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Spotted in Meadowhall…

Untitled

not really sure what they are trying to say about cycling here…

My new Brompton

Brompton

Finally it’s arrived my new shiny Brompton!

Christmas Bicycle Lights Merry Christmas!

Bike Walking

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Christmas Bicycle Lights
(via Naturally Cycling Manchester)

Christmas Bicycle Lights

(via Naturally Cycling Manchester)

Lego Cycle Chic 2010

Lego Cycle Chic is to be found all over at the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark.

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Mikael from Copenhagen Cycle Chic (although for some reason he is not in Copenhagen, but by the quayside at Ribe, where I went on holiday last year.

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Ribe - if you look carefully you can see a cyclist in the picture.

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According to my son, this is me on my Vintage Raleigh!

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and how cool is this?

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A lego bike on a tight rope as the back drop to the reception in the Legoland Hotel. We didn’t stay there btw, Danish Hotels being way out of our budget, but I can definitely recommend the evening buffet!

Bike outside a Charity Shop

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The shop wasn’t open, so I assume someone had left it there for them to sell. It was still there an hour later, so at least no-one had nicked it!

Valetta

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It’s a long boring story, but basically I haven’t been well for about 5 weeks or so and my bike is still at work. I have good and bad days, but generally can only manage to do one thing a day before I am exhausted and need to rest again. Anyway, enough of the boring stuff! It was a beautiful day, the other day and I needed to get a couple of things that we’d run out of from the supermarket. It’s just over a mile, but it’s a pretty boring walk and driving seemed a bit over the top, so I decided to see if I could manage riding a bike. I had to dig out my old Valetta and I must admit, after riding my Gazelle for 18 months, I wasn’t sure how I’d cope with derailler gears and toe clips again; but I remembered I’d gone 13 years without riding a bike at all and managed to remember without too much trouble. april2010_064april2010_063

I was just making excuses because I just don’t like this bike! I retreived it out of the cellar and dusted it off a bit, it was pretty filthy, but I was in no mood (or state for that matter) to be bike cleaning. However, both tires were completely flat so I had to sort that out. I also managed, by some miracle, to locate the key for the D-lock without too much trouble.

So I set off. The first thing I noticed pushing it up the garden path (a 1 in 2 slope) was how light it was. I’d always cursed this bike as it is hardly a lightweight bike, but it is noticeably lighter than the Bloom. Then I got on and realised how tiny it felt. I felt like I’d got on a kids bike. The steering felt twitchy, although not too bad once I got going and the toe clips were second nature, luckily I had left the Valetta in a sensible gear and didn’t have to worry about changing till I was ready and confident. The next thing that really irritated me was having to ride bow legged to avoid the D-lock. It did come with a bracket to attach it to the frame, but that lasted all of a week before shearing off. Great quality from AXA there! I did manage to make it slightly more comfortable, by rotating the D-lock round for the return journey, so it was reduced to a minor inconvenience.

As I went along I was relieved to find I wasn’t finding it too hard going, but the ride is noticeably less smooth than the Bloom and the front suspension really didn’t do much to help the potholes and my wrists were really feeling it by the time I got home. Although I was taking it steady, it was pretty obvious that the Bloom wins hands down for speed, the Valetta is very sluggish, the mountain bike tires probably don’t help much here. Mind you, I was glad of that, as I’d forgotten how crap the brakes are, they probably need adjusting, but the V-brakes were never much good even when the bike was brand new.  As it is, although the Valetta is 6 years old, I doubt I’ve even done 2000 miles on it. Before I go much further, I must explain that the Valetta isn’t a terrible bike, it’s not a cheap supermarket/discount store bike, but it’s not a high quality bike either, although it does say on the frame “Hand built in England” (I suspect this translates to “assembled in Britain” from foreign parts, am I being too cynical?). What I’m trying to do here is work out why it is so unsuitable for me. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I’ve never had to suffer an ill fitting bike before (apart from the RSW II which doesn’t really count, as of course an adult bike isn’t meant for a child). The Valetta was marketed as specifically proportioned for women and the frame size is for 5’4” and under, so theoretically it should fit. Anyway, I digress, back to the story.

Then the seat began to get me, it’s not a terrible seat, I’ve had worse, but by the time I’d got back I was feeling pretty rubbed. The bike forces you to lean forwards despite my best efforts to change this (more of that later) and  instead of sitting on your sit bones, the most tender part of the female anatomy is taking the weight. Having experienced a much better seat, this one is like torture.

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Now onto posture. One of the main reasons for buying the Bloom (apart from it’s child carrying abilities) was the upright riding position. I don’t particularly like leaning forwards or  the straight bar position on mountain bikes, which puts your wrists in an awkward position. The Valetta grips themselves are quite comfy in soft rubber, but the position isn’t. I think even drop handlebars are better, as at least you get some variety in positioning.

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To improve the riding position I replaced the handlebar stem with an adjustable one and the bike shop added in some spacers (which came in the colours they had lying around - hence the odd turquoise one) to give it a bit more lift. This did at least allow me to ride for an extra month when I was pregnant, but it’s hardly great, as I still end up in a very hunched position, which isn’t great after eating, or if I’m feeling bloated. Riding a bike isn’t much fun if it’s making you feel sick!

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However, it is the seat position I have the greatest trouble with. Even with the seat raised to the point where I can just barely touch the ground with the tip of my toe (about my limit when you have to keep stopping for traffic lights), my knee is still quite bent at the bottom position of the crank. I’ve moved the seat back to it’s furthest position, since I took this photo, but it makes very little difference. From the rust where the paint has rubbed off, I must’ve tried this before, I think I’d had to move it forwards when I had the Bobike Maxi child seat on the back to give a bit more room for my daughter. As you can see, the ATB adapter is still on the bike.

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I’ve never really understood what is meant by bicycle geometry, but reading this post by “Lovely Bicycle” has made it clearer, so I decided to do a comparison of the Valetta and Bloom. They both have 26” wheels so it was a fairly simple job to get them approximately the same scale. The Bloom photo is from the Gazelle website as it’s much easier to see what’s going on without the childseats in the way. Lining them up on the centre point of the front chainring it’s fairly obvious that the seat post on the Bloom is inclined much further back. Although I’ve moved the seat back on the Valetta, I’ve also got my seat moved a similar distance back on my Bloom in relation to the stock photo, so the comparison is pretty valid. The extra couple of inches makes a big difference and I can get my leg much straighter on the Bloom and also set the seat a bit lower to make stopping easier and safer with the kids on.

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Below, you can see the angle of the steering on the Bloom is inclined much further back. This makes it much less twitchy, something which is absolutely essential when you’ve got a wriggling toddler in the front seat!

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Obviously the two bikes are designed for different things, but pedalling on a bike is pretty fundamental to getting the thing to move, so finding a comfortable way to pedal is a fairly important consideration. At least I now have a bike that enables me to do this. Now I just need to find a bike that does this and is aesthetically pleasing too…

I am hatching a plan. More to follow soon (hopefully).

Manchester Cycle Chic

Part 2

Lunchtime - people on the move

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