BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking
April 15th - I seem to be going through a mechanical rough patch. It happens, I guess, but it’s frustrating. My bikes are never the cleanest around, but I like to keep them mechanically tip-top. Thus when you have a rash of failures, it can be really disheartening. Following a spate of punctures last week, and the bizarre failure of the crank, yesterday the tension bolt on my saddle snapped, making for an uncomfortable ride home.
I use Brooks saddles - traditional, made in Birmingham, they’re the best thing I’ve found for my bum, and they give years of service. Lauded and hated equally by the cycling community, there are all kinds of myths surrounding Brooks saddles; you need 500 miles to ‘break one in’, they need constant oiling, they’re ruined if you adjust the tension. 
A saddle is a saddle - it either fits your arse or it doesn’t. If a Brooks doesn’t feel nice when you first get on, it’ll never fit you and you’ll hate it forever. But if it does fit, wearing it in will make it fit even better. I oil mine using Proofide once a year. I occasionally nip the tension up a half-turn when it gets a bit hammocky to ride. Again, about once a year.
I have never been as comfy on a bike as I have with a Brooks between me and the miles. I love them. I can ride all day (and often do) and never feel sore on them. But that’s me. 
Always try a saddle before you buy it.
My only criticism of these posterior wonders of comfort is the tension pins are crap. They snap usually at the point where the thread finishes, as this one has. The head fits in a socket at the nose of the saddle, and there’s a nut (not shown) that tightens against a shackle acting against it, and the rails. This takes most of my weight, and fatigues. The threaded part above has been filed to enable me to get the nut off without damaging it’s threads.
Easy enough to replace, this is the second time this pin has broken on this saddle in it’s ten year lifespan. What’s annoying is they’re a cheap £4 replacement, but postage doubles the price. Fortunately, last time this happened, I ordered a spare, too.
I love Brooks saddles. But they ain’t perfect and they’re not for everyone…

April 15th - I seem to be going through a mechanical rough patch. It happens, I guess, but it’s frustrating. My bikes are never the cleanest around, but I like to keep them mechanically tip-top. Thus when you have a rash of failures, it can be really disheartening. Following a spate of punctures last week, and the bizarre failure of the crank, yesterday the tension bolt on my saddle snapped, making for an uncomfortable ride home.

I use Brooks saddles - traditional, made in Birmingham, they’re the best thing I’ve found for my bum, and they give years of service. Lauded and hated equally by the cycling community, there are all kinds of myths surrounding Brooks saddles; you need 500 miles to ‘break one in’, they need constant oiling, they’re ruined if you adjust the tension. 

A saddle is a saddle - it either fits your arse or it doesn’t. If a Brooks doesn’t feel nice when you first get on, it’ll never fit you and you’ll hate it forever. But if it does fit, wearing it in will make it fit even better. I oil mine using Proofide once a year. I occasionally nip the tension up a half-turn when it gets a bit hammocky to ride. Again, about once a year.

I have never been as comfy on a bike as I have with a Brooks between me and the miles. I love them. I can ride all day (and often do) and never feel sore on them. But that’s me. 

Always try a saddle before you buy it.

My only criticism of these posterior wonders of comfort is the tension pins are crap. They snap usually at the point where the thread finishes, as this one has. The head fits in a socket at the nose of the saddle, and there’s a nut (not shown) that tightens against a shackle acting against it, and the rails. This takes most of my weight, and fatigues. The threaded part above has been filed to enable me to get the nut off without damaging it’s threads.

Easy enough to replace, this is the second time this pin has broken on this saddle in it’s ten year lifespan. What’s annoying is they’re a cheap £4 replacement, but postage doubles the price. Fortunately, last time this happened, I ordered a spare, too.

I love Brooks saddles. But they ain’t perfect and they’re not for everyone…

Aprill 11th - Before I do the usual ones today, tonight I had a nightmare journey home after a less than wonderful day. A couple of consecutive punctures (with different causes) were bad enough. But then, not far from home (thankfully), I gained another entry for Bob’s Big Book of Bizarre Bicycling Mechanical Failures™ - my non drive side crank sheared at the pedal thread. Clean off.

I have never seen this before. Not once.

It felt bad for a couple of miles - I figured a pedal bearing was going south. It felt odd, eccentric. This prepared me for disaster, so when it happened it didn’t hurt or cause me to fall off, but it could have been quite bad. 

The crank is by Lasco, and has done 10,000 miles. From the dark patch on the break, I’d say it’s been cracked awhile. I’m no small fella and fatigue has clearly worked it’s magic.

Oh well. Time for a new chainset, then…

April 2nd - The dying art of repairing a puncture. For years, I scarcely bothered, after all I have mercilessly few incidents with the Marathon Plus tyres and road tubes were quite cheap. I just carried a spare or two as I always did. But with a change of tyres, I needed to be more ready to do spot repairs. I’ve tried puncture resistant liners with moderate benefit, and have also gone over to sealant filled tubes. But even those fail, and out on the road this morning, I was slain by a metal clipping that spiked my rubber - the sealant tried bravely, but failed. 

There’s no way I’m chucking an £8 tube in the bin, so I bundled it up in a bag, popped in the spare and repaired it when I got home. They do work, as when I took it out, there were three piercing hawthorn spikes as well as the catastrophic failure. 

The modern self-adhesive patches are OK, but I don’t trust them like a good, old fashioned kit. My favoured one is Rema Tip Top - good quality patches, and a well-sealed tube of cement that doesn’t dry up in the saddlebag. 10 minutes, job done, and back in the tyre.

Metal clippings on the roads in Darlaston are a pain in the arse - watch out if you’re around the Darlaston Green or Heath Road areas. They fall from the scrap wagons that thunder through there, and unlike puncture repairing, sheeting loose loads seems like a dying art…

March 24th - I noticed this Volt Metro folding electric bike parked in the racks outside Darlaston Library as I passed. It looks like a decent design; disc brake front, V-brake rear, motorised rear hub (I think) with derailleur gears - it even has suspension fork and seatpost. Dread to think what it weighs, but it’s an interesting bike. 

March 22nd - There’s been a death locally. The victim will not be mourned, although being viciously cut down by a diamond blade. Cyclists, pushchair wranglers and normal-width people throughout the area who walk this way will know what I’m talking about.

The post that had for years pointlessly stopped even the narrowest bikes and people getting though the gap at the foot of Anglesey Basin without a struggle, has finally been cut down.

It served no purpose - access to motorbikes either side of it was always possible. It just existed as a royal pain in the arse, and I was hugely irritated that the metre high steel post filled with concrete survived the dam works.

Someone, somewhere has finally cut the bloody thing down. I’ve vowed to do so many a time, but never been quite motivated enough.

My thanks to the executioner, you have done the community a great service.

March 19th - A hurried, poor snap as I was passing - but what a curious bike. Parked up in Station Street, Walsall, a wee Apollo folder, with a nice rack box, bulb reed horn, lights … and a tea flask. Interesting approach to locking, and what’s the luggage elastic for?
A clearly well used, but unusual workhorse. An odd thing for Walsall.

March 19th - A hurried, poor snap as I was passing - but what a curious bike. Parked up in Station Street, Walsall, a wee Apollo folder, with a nice rack box, bulb reed horn, lights … and a tea flask. Interesting approach to locking, and what’s the luggage elastic for?

A clearly well used, but unusual workhorse. An odd thing for Walsall.

March 14th - In Birmingham, Newhall Street junction by the old Remploy headquarters. A great safety warning on the back of a truck. I only have two issues with it:

  • It should be twice as big
  • It should say ‘Do not pass this vehicle’

Regardless of how cycle lanes are marked, don’t come up the lefthand side of traffic folks. It’s not big, not clever, and is what kills most of the adult cyclists involved in road accidents in the UK.

March 1st - one of the markers of spring is leaving early on the first Saturday in March to visit Erdington Bike Jumble. A lovely ride in spring sunshine through the Roman Way estate, Sutton Park and Boldmere, then an hour or so browsing tat (mostly) spending huge sums (£3 this year) and chatting to old pals, passing acquaintances and debating bike stuff.

This year it clashed with a similar event in Long Eaton, and it was a little poorer than usual. However, the catering this year was ace - fresh fried pakora and samosas as well as the usual bacon rolls. Don’t mind if I did.

Always nice to see other people’s rides, too. That Major Nicholls fixie is a lovely bike and well loved - you can just tell.

I did like the Moser frame. Whoever bought that got the beginnings of a nice bike there.

February 15th - A rough day. Weather was bad, with a high wind and periodic, squally rain. I needed to get some shopping in, and popped to Morrisons in Burntwood. I found myself on The Sportway, the drive to the Rugby Club that runs alongside the Chasetown bypass. 

This is a good tip - I know this route well. Just where the grass is on the foreground corner of the cycleway, there is a huge, wheel-swallowing pothole unseen under the water. Because I know it’s there, I give it a wide berth. Someone coming this way for the first time, wouldn’t know.

My point is this: in this weather, be careful riding through puddles. They can hide a variety of nasties - from tire-shredding debris, to holes, to uncovered drains.

Take it easy and be wary.

February 3rd - In Aylestone, Leicester: a little bit of utterly nonsensical cycle ‘infrastructure’. 
This is so bizarre, I have nothing to add.

February 3rd - In Aylestone, Leicester: a little bit of utterly nonsensical cycle ‘infrastructure’. 

This is so bizarre, I have nothing to add.

January 29th - Micro asphalt is a pain in the arse. There are several installations of it in Walsall that I know to. The system is simple; a thin layer of resin-based coating is applied to a poor road surface, levelling the dips and sealing cracks. Unlike conventional tarmac, this is a chemical adhesive process. It’s way cheaper than resurfacing fully, and purportedly much more effective than tar and chipping.

Sadly within Walsall, in places it doesn’t seen to have gone too well.

Manufacturers claim a life of 20 years for an application, but this stretch in Green Lane, Shelfield is only a couple of years old, and is already forming potholes and ruts like a ploughed field. 

It’s actually easier to see the effect on a wet night, as the water pools in the ridges and dips. Riding over this is afoul and makes steering unpredictable.

This road is now worse to ride than before the new surface was applied. Nice work, Walsall. Nice work…

January 26th - Beware, canal towpath walkers and cyclists. As pointed out by Warren Parry on Facebook a week or so ago, the brickwork on the embankment edge of the Wyrley and Essington Canal between Catshill Junction and the Silver Street Bridge in Brownhills is falling away.

A considerable cavity is opening between the towpath and the edging brickwork, large and deep enough to take a bike wheel or foot. I guess it’s caused by a combination of the weather and general erosion.

I shall contact the Canal & River Trust tomorrow to report the problem. In the meantime, watch where you’re going!

January 24th - Speaking of rubbish… On the way to Chasewater, I noticed this discarded inner tube in the scrub on the canal embankment at Ogley Junction. I found this depressing, particularly in light of the previous post. A synthetic tube like this won’t biodegrade, and will present an entrapment hazard to wildlife. It was clearly replaced for another, so why toss it? Put it in your pack and take it back home.

The same goes for your bottles and wrappers. You brought it with you, please take it back.

The scumbags who do this really piss me off. One of the joys of cycling is the environment. What’s the point if you just foul it with your own rubbish? Arseholes.

22nd January - In Birmingham, I was intrigued by this venerable old Claud Butler well locked up outside Moor Street station. When this was new it would have been a very expensive bike indeed - the brand was considered the Rolls Royce of bikes back when I was a lad, but not so much now. This seems fairly true to the original, too; down tube shifters, tight angled quill stem, lugged steel 501 frame and cotterless cranks.
This is clearly a favourite ride for someone, and looks like a well loved and well ridden steed. It’s also a remnant of a great cycling tradition.

22nd January - In Birmingham, I was intrigued by this venerable old Claud Butler well locked up outside Moor Street station. When this was new it would have been a very expensive bike indeed - the brand was considered the Rolls Royce of bikes back when I was a lad, but not so much now. This seems fairly true to the original, too; down tube shifters, tight angled quill stem, lugged steel 501 frame and cotterless cranks.

This is clearly a favourite ride for someone, and looks like a well loved and well ridden steed. It’s also a remnant of a great cycling tradition.

January 19th - Sometimes, a solution to a problem is so simple that you wonder why it’s not in common use. At the bike jumble the day before, I got two of these water bottles (known as ‘bidons’ to pretentious roadie arses everywhere) which have a dome cap that loosely clips over the nozzle and remains attached by a band around the collar of the bottle.
The purpose is simple; it stops mud thrown up by the front wheel from contaminating the bit you drink from. This is a common problem with mountain and cross bikes as you can see, and I’m not convinced drinking from a mud-contaminated bottle didn’t give me the dreadful bout of campylobacter I suffered over new year 2011/2.
In conditions like we’re enduring at the moment, this is a godsend, and ensures I’m not throwing away half bottles of drink due to the fear of the dirty nozzle.
These bottles are marketed by cycle accessory brand BBB and I got two for a pocket-pleasing fiver. 
Bargain!

January 19th - Sometimes, a solution to a problem is so simple that you wonder why it’s not in common use. At the bike jumble the day before, I got two of these water bottles (known as ‘bidons’ to pretentious roadie arses everywhere) which have a dome cap that loosely clips over the nozzle and remains attached by a band around the collar of the bottle.

The purpose is simple; it stops mud thrown up by the front wheel from contaminating the bit you drink from. This is a common problem with mountain and cross bikes as you can see, and I’m not convinced drinking from a mud-contaminated bottle didn’t give me the dreadful bout of campylobacter I suffered over new year 2011/2.

In conditions like we’re enduring at the moment, this is a godsend, and ensures I’m not throwing away half bottles of drink due to the fear of the dirty nozzle.

These bottles are marketed by cycle accessory brand BBB and I got two for a pocket-pleasing fiver. 

Bargain!