Thursday, 12 September 2013

Bit of an update

After my bruising experience finishing off the Welsh climbs I decided it was time to take a break for a few weeks. The school summer holidays are always a very busy time of year and travelling to various parts of the country can be time consuming and accommodation is always difficult and expensive to get hold of. The way I see it the best thing to do is to spend July and August training and preparing for the autumn.

I now have only 33 of the 100 climbs still to complete and my autumn campaign will be starting very soon with a trip to Scotland. I’m looking forward to taking on the Scottish climbs and a summer of decent training rides will hopefully have whipped me into the sort of shape needed to do them justice. We’ll see. I’ll need to be in good shape as I’ll be heading to the Lake District at some point in October to take on the climbs up there and there are some pretty scary bits of road to ride up. I’ve certainly been feeling a bit stronger on the bike lately but the real test of my fitness will, as ever, come when I get out of the car after several hours of driving at the top of some wind blasted hill top and attempt cycle up a famous hill climb. I very much doubt I’ll be noticeably faster but I will hopefully be a little fresher at the end of the longer climbs.

A few technical changes

I’ve also used the time since my trip to Wales to get the bike set up for the challenges ahead. One of the most significant changes to the bike has seen me re-enter the 21st century and have STI shifter and brake levers fitted as a replacement for the bar end shifters I have been using up until now. The reason behind this change is quite simple; bar end shifters are nice and light, reliable and simple to repair when away from home. They do however restrict my ability to climb up steep bits of road out of the saddle as they stick out of the end of the handle bars. Changing gear with my knee is painful and very inconvenient and I’ve noticed recently that I’m now tending to attack the steeper sections on some of the climbs with a bit more force and want to get out of the saddle more. STI shifters leave the ends of the handle bars uncluttered and arguably look better. The ever helpful chaps at Cycles Scuderia fitted the shifters and also installed some Problem Solvers Travel Agents for me. These are beautifully machined pulleys that enable STI brake levers with a very low amount of cable pull to operate V-brakes. I’ve never been a fan of cantilever bakes and have always preferred V brakes as I find them easier to fiddle with.

These work astonishingly well and they are very nicely made.

The Travel Agents work brilliantly and I’ve suffered no loss of braking following the change of brake levers. Eagle eyed viewers of my videos will notice that I had the new levers fitted before my recent trips to Wales and apart from the odd messed up gear changes I’m getting on well with them (user error and lack of practice). Having the new levers fitted was also a good excuse to finally cut the steerer tube down to a more aesthetically pleasing length, and thanks to the guys at the bike shop the Uncle John now has properly fitted bar tape, not stuff that looks like it was fitted by a drunk monkey.

No your eyes aren't deceiving you; That is a cut down steerer and properly applied bar tape (I didn't do the bar tape)

In other news my faithful Surly Cross Check, the bike I first used when starting out on the 100 climbs, has finally been stripped down and re-sprayed ahead of a complete rebuild. It was starting to look pretty tatty so I took it to Argos Cycles in Bristol who did an excellent job of turning it from a dull scuffed black to a bright metallic green. Argos Cycles is a fascinating place and there was a fantastic array of old steel frames hanging from the wall, all of them with recently applied and flawless paintwork.

The Cross Check starts its transformation from battered old hack to bling gentlemans cruiser

I’m very much looking forward to rebuilding it with lots of shiny bits and, after 6 years of abuse and hard work, allowing it to have a gentler next few years as a bike for use on summer day trips.

Something to keep you interested

I have never been happy about the fact that my last video of the summer was of me suffering badly on the climb up Bwlch-y-Groes. It isn’t a particularly great watch so ahead of the videos from Scotland I thought I’d post something a little faster. I really enjoyed the Black Mountain climb in Mid Wales and the descent from the top down to the start was even better. The video doesn’t show me riding at my fastest ( I was still getting used to the new brake set up and slightly changed riding position) but hopefully it will whet your appetite for the Scottish footage that I hope to be editing very soon.


Right that's all for now. Scotland awaits.

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