Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Book Review - Good Vibrations

I have just finished reading 'Good Vibrations - Crossing Europe on a Bike called Reggie' by Andrew P. Sykes aka @CyclingEurope and what a thoroughly enjoyable read it was too I must say.

It tells story of Andrew and Reggie's six week journey along Eurovelo route 5 from their home in Reading, England to Brindisi at the southern tip of Italy.

From the initial planning of the non-existent Eurovelo 5 route map, to the final preparations and eventual execution of the cycle, the book is lively and contains the perfect mix of descriptive narrative, snippets of history and humour to keep you thoroughly engaged throughout.

From the annoyance of Reggie's occasional squeaks and rattles to the perils of broken spokes; from the search for a place to stay each night followed by the many restless nights under canvas; and from the trepidation and anticipation of meeting people along the way, who had until then only been contacts made through the internet, to the occasional but inevitable language barriers (even for a language teacher - there is hope for the rest of us after all), the book keeps up a lively pace and there literally is never a dull moment. Or maybe Andrew just left those bits out on purpose for the benefit of the reader.

It's a shame that the photographs contained in the book are not in colour (purely a cost saving measure I'm sure) but they can be viewed on the website of the cycle tour, in the index of blog posts that Andrew compiled as he travelled along the journey.

Andrew ends by saying that he has not written the elusive Eurovelo 5 route map but concludes "as with many things in life, it's often better just to work it out for yourself". Having said that though, you could certainly use the book to create your own by noting all the places mentioned and plotting your route between each.

Well done that man... and Reggie :)

Books for the Home Mechanic

Since gaining my Cytech qualification, I can really appreciate the effort that has gone into creating these books about cycle maintenance. Whilst everyone can do a "few" things to their bike, to keep it running on a day to day basis, once you get to really understand just how everything works, then you can really enjoy the whole experience even more I think.

These are the books I own or have used extensively, which I really think are a welcome addition to any bike workshop :)

Book Week

As I have gone cycling book crazy, reading as many as I can ahead of my own cycle touring adventure, I have declared this week 'Book Week' on this here blog.

Each day I will post some reading recommendations based on the chosen blog post of the day, in the hope that you too, might find something you enjoy :)

Also, on this blog, you can view my current collection of books and maps.

To further celebrate 'Book Week', I have now set up my own online cycling bookstore where, funnily enough, you will find nothing but books about cycling!

Happy browsing :)

Meet The Future

Having just finished @CyclingEurope's "Good Vibrations" and thoroughly enjoyed it, I wanted to read a something different before getting immersed in my next (of the many I have) cycling touring travel books.

Book chosen, the opening paragraph of Robert Penn's "It's All About The Bike", reminded me of this scene. My mum will thank me for posting this too :)

Monday, January 30, 2012

James Starley

When I set off on my cycle tour from April 1st 2012, I will be leaving from the birthplace of James Starley. For those of you who have never heard of James Starley, here is a little history lesson :)

"James Starley (21 April 1831 – 17 June 1881) was an English inventor and father of the bicycle industry. He was one of the most innovative and successful builders of bicycles and tricycles. His inventions include the differential gear and the perfection of chain-driven bicycles.

Early Life
Starley was born in 1831 at Albourne, Sussex, the son of Daniel Starley, a farmer. He began working on the farm at nine, showing early talent as an inventor by making a rat trap from an umbrella rib and the branch of a willow tree. He ran away from home as a teenager and went to Lewisham, in south London. There he worked as an under-gardener, in his spare time mending watches and creating devices such as a mechanism to allow a duck to get through a hole in a fence, closing a door behind it if a rat tried to follow.

Adult life
Starley's employer, John Penn, bought a rare and expensive sewing machine. Starley mended it when it broke down and improved the mechanism. Penn knew Josiah Turner, a partner of Newton, Wilson and Company, the makers of the machine, and in 1859 Starley joined its factory in Holborn. Turner and Starley started their own sewing machine company in Coventry around 1861. Coventry was the centre of the British bicycle industry and Turner's nephew brought a new French bone-shaker to the factory in 1868. The company started making bicycles.

At this time, velocipedes (cycles) had wheels of nearly equal size, the front slightly larger, although to grow much larger in the penny-farthings Starley soon made with William Hillman. Their Ariel was all-metal and had wire-spoked wheels, much lighter than wooden-spoke ones. Tangent spokes were patented in 1874. Lever-driven and chain-driven tricycles, often in strange configurations, were also devised for women and couples.

Starley, then ageing, found it difficult to ride a tricycle sociable with his son, James, in the other saddle. They could not steer because one was stronger than the other. The historian Edward Lyte wrote: "Each rider of the Sociable drove his own big wheel independently, so the course of the machine along the road was rather variable. One day Starley cried 'I have it!' and dismounted. He sat down to a cup of tea and forthwith invented the differential gear that is now incorporated in the back axle of every car. It was a Saturday. At 6am on the Monday the prototype was being made and at 8am Starley was stepping on to the London train to register patent No. 3388,1877."

Personal life and death
Starley married Jane Todd when he was in his early 20s. Their son, William Starley, and his nephew, John Kemp Starley, also entered the industry and one of the outcomes was the Rover car company.

Starley's sons continued manufacturing cycles after his death in 1881 but his nephew John Kemp Starley made more of a mark. It was John Kemp Starley and Sutton who devised the recognisably modern Rover safety bicycle with 26-inch wheels (still a standard size), chain drive, and a diamond shaped frame (no seat-tube as yet) in 1884, showing it in 1885. The penny-farthing or ordinary cycle was not safe, with a "header" accident an ever-present danger. Others had experimented with chain-driven "safety cycles" but the Rover made its mark to the extent that "Rover" means "bike" in countries such as Poland.

In due course, motor-driven bicycles became motor-cycles and were followed by motor cars. John Kemp Starley experimented with an electric tri-car around 1888 but the petrol-driven Rover 8hp car was sold in 1904, two years after his death."
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Starley

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cycle Touring on Television

There is a fantastic show being shown on BBC 2 over the coming weeks on Friday evenings at 8.30pm. It's a repeat of a BBC 4 series which was shown in June 2011, about three Australian brothers (Ben, Sam and Danny Wood) who are cycling "On Hannibal's Trail" from Sagunto in Spain to Rome in Italy via the Alps.

Ben says...

"Before we left to start our epic cycle, I was a little worried about what I had gotten myself into. The cycling wasn't so much of a concern - I had done similar trips to this before - but the TV presenting was an unknown quantity.

I've worked as a software developer most of my life so I'm more comfortable joking with computer nerds about how to set the laser printer to stun than talking to a camera about an ancient Carthaginian general.

I love riding and I love cycle touring - I can't get enough of the freedom and the satisfaction you get at the end of a hard day of riding - but I was very nervous about talking to the camera. At the same time I was very curious about how you go about making a documentary."

Episode Guide
History and travel series in which three Australian brothers - Danny, Ben and Sam Wood - set out cycling on the trail of Hannibal, the ancient warrior who marched from Spain to Rome at the head of an invading army accompanied by elephants.

Episode 1
Hitting the Road
The brothers hit the road, cycling up the east coast of Spain, passing through the palms of Elche, the beaches of Benidorm and Valencia's zoo before arriving at Sagunto, where Hannibal's war against the Romans truly began. On the way, they meet Australian cycling champion Matthew Lloyd and they talk to the elephants - and their keepers

Episode 2
Barca! Barca! Barca!
The Wood brothers continue to cycle north along the east coast of Spain, calling in at Barcelona's famous Camp Nou stadium to watch a football match before visiting the ancient Greek ruins of Ampurias. Chef Adam Melonas cooks the brothers a Carthaginian banquet on the beaches of the Costa Brava. Fully fuelled, the Woods are ready to take on the mountains, cycling across the Pyrenees into southern France.

Episode 3
Crossing the Rhone
From the Roman amphitheatre of Arles, the brothers retrace Hannibal's steps through the south of France to the foothills of the Alps. They recreate Hannibal's historic crossing of the River Rhone before cycling on to the town of Maillane, where the remains of one of Hannibal's elephants were found in the 19th century. They then race up the 2000-metre-high Mont Ventoux before setting off into the Alps.

Episode 4
Over the Alps
The brothers take on the most challenging leg of their trek - crossing the Alps. Historians disagree about which route Hannibal took across the mountains, and the Woods split up and each cycle a different path. They brave snow, altitude and sheer exhaustion as they carry their bikes across some of the highest peaks in the Alps. Finally, they meet up in northern Italy, ready to take on Rome.

Episode 5
Hannibal the Great
With the Alps behind them, the brothers cycle through northern Italy from the fertile Valley of Trebbia, where Hannibal's first defeated the Romans on their home turf, to the rolling hills of Tuscany. They continue on through thick marshes before arriving at Cannae, site of the bloodiest battle of ancient history. On the way, the Woods meet a winemaker called Hannibal, attempt to make a pizza in Naples and have a close shave in Trani.

Episode 6
Hannibal at the Gates
As they come towards the end of their epic journey, the Wood brothers make a sacrifice to the gods at Lake Averno, come face to face with Hannibal in Rome and cross the Mediterranean to Tunisia, once the centre of the Carthaginian Empire, where they visit the site where the fate of an entire civilisation was decided in one final battle. On the way, they meet a Roman centurion and discuss Hannibal's legacy with the souk merchants of Tunis.

Here is a link to the "On Hannibal's Trail" webpage on the BBC 4 homepage.

Also, here is link to Ben's blog on the BBC TV blog.

There has been some discussion as to the "fullness" of the panniers on the bikes. In this forum, Sam kindly addresses those issues.

You can also follow their progress on Twitter.
Ben Wood  //   Danny Wood  //   Sam Wood  //   WoodBros Expeditions

Friday, January 27, 2012

My Tool Kit

I'm sure we would all love to kit our tool kits out with the complete Park Tools range of tools but unless you work in a shop or build your collection up very slowly, that isn't going to happen! During the Cytech course I got to use pretty much all the Park Tools in the range and can certainly now appreciate how they're worth every penny. Ok, maybe the home mechanic is not going to use them as often as a shop mechanic, so does not need the extra longevity that the extra money spent buys, but if you can afford them they are certainly worth the money and in most cases make the jobs you have to undertake, so much easier.

Having said all that, there are some very good, more affordable, tools on the market and for the average home mechanic they will last a long time if you look after them and treat them well. I find the BBB range of tools to be extremely good and very cost effective.

Here's what I have in my tool box.

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Here's what is on my wishlist.

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