30 Nov 2015

30th November 2015 Shimergo storm on a 36t MTB dinner plate?

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I shall edit this ongoing sage in the light of further research as ordered items arrive in the post.
Monday 30th 39F, 4C, rather cloudy but sunshine is threatened. We hardly noticed the storm except for my anemometer mast blowing over. There is some irony here as the flared base is a massive, iron casting from an old, professional drawing board bought at a flea market. A flea market bought, fiberglass windsurfing mast provided the height. The highest gust measured was only 11m/s, 24mph before it stopped registering. Luckily nothing seems damaged thanks to an extremely fortunate direction of fall. I couldn't see anything much in the dark except that the mast was no longer standing.

I had covered the trike in defensive cardboard, foam rolls and large sheets of plywood in case a tree fell on the shed. Time to survey the damage. The Danish news is full of fallen trees, delayed trains and crashing ferries. The traffic seems to be moving normally. It continued blowing for most of the day. No walk and no ride. Lazy git!

An image of the filthy 11-32 11sp cassette and Athena rear changer in bottom gear. It changes onto and runs perfectly on the 32T sprocket with the B-screw [worm] fully tightened. Whether it will accept a 36T sprocket is another matter entirely. I will have to lengthen the chain to avoid damage on the large/large, sprocket/chainwheel. 4 extra teeth x 1/2" pitch adds 2" in length but makes only a little difference in diameter. Which must be halved again since we are only dealing with radius as the changer works below the largest sprocket.

I exercised my fingers with an order for a Sram PG1170, 11 speed, 11-36tooth cassette at a very favourable price even including tracked postage from the UK. Meanwhile my order for tyres and 11 sp chain was dispatched within a couple of hours of ordering and I will receive them today if the Danish Post Office does its thing. [Which it duly did.]

I put the trike up on the work stand to examine the geometry of the Athena rear changer. The expense of a new rear derailleur will hopefully be avoided. The Athena 11sp uses a worm and wheel to rotate the changer away from the sprockets. This has considerable limitations compared with the ease of adjusting or even extending a simple B-screw. We [I] can only see what happens when the cassette turn up.The manufacturers are very conservative with their maximum sprocket limitations probably to avoid claims for damage by those who insist on pushing the limits. My present 32T bottom gear is well beyond Campag's suggestion. Yet it works perfectly in practice despite the gap between the chain and largest sprocket seen in the image.I do need a lower bottom gear but have no desire to return to a triple chainwheel. I am also limited to a 33T minimum chainwheel size by the PCD of the Spa double chainwheel crank.

I have also ordered an IRDM8000 XT11 rear derailleur because it has the necessary sprocket range. [UP to 42]Then discovered it [probably] has a pull ratio of only 1.1. Aaargh!!!

The pressure on manufacturers to allow greater cross compatibility must surely be increased as more and more information is published online. Indexing has made life much more difficult for those who wanted to go outside the very narrow range of gears offered by manufacturers. Tourists and cyclo-cross riders wanted much lower gears using MTB components but still wanted their dropped bars and "brifters". [Combined brake and gear levers.] The dictatorial major manufacturers insisted that every buyer of "road" equipment was a cross between Arny and the Hulk. So they were easily able to turn massive gears more suitable for land speed record attempts! 52x11 anybody?  34mph @ 90rpm cadence. I must get me one of those!
 
The following websites offer an excellent insight into the simple "geometry" of bicycle gear changers, sprockets and levers.

Art's Cyclery Blog » Science Behind the Magic | Drivetrain Compatibility  

Bicycles/Maintenance and Repair/Gear-changing Dimensions - Wikibooks, open books for an open world

My foolish combination of Campagnolo 11 speed levers with a 1.1 rear changer gives a 2.8mm sprocket pitch. Which may well become the norm when wireless electronic derailleurs are running Graphene, 18 speed cassettes but is a complete disaster in our humble 11 speed, heavy metal 2015. The Campag 11sp changers offer a perfect match with the 3.9mm sprocket pitch Sram cassette I have just ordered with a Shimano or Campagnolo "Road" rear changers. Assuming, of course, that Sram really is still using 3.9mm sprocket pitch. I shall have great fun measuring its sprocket pitch when it arrives.

The problem is finding a way to drop my Athena 11sp rear changer enough to make room for the 36T dinner plate. Ideally I need a 1.4-1.5 shift ratio changer. Not a 1.1 MTB! Shimano Road rear changers would work just as well as Sram. I'll just have to try the Campag Athena to see how it copes.

Or go back to using the JTek Shiftmate. It tended to fray cables so I gave up using it. Though this problem may have been my own fault through incorrect set up. I found that the initial cable lay across the flat on the double pulleys quickly slipped out of place. Further research suggests that the very small pulley diameters of the Shiftmate stress the cable causing early breakage. So I can't really blame myself for this one.

My earlier idea of a simple lever [or bellcrank] to change the cable pull ratio [via differential radius anchor points] produces increasing errors of pull at each end of the lever movement. Only a long lever with very limited movement would help to reduce the pull error. Otherwise the indexing would run out of sufficient cable movement at each end of the cassette. I wonder whether a parallelogram would solve that problem at the price of increased complexity but allow reduced size? Perhaps a longer lever is not really a disadvantage? The question is where to fit the lever [and its pivot] to avoid conflicts of cable run, pull angle and a moving chain flopping about in the same area.

Scale image of bellcrank dimensions set against an image of the Trykit frame. By careful selection of the pivot point the arcs of cable anchor travel can be arranged as tangents to the original cable runs. This avoids distortion of the 1:1.36 ratio required for matching the cable anchor movements.

At first I thought there was a complication in my theory because the M8000 rear changer has a total movement of 26mm with the stop screws are fully screwed in. Fortunately the gap between the cable stop and the clamp easily exceeds 36mm when the stop screws are backed off to achieve the correct pull-per-click cable movement.

The Campag Ergo 11sp lever pulls a total of 26mm of cable from high to low. [10 clicks]  With a 1.1 pull ratio rear changer I need to increase this by 1:1.36 to to achieve the correct indexing at the rear changer. An bellcrank pivoted in front of the seat tube will achieve this. The anchor points are arranged on the two radii in front of the bottom bracket and behind it just below the chain stays. The down tube cable will parted and clamped to the bellcrank with a pinch screw. A similar cable clamp bolt will fixed to the bellcrank to carry the final leg of the rear, gear cable inner.

The arcs of the cable clamping bolts will ensure the correct cable angle is maintained to avoid complication of the normal gear cable run. Now I just need a suitable clamp which fits the over-sized downtube on which to support the bellcrank pivot. A front changer gear hanger clamp is in the shed somewhere. That should be ideal.


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29 Nov 2015

Friday 27th November 2015 Sand, as far as the eye can see!

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Friday 27th 41-42F, 5-6C, breezy, heavy overcast. Showers possible with rain later. Walked to the woods to practice climbing steep fire breaks. Very soggy underfoot! Still lots of patches of snow and ice.

 Heavy dew didn't stop the hunter's 4WDs on the way to shooting ducks on a pond.

A short ride after morning coffee and toast. Roads filthy and covered in loose gravel. Struggling to exceed 10mph going into the wind so I dropped onto the tri-bar extensions for 14mph. Cruising at 20mph coming home. It is quite amazing how many birds of prey I see on my walks and rides. Only 15 miles.

Saturday 28th 41F, 5C, heavy overcast with rain. It was 12.00 before the sun finally came out. I replaced the second damaged brake noodle on the gear cable. While they may see a smart solution to a sharp bend they can't tolerate index gear use. The tapered nose of the noodle breaks and adds unwanted friction.

 An electrically assisted, delta, sociable trike in a supermarket car park.

Now I have replaced the noodle with a continuous, smooth loop of outer the gears are back to normal. I still have a noodle on the front changer cable and this too has become sticky. It will have to be replaced with a straight run of outer now that I have some spare. The problem start when the handlebars turn to full lock and the cables run out of available movement. This was why I fitted noodles in the first place.

I had quite forgotten how precise and effortless index gearing can be when the cable isn't dragging. A late afternoon, hilly loop. Returning in Xmas tree mode at dusk. I noticed a slow puncture two miles from home. Rode on as the road surface became steadily more noticeable without actually feeling the valve banging on the asphalt.

Not sure I trust Schwalbe Duranos any more. They went on in the middle of December 2014. So a year of wear, 5800 miles for a total of 6 punctures. That's more than one  puncture per 1000 miles near as a matters. Not impressive even when the roads are strewn with flinty sand! Are they spreading it to combat ice? 19 miles today.

Sunday 29th 44F, 7C, overcast, windy. A day of showers, sunny periods and gales leading up to a storm. Gusts of well over 50mph are expected this evening. Mended the puncture and cleaned the sandy filth from the trike with assorted brushes and collected rainwater. The flint which caused the damage can be seen in the image. There is no chance of avoiding a puncture with this sort of thing lying around. It's 6mm length was embedded point down in what is now only 3mm of tread. Thorn catchers might knock flints off before they can penetrate with succeeding impacts on the road. The problem is arranging such contraptions on the rear wheels of a delta trike. There is also a high likelihood of spray coming off the tyre savers on wet roads. With gales and showers all day I took another rest day.


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23 Nov 2015

23rd November 2015 Do you want ice with it?

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Monday 23rd 25-36F, -4+2C, calm, clear blue sky after a clear night. The sun is still dozing but is expected shortly. A couple of inches of wet snow still lying. What an incredible difference from yesterday's fierce gales and virtual white out! I'll definitely need my gaiters for my walk. It was an incredibly noisy affair as I followed the tractor trails on refrozen snow. Some of the time it bore my weight but mostly I crunched through on an icy under surface. Lots of animal tracks must have been made before the hard frost. They would not have made so much of a mark this morning. Bright sunshine throughout with an almost cloudless sky as I completed my usual loop up over the hill with the woods starting at the top.  The roads were very icy with black ice and refrozen slush despite being scraped and salted. I alternated between walking on the clear tarmac and the snowy verge to avoid anyone having to brake or detour around me. Quite a good work-out walking on snow and ice compared with the usual surfaces.

Another good work-out just reaching the road on hard frozen slush and water filled potholes. The usual cycle lanes were similarly equipped. I doubt that 1/5th of pavements in the villages have been cleared of snow and ice by their homeowners as demanded by Danish law. Car parked in their drive, TV on, sit back and relax. Gud and the Kommune must help the elderly with Zimmer frames, walkers, shopping bags, wheelchairs and prams. Survival of the fittest at its best. Which is also how many of them drive. The thin skin of civilization is only a shabby veneer. Only 7 miles.

Tuesday 24th 38F, 3C, heavy overcast, gales and rain, possibly with sleet. At least it has washed a lot of the snow away. Not looking very positive for a ride. The gales increased and the rain grew heavier all morning. In the absence of enough wood for an ark I thought I'd better look at the the gear friction problem. I found that one of the [brake] noodles had snapped in the nose section where it joins the down tube, gear cable adjuster. Once that problem was removed I had more slack on the inner and lower friction. Further fiddling resulted in much snappier changes. Still not satisfied 100% but working in a refrigerator is not conducive to a dry nose and I was afraid of rust. I don't have enough outer cable to replace the last noodle back at the changer. The awful weather continued so I took yet another rest day. It's becoming a habit but at least I have broken the OCD empty feeling when haven't had a ride.

A snow plowing lorry struggling to clear a junction with heavy traffic passing constantly.

Wednesday 25th 40F, 4C, heavy overcast, rain just stopped, winds lighter. It should remain dry this morning though with occasional showers possible.Walked around a local village under grey skies, with fine drizzle in the air amid light winds. Strips and patches of snow still left in the hollows along with lots of large puddles and ponds. It started raining more seriously in the last few hundred yards but I returned unscathed in just over an hour. My hip and knees are hurting again. Probably from too much inactivity yesterday. Just a short ride for 7 miles.

Thursday 26th 34-37F, 1-3C, still and sunny. A pleasant walk up to the woods on crunchy white frost. The low sun soon burnt off much of the whiteness despite my 20' shadow on the flat.

One gear noodle gone and one to go.

Rode to Odense late morning in almost still conditions and bright sunshine. The new cycle path between Tommerup and Brylle is coming along well though still in need of a good clean. The surrounding work isn't finished so the machines are crisscrossing the path. Adding to the fallen leaves, twigs and scattered gravel.

Bought an Abus chain lock to add to my MiniU. I could lock the front wheel to the frame securely but had nothing to secure the trike itself to something immovable. It's not likely that anyone would be daft enough to steal the trike with the U-lock fitted. Though it could be easily lifted into a pickup or van for later release with an angle grinder. The chain will help to discourage against bodily removal.

The odd thing is that the insurance company is quite satisfied with an immobilizer lock. I used to take a thin cable lock to Odense to fix the trike down while the approved U-lock secured it against casual theft. Cable locks can be chewed through with just a good set of teeth. I have removed the odd cable lock on recycled bikes with just ordinary electrical pliers or a blunt junior hacksaw. Not ideal for securing anything one values! An oddity, which I really don't like, is that the lock can be snapped shut without a key! Getting the key into place past the shutter is hard work too.

Abus lock acting as a cosy scarf for the seat post. This lock is not insurance approved despite its considerable cost, weight and girth. Photo taken in overcast and rain.

I also bought a meter of outer cable to get rid of the rear noodle. This outer feels much stiffer than anything I have ever used before. I just hope the dimensions suits the Campag 11 speed indexing system. They seemed in some doubt in the shop.
A light headwind coming back just before dusk. My knees were aching a bit at times. Probably sprinting away from all those red lights to avoid being stuck behind the snails! There is a terrible inertia about many cyclists. The city is a great place to practice right angle bends with masses of opposite camber. The cycle path designers never seem to think about trikes or mobility scooters having to negotiate some junctions. Or even transitions between the end of a proper cycle path and an unprotected, marked off cycle lane right beside the traffic lane. One can really hone one's skills on the cycle paths of Odense. I just wouldn't want to live there with all that traffic and countless red traffic lights. 44 miles.


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22 Nov 2015

24th Novemenber 2015. How low can they sink?

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While searching online for 4mm, Campagnolo Ergo/Ultrashift compatible outer cable I discovered that Sram now offer an 11-36T cassette. As my weary legs grow older [to match my brain] ever lower gears become desirable. Not because I am a wimp but because maintaining a high cadence at all times is vital to avoiding knee pain. The moment I start pushing instead of twiddling I know my knees will complain later. A trike doesn't care how slow you travel uphill because balance is not an issue. So spinning is possible at any speed without any risk of falling over, or even off. At least not unless you try to turn around on a steep hill without dismounting. The incline may well lie outside one's physical ability to balance one's bod inboard of the [usually] narrow, rear wheel track. [Width between the rear tyres.]

While Sram would like you to use their own off-road changers and MTB levers this will not provide compatibility with Campag's Ergo road levers. So, yet again, the problem arises of finding a suitable Campag or Shimano rear changer which is compatible with 11-36 teeth. The big sprocket is the problem. Using any "normal" 11 speed road changer is likely to cause a collision between the cassette teeth and the top jockey pulley regardless of cage length. Push the changer away from the cassette with an extended hanger or foolishly extended B-screw and the chain is now too far from the smaller cogs to change crisply.

I'm presently running an 11-32T cassette with an Athena RD for a 29" bottom gear. For some reason this provided a much nicer change than the previous Ultegra. Campagnolo claim a maximum sprocket capacity of 29T but then introduced 30T cassettes. Just to show how little each department knew about their own products. Or, rather, what they were actually willing to admit based on their current catalogue. When in fact very many cyclists mix and match equipment to suit their own specific needs or budgets. The hype department is probably continuing their long term office feud with the R&D dept. over some suspected slight back in 1931.

The present trend towards much lower gears has missed Campagnolo by several hundred miles, or rather, a few thousand kilometers. Probably because they pretend to only provide "road racing" equipment. Normally they would supply their kit [give it away] to professional team "he men" who can spin 55x11 all day long [without drugs, of course] up the steepest mountain passes without actually drawing breath. Except, perhaps, to exhale their [expensively hand-rolled] cigar smoke. Well, millionaires have to spend their fortune on something apart for their WAGS and mansions. Even if it's never on the actual bikes they ride between their frequent falling offs.

Sram and Shimano have long supplied both the road and MTB crowds, of course. This has given them far greater insight into wide range gearing in both theory and practice. The present limit being cassettes with 10-42T sprockets intended for a single [front] chainwheel. [Though not exclusively.] Ideal, one might have thought, for the serious cyclo-tourist on mountainous routes? Except that the MTB changer pull ratios remain incompatible with road [dropped] handlebar "brifter" type levers. Keen tourists usually prefer dropped bars for their wider range of potential hand positions than the MTB's [nominally] straight 'bars. Which can quickly cause agonizing wrist pain unless equipped with right angle "bar ends."

It needs a rear changer with the correct geometry and maximum wrap capacity to cope with both ends of a really wide ratio cassette. Sram uses a different click-pull ratio to Campagnolo and Shimano. So there is no cross-compatibility between their own and competitors changers either. I am using a Campag rear changer which works well with the Ergo ll speed Chorus shifters on my present 11-32 Shimano Ultegra cassette.

The 11 speed sprocket spacing is close enough to avoid indexing problems as has been confirmed by the expert mechanics with assorted machines to test in practice. So swapping 11 speed wheels between Campag, Sram or Shimano equipped racing machines is as simple as setting the rear changer travel, stop screws. For the first time in many years they [the manufacturers and money printers] have been forced, by the limits in maximum cassette width and wheel dish, to finally match sprocket spacing with their 11 speed offerings. 

One poster, on a bike forum, suggested the Shimano 105 11 speed RD has considerable extra sprocket capacity. This is not confirmed by the Shimano hype/techspeek literature though. However desirable it might be to get an order off for an 11-36t cassette it would be a tad premature unless I can source a suitable rear derailleur.  I seriously doubt the Athena could cope. Why, oh why, do the major accessory manufacturers insist on playing tyrannical dictators to their own customers? Haven't they heard of the Arab spring? Their sales could rocket if they introduced far greater cross compatibility between their own MTB and Road components and far more friendly, lower gear options.

(28x33)/36 would give me a 26" bottom gear compared to my present 29". Assuming a 90rpm pedal cadence, while climbing, that reduces my bottom gear speed from 7.3 to 6.5mph. This may not sound much but is quite a big deal on a long or steep climb if one wants to maintain enough revs to avoid struggling.

BikeCalc.com - Bicycle Gear Speed Chart

I am stuck with a minimum 33t inner chainring on the Spa Cycles XD-2/Stronglight/Sugino/TA double chainset. I have no desire to change to a fuggly MTB chainset or go back to a triple now. Having tried a number of front triple changers I have lost my appetite for clumsy changes under load. A double gives much smoother steps between gears provided a wide ratio cassette is available at the rear.

The triple always feels like too much of a downward step. Which usually causes over-revving until one's speed has dropped to match. The double chainset, in comparison, gives progressive reductions in speed provided one is already on the small [inner] chainring.  So one's speed can be maintained. The step down from 43 to 33 is also much more comfortable than dropping from the largest to smallest ring on a triple. With no middle ring to overshoot in either direction as a hill rears up or drops away! Rear gear changing is, and always has been, much more pleasant than at the front. I have no idea why, except for the relative lack of low gears, why I insisted on sticking with triples for so long.  

Nobody [normal] ever begs for a higher gear! While the vast majority of all cyclists need and want lower gears at least some of the time. Giving them the option would actually help to increase the number of cyclists and therefore potential customers. This must surely appeal to the cycle accessory manufacturer's sense of obscene greed for blatant profiteering? The average gear ratios offered by typical new road bikes is a slap in the face to anyone unfit and getting into the sport/pastime if they live anywhere near the slightest incline. It's no wonder MTBs are so popular!

After failing to be [at all] pleased with the Jtech Shiftmate, double pulley, pull-ratio changer, I had a better idea. A simple lever pivoted near the bottom bracket would anchor the cable from the downtube run. The rear changer cable would also be anchored to the same lever but at a different radius. This incredibly simple arrangement would change the pull-click ratio of the cable itself. Whatever difference in pull was required, either up or down in ratio, the lever would provide by changing the radius of each cable clamp. Suitable pre-drilled holes might be preferable to sliding clamps.

This rather rough drawing shows the basic method of changing pull-click ratios but is neither [remotely] to scale nor reflects the likely finished design in any way. The bellcrank pivot point and relative lengths of the lever arms are open to considerable variation.

The cable clamps would need to be backlash free but [probably] able to rotate to avoid distortion by local bending. Which might eventually cause fraying through work-hardening the cable strands at the clamp. Perhaps anchor rotation is not really that important? Only an actual trial will confirm this. The advantage of the ratio changing lever is its absolute simplicity. Hidden behind the chainwheel there is no reason for it to be visible. Any gear change lever could become instantly compatible with any rear changer simply by adjusting the cable anchor point to a specific radius. Though the actual number of gears could never exceed that provided by the indexed lever itself.

If the lever were made long enough then small changes in radius, through lever tilt, would be minimized. The arc would make the pull-per-click decidedly non-linear with a short lever at the limits of bellcrank travel. Depending on the lever support clamp position and the shape of the lever itself, it could act like a seesaw above and below the bottom bracket. Or entirely above or entirely below the bottom bracket to taste. Or even pivoted on the chainstay via a suitable clamp. The cable dressing arrangements would remain identical with a normal rear gear changer and its usual rear loop. The inner gear cable would merely be parted at the bellcrank on a machine with normal, bare cable runs. Each half would be fixed by its own cable clamp to the bellcrank.

An inverted V-shaped lever [or bellcrank] makes good sense. Since the change in cable direction, at the lever, wants to match the downtube angle relative to the chainstay angle. Some rear cable anchor points are above and some fixed below the chainstay. This would tend to make the ratio changing lever machine-specific to avoid the cable rubbing on the chainstay. Longer lever "arms" would make radius choice both ore accurate and easier to achieve with less cable distortion. Fortunately, my foolish invention is hardly likely to register on the Chinese patent copy industry's radar. Nobody else would be daft enough to try! But how else am I to overcome the deliberate failure of the  cycle accessory monopoly of two in having low enough gears to climb all those snow-capped, Danish mountains? Watch this space. ;-)

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21 Nov 2015

21st November 2015 The trials and tribulations of Ergo.

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Saturday 21st 37F, 3C, breezy, cold, very heavy overcast, raining. A clearing up is expected and it did stop raining by 9am. A snowstorm is possible overnight/tomorrow. Up to 8" of snow with 45+mph winds probably causing drifting.



It took an hour of frustrating fiddling to release the old nipple from the ratchet wheel of the Ergo lever. The same problem occurs every time. The gear cable breaks just above the ratchet wheel leaving stiff, straggly ends. These prevent the nipple from dropping out of the ratchet wheel because there is so much friction. It needs a very fine, but stiff wire to go down the cable route to push the nipple out enough to get hold of it. There is no room for long nosed pliers so I used a sharp awl to stab the visible part of the lead nipple so I could lever it out.

My cord arrangement to allow some middle gears with the broken cable tied off just below the seat clamp. Fishing and climbing knots come in handy for all sorts of things.

Campagnolo's designer obviously thought their Ergo levers would have the cables replaced by professional bike mechanics. Doing so as often as considered necessary and long before the inner cable frays. The moment the gear change becomes hesitant or stiff it really is worth changing the inner cable.

The outer sleeve, which follows the 'bars, uses longitudinal reinforcement over a fine plastic tube. All of which sits without a ferrule in a hole in the plastic lever housing. So there is really too little resistance and the plastic outer sleeve gradually moves away from the reinforcing wires. Leaving a bundle of these completely unconnected outer wires to feed back into the plastic hole. Which is all but impossible with the lever in place along with any obscuring bar tape. So the inner cable has to be completely withdrawn, the lever and tape have to come off and a length of outer snipped back to a clean end. A race mechanic would change the bar tape regularly along with cables and outers since expense hardly matters while reliability and appearance are everything.

The amateur [moi] is likely to be far less fastidious and will only swap cables when something finally goes wrong. That said, the inner cable lasts at least a couple of years of my abuse before it starts to fray. This is a remarkable performance for such complex, 11 speed racing levers. From my own direct experience the gear change performs perfectly over many thousands of miles. I also change gear constantly to maintain a high but steady cadence. Trying to keep my pedal revs between 95 and 100 often higher may require a gear change at one or two second intervals on undulating roads. Having 11 speeds at the rear makes matching my cadence to incline and road speed far easier. 

Climbing a steep and overgrown firebreak in the deep, dark woods.
A couple of hours later I had the inner cable replaced, the outer trimmed back and the bar tape renewed. The latter was looking faded and very scruffy anyway.

I wonder whether I shouldn't run the outer through a conduit of hose following the usual route under the tape. This would allow me to pull the outers off the bars for trimming without removing the built-up layers of bar tape. The problem is finding the correct diameter of "conduit" to allow easy removal of the outer but without extra bulk.

I'm now off on a short shopping trip to test the results of my struggles. There is extra friction somewhere not letting it change up properly. I tried stripping the cable off the lever by pulling on the bare cable but it made no difference. I'll have another look at it tomorrow. The nipple may not have seated properly and could be jamming in the lever housing. Only 10 miles.

Sunday 22nd 32F, 0C, blowing a northerly gale, several inches of overnight snow, heavy overcast.  The Danish news is reporting heavy snow, fallen trees and power lines and blocked motorways. There is a warning against unnecessary travel in Sjælland. So, a normal Sunday for most drivers, then. Titter ye not! It was true! Cars were passing at 30 second intervals on their way to fetch fresh bread rolls. I kept hopping onto the verge to avoid their slushy spray. Despite the earlier efforts of the snow plows several more inches had built up making my progress difficult. I kept to the thickest stuff for more grip.

Plans to walk to the woods were curtailed by my face stinging badly while literally leaning on the wind. The wind chill factor was probably around -26-30F so an unexpected resurgence of common sense took hold. Besides, I couldn't see where I was going! I have added a single, un-retouched image of the conditions for your awed admiration of my selfless bravery. Suit yourselves. You had to be there. Not glued to your computer chair!

It was almost a whiteout until I wiped the mist from inside my yellow safety glasses. As they wrapped around better than any of my yellow cycling glasses it seemed like a good idea at the time. I must have forgotten that the only safe thing about them is the guaranteed auto-steaming facility regardless of temperature and conditions. Having cleared the glasses, the whiteout was  not much reduced. Mostly due to drifting in the fierce gusts, visibility was only just a hundred yards. Less than half that if any clarity was desired. My jacket and hat were well plastered in snow as I returned after my three quarters of an hour adventure. I was expecting warm praise for my unstinting efforts to amuse but the reception committee was as chilly as a North Korean border guard. I have even been threatened with extended shed tidying duties for failure to grow up! Where's the fun in either option? No ride. Null points. DNS.
 
Click on any image for an enlargement.

16 Nov 2015

16th November 2015 Let there be lights.

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Monday 16th 50F, 10C, windy, overcast, rain or showers on and off all day. A grey, miserable day. No walk and no ride. Tidied the shed. [A little.]

Ten feet [3m] high Japanese Knotweed fighting a pitched battle with brambles on a demolition site. The Knotweed arrived with the lorry loads of landscaping soil.

Tuesday 17th 44-47F, 7-8C, calm with a heavy overcast. The forecast is wet this morning, brightening up later though still with showers. October was the 7th month in an unbroken series of record warm months and itself set a record as the warmest ever since the earliest records in 1849. The temperature is supposed to drop 10 degrees C to around freezing at the weekend. A block over Ireland will stop the usual procession of lows over Europe and bring northerly winds. Possibly with snow. Whoopee! There are no toxic, brown smoke chimneys, from burning painted, demolition waste, north of us! A walk up to the woods under grey skies with only the gulls for company. It was horribly soggy so I had to turn back just as it started raining. A robin was tweeting in a tree by the gate and refused to leave as we stared at each other. Obviously nobody had told it that it was a timid European robin so was acting badly out of character. I kept up the showers all morning but I am still hoping to go for a ride after lunch.

The roads were sopping wet from another downpour just before I left. I stayed dry despite huge, threatening plates of dark cloud going over.  Lights on as I rode home at dusk. 19 miles.

Wednesday 18th 48F, 9C, very windy, mostly overcast. Showers all morning again. Left mid-afternoon towards half a blue-black sky.
 Fortunately it passed over before I reached it.

Bought a new 'Smart' back light to replace the one that was stolen. Very bright indeed with 28 tiny diodes in a strip, two flash patterns and steady beam.  Lasts for ages on 2 x AAA batteries provided you put the cover on the right way around. Supplied with a strong rubber band fitted with a hook, multiple tension holes and the locking light clip. It is so new that there aren't any images online yet. I fixed it to my saddle pin to ensure I am better seen. Though I'm not leaving lights on the trike again without supervision. I don't know why the manufacturers don't mould a loop onto the back plates to allow a thin tie-wrap to secure the lights against casual theft or just being dislodged. 14 miles.

Thursday 19th 46F, 8C, heavy overcast, raining, gales. It is supposed to keep raining for most of the day with gusts up to 45mph+.  Not a great day for cycling! Nevertheless, our hero braved the wind roaring in the trees for a short ride between showers. Only 7 miles.

Added some images of the Smart 261-28 rear light. From top: Flash photo to capture reflector, strip of 28 LEDs with Smart's complex flashing to draw attention and finally,  third flash option from edge to center. Wasn't there a robot with a strangely lighted slit for eyes like this? "The Day the Earth Stood Still"

I just turned the light on and am now seeing a row of tiny, bright green dot's by persistence of vision which lasted for ages. It really is that bright! It's all a far cry from carrying two, rusting, EverReady tin boxes with yellow-orange, incandescent bulbs and constantly flat, 3lb 4.5V batteries of my distant youth. I can actually remember acetylene lamps and their strange smell involving calcium carbide. Though I don't remember owning or using such a lamp. Which suddenly reminds me of orange streetlamps which made my cub scout uniform look black. It 's supposed to be a sign of senility being able to vividly remember your youth but not what happened ten minutes ago. Was I there?

Friday 20th 42F, 5C, almost still, the overcast seems to be clearing after earlier rain. More normal winter weather and temperatures are promised for the weekend. Light winds are forecast for today. I was just reading that Denmark has by far the lowest natural area in the EU. About 8% of the land is natural. Even some of that is used for agriculture and hunting. Hang on though; if they counted the mud on the roads as natural they could claim a greater area. We have been invaded by flitty Fieldfares. The numbers in the flock must be up to around 100. They like to perch in our trees. All facing the same way and looking alert. There was lots of standing water in the  fields and the track was even wetter than usual. Like walking on a wet sponge for most of the way.

This is the time of year when the wild roses pop out of the hedges and try to re-take the roads. Cyclists, joggers and walkers are in the most danger as long tendrils reach right out. Council hedge clipping eventually cuts the spiky growth back but it is a clear indicator of the speed with which nature can reclaim man's slender grip on the land.

Later, I headed north into light winds and rode in a wide loop towards my goal. The new cycle paths were open between Harndrup and Brenderup but were still rather muddy, with stones, sand and gravel in places. There were stretches where the saturated fields were running off right across the path. This was due to some odd landscaping decisions where the field was banked up right beside the path. Apart from a couple of badly sunken drains and a flooded junction the surface was mostly fine and nicely smooth.

All this may seem as if I am being rather negative but not really. I am grateful that cyclists can now ride beside this busy road without impeding the traffic. The width is excellent and obviously designed for two way cycle traffic. Though the white lines have yet to be laid. Masses of short lampposts have been planted but have yet to have their light heads fitted.

A mud-bath building site was carrying thick mud and stones across the brand new path onto the roadway. But nobody cares. The relevant authorities probably just pretend it is just another farmer mud spreading without clearing up after them. I can remember a new build school site being literally shut down 40 years ago in the UK over mud carried onto the road outside. Many Danish roads are left infinitely worse than that example. Some Danish farmers have smaller tractors with cylindrical brushes on the front. Not all farmers use them. It is no fun riding over golf-ball sized flints and stones embedded in the thick mud. Not to mention the lack of adhesion and the severe damage caused to the brake rims by the abrasive crud.

My rear changer gear cable broke inside the Ergo lever some 20 miles from home. So there was quite a bit of climbing in top gear [84"] before I finally decided to stop and rig some cord to tension the gear cable. This allowed me to use 2-3 gears at the back and both chain wheels. The most difficult part was trying to lift the loaded trike to get it into bottom gear. That proved impossible with 2WD so I had to ride it away uphill while pulling up on the cable by hand. Not an easy  task with an 11t  top gear. Riding home was easier but meant a lot of very high speed spinning. It was that, or find myself constantly over-geared. Returned at dusk for 50 miles today. It never did brighten up except for my own lights.


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9 Nov 2015

9th November 2015 Do you want water with it?

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Monday 9th 49-51F, 9-11C, light winds, variable cloud. Sunny periods with occasional rain
promised. Bright start for my walk with a cool wind niggling at my hands and neck. Became steadily more cloudy and windy as I completed my loop through the woods. Rode away after coffee with a tailwind. Headwind coming home so I dropped onto the tri-bars to avoid a crawl. Only 10 miles.

The forest is protected by a low wall of corn for the pheasants. This is becoming a common sight in the area and provides welcome cover as well as grain. The Danish news was carrying a story that farmers struggling to make ends meet should open up their land to hunting.[i.e. Shooting] There are certainly serious and widespread financial problems within the agricultural industry. The annual payments achievable, for letting a hunting group use their land, suggest a serious wealth imbalance between some farmers and hunters. 

Tuesday 10th 56F, 13C, overcast, breezy. Incredibly mild for November! It is supposed to be gusting to nearly 40mph right now but does not seem nearly as windy as that.  The temperature in the forecast is almost a straight line for two days. All very weird. The wind became stronger when I left the shelter of our garden and it also began to rain lightly. Knowing I was never far away from dry clothes I continued and finished my loop through the woods in the usual hour and a half. By the last, exposed leg into the wind, the rain had all but petered out. So I returned as dry and comfortable as when I left thanks to breathable, but only shower-proof jacket. I was busy at home so no ride today.

Wednesday 11th 55F, 13C, heavy overcast, winds light. Walked an unusual loop for an hour and half.
Waited for half an hour hoping the rain would go off and then left with it still raining. I was wet through within a couple of miles from heavy drizzle. Major roadworks meant I had to walk for some distance as the hardcore and mud was completely unrideable. I became so fed up with the GripCrap gloves that I left them off for the last few miles. They soak up rain like a cold sponge and weigh a ton when wet. My bare, wet hands were perfectly comfortable at the unbelievably mild 55F, 13C. If people still used fountain pens they would prefer to use GripCrap gloves instead of blotting paper! Only 15 miles.

Thursday 12th 54F-49F, 12-9C, windy but mild start. Mostly sunny all day. Walked for an hour. Saw a deer chewing happily in the shelter of a hedge in warm sunshine near the village. It was only visible from a considerable distance so the image is a bit over-enlarged. It was perfectly placed behind a gentle rise so hidden from the nearby road.

The trike was so filthy after yesterday's rain and roadworks that my wife insisted on giving the frame a rub over with a clean rag! The chain which has seen regular lubrication with "techy" products was rusted on the rollers after only one wet day! My Northwave MTB boots were finally dry thanks to sitting in the sun and wind out of doors all day. My socks had been soaking wet yesterday when I returned home. As had been the latest sports bag and even the Carradice Camper. I may need to invest in some waterproofing if I don't return to the capacious goth bag. Having the original straps break on me rather put me off. I had given the whole bag a good soaking in saddle oil but it hadn't helped the badly cracked straps. Finding matching new straps [belts] proved impossible in any of the [many] charity shops I visited.

Left on the trike after lunch into a strong and gusty westerly crosswind. Riding on the main road feels iffy with a crosswind pushing me onto the strangely undulating shoulder. There are lots of dips along the edge of the asphalt which could take me into the fields if I wasn't so used to it. One nutter brushed past me at high speed on a long straight without any other vehicles in sight! Perhaps that's why they felt daring? Low risk to bully a cyclist when nobody else is about? Had I wavered around a sunken edge or fought a sudden gust, I, my trike and my blog, would have been no more. Nobody would have been any the wiser whatever the raving fuckwit had told the police. I ought to wear the helmet cam but can't post psychopathic driver abuse in Denmark without risk of prosecution for invasion of privacy.  Perhaps I should set a precedent? Show how daft the Danish law is when the criminally insane enjoy a free license to kill. I just hope my video isn't used posthumously!

Bought an inner tube in a new bike shop in a shopping village. Had a chat with the proprietor and seemed genuinely surprised at my average mileage. [13,000km.] Detoured along the lanes on the way home to add another mile or two as it was getting close to dusk. I found one short stretch with such extreme camber, over half the width, that I waited for a car to pass. Just so I could use the crown in greater safety. I really ought to go back and test it for trike "rideability." Still only 15 miles.

Friday 13th 50F, 10C, windy, heavy overcast and raining. What's not to like? Ridiculously mild November has already broken the Danish 2006 record for foolish warmth. By 3 whole degrees C! If we have passed the infamous climate "Tipping Point" I am certainly glad I ride a trike. No walk and no ride. Blowing a gale all day.

Saturday 14th 42-44F, 6-7C, variable winds, heavy overcast, showers. An overnight storm passed unnoticed except for heavy rain. Today is supposed to be showers with sunny periods and gusting to 30mph. The whole week ahead looks wet too. The drop in temperature is quite noticeable.

My walk up to the woods was a soggy affair. With standing water or puddles on the flat and rushing streams on the inclines. I progressed on the grassy central ridge of the track for much of the way. Several large birds of prey were perching within a hundred yards of home, complained at my presence and left for more privacy. A couple of colourful Jays flew off near the entrance to the forest. There was a two minute shower just as I left the shelter of the trees and into a cold headwind. A Heron flew across going in the opposite direction to hundreds of gulls. The cloud is thinning to bright sunshine now. Though the roads are still sopping wet with plumes of spray coming off every passing vehicle.

Enjoyed a tailwind going. Hitting 26mph at one point a I averaged 18+mph for five miles. [Stop sniggering at the back!] It was more like 8-14mph on the way back.  It stayed mostly dry though the roads were still wet with lots of puddles. The field drainage ditches were roaring brown torrents nearly four feet across in places. [Humour alert!] Plenty of local flooding in the fields too. Only 20 miles under constantly changing plates of cloud.

Sunday 15th 44F, 7C, almost perfectly still, heavy overcast. The forecast is a damp start followed by dry and calm weather later. I wonder whether I am allowed out? There is a potential place of interest 40 miles away but it would need to be a straight out and back. At my average speed of 10mph, including all stops, an 8 hour ride would have me coming back well after dark if I wait to leave. Any serious photography could easily add half an hour even if I eat at the same time. Which might seem unimportant to some cyclists [and most non-cyclists] but is a serious hurdle in selling the idea to my wife. According to a Danish website it gets legally dark enough for cycle lights at 4pm today. [16.00 CET.] If I had a puncture in the dark on typically unlit Danish roads it could make my return even later. Probably not a good idea, then, but I ought to do something today. Having it completely calm for most of the day is very unusual and makes for a much more enjoyable ride. Living on the bottom left of an island, with a prevailing s-westerly air-stream, means coming home against the wind on most journeys. 

So much for plans of trikes and men. It rained in the morning.  The sun sneaked out at 3-30 and disappeared again. I had to light up to get home legally. Half a dozen random cyclists going the other way and none of them had lights. Only a short shopping ride for 21 miles. The lanes were all but empty of traffic but a few souls were out walking in the still conditions. My ear started whistling at half way.


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4 Nov 2015

4th November 2015 Toxic smoke from demolition waste in [un]happy Denmark!

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Wednesday 4th 44F, 7C, overcast, light breeze. Forecast threat of sunshine, repeated daily, has not [yet] caused undue suffering from a lack of the SPFs. No walk. Mist now thinning slowly to safe cycling levels. The dark grey is even becoming lighter grey! Where's my sun cream? No sun. Just a short ride, late afternoon, returning at dusk. 13 miles, later lit up like a Christmas tree.

Thursday 5th 46-52F, 8-11C, heavy overcast. light breeze, rain possible.Walked my usual loop up through the woods and back by another way.

 The Danish police were having a campaign last week and caught 10,500 drivers speeding. Over half of those were in built-up areas. After a mid-morning [rain] shower I left for a late morning ride of 17 miles. I was dressed for 46F but it rose to 52F [11C] and I was sweating on the way home despite having the jacket open.

Friday 6th 52F, 11C, heavy overcast. It looks as if the stable, but rather grey weather is about to change. Much stronger winds are forecast. No walk as I had an early appointment.

Another old farmhouse is being sold off with enough land to make a garden. It seems idyllic until you see the heating bills and have to pay the exhausted team of stokers constantly shoveling coal into the vast boilers. In reality most are furnished with equally unaffordable, oil-fired central heating.

Another illegal lorry load of demolition waste has just been delivered next door. A mix of painted hardboard and chipboard to poison us with their toxic brown smoke for yet another month. The vast container lorry ripped the grass verges of our drive to a mud bath as it made a 3-point turn to back into the neighbour's chainsaw woodyard. While the driver remained [illegally] welded to his mobile phone throughout the maneuver. Every member of this family has their own car so it can't be poverty forcing their fuel choices. It's odd how Denmark, alone in the EU, has absolutely no environmental rules or controls, isn't it?

The irony is that if I published photographs of their lawbreaking online it is I who would be prosecuted for invasion of privacy! There was a story in the Danish news only yesterday about 600,000 security cameras existing in Denmark. This in a country where it is illegal to have security cameras covering public places. A private householder who sets up a camera to monitor their own property has to be careful to avoid recording passers-by on the road or pavement. The dashboard cameras, so popular in many other countries, would be illegal in Denmark. A cyclist with a helmet cam posting videos of an accident online would be prosecuted even if he was directly involved.

Despite the supposed ban on cameras the Danes are the most watched nation on earth per member of the population. Typical hypocrisy along with the supposed environmental standards. Britain is notorious for having literally millions of cameras in public places but also has a much larger population. It seems the majority of Danish cameras are not even registered. So presumably the police and security services can't even use them for fighting terrorism and crime.

A hundred yards of Japanese knotweed adding to the autumn colour. No doubt the verge grass cutter is carrying small pieces onto its next site of permanent establishment. I see it popping up everywhere but the Kommune isn't allowed to use toxic poisons. So the knotweed goes unchecked.

No ride today either. A grey, wet and miserable day. I drove to Odense to collect a large but cheap water butt to use as a tool shed and weekend summer house. The roads were packed to the gills with a miles long, nose to tail crawl out of town. Once clear of the traffic the psychos were putting their symptoms on display by overtaking in built-up areas with very low speed limits. While I was simultaneously overtaking cyclists, joggers and pram pushers on the same narrow road without verges. It's nice to know exactly how reliable commuting psychopaths really are. You could set your [stop]watch by them.

Saw lots of cars driving without [any] lights, at all, despite a heavy overcast, dusk falling with patchy, thick mist. Not to mention a legal requirement to drive on dipped lights in Denmark during daylight hours. Loads of drooling, mobile phone addicts, with delusions of grandeur that they have anything interesting to say. As each in turn overshot their junction with the main road. One moron had to reverse swiftly to avoid being hit by a long chain of cars! Thank goodness none of these morons have any brains. Or iRottenApple would be short of gullible idiots loyal customers to fleece. Pavlov's drooling consumers constantly waiting to be temporarily satiated with this week's, latest and greatest, slave-produced toys. What do you call a mobile phone in a car? iSuicide6.

Saturday 7th 54F, 12C, mild, with light winds and the overcast clearing to brighter periods. A walk up to the woods and back in an hour and half. Everything is very soggy after heavy overnight rain but the autumn woods were pretty still despite the dull conditions. A smart SUV interrupted my journey on the heavily puddled track as I stepped back to let him pass. It is easy to see how vehicle tyres cause damage to gravel tracks. The tyres drop with a bang into the existing holes already filled with rainwater. The water weakens the gravel's adhesion and reduces the mass of the gravel by displacement. Forcing the loose stuff on the bottom of the hole to be ejected along with some of the water. Water run-back further erodes the sides of the hole. The next thing you know, walkers need a rubber dingy to walk to the woods.

A storm is forecast for tonight with gusts to 60mph possible. The rain and wind are supposed to start after lunch so I'd better not delay my ride. Did a hilly rural detour between shopping villages in fairly light winds. Heavy grey overcast with spots of rain. Just noticed a puncture as I put the trike away! Grrr! I remembered seeing shiny broken glass in the roadside gravel. As well as lots of sharp stones scattered everywhere on the roads. 23 miles.

Sunday 8th 48F, 9C, bright sunshine and blue skies with pinkish cloud. We never noticed the storm despite a late night when the wind should already have peaked at over 20m/s.

Woken by deafening whistle of tinnitus. Tried the drops of oil but it made no difference. Flocks of Fieldfares and/or Redwings have arrived. Both are similar to thrushes but constantly moving around in rather nervous flocks. The birches are full of them this morning. A Lesser spotted woodpecker has also flown in to hammer a slender willow. It never ceases to amaze me how extraordinarily skilled birds are at flying. They constantly avoid collisions with each other and their tangled, twiggy environment with effortless ease in all winds and weather. Clumsy humans can't even share the same pavement, road or street without bumping into each other or falling over. Yet we claim to be the brightest species on earth? The birds need no hospitals nor even doctors. Animals do pretty well too provided no humans are involved.

Only an hour's walk in bright sunshine under a cloudless sky. The landscape has that "just washed" clarity after the storm. A considerable improvement on the seemingly months of misty greyness. The view through my binoculars had become rather soft through an accumulation of moisture and dust over time. So I carefully cleaned the lenses and the images have returned to their normal razor sharpness.

The net curtain from my dormer window, where I sit and scribble on my computer, has been taken down for laundering. It was put up to stop insects getting in when the window was opened for fresh air. A rare treat given our neighbour's habit of burning rubbish year round, presumably for water heating. Without the net curtain my usual views of the garden trees is suddenly sparkling. So I was easily able to confirm the birds are Fieldfares. The downside is that they must be able to see me more easily because they vanished as quickly as they had arrived. Perhaps it was just coincidence as they are rather twitchy by nature. Rarely staying in the same roost for very long. Despite is being a sunny day with fairly light winds I was busy. So another cycling rest day apart from mending the puncture. It turned out to be a perfect little triangle of razor sharp flint only 1/8" on all sides. It made a nasty hole in the Durano tyre tread too!

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3 Nov 2015

3rd November 2015. Does this scull cap make my bum look big?

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Tuesday 3rd 43F, 6C, breezy, heavy overcast, distant mist. Somebody has nicked my squashed-plum Smart rear light on Sunday's ride! Fortunately I hadn't left the other lights on the trike. I just hope the silly little batteries were flat! Now I shall have to remember to remove the lights even in the dark and thick mist while parked outside the supermarkets. I also need to find another compact, saddle height light to replace the victim of this heinous crime! Bøøger!

Talking of lights: I managed to capture a shot of the killer robot, traffic light! The killer robot obviously thought that if it stood very still I would not notice it but I'm far to observant for that sort of ruse! It was this traffic light which toppled right across my path in gales last month! Two seconds earlier and you would have been spared from ever having to read my nonsense ever again! My [conspiracy] theory is that it was hacked!

Can you spot the 60mph speed limit sign in this picture, children? That's right! There isn't one! And now, for the illiterate and innumerate drivers amongst us: 50kph = 30mph! It is not the starting bid for an auction! Highest bidder does not win!

A quiet walk down the lanes in thick mist, slowly clearing. The comfort envelope of walking and cycling is remarkably narrow. Walking into a gentle wind is very different from stopping and just standing still. Yet the difference is only a couple of mph, m/s or kph. Cycling is very wind sensitive. Not only for its higher speeds, than walking, but wind chill becomes a far more serious factor as temperatures drop. Every cyclist knows the huge difference in their speed when a tailwind or headwind intervenes in their plans. Speeds can easily drop by a half or more into a headwind. While just as easily doubling the rider's speed with a beneficial tailwind. Both walking and cycling require their own clothing to be comfortable in all temperatures and wind conditions:

Wind-proofing is far more important than mere warmth. So don't even think about cycling in a duvet jacket! The moving human bod can easily generate enough warmth. Provided, that is, its heat isn't being dragged away by wind infiltration of one's outer clothing.

Waterproofing is usually a complete disaster if the outer material cannot breathe. The body's natural leakage of moisture condenses on the inside of the waterproof garment and things deteriorate rapidly into a mobile sauna. As I discovered yesterday with my proofed jacket. The same held true for the nasty proofed nylon cagoules of my youth. The cloth was so moisture tight that the bod and its inner clothing quickly became wetter than standing under a shower without the cagoule!

The moment one started exercising the bod started sweating and the sealed envelope of the cagoule acted just like a hideously expensive trash or bin bag. Decades ago I bought a cagoule for my daily 30 mile [round trip] commute just as winter started. A horrible mistake which I regret to this day. I was much better off with a leaky jacket with a newspaper stuffed up the chest. A shower-proofed traditional cotton anorak would have been infinitely better than  either garment.

I would arrive at work sweating profusely. Unable to cool off because of the cagoule, which I couldn't take off without freezing to death in sopping wet clothing. I would be suffering from heat exhaustion into the bargain! It was a vicious spiral of runaway climate warming. As the bod increased in temperature it would sweat even more profusely as it desperately tried to cool itself. Just as it had done perfectly well for the last 5 million years before they invented plastic bags cagoules. With no shower facilities and only a toilet cubicle to change in, removing every item of sopping wet clothing before starting work was a nightmare! I rode home in my working clothes so every working day produced two lots of laundry. Like a fool I believed the Damart thermal vest hype from the saturation advertising on British TV. So I had two Damart vests to dispose of too. The modern, dirt cheap, polyester underclothes are superb compared with their useless wares. They were far too thick and caused heavy sweating which felt cold against the skin. Unlike the thin stuff which has no capacity to soak up sweat and so rapidly gets rid of it for you without a single TV advert being involved. I stopped buying anything heavily advertised on TV after that. If it doesn't sell by word of mouth alone it is mentally filed under "complete crap." 

The trouble back then was that big names in climbing [like Blacks of Greenock] sold these damned, polyurethane proofed, nylon, bin bags with arms and taped seams. Cagoule sounds so much more more of everything compared with long, shapeless, baggy, nylon anorak, which catches the wind and makes you sweat like a mobile sauna, if you so much as think of moving a muscle while wearing it. It even sounds French. Which means "posh" in English even if you do have to shout loudly to be understood. No doubt many a camping and climbing shop rang to the cries of an Cagoule, silver plate! Or not, as I seriously doubt many buyers even made the Froggy association of a 1950s balaclava with their ridiculously over-sized and soon to be steamy, poly bin bag with arms.

I always felt that my overheating problems were entirely my own fault. These same bricks and mortar, box shifters even sold polyurethane proofed shells over wadding duvet jackets. Specifically for climbing in the wet of South American mountaineering expeditions. Where real down would get wet and lose all its thermal insulation. So I made my own anorak shell over a wadding jacket. Whereupon I quickly began to sweat profusely on my first winter ascent in Snowdonia. There I was at the top of the ridge soaked to the skin and rapidly chilling inside a perfectly dry jacket outer. With the wind blowing hard it was impossible to remove the jacket to cool off and dry naturally. All I could do was descend in great discomfort to my tent and rip off the waterproof outer as I sat there shivering.

Modern "technical" outdoor clothing is supposed to breathe as well as shed external wetness. Rain will hopefully roll off by beading long before the material becomes saturated and [therefore] as non-breathable as a hideously expensive, polythene bag. We are often talking about many hundreds of pounds/dollars/euros here! Failure to bead comes with normal wear and time so the cloth needs re-proofing to avoid internal wetness.

Better to be cool and damp on the outside than sweating and saturated from the skin outwards. Once your underwear is wet there is no changing room out on the open road or up on that mountain. Take off the shell, which is directly causing your wetness, and your protection from the wind is instantly gone. Now it's exposure at the very least. Hypothermia if you get it badly wrong. You can't even work harder to make the sweat saturated clothes and yourself dry again. It's runaway thermal reinforcement which causes even more cold, wet sweat to form right next to your skin!

I now have several [charity shop bought] outer cycling jackets and use them all in turn depending on the day's temperature and wind. Each has its own degree of wind-proofness and breathability. If I choose too warm and windproof I know I will sweat profusely. Which is far worse than being wet through from the outside. Because I cannot dry out naturally inside my windproof bag. Better to be slightly cool than the slightest bit too warm. Early and slightly chilly discomfort will often be rewarded with later warmth and perfect comfort. All without sweating if the choice of jacket was right for the day. Nor do you want the wind blowing "right through you." So the outer jacket choice is still a difficult one on some days. Removing your scull cap and opening the jacket on long climbs obviously helps. Though it has to be done before you feel that horrible tingle of wetness on your back. Only to freeze on the inevitable descent that follows every climb.

The advantage of lucky charity shop finds is that there is no huge investment involved. Buying an expensive jacket means you will want to wear it even when it is inappropriate on the day. It will often be the only one you own. Further reducing a vital freedom of choice. Read the user reviews and do not be fooled by the potato-stenciled hype of the manufacturer's advertising claims. Which are repeated over and over [and over] again on every box shifter's website. Read the vital negative reviews and weigh them carefully against the many 'glowing' positives. How can one person be so wrong when so many others are so [unfailingly] honest? Think about it before smelting your plastic to some online box shifter's website.

My early years on the trike in Denmark were an uncomfortable mixture of being much too warm and being achingly, agonizingly cold. As my wardrobe steadily improved I could stop wearing fleece jackets. Which usually looked the part but were far too warm for cycling while hopelessly open to the slightest breeze. Finally, I had a jacket suitable for every 3 degrees from -15 upwards. Even then I would often have to take a jacket off and stuff it in or on top of the saddlebag. Which might make me feel a bit exposed to the cold but was far better than sweating.

In winter I went through daily agonies of finger and toe pain through a lack of suitable gloves, socks and shoes. I bought "ski gloves" from supermarkets at first. Only to discover they had no windproof qualities at all! My feet would look literally dark purple to black in the bath afterwards and I suffered endlessly from cracked heels and itchy chilblains. I now use MTB winter boots and the agonizing pain is [almost] long forgotten. Ventilated cycling shoes are for summer but still make excellent drains for rain to run through.

They offer no protection from the cold and many overshoes are expensive, short lived, waterproof crap. Nor do they offer a seal to the sole where water is thrown up by the front tyre. Some "big name" overshoes won't tolerate a walk around one supermarket before the crap tape they use around the edges is badly frayed. Zips are a fragile and vulnerable area of a cheaply produced, ridiculously priced, polythene bag with decorative advertising graphics and superfluous guff. You might as well tie a supermarket carrier bag over each shoe. Now there's an idea! I've actually used the thin ones from the tear-off roll at the checkouts when my feet were soaked and achingly cold. These bags are best thought of as disposable [one use] though. Much like some very expensive overshoes!

Most of the GripGrab gloves I've tried are poor in my own personal experience. The "winter" gloves are either not remotely windproof enough for winter, or sweat badly due to being far too moisture tight. On borderline days the gloves will often not come off. Or not go back on again due to the lining becoming uncomfortably wet. The palm padding is complete crap and has nothing whatever to do with cycling anyway. Cycling on the tops and bends of dropped [racing] bars places the handlebars directly between the pads on the gloves. Even when I have the handlebars padded with silicone strips and layers of tape aching hands are almost expected within a few short miles.

Not so with my scooter gloves. Which aren't well padded but don't give me aching hands either. The deplorable quality of the internal stitching of GripGrab often makes changing gear on the Campag Ergos a really painful experience on the finger tips! That doesn't leave much to like, does it? I wear the GripGrab fingered gloves when it becomes too cold for finger-less mitts. Below about 50F, 10C is my usual, borderline particularly if it is raining. Moisture on the bare fingers suffers from accelerated evaporative cooling due to the air movement of cycling. What is comfortable when dry is certainly not when wet and exposed. The scooter gloves are usually brought out below about 40F and are good well down to freezing. Thin polyester gloves are used as liners when it gets really cold. The liners can be removed if they prove too warm without having lost the advantage of the outer gloves. The scooter gloves have a breathable membrane which is rather marginal at times and varies between identical examples. Presumably the manufacturer's get different batches or the membranes are punctured y poor workmanship. The membrane is absolutely vital to stop the wind when it is cold and any leakage can be sorely felt.

The decision to remove any clothing has to be made quickly. Overheating is always bad and will cause acute discomfort equally quickly. Climbs are the worst cause of overheating but you never feel you want to lose your speed. Stopping, dismounting and taking off clothes, hat or gloves is always a tough choice. Particularly if it is windy.

I wear a proper, finely knitted cycling cardigan with rear pockets when I need extra warmth in the cooler months. It has very little wind-proofing so goes under the outer jacket of the day. As soon as I feel that slightest tingle of warmth on my spine the jacket comes off followed by the cardigan. Back on with the jacket to stay warm. I soon learned I had to stuff the jacket temporarily between my knees. Haning it anywhere on the trike made it an oil or grass and gravel magnet. Due to its thinness and flexibility the cardigan can be stuffed unceremoniously into a corner of the saddlebag, Then I can put my gloves back on and I'm off climbing again.

I usually choose a break in a hedge for shelter from the wind while I change. Performing a simultaneous "natural stop" can save stopping later out of sheer desperation when there may be no privacy at all! Many "serious" Danish cyclists will just stop on the side of a busy road. However, the more reserved Englishman prefers some shelter from prying eyes! Old age and natural stops seem to go hand in hand. [If you know what I mean.]

I do like GripGrab's scull caps under my helmet in autumn/winter/spring. Keeping my head warm makes a huge difference to my comfort on the trike. They are also very easy to remove if I do start to overheat. GG do two types with the thicker and warmer one a life saver for the ears when it gets much below freezing. The autumn/spring one is also soft inside for comfort. Both caps are neatly cut to fit a real human head and are available even in my [compound inflated] size.

Some scull caps are no more than nylon bobble hats without the bobble. These rely far too much on stretch for a fit. Which compresses the sticky-out bits of your noddle which have absolutely no desire or need to be compressed. Particularly in cold weather! The GripGrab scull caps just fit superbly without the slightest feeling of pressure over the ears. I tried several different balaclavas for the -10C and below days but hated them. I couldn't breathe through the cloth without it getting rapidly wet and smelly. I feared bronchial problems from the constant build up of bacteria in the cloth.  

I wear scooter gloves for most of the coldest winter but even these can become sweaty due to the membrane not breathing well enough. Fortunately they are always chosen to be slightly over-sized so can be easily removed and replaced without leaving me at severe risk of frostbite. Unlike the completely and utterly worthless Sealskinz. Polythene bags with thin cloth over them in my extremely costly and extremely painful experience! They quickly became saturated inside on one very cold ride. I stopped and removed the gloves with great difficulty and then found myself with no usable gloves, miles from home, in very cold conditions!

Nothing I tried would make them go back on because the finger linings and membranes had dragged themselves out on my strangely moist fingers! At such low temperatures sweating is completely unforgivable for anything claiming to be a "technical" glove! Before you jump to any conclusions: They fitted easily when dry. After that I wouldn't even  use them for taking out the dustbin! They make far better dustbin fodder. And did! I wouldn't give them away to a charity shop because they might have put somebody else in the same danger as I had experienced. Some scooterists would be grateful for any gloves. I have lost count of the number of idiots who ride with one bare hand on the bars and the other in their pocket! Maturity often beckons but is seldom heeded. 

I should mention that I wear supermarket-cheap, long, thin, polyester underwear in the cooler months. There may be better stuff in the cycling shops but Bangladesh will probably be involved whatever you buy. Just check for hard seams or [worse] hard knots in the crutch area. Or you will get saddle sore as surely as sitting on a house brick to do that hundred mile ride!

I prefer bare legs, even when it is cold, because it seems to be a form of natural temperature self regulation. I have even been told off for having bare legs by other cyclists because the pros always cover up at anything below 90F even in full sunshine. It is a regular talking point outside supermarkets as [usually pensioners] ask if I my legs are not cold?

Not wearing tights under racing shorts tends to cool the nether regions far more than my calves. So this is why I start  wearing them as the temperature drops. They also protect my bare leggies from cold and unpleasant tire spray of course. Denmark is not remotely as wet as the UK or all this warm clothing nonsense would make even less sense. You'll need to learn how to cope with the wet without sweating. A far more difficult exercise than surviving mere cold. 

Everything I wear on the trike, except the jackets, get washed in the machine on a daily basis. NO exceptions. The jackets take their turn about once a week or even more often. It doesn't seem to do them any harm at all at 30 degrees. Though I don't have any of the [hideously expensive] lightweight, patented waterproof stuff to worry about. This may need special treatment so read the seemingly compulsory thick stack of attached, hype labels first!

None of the above is "gospel." It just works for me after years of practice at getting it completely wrong. Learning from your mistakes is far more valuable than living and dying in sublime smugness. I find that there are more than enough "perfect" people to go around already. So I see it as my job to tell it how it is in the real world. Which seems to have surprisingly little to do with the endless hype and gushing product loyalty of the forums and "independent" reviews. I ignore all commercial reviews as total bølløcks as  matter of personal survival. All this "awe" for a label attached in the same Asian sweatshop? Where sleepless children are routinely chained to their sewing machine benches between disastrous fires? Yeah, right! Let's all have a good drool onto our disposable CF crossbars.

There are some British firms too which are resting on very tarnished and badly faded laurels. "Hand made" in the "dark satanic mills 'oop north" does not make them any better. Just much more expensive and more obviously "hand made". Mills exist, where I can only imagine they employ new recruits on a daily basis. Then fire them at the end of the day if their output wasn't complete and utter crap. Perhaps I was just unlucky in receiving several rejects filched from the waste bin in the yard and sold through approved box shifters online dealers? Whatever.

A short ride in thinning mist under heavy grey skies. Returned suitably laden for my troubles. 9 miles trying to avoid stopping to search for my lights [again.] 


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2 Nov 2015

2nd November 2015 Call me misty.

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Monday 2nd 50F, 10C, heavy grey overcast, misty and mostly calm. Oh dear, this means they will have to use electricity to make all the wind turbines go round! No problem, they can just use taxpayer's money. They have tons of the stuff just looking for a better home. Billions to be handed out, willy-nilly, to anybody who asks for it. Provided, of course, that they are not Danish, poor, old or sick. Time for a walk!

I walked for two and a half hours over some very rough ground for probably 6 miles through the forest. My latest charity shop walking jacket proved to be a mobile sauna. My clothes were literally sopping wet by the time I came home. My hip was hurting too so I must have overdone it. Silly old sod! The mist grew thicker as time passed. Not that it stopped the juggernauts drivers from speeding while using their mobile phones. One driver hardly glanced in my direction as I jumped onto the verge, so taken up was he with his fascinating conversation! Within 200 yards his vast lorry was completely invisible except for his bright red, rear fog light. It's nice to know these "professionals" of the road are concentrating hard when conditions are so bad! Very thick mist all day and my hip was hurting after my long walk. So another rest day.


Click on any image for an enlargement.

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1 Nov 2015

1st November 2015 Rant-adoodle-dooo!

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Sunday 1st 48F, 9C, a light breeze, but heavy overcast and a bit misty. Light winds promised all day. A quiet rural walk. Thousands of gulls rose in a huge cloud and settled again. A large bird of prey took umbrage at my presence from some hundreds of yards away and mewed angrily all the way to a village tree.

I had a good laugh at the Danish DR News channel's website today. DR is the Danish version of the UK's BBC with a similar obsession with national politics. The piece was talking about home-owner's legal responsibilities. Once upon a time, children, there was a legend that homeowners were and still are required by law to keep the pavement outside their properties clear and clean, This is and was to avoid putting pedestrians in danger! Remember, children, that many older people can no longer afford a car nor even want one. So they must risk their brittle bones by traversing the mountainous lateral moraines and icy ridges on their way to the village shop. Not the the car owners sop there because that would involve paying a penny extra on everything which would be better spent on fuel. So the pavements should bekept clear for those less fortunate than the commuting homeowner. Ho-ho-ho. Tee-hee-hee. This requirement really is hilarious! Are we talking about Denmark here? Tell that to the homeowners who drag moraines of gravel onto the pavements and cycle paths from their drives for literally decades on end. The news page reported that autumn leaves are included along with snow and ice and gravel clearing. Hee-hee-hee-hee! Woohoo! You couldn't make this up! There are trees and weeds and even crops like oil seed rape growing in the compost from decades of leaf fall outside some houses.

Many proud homeowners use a ride-on tractor with a wide rake fitted behind to make their vast areas of parking area gravel into neat lines. But they don't give a toss for all the gravel they rake so regularly and enthusiastically onto the pavements, cycle paths and verges. This law really is the stuff of children's make-believe. A ride through any village will show that by far the vast majority don't give a shit about clearing deep snow from "their" bit of pavement! They drive in and out through the high banks of snow made by the snow plows without a thought for the condition of "their" pavement.

The number who clear leaves in any village chosen at random can probably be counted on one knuckle of one finger of one hand. Never mind fingers! What a sick joke! The Council can't even clean up outside their own offices! Leaves, gravel, litter and glass are the norm. What a perfect example! Are they going to prosecute themselves and then pay the fine with rate payer's money? How will they afford their designer furniture and original artworks then?

A hedgerow Spindle tree [Euonymous europaeus] packed with its pretty but poisonous fruits. The wood takes a sharp point so was once used for making spindles.

I rode down to the Helnæs Peninsula looped around the quiet lanes and then back by a different route once on the mainland. Another rather grey and sad day but the wind stayed very light. Light winds make a huge difference to my speed and I regularly glance down to read 18-20mph on the flat.

The hedgerows are stuffed with wild fruit at the moment. Even to the point where a woman had stopped on a busy road, with double white lines for miles, to pick rose hips. The traffic was having to pause for oncoming traffic to clear before they could pass her car. No, I couldn't believe it either. My deaf left ear had stopped whistling until I ate my second sandwich. Then the deafening whistle suddenly returned with a vengeance! It looks like another visit to the quack is required. I am fairly sure that the whistle is only a symptom of my temporary deafness. Surely it can't be due to riding and walking in the cold? I have been doing that for decades. I had my ears syringed and it was reported they were clear. It took a week to get normal hearing back in the left ear but it was very short lived before I could only hear high pitched sounds on that side.

The whistle is so loud it is exhausting. It reminds me of the VHF shriek of a lathe cutting stainless steel. I measured 110dB at several meters distance on my SPL meter but could not go any closer despite wearing professional, headphone-type, ear defenders. The operator was standing there with no ear protection [at all] right beside the machine. By law he should never have been exposed to that sound pressure for mere seconds let alone a full 10 hour shift without lawful meal breaks. No, they don't have "health and safety at work" in Denmark either. So watch out for those filthy pavements outside the Council offices! :-) 38 miles. Just passed 5000 miles for the year. Tragic on so many levels!

Click on any image for an enlargement.


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