Friday, 16 May 2014

Not the new bicycle I was planning on

So, I posted about needing to start looking for a new bicycle.  And I have purchased a new bicycle.  But I didn't pay an awful lot of attention to my previous criteria, although it does have a nice relaxed riding posture and built in mudguards, so that's good.  And it's red.

It also has cupholders.  And two seats.  Whee!
Steed for two
Ladies and Gentlebubbles, I am now the proud owner, via the medium of excitable down-to-the-line ebaying, of half a Schwinn Tango Tandem!

I am thrilled at the prospect of whizzing about with a friend on this shiny machine.  And it has cupholders, so we can get coffee.  There will be adventures.  And cupholding.  Or perhaps the tiny squirrel will sit in the cupholders.  There may well be picnics.  There will have to be a basket or panniers or something.  Heads will turn.  I will wave at small children.  And drink beverages from my cupholders.  I may even learn not to cut through the traffic like a maniac.

This isn't a totally spur-of-the-moment rash decision.  I have had my eye on a tandem for a while as they are just such sociable things.  So when one so stylish and unusual (as far as I'm aware, Schwinn don't sell these outside the USA these days) came along I had to throw my hat in the ring for it.  Especially as red is one of my favourite colours.  And did I mention the cupholders?  One of these days I will offer to pick you up at the station and get even more funny looks riding to town with a missing stoker.  Just a back set of pedals going round and round all by themselves.

So... back to how I need to start looking for a new bicycle...

Friday, 9 May 2014

So I need a new bicycle

Last week my noble steed of a bicycle was condemned by a man in a bikeshop.  This ruined my day. Maybe even my week.

Back when the beloved bicycle was shiny and new
Apparently, there were things wrong with the headset, the gear shift (that one I knew about - the bike shop broke it a few years ago), the bottom bracket, the chain and cassette, front forks and all the cables.  So I'm not going to get it repaired, by the looks of things.  This lovely machine has seen me through a lot - in the 6 years I have owned it, it was my main transport for three years (and my only transport for one of those).  I cycled miles and miles, through wind and rain and snow.

One Tuesday it snowed and I was the only person who made it to my church housegroup, having cycled 3 miles to get there.  Several weeks I did my whole shopping trip and got back home with basket and panniers groaning, probably carrying more weight in groceries than the bicycle weighed itself.  I started a house move on this lovely machine and on one memorable occasion had a toaster strapped behind me as I made my way around the dual carriageway.  I also cycled along the Deeside Way most autumns to go brambling and once made it all the way to a dance practice (about 10 miles) as a built-in warm-up.

But living slightly outside and receiving very little maintenance (for I am nothing if not a lazy cyclist, and these beasts don't need MOTs so you don't get reminded) have taken their toll.  While my bicycle is still rideable just now, I am soon going to be in the market for a replacement.  So I've been thinking about the things that I like about my current bicycle and would look for in a future purchase.

Slack seat tube angle

Yes, I had to google around to find out what I meant, and it turns out that it's this.  Basically I like my feet to be quite far forward relative to the saddle.  A sport cyclist will tell you that this makes me less aerodynamic and thus less energy efficient, but I'm not that aerodynamic at the best of times and have no aspirations towards sport cycling so a slack seat tube angle suits me.  My Carmel (I mentioned that my current cycle is a Specialised Globe Carmel, right?  Named after the first place I ever went on holiday) introduced me to the wonder and comfort of a slack seat tube angle and I'm not going back if I can help it.

Upright riding posture

When I bought my Carmel I was looking for an upright ride and I still like it.  If anything, in future I would like an even more upright posture so there's no weight going through my wrists and hands at all.  I struggle sometimes with the Carmel's handlebars being a tiny bit too far from me.  Essentially I aspire to be, like Miss Hubbard, an upright lady on an upright bike.


The step-through on the Carmel is super low.  This makes it easy to get on and off, even when wearing skirts and heels.  I am nothing if not a stylish cyclist.  I expect that a slightly higher step-through would work for me too, but I don't think I'll ever be going back to the diamond frame of my childhood.  A higher step-through would also raise the centre of gravity, which is low on the Carmel and weird until you get used to it.

I have a Medium frame in the Carmel, but that's the biggest it came in (there's a rant for another time about vanity sizing and how it is assumed that women don't want to be 'big' or 'large') and I'm at pretty much the top of the seat post.  A slightly taller frame would probably be good, because adjustable things always work better further from the extremes of the range.

Front suspension

I don't need this.  With big hybrid tyres I don't think that front suspension really adds anything, especially as I frequently carry loads in a handlebar basket.  If even less of my weight is being transferred through my arms then suspension forks are just another thing that can get rusty and require maintenance.  So that's no for my next velocipede.


For about 4 years I had 21 gears, then the bike shop broke my front shift (a rant for another day, they only did anything about it when I was really sarky) and I had the top 14 for a year or so.  That wasn't any serious hardship as I hardly used the granny gears at the bottom.  And a year or so ago the front shift failed completely and I was left with the middle 7 of the original 21.  Now I coast down a lot of hills because I can't keep up with the spin of the pedals on the highest gear.  Next time I'm toying with the idea of hub gears rather than derailleur - similar gear range, ability to change gear while at a standstill, requiring less maintenance and allowing for an encased chain for cleanliness.

Cargo capacity

I added a front bicycle basket and a rear pannier rack to my Carmel.  This gives me a 30kg load capacity, which I might have exceeded on occasion.  Makes my bicycle a practical mode of transport.  Makes for wonderful picnics.  The only thing I would change about this would be to look for a bicycle that comes with an integral pannier rack that is a part of the frame.  Perhaps one day I will add a cargo cycle of some description to my bicycle stable, for getting really hardcore.

At some point I will get over my devastation and start to research my next bicycle purchase and these look like they will form the basis of my selection criteria.

Experimental Neep Cake

Last week it was my turn to provide cake at work.  Usually I make two recipes as previously we have had a chocoholic faction and an anti-chocolate faction, or nut allergies but this time there weren't going to be many of us and I was away at a conference for a long day on Tuesday (cake happens on Thursdays).  So I only had time to make one cake.  And it had been a busy weekend, so I didn't get to practice.

I made a neep cake.  The principle is that the carrot in a carrot cake recipe can be replaced weight-for-weight with neep.  I used this recipe, although I used lemon juice rather than orange and made it in a loaf tin.  And with trepidation I took it into the office to impose it on my workmates.

At the meeting I confessed immediately that I had brought Experimental Neep Cake and everyone agreed to give it a shot.  The general consensus was that even though it tasted a bit neepy at first, it was indeed cake and not untasty.

There was hardly any left at the end of the meeting, so I'll take that as a good sign:
The last piece was taken home, where it was declared a bit too neepy to be allowed.

Now I hear you can do the same with other root vegetables...