31 Mar 2015

31st March 2015 No Question leaning ATB trike with differential.

The No Question bike builders have put together another interesting and sophisticated trike. Leaning mechanism, hub gear, differential and balanced disk brakes all on a welded aluminium frame with one hand control:


The hub gear provides chain crossover to the differential behind it without needing exposed dérailleur gears and a vulnerable rear changer hanging down. Though a rear changer is arranged here as a chain tensioner for the chainset it is sensibly lifted almost horizontal to maintain ground clearance.

A leaning mechanism makes good sense for an ATB trike because it should help to reduce the extraordinary acrobatics required of the trike rider on rough ground.

Another view showing the differential between the split shafts of the rear axle. Despite the complexity of the tubing, the weight must presumably remain low thanks to the aluminium, construction.

Trikes will always faithfully follow the landscape regardless of ruts, camber and rocks. Stability is always marginal if the rider's centre of gravity  falls outside the triangle formed by the wheel patches. The degree of body lean needed is often far too much to keep all three wheels safely on the ground. Due to the wide track it is impossible to apply enough pressure through the handlebars to ride on two wheels. Beyond a certain point the trike will simply fall over. Usually throwing the unfortunate rider "downhill" to the ground. Often from a considerable height if they were already standing on the pedals.

A normal touring /racing trike is a very poor beast to ride on the rough stuff. It takes very little camber before it is completely impossible to hang far enough off the uphill side to remain stable. The top tube is usually the major barrier which limits the rider's compensating lean. This is the reason that trikes need specialist oval race tracks with very little camber on the turns. It being completely impossible to reach sufficient speed by pedalling alone for centrifugal forces to allow a trike to ride the usually steep banking. While having no banking at all would severely limit cornering speeds. It being very difficult to pedal hard and lean 'inwards' at the same time.

Tuesday 31st, 33F, 1C, overcast and windy with 2" of snow plastered to everything! April 1st joke a day early? It was already white when I got up an hour ago and has been snowing hard ever since. The previously forecast 25m/s gusts have now been reduced to [only] 20m/s [45mph] at around 18.00. It never was remotely that windy but I'm not battling with wet slush just for the sake of it.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

30 Mar 2015

30th March 2015 Czech trike builders: No Question.

Monday 30th. 40F, 4C, light winds, overcast. Forecast to blow to 45mph later on a 25mph base with sunshine and showers. Even worse tomorrow! I discovered a spoke had broken its head off yesterday while cleaning the trike. Having extracted the spoke I couldn't find any spares. I shall have to try an LBS. Meanwhile the nipple is having a noisy ride inside the hollow rim. I had better leave early to avoid the worst of the gales.

One of the handy pennants I consult on most of my rides. Useful for checking wind direction and strength. 

Riding at speed increases the sense of a headwind almost regardless of wind direction. The Danes are very fond of their flag. [Called Dannebrog] Many garden owners have poles and fly a pennant year round. While a full flag is rather more formal and used for more important events. Small flags are available everywhere and are used for marking a house for visitors to birthday parties and even the sale of plants or bric-a-brac at the side of the road. In the absence of all other clues the pennant tells the truth.

There was already a stiff wind for my walk.  Maintaining a vertical disposition proved problematic. Every time a Skylark took off it was in the next county before it could start singing! At least it stayed dry.

Which is more than I can say for my ride. I hit an effortless 27mph on the flat on my way. Coming back, sometimes in bottom gear, I hit a low of 6.4mph on the flat. This is where having close ratios really helps. With a separate gear for 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12mph at a useful cadence [pedal rpm] there is no shock to the knees with each change up. It rained on me three times and several more times while I was in the shops. Only 10 miles.

Breaking news from the Tricycle Association Website:


Direct link to the website of a lady, international tricycle racer from Czechoslovakia:

Google will translate the website text if you are unfamiliar with Czech:  Google Translate

Her trike is particularly interesting as it has a unique rear axle design and frame and was built in Cz [in aluminium] by No Question Bikes:

 [Note the multilingual options.]

Click on any image for an enlargement.

29 Mar 2015

29th March 2015 Bag lady? Moi?

Sunday 29th 45F, 7C, breezy, overcast, showers. As I swapped between saddle bags the other day I noticed how well my Carradice saddlebags are holding up despite daily use. The heavy cotton duck cloth really is remarkably robust. Even the taped edges still look good. The tan leather straps tend to darken where they are repeatedly flexed. The buckles do rust when not handled frequently but do at least have rollers. The rollers act like pulleys and allow a tighter pull when tensioning a strap. The reflective 3M[?] badge has long faded away and pointed at the sky anyway. So was of doubtful purpose. I would have liked longer straps on the Junior to allow taller loads to be strapped down by the lid. Spare clothing will often go safely under the ample lid but then cannot be fastened for want of a couple of extra inches on the lid straps! Cord can be used but is crude, slightly unreliable and inconvenient. I carry a few cords in yard lengths with a woven cover rather like thin climbing ropes. It hardens with age and holds knots well while allowing easy tying and untying. 

The Camper Longflap gets the brunt of daily wear and tear [by far] but looks as if it will go on for years more. It slouches from the weight of the Abus U-lock in the same pocket but seems not to mind. Being organic material it tends to improve with age after a rather drab beginning.

Sadly my required saddlebag capacity is not remotely matched by the Camper. Presumably Carradice limits itself to its main market of bike saddlebags. Which do have a reduced size limit due to the intruding back wheel even when hung from a very high saddle with a strong rear rack fitted.

On a trike one could easily use a very much taller and deeper bag but nobody actually makes a proper one. I have to make do with a sports bag draped over the top of the already, well-stuffed Camper. Hung by its loop handles over the saddle pin, the present sports bag has lasted for ages. It cost about £3 as a special offer from a supermarket. I bought two and am now wearing out the second one. The only time it ever looks tidy is when it is well stuffed but even then it's hardly a serious way of transporting shopping. I keep looking at baskets, willow, metal and otherwise. Motorcycle top boxes are just too heavy for my liking.

I suppose I could hang another Camper from the saddle bag loops and have the other sitting on the rack. Except that it would probably make both bags inconvenient to load and unload. It is sometimes a struggle to load the Camper on the rack when the sports bag is already full. I split the load between light or fragile to go in the sports bag. While tins, jars and milk cartons go in the Camper. The system works very well with damage occurring only extremely rarely these days. A "Super-Camper" Longflap about 15" high and 12" deep [f to b] would work wonders for my needs.

I have often wondered about the air drag of my bags. In their defence they do slope nicely while resting on their rack on the rear stays. The 'untidy' air spilling from my whirling legs will tend to hit the bag and flow downwards. The original idea of a saddlebag was obviously to hide it behind the bike rider's bum. So that it did not increase the frontal area and thus cause more drag.

On a trike a low centre of gravity is more desirable. Not that I have ever noticed any effect from heavily loaded bags while cornering. I do tend to remove the Camper and the Trykit rack before fitting the Junior bag when I have decided on a longer, fun ride. I still have the [pre-rack] stainless steel crossbars to hang the Junior. I am not keen on saddle hung bags anyway because they tend to hit the backs of my legs. Due to my constant search for the perfect bag option my wife refers to me as the Imelda Marcos of bag ladies. [Amongst other things!]

With no pressure to go shopping and the irregular showers I may/shall treat today as a rest day. So I tidied the trike shed instead. I know I have some spare spokes but couldn't find them. I shall just have to try an LBS.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

26 Mar 2015

26th March 2015. Ol-factory pig farming!

Thursday 26th 39-44F, 4-7C, grey overcast, breezy, overnight rain drying up. The stench of pig-shit on opening the front door nearly blew my head off! I pottered around my usual walk to the woods under a heavy overcast and soggy underfoot. A few Skylarks and Blackbirds did their noisy chores but the wildlife seemed strangely absent today.

I was bemused to see yet another discussion in the Danish news media about the exodus from the land to the city. Tens of thousands of Danish rural homes wont sell despite repeated price reductions and years of being on the market. The mortgage lenders are making trillions from the low interest rates but will not lend to potential buyers.

The first commentator below the news piece summed it up perfectly: Heavily subsidised, factory farmers waging biological and chemical warfare on the remaining, defenceless rural inhabitants and their children. Using weapons grade pig-shit mixed with industrial strength perfume, the nauseating stench can be smelt indoors and out for months on end. The roads are covered in deep mud as vast, filthy, stinking tankers plough their way up and down the rural roads. Huge, converted shipping containers sit beside rural lanes with roaring diesel engines constantly churning the slurry between being endlessly refilled from dedicated tankers. Just to save a shit spreading tanker journey back to the vast circular slurry ponds found literally everywhere in the Danish landscape. There are more pig slurry tanks in Denmark than craters on the Moon!

When they are not spreading stinking pig-shit they are endlessly spraying their monoculture crops in a roaring gale. Or cutting down trees and hedges to make ever larger prairies further devoid of wildlife. To be worked by imported, dirt-cheap labour using massive machinery which often dwarfs the entire road width. So that the tyres are literally running along both verges simultaneously. The usually young, Eastern European farm workers control these huge vehicles with one hand. As they constantly abuse their hand-held mobile phones in direct contradiction of the law. No doubt their illegally low, slave wages do not allow for a hands-free system.

You think I exaggerate? Every item of clothing we wear stinks of pig slurry. Hanging clothing outside to dry is impossible for months on end. Just as it is completely impossible to open windows to air the house. Just walking outside to the postbox is enough for clothing to become contaminated by the stench. My assorted cycling clothing goes through the wash cycle after every ride but I still smell like an [ol]factory farmworker!

The headwind wasn't too bad as I headed SW. I had made the mistake of swapping back to the Brooks and it felt like a bed of rocks! I replaced it with the Vetta as soon as I returned. Only 17 miles.

Friday 27th 42F, 6C, overcast, misty, spitting with rain. A longer walk through the woods. Saw my first Wagtail for this year. A huge flock of Wood pigeons out on a field. There must have been several hundred. Saw two cyclists out training.

Rode 7 miles so far but going out again after lunch. Very light winds but heavy overcast and spitting.  Rode to a supermarket for five things. Came back with one! No stock. A psychopath blasted me with his horn as he pushed past at twice the legal speed limit, towing a large trailer full of logs within a village boundary against oncoming traffic. His basic human right to exceed the speed limit obviously exceeded my right to survival. I was showing just under 30mph on my computer so was still legal.

90%+ of vehicles travel through this village at well above the speed limit. That includes juggernauts, buses and dustbin lorries as well as most vans and cars. No police + no speed cameras = no crimes committed. Fit a speed camera facing both ways and the Greek debt problems are over in a week. After that the "profiteering from the poor [criminal] motorist" can pay to sweep the roads for the first time this century and repair all the neglected cycle paths. Plus another 10 miles.

Saturday 28th 41F, 5C, bright but cloudy start, light winds. Rain and 30mph gusts expected later this afternoon. Walkies! Mostly overcast but sunny periods. Almost still but the trees are just beginning to move.Went out after coffee. Several items out of stock. Going rather well today. Lots of cyclists out training. Winds favourable. 16 miles.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

23 Mar 2015

23rd March 2015 More musings.

Monday 23rd 34-41F, 1-5C, bright, breezy. A thin layer of ice remaining on a few puddles in the shade.

A busier week than normal at 221 miles which included trying to use an uncomfortable saddle. I mused on the strangeness of cycling as I walked my usual circular route up to the woods and back another way.

Cycling speed can be thought of as increased range and/or reduced time required to complete a particular distance. Most cyclists can trash the speed and/or range of a fit walker. A fit cyclist can easily trash the speed and/or range of even a fit runner. Only once have I ever encountered a runner who came remotely close to my average cruising speed. Skinny, sinewy, muscled and incredibly long of stride, it took me over half a mile to catch her from first sighting. This was a very rare occurrence indeed and I have no idea how long she could run at that speed as she was soon lost behind me to bends in the lane.

Recumbent cycles can usually outpace an upright on descents and into the wind. They have a reputation for slower climbing. Though climbing is always rider dependent. Many recumbents are not specifically designed for speed in that they do not attempt to reduce the rider's frontal area to a minimum. These usually offer relaxed comfort where normal saddles hurt the most. Despite an 80+ year history, weight reduction in recumbents has not had quite the same development period as the upright.

I am instinctively terrified of such low machines as that on the right. I regularly imitate 3rd from the right since fitting the aero/tri-bars and can vouch for its effectiveness into a headwind. Or to instantly increase my speed. 2nd from the left could be further improved [aerodynamically] by leaning the rider's head more backwards. This design has the advantage of not leaving the rider's legs hanging down in the self-made headwind. With care in the design the recumbent rider's legs can be largely lost in the torso's frontal area. Though admittedly such a high bottom bracket [and matching high seat] does look very odd from the side.

Unfortunately, only the first from the right would really suit a recumbent trike. Anything taller is just asking to tip over on the first sharp corner. The rider cannot lean inwards on corners as they can so easily on an upright. Raising the rider's legs in line with their torso makes their centre of gravity even further from the road than an upright. The upright rider's thighs are usually where their centre of gravity is located when in the aero position. The same remains true with the raised legs design of a tall recumbent trike!  Only a considerably widened track would offer enough stability for a tall trike. This might still not be enough stability for a really fast and daring rider. Braking in mid turn is very likely to add to overturning forces! A tadpole may help matters here but it lacks the ability to carry large loads between the rear wheels of the delta.

I only mention any of this because it might have been amusing to build a recumbent trike using my Longstaff conversion axle. I built a long wheelbase recumbent bike in my [relative] youth which was amazingly fast on the flat and downhill. Climbing the steep hills of Bath was quite another matter altogether. I almost destroyed the sheet alloy seat while pressing myself backwards to climb my way back home after riding it to work. The seat was pushed back so far that I could no longer reach the pedals!  Silly me! 

I rode a triangle today. First leg straight into the wind. Second leg cruising with it. Third leg fighting a cold, head-crosswind. I'm still wrapped up for winter! The Vetta saddle was fine and did not exaggerate the damage done by the San Marco "Inquisition" on yesterday's 50 mile ride. The odd thing is that I seem to get a deep ache in the thighs when I'm riding any "modern" saddle. This simply does not occur with the Brooks. Which leads me to wonder if a modern saddle is compressing nerves not affected by the kinder Brooks? I can still remember the same deep thigh pain when I rode the Unica Nitor 'Road' as a teenager. Perhaps there's more to Brooks comfort than meets the [er-um-er] eye. 21 miles.

Tuesday 24th 40-43F, 5-6C, overcast, raining, light winds. Light rain forecast all morning. It was cool and misty with only silhouettes beyond a couple of hundred yards/metres. Early fine drizzle petered out by half way to the woods.There was weak sunshine as I rode north but it soon turned overcast again. I cut back across hilly country to reach another village to make it 20 miles by the time I reached home again. I still have the Vetta saddle fitted and it seems to be fine on such short rides.

Keep on trikin'

Wednesday 25th 38-43F, 3-6C, sunny and clear. Expected to gust to 30mph later. I went without a walk so I could leave early on the trike. Headed east into the increasingly cold wind in weak sunshine. Returned with a tailwind but overcast. I was able to cruise at 20-22 on the tri-bars at intervals. Turned off to take the scenic hilly route at half way back to avoid the main road traffic. The Vetta saddle was fine with the best bibs. The thin GripGrab gloves were wet inside and cold. Today's tactic of wearing more, but thinner layers, worked quite well. The forecast suggested it would be much warmer than it was. Due to the lack of storage space in the Carradice Junior saddlebag I dressed to be able to take off easily compressible layers. It proved unnecessary. 70 miles.

Thursday 26th 39F, 4C, grey overcast, breezy, overnight rain drying up. The stench of pig-shit on opening the front door nearly blew my head off!

I was bemused to see a discussion in the Danish news media about the Danish exodus from the land to the city. Tens of thousands of homes wont sell despite repeated price reductions and years of being on the market.

The first commentator to the piece summed it up perfectly: Heavily subsidised, factory farmers waging biological warfare on the remaining, defenceless rural inhabitants. Using weapons grade pig-shit mixed with industrial strength perfume. The nauseating stench can be smelt indoors and out for months on end. The roads are covered in deep mud as vast tankers plough their way up and down the rural roads. Huge, converted shipping containers sit beside rural lanes with huge, roaring diesel engines churning the slurry. Constantly being refilled from dedicated tankers to save a journey back to the vast circular slurry ponds found literally everywhere in the Danish landscape.

When they are not spreading stinking pig-shit they are endlessly spraying their monoculture crops. Or cutting down trees and hedges to make ever larger prairies further devoid of wildlife. To be worked by imported, dirt-cheap labour using massive machinery which often dwarfs the entire road width. So that the tyres are literally running along both verges simultaneously. The usually young, Eastern European drivers control these huge vehicles with one hand as they constantly abuse their hand-held mobile phones in direct contradiction of the law. No doubt their illegally low, slave wages do not allow for a hands-free system.

Meanwhile the farmers run around in immaculate, late model SUVs and holding regular shooting parties of overfed, intensively-reared pheasants. No remaining hedge or copse is complete without a feeder. The bright blue grain drums can be seen everywhere. Meanwhile the doublethink politic-ooze lie constantly about how much the farmers are doing for the environment to earn their tax-payers trillions.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

21 Mar 2015

20th March 2015 Tricyklist 1 Colossal Squid 0

Friday 20th 37F, 3C, almost still, overcast.  It is supposed to stay dry, but cloudy, with the wind gusting to "only" 20mph. Tomorrow is forecast to be wet with 45mph winds so looks like a serious candidate for my next rest day. I'd better make the most of today!

Image showing the still excellent chain tension with small/small.[33 chainring/11 sprocket] I wonder why a mid-length cage is not offered for the Athena? The long cage offers 39t capacity for a triple set-up. While the short cage offers only 31t capacity for more typical racing and compact, 50/34, double chainsets. A mid-length cage could provide 35t capacity for more modest cassette and chainring choices. Sadly Campag are clearly terrified by anybody going "off piste" by mixing and matching their groupsets. 

Yet Campag is still losing major ground to their "Sramano" competitors after literally decades of completely monopolising cycle racing. Now even their 11 speed monopoly is smashed at a fraction of Campag prices. This opens up new gearing possibilities which the Campag marketing "dictatorship" cannot possibly match without a sea change at the top. Now it seems they have shot themselves in the foot with yet another raft of non-backwards-compatible changes for 2015. They obviously saw the competitor's 11 speed avalanche about to roll over them and simply opted out.

An early walk. I was taking a short-cut across a field by a handy spray track when a huge tractor dragging a colossal [pig-shit] squid rolled on behind me. Discretion being the better part of valour I glanced back to ensure I was in no immediate danger of being crushed by the "heavy traffic" and kept going. Fortunately the tractor made a sharp right turn and spread the squid's vast, filthy arms to embrace the wind.

Later I saw two hares of different colours and sizes sitting together out on a huge ploughed field. While a solitary Shelduck wandered forlornly around a short-lived field pond meditating on the meaning of life, the universe....

On the orders of the "Head Gardener" I was sent off after lunch to visit a plant nursery abut 15 miles away. My Northwave "summer" MTB shoes were enjoying their second airing of this year. They proved to be light, cool and more comfortable compared with my NW MTB winter boots. Though a nasty rattle at high pedal revs suggests that I may need new cleats! The chains of vicious potholes on the main road between Brændekilde and Ravnebjerg closely matched Putin's privately owned sink-holes in Siberia. I literally took my life in my hands every time I had to manoeuvre around them. What with illegally speeding traffic in both directions and no protective white line to cower behind there was little choice but to run over many of the holes.    

There was a cold headwind coming home, by another, much hillier route, but I used the aero bars at intervals to maintain a reasonable speed. I do seem to be getting slightly stronger. Is it all that pushing harder at lower revs to show off go faster on the tri-bars? Or are the longer cranks helping? Dunno, but I seem to be able to climb better than before and am seeing previously impossible speeds on the flat. I'll be glad when the false spring returns and I can get rid of the winter skiing tights. I hate the tension over the knees causing constant dragging of the thin polyester! I'm sure they lose me a good couple of mph.

The latest Shimergo gears [Campag Chorus Ergo 11sp levers with Athena 11sp changers on Shimano Ultegra 11sp chain and cassette] are excellent. Not a single failure to shift cleanly since I fitted the Athena Triple rear changer. No doubt it could still be further improved with a slightly shorter chain. Bringing the top pulley closer to the cassette should afford snappier changes. Even Campagnolo say so in their instructions. The chain tensioner screw is already at maximum so there is nothing to gain there. I just hope my shorter rear cable loop isn't affecting the changer angle. Replacing it with a longer loop would require a new inner.

 33/11 cross-chaining still runs silently without audible cage rub. The Ergo lever offer plenty of front changer trim positions if it should prove necessary.

I regularly use the small end of the cassette on the 33t chainwheel without any problems at all. This provides a nice wide range of close ratio gears from 6 mph bottom gear to a 25/26mph downhill/downwind top. I can always engage the 43t "overdrive" in the event of falling off a cliff with a following gale and pack of wolves in pursuit. I'm joking of course. When I glance down and realise, yet again, that I am running of of gears, I immediately shift to the large chainwheel. Only to find myself climbing again and running out of low gears. Decades of badly changing triples are poor training for using a double really efficiently. The chain now runs so quietly in all gears that there is literally no hint of needing a change up or down at the front.

The Athena Double front changer now gives me complete confidence when changing up. A remarkable improvement after years of struggling with chain overthrow on triple chainrings.

I found this image online while searching for the model name of my San Marco. An interesting alternative to solid saddle carcasses. Though it might be rather hard on the shorts material.

The Vetta saddle is still behaving itself. Though I'm still not quite ready for the twin "Titanox" prongs of the San Marco "Inquisition" saddle. 31 miles.

Saturday 21st 40-37F, 5-3C, very light winds to start but with a heavy overcast and raining. Forecast to gust to 17m/s or nearly 40 miles per hour this afternoon but with the rain petering out after lunch. Even a chance of sunny glimpses later. Will he brave the gales? Or is he wont not to? Still raining at 2, 2.30, 3.00, 3.30 4.00, 4.30 pm with cold, strong and noisy gusts from a very unlikely NW. The rain stopped not far short of 5pm after a few flurries of snow. No point in going out now and a rest day is supposed to be vital for recovery.

Sunday 22nd 28-40F, -2+4C, still, bright overcast. Winds gusting to only 20mph today. Having spent the entire rest day on my computer I have lots of aches to iron out with a walk. I just hope I don't run into another squid! Not today, but I only had a short, brisk walk of a couple of miles to loosen up.

After coffee I headed north with the San Marco in place and my best bibs on. Plus all my winter gear again. I enjoyed the long and undulating climb from Tommerup Station to Skallebølle at 18mph with a gentle tailwind. Lots of cyclists out training today. Coming back was completely different. A cold headwind under an overcast made me stop to put my cycling cardigan back on under the winter jacket.

The San Marco saddle was uncomfortable from 25-30 miles but settled down after that. Not that it could ever be called remotely comfortable except for being deliberately ignored for the first 20 miles. I had tipped the nose up slightly to simulate a more aggressive riding position and this seemed to help. My Dintex 'Heatpax' scooterist's gloves were literally wet inside by half way and increasingly cold after that. I rode on the aero bars quite a bit to shorten the time I was out! Try to acclimatise to the San Marco does not come under the heading of my most sensible ideas. It is strictly for short rides before it becomes a torture device! Since most of my normal rides are relatively short perhaps I should break myself in with those? Assuming such a trick is even possible. I have replaced it with the Vetta SL while I heal [again.] 50 miles.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

19 Mar 2015

19 March 2015 [2] More rambling

I am getting on well with the Vetta saddle. Though it hasn't quite disappeared completely at all times. The absence of  attention seeking is a sure sign of a potentially comfortable saddle. It is too soon to make any firm decisions yet. Though I am really hoping to break my dependence on Brooks leather-clad armchairs. I am still trying to get my head around how to measure saddle position [height and fore-and-aft] when there are so many factors to take into consideration. The sit bones rest on the back but many [most] saddles have at least some sag [deliberate or through wear] in the middle. How the sag relates to the soft tissues is difficult to be certain. I am still of the opinion that Brooks comfort comes from lowering the pressure [per square centimetre/yard or mile] of the rider's crutch against the supporting leather. The closer the fit the greater the area of support. The worse the support the higher and more localised the pressure on the sit bones. With extremely rare exemptions only the leather saddle [and possibly rubber] conforms well to the rider's unmentionable anatomy.

Modern saddles are all but rigid whatever the manufacturer's blatant lies sales hype. However flexible the carcase itself, the rails support the saddle at either end to produce a rigid triangle incapable of any real flexure. The San Marco flexes nicely at the rear when not actually clamped up on a trike or bike. Add the saddle pin and all the flexure simply vanishes. The triangle formed by the rails and saddle top is in-deformable! Geometry demands it! You can't just press down on the corners of a triangle and expect the hypotenuse to stretch! It is incapable of stretching. The rails are the only thing which can still flex but are usually far too stout to do so. In the standard saddle form only a material capable of stretching is able to flex enough to conform to the rider's rest areas. Stiffness and rigidity under tension is not a remotely desirable trait in saddle carcasses. Rubber or [eventually] softened leather are however, well proven. To further exaggerate the problem of rail stiffness the saddle clamp covers a large section of the rails. This greatly reduces the potential for desirable flexure in the rails.  

If saddles are to become soft enough to accept road shocks then the rails should be reduced to mere stumps in the middle. Leaving the normally rigid carcase to bend down at the ends to provide suspension. Steel rails are the worst offender in removing any chance of natural suspension due to their stiffness in the common diameter. If Brooks saddles really were hammocks then they would be comfortable right out of the box. The leather has to be broken in before it is flexible enough to absorb road shocks. The rider's sit bones are supporting the massive inertia of the rider's body mass. So they remain almost still while the bike/trike bucks on uneven road surfaces. Your sits bones are acting like stiletto heels bouncing on a thin bit  of skin and it hurts! Lifting your bum off off the saddle provides the superb suspension system of your bent legs. Suddenly you can ride over potholes and cobbles without discomfort while the bike below you, freed of your fixed body mass on the saddle, can jump about all over the place.

The height of the supporting carcase above the clamp also varies quite considerably. With the Brooks being relatively deep at about 45mm. While skinny, modern saddles look remarkably shallow. Under 30mm. Even to the point of making it quite difficult to get a normal [Cinelli] saddle clamp to fit under the low roof of the carcase. Saddle setting [height, tilt and longitudinal] is important for efficient pedalling and to avoid potential knee problems. Yet the saddle manufacturers keep moving the goal posts. It used to be said that pros would take their shoes [and their saddles] when they moved from one team or bike to another. How they cope with sponsored saddle contracts I hesitate to think. Re-badged saddles by another maker or unique 'specials' for a particular rider has been suggested in the cycling press.

Saddle soreness has always been the final arbiter of the length of my own rides. Only the Brooks B17 offers the necessary comfort in my experience and then only under specific saddle conditions. I find a sagging saddle more uncomfortable than a flatter spine. Which makes a fully broken in saddle more undesirable than one "frozen in time" at some desirable point in its progress. Tying the flaps [skirts] stiffens the saddle spine in both benign and unfortunate ways. It certainly stops the unwanted sagging but removes some useful suspension. The stiffness adds to road shocks being sent up through the saddle.

I had another idea which would surely be instantly banned by the UCI since no drugs, blinkers or extended, unpaid holidays abroad were involved: A rocking [see-saw] saddle pin! With large screw adjustment stops fore and aft for adjusting while "on the go." The gentle rocking on a central pivot would allow the rider to choose a slightly nose down saddle for tri-bar/triathlon/ TT/racing on the drops without that nasty localised pressure at the front.

While a simple shift of weight backwards would allow a very slightly nose-up saddle angle. Which would be much better for comfort while sitting up on the hoods in the bunch or when climbing. Any angle between the two could be easily arranged by the rider's, deliberate weight shifting to enjoy maximum comfort. An adjustable friction device at the pivot would be easily arranged. This would avoid over-sensitivity to the rider's accidental weight shift. Just don't mention it to the UCI!

Sky hook, bike rack outside an Assens discount supermarket. This bike rack is wrong on so many levels! Stop laughing at the back! Note the arrowed bars which deny any normal cycle tyre the ability to enter the provided slots between the supporting bars! 

This bike rack is positioned exactly where the laziest car owning customers will always park nearest to the shop entrance. Making the rack all but useless for much of the time because of lack of access and inability to fit a full length of bike at right angles between the wall and all the parked cars. 

Now add in the cars parked outboard of the shopping trolley cage arranged just to the left of the bicycle rack. Almost every car will be parked very close to the railings. Which denies access to pedestrian or cyclists to pass along the railings to get to the supermarket entrance. 

So, even if you did somehow manage to park your bike using the prop stand, you stand little chance of being able to get your bike or trike back out again from behind all the parked cars which arrived after you left your bike/trike at the rack! You will also be expected to walk the long way around all the parked cars to walk between the rack and the shop entrance. Only in [cycling friendly] Denmark!  I kid you not! The Danish cycle rack manufacturer's sticker is still present on their modern [non-functional] installation art but I will save their blushes too by not mentioning names to protect the guilty. 

Another 20 miles in a sickening, stinking, toxic, muddy, anti-social, farmer's paradise on mud earth. Remember how we [rural dwellers] must suffer so that you may enjoy your routinely tortured and antibiotic-resistant bacon.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

19th March 2015 Technical success and abject failure.

Thursday 19th 32-52F, 0-11C, still and sunny. Stinking of "knock your block off" industrial strength, perfumed pig shit. Lighter winds today but a much cooler start. It might still reach 12C, 54F later if we are lucky.

I was thinking about crank length and how it affects my bottom gear. 160/170 = 0.94. It doesn't sound like much difference but if my bottom gear, using the 160mm cranks is 27", then it effectively becomes 25" gear with 170 cranks relative to the 160mm cranks. It will still be calculated as a 27" gear but the extra leverage obviously helps overcome its potential limitations. I found 175 to be too long for comfort at high revs. It always felt as if my feet were consciously turning in a large circle. With my knees being forced to rotate through a larger angle.

I have ridden most of the local hills now with the new, slightly longer cranks and still find it possible to keep going with a 27" bottom gear. Though I tend to use a slightly lower cadence than when I had a still lower gear available. In fact I rarely used the previous bottom gear 28/30 [25"] because it felt rather too low except on very rare occasions.

It is always interesting to note how fast the pedals turn when I push the trike backwards to park it while in bottom gear. It looks as if the pedals are turning once for every foot or so I travel.  Yet in practice each pedal revolution produces 2.2 metres of development. i.e.it rolls 2.2m/7' per pedal revolution. In real life that translates to 6-7mph in bottom gear with a perfectly reasonable cadence of 80-90 rpm.

Light winds and sunshine? Where shall we go today? I started with a walk. There was still white frost on the grass leading to the more distant woods at 8 am. But the temperature had already reached 48F, 9C by the time I returned with my jacket slung over my shoulder. I was trying to avoid overheating in the bright sunshine and very little detectable wind. Though the turbines were all still turning.

I saw and heard lots of birds including numerous woodpeckers, Yellowhammers and Black caps. Plus all the usual suspects: Blackbirds, sparrows, Great tits, Blue tits, Wood pigeons, Starlings, Rooks and Mallards. A small gang of four Jays were having an incredibly noisy scrap high up in the conifers.

 Athena 11 speed rear dérailleur beside the Ultegra 9 speed. Appearance is very much a matter of taste.

At this time of year, Chaffinches must easily outnumber all the other small birds put together. It is impossible to escape from their rather repetitive phrase and white wing flash wherever I go.While the Great tit is very common but has a remarkable range of calls. Only 7 miles so far. I shall go out again after an early lunch. It is a superbly warm and wind free day now. Even the turbines have stopped after turning strongly earlier on.

My Athena Long Cage 11speed Triple rear dérailleur has turned up. It was still rather early so I chose to fit it on the trike before lunch.

Rather than splitting the new 11sp chain I removed the jockey pulleys individually. Then threaded the chain loop before replacing each pulley in turn with the other in place. The spring tension  is quite considerable and needed great care not to fire each pulley and its loose bearing covers right across the lawn! Note that the Campag pulleys are not the same as each other. With the top pulley being relatively free to tilt. The image alongside shows that the Ultegra and Athena changers are very similar in their proportions. So the Ultegra long cage chain length suited the Athena quite well. Though I have a couple of 11 speed joining links in case I need to adjust chain length if it proves necessary. 

The Athena uses hex socket screws for the pulleys and cable clamp but uses a Torx key for the hinge bolt to fix the changer to the hanger. The more familiar cross-head screws are used for the lateral limit screws and chain tensioner. This last screw acts on a worm and a short arc of a clearly visible, stainless steel wormwheel. The fine teeth of which are just visible in the image below arranged around the pulley cage pivot.

Despite turning the screw right in there is still a little too much clearance between the 32 tooth sprocket and the top pulley. Which is far better than being too close but unable to move it away. The sprocket-pulley clearance had been a slight worry given Campagnolo's insistence on a maximum 29T sprocket. It seems that the Athena Triple rear can probably take a 34T sprocket without problems provided the chain length is a nicely safe, Large/large, plus two links. I have adjusted the indexing until it is as good it gets in its standard form. Now we'll see how it performs out on the road.The gears performed quietly and flawlessly as I rode to Assens and back.

The original Shimano Ultegra chain lubricant seems to attract dirt or is naturally dark in colour. Not an attractive sight in a nearly new purchase!

I was overtaken at high speed in a narrow lane by a sociopathic loser in a faded, old banger. He raised great clouds of brown dust from the mud-plastered road surface as he passed. Forcing me to ride over piles of baked and compacted farmer's soil on the broken edge of the tarmac. I shook my head and this was enough to end his haste to perform emergency brain surgery at some distant hospital. Suddenly his extreme shortage of time was no longer of the least importance. He had all the time in the world!

He pulled up on the verge just ahead and lazily rolled down the window. Demanding to know why I couldn't keep to the side? Apparently I had waved at him last time he passed me. I can't imagine why! His accent was so broad and his articulation so slurred that I really struggled to understand him clearly. There was absolutely no point in getting angry or trying to justify myself. So I remained a passive member of the cycling diplomatic corps as he rambled on.

Finally, he muttered a derogatory Danish term for "foreign workers" and drove off at high speed. Ironic really, considering I am one of the most considerate cyclists on the Danish roads today. Though far from timid, I regularly pull off at the first opportunity. Or, if there is too much oncoming traffic and no handy pull-off, I will sprint on to the next lay-by, drive or junction. Just to allow following buses, lorries, tractors and timid car drivers to pass safely, easily and with the minimum of delay. In fact I have even had two car drivers stop to praise my remarkable thoughtfulness and perfect road positioning to allow easy overtaking.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

16 Mar 2015

16th March 2015 San Marco "Inquisition" Saddle!

Monday 16th 39-50F, 4-10C, windy, early cloud clearing. Forecast to blow to 17m/s later which is about 35mph. The weather is no fun any more! What is the point of it getting milder if it blows all the time? I'd better fit a chinstrap to my fleece scull cap!

My walk was long, eye-watering [despite the yellow glasses] and under a grey sky. A small hare broke cover, crossed my path and then sped off across the nearest prairie. My favourite "tunnel" between high hedges has been levelled! Hardly the best time of year to demolish so many high rise apartments inhabited by nesting birds!  Is that enough exclamation marks for one paragraph? Thought so!

I'm leaving my ride until this afternoon. The wind has already reached full strength but it is likely to become sunnier later. I should have mentioned that the 170mm cranks feel much more natural than the 160s or the 175s before them. Standing up on the pedals, to sprint and climb, finally makes sense again. The gusts were fierce as the wind roared in the trees and hedges again. It feels ridiculous struggling for 10mph on a descent with one's nose on the aero bars! I had to visit another village to try and find stock of normal items but there was none in the second branch either. 23 miles.

Tuesday 17th 41F, 5C, clear, sunny but breezy. It should hit 52F, 11C with gusts to 10m/s, 20mph from the east later. Had a short walk in bright sunshine. The first Starlings have arrived. I am intending to ride to a bike shop 30 miles away to the north west. This should make it easy going but harder coming back. Though not straight into the wind it usually feels like it. Finding a shop within riding distance which stocks any Campagnolo [at all] is rather difficult. I'd just like to admire the stuff in real life. It also gives me a reasonable goal for a decent ride on a forecast sunny day. The problem is dressing for the cold start while limiting discarded clothing storage to the Junior saddlebag. I don't have a very thin, wind-proof jacket. It's just reached 46F as I prepare to leave.

I found a thin nylon "jogging" jacket and layered that with another. It was a bit sweaty and I was glad to take it off after a few miles. Changing from thin, sweaty GripGrab gloves to their fingerless mitts was a mixed blessing. I didn't get far before a loser tried to kill me by overtaking a bus as they approached on double white lines. A strange day of variable, but often cold winds. Particularly on the way back. I seemed to be heading straight into the wind for miles. Though an onshore wind at Fredericia allowed me to climb up to the Old Bridge at over 20mph!

Having chatted to the staff and a couple of shop managers about the complete lack of interest in Campagnolo in Denmark I admired their stock. Every saddle was narrower and more curved than my Brooks. I spotted a cheap San Marco saddle for under £20 without any packaging. Nicely flat spine, reasonably broad with a bifurcated tail. It looked modern, felt good in the hands, was flexible at the rear and seemed very light indeed. I couldn't resist it so I fitted it before heading home. Ouch! It felt as hard as rocks and very unforgiving!

There are some very nasty potholes around Ronæs and Føns on the narrow, winding, coast road! I dropped right into one hole as I glanced behind to see why a car wouldn't overtake. The shock hurt my hands but the front wheel seemed okay. 66 miles in 6 hours dead. Including shopping and stopping to eat a couple of cheese rolls and bananas washed down with apple juice sitting right by the sea. I was starving on the last leg but had nothing more and there were no shops for miles. My sits bones are sore now after 34 miles despite wearing my best bibs. The devil is always in the detail. A day of pig shit competing with industrial perfume and toxic spraying. Just another day in [farmer's] paradise.

Wednesday 18th 48-53F, 9-12C, breezy, weak sunshine through high cloud. No ill effects from yesterday's longer tootle. Not even my sit bones are sore this morning. I was obviously very dehydrated because I drank lots of water, tea and coffee in the evening and still felt thirsty. Started with my usual walk through the woods with a cold wind at times.

I've just weighed the San Marco saddle on various kitchen scales and make it just under 200 grammes. [~185-190g] I think it was so cheap because it had been discontinued. No sign of any prior use. It may have been taken off a purchased bike. Titanox rails must help to keep the weight down.

I really ought to have it on the trike because it was such a bargain! It was much more comfortable when I was leaning forward on the aero bars. So it would make a good short TT saddle even for my ultra-sensitive nether regions. Being so flat it doesn't crush my doobrywotsits like the raised nose of a Brooks hammock when I'm leaning on the aero bars. The problem is getting the trike to Gravely Blighted each weekend to compete in local TTs for last man home. I wonder if you'd need retraining to ride on the incorrect side of the road?

I am still struggling to understand how millions of keen cyclists can last for more than a few yards on these narrow torture implements. I must have seen hundreds of bikes on display and all of them have far worse looking saddles than this one. Including all those mountain bikes where the rider sits very upright while riding on very rough surfaces.

I dragged my old Vetta SL out of storage and it felt much heavier than the San Marco but much better padded and comfortably wider. The SL was the only modern saddle, amongst my unused, recycled collection of some 25, which I could ever bear to ride before changing to the Brooks B17. Even the Vetta felt incredibly light compared with the 19th century Brooks B17 'Special.'

Should I persevere with the agony of a modern saddle for normal rides? Will I eventually break in before I break down and return to 600 grammes of real hide and vintage wrought iron? The San Marco weighs less than 1/3 that of the Brooks. While the Vetta is still under one half. Is there any point in wearing out the San Marco just to go shopping? The difference in weight will be completely lost in comparison with a 10kg/20lb load of shopping. Yet tragically, for longer rides with the trike stripped almost bare, I would best enjoy the advantages of the extra lightness.

Since I was only riding a short distance this morning I took the chance of fitting the Vetta. No ill effects at all! I was expecting at least some discomfort after yesterday's battering by the San Marco. It is odd how fast these narrower saddles feel compared to the Brooks. They seem to spur me on to greater effort. Only 8 miles so far. I hope to be let out again after lunch. I was not warm enough in my thinnest jacket. It is still too marginal at 51F. I was ripped off on discounted organic spuds! Charged full price. Didn't notice until I checked the receipt at home. Grrr. Plus 16 more miles.

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15 Mar 2015

15th Mach 2015 Woe, woe, Triple woe!

I was getting slightly optimistic concerning my latest mixture of Shimano/Campag gearing. The 11 speed Campag and Shimano cassettes are supposed to be directly interchangeable on sprocket spacing alone. So, for the first time in years [ever?] we can safely ignore the source of the cogs in our equipment combinations. Though certainly not regarding their respective freehubs and splines. So my use of an 11 speed Shimano cassette with 11 speed Campag levers has made my "Neo-Shimergo" system worse rather than better! The sprockets are too close to each other for the Shimano rear changer to move by the correct amount using the 11 speed Campag ergo levers. So the chain cannot land perfectly on the correct sprocket. I will have to reduce changer movement. This may be achieved by re-routing the cable on the other side of the clamping screw.

If this fails, I shall just have to dig even deeper into my pockets for a Campag Athena 11 speed rear changer. An [ostensibly] all Campag system begins to make real sense at this level of sophistication. [Safely ignoring the new Shimano 11sp cassette of course.] The lateral shifting tolerances on 11 speed system are simply too small to mess about with. As can be done more successfully with fewer gears.

Then the question of maximum sprocket size rears its ugly head! The chain wrap adjusting screw may have to be lengthened for the Athena top pulley to clear my 32T bottom gear. Campagnolo's largest 11 speed cassette sprocket is a largely symbolic 29T. So Campagnolo has yet to embrace the real world of touring and your basic, non-pro cyclists in a double. Though the triple does go down to 30 x 29t for a 28" bottom gear. Which, quite coincidentally, is much the same as as my 33 x 32t bottom gear and which I consider far too high for a loaded trike.

Chain wrap capacity calculations for 11 speed gear train: This is vitally important to allow the largest front chainwheel to run safely with the largest rear cog. Even if you never deliberately use that combination you need the safety of being able to select it accidentally without destroying your bike/trike!

Athena 11sp Triple long cage [82mm] rear dérailleur:

The total [tooth] capacity of the rear changer comes into play again when running small/small and the chain suddenly goes slack! Too much slack and the chain is sucked into the rear changer and locks solid when you drop onto the small chainring. Which is precisely why I dumped the Ultegra triple set-up. The Ultegra rear changer constantly locked up solid if I dropped the chain onto the small chainwheel while on any other sprocket but the largest. This may have been due to a worn and dirty chain, but still. I got fed up with having to stop and sort it out by walking the trike and fiddling with the gear levers and cranks. Life is already too short without messing about like that!  

Separating the cycling forum rumour mill from manufacturer's claims is an absolute nightmare! Getting information online about true total capacity, allowable sprocket size and rear changers is a very long haul! I had to plough through endless forums and sales websites for days before finally locating the information I needed! Let's add in the problem of Campagnolo's own website not working properly in Firefox or IE! The PDF technical and other sheets just won't download! Clicking on the links takes me straight back to the same page!I just got rid of Chrome because it was taking 10 minutes to open each page despite my regularly clearing the cookies.

My own gears:
32-11 = 21t difference on the cassette. 43-33t = 10t difference on the double chainwheel.
Total = 21 + 10 = 31t difference. Well within the 39t claimed capacity of the Athena 11 speed triple rear dérailleur.  But it exactly matches the short cage, 55mm, double changer's total capacity. Forum users have expressed both positive and negative views of Campagnolo's true short cage capacity. Some claim the limit can be pushed slightly. Others are far more conservative after trying it for themselves.

Some online sources [dealers] suggest that the 2015 Athena Triple rear changer has only a 55mm pulley cage. Which suggests that the company has somehow "miraculously" increased the capacity for a triple set-up. That'll be Campagnolo's latest Unobtainium pulley cage spring no doubt! A technology trickle down from the SuperDuperRecord's use of priceless Unobtainium several seasons ago. When the top Campag groupset already cost more than a very decent, secondhand car. [Well, a much better one than mine!] While yet others say the Athena triple has an 82mm  centre to centre pulley spacing. The really, really, really, real truth is [or seems to be] that Athena kit remains completely unchanged for the 2015 revamp of the more upmarket kit. So we can all relax. Or can we?

That the potential purchaser of this very expensive kit should have to jump through all these hoops just to get a workable cycle transmission speaks volumes about the crap technical support offered online! The incompatibility between manufacturer's offerings is so amateur as to be complete slapstick!  It has taken me literally hours and hours of searching to get solid figures. Finally, Bike24 was the best technical resource on their sales website:

http://www.bike24.com/Athena triple rear der.  [Tick the Facts box for the spec details]

Why should it be so difficult for other box shifters online dealers to have the full manufacturer's specs listed along with the correct image for the product in question?

The countless online box shifters dealers for Campag kit do the buyer absolutely no service endlessly repeating exactly the same hyped-up, cut-potato-stencilled, 5 lines of sales crap! Is there anybody left on the planet who doesn't know aluminium is light? Why would anybody use anything else for the body of a rear changer unless it was CF?

I actually went ahead and ordered an Athena Triple rear changer from one of the best known and largest UK online outlets. Being a pessimistic pedant I used the message box to carefully specify my need for a long cage triple to get the necessary overall [chain wrap] capacity. I was worried by the lack of useful information and incorrect image on their website. At that point I had yet to pin down the actual cage length for the Triple rear changer. It seemed this huge online dealer hadn't either! Nor any control over their website. Which used an identical internal URL/link for the Triple but which lead to the same page as the Double.

Athena 11 sp short cage, Double rear changer.

I then had to formally cancel my order because they responded by email that the Triple Athena I had ordered only had a 55mm cage and was the 2015 model. For an Athena Triple rear changer? Both facts are patently false information as far as I can ascertain! How on earth a vast, online, sales outlet, with armies of trained technical support staff, can't recognise the kit on their own shelves is completely beyond me! Given Campag's boutique pricing perhaps they simply don't shift much Campag in comparison with Sramano? Why the complete absence of useful specs on their website? Money saving to fund further expansion? Who knows?

I ended up ordering an Athena Triple rear dérailleur from another online dealer because they were quite specific about the long cage in their product description. And, actually showed the Triple long cage correctly on their website instead of just repeating the manufacturer's potato-stencil picture of the short cage double and empty 5 line hyper-blurb! How difficult can it be for the giant if a much smaller competitor can get it right?

Don't even get me started on the countless box shifters dealer's description of the special material used for the Athena jockey pulleys. Special rubber or plastic? Toss a coin! Whatever happened to UK consumer protection legislation as related to product description? You can't physically examine the kit until it arrives in the post. Often it will be in decorative packaging. Which will deny you access to poke the kit with a sharp stick without breaking the box open first. Online marketing? Does not compute!

As far as I am now aware the Athena 11 sp Triple rear Dérailleur comes ONLY with an 82mm cage and NOT a 55mm. It has to cope with Campagnolo's own 52/39/30 Athena triple chainset and 11-29 cassette. 22t front difference plus 18t rear = 40t total. Which strongly suggests that Campag have exceeded their claimed 39 teeth capacity on their own groupset! Cuckoo! ;ø))

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14 Mar 2015

14th March 2015 Spring? What spring?


Saturday 14th 34-41F, 1-5C, cold wind, clear with sunshine. My walk was marked by lots of Mallards, rather fewer Fieldfares but only two Herons. The wind remains cold and easterly. My ride seemed to be into a headwind going both ways! You really have to laugh at the work going on along one stretch of road. They have installed dozens of brand new drain covers in dips 4" below the average road surface! All are installed directly in the path of the cycle lane. Of course they are! Perhaps the local council intends to charge cyclists for a ride on their new roller coaster? Or they have plans to host the extreme mountain biking world championships as soon as the usual mud and debris collects in the cycle lane? Only in Russia Denmark. 15 miles. Mostly up and down. Burp! ;ø)

Sunday 15th 40-42F, 4-6C, windy, sunny periods.  Another day with a cold easterly wind roaring in the hedges and treetops. I was greeted by an irritated squirrel in the more distant woods. With its repeated chirruping it obviously thought it owned the place! I know the feeling. I don't like neighbours either! Two deer were more modest further on and toddled calmly out of sight into the undergrowth. Then I came across a family with toddlers further on again.

What with the increasing number of MTB tracks it's getting like Picadilly Circus in there! As I headed home along the busy road, two clubmen passed me at speed chatting loudly, with a helpful following wind. The sky has become overcast now with the wind expected to gust to 30mph again.

Angry squirrel, in formal evening dress, apparently 'levitating.' Taken at full 12x zoom on my TZ7. The truly observant will notice the squirrel is resting on a tiny twig.

I put the trike on the workstand after coffee to try playing with the gears again.  Moving the rear changer cable to the other side of the clamping screw made the indexing worse. Returning the clamping to normal and adjusting the tensioner greatly improved the change but I still can't call it perfect. Sometimes it is very slightly hesitant to change and at others the chain rattles lightly as if seeking a natural resting place. I'll go for a ride after lunch to see if it can be improved further. It is still only 42F outside and bitterly cold standing in the wind. This despite having two high, but bare hedges just to the east of where I was working. Gloves were essential!

I weighed the Carradice Camper with the Abus U-lock and a couple of spare inner tubes while I had it off the trike. Over 2.5kg. That's at least 5lbs in old money! Some people spend literally thousands just to save 50 grammes! I spend 20 quid in the supermarkets and bring back another 10 kilogrammes!

It was still gusting hard as I rode north being buffeted by every gap in the hedges. For some unknown reason I decided to detour back from the shops. Lots of birds of prey including another Kestrel. I found myself in bottom gear several times on quite short rises while heading straight into the wind. Which may be cause for future concern on a long ride. Particularly while heading home, as usual, into the prevailing wind. The gear indexing is much improved with just one phantom change. It still lacks that precise feeling on the change. Only 14 miles.

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13 Mar 2015

13th March 2015 Another Friday 13th speeding rant?

Friday 13th 36F, 2C, breezy and dimpled overcast. Another Friday 13th?  Will the sky really fall? A cold easterly wind with only brief glimpses of sunshine on my walk. Yet again I was grateful for the [yellow lens] sunglasses helping to reduce my eyes watering. Ice was still clinging to the wet tracks and puddles in the woods again.

I was just reading on the DR Danish National TV News website that there is a majority in favour of raising road speed limits. I bet! The intention is to raise the present national speed limit on country roads from 80kph to 90kph. Or rising from 50mph to 56mph in old money. Research on selected roads with experimental 90kph limits suggests that the effect is to make drivers all travel at much the same speed. The pressure to overtake is [presumably] considerably reduced because impatience is reduced. While slower drivers generally increase their speed to match that of other drivers.

As a cyclist I don't mind how fast they travel provided I have a nice white line to hide behind on my suitably wide, designated cycle lane. I don't even demand segregated cycle paths. These are usually just an excuse to ignore a valid means of daily Danish transport [cycling] with regards to maintenance and cleaning. Far too many Danish cycle paths are badly corrugated, roughly gravelled and/or potholed. Many were probably laid before the 1950s and this priceless inheritance never touched again. Many stretches of cycle path are more like linear compost heaps following decades of annual leaf and twig fall being completely ignored. Just making drain covers level with the tarmac would greatly improve matters.

Danish drivers are to be offered this free election carrot to travel faster. [Political corruption takes many forms.] This might be an excellent opportunity to make the stick much heavier for speeding in villages and towns. Not to mention simultaneous mobile phone use! Danish driver's adherence to speed limits is a national joke. Let's make it a much more expensive joke for the majority. Those who completely ignore the basic human rights of others to walk and cycle to school and the shops in safety!

Surely it is a national sickness when the value of their own children's lives is placed right down in the [filthy] gutter of  basic right to life? The convenience of  driving, at any speed of the driver's choosing, is obviously the only priority in Denmark. To see a police car or "speed camera" is a sign to be on the look-out for rocking horse droppings. Even when a speed camera is set-up drivers must be publicly warned in advance that they might not enjoy their usual license to drive illegally fast!

After a fiddle with the cable adjuster I made the rear gears worse than before. There is a glitch in the middle of the cassette. I ought to consider a Campag rear changer but they are [very] silly money for 11 speeds. Not to mention they have stomped on their small but loyal band of followers with a non-compatible change of pull per click for 2015. So nothing is backwards compatible and I'm running a Shimano cassette anyway.  If you order a rear Campag changer now you won't have a clue which one you'll get! Pre-2014 or the 2015? You think I'm joking?

Not to mention that they [Campag] are still living in the 1950s in offering a low gear of 29T in 11 speed. A [50]/34 compact x 29T = 33" bottom gear? Who but a race fit pro can climb anything steeper than a short 1 in 15 with such a high gear! Full marks for Campag's Luddite attitude to high cadence mountain climbing causing bad knees! Haven't they heard of those Sky riders who trashed the "Continental" climbing stars by spinning?

Since it was Friday the 13th I thought I'd better do 13 miles as a sign of respect to the gods. With temperatures in the low 40s F and a bitterly cold wind I wasn't in the mood for going any further. I had all my winter clothing back on! A few MTBers were out training. One young tyke overtook me like a track sprinter only to turn off into his drive as soon as he had passed me! I bet he'd only just left the school a few hundred yards back!

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12 Mar 2015

11th March 2015 Finally going 11 speed.

Wednesday 11th 36F, 2C, light winds, clear sky, full sun. It is supposed to stay clear and bright all day with the wind picking up to "modest" 20mph gusts on a 10mph base. I followed a new track today which offered new viewpoints from the tops of some [low] hills. Two hours and one hundred and thirty nine images later I arrived home again having seen four deer. The bright, early sunshine often inspires me to take lots of photographs.

Left after coffee. Tailwind changed to a headwind. The same happened on the way back. Four special offers, three supermarkets, no stock. 21 miles.

My new 43/33 double chainset arrived from Spa while I was out. So I spent a couple of hours taking everything 10 speed to pieces and then rebuilt it with 11 speeds after a bit of cleaning. Luckily I had a 103mm square taper axle amongst my junk stock. Though I could easily have done with a couple of millimetre shorter if one was available. Once fixed the chainset spun freely without the chain. I like the alloy self-extracting, crank screw covers. Much smarter than the usual black.

Practice obviously helps. It seemed to take no time to remove the saddlebag and rack. Remove wheels, release the outer circlips and withdraw the rear axles. Drop the 2WD Trykit freehub with filthy 10 speed cassette. Remove, dismantle and clean the Ultegra rear changer. Break the filthy 10 speed chain and remove. Remove the Campag triple front changer. A chain wrench aided dismantling of the 10 speed cassette with the toothed extractor tool unscrewing the the lock ring. I used to work with the axis vertical but now have the cassette upright and resting lightly between the jaws of the B&D workbench for stability. The braze-on clamp for the front changer needed to be lowered considerably for the Athena front changer cage to just clear the teeth of the 43 tooth chainwheel. The axle journal bearings and 2WD free-hub were re-packed with clean grease. I had previously removed the inner facing seals of the axle bearings to reduce seal drag. It was comforting to check and find the grease in good, clean condition.

Then on with the new 11sp cassette and torque to 40nM with the chain wrench wrap now reversed. Remount the rear changer once properly cleaned. I used a spray dispenser of low odour engine cleaner to cut through the worst of the gunk. Measure and fit the new chain with the overlap wrapped around the chainwheel. I made the new chain two links longer than just pulled just tight on the largest cog/large chainwheel as per the online Shimano instructions. This worked well but I need a little more outward movement of the Athena front changer cage to fully clear the chain in top gear. There is just a hint of rubbing. I'll look at that tomorrow in daylight.

I was a little worried by how close the chain appeared to be to the right, inner bearing housing on the 11t sprocket. Though it seemed okay when I spun it up in top gear on the Lidl work stand and then back pedalled. There were no tell-tale, bright witness marks on the inner edges of the chain links. The 11 sp chain runs nicely on the 9/10 speed TA chainrings. I may replace the ceramic bearing,  jockey pulleys on the Ultegra 10sp changer with 11 speed because the old ones look a bit tired anyway. Too dark to take any useful photographs of the new set-up tonight. Particularly after I'd done some more cleaning and scrubbed the rims and tyres of caked-on mud.  

Thursday 12th 31-46F, 0-8C, quite still, bright sunshine with misty, pink clouds clearing. Light overnight frost with the car sparkling and the fields slightly white. That won't last with the chance of 50F/10C again in the forecast. There was still a lot of hard white frost where the sun couldn't reach. Particularly in the woods. I could hear the beech leaves crunching underfoot and there was thin ice on the puddles.

I fiddled with the gears before leaving but still had the odd phantom shift in the middle of the cassette out on the road. The trike felt very nimble when stripped of the rack, saddlebag and heavy Abus U-lock for a test ride around the block.

It stayed sunny but cooler than yesterday for my ride. Slightly too cool for fingerless mitts but I took my thin scull cap off at halfway. I found myself in bottom gear a few times but this was on quite steep hills. These were probably at least 1-in-8. It feels as if I am missing the real bottom gear but it did not prove a problem in practice. I just kept pedalling. Top gear felt out of reach even on a 28mph descent.

Gear changing is now absolutely secure and almost effortless compared with the triple. Never a hint of chain overthrow or failing to shift between chainrings. I have a wide but close range of gears on both chainrings. While chain scrape on the cage is almost non-existent even at extreme chain angles. No doubt my gear choice habits will change once I have had a bit of experience with the new set-up. One quickly develops a feel for which gear and chainring should be in use at any time.

I spent some more time cleaning with Scotchbrite abrasive fibre to celebrate the spring clean. It is always a surprise how pale the silver brazing becomes with a rub after I have let it get a bit grubby. I hesitate to think how scruffy a nicely painted frame would have become in my hands! Reynolds stainless steel was an excellent choice for me. Though the R931 is much more forgiving of cleaning neglect than the R953. The R953 is thinner, stronger and lighter but has a distinctive "grain" and stains or rusts over time. Those who spend hours cleaning their machines must be shocked that I would allow a single day to pass without cosmetic titivation of my mount. While I can think of many more interesting things to do than crouching on a wet and muddy [or frozen] surface cleaning a trike! 30 miles.

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9 Mar 2015

9th March 2015 Season uncompacted tarmac.

Monday 9th 40-50F, 5-10C, light breeze, clear sunny start rapidly ended in overcast. Did my usual walk but anticlockwise. A hare came racing down the track towards me and reached within 10 feet before it realised I was standing directly in its path. It stopped, paused for several seconds and then raced back the way it came. Even managing to collide with another hare which was following as they both dived through the hedge. Something was shrieking loudly in the woods but I have no idea what. It sounded like a bird but may have been an animal being attacked.

The verges are becoming populated with snowdrops and Winter aconites. A dead fox [road kill] had been joined by quite a large fire extinguisher this morning. The number of tracks from vehicles falling off the road on corners is growing more ridiculous by the day. One idiot had even managed a "wall of death" on a 45 degree grass slope and still regained the tarmac afterwards.

I have been given a chore to collect something  17 miles away to the north west. The wind is still south westerly so I should not be too troubled except, perhaps, on the way back. It is expected to reach 50F, 10C again, so I shan't be overdressing today. It will be interesting to see if yesterday's shenanigans will affect me today. I haven't been doing many miles this year.

Left after coffee as it brightened up. I wore my thinner jacket, scull cap and gloves and was cool but not too uncomfortable. Not as energetic as yesterday with an occasional ache in the knees and hips. The windmills couldn't decide whether to turn or stand still but I felt a cool headwind all the time I was out. I took 5 hours to do 40 miles with 40 minutes stopped time today for shopping and eating sandwiches. A little tired by the time I arrived home but not too bad considering.

Tuesday 10th 46-50F, 8-10C, bright start but becoming cloudier. Breeze building to an eye-watering wind. Walked my usual route and saw a Nuthatch, Serin and Long-tailed tit within a few yards of each other. I started the day feeling achy but the walk sorted me out.

Sunny, but blowing a hard crosswind as I rode north. I was having to hang over the upwind wheel to stay in a straight line.  Coming back, with the wind now a couple of degrees behind me, made a beneficial difference. I keep practising my aero position to get used to steering over bumpy surfaces, mud and loose gravel.

The state of the roads only ever gets worse. Even when the kommune [local authority] sends workers out to fill the potholes they always leave an overfilled, projecting lump. Sometimes it's just a smack of the shovel and on to the next.  Others may get a quick going over with a small diameter [garden type] roller. Neither technique compacts the resulting hump enough to level it with the road surface. No doubt they rely on passing lorries to finish the job. Except that they don't! If I had a penny for every sunken drain cover in my path I'd be a rich man! I'm sick of the double standards of expecting people to become cyclists. Only for them to be put at risk on the crappy roads, bumpy cycle paths and endless debris. Only 15 miles today.

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8 Mar 2015

7th March 2015 Hot and cold

Saturday 7th 40-45F, 4-7C, windy, heavy overcast. Supposed to stay dry, windy to 30mph gusts and cloudy. Still no emails. Another hour and a half expended on rural walking. Several Shelducks were sharing the village lake with the jovial Mallards. I left my ride until after lunch as it was brightening up. It was blowing so hard that I was cruising at 20-22mph while sitting bolt upright. Saw a few MTB'ers out training and having fun. Only 10 miles for me.

A mysterious track-way which cuts deep into the hillside suggest great age. Except that it doesn't really lead anywhere as it meanders between two very quiet country lanes past a retired farmhouse. The Danes call farms which are no longer used for agriculture nedlagt. Google translate suggests closed but ned means down in Danish and lagt means laid. Unfortunately laid down farmhouse doesn't really mean much in English. So many rural houses are ex-farms that I keep trying to find a better English word for them. How about downgraded? No. That sounds like it is less than it was. Many are smarter now and often gentrified. In an odd turn of events I heard that the demolition fund has been subverted to repairing old, half-timbered and thatched farmhouses. The problem is usually the original layout of many small rooms. Sometimes with low ceilings. Not to mention the great expense of heating them well enough to stay dry and healthy inside.

Sunday 8th 41-50F, 5-10C, bright sunshine but already windy. It is expected to gust to 30+mph again. I wanted to do a reasonable ride today but will have to avoid a nasty headwind coming home. It is all very well managing 20 miles in the first hour but the hours consumed in getting back again is ridiculous! Walked in blinding sunshine, being buffeted by the wind, up to the woods and back by the small lake. A couple of Mute swans were cruising amongst 30-odd Mallards. Discouraged by my presence they took off and joined the Herons in circling behind the enclosing trees.

A bird of prey was enjoying the up-draft too. Medium sized, with smooth, tapered, but slightly curved wings made it slightly unusual. At least compared with the usual soaring planks of Buzzards. Probably a Peregrine falcon. Light body but largely unmarked beneath with darker upper wing surfaces. Still trying to decide on a ride which will avoid a constant headwind.

All the plans of tricyclists and men do long but go astray. Before I had my second wind I was overtaken by an untidy gaggle of a local bike club's weekend warriors. I sat on the back because they were going so slowly. When they dropped to 16mph on a short rise I'd had enough. I climbed out of the saddle nipped up to 22mph and rode away from them. Putting half a mile on them by the time another mile had passed. I was parked, unpacked, locked up and on my way into a supermarket by the time they finally cruised past. A larger bunch passed going the opposite way.

Things settled down after that as I headed for Korinth. Where I was joined by a young chap on his MTB. Who chatted in perfect English as we rode along together towards Arroskov lake and the palace. He turned off along the gravel track which runs tight around the lake while I pressed on by road.

The Trykit has a lunch break.

I have never seen so many falcons in one day! A pair of Peregrines were wave riding on the roadside trees while I munched a chicken sandwich and a banana. Then I drank one of the four boxes of apple juice which I had purchased earlier and carried for a foolish number of miles. The drink had warmed up nicely in the balmy temperatures. Normally I find drinks far too cold to enjoy until summer arrives.

I was seriously overdressed for the first delve into double figures C this year. With only the Junior saddlebag for storage I had to lash the unwanted clothing on top. I could easily have worn fingerless mitts today.

The leg home could have been very hard work and would have taken ages riding on the hoods. Thanks to the aero bars I could add an extra four-five mph quite effortlessly. Four hours exactly to do 41 miles including the lunch stop. Three and half hours travelling time with half an hour due to stops according to the GPS logger. Not bad considering the gusty gales.

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