Monday, 26 December 2011

New Bike

After riding my 1947 Humber 3 speed recently on a one day 115km tour of Ko Sado, I was left pushing my 3 speed up some long hills while watching my cycling pal Brian fly up the mountain in low gear on his lightweight Cinelli road bike. And a recent near miss with a car ( not my fault ) while riding home one night got me thinking about purchasing a modern lightweight bike for my regular commutes into the bicycle shop and the odd long distance ride when time allows. My vintage Humber is my favorite bike by far but it has it's limitations manly due to it's weight and gearing, I will still use the Humber in fine weather for some touring and pottering but I am not keen to ride such a precious bike in the rain or snow and the near miss at speed with a car in the rain at night was a bit scary to say the least. So I have purchased a 2012 Kona Jake cyclocross bike and a Italian Kask k-50 helmet.

Why a Kona ?, well for starters they have a lifetime warranty on the frame and I've owned a Kona before and was very happy with the quality and price. My new bike comes with the 2012 Shimano Tiagra 10 speed group set with a Shimano 105 rear derailleur and being a cross bike means I can commute , tour , ride off road and if I fit some road tyres it's basically a lightweight road bike with cantilever brakes. The first up grade with be a decent set of pedals maybe the Shimano PD M324 with a rat trap platform on one side and SPDs on the other side. I haven't purchased a new bike in over 6 years and have never owned a cross bike at all but I'm sure it will be perfect for the style of riding I like to do. As for helmets they are not required by Japanese law so 90 % of cyclists don't wear them on their daily commutes only for racing or official events ,but after several near misses with cars at 30km per hour I feel it's time to start wearing one on a daily basis as I did when I lived back in NZ where everybody must wear a helmet by law .

Pictured above is the 2012 Kona Jake , it's so popular here in Japan that only the large frame sizes are left so basically it's already sold out, they were only two 53cm frames in stock so I was very to get one !

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Winter Cycling

Well here in Japan it's now winter and with that comes rain , at least in Niigata we get plenty of rain and not far off we will soon see snow in the city as well. By now most car drivers have already changed their tyres to the winter snow tyres and some cyclists have already stopped cycling but it doesn't have to be that way if you prepare yourself for colder weather and rain !. So how do you keep cycling over the winter ?. Well first of all cycling is an aerobic activity that actually keeps you warm so the next thing you need to think about is how to stay dry . If you plan on cycling throughout the winter you will need a waterproof - breathable cycle jacket made from something like Gore tex or Hydrofoil. That has a long back flap to keep the rain , mud of your rear end !. If the jacket has reflective strips that's even better as then you will be easily seen by motorists. Having a fold away hood is also handy as it can be unzipped and used as needed when it really pours down hard. Water proof shoes are available , but mostly quite expensive and I have found my Shimano cycle shoes which look more like a outdoor sneaker than a traditional cycle show to be pretty good at keeping my feet dry in mild rain.

Another item you will need are warm waterproof gloves as it's not really possible to cycle safely with frozen fingers. Your hands must be warm to safely operate the brakes and gears of whatever bicycle you are riding. There is a vast range of winter cycle gloves available so pick the pair which suits your budget and the temp you cycle in etc.

As for what type of bicycles are suitable for cycling in Niigata , that depends on where you live and daily commute. If you live close to work and can use the road and cycle slowly it is possible to ride most types of bicycles. The most dangerous types of bicycles to ride in winter are standard road bikes and track racer type single speeds because of their narrow tyres and lack of grip makes them unsafe at higher speeds and very dangerous on snow or ice. The best type of bicycle for Niigata's winter is a MTB as with their wide tyres and extra grip and a vast range of gears they can be ridden in almost any conditions. I have ridden a MTB in - 3 deg snowstorms with no problems at all. Another type of bicycle that is also suitable is a Cyclocross bike which has 700 x 35 mm tyres as they are also cable of riding in most conditions as well. So wrap up in your wet weather clothing and keep cycling !. It will be a lot faster than driving your car or taking the bus as the traffic jams over winter only get worse and on a bicycle you can avoid this problem.

Pictured above is my New Zealand made cycle jacket called the Storm Trooper , it was purchased online from a company called Ground Effect and is made from Hydrofoil and is waterproof and breathable , it retails in NZ online for $260 which is Japanese yen 15606 .

Keep Cycling and have fun
Cheers Don

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Lugged bicycle frame construction

Recently I have been thinking about building a classic lugged bicycle frame for myself as after having built about 10 replica penny farthing bicycles over the years I thought it might be a good time to start on a conventional type frame. At present I'm building my last replica penny farthing for a customer in Tokyo and really enjoying it, apart from the fact that living in Japan makes building such a bike a rather long and difficult task as all the parts have to be imported from NZ, Australia or the USA. But as this bicycle is to be my last replica penny farthing I'm taking the time to make it authentic as possible to the late 1880s style.

I recently purchased the above book which I'm currently reading and later next year I hope to start building my first lugged frame. I've never attempted to build such as frame before, but then again I didn't know anything about building replica penny farthing bicycles either back in 1994 !, so I'm sure with a lot of study it's possible. If you are thinking about building your own lugged bicycle frame I recommend the above book as it's perfect for the beginner.