bikes and positions like ‘superman’. He also understands the way the track, bike and athlete interact, so pulling all three talks into a great denouement.

A Quick 24 hour TT round up

Everybody, riders and helpers alike, are all pretty smashed after a hard and fast 24 hour TT, despite the wind’s best efforts at disruption throughout the hours of daylight, both Saturday and Sunday.

All the YACF / AUK riders rode brilliantly, be it their first ever 24 hour TT or the most recent of many.  Big shouts outs need to go to, Steve Abrahams for his stunning ability to ride almost back to back two 24s on fixed, to Toby Hopper for a great ride in his first ever 12 hour TT (the Welsh 12, so one of the hardest courses on the books) and then following up with his first 24 hour TT and winning the combined Welsh 12 / Mersey Roads 24 hour trophy from Howard Waller who gave a fantastic performance on three wheels in both events.  Lastly, congratulations to Ultan Coyle for his second place overall.

Another special mention has to go to George “McNasty” Berwick and his tandem partner Phillip Jurczyx, who were riding their 51st and 1st 24s respectively.

There is a batch of photos of the event to be put on Flickr once they have been sifted and pruned.