Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Upgrading shifters! From Sora to Tiagra.

After the recent changes made to the Bianchi and the possible new user I thought that I would try and search around for some Tiagra shifters to replace the Sora ones with the thumb bits.
I was fortunate enough to strike a deal with a member on the BikeRadar forums who posted me his 9 speed double Tiagra shifters for £32. Bargain.

Changing the shifters requires new bar tape and optionally new cables, which I went for. At the same time I also changed the brake pads as they REALLY needed doing. So all in all I paid £9 for two pairs of brake pads (Wiggle),  £6.50 for some new bar tape (Wiggle), £10 for 2x gear cables & 2x brake cables from a LBS & then the shifters, £32 as mentioned. Total: £57.50.

Okay, so this is how the Bianchi looked to start:

First step was to remove the existing bar tape:

Easy enough to do. I also took off the black tape holding the cable housing down. There was no real need to do this, I just fancied replacing it. 

Next up was using a 5mm allen key to loosen the bracket holding the shifters on. If you peel back the rubber on the shifter you can see the allen key. It needs to be quite loose in order to wiggle the bracket off of the handlebars. 
I loosened the bracket too much and the shifter came off... 

Track bike anyone? 

Okay, next up was to cut the existing cables and pull out all the bits from the various clamps or shifters. Alternatively, if your cables are still good you could undo all the clamps and push the cable out and re-use. My cables were the originals so probably could have done with the changing. 

Once the shifters were off and all the cables were removed it was time to put the new shifters on. To do this the bracket was loosened and they were put to roughly the right position on the bars and tightened a bit. I then used a straight edge to measure where the shifters should go. I opted to have the bottom of the brake lever level with the bottom of the bars.

Next was attaching the brakes. I took this time to change the brake pads. Here is one of the ones I removed compared with the new one: 

Once the new brakes were installed I hooked up the brake cables. Fed it through the shifters, through the housing and through the loosened clamp. Then I tightened the barrel adjuster, squeezed the brakes to the rim and pulled the cable tight. Tightened the clamp and then opened the barrel adjuster about four turns. Quick test and it looked pretty great! Very responsive, much better than previously.

The gear cables followed a similar pattern. I was worried about this bit but actually it was fairly easy. Pop in the cable, go through the housing, under the bottom bracket and up into the front derailleur or round to the back for the rear derailleur. Pull the cable tight and tighten the bracket. The rear derailleur took a bit more adjusting, opening and tightening the barrel adjuster and clicking through each of the gears but I got it as good as it was before long. I think a new chain/casette is needed to get the best out of the shifting but that's fettling for another day.. 

Once the brakes and gears were cable-d in, it was time to re-wrap the bars. Unfortunately I'm not very good at this so it's not the best job in the world but I'm pretty pleased considering, and much happier about the results of the shifter upgrade to really care about the bar tape job :) 

And lastly, I took off the mudguards as to make it look a proper little summer bike for the missus.
We're off work this week so hopefully get her out a few times at least to get some miles in the legs. Hoping to get out a few times myself though we have got quite a busy social calendar so might have to sneak in a few hours here and there...  Until next time, cheers! 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Converting the Bianchi for a smaller rider...

The most amazing thing has happened.

Victoria (my wife) has decided she wants to get involved with cycling! This makes me so happy.

She owns a bike, but it's really crappy. The brakes rub and it must weight 20kg+. It's not much fun to ride so I let her have a go on one of mine, hoping it would help give her a good experience. We went on a short ride with her on my best bike (Ridley - full carbon) and she really enjoyed it. However, I don't want to get too excited and splash out on a new bike specifically for her, but equally I don't want to let her ride the nice carbon bike all the time...

So, I thought of converting the Bianchi from my winter bike into a female friendly road bike :) It sits in the shed collecting dust most of the year anyway so I thought about what I could do for her. I figure the nicer the bike is, the more she will enjoy cycling and hopefully stick at it!

First things first - this is how the Bianchi looked at the end of last winter:

Fairly simple set up, not too aggressive but good for short-medium rides, along with the Crud RoadRacer mudguards previously reviewed here. 

I made three major changes to the bike, in under half an hour. 
First things first I lowered the saddle. Unfortunately my bike has a police fitted tracker inside the frame which prevents the saddle going any lower. Not a problem before but frustrating as hell now!

Next I flipped the stem so the handlebars have more of an upwards angle. This creates a less aggressive position on the bike, perfect for someone new to road riding.

Lastly I swapped out the SPD-SL pedals for some old, flat pedals I had lying about. This means that my wife can wear normal trainers to ride and feel safe. Perhaps one day we will progress to SPD's but I'm not going to push :)

Here is the Bianchi after those 3 main changes:

We went out for a ride on Tuesday evening for 40 minutes covering about 5.5miles. I was super happy. Yes the pace was slow but I was so happy to be out with my wife sharing a hobby that I love with her. To start with she was quite uncomfortable in the position as it's very different to a normal bike but by the end she was much happier and becoming quite comfortable. Unfortunately the saddle was very high and he leg was basically straight at the bottom of every pedal stroke, giving her a fair amount of discomfort in her hips every rotation.

To help fix this I came home from work today and got to work on the seat post of the Bianchi.

Here are a few 'arty' photos of the job:
This is the seat post as it was. The faint black line (halfway-ish) is where I have the seat position. Plenty of room left for me to cut a couple of inches off.

This is where I decided to cut. Approx 2 inches from the bottom.

I used a small saw that I found in the tool box, pretty sure it is for use on metal.

This was after 5 minutes of sawing.

About 8 minutes in. Not too hard work, although the cut is a bit wonky.

Almost ready to come off.

In just under 10 minutes I had sawn through the seat post. Shortening it by a couple of inches.

Not the straightest edge ever.

Finished product! Seat lowered even further for optimal pedalling along with the other changes. Ready for some nice rides next week as we enjoy a week off from work!

I have also ordered some Tiagra shifters and new bar tape to make shifting easier (no more of the thumb shifters!) and also some new brake blocks to improve stopping power! 

Next on the list is some female specific lycra and a helmet that fits as my spare is comically huge on her tiny head! 

Hopefully more reports on her progress coming soon! 

Thursday, 13 March 2014

New Job & Lunchtime Runnings

I've now been in my new job role for a month! Time has flown! I'm really enjoying being busy here in Oxford and getting some great exposure to all kinds of people in my new role.

I have been out cycling a few times around Gloucester now and found a couple of nice routes -see my Strava. The latest update is that my wife & I will be moving... again... somewhere more in the Cotswolds and closer to both our jobs as she is about to start a new role at the Four Pillars hotel in the Cotswolds Water Park (it's very posh!)

What's a bit more exciting is that I have found a group of 4 or 5 people who go running at lunch times here at Siemens. They are mostly all a lot quicker than me but tend to do a good 8km or so every lunch time. So far I have joined them twice but I am going to try and commit to going out every Monday, Wednesday and Friday - which will be a lot more running than I've ever done before!

We run either down a river path along the Thames or in some woods owned by Oxford Uni. I've never done any trail running and I didn't realise how brilliant it was. It's quiet, there's no traffic and lots of wildlife to look at to distract you from the pain in your legs! I have really enjoyed it so far and running with other people - especially people who are much quicker and more committed - is great! Really enjoying it.

The only annoying thing is that my Garmin seems to not pick up signal for the first 10 minutes or so and misses out the hardest hill of the run! Must be a few hundred feet of elevation and my heart is pounding by the top but I don't get any data recorded from it! Think I'm going to try with my phone next time and use RunKeeper and see if I can get the whole distance/elevation profile off of that - or try and set up my Garmin outside instead of in the changing room..

Hopefully I will see some improvements in distance, fitness and maybe even shed some weight! The group also does races at some points in the year so I'm looking forward to getting stuck into that.

My current schedule is looking like running in the weeks and getting some miles in on the bike on the weekend. This I am very happy with!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

On Gloucestershire

A couple of weeks ago, the big move happened. I finally moved all my stuff down to Gloucester and I now live here permanantly. I started a new job last week and so far I think it's going very well. It's a ton of responsiblity but everyone is really nice so I know I will have as much support as I need once I take over the role completely.

Anyway - the important stuff!

I have now been out 3 times on the bike in the last week and a bit and I am thoroughly enjoying it. (See strava links on the right for rides..) It's a lot hillier than Lincoln (surprise!) but I am relishing the challenege. On my first ride I stumbled across Haresfield Beacon which is by far and away the toughest climb I've ever come across. It's so steep that I am yet to get up it without getting off and pushing. I've tried twice and today I got about 25m further but still nowhere near the top! One day.. one day..

I've found a bike shop that does social rides (Eastgate Cycles in Gloucester) which I am hoping to join on a Wednesday evening but they also put all their rides on facebook so I've been able to export them to my Garmin and use their knowledge of the local roads to get out and about.

Cheltenham and County Cycling Club is the other club I am hoping to join. They are a huge club based down the road and go out on Saturdays which keeps my Sundays free. (They go out on Sundays too, though.)

Hoping that some of my Lincoln friends will come and visit when the weather is a bit nicer, looking forward to showing them around and doing some epic longer rides and getting fit again, at least up to last years standards.

Friday, 24 January 2014

I am leaving Lincoln..

After over 5 years I am leaving Lincoln to start a new job in the South West. I will be living in Gloucester with my wife and working on the west side of Oxford.

I am looking forward to new challenges, new friends and new bike routes but of course I will miss all the challenges, friends and rides that I have done in Lincoln over the last 5 years. To celebrate this, this weekend I have organised to do a 5k run, play one last hockey match and to go on a nice Sunday bike ride with some friends who I will miss when I leave.

I haven't run 5k since Christmas Day and I struggled then. I'd love to say I'm in a good condition to PB (sub 23:19) and I will try but honestly anything under 25min would be great.
Hopefully I get a goal in the hockey, it would be nice to score again - I think I have one for the season after finishing top scorer in the league last year.
Sunday bike ride I'm hoping to get 40+ miles in - it will be a bit of a novelty to be cycling in the daytime to be honest!

I will update with how the weekends activities go and look forward to updating in the future about Park Runs, Cycling Clubs etc down in the South West!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Wiggle 40L Luggit Backpack Review

With some changes in my personal circumstances recently I've been commuting further to work and needing to cycle rather than walk. The extra set of clothes, as well as often having to take my work laptop meant I was on the lookout for a new bag to use for work. Previously I was using an ancient laptop bag with dedicated laptop space in the main section - but not enough room for a set of work clothes, and a pair of shoes plus other various bits.

I had a look around and weighed up my options. I really like the look of the Henty Wingman which is available from Evans and other sites. This uses an innovative design to carry a rolled up suit without creasing as well as a small bag inside that can carry a laptop, pair of shoes, your lunch etc. It's a great design with only two flaws that I can see. 1) It uses a single shoulder strap so I imagine any heavy loads will be fairly strenuous on just one shoulders and 2) The price. The thing costs £120 for a bag. A bag! Crazy price. Couldn't justify that at all.

Whilst I'm dreaming I also looked up the Rapha Backpack which is a costly £125! For the price you get enough space for a laptop, pair of shoes and folded up clothes. You also get Rapha's classic stylish design and either a pink or white stripe down it. An added bonus is a bright pink rain cape that is stored in a separate pocket and can cover the bag when it is night or raining to keep your things dry and keep you visible on the road.

In the end though I went to the trusty Wiggle site to see what they could offer. Wiggle have their own dhb range of backpacks and being as I have been more than pleased with their dhb stuff in the past, I thought I would give it a punt.

First of all I ordered the 30L 'slice' dhb rucksack as I thought it looked nice, had a rain cape and wasn't sure how much space I actually needed.
When it came I eagerly unwrapped it and took a look. It was immediately obvious that whilst it was a really nice bag, it wasn't fit for my purpose. There was a pocket that I could use for my laptop and whilst my 13" MacBook Pro fitted in nicely, my bulkier Fujitsu work laptop struggled to fit in comfortably.
Additionally, when I had the laptop in there, I could barely fit a pair of nice brogues, let alone a nicely folded suit and shirt.

I really liked the bag but it had to go back. So I went back to Wiggle to see what else they had available. For an extra fiver I could upgrade to the next size up - the 40L version. This seemed a good option although it had slightly mixed reviews. I thought for the price it was worth a punt - and I could always return it if I didn't like it.

The bag turned up a few days later and I am really impressed. I've been using it as a commuting bag and also a luggage bag on the train for the past 3 or 4 weeks and I've detailed some of my thoughts below:

Overview and Functions:

The bag has a large central compartment and other smaller ones.

The compartment on the back is a laptop specific one, large enough to hold the biggest 17" laptops with room to spare - it really is huge. I've had 2 laptops, an A4 notebook and  a George RR Martin novel in it comfortably! However, there is little to no padding in it so be careful when putting the bag down to not break anything!

The main compartment is very large, I've had a weeks worth of clothes in here no problem.

There is a front top compartment which has a felted interior to keep valuables in. I use this for things like phone, wallet, keys, cufflinks etc whilst cycling but it is plenty large enough to hold much more.

Lower down there is a velcro'd compartment that is quite sizeable though I wouldn't keep anything of value in there as the velcro is only in the middle meaning stuff could get wet or easily stolen. I keep things like deodorant and hair gel in this.

In front of the velcro pocket there is a side zip pocket, of decent size to fit small things - I've used this to fit 3 pairs of underwear in, for example.

There are two zipped side pockets that can fit a 500ml waterbottle in, but cannot be closed up. This is of mild annoyance but it's not a deal breaker for me.

As I've detailed, there are plenty of pockets to keep your stuff and probably room for more!

General Use:

I first used this bag to hold a 3 days worth of work, casual and biking clothes. I took it on a train and even when full it fitted in the overhead space comfortably.

To give you an idea I think I had the following somewhere in the bag:
- 3 pairs of underwear
- 6 pairs of socks
- 3 long sleeve shirts
- 1 suit (trousers & jacket)
- 1 hoody
- 1 jumper
- 1 pair of jeans
- 1 pair of smart shoes
- 1 pair of cycling shoes (with cleats)
- 1 cycling jacket
- 2 jerseys
- 1 pair of bib shorts
- 1 non-padded tights
- 1 work laptop
- 1 A4 notebook
- 1 novel by GRRM
-  iPhone charger
- Edge 500 + charger
- Various cables
- Toothbrush/toothpaste
- Shower gel
- Hair gel
- Antiperspirant
- Probably something I've forgotten

As you can see - plenty! I was very impressed with the size of the bag and it meant that I didn't need to take a suitcase on the train (always a pain.)

When cycling or carrying this very full bag the straps are comfortable and the weight is distributed nicely across my back. It's much harder to pick up a full bag and carry it by the carrying handle than it is having it slung across your back.
I've been quite layered up during my recent commutes so I can't say if the bag produces a particularly sweaty back but I've had no issues so far. The padding keeps the back of the bag away from your back so I would imagine it keeps your back cooler than many alternatives.


Well made and very large bag from Wiggle's dhb range. Comes in at a great price point (£35 at full price) and sits nicely on your back.

I've fitted plenty of clothes in and it is large enough to meet the demands of my daily commute.

Really pleased with this bag as it enables me to have a few more home comforts to travel with me.


  1. Very large. Fits in lots, with lots of compartments
  2. Sturdy and well made
  3. Looks good
  4. Distributes weight across back evenly
  5. Separate laptop compartment


  1. No rain cape like there is on the 30L
  2. It's all black without too much reflective detail
  3. The description on the website is out of date - probably indicative of a previous iteration of this model. 
  4. Little/no padding in the laptop section

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Lezyne Micro Drive Front Light Review

When the sun goes down it is dark.

I don't think I quite understood this before I started cycling. When I was younger I hung out in lit places in the evenings - all the streets around my area had lights. Then when I could drive and went anywhere, the cars headlights lit up the entire road for me to see by, potlights, animals, cyclists.

Last week I went out and found it too dark for my liking. Descending was a slow process and the light shining from my two front lights were not bright enough for my liking.

In steps the Lezyne Micro Drive

Overview and Functions
This light is more at the budget end of bike lights (I bought it for £26 in the sale) but boy is it worth the money. The light has two 'functions' normal & race. The normal function has 5 settings. 100 lumens (pretty bright), 150 lumens (really bright, don't point it straight in your eyes!), 50 lumens ('economy') and then two flashing patterns, both at 100 lumens. 
The Race function then has 2 settings - 50 lumens and 200 lumens. 

200 lumens is the brightest this thing will go, and for general road riding I think having any more would lead to a series of diminishing returns the more money you spent.
With 200 lumens shining on a pitch black road I can see straight ahead for about 100m and about 25m of road lit up and clear. The beam is very wide so I can see both edges of the road (on single carriageway) as well as any potholes or other dangers with enough time to react to them (branches, glass etc)

General Use
You get between the two functions by holding down the single-button for 5 seconds, and then cycle through each setting by pressing it once. The button is held down for 2 seconds to turn on or off, and pressed just once to indicate the battery life. Green is fully charged, Orange is in use and Red means charge me please or you will soon be in pitch black!!! 
It's pretty intuitive but I have found pressing the button down with cold, numb hands whilst cycling along to be of moderate difficulty.

As far as battery life goes I am a left a little bit wanting but the unit is so impressive with size, weight, looks  and strength of light beam that for me, it is not a deal breaker.
Lezyne claim 3 hours of usage on Economy setting (50 lumens), 2 hours on 100 lumens and just 1 solitary hour on 200 lumens. But I can't imagine needing 200 lumens for very long - if ever really.

In my first week of use I have found that to be enough, my commute on its longest day is now an hour and I only need the 150 lumens for it so it's all good as long as I remember to charge it!

Now, charging it is awesome. The only lights I've ever had before took normal batteries that you had to replace once they were used. The Lezyne Micro drive uses an internal battery that gets recharged. How do you recharge it? Well, it's super simple. Just screw off the cap and underneath it is revealed to have a built in USB stick! Pop this in your laptop/pc/other charging device for a couple of hours and it will be back to full strength next time you want to use it. (Lezyne note it takes up to 4 hours to fully charge, though I've not had to charge it for longer than 90mins down as far as about 1/3 charged.) What's even better is that other than the cap there's nothing to lose. No leads, no battery packs.

It secures to the bike using a plastic holder which is itself secured by a thick rubber 'ladder', which has lots of bars on depending on how thick your handlebars are. My handlebars are oversized, yet the rubber ladder is still too long, and I am left with a rubber tab sticking up one end - to help remove it, and an excess bit of rubber ladder at the other end, threatening to get in the way of the light! 
It is however, easily kept out of the way and doesn't impact on the use of the light. It is held in place securely  and doesn't jiggle or rattle whilst riding. 

I really like this light. I'm so glad I bought it and it is possible even literally a life saver for me this winter. For the price I think the performance is incredible and the little niggles I have with it aren't worth splitting hairs about. 

  1. Very bright - easily bright enough for pitch black riding.
  2. Fantastic charging method 
  3. It's remarkably light and small - doesn't get in the way at all
  4. Great price - lower end of the market but still high level of performance
  5. Secure in place yet easily taken off when you leave your bike
  6. Lots of functions and options depending on your preferences - economy for daytime, flashing if you want it or the high powered settings for when it's truly dark
  1. Battery life isn't great - you would struggle on a long evenings ride of more than about 2 hours on unlit roads. I would happily have a larger body to accomodate more battery
  2. The beam is so wide I get HUGE shadows of my handlebars, brake levers and hands on either side of my vision
  3. The rubber holding attachment is too long, and it leaves lots of rubber either side of the light base - even though my bike has oversize handlebars. 

If you need a new light for this winter, but don't want to spend over the odds then I strongly recommend this fantastic product!