Sunday, 26 October 2008


Went out today on a proper fixed spin. The first one since Alan at work welded up the cassette body.Fixed it.
First impressions are good.The fun started straight off.2 mins from our house there's a fairly steep downhill called 'Soughers Lane'. I've suffered on it many a time,but never going down!

At the bottom is a busy 'A' road requiring a stop.So I'm bobbing along thinking-
"It's OK this fixed wheel malarkey"....

Well,I'm still here .So I made it. But let's just say it was a bit tasty.It was a good job I fitted a front brake anyway.

I'm heading up to Haigh Hall.A normally uneventful roadie spin I've done a million times on a million bikes. Nothing to report on the way up.Usual dance.Sunday morning roadworks ,everyone's half asleep. Luckily I'm wide awake.I'm not sure on the letter of the law but ,basically,if a bike was to 'keep left' you'd spend more time stopped.Maybe it's because the world and his granny all have big american style UPVs* but there is never enough room curbside.Cut down bars or not.Anyway . Rant over . I rode on the crown of the road past a stationary line of cars a good 1/4 mile long.I'm not sure if it was 'legal' or not ,but I'm here to tell the tale.A handshake of carbon monoxide ,and away.


From Wigan centre to Haigh Hall is uphill pretty much the whole way.The first drag is a steady slog that's over in a few minutes. The trouble is a steady slog doesnt lend itself to the fixie.So,a bit of a trackstand from the lights and I stand up and hammer.To my surprise it fairly flirts up. Nice one.

On the edge of the plantation I drop into Haigh Park. It's raining.It's autumnal. Leaves are on the floor . They are wet. Brill.Not exactly confidence inspiring after the last near death downhill.Maybe it's the 'fixed thing'but it felt OK.Soon the road kicks up sharply ,more hammering.Up up and away.Lively.

The road leads into the plantation.No cars allowed here.Just a mile or so from the hall now,and all uphill.Again,no time to slog.I'm kinda getting the hang of this.

I have a minute on the canal bridge chatting to a lad on a mountainbike.He cant beleive it.

As we're chatting a group of 4 roadie club cyclists fly past,heading up.They have a couple of minutes lead on me but on my whippet of a bonkers bike they dont stand a chance.Haha.

Just as I'm rounding the corner of the hall,such a pretty house, theyre just climbing the short steep climb up to the stable cafe.Spurned on and feeling pleased that I've caught them I attack the hill,not really expecting to get up in one.But I do.How good is this stripped out piece of plain gauge high tensile with crappy bits and 10,000 mile wheels?It might be a different tale if I had 80miles in my legs,but up to now ,it's doing OK.

I have a brew in the cafe planning my route home.I'm not sure about dropping down through the woods.Wet leaves all over the place and dogs on rollerskates,kids chasing sticks,that sort of thing.

Ah ,but what the hell.I've just been telling the mountainbike lad how surprisingly grippy road tyres are.Besides.I can try some extended fixie skids on the wet ,downhill ,leaf strewn tarmac.


Up out of the woods theres a nice little push to the gates.More hammering .I think if it was a bit steeper or a bit longer i'd have got off. A bit wobbly at the top.And it's trying to rain again.
I decide to divert through the town and call into Alans bike shop.Now open Sundays. No rest for the wicked.The rest of Wigan is open.The capitalist wheel must also be fixed.I almost felt like a punk bike messenger weaving through the shoppers. I even went on the footpath . Cheeky monkey.
I dont hang about tooo long in Alans but when I come out it's now stopped raining but it's not half gone cold and it's blowing a gale up Wallgate.Right in my face.
Time for the TT tuck.I crank right past my mums and onto the dual carriageway.Uphill back home from here.
Past the motorway I have one last little downhill to build up some momentum for the last big hill .Which was the first big hill. My final fit ,my bellyache. Soughers lane.

Well ,I'm here .It cant really be avoided.The traffic just dropped nice for me turning in at the bottom . I got on top of the gear and powered up the whole way,cranking on the bar ends.Obviously I was blowing a bit at the top ,but it's in the bag.

As a 'tester' it was a good ride. I was nt too sure how the gearing would be ( 42x15). I thought it might be a bit tall. For any bigger hills ,or a longer spin it might be,so I'll see about a sprocket swap and take it a bit farther afield.The pedal swap was a good call too. SPDs are definitely better for 'proper ' cycling. All in all though ,a good spin . Enjoyed it.No alarms and no surprises.


*Utterly Pointless Vehicles.

Thursday, 23 October 2008


Another day another bike another blog.

I've done the trendy thing and gone and done myself a 'fixie'.I'll let you know how it goes.

Up to now it goes like this......

I was at work in our fine metropolis of Manchester.Over the preceding week or so ,my mate Danny and I had seen a fair number of urban fixies.And not all the ubiquitous nazi punk bike messengers so popular these days.Ordinary people too.Well ,ordinary ish.They are cyclists.'Ordinary ' would be an oxymoron.We hatch a plot to bike in ourselves.I've done it before, many times.Drive the first 20 mile or so ,park out of town ,and hoof the last 4 or 5 miles in,saving the planet one revolution at a time.Who are we kidding?We're saving a buck or two on parking that goes towards a coffee in town.

This day in particular we were in the Ramada,overlooking the busy city street ,Portland St,admiring the beautiful archtecture of the 'Britannia',formerly a warehouse,marvelling the three distinct styles ,and in no rush to go back to work.It's difficult to choose a favourite style between the French renaissance and Elizabethan. It beats plastisol steel clad.The cut and thrust of construction ,eh?

Anyway ,in between sips of Earl Grey,I say " Let's not return to this life of toil and servitude 'til such time that we survey below ,a perambulating bicyclist of the fixed wheel persuasion"

"Capital idea old bean" Says master Daniel,expecting a much extended intermission from our travails.
Imagine our dismay whereupon not more than one minute hence a fixie comes trundling past.The full NJS.

Back to the grindstone then.

So I get to thinking.I've done a fair amount of 'hardcore commuting ' over the years.A racing bike is a helluva weapon for cutting your way through the urban jungle ,and what better than a slimmed down ,stripped out ,lightweight ,for the full visceral.

Then I have the 'per-ching' eureka moment.

In my mums/dads garage I have at my disposal a perfect 'donor' bike.It's a C.'90 ish ,fairly low to middlin spec Raleigh 12 speed.It was technically my brother's bike . He inherited it from somewhere .I 'restored' it a bit about 5 yrs ago.It got put away .It never moved again.

My mind is roving.Raving.Racing.Dominated with images of plus fours and cut down handlebars.Fixated,one might say.

On the way home I 'divert 'to my mums.Armed with only a few tools I very quickly turn a 100% complete ,fairly vintage ,fairly mint ,12 speed ,into a stripped down ,slimmed out ,full ,well ,fairly visceral ,singlespeed.At this point I realise I havent taken a definitive'before' pic.

Considering the common or garden variety of the bike I am surprised at its lithe feel in my hands.I suppose if one unbolts enough heavy steel components it will reduce the weight somewhat.The tyres are flat and due to the absence of a suitable pump there's only one thing for it.
I throw it in the back of the RV and take it home.
My lovely wife is overjoyed to see me with yet another bike in tow and is more than happy for me to be spending another evening in the shed fettling yet another hunk of junk.There are none so blind as those that cannot see.

Version 1.0

In standard trim it has heavy steel rims.Letting the side down somewhat.In my 'shed' after 20+ years I have a 'collection ' of junk,sorry,old bike bits ,that just needs a rummage through.It's a bit like a lucky dip.Dive in ,root around ,and see what you can come up with.I 'dig out',almost literally , a 'spare' set of 700C s ,in alloy,on a 7 spd cassette with only about 10,000 miles in em.And some handlebars.And some more handlebars.And a saddle.And and and...



And so it goes.
And so it went.

So I have this cobbled collection of bits,a 'donor' singlespeed,and some mad ideas.At this point let's call it a work in progress.

Fast forward to the weekend.I have an idea for the 'look' of the bike in my head.Formed mostly over many cups of coffee and ,inspired by the minimalist aesthetic,I settle on 'urban "rat look"punk'.

So, the angle grinder comes out.Along with a rotary sander,and some paint stripper.Finish off with an inspirational bit of stencil.It works on many levels.Bike /art.Art/bike


Version 1.2.


And that's how it has been for the last few weeks . A couple of handlebar/stem swaps and the odd change of pedals.It's been out for the odd spin.A different thing than riding a bike with gears.Keep up the momentum uphill,spinning out downhill.But I knew that. And it's still singlespeed.Freewheeling.


Version 2.0 then.
After more coffee I have another mini eureka.In my 'collection' I remember I have a knackered MTB wheel.Standard shimano cassette hub.I reckon remove and weld up the spare cassette body(not a new idea) and not only will it 'fix' up my 700c hub ,it will 'fix' any compatible cassette hub and give me adjustable chainline with a choice of sprockets from the cassette.

The welder at work who only has 50 years experience advises against it and is not convinced .But he tacks it ,N S E W ,anyway.
"Dont come running to me if you break your neck".
So that is where we're at.I got home .First things first. Kettle on.


Swap 'free' for 'fix'.
Not too difficult.Axle out.10mm allen key.Bish bosh.

And so it begins.I rode fixed just once ,at the velodrome ,so I knew what to expect.And I've seen those cool urbanites locking up the back wheel through the streets of S.F. speeding downtown for a skinny latte.
How hard can it be?

Well.I think I've pulled my right quad. It's dropping off. Doing those 'easy' skids.Ha ha.
Had some fun trackstanding and threw in a bit of fakie backwards riding.Oh ,and the classic sat on the handlebars riding forwards and attempting backward forwards( ie ,pedalling backwards ,sat on the bars ,travelling in reverse relative to the bike,but facing the way you're going.Try that after a few bottles of Asahi ! ).
I'll keep you posted.

42X15. IS THAT 'TALL'? I'm not sure.Dont get me going on that.

Right then . That's it. Up to now it's cost £7 for a pair of toeclips.Everything else was 'in stock',although,technically ,I took 2 new tubes out of my saddlebag that were new,I had a new chain that I bought for another bike ages ago that I'd never used,and the bar ends and grab on copies were 2 quid each from Tesco ,again intended for another bike.But ,hey.All in all ,a cheap exercise that has rekindled my roadbike thingy. Ace.
I'm toying with the idea of brazing in some proper track dropouts,and it could do with some track nuts/threaded spindles,although it's working ,so why meddle?
Me? Meddle?

Tim . The Muddy Fox Courier.I like bikes,me.
That courier has slidy dropouts . Hmmm.Back of the Pike......