Chester Greenway

A few weeks ago I finally got around to taking a look at the Chester Greenway (See route here). It appears that much of the money from Cycling England’s Cycling Demonstration Towns project in Chester was spent on providing pleasant leisure facilities such as this. Whilst I stated that I felt that fixing the problems cyclists face on the main road network would have been a much better use of the money, facilities such as the Greenway at least give people somewhere to cycle whilst feeling safe, even if they tend not to lead to particularly useful destinations or run along the main desire lines for Chester cyclists.

As a leisure cycling facility, the Greenway is very nice. Similar to the Floop in Manchester, the Greenway is a former railway line conversion. Unlike the Floop, the Greenway is free from pointless anti-cycling barriers along its length, except for chicanes to prevent motor vehicle intrusion at entry/exit points. Whilst riding towards Wales on the Greenway, I was impressed by the high quality of the surface. Upon entering Wales this impressive surface quality improved even further.

I did the ride on the Brompton, out of solidarity with Ms C. who only had her Brompton and not her Kona Africa Bike in Chester at the time. Even on a Brompton the ride was silky-smooth. After a few miles, the surroundings become pleasantly scenic farmland. Eventually the path meets up with the River Dee, which also has a good quality path along it. Unfortunately the anti-cycling barriers present where the path has gaps are more excessive than on the Greenway, being A-frames rather than chicanes, but the route is still enjoyable.

From here the Dee path continues back to Chester. I am not yet sure how far the route continues in the opposite direction, but I will have to investigate further in the future. Perhaps a special Wheelers’ Brunch outing in Chester, with a cooler box and a picnic for all on the Yuba?

The Greenway and River Dee paths offer a safe haven for those who wish to cycle in Chester but are put-off by the conditions on the roads. They are pleasant & high-quality leisure cycling facilities. It is just a shame that as soon as these facilities end, their users will once again be subjected to the unappealing, cycling-hostile road network which is common to all parts of the UK.

Metrolink: (Further) Degrading Floop accessibility

A few weeks ago, during my tandem test weekend, I noticed that the already irritating barriers installed prior to the tram crossing at the Chorlton end of the Floop had been re-positioned to provide a serious (possibly impenetrable) barrier to access for anyone riding a cargo bike, tandem, tag-along, bike trailer, modified disability cycle or anyone using a mobility scooter or other mobility aid.

The irritating and unnecessary barriers to access which already existed on the Floop have been well documented. Whilst these barriers should be ripped out as a matter of priority, it is worse still to introduce new barriers, and then to re-position them so as to produce maximum inconvenience to users of the Floop.

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Facing towards Fallowfield

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Other side of the tracks, facing towards Chorlton

The fact that this work was done recently (and shoddily) combined with the fact that the barriers had already been installed once previously, makes me wonder what consultative processes Metrolink’s barrier redesign went through before being approved by the local authority, cycling campaigns, disability groups, pedestrian groups, Sustrans, Friends of the Fallowfield Loop and so on. My guess is that the work was done without any consultation whatsover, and that the issue of the degradation of access to one of the only cycle facilities in Greater Manchester must therefore be raised at the next Manchester Cycle Forum.

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Users of cargo bikes (particularly when loaded) face great difficulties when trying to pass the poorly re-designed barriers.

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The tandem, being approximately 20 cm longer than a Yuba Mundo, presented its own problems when attempting to pass this barrier

This barrier re-design, whist only a small local issue, embodies everything which is wring with provision for cycling in the UK; the assumption that making cycling inconvenient isn’t a problem because anyone on a cycle is obviously only doing so for leisure. They couldn’t possibly be trying to conveniently get somewhere in a timely manner, or they’d have gone by car, right?

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On Sunday I went to the Fallowfield Loop (Thanks to Twitter henceforth known as the Floop), to help a couple of friends who are currently learning to ride for the first time. Having exhausted the possibilities open to them close to home, the Floop seemed like the perfect place to practice. Because the Floop exists, there is no train service to Fallowfield, so their bikes had to be taken there and back, courtesy of the Yuba Mundo:

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The Twenty is attached to a rail made from old building supplies. I decided to turn the Twenty around after I had travelled for a few km, so that the heavier end would be better supported.

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And here is the contraption being re-made in Chorlton, with a little help from Jonathan from the GMCC. Riding with two bikes on the back of the Yuba is a bit more challenging than one, but still easier than you might expect. I was able to ride this lot back into the city centre via Fallowfield with relative ease. Of course I had to use the road rather than the Floop because of the barriers which are presumably designed to stop wheelchair/scooter users from enjoying the Floop

Chorlton’s Big Green Festival

On Saturday I visited Chorlton’s Big Green Festival. I was asked by the GMCC to help out with a group ride from Oxford Road station to the festival, to help both novice riders who were nervous about cycling in traffic and also to help anyone else to find the way. When I arrived at the meeting point I met Mr Mad Cycle Lanes of Manchester on his recumbent quadricycle (a Brox Compact)  and a few others who were there for the guided ride, in addition to my counterpart from ibikemcr.

Some of the group seemed slightly surprised to be led on a group ride by two people dressed casually and riding non-sport-oriented bikes. I felt this was a good thing, as I am very much in favour of re-normalising cycling so that it isn’t perceived by the general public as a primarily sporting or dangerous activity. Further to this aim, I proceeded to eat my breakfast cookie during the gentle-paced ride to the Fallowfield Loop. There is a great write up about the experience of riding a recumbent quad down the Loop, and the unnecessary and openly discriminatory barriers which are present on the loop here.

Once at the festival, we proceeded to join in the bike parade, where I met another Yuba Mundo owner (a V1):

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Which I managed to get a better shot of later:

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Note the difference in the rack support tubes to the V2 & 3 Yuba Mundo

The festival had a wide variety of green businesses and causes to peruse, a great deal of which were bicycle-related, from the largely sport-oriented Cycle Logic to the utilitarian Practical Cycles and even a dance off between our local bicycle dance troupe The Spokes and their counterparts from Bristol, Les Velobici.

There were plenty of interesting bikes around too:

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A Larry Vs Harry Bullit, as ridden by Mikael from Copenhagenize and Dave from 42 Bikes

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A Birdy folding bike, one of the more credible Brompton competitors

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The Dutch ID Fillibus at the Practical Cycles stall

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And this lovely Gazelle, to show just a few

Brooks B67 Update

In the style of Yakov Smirnoff, it would seem that you don’t break in a Brooks Saddle, it breaks you in. This is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but after my first proper ride on my new B67 saddle, it feels as comfortable as my older B66. It is probable that a small amount of breaking in occurs, but most of the changes seem to be in the rider’s arse.
Brooks saddles are like many luxury items, once you have one, it becomes more of an essential than a luxury. Think back to life before your first mobile phone, you managed fine without one, but now it feels like an essential item. A Brooks is the same. I wholeheartedly recommend the B66 based saddles for upright bicycles, but just be aware that once the saddle has broken you in, other saddles may feel like crap.
The B67 is almost identical to the B66, differing only in that it is compatible with micro-adjust seatposts. Having a B67 saddle on the Yuba makes it much more pleasant to ride, plus I prefer to have the same saddle on the bikes I use regularly (providing they have similar riding positions).
My test ride was along the Fallowfield Loop, in the fog and later fog and rain. It was still quite an enjoyable ride, the dynamo light illuminated the fog creating the sensation of riding through an over-exposed photograph. When the rain picked up, it gave me a chance to test out the rain-worthiness of the bottle dynamo. Re-assuringly there was minimal slippage (if any) and the light stayed perfectly bright throughout the rain. The increased temperature also meant that I didn’t have the same gear problems which the Yuba suffered from on Xmas day.
If you have a Brooks saddle and have been considering investing in another one for a second bike, but have been worried about going through the break-in again, don’t worry. Your new saddle will feel almost completely broken in from the start, because you already have been.

Bottling the Yuba

In July I added a dynamo lamp to my DL-1 and loved it. I was somewhat constrained when it came to choosing a lamp because I wanted something which fitted in with the classic look of the bike. After buying a set of AAA batteries for my front Yuba lamp I decided that I didn’t want to keep buying batteries anymore, I wanted a permanent set-and-forget system like on the DL-1. This time I would be less concerned with aesthetics and able to take advantage of modern-looking LED dynamo lamps.

A hub dynamo was not realistic due to the only reasonably affordable ones compatible with disc brakes being made by Shimano who use a proprietary system for mounting the rotors on the hub (although it is proprietary, it also has some advantages). This would have meant replacing my rotor as well as the front hub, spokes and buying a lamp, at which point the cost became prohibitive. A recent post on Lovely Bicycle! combined with Ian’s positive experiences with the bottle dynamo on his Gazelle inspired me to give the bottle dynamo a chance.

Many people in the UK and in North America have negative associations with bottle dynamos, but both dynamo and lighting technology have progressed a lot, modern bottle dynamos are more efficient and modern LED dynamo lamps can do more with the energy you provide.

I chose the Nordlicht 2000 dynamo, available from Hembrow’s store Dutch Bike Bits. It seemed like a good trade off between quality and price, the roller is rubber and able to run on the rim of the wheel or the tyre itself and replacements are readily available (including a larger wheel for faster riders). The dynamo itself came with no instructions whatsoever, but a bit of playing around with it revealed that the dynamo has a proper – connection rather than using the frame. The two prongs on the bottom are the terminals, they are spring-loaded and have a small hole in them which is revealed when depressed. This allows you to insert a wire and then release the prong to secure the wire.

The lamp I chose is a B&M Lumotec Lyt Plus (includes standlight). Having found the Lumotec Retro to be impressively bright already, the 50% higher rated light output on this model caught my interest. Being German, this lamp conveniently comes with a built in reflector. Once again, information was not particularly forthcoming. This lamp is rated at 2.4W leaving 0.6W for a dynamo rear light. There are connectors on the underside for both the dynamo itself and the rear light. The lamps is supplied with a wire to connect to the dynamo.

Sadly, the dynamo bracket I ordered was not as advertised, described as fitting to the left cantilever boss it in fact fits to the right (drive side) cantilever boss, causing problems with my left-fitting dynamo. Rather than getting it replaced, I decided to use a Birmingham screwdriver to make it fit on the left side. I will eventually replace it with a fork-fitting clamp so that I can run the dynamo on the rim to reduce drag at higher speeds.

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The reflector works well.

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The reflective tape shows up well on the side-rails too.

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I wrapped the wire from the lamp around the hose line of the hydraulic disc brake (probably not the most common combination of bike technologies), and the bodged bracket.

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The current set up is not particularly elegant, but the Yuba Mundo isn’t really about elegance anyway. When the replacement bracket comes, I will run the dynamo on the rim and tidy up the wiring a bit.

After installation I took the Yuba out for a test ride on the Fallowfield Loop. The Loop is great for these kinds of tests because it is completely unlit, plus the snow hasn’t been crushed into ice by cars.

When engaged, the dynamo makes a low whirring noise which is not overly distracting. The fact that the pitch changes with speed is actually quite useful for judging speed when darkness obscures the odometer. The level of illumination provided even at low speeds (10 km.h-1) is impressive. By around 15 km.h-1 the lamp is around three times brighter than my Revolution Vision lamp and probably twice as bright as my Lumotec Retro lamp. The shape of the light cast on the ground is slightly rectangular (tall rather than wide), which is actually quite useful. It was almost like riding with a pimpmobile directly behind me. The light provided my the Revolution Vision LED lamp is slightly too blue for my eyes and I was concerned that the light from the Lumotec Lyt would be the same. Thankfully it is actually very white, making it easier for me to see irregularities in the road ahead. Unlike the Lumotec Retro, the standlight feature uses the same bulb as the main light (albeit at reduced brightness) and so benefits from optimal positioning within the lens producing more useable illumination.

As for drag, I can’t really give a verdict on that yet. The Yuba is currently set up for snow; lower saddle, lower tyre pressure and the slowing effect of the snow itself means that I can’t make a fair comparison. I’ll provide an update after the snow has cleared.

Snow Cycle

After work, I rode the Yuba Mundo to Morrisons in Chorlton for some supplies. The only reason I go there is because I get to use the Fallowfield Loop. As you may have noticed, it is snowy outside; main roads are clear, side roads have a hard layer of icy crushed snow on them thanks to the cars and the Fallowfield Loop had largely intact snow. In the dark, riding along the snowy path was a very serene experience.

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The camera on my phone wasn’t able to capture the quiet beauty of the environment, so I urge you to go and see it for yourself whilst you the snow is still there.

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I thought I’d pull over and just enjoy the quiet for a few minutes, here is the Yuba all loaded up with shopping. The reflective tape on the side-rails/chainstays is new. It is mainly there to cover up the scuffed paintwork, but it also makes the bike stand out a bit more too, which is a bonus.

As is customary for cycling bloggers to do at this time of year, I hereby present my top tips for cycling in the snow and ice:

Lower your saddle a bit to make it easier to compensate for any slips. A bit of trial and error is needed to find the optimum height which allows you to stop a fall but isn’t so low it makes cycling tiring. This will also generally improve your stability on ice.

Lower your tyre pressure. This may also require a bit of trial and error; you will benefit from extra contact between the tyre and the ground but if you go too far cycling will become very laborious. Personally I let my tyres down to the pressure they are at when I usually think to myself, “These tyres could do with pumping up a bit.”

Increase your turning radius. If you are familiar enough with your bike, you will already have a pretty good idea of the smallest circle you could cycle with it, the sharpest turn you could make at a given speed. When on an icy surface, double this radius (sharper turns can still be made but require you to really slow down). Your bike will ride fine over ice in a straight line, it is when you try to change direction that the ice becomes a problem. If you change direction more gently, the ice will pose less of an issue.

Longer wheelbase. This is similar to the turning radius advice; if you are fortunate enough to own more than one bike, choose the one where the hubs of the wheels are furthest apart. This bike will  likely have less twitchy steering and handle better in the snow and ice. Wider tyres and hub brakes (drum/roller/disc) will help too.

Saturday Out

I found myself at a bit of a loose end today, it was cold outside but cold inside my flat too, so I decided to go out on the bike to get warm. Heading towards town I decided to get onto the Ashton canal.

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I was intending to turn off the canal and head to the Debdale end of the Fallowfield Loop but when I got to the turn I remembered the pick and mix stall in Ashton and decided to continue. The below zero temperature meant the towpath was frozen solid and quite rideable.

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A section of canal had been drained for maintenance, and there were several anti-cyclist, anti-wheelchair barriers, but otherwise the ride was easygoing and pleasant.

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This route would have been impassable on the Yuba Mundo, which is a shame.

I took the same route home and decided to turn off onto the Fallowfield Loop seeing as I was enjoying my ride. As LC recently posted, the Loop is looking very nice in the frosty weather:

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I also saw some interesting political graffiti near Sainsbury’s in Fallowfield:

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I covered a good 40 km and managed not to break a sweat or generate a thirst due to the cold. This kind of weather is great for just getting out there and having an explore by bike.

Finally, I saw this saddle. It seems that some cyclists have had issues with “Fake gel.” The manufacturers of this saddle apparently wanted to alleviate customers’ concerns:

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Yuba Weekend

Friday the 29th was Halloween Critical Mass.  This time I decided to take a good friend with me on the back of the Yuba.  This was easier than I expected, but meant I couldn’t realistically take any pictures.  Luckily, as one of the biggest Masses of the year, there were plenty of other people taking pictures:

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Both pictures courtesy of Papergirl Manchester, an art project using Massers as a means to deliver art to the public.  There was also a performance by the Spokes dance troupe.

I also managed to find a picture of our group at the starting point, courtesy of Spinneyhead:

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Sadly the Yuba isn’t actually visible, but the group of us can be seen in the foreground.

The ride was longer than usual and ended in Platt Fields for drinks and a BBQ.

The next day, I attended an interesting Halloween/bonfire night amalgamation.  Basically costumes, drinks and fire.  I decided to use the Yuba and the availability of firewood on the Fallowfield Loop to contribute towards the bonfire.

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Yuba Mundo loaded with brittle, long-dead wood.

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The fire lasted long into the night.