31 Oct 2012

Shimergo 10 or 11 speed on Trykit 2WD body.

Trykit's unique 2WD body (independent double ratchet freehub) is wider than any normal Shimano freehub. So there is the potential to build some very interesting, non-standard cassettes without having to worry about rear mechs hitting the spokes, rear drop-out spacing, running out of freehub width, lack of locking ring threads or chains rubbing the frame. (At all!)

Here is my 9 speed Shimano cassette with Shimano's standard 9 speed spacing. There is no reason why I can't just add another larger sprocket and standard 9 speed spacer in place of my DIY brass spacer ring. 

I'd immediately get 10 speeds at 9 speed prices. The Campag Ergo levers would still change gear flawlessly. I won't have offended the pull per click ratio of the levers. Plus, the sprocket spacing would remain correct to match the linear lateral movement of the Shimano rear changer.   
9 speed cassettes, spacers and individual sprockets are readily available at relatively low cost! The spacers come free when you scrap any 9 speed cassette through natural wear. Or just buy two different  Shim /Sram 9 speed cassettes and mix and match them to taste. You can have all 10 speeds at 9 speed Shimano sprocket spacing with 9 speed Shimano changers and 11 speed Campag Ergo levers. It will happily run on cheaper, longer lasting, 9 speed chains as well! :-)  

You'd have to keep an eye on overall (system) tooth capacity of the Shimano rear changer. Probably a medium cage would still manage it if you weren't greedy in largest sprocket choice. But, the potential is there to get a wider range of 20 gears from a compact double instead of a wide range triple. All at remarkably low cost. Or you could have 30 closer gears with your existing triple! Most Shimano 9 speed rear changers probably have enough lateral movement capacity to reach an extra sprocket by adjusting the stop screws further out. 

More to the point, one is not limited by manufacturer's conservatism in choice of sprockets. The Shimano rear changer must still cope with the largest sprocket choice as well overall tooth capacity. Chainring difference + cassette difference. eg. Compact chainwheels 50-34 = 16 teeth  difference. Cassette of 11-28 = 17 teeth difference. Add the two together 16 + 17 and you have a system capacity requirement of 33 teeth for your rear changer.

In theory, one could start from scratch. By buying a new, relatively cheap, 9 speed Shim/Sram cassette.  Say 11/12-24? Then just add a larger sprocket to act as a "crawler" or "granny" gear. 28t, 30t or 32t? Clamp it all together on the 2WD Trykit body with a Shimano sprocket spacer in between and you have a full 10 speeds at silly 9 speed prices! (including cheaper chains) Surely it must be illegal to have so much fun from throwing something together like this?
What a shame I can't fit anything larger than 26t to my Higgins! Grrr? Though I could still experiment with an ultra-close ratio 10 speed "cassette" provided I limited myself to 26T. Not quite as much fun as having lower gears on the cassette. Because I still have to keep my inner chainwheel on my triple for vertiginous emergencies. (This just means very steep hills for the hard of reading) 

Here, I have drawn red arrows to show the bottom gear clearance problem of my 58 year-old Higgins. (click to enlarge) The same clearance issue exists on the rear reinforcing loop. 

The further to the left I try to place a very large sprocket the worse the clearance  gets! Most other trikes would have much more clearance for really big sprockets. Trykit, Longstaff, etc. It is not the tooth clearance which limits how big a sprocket I can have. It is the added height of the chain as it lifts over the tips of the teeth of the largest sprocket. This occurs just before it settles down and fully engages the sprocket teeth. The chain height on top of the teeth makes quite a serious difference. 

Potential limitations on my Higgins: 

Instead of a wider ratio: 
11/12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 22, 25, 28, 32

I could still have:         
11/12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 26

I might have to buy another rear Shimano changer. I won't know until I try. Mine is the older, Tiagra 9 speed, rather than the latest 10 speed. It is not the changer which decides how many gears are indexed. It is the lever. 

Older rear changers for smaller numbers of gears may not have enough lateral movement for many more gears. Nor have the quality to cope with narrower (precision) spacing required by 10 speed indexing. Nor, in some cases,  match the movement per cable pull decided by the index levers. 

If I could talk Geoff Booker @ Trykit into making a slightly wider body I/we could all have all 11 speeds Shimergo at 9 speed chain and cassette prices! (with 11 speed Ergo levers) There is not enough room at the moment for two more sprockets and 2 spacers for all 11 speeds at Shimano 9 speed spacing. That said, it may be impossible to get a rear changer to stretch over the extra distance.

Later that day:

Well, it works! I removed the axles and fitted a packing ring behind the fixed axle bearing cup on the left. By sheer luck I had a 28T 8 speed sprocket on the back of a cassette to experiment with. This went onto the Trykit body with a 9 speed spacer in between it and the 9th sprocket from the existing cassette. I didn't bother to disturb the existing cassette. The axles went back in. Half a turn out on the rear changer stop screw and I had instant 10 speeds! Faultless and positive changing onto the new "granny" gear!

A 27t largest sprocket would have been safer and require less axle offset. Any other trike axle with Trykit 2WD would probably be fine. It was dark as I tidied up so no pictures tonight.

Going by this example, anybody with Trykit 2WD should be able to run 10 gears with 11 speed Ergo levers using lower cost, all 9 speed components:

I have used a 9 speed Shimano Tiagra changer, 9 sp chain, 9 sp cassette plus an extra bottom gear sprocket and 9 speed spacer.

Logic suggests that one chooses the 9 speed cassette with care. One which will benefit from an additional granny gear with a reasonable step between tooth numbers. However, given enough spare sprockets one could build any 10 sp cassette (using 9 sp sprockets and spacers) entirely to suit one's own taste. Even an ultra-close ratio time trial 10 speed cassette of 11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20t.  All without getting involved in the greater expense of 10 speed components.

Sadly even the most exotic bike owners won't have room on a normal freehub for building such a 9 speed + 1 cassette. Similarly, the Trykit 2WD body does not have room for a 9+2 extra sprockets and spacers. With 9+1 the cassette lock ring fits perfectly to the far end of the thread on the 2WD body.

Any extra length on the 2WD body ought to be at the top gear end to ensure adequate frame clearance from the bigger sprockets. On my Higgins/Trykit 2WD there is a lot of a spare room at the top gear end of the cassette. I can't use that empty space because the axle bearing cups must still be screwed into the axle housings. It would require a different axle shoulder layout to move everything laterally over to the right. Then there is always the matter of chainline.

It is already known that the 10 speed Ergo levers will operate 10 speed Shimano changers, chains and cassettes. An original 10 speed Shimano cassette will be slightly narrower than the 10 speeds using my 9 speed +1 method: But will require 10 speed Ergo levers. The 10 speed Shimano sprocket spacing is not correct for 11 speed Ergo levers pull per click ratios. Though it is possible to modify the rear changer cable clamping. (Hubbub) Or just add a suitable Shiftmate.

Without all the data to hand I cannot say whether the Trykit 2WD body will accept a Shimano 10sp +1 extra sprocket to work with Ergo 11 speed levers and Hubbub or Shiftmate.


Much of this may only relate to the 46mm wide Trykit 2WD trike freehub! Which are only available in Shimano spline. Normal bike free hubs simply aren't wide enough to play the sprocket adding games covered below.

Pitch of 9 speed Shimano rear changer = 4.35mm. (Changer pitch)

So Shimano 9 speed cassette Sprockets must be 4.35mm apart. (Sprocket pitch)

A 10 Speed Shimano cassette (with 9 speed Shimano spacing!) should be (N-1) = 9 x 4.35 = 39.15mm wide.

An 11 Speed Shimano cassette (with 9 speed Shimano spacing!) should be (N-1) = 10 x 4.35 = 43.5mn wide.

Campagnolo Ergo 11 speed levers have a 2.6mm cable pull per click. So 11 x 2.6mm = 28.6mm total cable pull.

Shimano rear changers have a 1.7 shift ratio. This is the ratio between the cable pull and lateral changer cage movement per lever click. The Shimano changer moves 1.7 times more sideways per click than the cable actually pulls on the changer. (Note: This ratio is different for each manufacturer's rear changers which makes life complicated for those of us wanting to swap levers, changers, and cassettes)

1.7 changer shift ratio x 2.6mm (Ergo 11 levers) = 4.42mm Shimano lateral changer movement per Ergo lever click.

10 Sprockets = (N-1) = 9 x 4.42mm = 39.78mm changer movement instead of 39.25 required by an all Shimano gear system. The difference of 0.63mm over the whole cassette width is probably harmless.

11 sprockets = (N-1) = 10 x 4.42mm = 44.2mm changer movement instead of 43.5mm. The 0.7mm difference is probably harmless over the full width of a cassette.

"HUBBUB" cable clamp modification provides a slightly smaller 1.6 changer shift ratio. (See the link below for a full Hubbub cable wrap explanation)

1.6 shift ratio x 2.6mm (Ergo) = 4.16mm cable pull per Ergo lever click instead of desired 4.35mm for 9 speed Shimano changer movement. Unsuitable for 9 speed Shimano sprocket spacing.

But guess what? 4.16mm is almost exactly 10 speed Campag sprocket spacing. So an Ambrosio conversion cassette (Shimano spline with Campag sprocket spacing) would work with Hubbub cable clamping on a Shimano changer using 11 speed Ergo levers. So, adding an extra sprocket to a Campag spacing 10 speed cassette would allow 11 gears using a Shimano rear changer. Provided there is room for the extra sprocket on the Trykit 2WD freehub. A Campag 10 speed cassette is 40mm wide. (N-1 + 1 sprocket thickness.) As is the 11 speed. High end Campag 11 speed rear changers are more expensive than 10 speed Shimano. Though Campag changers are much more affordable down through the lower ranges.

The 10 speed Shimano cassette is narrower than the Campag. Which should allow more room on the Trykit 2WD freehub for an 11th sprocket. (N-1 + 1 sprocket thickness.) Now all I have to do is work out how to index 10sp Shimano accurately with Campag 11 speed levers. Hubbub.

Highpath Engineering : Cycle information : Rear derailleurs and Indexing

Click on any image for an enlargement.


26 Oct 2012

26th October 2012 Durano Plus.

26th 27-34F, -3+1C, clear and brightening when the sun finally gets up. Cold, wind and rain promised for later.  Should I change my tyres while it is frosty and still? Or wait until later when I can shelter in the shed? Decision-decisions. Whatever happens, I have to change my wardrobe for the new colder conditions. It's almost 20F cooler than yesterday and slowly creeping up to 0C.

I decided to change the tyres. The three new tyres weighed 2.75lbs altogether. The Gp4000S weighed 1.5lbs.  It took me an hour and a quarter to do all three. What a struggle! The Schwalbe tyres come out of the box as flat bands. Literally like giant rubber bands. Nothing like tyres at all.

Just getting them started on the rim took several attempts and several minutes each. A bit of air in the tube, push the valve up, as usual, and the tyre won't even bend to sit on the rim! At all!

I ended up using three G-cramps to hold the tire walls in enough just to get them to sit in the rim. The Shimano rim was quite difficult. The first Mavic rim was reasonably easy once I had it started.

The second Mavic rim was all but impossible! I must have struggled for nearly half an hour on that one tyre alone! I cheated in the end and used a tyre lever with great care. Otherwise I'd still be out there at bedtime!

God help me if I ever puncture! I shall never get the damned things back on without a workshop full of tools. The Durano Plus in 700x25mm measured exactly 23mm wide when inflated to 80psi with the floor pump. I used a large-jawed vernier calliper to ensure the tyres weren't pushed in by my measuring efforts. The GP4000S measured 25.5mm at the same pressure. I'll monitor the Duranos to see if they "grow" on me over time. I double checked I had tightened the wheel nuts after the last scare. 80psi is the same pressure I had been using in the 25mm GP4000S.

It was too late to go out before coffee. It has turned into the first sunny day for what seems like ages. As I write this, mid afternoon, it is snowing steadily!

The Nidd has gone back on to give it a few more miles of breaking-in. Loosening the lace helped to give it a tiny hint of flexibility. Though I have no illusions it will break in within any reasonable period. I'll just use it for shorter rides until I get sick of it and give up. It may yet surprise me and become civilised. Though I see absolutely no point in suffering unduly just to improve it by a fraction. With the Nidd fully forwards I have found my ideal riding position at last.

I had forgotten to drop the saddle pin by 12mm to match the Nidd's greater height. So I had to stop and find a spanner. I also found some steps to sit on. So I could put on my GripGrab overshoes as my feet were getting cold.

The Durano Plus tyres were an immediate surprise. I thought they would drag and feel slow. Instead, they felt harder but much quicker than the Continental GP4000S. They had a completely different feel too. As if they skimmed over most of the road texture. At exactly the same pressure the 25mm GP4000s told you about every stone, twig and hole in the road. At first the Duranos felt strangely isolated from the road surface. As if they offered an extra degree of suspension. Only when I found really rough surfaces did the Durnaos feel a bit harsh to the bigger GP's more rubbery feel. Being much narrower, despite the 25mm label, the Duranos were more like the 23mm GPs when I had them at higher pressures.

It was the Duranos sense of free rolling/low rolling resistance which stood out most clearly. Unfortunately the Nidd felt so hard this morning that I did not enjoy my ride remotely as much I might have done. I just could not get comfortable.

It was cold but bright sunshine. Only towards the end did the wind pick up a bit. The GripGrab hat and Polaris gloves were absolutely perfect. Warmth without the least sign of damp. My (charity shop) Aesse jacket also proved to be ideal for today's conditions. Totally wind proof but breathable enough not to sweat. It fits me like a glove. I've had it for a couple of years now and it has done well. Not ideal for warmer conditions though as I quickly overheat. But that's all right because I have plenty of (recycled) jackets for when it is warmer. This morning's ride was a surprising success despite the saddle. 25 miles.

27th 26-42F, -3-6C, still, everything is white from an overnight frost. Brightening nicely to a sunny day. Back on with the Brooks 'Select.' I'll have to go and get another matching bike computer in Bauhaus. I hate not being able to monitor my distance during a ride. How else will I know when the saddle began to bite? If I puncture I'm calling car rescue! What I should have used to get the tyres on are those clamps which market stall holders use to hold their awnings in place. There's just about room for half a dozen clamps in the Carradice Micro-camper in case I puncture. I can carry everything else in supermarket carrier bags swinging from the handlebars.

No problem reaching Bauhaus, despite the blinding sun. I bought another of their Proflex Fitness £10 bike computers. I was fine in the cold except for the right hand Polaris glove. For some reason it felt much colder than the other hand. I think -5C is certainly the limit for these gloves on a trike or bike. They were comfortable enough after the first half hour and stayed that way all day. The Select saddle had its moments on the way back. The floppy left side is sagging. Causing the rear to stick into my buttock. I have put a small bit of tension on the adjusting nut to see if it helps. I have to do something before it turns into a butt hammock on one side only.

The Durano Plus tyres seem okay. More comfortable than the GP4000S 25mm at the same pressure. (80-85psi) I used to avoid sunken manhole covers like the plague with the Continentals. There are thousands of these dropped drains on my travels. Now I just ride over them with hardly any problem. The GPs used to jar me badly and throw the trike all over the place.

If there is any difference in speed between these tyres it's hardly noticeable. Nor anything worth going back to. It would be nice to have some coloured treads. I like a bit of bling after decades of watching boring old black going round. I was overtaken by a chap going well on his racing bike but had nothing in the tank to try and stay with him. 44 miles and none the wiser. Saw Gold finches and Kestrels on the way back.

Pm: Fitted the new computer, tidied up the sensor cables. Snipped off the coiled brake cables and fitted end caps. I don't have an English name for these things. I also recorded an HD video of my Shimergo gears in action: It is best seen full screen:


A couple of sloppy gear changes were due to my stretching between the cranks and the levers. You can tell it is cold again because I have my scruffiest (workshop) duvet jacket on again. It leaks down and small feathers like a sieve but keeps me warm and I needn't worry about appearances.

28th 26-43F, -3+6C, light winds, sunny. A cold start but a superb day for a ride. The Durano Plus tyres offer a remarkable level of comfort. Even the cobbles weren't the usual teeth chattering torture.

I was a little tired from recent exertions but still mastered the countless hills. I take them as they come. They take me as I am.  Today's ride was without positive direction. I took turnings at a whim to discover and rediscover lanes softened by autumnal beauty. Without for a moment disturbing its long peace. Only some cats fear me. As in the case of the one above. It ran to its rustic refuge, but stopped to watch me. Remaining curious as I took its photograph. I wonder if it knew it was miles from nowhere?

I could have taken a hundred pictures of the countryside. Though none would have done justice to the views of a rolling landscape seen through appreciative eyes. The reds, golds and greens of autumn are reward enough for tolerating the long Danish winter. I am indeed fortunate to be still able to enjoy it and have the strength to take myself there. All without the hideous intrusion, sensory deprivation and isolating deafness of using a vehicle.

Padesø Kirke across the gulf of time and untrodden fields. Mr Higgins muses on the meaning of a life of servitude. The rock wishes it could go with us on our journey together. It had rested long enough in that empty place. Grown tired of watching its own shadow dragging its heels. 

The curious merely notice my passing through their own 'middle of nowhere.' I smile, usually to myself. Or nod gently at human reaction. Do they see the clown, the athlete or the poser in cycling gear? Riding silently along. On a machine they automatically associate with handicap. But which I wear with pride as a badge of unseen courage and skill.

I was asked by a chap in a cycling shop why I rode three wheels. I tried to explain (in Danish) that I like the challenge and the eccentricity of not following the herd. He asked, as most do, if I had anything wrong with me? I replied; "Only in the head." That always makes them smile. Dissolves the fear of potential embarrassment. I explained there were hundreds of others like myself back at home. All of whom choose to ride trikes for the fun and the challenge. He seemed surprised and probably saw the British in quite another light. There is no undoing discovery once the cat is out of the bag.

I passed a chap walking his dog in the grounds of a stately home. He waved and I blurted out; "Good morning! without a second thought. He didn't flinch. Just lifted his walking stick in acknowledgement and strode on. His dog eyed me briefly but saw no merit in misbehaviour. 39 miles.

29th 37F, 3C, 45mph gales and heavy rain forecast until midnight. A rest day. (Tidying the shed!) NOT!


I have added a link to a Longstaff  Adobe.pdf document on servicing their 2WD including a drawing on the March 2010 post on Longstaff Axle Removal: Scroll down to the bottom of the post.

The link was originally posted at the on3wheels post triking forum.

And, to save you searching: The Longstaff Adobe.pdf link itself:


30th 32-42F, 0-5C. After yesterday's gales and rain the grass is now white and it is quite still and frosty with clear skies. It is promised to be be sunny and dry until later this afternoon. I seem to have found the right set of clothing to be comfortable in winter now. Even the SealSkinz gloves were warm and comfortable today. They just don't seem to like the wet.(at all) Adding the gel strips to the bars has made them comfortable enough not to need padding in the gloves over a reasonable distance.

Shame I wasn't feeling stronger after my rest day. My legs were rather achy and tired.  The weather wasn't even up to a ride around the block yesterday. Even a short ride on a rest day seems to keep the aches and pains away.

There was just a gentle headwind on the last leg, today, but otherwise a perfect day for a ride. I tipped the nose of the B17 'Select' up by a tiny amount to avoid the very slight, sliding forwards sensation of Sunday's ride. It reduced the perceived load on my wrists and hands too. It is surprising how such small changes can alter comfort levels. The Campag Ergo levers are still very pleasing. I have been deliberately changing gear while climbing hills out of the saddle. The gear changes still work remarkably well (going both up and down the gears) but it needs good timing not to lose momentum. It probably needs more practice or just greater skill. It has never been possible to change gear while honking before now. 30 miles.

31st 41-45F, 5-7C, rather cloudy with gales. Gusty too, but fortunately it was mostly sideways on. Several common items not on the shelves again. Wore the Nidd saddle for another trial. Still not happy. It is so hard that it is difficult to ignore. I spend a lot of time getting up and sitting down again. Or sliding back and forth. I had a crazy idea to treat it to some carefully spaced weights which are lifted and lowered by a rocking tree. The idea was to simulate sit bones rocking from side to side. 20 more miles.

Click on any image for an enlargement. 

25 Oct 2012

Yellow Higgins on eBay for restoration

Higgings ultralite adult trike restoration project | eBay

A Higgins restoration project with differential.


Green Higgins on eBay

higgins vintage three wheeler trike. reynolds seemless frame. brooks seat | eBay


Bob Jackson on eBay

Bob Jackson 21” 53.5cm Racing Tricycle Trike Time Trial Reynolds 531 | eBay


Brown Higgins on eBay

Higgins | eBay

 Text: This was given to my father about 25 years ago and has been hanging in my garage roof for the last 15 years or so. Its a 1961 Higgins Ultralight 22in from centre of the BB to centre of the top tube Frame number 9895. It all works fine and rides well. It has an extension brazed onto the forks to fit a centre pull brake . This works but has no blocks in at present. The canti brake works fine. There is some surface corrosion and it really needs a repaint but it is fully rideable .
   I would accept a £50 paypal deposit and the rest on pickup as you really need to have a look. Having said that I am willing to box it up and send it if you wish ( I would have to work out a price for that) . Good luck!

A Newton Racing trike on eBay.

Newton Racing Tricycle | eBay

Newton Racing Trike in very good condition. 
Mixture of 9 speed LX/Tiagra components and hope brakes. 
62cm seat tube (C to C) and virtual top tub length of 62cm

Click on any image for an enlargement.


22 Oct 2012

22nd October 2012 and GP4000S(hit)

22nd 50-55F, 10-13C, grey overcast, spitting, breezy, showers possible. I'll go out after morning coffee and toasted rolls. I put the Nidd back on to continue the break-in by instalments. Most of the time I was hardly aware of the saddle. At others it felt hard. There is just a gentle hint of flex to thumb pressure over the sit bone areas.

The easterly wind was stronger than forecast.

Not only did the Coop supermarket have no bread again but they ripped me off on organic bananas! I had to fetch the sign to show them at the checkout. Never an apology. This was a  serious offence decades ago in the UK for bar codes not to match displayed price labels. I remember the local DIY store being incredibly heavily fined for this. Over here it's just yawn, big deal.  I'll have to watch this shop like a hawk from now on. There is no excuse. They have electronic tagging on little screens so can update prices from the office computer. So you'd think the bar coding would be correct too. They ripped me off on cheese last time. 26 miles fighting injustice everywhere.

Continental must be swamped with complaints about their tyres. Still no response to my email of last Thursday. Every time I run over a rougher bit of road I think I've punctured! It's driving me nuts! I did a search online for recommended puncture free tyres. Heavy Schwalbe Armadillos or slightly faster rolling Continental Gatorskins are recommended. Dealer's customer reviews seem slightly mixed as usual. I've also had a personal recommendation of the Gatorskins from a fellow tricyclist. I really ought to go and handle some to see what they're really like. I hope they have a foldable version to save a bit of weight.

The Tektro R559, double pivot, side-pull, front brake has plenty of reach but seems unavailable singly. I have no use for the rear brake. They don't show up on Danish dealer searches either. Perhaps a begging letter to Wiggle would achieve something? There is a dirt cheap but simpler copy of the same long reach brake online, in Denmark, but it hasn't the quality of the Tektro and I wanted black anyway. I'll have to keep searching. Ebay(UK) might he fruitful.

I have just been reading a fascinating article on the BBC website. Research suggests that foul smells affect human behaviour and attitudes towards each other. So it seems that industrialised pig farming is responsible for far more than just polluting the landscape with their subsidised animal mistreatment. The stench actually turns people against each other. So if you want friendly neighbours it seems you should distance yourself from pig farms. With the added proviso that you avoid the countless fields on which they dump their stinking waste. Off topic? Not if you live and cycle in rural Denmark!

23rd 50F, 10C, overcast, light winds. It stayed grey but dry with only a self-made breeze. Nidd okay for this distance. Heavy shopping! Lots more geese in the sky. 22 miles.

24th 47F, 8C, very misty, spitting lightly, overcast, still. I'll wait a while before going out to avoid the rush hour in the mist. That's a bit like gorillas in the mist but the animals involved are much less intelligent.

A helpful person has kindly pointed out what should have been staring me in the face. My over-reaching problems are almost entirely due to the very laid back angles on my equally elderly Higgins. He suggested that if I didn't have enough forward saddle movement I could try reversing the saddle pin.

I have tried the plumb line on the kneecap test and my knee was about an inch behind the pedal spindle. So, the Nidd has now been slid fully forwards. It has a lot of potential adjustment thanks to the well thought out rail design. This brought the plumb line to just in front of the pedal spindle. I'll give this setting a try to see how I get on. It's no hardship to whip out an Allen key from my jersey back pocket. To make small rearward saddle adjustments if it is now too much.

Meanwhile, I'll have to measure the Higgins actual frame angles. 1954 was back in the last century. It is well known that cyclists had much longer arms back then. You can see how easily they can bend their elbows at 90 degrees while racing on the drops. This was before the Armstrong doping ring so it can't have been due to that. It has always mystified me how modern racing bikes can fall foul of the saddle nose overhanging the bottom bracket. I'd need a saddle like a surf board to manage that. :-)

Update, I have just measured a large profile image of my Higgins on the monitor and it looks like 70 degree head and seat tube angles. Dropping a vertical from the saddle nose places it 4" behind the bottom bracket! Blimey! Poor old Mr Higgins is no Cervélo P5, is he? ;-)

Another helpful person has suggested I look at Schwalbe Durano Plus tyres for greater resistance to punctures. They are available in 700x25mm. So I would retain my comfort at the expense of increased weight. Still no response from Continental. Which makes me rather loathe to reward them with the purchase of their more robust alternatives to their flimsy liquorice all-sorts.

I left after coffee for a shopping trip. My bike computer started showing random speeds up to 70mph! Not sure how safe my mileage was likely to be so I quickly downloaded the trip from the Ventus GPS logger. Only to have it crash the computer!

The position is better with the Nidd pushed forwards but I may need more handlebar height as well. So now I'll try setting saddle and bars level with each other. The Nidd is hardly noticeable to about 20 miles then it begins to feel hard and hurt. It suddenly turned cold about half way around. I had to put my jacket back on.

The foldable Durano Plus tyres looked fine in a LBS. Weighing them by hand against the GP4000S didn't seem much, if any, difference. Now I have to decide what to do about these worthless GP4000S. Do I push for a set of Duranos in exchange with the online dealer? Or scrap them and go on bad-mouthing Continental's crap quality control for as long as I can still draw breath? Decisions-decisions. 24 miles.

Pm. I managed to lift the stem adaptor by about 3/4".  Though it is unmarked for maximum safe height there are still a couple of inches of stem in the steerer. I just hope it's enough! The saddle and bars are now much nearer the same level as each other. I'll see how I get on tomorrow.

Solar panels are a good investment when the government guarantees a good return on energy fed back into the grid. 

25th 46-43F, 8-6C, windy increasing to gales, overcast clearing to sunny periods. I had another flat tyre when I went to fetch the trike this morning! So much for an early start!

As a week had passed without response from Continental I contacted the online dealer who had sold me these crap GP4000S tyres. Then guess what? A Continental spokesperson (sic) emailed me to discuss which dealer their crap tyres should be returned to. I sent them a summary of all the sorry details. Then left them both to stew while I rode to Odense to buy some real tyres.

A tour of the better Odense bike shops eventually found me at We-Bikes. I left with a set of three Schwalbe Durano Plus in 25mm. Plus a discount stack of Specialized inner tubes, with 48mm valves, which I hope I will never have to use. Famous last words!

I don't know why I, or anybody else, buys cheap shit online when they can have a relationship with a real person in a real bike shop. Have a chat, get free advice, see a whole range of products first hand and you can even save wasting money in the long term. You save a few bob online and kid yourself you're a clever person somehow. It's a complete con unless you get something not otherwise available locally.

On my return the Continental spokesperson (sic) was suggesting a tyre more suitable for touring. That's the problem when the naive customer reads the lies bullshit hype propaganda glowing reports on the manufacturer's own website. (You know, the one every online dealer quotes verbatim?) Did they really mean to say the GP4000 series usually offered 3000km without a single puncture? Or extreme puncture resistance? With some fancy name for their space age, puncture proof moonwalk material? Presumably that was Apollo era 1960s space suit material? Or was I just imagining it all? Whatever.

When the company spokesperson (sic) actually believes the crap, which they paid the hired help to put on their fancy website, then what can you expect? Spouting some crap about constant improvement? When was the GP4000 last improved? Is it still the reliable favourite of the peloton? The single, glowing, magazine test goes back at least 6 years! The Continental GP4000S black liquorice will probably become the most expensive tree ties (sic) I have ever bought. What else are they good for now? Bugger all!

Is it just me or is there a pattern emerging here? Continental claims their tyres are "hand made." Let's see now. A crap job in smelly, hot and unpleasant working conditions. How well paid are crap jobs? Yep. That'll be the job top German workers are queueing up for! Which means constant staff rotation, with only the worst hanging on through lack of ambition. Quality control becomes a matter of mood and which idiot is in charge that particular day. I've worked in industry. When the hype is sky high the crap is flying out of the factories.

The blue GP4000 tyres may be great, in my own experience, but the black 'S' are worthless crap. Again in my own direct experience. Not all glowing reviews can be wrong. So it comes down to quality control.  Or lack of. Altogether now children: What rude word begins with 'S' and means the same as crap? That's the one! Well done!

If I choose to spend £100 to buy Continental's promised tyre hi-technology in order to avoid punctures, while enjoying a light tyre, a world leading puncture resistance then that is my choice. Three x (a claimed) 3000 miles without a (claimed) puncture is a year's worth of carefree riding. Who cares whether I ride fast like a racer? Or slow like a tourist? As long as I stick to tarmac and don't overload the tyres with obscene obesity, how can the tyres tell the difference?

I was promised  puncture proof, space-age materials for my money. I punctured twice on the first ride in fine, dry, warm conditions and four more times since. Brand new tyres with open sores on all of them on day one? That'll be the Continental GP4000S.

Do they suppose cyclists have nothing better to do than stand in the rain beside the road mending punctures while the traffic roars past? Six punctures for £100 is £16.60 each. Am I having fun yet? I wonder how much the Continental spokesperson (sic) earns per puncture? I wonder whether she even rides, or knows how to ride, a bike, at all?

Let's move on: Carradice promises the earth with their clever, hand-maid seamstresses. Those who (allegedly) have to train for several lifetimes before they are even allowed anywhere near production. What do I get? A shit, £70, asymmetrically supported, green canvas, army bag. With stitching that any snot-nosed, random kid, dragged in from the street, could improve on in five minutes of training. Yep, that'll be the bullshit, nostalgia hype, propaganda lies about quality workmanship and longevity of handmade goods. Feel the legendary quality! Oh wow it's a Carradice! Dogh!

I paid a lot of good money for a Brooks B17 'Select' saddle. One of their best models of a legendary model going back through long centuries of continuous improvement and expertise from early Roman times to the 23nd century. It promptly turns into a lateral banana! The spine is turning left as fast as the left skirt is lifting. Handy on Continental (no relation) roundabouts, I suppose. As long as I don't go home before its several lifetimes of unparalleled longevity are well used up. It arrives without a care instruction leaflet and a torn presentation sleeve. And they have the nerve to brag about their wonderful products? Oh, I got The Bugle. So that's all right then.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: The Brooks B17 'Select' remained comfortable throughout today's ride despite its hideous deformity. The bells! The bells! The 'Select' of Notre Dame? No that can't be right, can it? I had absolutely no plans to risk taking the Nidd on a longer ride. This street urchin pretends to be your friend and then kicks you when you least expect it.

My riding position has improved but is still not perfect. I still feel slightly overstretched on the hoods. The constantly improved (over several centuries) Brooks B17, handmaid rails don't provide quite the forward extension of the new upstart; The Spa Nidd. Odd that. You'd think Brooks would have a 17th Century patent on longest rail adjustment on the market, wouldn't you?

I had a really good workout in Odense sprinting away from several hundred sets of red lights with the front wheel pawing the air. (After watching quite a few cyclists crossing red lights while I waited patiently) Of course I climbed constantly out of the (bent) saddle to put some real speed on. The Continental GP4000 hype said something about it being a real racing tyre. So I didn't dare go slowly in case I punctured!  Besides, I was after the most aggressive rider jersey. You know, the one covered in blood and EPO.

Coming back from Odense was straight into a 30mph gale, with stronger gusts and was really no fun at all. But guess what? I didn't puncture while I was out today! Oh, and now I have some new Schwalbe tyres! So, finally, I can take the hand-made, smuggled Taiwanese copies, grey imports, Continental GP4000Shyster trash off. So all is well with the world.   Keep believing the lies, bullshit, propaganda nostalgia hype! Chris 48 miles, not out. Rest of the world (Continental, Brooks, Carradice, online box shifters) Nil.

The Continental 4000 are somewhat prone to sidewall splits, and their puncture resistance is not spectacular.  
Best Puncture Proof Tyres | Cycling UK

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19 Oct 2012

The arrival of the Nidd!

19th 53F, 12C, light winds, cloudy but 18C warmth is promised! I may wear just my triathlon swimming trunks and sunglasses. [This is a joke!] Where shall we go today? Nowhere, for the moment. It's raining and I have taken the mudguards off! I was promised cloudy but dry. Where do I queue for my refund?

I don't learn, do I? Having had a last look at the DMI website forecast, I left after coffee. Three whole days without rain! Whoopee!

Half an hour into my ride it started tipping down. It kept tipping down for the next half hour as I rode the third world lanes of rural Denmark. Standing water everywhere including in the countless potholes. I had been strongly tempted to leave my Aldi waterproof jacket at home. Can you imagine if I had? I would probably have dissolved by now. A distant memory and a forlorn trike rusting unattended on a quiet lane somewhere.

After the flood, the sun came out. It was warm enough to take everything off again except my jersey and sopping wet Gel gloves. (and shorts of course) I had to put my wet clothes in carrier bags to avoid wetting the shopping. It was not quite warm enough for the swimming togs I had threatened earlier.  The Ergo levers still please. The new Ritchey bars maximise the pleasure of using the Ergos. While providing new-found comfort. My back no longer feels under constant strain. Yet the angle of my torso has not changed markedly when I see my reflection in the empty shop windows. Lest we forget: 26 miles today.

As you can see: My Spa Cycles Nidd saddle has arrived safely in the post. "Hi, Honey, I'm home!" Honey, it is not. Not even remotely. Tan is the right word. It is the reddish-brown of  gentlemen's, quality, tan brogues. A very even tan colour. Nothing like that honey of the only honey Spa Cycles saddle I could find online. (and coveted at first sight) It is so evenly tanned it looks far more like some fibre reinforced plastic for a circuit board rather than real leather. Being formed to such perfection, without a single, visible flaw, only confirms the seeming artificiality. It is an artefact without human intervention in its production. The opposite, if you will, of the "hands on" craftsmanship of the fabulously real Brooks. The Nidd is robotised, 22nd century, Brooks-tech with bells on! Even the bonded material on the underside is perfectly placed. With precision margins all around the edges.

Yet the instructions do say that the Nidd should be treated as leather and wax proofed like leather from new. That it should not be allowed to get wet. Nor remain wet when ridden. It comes in a large, soft, cloth  bag with a Brooks type wrench and an Allen key. Having reached the 21st century and a bit more, the nose of the tension stud in this saddle actually contains a hex socket. Well I never!

Note the clever, nostalgia flag-waving in the neat, cardboard holster for  the wrench and key. The instructions are on the reverse of the cardboard sleeve. I just love the understated genius of the Hessian string. Somebody is really taking a massive side swipe at the Selle-Brooks nostalgia hype, methinks. It is no wonder Spa was struck off the Brooks' family tree of cringe-worthy dealers!

No jokes, please, about "rock bottom prices" or "between a rock and a hard place!" Note the lace to keep the Nidd's skirts from flaring. I could have done with one on my B17. My Brooks 'Select' lifts her skirts more than a cheap floozy at a stag night!  

The thick chrome to the Nidd's traditional undercarriage looks excellent. One slight worry is the applied fibreglass skin to the underside of the already thick leather. If one wanted to stiffen an already stiff leather saddle this would be one way of doing it. Filling it with solid, steel-reinforced  concrete would have a similar effect. But would probably weigh slightly more. "Stiff" is not really the correct word in this context. A saddle-shaped house brick? Or a roofing tile? Suit yourselves.

I am physically incapable of depressing the leather top at the sit bone points with hand strength alone. My brand new B17 'Select' was like pressing the finest kid gloves into a down cushion by comparison. The Nidd is unbudgeable and unyielding. Impervious to puny human pressure. A rock, by any other name.

Even my slow-oven-dried NOS Brooks 'Professional' was a flimsy thing in comparison. The Nidd just sits there. Unmoved by human frailty. Yet leather it truly is. The rivets are probably stainless steel and each is perfectly formed and perfectly set against the underside of the perfectly formed cantle plate. Its uncompromisingly square cut saddle loops hanging down behind. It truly is the dog's wotsits of real leather saddles. By dog I really mean K9 in this case. Not something you avoid tripping over in the park.

What should I do with this saddle-shaped piece of avant guard ceramic artistry? Hang on! It's not such a daft question. The Nidd threatens countless miles of torment before its new owner gives up the thankless task of breaking it in.

The B17 'Select' is already the most comfortable thing I have ever sat upon. Including several items of promising furniture in promisingly posh furniture shops. I have even known several settees far less comfortable than my still gorgeous Brooks. Our pocket sprung beds are firmer than the 'Select'!

Logic suggests I make the Nidd into a trendy bar stool. For sitting at the computer. A saddle on a long pipe. To be perched upon rather than ridden seriously. It might even reduce the "blogging" verbiage! (with any luck) <cough!>

However, all this joking aside, my sense of responsibility demands that it (the Nidd) be given a chance. Not long ago I spent slightly less on a Velo saddle and was disappointed. Despite the initial doubts it was given a full week to perform. Inevitably it joined the twenty other saddles in my boxed collection. Too pointless to keep. Too worthless to sell. It was ever thus with saddles. Buy in haste. Repent at leisure.

Should the Nidd suffer the same fate without a fair trial?  Spa Cycles has staked its reputation on the Nidd and others in their small family. Spa are no fly-by-night, Johnny come lately, online box shifters. They have solid history. They think the Nidd is better quality than your average Brooks. They have duly paid for it in the loss of their 35-year old (Selle)Brooks franchise. In fact they (Spa) may be right about these saddle upstarts in a strange sort of way. Brooks saddles are the work of true artisans. Years of thumb-bashing practice and knackered machines. The forgiveable flaws and imperfections are just part of their unique charm. Provided the sum of the flaws does not exceed that of the whole!

The Nidd really belongs to a new era of modern, factory made, mass production, leather saddle perfection. There is no hint of the dimly lit workshops full of noise, smell, nostalgically grubby aprons and Hollywood "Victoriana" special effects. That said, I just know I'm not going to enjoy proving the Nidd's value to traditional cycle touring. 500 miles is 800km and represents several weeks of masochism suffering. Ouch! It had better be worth it!

I must say that the Nidd is extraordinary value for money in an almost universal, rip-off cycling accessory world. It has nothing whatever about it to detract from the appearance or which would undermine real pride in ownership. It looks like a very expensive saddle worth far more than its asking price. It certainly looks the part and will look good on any bike or trike.

Even its hardness and (likely) long break-in period is not unique. There are plenty of Brooks models with similarly uncompromising stiffness as new. Those unwilling to spend half a thousand miles making it their very own can probably cheat a little bit. Add small wet pads to the sit bone areas for an hour or two before taking a ride may offer some relief. Though it's never guaranteed. Even sit bone depressions offer no real promise of increased comfort. You still need the flexibility which comes with a "proper" break-in.

Yes, the manufacturer's instructions really do say "retreat" every few months. 
They obviously don't expect a rapid break-in either. ;-)

Don't blame me, or Spa, if this doesn't work. The bonded material on Nidd's bum may affect matters differently. Soaking larger areas will almost certainly bøgger up the Nidd completely. You can't blame anybody else but yourself. At least you won't be paying Brooks prices for another brand new new saddle to start the break-in all over again.

Is the Nidd better than a B17 Brooks? It depends which Brooks you buy and whether you get a good one. My B17 'Select' cost nearly three times as much as the Nidd. The 'Select' felt quite comfortable from day one and rapidly became usable for longer journeys without pain. Some will value this rapid development more than others.

Will the 'Select' last, with its pre-aged, much softer leather, as long as the unpromisingly hard Nidd? Only time will tell. I wish my 'Select' had lace holes to bring the skirts back under control. The extra softness of the left skirt is deforming the whole saddle into a slightly curved spine. I am willing to wait for it to settle down because it still looks beautiful and is so comfortable already. I dare not perforate and lace the 'Select' myself. In case it all goes horribly pear-shaped and needs to be returned for exchange or refund.

The Brooks is far too expensive to be allowed to fail. The Nidd, on the other hand, is just cheap enough to be allowed to take its time doing what it (eventually) does. And if it doesn't? It will have been an interesting exercise. One which will not have cost you as much as the nastiest, mass produced, moulded plastic saddle. Those which are usually unloaded onto every Tom, Dick and Mary as naive, new bike buyers. With the usual load of old, pseudo-scientific hype and mumbo-jumbo twaddle attached. All in a desperate bid to jack its perceived value above that of any other moulded plastic object with a cheap plastic cover. A fool and a cyclist are soon parted from their plastic. There's always another plastic saddle to try. All in the desperate search for something which will  not cripple you within 20 miles.

With the best intention of actually using the Nidd from tomorrow I have just applied a good coat of Proofide to the top and hung up my best bib shorts ready for the off.

Comparison of form and colour between the Nidd and B17. The Nidd was just placed on top of the Carradice saddle bag for the picture. It is near identical in size, but not form, to the B17. 

No point in doing anything to the Nidd's leather bottom in the presence of the neatly bonded material. One presumes this is completely impervious to anything. Though my earlier quip about "fibreglass" is probably well shy of the mark. It may just be a suitable material, which limits excessive stretching of the leather over extended use. Being so thin I doubt the material markedly increases stiffness over the very thick leather itself.

Even Brooks saddles do stretch beyond rescue by any string of surreptitious adjustments of the tension nut. Usually carried out in the semi-darkness and fumbling privacy of the bicycle shed. I  would humbly suggest that bunging a knackered saddle in a bucket of water overnight, with the tension nut slacked right off, might just perform miracles of resurrection. Given enough faith. Just don't ride it until it is bone dry again! BTW: Don't Proofide a damp saddle.

The Proofide just sat on top of Nidd's unflinching leather like wet varnish. So I have left it to do its thing overnight. We shall see if it is absorbed, at all, by any change in its appearance in the morning. Placing the saddle on my computer chair cushion for a trial fitting provided one of the least sympathetic and unyielding surfaces on which I have had the displeasure of sitting! I hope you appreciate the sacrifices I am making in the search for knowledge. That bloke who jumped from a balloon doesn't know he is born. Not compared to a saddle test pilot! I broke in a Brooks 'Professional' and lived to tell the tale! 24 miles? That's less than my daily ride to the shops! Nor do I have to wait for good weather, like he did! ;-)

20th 55-60F, 13-16C, heavy overcast, light breeze. The Proofide was still sitting there on top of the Nidd saddle this morning. Perhaps the slightest hint of matting in some places? Though I had to look very carefully to see it. I gave the saddle a rub and some orange dye came off on the cloth. I sat on the saddle (briefly) but it still feels like a rock. Wish me luck! :-)

The Nidd proved to be quite a bit taller than my B17. So I had to stop to drop it by about a cm. It is still a smidgen too high but I didn't want to disturb my saddle pin marking tape while I was out. The tape will have to be raised on the pin and a note made of the difference in height.

On first acquaintance, the Nidd has absolutely no right to be as comfortable as it is! Yes it feels rock hard and unforgiving. I can feel every single bump in the road. But I was able to forget the Nidd for quite a lot of the time. Which is quite patently ridiculous! Had it been a tiny bit lower it would have been even better. I'm going out again after morning coffee and have no hesitation in leaving the Nidd in place. It is now just possible to depress the sit bone area with thumb pressure by a micron or two.

I tipped the saddle back by the thickness of the saddle pin Allen key. Say about 4mm difference with my 18" builder's level resting on the nose and tail. Riding on the hoods was noticeably more comfortable than sitting upright with my hands on the tops. 15 miles so far. I'll probably do another 20 more miles now. It has turned horribly dark after starting much brighter. I'd better take my waterproof jacket. It might save me from being shot by all those huntsmen who are out making firework noises this morning!

The second dose of Nidd medicine was a rather mixed experience. I was far too much of an optimist as usual. It must have been the brightening sky. The longer I rode the more unforgiving it (Niddy) became. Not agony, but hardly pleasant. 22 more miles for 37 today on the Nidd. Perhaps I should have worn a better pair of shorts but I wanted to give the saddle a fair chance. Without any cheating on my part. Despite appearances the Nidd must be about 12-15mm taller than the B17. So make sure yours is the correct height if you usually travel without tools. The Autumn TA Gazette arrived in the post. I'm busy reading it from cover to cover.

21st 50F, 10C, overcast, still. After trying the Nidd (briefly) this morning, I bottled out and fitted the 'Select' for today's Sunday ride. I'm going to have to sneak up on the Nidd with shorter rides to avoid too much pain. Provided the rain holds off it would be a shame to waste a still day by struggling for distance on an uncomfortable saddle.

No ill effects from yesterday's Nidd trial. I wore orange sunglasses to cope with the grey skies and was treated to autumn on steroids!  Saw a Kestrel using an extractor chimney as a viewpoint. Just did a circuit of the shops for 20 miles. I saw a girl on a racing bike going the other way. I was reaching the top of a long climb and was still going well at about 100rpm. Well, I was impressed! :-)

It feels as if it is turning colder. I'm going out again after coffee. Fifteen more miles riding around on the quiet lanes waiting for it to rain properly. So I could go home for lunch. A group of nine Plovers were going round in circles too. I also saw a pair of Coal tits. The Brooks 'Select' was very comfortable again. Without a moment's distress. I remembered to loosen the skirt lace in the Nidd after reading an owner's experience. I'm bound to forget until it's fitted and all but inaccessible. Rain forecast for tomorrow! I wish I had a bowling ball. I could hang it in my bib shorts to slacken the braces. <cough>  :-)

Click on any image for an enlargement.