Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year 2013

Hi Everybody

Well 2013 has almost ended and here in Niigata most people are inside watching the end of year TV special , drinking and eating and keeping warm. This year has been rather interesting for me and the bicycle shop has been busy, Fat tyre bikes are becoming more popular and on my last day of work this year I sold the top model fat tyre bike from Surly the Moonlander , Niigata is certainly the place for Fat Tyre bikes as we get a lot of snow every year. I just sold my van the other day as going car free has been a goal of mine now for quite some time so finally I did it and am very happy to be able to cycle everywhere now and not rely on having a car. I hope all of you had a great 2012 and I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year for 2013 where ever you are and of course happy cycling. The picture below is one of my favorites which was taken on a one day ride through the mountains of Sanpoku in Nov 2009

Friday, 28 December 2012

The ideal all season bike !

Good question I hear you ask ?, what is the ideal all season bike, well it depends of course where you live, what kind of weather you get and how often you cycle. As mentioned in a previous post I am now totally car free so no more car related payments nor being stuck in a traffic jam - those days are finished thank god !. If you live somewhere like me you will have to put up with a mix of weather, Niigata has about one month of rain ( rain season ) , August is very hot and humid which is unsafe for long distance riding and recently winter with heavy snow and ice is almost 4 months long - so in reality we have about 5 - 6 months of crap weather !. But it is possible to commute to work every single day of the year if you take care and ride a suitable bike to handle the changes in weather. At present as many riders will know I am riding a 2012 Kona Jake cyclo cross bike, I love it and it has never let me down whilst riding in all weathers and once winter is finished I can take of the 700 x 35c cross race tyres and fit some slicks and I have a quick road bike with cantilever brakes and 30 gears !, Yes that's right I have a 10 speed cluster on the year with a triple up front, in reality you do not often need that many gears but if you were to use this bike for touring or trying to outrun someone on a lightweight road bike those extra high gears will serve you well for sure. On my daily commute I never use the outer chain ring so have taken it off for winter to make cleaning a lot easier. Recently I found a photo of what may be the ideal all season bike.

A surly cross check with a sturmey archer 3 speed rear hub, easily held in place in the rear drop outs and with down tube shifter mounts you can fit a sturmey archer 3 speed changer easily. Of course if you do not like having your shifters on the down tube there are a few other options as well which are -

Bar end shifter
Seat post mount - might look a bit weird while changing gears e.g what are you grabbing between your legs !
Handle bar mount - Sturmey archer make one
Handle bar mount using a Dixna open clamp mount - I can sell you one of these if you need one
Stem mount - another Dixna product
Retroshift CX1 - the Goats at retroshift tell me it is possible to fit a 3 speed shifter to their CX1
Trad Sturmey 3 speed bar trigger

So as you can see there are plenty of options for mounting a 3 speed lever to your cross check frame, why a Surly cross check, its one of the few reasonably priced production frames on the market with down tube shifter bosses , you can run it geared, single speed or fixed and best of all FFF - Fatties Fit Fine yes that's right you can fit up to 700 x 45c tyres - how many cross bikes have enough space for such wide tyres - not many I can tell you and in snow wide tyres and low gears are what you really need. The reasoning for the Sturmey Archer hub is quite simple as the gears are contained inside out of the way of the muck, dirt & slush so you only need to worry about maintaining your chain, what could be more easy and if you run your cables up to the top tube using Sturmey archer clamp on guides you will have a trouble free all season bike that with the right tyres can go through snow, mud & slush and still keep up on a road ride when the weather is nice with narrow tyres.

Anyhow pictured in this post is the photo I found of a Surly cross Check with a 3 speed rear hub which I am sure the owner enjoys riding very much

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

1950s Royal Enfeild bicycle

Yes that is right , Royal Enfeild also used to make bicycles. Most people who know the name Royal Enfeild will think of their motorcycles namely the famous Bullet which is still being made but now in India not the UK. Royal Enfeild did make a line of roadsters and a few sports bikes at their factory in Redditch before they along with several other well known makes were brought up by a larger company and dissolved . A while back my mate Brian expressed interest in owning a classic British made bicycle, this most likely came about whilst riding with me on my 1947 Humber Sports bike so I said I think I can obtain something in your size for a good deal as I had traded the bicycle pictured in this posting with another New Zealand collector many years ago and on inquiring about it he said he still had it and would be keen to swap it for some other bicycles. In the end it cost me 2 complete classic bicycles and an early 1920s track racing frame , but I had the Enfeild once again and it was recently brought to Japan as part of my baggage allowance on Air NZ.

The big is quite large 58cm center to top and is currently fitted out with a set of Cyclo Benelux gears, although they are very nice , they are not that durable for long rides so most likely this bike will end up a 3 speed with a new set of 700c wheels instead of the damaged chrome 27 inch rims that are currently on it. That will make it far more reliable and a lot safer to ride . It should look great once finished with a Carradice saddle bag and Bluemels mudguards , the perfect bike for a nice long ride in the countryside . Pictured below are a few photos of it in its current condition.

Car free at last !

For some time now I have been wanting to be car free again - why you ask ?. Well to tell the truth there are so many reasons why people decide not to have cars or to give up their car and only rely on walking , public transport or cycling. In reality cycling is by far the best option as you can choose when and were you want to go and do not have to rely on a local bus schedule which in winter where I live is very unreliable to say the least. If you have the appropriate bicycle you can indeed ride all year even in winter if you also have good waterproof clothing . On my daily 8km commute  into the center of Niigata city I often pass a line of 40 plus cars stuck in a traffic jam , most likely they are saying look at that silly bugger riding in the snow when its  - 2 deg . But as I am cycling I am warm and I will get to my destination before them taking some side streets and when I do arrive at work I do not have to pay for parking plus I am keeping fit at the same time. In my personal view a real cyclist is someone who uses their bicycle daily , no matter what time of the year in snow , rain or shine. So last Sunday I sold my small Suzuki Every van to a workmate and am now car free again. If you really want to save money get rid of your car and cycle everyday - it is possible so why not give it a go !

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Winter is here !

Just last Sat my new panaracer Buster X 700 x 35 cross tyres arrived, just in time as my Maxxis mud busters were bald and would have been useless in snow. The very next day I awoke to 15cm or so of fresh snow so the new tyres good a good test whilst riding into the city. They work pretty well and offer plently of grip as well.

 Just before I went off to NZ, I replaced the cables on my 2012 Kona Jake and found out that the right hand barrel adjuster had broken and believe me it was a real mission to try and retrieve the remainder of the thread which was stuck inside the alloy down tube shift  mount. It was really my fault for not checking it sooner and putting some grease on it to stop it corroding during my winter commute with rain, snow and salted roads. In saying that I feel that there is a slight design fault with the 2012 Kona Jake , the shifter mounts should have been positioned further  down the alloy down tube to give them a better routing for the cables & outers. The problem is the head tube on the Jake is rather fat which in turn pushes the cables out at an odd angle . Apart from that I really like bike but with the new Kona Jake 2013 model the gear cables are internally routed through the frame so I guess it was not only I that thought the Jake frame had a problem !.

Because of that I am now considering changing my fame to something like the Surly Cross Check , with braze on down tube mounts, no issues with cable routing on that frame and it can take a huge 700 x 45 c cross tyre perfect for off road adventures or winter commuting, change out the fat tyres to something smaller and you have a road bike with cantilever brakes.

Pictured in this post are my new panaracer buster x cross tyres and my custom made Sag frame bag, my sister in NZ sewed this together for me from a well used Sag med sized messenger bag , it perfect for winter commuting and now I do not need a backpack which is really nice !