The road to Eroica 2018

Well the cats out the bag, we are off to Eroica for my brothers Stag! Not being able to talk about this has been murder! We have a great place to stay and a great team, and plenty of surprises in store.

This does mean a rush of preparation of bikes though….. I’m currently busting my balls to get my Rotrax ready, a friends bike, and sort out everything else that’s going into it!

The Rotrax is coming on……

Nearly there though! Now to get all the plans in place and make sure all are ready for 60 miles in the Peak District.

First time for me at the Friden Grange site but I’ve heard good things and the risk of big trotting is removed!

Let’s hope this weather keeps up! It’s looking a little shakey for the weekend but I’m sure it will be on our side.

Maybe see you there! Chapeau!

Assos Chamois Crème

Out in Mallorca and realised I had left my chamois cream at home. Doh! The rides over here are know for being arduous and probably not to be ridden without some crotch lube.

I was kind of forced into this purchase as it was the only chamois cream in stock at the hotels on site shop Bimont. Not disappointed though.

I wasn’t expecting to be, this is Assos after all. Not exactly something you can get really excited over but nevertheless chamois cream is something if forgotten or of poor quality will ensure you have a solid supply in your sports cupboard. Previous experience has left that mental scar!

So the Assos Crème (not cream obviously!) is light and non greasy almost like moisturiser but it has that final protective layer feel you need. It goes on both pad and posterior well and gives a cool menthol tingle, quite enjoyable! Loads in the tub and I reckon there’s enough to do about twenty applications.

I used this for two rides in Mallorca, Formentor and Sa Calobra. I came back with zero rubbing or rashes so I rate this cream highly. Does the job well and can be for £10 on the internet, if you need some chamois cream it’s definitely worth buying.


Wheel building – the myth!

You will never get it straight, you won’t get the correct tension, you will get the wrong offset, you will make it oval, it will ride bad, it will come loose, YOU WILL DIE!

All of these are tools of fear employed by the cycle industry when it comes to basic bicycle wheel building. My response? Don’t succumb to the fear!

Now don’t get me wrong there are some really tricky elements to building wheels, especially high performance wheels with low spoke counts or wheels with high demand placed on them but a wheel for a clunker or basic bike is actually fairly easy to put together.

This is by no means a walk through, just my experience of putting a wheel together for my latest Rotrax build.

So what do you need?

  1. hub
  2. Spokes
  3. Nipples
  4. Spoke wrench
  5. Flat bladed screwdriver
  6. Bike or wheel building stand to true it in.

That’s a pretty simple list I admit but hardware wise it really is that short. The most expensive part (depending on you rims and hubs of choice… Chris kings may overstep this!) is the wheel building stand but for cheap and reliable general use wheels it’s not necessary, chucking it in the bike it’s intended for is fine. Don’t forget that shops don’t often have the bike the wheel is going into, hence the invention of the wheel building stand.

There is a little more science in wheel building than just getting some parts though. You need to find out the specifics of the individual components, how they relate to each other, and how you want to build the wheel. Ie what size and distance the hub flanges are away from each other, what the rim dimensions are, and finally what spoke lacing pattern you want to use. Ie how many time the spokes cross over each other. This is the most difficult part.

There are a few good guides on the net for both stages of wheel homebrew, the pre build science, and then the assembly.

For the pre build info I suggest looking into the following:

For calculating your spokes you can head to THIS SITE (Leonard) or THIS SITE (ProWheelBuilder).

Then for actual assembly instructions I recommend THIS SITE (Sheldon Brown) or THIS SITE (Patric Taylor).

Personal preference for sites used were the Leonard for spec and info and the Patric Taylor for wheel build instructions. They are both very easy to use and were perfect for what I was putting together.

All you need to do is practice. Why not try getting an old wheel, dismantling it and then rebuilding it? What’s the worst that could happen? It’s not a loss if it goes wrong and you may end up learning a pretty cool skill. Something that may come in handy or you’ll find pretty fun. I enjoy it, it’s very satisfying knowing that you can assemble pretty much anything on a bike from complete component parts. Therapeutic in some circumstances!

Anyway here’s a few pics of how I got on:

First I had to dismantle the old wheel for its donor hub.

Hub removed pretty easy, left the spoke nipples soaking in some oil the night before.

Parts together and time to build.

Then it’s a simple job of going round and tightening the spokes until you have even tension and a straight wheel. This steps easiest in the bike and using a pair of zip ties around the seat stays cut to the same length as a guide. Use the instructions in the guides above and you’ll be rolling in no time!

Realistically what’s the worst that can happen? Use that calculator to figure out the spoke lengths, lace it all up. If you struggle with the last step take it to a cycle shop and they will finish it off. Go on, have a go!


Frame straps – WTF

Seriously who thinks it’s a good idea to strap your spares to your frame with a bit of Velcro? What’s going on with this massive fad……?????

This is the item under scrutiny:

What are people thinking? Let’s look at and list what people are trying to achieve first.

  • Want to carry some spares or tools on my bike.

Well that was a long list.

Let’s examine the first picture above. This dickhead has strapped his inner tube right behind the front wheel. It’s wider than the frame so will act as a mudguard and catch all the shite. First thing I look for when changing inner tubes is one with a good coating of possible puncture causing material on it. If you want the same then this solution is for you. The other benefit of this mounting position is the proximity to the crank arm. You have every possibility of catching it with your foot, loosening it and jettisoning has canisters and tubes of the trail.

Second picture. This one is what looks like a shitty old watch strap just enough to hold one tube. Great. You have one tube and no way of pumping it up. Oh you do have a pump? It’s in your backpack. Wanker.

Number three. This is prize cock territory. You have strapped an inner tube and gas canisters in one of the most dirt vulnerable spaces on the bike. “Yeah but the strap let’s me get to the tube really quickly” yes but then you have to spend five minutes washing the tube off with isotonic drink (squirted with all the power of a 80 year old man with a prostate problem) from the mouthpiece of your camelbak. Where you could have put your tubes. Not only that, saddles and rails are designed to flex, those canisters will wriggle loose in no time. This bundle also takes up just as much room as a saddle Bag. WHY WOULD YOU NOT JUST BUY A SADDLEBAG!!!! Prat.

I really can’t see anywhere that one of these straps is a good idea, or at best better than any type of bike bag. What’s next cellotaping energy gels to your spokes? Spare hydraulic fluid in your handlebars? Spare grips around your seatpost?

Do us all a favour and retire this rubbish to a bin, it’s worse than parcel taping a banana to your forehead. At least that’s close to where it should go……



Italian bicycle component kings FSA have launched their first group-set. Not any ordinary one though, it’s wireless and electronic. Hence it’s name WE.

Since seeing a preview of it at the BikeShow in Birmingham late last year FSA have been dragging their heels a little and the press launch was only two weeks ago. So I don’t know how that now positions it in the market place against it’s now well established competition, Di2 and Etap, or when a muggle like you and me will be able to get their hands on it.

So I was quite surprised to see it on a bike at Bespoked. Here it is on a custom painted Argon18.

The Argon is a pretty bike and very well finished, not my choice of colour but can’t fault the work.

The WE groupset is semi wireless, the shifters use ant+ technology (powered by plip batteries) to signal to the front mechanism as that has the brain for both front and rear derailleurs in it. It’s also connected to the battery hidden in the seat tube that powers them both. So there are still some wires, but a frame prepared for electronic groupsets will hide these easily.

Operating WE is user friendly by all accounts, difference to other electronic groups is that apparently you have to power it on and off each ride. No standby like others, this is probably to preserve battery life. Not really a hardship is it? Shifters felt pretty ergonomic and shifting switches are of a rocker type, light but with a satisfying click.

What I found interesting about the WE though was the way the mechs work. As far as I am aware neither of them have a return spring in them, meaning positioning is purely motor controlled. This opens up a whole world of adaptability, with a phone based app that can program them. Does this mean it can be modified for any speed of cassette? Could you use this on a vintage five speed with a change of jockey wheels? Can You use it on campag spaced cassettes?

It all looks pretty cool too, nice carbon and titanium elements and classy decals. I’d run one. Apparently rim brakes and disc are both going to be available, plus shifters will be available in two hand sizes. Neat.

All in all it looks like it will be a great piece of kit with some nice touches. But the big problem I can see here is it’s launch date, I think it’s a year too late. People who are already into the electronic groupset vibe will already have one, who’s going to rush out and change for something that’s not overly different? Also the price, the WE is circa £2k, you can buy an Etap setup for £1.2k online. There’s a set of carbon wheels in the difference.

I hope it goes well for FSA! What do you think?


Bespoked 2018

The U.K handmade bicycle show rolled out again last weekend in Bristol and it lived up to it’s usual impressive standard. The levels of workmanship, passion, and community were through the roof and together they produce bicycles to die for. Fantastic.

2018s flavour was clear, Gravel/adventure was in the house. Most builders had a solution with 1x drivetrains being the order of day. The mix of steel and larger tyres must lead to some pretty comfy cycling, I know from my winter bike how good this combo can be. Here’s a few shots of gravel grinders for you, from both established stables and fledgling welders.

Mecredi building some lovely tough steel, built to be ridden hard.

Metier with super cool 3d printed titanium lugs and carbon tubework.

Winter bicycles all year round bikes to live with.

New builder Himalaya with that battle ship vibe. Tan walls are so pro.

Dorset based Sven Cycles make bikepacking look easy. Ebike was sweet as well.

This belt drive commuter was sublime with so many built in details. Very custom.

I got to have a chat to some builders as well, Filament bikes, Karussell, Sven, Stanforth, and Merrivale cycles. All were super passionate about what they do and in the pursuit of their own version of cycling perfection. Some of their bikes are pictured below.

Merrivale is Bournemouth based like myself. Charlie is a true gent of the cycling world. He believes in just riding a great bike all the time so his builds are high quality with carefully chosen components. Usable, simple, smooth and easy to ride all day any day.

Karussell’s track bike was one of a kind. that down tube had some interesting construction. The down tube remained but the outer plate was formed and wrapped around it, it was then welded into place. rendering the bike stiff enough to remove the seat tube!

Speaking of track bikes and singlespeeds, what would bespoked be without them!

Demon Frameworks fixie was a head turner for sure…. if Snoop Dogg had a bike!

Then we had the road bikes, still my favourite. Fast.

Staal picked up a rosette for their short wheelbase disc equipped model.

Lovely frames from French carbon pros Cyfac. Would love one.

Look at those seat stays on this beauty.

Rapha Prestige frame had nice paint inlays and frame detail.

Field Cycles had lovely detail. Excuse my finger in the shot but the paint line identical to the seat tube cap. nice.

FiftyOnes brace of super fast looking carbon bikes from Ireland. Great colourways.

Isen Workshop are pumping out real classy machines. Those carbon seat tubes in steel lugs are awesome.

Hartley cycles to finish off, these things look like you cold ride them for a week solid and you would still be comfy. Great workmanship.

To finish off there were a few oddities as usual. Here’s a couple.

On Spray bikes stand was this monster tyred gravel bike! With front rack and eggs to show how smooth it was. For me it just looks a little odd!

And this fully integrated evoke from Taurus. Direct drive bottom bracket motor and cleverly disguised controls and battery indicator in the stem. Batteries were hidden in the top and downtube giving the appearance of a normal bike. My only issue is that it looks like it was built by someone who’s not seen a bike before! Geometry looks well out. Ebike functionality was impressive though.

All in all another great year, the workmanship was fantastic as always and I don’t think anyone will be running out of ideas or enthusiasm soon. I’m yearning for sporty road bikes to become the flavour again but I was far from disappointed with what was in attendance. Get yourself to the show next year, you will love it.

LBS – Service is Everything

This post comes about for a bit of a disappointing reason, this week I received easily the worst service and experienced the most dreadful LBS visit of my life.

I’ll start with a little background, I know and have shopped in nearly all bike shops in Bournemouth area and try to use them as often as possible. It’s the right thing to do, they need your support and are all pretty reasonable. Yes prices aren’t always as cheap as the internet but weighing in convenience they will be there or there about, and a quick open question will normally render a little discount. It doesn’t hurt to ask! I’ve also worked in both big chain bike shops and smaller independents so understand the pressures and influences in both. Although having moved house in the last year my local bike shop has now changed to this outfit, I’m now located in Highcliffe, and there are no others to choose from within a 3 mile radius. My position at work is that of a multi site manager running business with turnover of £10m+ a year in an extremely competitive marketplace, where customer relationships are everything. Keeping staff focused on that is key, and that is driven by my passion for it it. I’ve been driving customer service for 10+ years and I know what I’m doing. Which is why I found this experience so outrageous.

With the disc conversion on the Saracen in full swing the only thing left to do was connect the calipers up, only thing I needed was new inner cables and a couple of short sections of outer. Local bike shop it is then, its only two cables. Anyway here’s how it went………

Walking into the shop I noticed a nice pre-war Selbach for sale outside so made enquiry about it as small talk, remarking that it was pretty. You would expect the shop worker (who I believe is the owner) to return polite conversation, all I received was “what the pre war one? yeah but I’m looking for offers. Its worth some money, just depends on what someone will offer me and what I decide. It’s not mine I’m selling for someone else. would have to be serious offers. Most of his collection went to Lord Montague so….”. I didn’t even ask the price, and I was already feeling unwelcome! Anyway I pressed on to ask about the brake cables, two inners and outers please. “yeah that’ll be £4 for the outers sold in metre lengths” thought ok sound a little expensive but couldn’t be much more for the inners and asked for two metres of outers. I asked to offer the cables up to a bike so I could work out exactly what I would need to which I received “well don’t you know? no outer is longer than a metre on a bike. How many ends do you want?” to which I replied how I was running the outers and four ends should do it. He grunted sarcastically. The guy then fumbled with his till for a couple of minutes claiming it was playing up (we have near identical units in my company, and this was clearly user error) then rang me up my total. £18. Obviously that’s a ridiculous price for two standard brake cables with two metres of outer so naturally, bolstered by his use of the till, I politely challenged it. This was taken with massive umbrage and unleashed a barrage of ‘justification’. “Yeah that’s what they are, I’ve got even more expensive ones than that. That’s just basic ones.” again asked if he was sure and if he could help out on price, conveying price comparisons with other products I have bought previously. This was a little much to ask apparently , the now incredibly grumpy owner decided to bring out his finest negotiating skills ” well that’s what they are take it our leave it. if you don’t want them leave them”. That was too much for me so I told him there was no way I was paying £18 for two brake cables, and left.

I carried on with my day and popped into Halfords Christchurch, next to a couple of other shops I was visiting. Now say what you will about Halfords, yes they are a national store selling BSO to the general public, but what they do do is ensure a base level of customer service. This is a practice I’m familiar with. I entered the Bikehut section and was immediately asked if I needed any help, so I asked for the price of the cable kit I wanted. £9. Half the price of the local bike shop, and twice the kit (Clarkes kit with cable ends, ferrules, outer, teflon coated inners, and frame rub protectors), and service with a smile. Its not hard to be competitive and its even easier to be polite. The Bikehut member of staff and I chatted for a bit about my previous shop visit and he laughed saying they see a lot of business from that shop and that he had received similar service when he had visited before. Repeat offender it seems!

I want LBS to succeed but they have to have great customer service. Bad business is bad business no matter what sector you are in. Just because you have a captive market (and no competition in a three mile radius) doesn’t mean that you can treat customers new and old poorly. Its a fast track to failure. I surely will not be supporting anyone visiting Lawsons Cycles in Christchurch, in fact I would advise people stay away from there. Christchurch town centre needs another bike shop with good, honest, knowledgeable, and passionate service. Now there’s an idea………………………