Category Archives: Bikes and Gear

Bits and Bobs – Lidl Spoke Reflectors

Lidl are currently (from 19th April 2012, usually for a week or two or until it runs out) carrying a range of cycling “sports essentials”. Apparently they’re all fairly useful for the price, but in particular I picked up a chain cleaning device and some SUPER DISCO SPOKE REFLECTORS!

(apologies for the rubbish video quality, but it was taken on a cameraphone with the lights out so that the flash would pick up the reflectors)

Fitting them is amazingly easy – they just pop over the spokes and grip onto them strongly – and as you can see, when they catch the light they are proper bright. And as I’m sure you’ve guessed as they’re from Lidl, they were pretty cheap too at just £4 per pack. One on each spoke uses just under a full pack per wheel and gives an almost solid disc look at even low speeds but I’m sure that creative patterns could mean that a single pack could easily cover a whole bike or even a trike.

In particular, I’ve bought and fitted so many for the comedy overkill factor at Critical Mass London next Friday, but depending on how “disco” they look in real circumstances I may take a few off for my FNRttC ride to Southend the week after.

The N+1 Dilemma

Rule #12

 // The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.

While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.

It’s beginning to occur to me that despite being an incredibly adaptable bike, even my beloved Tricross has limits and it can’t be all things to all men.

The last few weeks have been lovely and sunny, and I haven’t been doing much “utility” cycling, so the bike has gradually migrated into full-on “roadie” mode: double-sided SPD pedals, lowered stem, skinny(ish) slick tyres, no rack, no mudguards, etc. Which is fine, until I want to just scoot over to Tesco without spending half an hour finding my SPD shoes, getting changed, and so on.

Now I suppose I could put all the “winter commuter” stuff back on the bike, but then I’d lose the fun sporty side of it and that would really be a shame. And it takes so long to fettle around with it that it isn’t really practical to keep messing around every time the weather or my intentions change.

So… I suppose (with a slightly cheeky grin) I’m just going to have to buy another bike! But what to choose?

To be continued…

Bits and bobs – Runkeeper

For those who don’t know me too well, I’ll come straight out and admit it: I’m a massive geek.

In particular, I like gadgets and stats and stuff like that. I also like to see how I’m progressing in whatever I’m doing. For cycling, that means stuff like logging my mileage and time, and often wanting to know where I’ve been and how I got there.

And this is where Runkeeper steps in. It’s really a gadget in two parts – one, a rather nifty smartphone app (available for Android, iOS and my current phone platform Windows Phone 7) which uses the GPS chip built into nearly all modern phones to track where you’ve ridden, then uploads it to the web app so you can log in, review your rides, and see all sorts of stats:

It’s really nothing groundbreaking, and I’m sure my usage only scratches the surface, but it’s still pretty nifty. Apparently it can give you audio cues as you ride (or run) for a bit of motivation but I’m not keen on cycling with earphones in – Swindon’s resident knuckle-dragging Audi drivers are dangerous enough when I can hear them coming!

Obviously it’s not perfect – I’m not convinced of the accuracy of the GPS altitude readings, it can chomp through battery life like you wouldn’t believe, and I don’t like the idea of mounting my smartphone to my bars so it sits unattended in a jersey pocket until I get home. Because of this, it’s no replacement for a standard bike computer (mine’s a Cateye Velo Wireless mounted to my stem) and I don’t use it for every ride, just where I’m interested in the “where was I?” question as much as just “how far?” and “how fast?”. But for a free app, it’s a bit of fun and it’s worth a tinker with.

What are your must-have cycling gadgets?

About the Bike

All of The Rules are fun to read (and most of them ring worryingly true) but in particular,
Rule #4 // It’s all about the bike.

It is, absolutely, without question, unequivocally, about the bike.

And this is mine. It’s a near-standard 2010 Specialized Tricross Sport Triple:

I’ve only tinkered with it a little bit – swapping the cheap’n’nasty flat pedals the bike shop put on with some Shimano SPDs, flipping the stem over to lower the bars a bit and give a slightly sportier position, and changing the standard Borough CX hybrid tyres with some faster-rolling 28mm All Condition Armadillo road rubber.

Accessory-wise it’s currently pretty light – just a Cateye Velo Wireless computer, a tiny saddle pouch with a spare tube, levers and a multitool and a mini-pump on one of the bottle mounts. Winter (boo! hiss!) will see the return of the hybrid tyres and full bolt-on mudguards, while for commuting I have a quick-release seatpost mounted rack and some cheap panniers from Go Outdoors.

For me, it’s pretty much the ideal do-everything bike. It’s light enough to be fast for summer fun (and to give me half a chance up hills) yet sturdy enough to go almost anywhere, or to load up with panniers full of groceries or work gear. At some point the n+1 bug will bite and I’ll buy something newer and more shiny, but for now I love my bike.