26 Feb 2012

26th February


26th 29-40F, -1+4C, breezy, full sun, it stayed cold. The mushy ground was refrozen on the way to the bike shed.  I rode down to Helnæs lighthouse. That vicious golden retriever chased me for several hundred yards. I went up to 20mph and egged it on but it quickly gave up. The roads were white with frost until after 10.00 where the sun could not reach them. Some ponds and puddles were still frozen. Lots of birds to be seen. Including a Coal tit, Whooper swans and Buzzards. I wore the Aldi jacket and was grateful for its windproofing. The trike went very well. Lowering the saddle was beneficial without actually feeling much different. 10 kilos 22lbs of shopping. 40 miles. 

Cats waiting for a late breakfast in a secluded, four sided, cobbled farm yard.

Mr Higgins plays centre stage to Helnæs lighthouse. 
The total silence was broken by some noisy kids bored with sightseeing.
Several family cars overtook me going both ways within a five minute stretch.

Standing stones compete for attention with an azure sea.
The sea was still frozen in one sheltered inlet. 

27th 39F, 4C, heavy overcast with mist, rain and wind all day. I left after 3pm and messed up my route to fight a headwind for half the distance. At least it stayed dry. Though I was going quite well. I was actually making an effort and spent most of the time on the large chainwheel. My chest is  bunged up again. I'm wondering if there isn't some long term problem there. I do a lot of throat clearing and cough up jelly most mornings. I still managed 20 miles and came back with all my lights on for safety. It was getting very misty and almost dark by 5pm.

 When there are no straight lines.. what is upright?
An immaculately pretty, unspoilt farm.

28th 39-47F, 4+8C, windy, misty, heavy overcast. Fed the ducks on a pond. A figure-of-8 shopping trip. My right shoe is clonking. The BBB "Hardwear" overshoes finally died today. The neoprene ripped all up the side of the zip! Still wearing the Aldi jacket and SS gloves. I wouldn't need the windproofing if only the wind would drop! I was cruising at 25mph for a while going downwind. 8-10mph on the way back! The sun is struggling out now I am home! 24 miles.

Through the mists of time.

Today's Darwin awards: The headlines were bewailing the deaths of four young men in a car which tragically hit a tree at 100mph. Twice the legal speed limit in Denmark. The unlucky tree was on the far side of a cycle path.  There was no mention of whether the tree could be saved. This follows a drunken, girl driver killing a woman on a pavement. Then another young person who lost control and ended up in a lake. Survival of the fittest.

A buzzard is resting in a tree in the garden after being chased by crows.

29th 48F, 9C, overcast, misty, damp. My clothes, glasses, gloves and trike were saturated by the 100 yard mist. I couldn't keep my glasses clear for long. I stayed completely dry and reasonably warm in the Giordano jacket. My hands were warm and dry too. Fortunately I organised the wind properly today. So rode home almost effortlessly. Many lakes and ponds are still frozen. I saw the retired bike shop owner out on his bike. 22 miles.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

24 Feb 2012

24th Feb 2012

24th 43F, 6C, heavy overcast, breezy. The run of strong winds continues. With 20mph average and 40mph gusts forecast for later. I'd better make an early start. 

I was watching YT cycling videos last night. It was fun to see the manufacturers paring square millimetres from their bike's frontal area with the hope of reduced drag. Seconds later we see the top riders of these fabulously expensive machines with huge folds and violent ripples in their racing jerseys. Jerseys with rucks and bumps over the chests which some lady cyclists might be grateful for. 

One manufacturer claimed that the UCI had forced them to increase the drag of their bikes! Another maker complained that the UCI had told them their ceramic bearings were far too free running! Welcome to the twilight zone!! Isn't racing supposed to improve the breed by trickle down? 

Men's racing bike to the latest UCI rules. (With thanks to Wiki) 

All women's racing has been banned forthwith. Until the UCI can agree on new rules to allow the ladies to ride side saddle. Apparently there is some delay while they overcome disagreement on how many layers of underskirts must be worn.   

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: 8:45am. 47F, 8C, windy. I had to go into town on business. Outside a charity shop I saw a bright green cycling jacket hanging from the rack. Still crisp, brand new and unworn. Even the zip pulls were still wrapped in tissue. Though heaven knows why anyone should wrap zip pulls in white tissue!

On the way home I was getting much too hot in my Belstaff 'Cyclone' jacket. It had also just started to spit with rain. This seemed like an excellent test for the new jacket. Being a waterproof rain jacket I imagined I would sweat like a proverbial wotsit at 47F. I did give the jacket half a chance by unzipping the handy armpit zips. Good quality zips all round BTW!

With the tail wind I should have been dripping sweat all over Mr Higgins within half a mile! I know I would have in my silicone proofed nylon cape. Rather oddly, I wasn't sweating. I stayed amazingly, unbelievably, completely dry and comfortable all the way home. This is beginning to sound rather like a deodorant ad! :-)

I could feel gusts from the cool tailwind through the back vent at times. Though it was not remotely unpleasant. In fact it made me feel even more comfortable! Full marks (except for the very slight tightness across the back when crouched over the bars) Without my long sleeved ski vest under the thicker racing jersey I will have slightly more room.

The jacket seems beautifully cut and made. It is fully lined with soft, woven netting including the sleeves. Rather like the stuff fish-friendly keep nets are made of. The reflective devices are well thought out and remarkably efficient. It has a soft lining to the high neck. This all reminds me of the Signal jacket sold by Wiggle. Which I had been browsing the night before. 

Guess what? When I arrived home I looked up the maker's name. Expecting that I had made a killing on a £50 jacket. Shock horror! I don't believe it! Crane clothing is an Aldi product! :o)))) I must look out for more of this clothing. The quality is amazing! I kept looking at the rain kit in bike shops and just couldn't bring myself to pay so much in the vain hope of breathable waterproofing. The label in this jacket just says polyester. With no claims to high-tech fabrics. Though check the Aldi catalogue entry below:

I swear the cloth was breathing without heat loss. It was bone dry inside when I took off the jacket at home and checked carefully. I know that all of my other jackets would have felt wet inside. They usually are. Particularly the Aesse when its upper temperature range is exceeded. My thin polyester ski vest would always be wet too.

It actually felt very strange that my vest was still cool and dry. As if I had just put it on. Quite often I come home feeling rather cold from being under-dressed on a cold, windy ride. Yet my vest is often wet down the middle of my back. I never felt the sweaty feeling all the way home despite some long uphill drags. I expected the worst and was delighted to be proved wrong.

I even undercut Aldi! Paying 1/4 of their normal retail price for a brand new £20 jacket. Though sometimes reduced. Mine has no black stripe up the front. Having a windproof, overlapping, closure strip instead. With Velcro fastening. This could be useful if I left the zip open for more ventilation under certain conditions.

Anyway, back to the SealSkinz "Activity" gloves. I fought the headwind for ten miles going there. My hands felt strangely neutral throughout. Neither warm nor cold. The Thinsulate would have felt sweaty and cold by turn. The Gel gloves simply cold in such a headwind! When I climbed off at the first supermarket I expected my hands to be drenched with sweat. After all, this was my usual experience. The gloves came off easily and my hands were perfectly dry and naturally cool. It actually felt really weird! I rubbed my hands together in disbelief.

Dexterity is really excellent. Far better than any of my other gloves. I found myself undoing zips and cords on my bag and jacket without a second thought. Normally I have to take my gloves off. Which is often a very unpleasant experience in cold, windy conditions. Though it wasn't that cold today.

The lack of cycling padding is very noticeable on the handlebars. Though I was able to ride on the hoods without the usual fight with the cramping wadding of the Thinsulate. The SealSkinz actually felt more comfortable on the brake levers than on the tops. I had become used to riding on the tops simply because the Thinsulate were so uncomfortable on the hoods. They would make my hands ache after a short while.

I noticed the finishing inside the finger and thumb tips of the SealSkinz is a bit uncomfortable at odd moments. I have long fingers. My nails need trimming slightly. This might be a factor but hasn't been with any of my other gloves.

There was never any sense that the inner liners would pull out with my damp hands every time I stopped. They remained perfectly cool and dry on the way back too. Which is important when you consider that hot hands can make one feel too warm all over.

I am really beginning to appreciate the remarkable breathability of these gloves. The temperatures are now too high to probe their cold weather performance. Though frosts are promised for next weekend. It's a still a long way off and might not happen. I am turning the gloves inside out as far as the base of the fingers to air in a warm room overnight.

The sheltering trees beside the Assens bypass, cycle path have been decimated! Talk about clear felling! Cyclists and walkers are now subject to the full onslaught of the roaring traffic alongside. It used to be so quiet and beautiful riding up or down the hill between dense growth. It was a favourite walk with the elderly, families and kindergarten children alike. Birdsong will be absent for years. No Silent Spring. Just roaring juggernauts. The once-quiet housing estates behind this former shelter belt will suffer too! 

The gears are still behaving themselves. I like the new arrangement of ratios. Changing from one ring to the next is effortless. Having a much wider range of gear ratios on the 32T makes the 22T seem almost redundant. Until I really need it. 20 effortless miles. Parading like a catwalk model in my Aldi jacket. ;-)

 25th 40-45F, 4-7C, very windy, occasional sunny periods. There was a small flock of long tailed tits in the garden before I left.  It has occurred to me that I should have dropped the saddle by half the extra length of the cranks. I actually raised it slightly when refitting the seat post through the coiled bag handle. I can't say for certain that the longer cranks are having any effect. I haven't found my regular gears yet and am using the large chainwheel quite a lot. I lowered the saddle by 1/4" (6mm) later.

The Aldi jacket is fine. Not quite as breathable as yesterday's ride might have suggested. Still pretty good with the underarm, side zips open. I managed to stay cool in all the shops. The promised all day rain did not arrive. The gloves are okay too. No sweat or cold fingers yet. I'm still missing the palm padding. I may have to foam the tops and tape over.

13 kilos of shopping! 29.6lbs! I didn't like the way the heavy bag sagged without the rack. It made loading much more difficult. So I fixed the rack back on again. It weighs exactly one extra pound. It would be helpful if it had an extra crossbar. So I could cut off the top section and lift the rack by a few inches. Then the foot of the rack would support the bag properly. Instead of only when it is unhooked from the saddle. Without the crossbar there is no way to shorten the rack because it would lack fixing points on the seat5 stays. 20 miles. Mostly against a fierce headwind. Tomorrow promises much better. With sun and lower wind speeds.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

23 Feb 2012

23rd Feb 2012

23rd 41F, 5C, breezy after a windy night, still rather cloudy.

I was up early to check the gears before leaving on my proper ride. I removed the rack so I could see better and take some more photos.  The trike now weighed 14kilos (31lbs) road worthy bare but with the mudguards fitted.

Alignment looks fine with the chain on the centre sprocket and centre chainwheel. The trike  feels incredibly light without the bag, tool kit, waterproofs and rack.
The proof of the pudding is to ride it. To see if the chain hops over the sprockets. SPD pedals don't work very well with carpet slippers. So I'll just put my Tahoe shoes on first. Wish me luck! :-)

I went off to test the gears on the nearest hills and lanes. No problems at all. I tried every gear from an incredibly low, 23" crawler gear to a 94" comfortable top coming downhill at 25mph. The 42T chainwheel feels much more natural compared with the previous "heavy going" 48T.

The middle chainwheel, now 32T, had me using smaller sprockets than previously. I often felt slightly over-geared on the previous 38T if I strayed too far from the 2nd or 3rd sprockets from the left. This only left me the option of bottom gear or changing to the smaller chainwheel. Which also forced a gear change at the back just when I wanted to maintain momentum. The 32T chainwheel offers several more steps down at the back before I need the smallest 22T ring.

The trike feels so lively without its usual burdens. Now, if I could only do something about the westerly gales! And my aching back after yesterday's shenanigans. It always hurts the following day. Whether I crouch beside the trike to work on it. Or lift it onto the stand. Usually a bit of both. The odd thing about ageing is that the ground seems to get further away.

Later: 43-47F! A semi-tropical 6-8C a week after snow and ice! After a leisurely coffee and rolls I tootled off to the bike shop where I bought the chainset yesterday. I didn't have the tool to tighten the protective cap on the left crank. No luck with a tool to purchase but the owner came out and checked the tightness with his own workshop example. I had used a strip of metal but was afraid to mark the cap by using brute force.

I had left my ten year old, plastic pump behind at home. Which left me vulnerable to a long walk if I punctured on escaped farm gravel. So I bought a stumpy one to help save Mr Higgins' deteriorating paintwork. I detoured back past the other bike shop too but they didn't have the correct splined tool either. It was still blowing a cold gale but I seemed to be going quite a lot faster today! I took off the Belstaff after a while and put on the Giordano. It was almost warm at 45F+ riding with the wind. On the way back it was very different. On the exposed main road the gusts were cruelly cold through the thin cloth. 

A high tech riding crop? Will Mr Higgins appreciate it? :-)

The gears are working very well. With only the occasional hop on the 4th largest sprocket. Which is odd, considering I never used that one much with the last chainset. The gear change is the best I have ever experienced. Probably due to the new chain. I left the rack behind too and just hung the bag from the saddle pin. Thanks to the stiffness of the Higgins mudguard stays the bag remained in place. I could even add a couple of cord loops to attach the bag to the stays. Belt and braces style.

The Sealskinz "Activity" gloves have finally arrived 9 days after ordering. Ironically the temperature has risen dramatically today. In XXL they are still rather close fitting even on my slim fingers. Not at all loose and bulky as I had imagined. (and half hoped, to allow inners in extreme cold) I seriously doubt I can fit my tights-skinny polyester gloves in there. Any more than I can with my 40gr Thinsulate ski gloves.

The really weird thing is that they can't be machine washed. Nor may the goatskin leather palms get soap on them! So how, on earth, are you supposed to wash them? There are no instructions on either of the attached cards! Except in the negative! What is the laundry symbol for: "Don't even go there!"

Just for scale, my previous winter gloves are shown here with the new Sealskinz "Activity"  on the right. The pale grey, Thinsulate 40gr, ski gloves (cost £10) are really only good enough for a couple of degrees of frost on a bike. This is despite their thickness, stiffness and bulk. The problem is not the padding. They simply have no windproofing worth discussion. Though I have worn them, with considerable discomfort, down to -13C this year.  Oh, the exquisite pain! NOT! Washing them is a week-long affair to get them dry again! I have two pairs and can only swap them as soon as the other pair is dry. The bulk makes them sweaty despite their transparency to icy cold winds. But let's be fair: They are cheap ski gloves.

The "Gel" gloves, at left in the picture, are cheap and cheerful supermarket special offer, cycling gloves. Very comfortable without bulk. Just about warm enough down to (say) 35F but certainly no lower. Windproof is not their middle name either. They have proved remarkably long lasting despite being machine washed after every use. I have two pairs to keep them rotating through the wash.

The Seal Skinz are the new unknown quantity. Graded as "4 out of 5" on the manufacturers own thermal scale. Which means precisely nothing in real terms. -5C? -10C? Lower still? Hopefully I shan't be able to discover this until next winter. Meanwhile, am I supposed to get them all sweaty, or not?

 The cuffs really are ridiculously narrow. A malnourished skeleton would struggle to get any overlap (at all) on the rather pointless, Velcro straps. (note they also have elasticated cuffs) My wrists are not remotely in the "Arnie" class. Yet I only managed a very slight overlap before all the blood ran out of my fingers! (I'm joking of course but you get the picture)

The gloves feel instantly warm. Which made my hands "sticky" in just a few seconds. Enough to start to draw the liners out against the manufacturers strict instructions not to. One must deliberately hold the glove finger tips to stop this occurring while withdrawing one's hands.

I was in two minds whether to return them for a refund as foolishly undersized, badly designed and hygienically impractical. Having already paid £6.50 for a 9 day delivery service (they were not despatched for 6 days!) they had better perform as promised! Retail in Denmark is over £60 despite having "Made in China" on the label! I find myself resenting paying just half that price to an Amazon, online dealer. 25 miles on a wild goose chase. No offence intended to real geese.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

22 Feb 2012

Hollowtech2 chainset


22nd 35-40F, 2-4C, heavy overcast, slightly misty, very windy. 25 miles.

Talk about confusion! I spent ages going through online bike sales website which listed local villages as outlets. Off I rode to the local bike shops and expected to be able to lay my hands on the stuff I had chosen. Except that they had nothing to do with the website! This despite them being the only bike shops in these villages. I think this is very unfair on the local bike shops. (LBS)

In the interests of keeping these helpful chaps in business I chose from their existing stock. What use is a cheap website if I can't get help, expert advice or back on the road in a hurry? Whatever savings I might make by buying from a box shifter are totally insignificant when viewed from that viewpoint. I'm unlikely to need the shop's bike mechanic skills but at least they are there if I get stuck. I seem to be endlessly exploring new technology with all the more sophisticated, modern kit which I am fitting to Mr Higgins. Nothing much changed for decades in cycle parts. Then it was suddenly all change without my having been directly involved. (or informed)

The upshot of all this philosophising is that I bought a modestly-priced, 9 speed, 22,32,42T, Shimano, MTB triple chainset (with Hollowtech2, hollow axle and external cups) and 175mm cranks. Also a new 9 speed, Spectra chain and a pedal spanner. The chap in the shop had a go at my stuck pedals and then suggested I saw a slot in the end of the scrap cranks. Very sensible. The old chainset is now worthless and owed me nothing back from the £10 I spent on it (secondhand) anyway. :-)

My reasoning (if it is of any interest) is that one doesn't buy a new chainset every day. Not even a modestly priced one. The secondhand chainset which I found in the shed is already well worn with some damaged teeth. So it is likely to wear out a new chain far more rapidly than running with a new set of rings. Given the cost of 9 speed chains, at four per year with my mileage, a new chainset is a long term saving.

The one remaining unknown quantity is the 9 speed Sram cassette which I fitted last autumn. Does it still have a few thousand miles left in it? Or at least enough to allow a decent mileage from the new chain before both have to be replaced? I shall find out if the chain starts skipping tomorrow.

The Shimano SPD pedals are no longer cosmetically attractive but should last quite a bit longer. They spin nicely and the shoe plate catches are still perfectly functional.  Replacing the pedals with the same model would be another £40-50 at shop prices. They are invisible when I have my feet on/in them. I just hope I can get them out of the old cranks without damage. It would be nice if Shimano made them out of thinner stainless steel. So they would not rust quite so obviously when subjected to road salt. Some might argue that I never clean my trike so I can't expect any better.

Now I'll have to read the 3 foolscap pages of close-packed, microscopic writing and drawings of the chainset instruction manual. Eek! Let's see now... FC-M542 uses 3 spacers with my 68mm bottom bracket width. Acknowledged, Houston. Lucky I remembered to buy the Hollowtech cup fitting tool. I'll have to dig out my old torque wrenches.

Work commenced after lunch with the removal of the old chainset. I followed advice of the bike shop owner and sawed slits in the ends of the cranks. The pedals then came out without much effort.

This was after cleaning up the threads with a steel wire brush.
No longer quite the bling of new, are they?

The square axle cups were removed and the bottom bracket threads brushed out with a small wire brush. This was wrapped in a cloth and repeatedly moved to new areas of the cloth to clean the threads as thoroughly as possible. The threads were then finally brushed with the naked steel bristles, wiped out again and then well greased.

The Hollowtech cups were screwed into place to 40nM. Using my small torque wrench and the specially shaped socket. The cup packing rings were arranged as per the instructions for a 68mm wide bottom bracket shell. I found that I could have reversed the spacers to bring the chainrings slightly inboard. To make the large chainring slightly more reachable by the front changer cage. In top gear the changer will not quite move out far enough to ensure clearance between the cage and the chain. 

The Higgins paintwork really needs attention as can be seen here. The marks on the tubes are from the plastic, frame-fitting pump.

The new chainset in place with the new chain fitted. I had to drop the front changer quite a long way to cope with the 6 tooth reduction in the large chainwheel. I just had time to take a snap as it started pouring down. The lower gears should suit me better than having a large chainwheel which I never used.

Note the state of the grass after weeks of permafrost and snow. This afternoon coincided with another growing storm. It is supposed to gust to 50mph tonight. My tools kept being blown off the workbench. I have only roughly sorted out the gears so far. Both cables were slightly too long after the changes. The ground clearance is further reduced. Not a problem on a trike, on the flat, but ramps and traffic calming humps can catch one out. I'll take some more pictures tomorrow in better light. I'm rather pleased with the improved appearance.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

18 Feb 2012

18th Feb 2012

18th 40F, 4.5C, breezy, heavy overcast with continuous rain. I'd hoped it would clear up but it hasn't. During a bored moment, while tidying the shed, I weighed Mr Higgins again. Exactly 20kg without my carrier bag of bits and pieces. (camera, wallet, reading specs, etc.)  Say, about another lb. So the trike weighs 45lbs (in old money)  road ready. I sometimes carry 20lbs of shopping for ten miles home! Yikes! It's really no wonder this poor old fart can't keep up with the boy racers! :-)

The Brooks Professional saddle has been drawing unnecessary attention to itself of late. Not so much uncomfortable. More that it exists when and where it should not. A good saddle should go quite unnoticed.

 A builders level showed that it was rather nose high and sagging in the middle. Levelling it out again with a smidgin of nose high was easy enough. The sag required the correct Brooks spanner (wrench) which I do not own. I finally found an old spanner in my vast collection which fitted without effort. I gave the adjusting nut a half turn. I have absolutely no qualms about doing such things.

Those who worship Brooks and make genuflections to Olde England and a big fuss over maintenance didn't buy my particular NOS Professional saddle! After years of hardening in a warm storage space it still owes me something for causing much unnecessary misery! It was highly asymmetrical in both thickness and stiffness between the two points where I rest my ischial tuberosities!

Though I did learn a good deal about modifying leather saddles during that period. Hint: Use local wet cloths, soft rubber pads and g-cramps to shape it your own sit bones! Then let it dry overnight to hold its shape before riding it again. It will go that shape anyway after another year of torturing your tender bits. So why wait?

The top of the saddle was given a new coat of Brooks Proofide. First in ages and who can tell whether it needed it? The thin, white grease was well worked in with the bare fingers. As it is still cold in the shed. Even though the Pro has very thick and stiff leather it still splays at the side skirts when a load is applied to the spine. Were it a rigid plastic, even with the same form, it would not have this much give. So the leather must provide some suspension to the rider's nether regions in the absence of true springs. Just as the original Brooks patent claimed. The leather continues to show remarkable healing properties to any scuffs or marks. Note that I am talking about the Professional. Not the Brooks Team Pro of later years. The images above are from a year and a half ago. It was well over 10k miles younger back then. Nothing much has changed since. 

It looks as if some moron has practised their butchery on one of my back tyres. A perfectly straight, fine cut has been made at right angles deep into the tread! There is no way this could have happened accidentally or as a result of running over a sharp object. I wonder how they managed it since the trike is rarely left unattended for long . How did they get at the tyre with mudguards fitted? Perhaps it happened outside a supermarket. There is no favour which goes unpunished.

It never did clear up and the wind picked up to a roar later. A useful rest day. Hopefully I will be all the stronger for it. Even though I hate the lack of a ride.

19th 38F, 3C, blowing a gale, cloud slowly clearing to full sun. I managed the wind direction rather well until the last short leg. Then I was in bottom gear on the drops at 8mph. I took off the Aesse at half way as I turned downwind. The very thin Giordano jacket was (mostly) warm enough after that.

Gears jumping badly on the 38T chainwheel whenever I apply pressure. I was hoping to see the last of the road salt washed away before changing the chain. 3500 miles from new. Is that reasonable over a winter? The saddle was back to unnoticeable again. Except for a slight stickiness at first from yesterday's Proofide. This was despite a quick polish with a clean rag before leaving.

I saw no other cyclists today. Though I did see a large flock of perhaps 200 Whooper swans foraging on a field. A dozen took off and passed low over me. Why do they call all the time they are in flight? Geese are the same. Perhaps the young ones are asking: "Are we nearly there yet?" 31 miles.

20th 31-37F, -1+3C, blowing hard, full sun. Odd, considering the forecast was overcast with wintry showers. I enjoyed the hilly ride with the wind behind me but it was a real fight coming back. It is supposed to gust to 40mph later. There was a lot of ice on the roads from melt-water run-off. I became fed up with the wind and the jumping gears and headed home early. Only 20miles.

I changed the chain after lunch and cleaned the trike with an oily rag. The Spectra chain extractor is a bit different in use. The drilled backing bolt has to be backed off each time to free the chain when the rivet is driven inside it.  Cheaper extractors have a slot so the link with the protruding rivet just lifts free. Not a problem with the Spectra provided one is aware of the need to back off the bolt. The bolt is easily returned to the correct position once the chain is placed back into the tool for resetting the rivet.

The Spectra extractor is nice to use and not particularly heavy. The shiny one in the middle is a total piece of crap. It constantly wants to fall to pieces and the materials are very substandard. The old, galvanised extractor, on the right, is functional but needs a bit of finger strength at times.Though it has the advantage of being small and lighter to carry in the touring tool kit.

I see that some of the cheapest extractors have now been modified to place the link locator nearer the thrust surface. This overcomes the problems with narrower links which I experienced when moving to 9 speed for the first time. The Spectra extractor is completely effortless in use. No finger strength is required. The drive bolt with its large Tommy bar freewheels back out with a light flick. So much nicer to use than the cheap things I have been using for decades. Like the one on the right above.

Remember to keep the drive pin in good order. Or it can mushroom over time and stick in the chain link side plates during use. Easily fixed with a file (or bench grinder) after removing the thrust screw. The cheaper extractors don't use hardened pins so can be easily filed.

21st 35-40F, 2-4C, windy, overcast. The gears were jumping like mad on the new Spectra chain. So I rode into town for a new chain. No 9 speed chains in stock. I can probably get one tomorrow. 18 miles.

The dealer pointed out that the teeth on my cheap and nasty, secondhand, steel, triple chainset rings were completely knackered. Which raises the ugly spectre of having to find another chainset. I'd prefer to stick to a square axle, 170mm, triple. Preferably a compact or MTB ring sizes. I doubt I have used the 48T outer chainring more than twice in the last year. Both times descending steep hills. I could just as easily have used the 38T with the smaller sprockets. So there's absolutely no point in using a big ring just for show. Even though the road sets Sora, Tiagra etc. are much prettier than MTB. I also detest safety rings on chainsets!

42,32,22T chainring sets seem quite popular in MTB but are usually in black. Or with a silver crank and black rings. The cheaper ones will only go to 8 gears. The mid-price to 9 speeds. 10 speeds only on the priciest. Sticking to the square axle and Shimano is rather limiting my choices. For some reason I am choosing 170mm without a clue why. I used 6 3/4" cranks in my youth. Now 175mm is popular. Will my knobbly (old) knees still whirl round just as fast with 6.9" cranks? It ought to depend on leg length, surely?

My Shimano sealed axle probably still has plenty of miles left in it. Adding a new axle pushes up the price. I've looked at the scrap mountain bikes in the shed but none of the chainsets look very pretty. So I'm doing my window shopping homework online. Preferably before I knacker the new chain with the worn out chainrings.

Now I've found an old but serviceable Shimano TX MTB chainset in the shed. 170mm cranks, square axle, 42,32,22T. Whoopee! Having stripped and cleaned it all thoroughly I even managed to remove the old pedals.

Now I can't undo my SPD pedals from my secondhand chainset! I know I greased them well before fitting them. My only chrome vanadium 15mm spanner isn't up to the job.   The jaws have splayed and burred. My thin Campag cone spanners won't do much good here. Now I'll have to buy a proper pedal spanner as well! But which one? If I can get the pedals off at least I can save the cost of a new chainset right now. If they won't come off it's the cost of a new pair of pedals as well as a new chainset. And a pedal spanner.

Call me a sceptic but I've now watched every pedal removal video on YT.  I'm beginning to believe every single pedal was removed, greased and replaced just prior to the videos being shot! As will be noted by the number of comments from frustrated cyclists asking about firmly seized pedals! One chap even removed his pedals from a completely rusted hack with a small adjustable wrench! I've also browsed the bike forums and pedal removal advice on cycling websites. Heat and a long lever. I used a 4' tube on the spanner. And a hammer. The blowtorch is next! Differential thermal expansion in polite company.

I've just put the old chainset back on so I can reach the bike shops tomorrow. I like good tools but how often will I need to take off any pedals again? I have boxes of car tools which I only ever used once! They saved me paying a mechanic and I learned a lot of new tricks. Will a penny-pinching pedal spanner just round over the pedal axle flats? Or will it round over the pedal spanner first? Questions-questions. Aaarghhh! I just hope I can sleep tonight!  ;-))

There's a Longstaff, tandem trike conversion on eBay:

  longstaff tandem trike conversion

It has hub brakes on both wheels and six speed OWD. I can't say whether it would fit a normal bike. I would imagine tandem trikes are broader gauge compared with solos.


As always, any trike or conversion can be updated with Trykit parts. I'm not sure about 2WD on a conversion but a new Trykit freewheel adaptor will allow a modern, index cassette to run true. A Trykit index gear hanger will make the most of the new gear opportunities.

It sold for £132.

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12 Feb 2012

12th Feb 2012


Ice in Assens harbour.

12th 30-35F, -1+2C, breezy, overcast but clearing. Above freezing for first time in ages! The roads were very wet. The ridges of frozen slush has been replaced by wet slush. The wind had driven snow back onto the roads from the fields. Only 14 miles.

Down at the beach the sea looked inviting for a quick dip.
Mr Higgins retorted that he'd seen quite enough salt for one year.

13th 20-32F, -7-0C, almost still, patchy cloud clearing to sunny. Cold at first. So I wore the thin, Giordano day-glo jacket over the Aesse. It came off after ten miles.   I joined a road just as a cyclist passed. As we both free-wheeled downhill she left me behind. I had to pedal quite hard to catch up again. Then I overtook on the following climb. She was riding a fat tired, modern roadster. Mr Higgins was heavily laden. There must be some drag somewhere. I was too warm later. My back was quite wet. The pretty hoar frost was beginning to burn off by the time I reached home again. 21 miles.

14th 31-35F, 0+2C, still, heavy overcast, misty, wet. Light, new snow frozen to the ground. It wasn't raining except from the overhanging trees. My glasses kept getting wet. The roads were wet and slushy in places. A thoroughly depressing day. The Aesse jacket was too warm even on on its own. Back to the Belstaff tomorrow.

I had an email from the helpful cycle dealer I visited on Saturday. His rep recommended the Sealskinz kj301 "Activity" gloves. At £60 a pair that's a hell of a risk if they don't work completely reliably down to -15C. Plus waterproofing, breathability and windproofing all taken as a given. They also lack any cycling padding in the palm.

I think these were similar to the ones I tried at another cycle shop. Nicely made, roomy but felt oddly thin compared with my bulky Thinsulate 40gr ski gloves. Without any temperature range suggestion I wasn't going to spend that kind of serious money. Luckily it is much warmer now. So the pressure is off to find better gloves. So I can continue my research. Probably for next year now judging by the rising temperatures. 13 miles.

15th 34-40F, 1-4C, windy, full sun. Yesterday's thaw followed by overnight frost had left the roads covered in black ice. Sheets of bumpy water ice from snow melt added to the fun. No problem on a trike but drivers weren't altering their behaviour to match. The wind was forecast northerly, base 20 mph with gusts to 40mph. It certainly wasn't remotely that bad. At least not yet. Too warm in the Aesse jacket again despite the cold wind. Fingers and toes no problem today. 23 miles.

I while back I had a go at the Danish government for raising fines for cycling offences. Amongst these was an £80 fine for riding on the pavement. By sheer coincidence the Danish Post Office also had the law changed. To force all home owners to put their postboxes on the edge of their property. So that they were easily accessible from a van window or scooter. It said so in the instructions sent out to all home owners. They hope to reduce costs by making delivery more efficient.

Guess what? The Postpersons, on their official PO scooters, are now riding the entire length of many village roads and streets on the pavement! Often travelling at high speed from one detached house to the next. All along the pavement! Often obscured from those leaving their homes by high hedges. Many village residents are elderly.

One rule for the Post Office and another for ordinary cyclists? It would seem so.  It certainly offers a get-out clause for any cyclist caught riding on the pavement. Perhaps I should make a citizens arrest of a token postperson. In the interests of public order and road safety of course? ;o))

The crew of a downed British bomber are commemorated by a stone.
It stands midway between Gamtofte church and the vicarage near Assens.
The large church, shown below, dates from the 1100s. Though not in its present form. 

16th 28-35F, -2+2C, light breeze, sunny, turning to cloud with rain forecast for later. Despite the warning for icy roads an early start would be sensible. The Head Gardener insisted I wear the Aesse jacket and was right as usual. It was one of those raw days despite the positive temperatures. I had a real struggle to find any decent rice in any of the shops. So I ended going to four shopping villages instead of one. Talk about riding round in circles!

It became darker and darker until it started raining around 11.30am as promised. Then it started persisting down for the last 7 mile leg. So I put on my cape just for a change. It was hard to keep a deep puddle from forming in the cloth sagging between the brake levers. I was soon fairly damp and getting slowly colder. The price of wearing non-breathable nylon. The ground was still treacherous back at home. With water lying over ice and the soil still rock hard with permafrost.

 At least it washed some of the mud off my Tahoe shoes. I'm sure Mr Higgins was also grateful for a rinse to remove some of the road salt from his nether regions. The chain has suddenly started jumping in some gears!  26 miles by i-gotU logger. Or 28 miles by Ventus GPS. Take your pick.

I tidied the bike shed this afternoon! Only a few more man-years and it will be lovely! The worst thing you can ever do is to take a picture of an untidy shed. You see things in the picture which the eye has cheerfully learned to ignore! Aaargghhh! :-)

The sea is still frozen. A white reef marks the rougher ice where stronger currents run.

17th 36-43F, 2-6C, light winds, sunny periods. The thaw is under-way. Lots of puddles on the roads. I punctured on rocks hidden in the mud dragged off the fields by farmers. They have started to spread their stinking pig shit. I visited lots of shops looking for a clear case or bottle for the MD80 video camera. Still no luck. 25 miles.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

6 Feb 2012

February 6th 2012


 6th 15F, -9C, breezy, overcast, light snow falling. The wind has gone round to the south.  This usually means moist air and increased snow fall. I left about 9am with a blustery, icy-cold wind over my shoulder. My hands hardly warmed up. After shopping I had to return with the wind now at 2 o'clock. It was cutting into my cheeks. Now my toes were freezing cold but my hands were okay. I had a look at motorcycle gloves but nothing was at all suitable. 19 miles. I'm going out again after lunch so I might as well use the trike.

I had one of those strange coincidences on Saturday. I had been talking to my wife about helmet cams before I went out. Which she had noticed me watching helmet cam videos on YouTube. She thought it was a very good idea to get one. So she would know who to blame if I was run down on my trike! The very same morning I saw the popular little MD80 being sold very cheaply in a local supermarket. I had to wait until today to get a micro memory card in town. That cost me more than the video camera itself but it all now seems to work.

The MV80 miniature video camera lying beside a Kingston USB stick. The camera is shorter but fatter than the memory stick. It should provide at least a couple of hours of 640x480 video with the 8GB Class 6 micro SDHC card.

The coincidences continue. The camera, with its silicone jacket on, fits the central slot on top of my Abus helmet to perfection. With the lanyard acting as the safety belt (unnecessary)  I set the camera going and put the helmet on. What I hadn't allowed for was the time it took to get out of the house! So the video ran out before I reached the top of
the nearest hill!

It was also an incredibly boring video too! After the scenes of domestic bliss I recorded just a few yards of the road immediately in front of the trike. Though I deliberately kept looking up and from side to side the view ahead and around me was never visible. So I'll have to lean the camera well backwards on the helmet next time. Perhaps have a few trials to ensure the videos have some rather more interesting content. Not that I have any plans to share my daily shopping trips with a wider audience. Not even the highlights of the organic veg display. ;-)

Though it didn't feel so cold on the way back the temperature has already dropped to 10F, -12C again and is still falling. Another week of this cold weather and they (DMI) promise positive temperatures. 11 more miles pm.

I might try to make the camera a better match to the helmet to make it slightly less obvious. If I should do a header then I'll probably end up with the camera sticking out of the top of my head! Not very likely though. BTW: My first full video filled 1.2GB.

I tried everything to change the MV80's date and time without success. In the end I dragged the corrected TAG.txt file from the desktop to the camera card "k" drive. Switching off the camera and switching back on forces the camera memory card to read the corrected TAG file. Once accomplished the TAG file should automatically disappear from the the "k" drive directory. Setting the TAG time file a little ahead will give you time to record a few seconds of video and then switch off. BTW: Using the supplied mains/USB charger is better than using a USB port. The power tends to droop on some ports. Newcomers to the MV80 camera should search YouTube for a series of helpful guides from Frank.

7th 10-24F, -12-4C, clear, bright and sunny. Still, but with NE gusts to 20mph promised later. Another cold night. 1F at bedtime is -19C. No new snow.  I set the camera going on my helmet and recorded arguably the most boring videos of my entire life. Far too much head movement and changing angle setting made the videos all but worthless. Wearing a thick hat and a balaclava the angle of the helmet changes considerably between repeated fittings. Too much wind noise as well. The camera stopped of its own accord a number of times. Perhaps it was just too cold below -10C? Otherwise just another shopping trip. 24 miles.

8th 26-30F, -3-1C, breezy, overcast.  -3 is not warm! Fingers cold going. Toes cold coming back into a light wind. I'm still struggling with the MV80 video camera. The recording LEDs are going out after a few seconds. But oddly, I still have some video recordings. It takes forever to download into Picasa too despite being a Class 6 card. Having watched some of them I can completely rule out hanging the camera from my jacket pocket. Or fixed to my helmet. Far too much vibration and rocking about. Not to mention my panting, coughing and spluttering in the cold air! So the camera has to go on the trike somehow. A clear tube, or box, would hopefully kill wind noise. The question is whether it is possible to isolate road vibration. The camera seems to wildly exaggerate any and every movement. 19 miles. 

9th 26F, -3F, blowing a gale. rather cloudy. The wind was fierce and cutting. With snow smoking off the fields, across the roads, where the hedges were missing. I was hanging off the side in the gusts, just to stay in a straight line. Then I turned almost into the wind and became warm. This time I was brave and took off the fleece jacket. Surprisingly the Aesse was still warm and windproof enough on its own. 

Despite the two pairs of thick woolly socks and neoprene overshoes my toes were still quite cold. I'm trying another balaclava. The thin one was too tight on my ears. The new, double thickness one doesn't need an over hat and is softer. While still allowing a smidgin of cooling through the helmet vents. So my ears and cheeks were warmer without my head overheating.  

I haven't been able to find a pair of ski goggles to replace the cheap (crappy) ones from the supermarket. The sponge seal has come away and can't be fixed back on. Cold plastic against the face aches! Only 15 miles.

10th 16-25F, -9-4C, full sun forecast with lighter winds and a high of -3C. It felt very cold at first. So I wore my fleece jacket over the Easse. I took it off at half way and was quite comfortable from then on. I have a new pair of £5 sunglasses with foam edge seals for cold weather. The snow covered fields are literally covered in deer tracks. You'd think there's be vast herds of the things rumbling about at night. They are rarely visible during the day. I doubt I see half a dozen a year despite my miles travelling the country lanes.

My relatively new keyboard is losing key strokes! Turning it upside down seems to clear the problem for the moment. The I-GotU GPS logger failed to record. I haven't found a glass vial or a clear plastic tube for my mini video camera yet. I plan to experiment with a simple terry clip on the DIY bike computer rack.

My sore heels have not responded to all the various moisturising creams and heel greases which I've tried. I even tried greasy lip salve. Well, it makes sense when my heals are dry and cracked. It was pointless. It had no effect at all. So I've changed to talcum powdering my heels of my woolly socks. It seems to help. This only happens when it is cold. For the rest for the year my heels are as soft as a baby's bottom. My toes go purple in the cold, too, but they soon recover in the shower. 19 miles in cold, bright sunshine.

11th 26F, -3C, light breeze, heavy overcast. I headed off for a 15 mile distant target. For the first time in four attempts the place was actually open. I also had a chat with a bike shop owner about winter gloves. He recommended the Seal Skinz cold weather gloves. Beautifully made but nearly £60 equiv! Ouch! They didn't do an XXL for my orang-utan sized vestigial appendages. The XL only just went on but felt tight at the wrist and fingers. It seemed to get colder and colder on the way back. So I had to put my fleece jacket back on. My fingers were marginally warm and toes iffy. My new, knitted, double balaclava proved warmer than the thin poly one with a Thinsulate hat on top. It wasn't itchy either.

I was late for a road accident by about five minutes. Two fire tenders an ambulance and the police attended. They deliberately blocked the road with their vehicles to stop people pushing past. Nobody caught up with me in the next few miles as I plodded on after passing on the cycle lane. 33 miles but I'm going out again on an errand. Plus 6 more miles.

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5 Feb 2012

Blue Higgins trike on eBay



Higgins trike 3 wheeler vintage for restoration or ride as is had this for a while and have never got round to doing anything with it it double front brake 10 speed etc as you can see has had parts changed over its liftime it is working and you can ride it as is of restore it back to its former glory all in all its a rare working ridable machine and what an experience it is to ride collect only on this item i,m afraid size is 22.5 inches center to top seat tube and 22 inches center to center top tube
viewing is available at most time just ask
collection is possible
international shipping is available please ask
selling some of my vast amount of bike parts collection after many years of collecting
international postage available

Since the cat is out of the igloo: I would suggest potential buyers treat this machine as a brazed-on Higgins conversion on an unknown donor frame. The frameset shows no obvious loyalty to Higgins' normal trike building. The solid, rear bar brace between the rectangular struts would have been a semi-circular tube on a real Higgins "Ultralite". So this started life as a conversion. The front fork, brake extension bar would also be hexagonal. I have seen Longstaff trikes with the round, chromed extension bar.

The numbers visible on the bottom bracket may offer a clue to the frame maker's true identification. 

Note that it is being offered for international bidders too.

Well, it went for £228 after 14 bids. 

Click on any image for an enlargement.