Saturday, 9 May 2009

Green Bike Monkey Moves to Wordpress

Made the move to Wordpress last night. A lot more scope for future developments on the Wordpress platform. We've also got a change of name, The Everyday Cyclist - to more accurately reflect what we're about and refocus. You can find the new blog, with all the old Monkey posts here:

Friday, 8 May 2009

Ch, ch, ch, changes

The postman arrived today with  two packages containing three items, which meant some QT with the all-rounder bike. New additions are:

The ultimate barbag, seatpack or manbag - A Swedish Army Gas Mask Bag re-purposed as a bike bag. I've long thought that Army Surplus kit can be made into great cycling luggage and this is my first item. 

I saw it first on OYB - a cool sustainable living blog. This guy adapts his to make it work on the bike even better, adds his OYB (Out Your Backdoor) patch and resells 'em. And good on him. Take a look.

I bought mine from Ebay shop Jungle Clothing UK

The second item was a kickstand - I always loved the kickstand on my Raleigh Chopper when I was a kid, so why not have one now. I've got one on the Dahon and I use it at least three times every ride. 

Last item from the postman, and definitely least, was a very boring pair of curved rack mounts for my SL Tournee rear rack, meaning I can use it in conjunction with V brakes. 

The other change I've made is to swap the 610mm North Road bars for a narrower 490mm pair with a greater sweep-back. They were on a Pashley trike I've got that was just begging for wider bars. I've polished them up - they're a little scratched from about 20 years of usage, but I think the scratches polished out count as beausage.

I've finished them with a minimalistic wrap of bar tape and a pair of wine cork bar end stoppers. 

Most people think I've created Frankenstein, but to me, she's a workaday Venus.  

Monday, 4 May 2009

Blog Watch: 3 Speed Touring in Japan

Superb blog from a guy touring Japan on a restored 1947 Humber Sports bike. Read the blog and ogle the bike here:

The changing faces of the Country Bike

Just Flickring through pics of the green all rounder bike and it's amazing the transformations that she's been through... As the saying goes, "You just wouldn't let it lie..."

York - City Cycle Commuting Photodocument

The first in a series of photo documents that I'm doing in major UK cycling cities. The idea is simple - just me, a camera and some cyclists, and pretty much let the pictures speak for themselves.

Not a new idea. Amsterdamize and Copenhagen Cycle Chic have been doing it for ages. But I'd like to document what's going on in UK towns and cities. 

North Road Bars for Country Bike

The North Road bars have been hanging around in the shed for too long, so finally a few weeks ago I decided to give them a run on the country bike. And boy was I in for a treat. 
Before I did the swap I had to do a few mods. With no shifters available in the spares bin that'd fit on the MTB diameter bars, I had to revert to singlespeed. While I love the look and simplicity of singlespeed, I'm missing the gearing options. So I've ordered a set of Sunrace friction thumb shifters from a US based ebay seller. They should arrive soon. 

Also sourced from ebay were a set of Tektro V brake levers to work with a set of Promax V brakes that I had taken off the Dahon. I had a front loading quill stem taken from a Fuji track bike that works really well with the generous 80mm of rise on the Raleigh North Road bars. A set of Bontrager foam grips and I was sorted. 

So what's the verdict? Well I have to say that this is by far the most versatile and comfortable handlebar I've ever used. Better than flats, risers, moustaches, butterflies or drops. What I've done since these pics were taken is to completely wrap the handlebar with Specialized Roubaix tape. It's the best bar tape I've ever used. Cloth-like look but great padding, and reusable - it doesn't have adhesive on the back - rather it uses semi-sticky gel to keep it in place. Just wrap it tight and secure the end with electrical tape and voila!

On this bike I've ridden steep rough downhills and tricky trails with more confidence that on any other bar setup, including that of my Mountain Bike. The bars are a full 610mm wide and have a 45-50 degree backsweep. Some North Road bars have more backsweep - usually around 70 degrees or more, making it hard to brace the hands on bumpy off road descents. With this bar though, no problems. With the bars 'wrapped' instead of 'gripped' you can use the full length of the backswept section, both fore and aft of the brake lever, including the forward bend section, where you can hook your thumb under, like on a moustache or drop bar. This gives you a great stretched position for more athletic riding. 

All in all, the best setup yet. Will post again when the thumbshifters arrive. I intend to put them well inboard, on the small flat section next to the stem, so they don't use up valuable hand-real-estate. A bit like Myles from Rat Trap Press' Surly LHT

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Primal Blueprint Update - 2 Months

12st 12lbs at the last weigh in. Can't believe the weight is still coming off. 

I've stopped using now as I feel I've got a good handle on what I'm eating. Still got plenty of energy and still loving my food. Getting to the stage now where I'm getting more adventurous with my recipes - you have to when you've cut out a huge chunk of foods that 'normal' people eat. 

I find I can eat out pretty much anywhere with few compromises. Best places are buffet restaurants - you can just throw a 'no go' cordon around the rice, chips, pasta, etc and eat everything else. Chinese food is great for this - minus the rice. 

I'm not trying to lose weight any more. I've found an equilibrium where I feel full and the end of the day, and have got enough energy to ride my bike and do my normal daily stuff. If I lose more weight, then so be it. 

Here's a list of today's foods as an example of what I'm eating

2 Scrambled Eggs
Creme Fraiche with Brazil Nuts
Chicken Fillet in Tomato and Basil Sauce
Brazil Nuts
85% Cocoa Organic Dark Chocolate
Seafood salad with Tuna, Mussels, Cottage Cheese, Coleslaw, Spinach, Peppers, Red Cabbage, Pickles, etc
Greek Yoghurt with Raspberries

Tell me I'm on a diet!


Pashley Guv'nor at L'Eroica

Superb video filmed at L'Eroica, the classic bike sportive run over the superb 'white roads' of Tuscany. Flipped North Road Bars and Cream tyres. Mmmm.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Primal Blueprint - 5 and a bit week Update

13st 1.2lbs on the scales this morning. The weight is still coming off slowly but surely. 

The further away I get from my old carb laced diet the happier my body seems to be. Its getting to the point where I'm so satisfied with my food intake that it's hard to eat over 1800 calories a day without really trying or really feeling bloated. I'm trying to push it up to around 2000 calories per day, which will still leave me around 900 calories in defecit even on a really sedentary day. 

My body fat is down to just over 20 percent now, which is great. I've been upping my bike riding and walking, plus doing Tabata sets and free weights every other day. 

Above: Primal gearing for a Primal Blueprint kinda ride? The country bike in singlespeed mode.  

I'm also going to convert my green country bike back to singlespeed (how it started life) to give my ride some 'muscle confusion' as Mark Sisson would put it. 

You see, cycling seated at a constant cadence isn't a very good primal exercise - Grok didn't do turbo sessions. He sprinted, climbed, stooped, lunged, lifted and stretched. 

I think that a one speed bike will encourage me to use more of my body when climbing or muscling the bike through mud and rooty sections. Plus it will give me natural variations in cadence, torque and so on. Sometimes I'll have to get off and push/carry - i.e. more variation - more primal. 

Plus I get some valuable shed time... Always thinkin...

Friday, 27 March 2009

Great shoes coming my way - Clarks Moko GTX

On order - what look to be a fine pair of all-round living, mooching, biking shoes  - Clarks Moko GTX in black. Big sticky sole, anatomical shape, Gore Tex lining and a very craftsy look. And to top it all, a killer Final Clearance deal! Also available in brown, but alas, not in my size. 

Dahon Meets Hairy Bovine (and other stories)

Here are some recent shots of the Dahon doing what it does best - mooching around. The Carradice Camper Longflap works so well on the folder, keeping the laptop and other stuff high and dry - out of the way of road spray. Clips on and off in seconds thanks to the superbly designed Carradice SQR. The other day, attached to the country bike, it carried a bundle of birch logs foraged from the local woods - great firewood this morning when typing this...

Above: On the Ashton Canal in central Manchester on a sunny evening in March. 
Above: D7 - Highland Cattle interface - make no mistake, these are scary animals
Above and Below: D7 in one of my favourite local riding spots - the River Alt footbridge in Croxteth Park. 

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Friday, 20 March 2009

Shock News - A Bike Related Post!

I've been harping on so much about Primal Blueprint that I thought I'd post some bike stuff for a change. 

Spent yesterday clearing out the shed in the fine spring weather and I found three bikes that I'd almost completely forgotten about! Well, almost...

Above: The country bike, basking in the autumn sunshine, back in 2008

I've decided that the country bike is just too nice to sit there in the dark, slowly rusting away. So I pulled it out of the shed and gave it a dust down, pumped up the tyres, gave the bar tape a couple of coats of shellac and let it dry in the sun. 

Today I took it for an afternoon spin around the park. I had the bars set pretty low and have got used to a much more upright position on the Dahon, so I pulled them up, a la Rivendell. Grant Petersen's advice is to get the bars at least level with the saddle, if not a little higher, for the moustache bar to work best. This is certainly good advice when you've got shellacked cloth tape, which doesn't afford the hands much in the way of cushioning. With this tape setup, it's best to carry a little more weight on the saddle - and the B17 Standard is great in that respect. 

Above: Reelight SL100 induction lights - fitted to both of my 'useful' bikes

So I can make sure I get the most use out of the country bike, I've ordered a set of Reelight SL100s for it. The Dahon D7 has got a set and they are unbeatable for fit and forget battery free lighting. 

I've also ordered a Carradice SQR block for the country bike, so swapping over the Carradice isn't a pain. What I'll do is alternate between the folding bike and the country bike for commutes, and keep the folder in the hallway for shopping errands and the like. 

Which just leaves the other two bikes in my stable. A 2004 Claud Butler Alpina MTB, which has served me well on bridleways, trail centres and rocky Pennine trails. 

The most neglected of all is the road bike. An aluminium framed 'winter bike' with carbon forks and a few Rivendell inspired touches - bar end shifters, Brooks Swift saddle, Stronglight compact double crank and a set of 28mm tyres - the biggest that it's clearances will allow. 
Above: The latest version of the Picador - ours is much older and rustier

Also loitering in the shed is a Pashley Picador trike which must be 20 years old or more. It's my step-daughter Kelly's and it's going to her dad's house to live - he's got access to some great country parks and bike paths so it should get a lot more use up there. Just a new set of (incredibly hard to source) 500a (20 x 1 3/8) tyres and tubes and it's ready for action. 

And that brings us up to date on the bike front. The much modified Dahon continues to serve me well - so well that the other bikes have had to fight for their place. 

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Primal Blueprint - 4 Week Update

One month in a 1 Stone down. 

On the scales today I'm 13st 4.5lbs. From a starting point of 14st 5lbs one month ago. 

Can't believe how well things are going. Still loving the food that I'm eating - enjoying eating real food every day. 

Had my most 'Primal' day to date - took a day off work and spent the day outside sorting out the shed. So lots of slow movement and lifting heavy stuff, lugging timber, toolboxes and storage crates around. Kneeling, stretching, bending, painting. All very primal movements in a modern day context. Being outdoors makes it so much more primal and in touch, if you know what I mean. 

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Primal Blueprint - 3 Week Update

This Week's stats: 

Weight: 13st 10lbs

Body Fat: 23%

BMI: 26

Resting Heart Rate: 43bpm

Blood Pressure (resting for a minute, lying down): 104/60


3 weeks in and I’m feeling really good. I’m full of energy, never bloated, never ravenously hungry. I’m not getting the sugar lows and highs that I used to get pre-Primal and I’m not feeling guilty about not making every bike ride hard, long or both.

I’ve started adding in tabata intervals three times a week, and I’m going to start some heavier weight sessions too.

In terms of weight loss however, I seem to have hit a plateau of 13st 10lbs to 13st 12lbs. Whether my body composition is changing toward more lean mass I’m not sure – it’s hard to measure accurately with a hand held body fat monitor, but I certainly feel leaner.

My resting heart rate and BP have lowered which is great. I’m moving doctors in a few weeks so should be able to get a full check up for cholesterol, blood sugar and a body fat calliper measurement.

My carbs are coming just fruit, veg and the carbs in dairy products – I’m not going to push them too low and risk ketosis – kidney problems aren’t something I’m keen on.

My plan is to keep a food diary for a few days and use to work out my calorie intake. Don’t want to get into the rigmarole of daily calorie counting, just want to get a handle on how much energy I’m consuming on the new diet and how many grammes of carbs. Then I can move forward knowing that I’m eating a healthy balance that’ll shift body fat and keep me out of ketosis.

To give you an idea of what I’m eating, here was yesterday’s food intake:

  • 2 eggs scrambled, 1 rasher of back bacon, 3 mushrooms, all scrambled in olive oil
  • 1 apple chopped and topped with cottage cheese
  • 1 pear
  • Tuna mayonnaise and cottage cheese with a big green salad
  • 1 apple
  • 2 smoked mackerel fillets with stir fry vegetables and a dash of soy sauce, cooked in olive oil
  • Small bowl of Greek yoghurt, with a handful of blackberries, grapes and mixed nuts.
  • Semi skimmed milk in tea and coffee 

All delicious, satisfying, non-bloating and pretty Primal! I’ll number crunch this lot on and post the results later. 

Monday, 9 March 2009

Carradice Camper Longlap Saddlebag

On it's way from Spa Cycles in Harrogate, a brand new Carradice Camper Longflap saddlebag. 

I've had a Carradice Pendle in Green for about a year and have been really impressed with it, but just lately, felt the need for something that'd let me stop off for groceries on the way home from work. 

With my commuting gear and laptop, the 11 litre Pendle was chock-full. However, the Camper Longflap is a full 24 litres, which is like a large pannier or daysack, meaning I can get lots of goodies in there! Plus its got external D-rings on the outside for lashing-on raingear, plus the long flap feature lets trap bulky items like tents, camping stools, small children - stuff like that. 

It'll see sterling service on commutes, plus it'll come into it's own for S24Os, which are going to start as soon as the current cold snap ends. Can't wait!!

The price of the bag ranges from £51 at Spa Cycles to £56 at Carradice's site. 

A thing of honest beauty and utility. Here's another thing that swayed me, Russ Roca's excellent video, showing the tardis-like quality of the bag, to the mellow strains of Devendra Banhart.

Tabata Intervals - Ouch!

Started doing Tabata Intervals yesterday - which are great for people who want to boost their metabolism, aerobic capacity and VO2 Max with a very small time input - in fact, just 4 minutes a day!


It's really simple:
  1. Pick an exercise (e.g. sprints - running or bike, squats, jumping jacks, dumbell presses, you name it)
  2. Warm up
  3. Do as many reps of your chosen exercise as you can in 20 seconds
  4. Rest for 10 seconds
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 eight times. 
I guarantee you'll be knackered on your eighth set. You can tailor the sets to your level of fitness by choosing an exercise that you're comfortable with. 

I'm doing these in conjuction with lots of base fitness stuff (walking, cycling and swimming) and in conjunction with the Primal Eating plan. 

Friday, 6 March 2009

Yehuda Moon

Finding the Fat Burning Zone

My heart rate monitor has sat unloved in the bottom of a drawer ever since I did a 100 mile sportive two summers ago. I’m not a big training for training’s sake person and prefer to get my exercise in a stealthy way – by making it useful, fun, or both. 

However, since reading about the Primal Blueprint, I’ve become interested in heart rate zones – but not in terms of finding some high intensity training zone – quite the opposite. What I needed to do was get a handle on which zone I was in when doing my normal everyday exercise, which is walking and cycling.

So today, I wore a heart rate monitor. Just a basic Polar monitor, with no fancy zone alarms and stuff. There’s a note in Rivendell Reader 41 about using a simple HRM to discover the relationship between your heart rate zones and your perceived effort. 

I figured that my normal commuting pace would put me slap in the middle of the 50–70% fat burning zone, which would make the most of my primary Primal fuel source (dietary fat and adipose tissue - body fat). 

Using 220 minus my age as the rule of thumb (the thought of a ramp test fills me with dread) I calculated that this for me was between 92 and 128 BPM. What surprised me was that I had to back off considerably with my effort to stay within this zone on hills and into headwinds.

I’ve heard experienced road riders talk about building base fitness in this zone and using an adage that states ‘if it doesn’t feel hard enough, it’s about right’. This was right on the money.

Combining my walking and cycling I’m getting about 1 ½ per day in this zone, with occasional efforts at around 85-90 percent on hills, which combined with some bodyweight resistance sessions should fit just right with the Primal way of things. All of this without ‘dressing as an exerciser’, buying a gym membership or setting aside specific exercise time. 

I can hear pieces falling into place. 

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Primal Blueprint - 2 Week Update

Two weeks into the Primal Blueprint diet and exercise plan and I'm really beginning to reap the benefits. I weighed in yesterday morning at 13st 10.8lbs. That's a weight loss of 9lbs in two weeks. 

Not missing any of the carb heavy foods which still amazes me - I was a bread-aholic. Even more impressive are my Body Fat Monitor readings. My starting point was Body Mass Index of 28 and Body Fat Percentage of 27%. 

Mark Sisson says that the diet will target body fat and he's right. While my BMI has dropped 2 points to 26, my Body Fat Percentage is down to 22% which proves that the diet isn't stripping me of lean mass. 

Did a 1 1/2 hr steady ride on Saturday too see how I felt without carbs as fuel - the result - no ill effects - and no making a bee-line for the bread and cereal when I came through the door. 

My wife is starting to get seriously interested in the diet as she starts to see my weight shift. And, last but not least, I'm one belt buckle notch thinner - the most important scientific measure of all!


Friday, 27 February 2009

Dahon D7 – Stem Mod

I’ve modified my Dahon D7 handlepost to accept a standard ahead stem, as detailed in a previous post. ‘Modified’ is probably a bit of a stretch – ‘sawn the top off’ is probably a little more accurate.

Last night I picked up a 100mm 10 degree rise four bolt MTB stem from Bikehut (rebadged Tioga) and scurried home, where, while dinner was cooking (primal diet compatible of course – mackerel with broccoli and peas…) I added the stem to the existing post and with some trepidation, trialled the new cockpit arrangement in the street.

It was a total revelation… The D7 now steers like a normal bike, it’s no longer nervous and demanding of constant attention to keep things in a straight line. Also, for the first time, the bike now fits me properly. Indeed, I’ve got enough reach to move the seat to the middle of the rails. The fit is very like the fit on by road bike and MTB.

I also trialled the other important thing – how the bike would fold. It’s inevitable that the new bar arrangement was going to mean a change in the folded size and the folding process, which now goes as follows: 

  1. Drop the saddle
  2. Fold the bike in half
  3. Undo the bottom handle-post latch and lower the post onto the saddle
  4. Undo the top quick-release on the handlepost and remove the handlebar/stem/telescopic bit
  5. Place the handlebar assembly between the two folded halves of the frame (I’ve found that I can pop the luggage elastic from the rack over it to keep it in place)

The fold isn’t as neat and tidy but it actually takes less time to fold and unfold, because there’s less time faffing getting the bars flipped upwards and the stem in the right place for folding. Of course it’s a little bigger folded than before, but it still fits in the end of carriage luggage racks, which is all that matters to me.

This morning I decided to seal the deal and hacksaw the hinge unit from the top of the post. It was a scary moment taking the hacksaw to the top of the handlepost to remove the hinged stem and leave basically a 1 1/8” aluminium tube, to which I reattached the stem.

Riding it to work and back today was, again, a breath of fresh air. Now the bike fits properly, I can climb out of the saddle and use a lot more upper body when I’m riding. The front end is stable, with much better weight distribution and if I closed my eyes (which I never recommend when riding!) it would feel like riding a full sized bike.

All I need to do to complete the job is get a star nut and top cap – not that it actually needs one from a functional point of view, but it will tidy up the exposed end of the handlepost. ***I've since used a tongue-in-cheek solution to the problem - a wine cork ;)***

Anyone else out there done this mod on a Dahon or other folder (I know the SP Brompton uses a similar setup and Bike Friday Tikits are set up like this)

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Dahon D7 Hinge – The State of Play

On a slightly worrying note, I’m detecting a little play in the main hinge of my Dahon Speed D7. It’s only noticeable when you rock the bike back and forth with the front brake applied, as if you were checking for headset play. Indeed, I mistook it for headset play initially, before tracing the play on the vertical plane of the hinge. It doesn’t affect the ride at all and is totally stiff laterally and is probably down to a little wear in the bushing, pin or other part of the hinge assembly. The hinge is adjusted correctly so some wear in the hinge-pin itself is all I can attribute it to. I imagine it’s pretty inevitable to get slight play in a highly stressed joint like this. I’ve ridden a few Bromptons that have had just as much play in their rear triangle bushings, straight out of the box, so it’s probably just something that one has to live with on a folder. Weird thing is the play seems to come and go. We’ll see how things develop… 

Has anyone else out there experienced play in the main hinge of their Dahon Speed D7?

Dahon Speed D7 has its first bus journey

The Dahon has had a couple of new firsts today. Here was my predicament: I had to get me and my son into town to meet my wife, who would take Harry and from then on I’d jump a train to Manchester and then bike the last 3 miles to the Velodrome for the Revolution Track Meeting.  

With a normal bike I’d be absolutely snookered, but with the Dahon I could just walk with Harry to the bus stop, fold the bike, jump on, stow the bike in the luggage rack. I got off in town and met Su and my eldest son Tom. Because the seamlessness of the journey, we had time to get coffee (another first for the Dahon) before we all went our separate ways. Su to the hairdressers with Harry, Tom back home and me to Lime Street station. Of course, the Dahon sat happily by our table in CafĂ© Nero as we had coffee and hot chocolate, attracting its usual share of bemused, amused and admiring glances.  

The Dahon is now sporting a honey coloured Brooks today, swapped out from the big green country bike, which is getting more envious by the day. 

More Dahon D7 Mods Coming Soon

I’ve decided to increase the reach on the Dahon by modifying the handle post and adding a standard MTB stem. 

I’ve been looking at the arrangement on the Bike Friday Tikit and it allows you to pretty much set up a folder to mirror the fit of your standard bike.  

I’ve always measured reach using the old fashioned biometric measurement:

  • Put the tip of your elbow at the tip of the saddle
  • Reach your outstretched hand and fingers towards the handlebar. 
  • Place your other hand perpendicular to that hand with the fingers flat. 
  • Your primary hand-hold on the bars should be in line with the outer edge of your little finger.

Using this method on the Dahon, I calculate that I’ll need a 90mm MTB stem to attain the reach that I’ve got on my MTB and Tourer. I’ll probably need a 15 degree rise to get the right handlebar height, because this mod will mean taking the hacksaw to the top of the handle post and sawing off the QR handlebar clamp. The measurement of the upper part of the Radius Telescope post is 28.6mm, which happens to be 1 1/8 inch, which means a standard ahead stem will clamp on just fine. 

The fold will be affected, but all it will mean is that I’ll need to pull the bar and stem right out and place the whole unit between the folded frame when folded. This won’t make the folding process any slower or the folded package much bigger.  

What it will mean is that I can get a proper Tikit sized riding position without forking out £800 for a new bike.  

I’m going to trial the setup tonight and ride it for a few days before taking the plunge of:

A: buying a stem

B: (scarier) sawing the top off my existing handle post! 

Primal Blueprint 1 Week Weigh-In

Got up very excited today and jumped on the scales for my first weekly weight check. 

I’ve been following the low carb blueprint pretty religiously for the week and I’m getting into the swing of making really tasty stuff like omelettes and curries without the carbs. 

I’ve been combining my normal walking and cycling with sprint efforts, body weight resistance exercises and some free weights, so I was eager to see if there had been any immediate results. Sometimes it takes a while for the weight loss to kick in, but I was amazed to find that I tipped the scales today at: 

14st 0.6 lbs! 

That’s a full 5lb weight loss in the first week. Hopefully by next week I’ll be in that magic 13st bracket. 

Friday, 20 February 2009

Primal Blueprint - Update

Primal Blueprint – Update 

Four days into radically changing my eating in accordance with the Primal Blueprint.

So, four days without bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, beans and pulses. I really thought I couldn’t do it. The foods listed about made up a huge amount of my normal intake and were in food terms, my best friends. But here I am, not craving any of them, not feeling bloated or hungry and not experiencing that ‘boom to bust’ sugar feeling that I used to get when eating lots of carbs.

I’ve been exercising normally – lots of walking, commute-paced cycling, plus some weights and today, 1 ½ hours of swimming with Harry and his friend. No food cravings, no feeling that I’m running on empty.

I don’t feel that my digestive system is working overtime anymore and my moods seem really stable, something which in the past, fluctuated with my sugar intake. I used to blame caffeine, but now I think I’ve found the culprit.

Looking forward to my first weigh in on Tuesday morning, where I’ll find out if there has been an initial loss. To be honest I won’t be too fazed if there isn’t. I’m not ‘dieting’ in the conventional sense. So if I lose it slowly but find a way of eating that I can stick with for life, without obsessive calorie counting or self-flagellation, or indeed obsessive exercising, all the better. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Primal Blueprint Day One

Spent last night reading Mark Sisson's excellent interview in the Rivendell Reader and I'm really struck with the Primal Blueprint exercise and diet concept.

Mark is a former endurance athlete and expert in nutrition and exercise, best known for his site Mark's Daily Apple. On his site, Mark has built a community of like minded individuals who have followed his regimen of low carb eating and exercise focussed squarely in the fat burning zone.

The primal bit comes in because the dietary and exercise patterns mirror that of the hunter-gatherer, whose diet would have been mostly protein and fat based, and who would have engaged in lots of low level aerobic exercise. 

My exercise habits tend to follow the Primal Blueprint laws which are:

  1. Move frequently at a slow pace
  2. Lift heavy things
  3. Run really fast once in a while

However my diet has always tended towards the high carb bread, pasta, rice and potato focussed diet that is everywhere in our culture and which only became the fuel of choice when hunter gatherers became farmers, planting grains or starchy tubers and using these as their staple. According to Primal Blueprint theory, that's when the rot set in. 

I'm going to blog my progress on the Primal Blueprint and let you know how I get on. 

Here are my starting stats: 

  • Height: 6ft
  • Weight: 14st 5lbs
  • BP: 120/68
  • Body Fat: 27%
  • BMI: 28

I've limited my carbs for the last 24 hours, eating plenty of oily fish, vegetables and just getting minimal carbs from fruit. Weird thing is I don't feel hungry at all... 

Time will tell but I think this could change my relationship with food for life. I'm that excitied. 

More info: 


Monday, 16 February 2009

Compulsory Reading - Rivendell Reader Download

Full of wisdom, opinion, lore and off-topic stuff. GP's writing is as crisp as ever, and his mudguard tip for tight clearance road bikes is a work of genius!

This is a big 13MB Adobe Reader download, but is a definite print off and keep item. Right click now, sit back, throw a log on the fire and enjoy. 

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Today's Commute Home

Another moral victory for the Dahon. Really questioning whether I’ll ever use the full size commuter bike again 

Had one of those magical evening rides that you get every now and again. A crisp evening – clear skies and a glowing sunset. Took the canal route into town – the water in parts still frozen, but in other parts, clear, still and glistening like it never could in the day. 

The Dahon continues to amaze me in what it can handle. There are a few sections on the canal route (the Ashton Canal) between Manchester velodrome and Manchester City Centre, where you’ve got steep, rough cobbled ramps, next to the locks. One in particular has got a constant stream running down it and a couple of front wheel grabbing channels. However, the nimble front wheel of the Dahon can be steered around obstacles quickly and accurately, whereas a slower-steering bike would plough through clumsily. I’m glad to say that I’m totally dialled in to the telepathic steering on the bike and now using it to my advantage. I think with Schalbe Big Apples on a 2 inch width, things would be even more interesting.  

Got to the station just as the train was pulling in – one of those times when you really put the manufacturer’s claimed 15 second folding time to the test. Suffice to say that I’m on the train now as I’m typing this, and the Dahon is sitting pretty in the baggage rack.

Carry Freedom Y Frame

Toying with the idea of getting a load carrying trailer for shopping and touring and, as chance would have it, and my mate Oli has a Carry Freedom Y Frame hanging around that he no longer uses. 

The Y frame is a simple but high quality beast with a box section aluminium frame, laminated ply top, top quality button release wheels (like QRs on a wheelchair) and Schwalbe Marathon tyres. It takes all kinds of bags and boxes, with the Aberdeen (Scotland) based outfit offering a variety of different containers. The simplicity of the design, essentially just a flat bed, means that it can accommodate loads of all shapes and sizes. Some people even port kayaks around on theirs. The main use that I can see will be for shopping trips, with occasional camping trips in the summer. The great thing is that the trailer quickly and easily folds flat for storage, meaning that it won’t impinge too much on the shed/under-stairs real estate. 

Oli is currently ferreting around trying to find all the pieces for it – then I’ll take a closer look before hammering out a deal…

Icebreaker Oasis Bodyfit 200 Merino Base Layer

Wow! This is a fantastic product! Every cyclist or indeed any outdoorsy type of person should have a couple of these in their wardrobe. 

I’ve been using one for about 3 months now and I’ve got to say that it’s the most comfortable, warm, easy to look after merino base layer that I’ve owned.  

I’ve bought a second one now – one in black and one in a nice mid blue, both long sleeved,  and they are an essential part of my daily riding/living kit. I’ve worn them on shivering cold mtb rides, on daily commutes, in bed, to the pub, to the restaurant and all day in work and they seem to fit in anywhere. You can just sling another layer over the top of them and blend in anywhere. They don’t look overly sporty, no big stripes or logos. They’re soft against the skin, have flatlocked seams and just will not smell, even after shameful back to back wear for days.  

They’re not cheap, at £30-40 depending on where you shop, but they work so well that you only need a few to keep you warm, dry and comfortable all year round. Plus Icebreaker is a company that’s big on sustainability and buying merino means buying non oil dependent fabric. Sure, oil is still used in production and transportation, but every little helps.  

I’m going to add a few short sleeved versions in the lighter 150 weight for the summer, and to layer over the long ones when temperatures turn chilly again. 

‘Outward Folding’ Handlepost for Dahon?

One thing that’s missing from Dahon’s impressive range is a ‘custom shop’ where you can buy mods and upgrades to tailor your bike to your needs.

One thing that would really open up possibilities for me is if an outward folding handlepost was available as an aftermarket item. There are a few Dahon Models which use this – the Speed TR (pictured) and Speed Pro TT in the current range – the Hon Solo (why did it disappear from the range!) all used this post, which allowed more interesting handlebar setups to be accommodated. The Dahon Speed D7 uses a handlepost that folds inside the folded bike package, which is great for compact folding, but means you have to fiddle with the post and handlebar adjustment each time you do the full fold. I’d prefer a handlepost that allowed me to leave my bars in a set position, or would let me alter stem lengths, a la Bike Friday, or even put drops or moustache bars on the bike.

Does anyone know if/where this post is available separately?

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Rough Stuff Fellowship

"The history of the RSF goes way back to its foundation in 1955, long before anyone had ever heard of Marin County. It was formed by cyclists who wanted to get away from roads and cycle on tracks, and byways."

I've got to go on one of their rides this year. There's simply no excuse.

The tune in my head when I'm riding my bike

Friday, 6 February 2009

Superb Touring Videos

Some days in the life of a Siberian cyclist... a dazzling rush through some random encounters from Rob Lilwall on Vimeo.

How to make a cycling expedition film if you are both the cameraman and the presenter from Rob Lilwall on Vimeo.

Latest D7 Mods

Been tinkering this morning. As well as a damned good wash, the Dahon has had a set of Avid SD5 V Brakes installed, with decent cartridge pads fitted, which have made a huge difference to the stopping power, and also look at least 10 times better than the functional but bland OE brakes. 

I've also wrapped the stubby bar ends with Specialized Phat Wrap tape, which is super grippy, soft and comfortable. I've made sure that the bar tape extends onto the main grip, as it's the interface between the bar end and the grip with is usually the most uncomfortable bit. 

Also, I've dug out a set of 3ttt drop bars which have also got me thinking. I could run them stock with a pair of Tektro or Dia Compe brake levers plus a bar-end shifter in friction mode, or I could flip 'em and saw them down, TT style...

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Dahon Goes to Chinatown

Suppose I’m still in that honeymoon phase that folding bike owners go through but I’m still obscenely happy with things like this:

I met the family last night for Kelly’s birthday meal, straight off the train and was able to fold the bike and walk straight into the restaurant. Thought it would polite to ask if I could bring it in and perhaps leave it in the cloakroom, but the head waiter just said to take it over to the table. So we had a Chinese banquet with 8 family members, not including the Dahon.

Chain was complaining loudly regarding my lack of attention, so it was GT85 time last night. This week’s snow and salt is taking it’s toll I suppose. But the Dahon is still trucking along just fine.

As I type this, the D7 is sitting snugly in the luggage rack of the train. 

Monday, 2 February 2009

Current Commuting Conditions

Keeping the bike commuting going 'all season' can be a challenge, especially when things are like this outside. Think the MTB might be the best choice for tomorrow...

My Dahon D7

Here at last, a picture of the Dahon D7, which is looking a little sorry for itself, covered in winter commuting slime. 

It's stock apart from:

  • Kore Lite MTB Bars
  • BBB stubbie bar ends
  • Reelight Induction Lights
  • Brooks B17 Saddle in black
  • Carradice SQR system
Mods planned for the future:
  • Schwalbe Marathon 20x1.75 tyres
  • Busch and Muller rear light for rack
  • Small Ortlieb panniers or similar
  • Avid V Brakes
  • Middleburn Cable Oilers
  • Slime Tubes

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Whinlatter Altura Trail

Visited Whinlatter Forest Park's Altura Trial on Friday. What a place, what a trail. What a lack of fitness!

Plenty of singletrack, not too much fireroad and some truly epic views. The trail is divided into two loops, the North and South, making it really good for those attempting a red graded route for the first time, as well as a great idea if you need to stock up on food or drink, visit the loo (!) or get a mechanical fixed. 

All weather armoured singletrack all round with rock and root obstacles on the ups and berms, doubles and tabletops on the downs. When we where there it was mighty cold and there was snow and ice on the upper reaches of the trail. Breaktaking, in every way. Can't wait to go back in warmer weather and carrying a little less winter weight!!

A long overdue outing for my faithful Claud Butler Alpina MTB ('Claud' to close friends) who was treated to a new set of Conti Vapor tyres (which worked really well on gravel, hardpack, mud, roots, you name it). One things for certain - it takes a lot of adjustment to relearn steering a big wheeled bike after 4 solid months on a quick steering 20" wheeled Dahon! It was a total understeer-fest for the first 10 minutes until I recalibrated by brain for big wheels. Top tip: If you haven't ridden your MTB for a while, get a few miles in on safe roads and trails before trying to ride foot-wide singletrack on a steep hillside! 

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Shoe Review: Patagonia Rum and Cola

Not strictly bike shoes - in fact, not bike shoes at all, Patagonia's Rum and Cola's are designated as an urban loafing shoe. However they work really well for urban cycle loafing too. 

A grippy detachable rubber outsole grips well on flat pedals and protects the foot from commuting knocks. The soft, figured pigskin leather upper is flexible yet supportive and the toebox is wide enough to allow you to get comfy. 

I hate narrow fitting cycling shoes that pinch the toes and cut off the circulation. These are perfect companions for urban cycling on flat pedals. 

However their killer feature is the ability to remove the rubber outsole and reveal a climbing boot style indoor shoe, great for indoor loafing. 

Another plus point is Patagonia's superb quality and enviable attitude to sustainability. Not cheap at £120 RRP, but I got lucky and found a pair in TKMAXX for £39. I think that's what you call a result...

Monday, 26 January 2009

Lazy Man's Pedal Servicing

I used to be a bike maintenance zealot. But what with an increasingly busy working and home life, golden time for tinkering has become harder and harder to find. So what do you get? You get smart, that's what. 

Take pedals for instance. My favourite set of pedals are a pair of VP BMX style platform pedals (a bit like the Shimano DX pedals of yore). I've had a set for about 3 years now and they've been used and abused on the MTB and the commuter - suffered jetwashing, crashes and day to day use in disgusting weather. As a result they've become a little rattly and unhappy - until today. 

Inspired by this article on Bike Radar I decided to get busy with the 5mm drill bit and inject some greasy new life into my pedals. However the Bike Radar article requires you have a proper grease gun. However I found that a disposible oral syringe did the trick. I drilled a 5mm hole in the plastic end cap of the pedal and syringed large amounts of grease into the pedal until it blew it's end cap off. I pushed the end cap back snug and voila - smooth pedals and probably an extra year of happy pedalling. 

As you may have guessed by now I'm allergic to spending money when I don't have to!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Smart Dahon Hinge Mod

Don't worry - I'm not going at the hinge with a Dremel or anything like that. It's just that the adjuster on the hinge, as stock, requires the use of Loctite to keep it correctly adjusted, which is hardly the best engineering solution on a thread which isn't tightened against anything. 

So what I've done is to simply find a nyloc nut of the right size, unthreaded the adjuster, added the nut, adjusted the hinge to the correct clamp closing torque then, nip the nut up tight against the 'non-adjustable' part of the clamp lever. Et voila - no scary thoughts of the hinge clamp working loose on longer rides, or over rough paths. 

Was worried that it might foul the hinge mechanism when fully open or fully closed but there's no issues. 

Big question is Dahon, why don't you fit a locknut as standard. I know the bike business works on slim margins, but come on...

NB: Just from a legal angle. I'm not recommending this mod as safe, guaranteed, whatever. I'm just saying that I've done it and I think it'll make the bike safer... So don't sue me!

Friday, 23 January 2009

Mmmm - H Bars

H Bars, with STIs above...
...or with gripshifters and mtb levers

Just checked out Bike Friday's site ( and seen the Express Tikit with its cool H bar setup, which takes brake levers on the frontal bar end section but can also take barcon shifters at the other end of the outer sections. It works with STIs, road levers, internal reverse action levers - also seen a link with normal MTB levers, though it may be a bodge/mod. 

They look very comfortable and sure to offer loads of positions. Don't know if they're available separately in the UK. Anyone got any ideas?

I've ridden H bars before, on a borrowed cross bike last summer and they're great. Loads of control up and down hill, rough or smooth. Like the idea that you can use lots of different types of controls. 

And here's me in aformentioned cross race, keeping it almost real on someone elses bike, despite bike failure on lap one!


Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Dahon d7 + bar ends

Sometimes, the littlest tweaks on a bike make all the difference. A good saddle, some new tyres, even an adjustment or tune up here and there. 

And so it goes with the Dahon - have been riding the bike with bar ends for the past few days and it's really transformed the ride. I know this sounds silly, but on a folding bike that really responds best to 'in the saddle' pedalling, a fore and aft hand position really helps. I'm riding faster everywhere, my wrists and palms don't ache and it feels so much more stable  - more natural cornering and easier to hold a straight line. 

If you own a Dahon D7 try a pair - stubbies work best as they don't interfere with the folding process. I might wrap the bar ends with cork handlebar tape for more comfort, or splash out on some Ergon grips/bar ends or Cane Creek Ergo Bar Ends

Puncture Hell

I've been pretty lucky with punctures lately - none in the last few months - none since getting the Dahon. But tonight, the puncture devil was feeling particularly spiteful...

5:30 in Manchester, about 3 degrees outside and persistent rain. 1 mile into a fairly short 2.5 mile commute to Piccadilly, I felt the rear end of the bike go mushy, which on a Dahon, feels like you've just snapped your frame. By the time I'd pulled into the side of the road, in shall we say a none too genteel part of the city, the back tyre was completely flat. The rain was getting heavier and as I unpacked my tools and spare tube. The streetlighting was out so it was pretty dark, making it tricky to locate the offending article in the tyre. Plus everything was covered in black brake block juice and oil. 

Of course it was the first time I'd had the rear wheel off the Dahon and it proved a bit of a faff, as the Neos derailleur didn't behave like a normal mech, where you can spring back the top jockey wheel to ease wheel removal. You basically have to grasp the chain and yank it away from the cassette and axle as you're removing the wheel. The only easy way to do it is by turning the bike over - a massive pet hate of mine. 

Eventually got the rear tyre blown back up and the rear wheel replaced. By this time the throbbing pain in my fingers, due to the icy rain, had turned to numbness and I was pleased to get on my way. I must have run over something that had fell back out onto the road but the tyre was staying up... wait a minute... what's that mushy feeling at the back of the bike?

Oh yes, there was still something in the tyre and it had killed my second (and last) tube. Still about a mile from the station, with the rain getting harder and my fingers feeling like I could snap them off, I decided to walk to the station and try to fix my two pierced tubes on the platform. 
One of those nights when you seriously wonder why you bother, and it takes a lot to get me to that stage. Might get some slime for my tyres - in keeping with the low maintenence commuter role of the bike. Certainly don't want a repeat performance of this evening in a hurry!

Monday, 19 January 2009

North Road the Wrong Road...

... well at least for the Dahon. 

Bars arrived this morning and looked good out of the box, but on the bike, they just didn't work. Either run as flipped (drop) or riser, they just looked odd - at 610mm they are pretty wide giving the bike that monkey-bike look - not good! Also, they badly affected the fold - adding about 4 inches of width to the folded package. Again, not good. 

Had a 'mare of a time getting the shifter off, eventually had to drill right through the bolt (an also unintentionally through the old handlebar) to get the old one off, as it had been totally overtightened. This meant new shifter time. Now running a set of Kore Lite flat MTB bars with bar ends. New shifter is the same model (SRAM MRX 7 speed) but was unable to get the model for reverse action derailleurs, so the numbers are reversed - no big deal as I always look at the cassette to check what gear I'm in anyway. 

Haven't given up on the North Road idea though. I may try them on the country bike - they'll be super comfy, that's for sure, and they'll look more at home on a full size rig. It'll need new brake levers, shifters and grips to make it happen, so it'll have to wait...

Friday, 16 January 2009

To Wrap or Not To Wrap?

Just toying with the idea of wrapping by the forward section of the North Road bars, so I can get a moustache style position on them. Rivendell do it and I've seen it on

Looks quirky but very very good. It'll look even quirkier on a folding bike. Check out this video of Riv mechanic in action shellacking a set of Albatrosses (that sounds odd out of context...)

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Think I've found 'em!

This is looking very promising. If they don't work on my folder I can swap out the Mungos from the country bike and really shake the bikeshed up!

£9.99 (!)

Handlebar Itch

I'm renowned (at least amongst my friends) for complusive component swapping and I think it's time the Dahon got a handlebar swap. The stock bars are straight, MTB flat bars which are fine as far as it goes, but I really miss the multiple hand positions of my road bike (drops) and most of all, my Rivendell inspired country bike, with On-One Mungo moustache bars. Also, fundamentally, I prefer a 'fore and aft' hand position to the latitudinal hand position offered by straight bars - more suited to the natural pronation of your hands and wrists. 

Which got me to thinking - how would 'tache bars work on the D7? A bit of Googling found that lo, Dahon made a special edition singlespeed based on the Boardwalk frame, namely the Hon Solo, with featured Nitto Moustache bars and reverse action levers. 

As well as looking wonderful, you've got a forward position with about 2-3 inches extra reach plus a really comfy sit up and enjoy the world position on the bar ends. Sure it will affect the compact fold but I think it'll be worth it. So onto ebay I went in search of a pair of Nittos. Then it occured to me that I needed v-brake compatible levers (currently only Dia Compe and Tektro make these) plus a bar end shifter (the Nittos are road diameter and won't take MTB style controls). 

Which led me to think of butterfly bars - problem is that these would place the controls way too close for comfort - then I thought of North Road bars, which are pretty similar to moustache, with maybe a tighter bend, but crucially will allow me to use my existing controls. So more Googling ahead. 

The joy of North Road bars is that you can tape the bend sections ahead of the grips (like Riv do with their Albatross bars and you can use all the positions). So I'm looking forward to finding a decent set of bars and making the mod. 

One slight problem. My particular Dahon was put together by a gorilla it seems, and every bolt on the damn thing is ultra tight. So I've rounded off the allen bolt that holds on the Gripshifter, so will have to Easy-Out it before I can make the swap. I mean, no-one needs their Gripshifter that secure. Hey ho.... 

Anyone out there who's done the same or similar mod - very keen to hear from you!