Monday, October 08, 2012

Rule of Seven

So here it is. In a nutshell. My project for this winter. 

The foundation, a handmade Seven frame, built to my exact measurements and specifications like a bespoke suit. There is no bike in the world exactly like this one.

And here it is, resplendent in Amber Ale, an appropriate choice of colour I think. Based on a Seven Mudhoney cyclo-cross frame adapted for disc brakes and an eccentric bottom bracket. The fork is a 3T Luteus Team CX carbon with disc brake adaptor.

The initial aim is to build a single-speed bike which will be happy on routes such as rail trails and made up cycle paths, what might be called a gravel-racer here in the US and a path-racer back in the UK if I were looking for a trending name for such a bike.

The frame is adaptable enough to reconfigure it as a geared epic touring type bike or commuter should I want to in the future.

The seat and seat-pin are from my bits box. Fortunately, my current road bike and the Seven have the same internal seat-tube diameter - 27.2mm.

So the current to-do list includes; build wheels, fit headset, fit bottom bracket and chain-set ... more soon ...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Marginal Thinking

Well, it's been a few weeks. Not really a huge break from cycling, because Number One Son actually quite likes cycling. Okay, not in a Tour de France/Brad Wiggins sort of way, but able to handle 50mile/80km plus rides on the Schuylkill Trail, around Manhattan and more ...

I only managed one out and out roadie type ride; Chris's farewell from the bike shop. Seventy or so riders headed out into the Sourlands to bid adieu to Halter's popular superwrench. Very nice it was too. Thank you  to whoever's voice it was which piped up from behind me on the climb over the ridge, "C'mon Wiggins!!!".

I would like to emphasise that, 1: the voice came from behind, and 2: my patriotic jersey is one I would never wear in a million years in the UK.

Good luck Chris - with me on the correct side of the road
So, here I am, back in the groove ... Speaking of which ... well, more thoughts another time ...

The Bloke Rides again

It seems a long time since my last blog posting. Not that a lot hasn't happened, or a lot of rides been done. But just one damn ride after another doesn't make for an inspiring blog, especially when all this British Bloke wants to do is pontificate about stuff in general.

Rainbow Hill Road Bridge, Montgomery, NJ, USA - 17.9.2012
So in future I'll be logging regular rides via Twitter. Follow my tweets should you want ride details.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Griggstown Grinder : 20120703

It was going to be a hot one. The temperature was 93F/34C as we gathered in the parking lot next to Montgomery park under a hazy sky.

The route took by the canal, up Mt Lucas Road and Cherry Hill Road toward the main ascent of the evening, Hollow Rd.

My route map varies from the direction the group took as we waited for a rider then rode directly for Route 518. The group, meanwhile, cut across from Cherry Hill Road to Province Line Road, before meeting up again for 518. Hollow Road is probably the most civilised route into the Sourlands, but lately the surface has degraded to not much better than a track. This is mostly an issue on the descent, but once you're on Long Hill with its rather better surface, it becomes apparent that Hollow's pitted and pocked surface imposes a significant burden.

Spring Hill has a relatively new and far smoother surface which encourages a swift descent, although I am always nervous of the right-hand corner - about mile 24 on this map - which in the past always had a patch of gravel running across the road which, at the very least always caused a nervous shimmy as you rounded the tight bend. The new surface seems to have eliminated that obstacle, but be careful, it's tight and can leave you on the wrong side of the road.

So a hot afternoon and evening with 1700ft of climbing. The map shows 1500ft, but Strava shows 1700ft. Most GPS mapping sites return different climbing data. I'm not certain why that is ... anyway, more on Strava another day.

Meanwhile, I'm writing this early morning, July 4th, wondering if the rain will ease of so I can ride with Princeton FreeWheeler's Independence Day event. Maybe a day to resist wearing my Union Jack jersey ...
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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Early morning Zipp ...

The Bridge at
Neshanic Station
This morning saw me off bright and early on a solo ride through Neshanic along the South Branch Raritan River to Three Bridges, returning over the Sourlands, interrupted by another pleasant interlude at Peacock's Country Store.

Certainly everyone was out and about as several familiar faces made Peacock's their stop too.

This week was a little different, because I was able to try out a set of Zipp 404 wheels and Mavic Aksion tyres.

I pumped the tyres up to about 115psi front and rear, although the tyre walls say they can be inflated to 130psi. This gave a much smoother ride than I expected, although I don't think the wheels enabled me to drop away on the descents as quickly as my regular tubeless Hutchinson/Dura Ace wheel combination.

On the other hand the wheels gave a much more positive feel on the ascents.

As I said, the ride was very good on a reasonable surface. However, the descent of Hollow Road, whose surface is now very poor, was made the more exciting with every jarring bump and crack in the road transmitted directly up through the handlebars.

Regardless, the Zipps were a confirmation that a wheel upgrade is the most effective improvement you can make to any bike, and these are about as good as it gets.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Peacock's Country Store -20120624

If you didn't know, last weekend's Montauk 100 was a disaster for me. I went down with severe cramps and had to SAG out. The ignominy ...

So after a week's break off the bike, I set off with SteveR for a leisurely saunter through the Sourlands to Peacock's Country Store.

Of course, a ride through the Sourlands can never be a saunter as a whole bunch of riders on the local Tour de Cure were finding out, but for us, the pace was just right, not really pushing hard and feeling free to ease off when the going got tough.

There were, as usual a bunch of cyclists at Peacock's, including another British Bloke on a weekend away from The Big Apple and pleasantly surprised at how nice the cycling is in the area.

So, a pleasant ride with few challenges. Just right.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Etra Lake to New Egypt : 20120610

A long fast ride with few hills, but I was wilting in the 30C/90F heat by the end.

So I'm a little apprehensive about the Ride to Montauk 100 this weekend, but hopefully I'll be fully recovered by then from a nasty virus I was in the depths of about 10 days ago.

*Thanks to Dave for providing this week's GPS map

Currently the weekend's weather forecast for Montauk doesn't look too bad; in the 20Cs/70Fs with a following breeze ... nice ...

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Griggstown Grinder : 20120605

Tuesday evenings haven't a good weather record this year, and this evening threatened no better as rain spattered the windscreen on the drive up to the rendezvous.

It wasn't just me who was pessimistic as just a handful of riders showed up and with Diane away, it fell to Andy to lead.

We threaded a figure-eight path so we didn't stray too far from the cars in case of more rain, and indeed the heavens did manage a few spots plus a light sun-shower, but, being the hardy folk we are, we pressed on anyway.

I've posted the route below, and also a link to Strava, an application which compares your rides, matches up portions of the route you or others have done before and compares your performance. I do this with trepidation since, so far, my figures are pretty modest. However, I am one of the oldest there so I take comfort in that.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Griggstown Grinder : 20120529

My car thermometer was reading 33C/92F while we met up at Montgomery Park. While the sky was still blue, most of us had seen the forecast for thunderstorms, so we just sought out what shade was available as we waited to start and made bets on whether we'd run into them.

Fortunately, Diane took us on a route which made the most of tree cover, so the Coppermine climb, although brutally hot, at least, was out of the sun.

Around The Great Road, it became clear that we were in for a nasty storm, so we sprinted for home. This wasn't too difficult, because we had a terrific tailwind which bowled us along Skillman Road, through the pine tree debris, at more than 40kmh/25mph.

We made the cars without actually suffering more than on or two stray raindrops, but the evening had prematurely turned into night under the roiling clouds.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

PFW Memorial Day All Paces Ride: 20120528

I missed my regular Sunday ride under the threat of rain, so it was a relief that Monday - a public holiday in the USA - dawned sunny and bright.

I arrived at the Princeton FreeWheelers's rendezvous a bit late due to ... well, what does it matter ... and after frantically pumping up tyres and getting into shoes I latched onto one of the last groups to leave. Turned out they were heading for New Egypt. That was good enough for me ...

The day was fine, but it quickly became very hot and sultry, so hydration was a major concern. By the time we'd returned to the cars the temperature was 33C/92F, but it was the humidity that was the real challenge.

I've never been to a PFW event before, and it was nice to speak to and occasionally encourage riders who'd not ever ridden more than 15 miles before and the sense of achievement they'd got from the day

Monday, May 21, 2012

Etra Lake | Battlefield Orchards : 20120520

Sunday dawned to a great day for cycling. Maybe a breeze which was a bit more than perceptible, but great nevertheless.

Gary's ride took us west, through Turkey Swamp to Battlefield State Park, where there had been a battle at some point, apparently, but now hosts a store that sells fruit and fruit products, most notably for me, fruit strudels.

Unfortunately, they no longer make blueberry strudel, but the raspberry was really good too.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Rocky Hill | Nashanic Station : 20120513

Time for another ride, up through the Sourlands to Nashanic Station.

This time I rode solo. Sometimes it's good just to proceed at your own pace; pause to listen to the birds, study the flowers and so on ...

Not many cars either. Other than on the main roads there were very few. Maybe everyone was off visiting their mum?

Not many riders at Peacock's Country Store either. But a chocolate croissant went down well.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Etra Lake to Clarksburg : 20120506

This was the first ride of the year for me from Etra Lake.

Gary, the ride leader, has upped the rate to B and consequently set off at a cracking pace under a gloomy sky. The weather held off and once or twice the sun struggled through the clouds.

It wasn't just the sun which was struggling. I just don't have enough miles in my legs at this stage in the year, which meant I completed the ride at my own pace. But still, I survived, but I really need to get a few more miles in before The Ride to Montauk Century next month ... what have I committed myself to???

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lambertville : 20120318

Well, originally, the weather forecast promised much. Once again, unseasonably warm and sunny. But Sunday morning started cool and foggy. Even by our start time of 11.00 the skies looked very grey through my cycling glasses.

We headed out for Lambertville; basically up a big hill and down again. It was my first ascent of Hollow Rd/Long Hill Rd this year. But really, I was quite pleased that my legs felt good. Okay, it wasn't in any way comparable to my season's best, but, hey, I'll be doing this one plenty of times in the next few months.

Lambertville, NJ
Even as we pedalled the dissected plateau towards the Delaware the clouds remained steadfastly dark and threatening and I was glad I'd opted for long-fingered gloves.

However, it was quite a sociable day for a ride. I spotted a number of friends out for a day's ride, usually speeding the other way, and at one point we were joined by a couple of riders who mistakenly thought we were members of their group.

Lambertville was very busy. Not just cyclists, but plenty of day-trippers. As we leant our bikes outside the coffee shop a group of about 40 riders clattered through the town. But while we sat there sipping our coffees and teas the sky began to perceptibly lighten, pretty much around the time the morning's forecast had predicted.

The return was basically a run straight back the way we came except we diverted off Hollow Rd and took the fast descent of Grandview as a reward.

Incidently, Hollow Rd is in a very poor state for fast descent. Don't follow your leading rider too closely to avoid the frequent potholes and gravel.

So a nice ride with a cool start but a warm finish. Roll on the warm weather ...
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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Canal Cruise : 20120308

Hey! C'mon!! The sun is shining and it's 72F/21C!!! Even an icicle like me can ride a bike in March in New Jersey. Okay, there was a bit of a stiff breeze, but the trees by the canal broke it up. And flats? Pah! I laugh at flats!! Oh yes!!! There were flats ... but not mine ...

It was day when riding your bike was hard to resist. So I drifted down the hill from where I live to the start of a meander down the tow-path of the Delaware and Raritan Canal, situated in one of the longest and thinnest state parks in the USofA. 

Bike route 1445602 - powered by Bikemap 

The path is in a fairly good state, following an exceptionally mild winter. However, mild doesn't necessarily mean dry, so the path showed signs of repair where the canal had overflowed during the progress of the season.

But it was a good sign that the work had been done, although, at the moment, some of the repaired sections are pretty rough, but another month of riders, joggers, walkers and doggies should see the path relatively smooth again.

It's over 10miles/16km from our start on Route27/Old Lincoln Road in Kingston to Millstone and over that distance there is a fall of 30ft/9metres, not that you'd notice it other than the slow progress of the water on the canal.

There's a little deli in East Millstone which makes an excellent sarnie, although, unfortunately, it's closed on Sundays. But still, a simple sandwich in the open air is one of the pleasures of life, and having partaken, it was time to return, this time against the imperceptible climb, and more importantly, stiffening breeze.

A half-a-dozen turtles/terrapins turned out to salute us and a huge heron did a fly-past to finish off an unseasonably warm and pleasant ride.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


I've spouted on about hifi a number of times. But what about hifi for the head? That is, listening to music on the move, or even just privately at home.

Cowon S9
The source for my listening pleasure is a Cowon S9 media player. It has an OLED excellent screen which reproduces video like a jewel, but my main demand was that it should be able to play .flac audio files.

I store most of my music in .flac format. This is a lossless compression codec which delivers high quality audio. I've written before about the curse of .mp3, the legacy of which is compressed audio squirted through cheap ear-buds. Music, still for the most part, is lovingly crafted and recorded. It's just that nowadays most media and playback devices are capable of only reproducing a shadow of the original performance.

The Cowon S9 is one of the few players that is capable of playing .flac files, so it's useful to be able to copy files from my music library straight to the Cowon without transcoding. Of course, I could store several times more tracks on the player if I just used .mp3 files, but its 32gb capacity means I still carry a lot of music, usually just a couple of favourites plus any new stuff I have acquired lately.

Fiio Ell & Fiio E5
Amplification is perfectly good on the Cowon, but I also use a headphone amplifier to remove the load on the device, leaving the music player free to deal with the work of rendering the files without stress.

There are several costly, esoteric headphone amplifiers around, but my choice is rather less than expensive, a Fiio E11. In the past I have also used a Fiio E5, but the E11 supplies much more weight to the music and is happy feeding my more power hungry headphones. Both are rechargeable via USB and have one or two bass tone pre-sets, although I find the sound perfectly good without introducing more processing.

The player and the amplifier are connected using a good quality, but not expensive cable.

I generally chose one of two headphones with this setup. Shure se425 ear-buds for travelling (no longer available), and Grado sr80i headphones for use at home.

Fiio E11 & Cowon S9
The Shure se425s are of the ear-canal type. That is, they sit deep in your ear. They are supplied with a number of buds and it's up to you to select the best for you.

At first this type of ear-bud is disconcerting, even uncomfortable for some. Many people don't like them at all. But headphones of this type provide a quality of sound superior to any other portable headphone/ear-bud.

They also provide a degree of sound insulation way better than noise-cancelling headphones; great for air travel, but to be used with caution on the street.

My head-fi gear
When using my personal hifi at home, I tend to use the Grados. They sound great, but they also are not a sealed type. That is, sound can leak through so I can hear if spoken to. Of course, that means sound leaks the other way too, so the rest of the family can hear your music to a degree.

It's noticeable lately, travelling public transport here, that people are starting to realise that the headphones supplied with even the most expensive portable devices are poor. However, often this results in buying "designer" type head-phones - I'll mention no names, undoubtedly sounding better than OEM ear-buds because they're usually designed to improve perception of a poor quality source, but with grossly inflated prices.

I would bet that a recognised "hifi" brand headphone will sound twice as good as a designer headphone costing twice as much ... Sorry Dr Dre ... Ooops! Mentioned a name ...
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Monday, January 23, 2012

Stuff Cyclists Say ...

I found this the other day on FaceBook:

Of course, I have never been known to say any of these things ...