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!