May 18th - A late evening run to the supermarket, and one of the (very few) downsides of the summer was very, very evident; riding over Chasewater Dam the air was thick with midges and other bugs, which can be seen if you click on the image above. Glasses are essential to prevent them getting in the eyes, and they get everywhere - in you shirt, ears etc. Over the next few months my protein intake will crank up by a fair percentage.
Annoying, but one of the hazards of the season.
April 8th - It’s that time of year again. Following the big freeze, potholes and fissures open up in the roads. This is a normal process caused by wear, and the hydraulic shearing action of water under vehicle tyres. I notice many main roads have suffered this year - maybe worse than the side routes. Here at Lichfield Road, Sandhills, ice seems to have lifted and crazes the tarmac, which has broken down to grit - itself dangerous to the incautious cyclist.
Report anything like this directly to the appropriate council using http://www.fixmystreet.com - it’s free and surprisingly effective.
April 4th - Time for my usual post-snow warning. The roads are murder at the moment, especially ones where snowploughs have been used. What’s happening is that melting snow that collected grit, marbles and detritus from the road, is concentrating the horrid payload and depositing it on the surface where many cyclists ride.
Hitting the polished gravel - known as marbles to motorcyclists - that gathers over junctions, on cambers and in gutters can be like hitting black ice. Silt and mud can conceal deep potholes and steal your wheels from under you. Debris like sticks, branches and littler can jam your wheels. Until the wind, rain and local authorities have done their cleansing thing, be careful out there.
January 18th - Cycling in the snow presents its own unique pitfalls, hazards and skills, and over the years, I’ve learned the best tricks I can. For cyclists out there considering cycling in the snow, there’s some stuff to watch out for. Beware speed humps, potholes and the edges of roads, which hide beneath the snow and take you by surprise. Watch out for the large lumps of compacted snow and ice that litter the busier roads; they drop off vehicles, and look soft and slushy, yet are usually rock hard. Try and ride in the centre of lanes where possible, and note that virgin snow is often easier to cycle through than mobile compacted ice in vehicle tracks. Beware of large chunks of solid ice that sweep from HGVs and vans - vehicles with tarpaulins are a particular hazard for that. Keep changing gear frequently, to prevent your cable from seizing, and use brakes as little as possible. Relax, and go where the bike takes you.
Since urine contains urea, a natural deicer, peeing on a gear mechanism or brake can free it and get you home.
Take it easy. Ice doesn’t forgive speed.
Riding in this weather is fun, but take care, and it’ll be really enjoyable.
December 6th - It’s time for the winter boots again. A couple of times this week I’ve felt that queasy adrenaline rush as either the front or real wheel slipped a little bit while cornering. Such incidents are rare, but a wakeup call I always heed. Nature is telling me that it’s time to swap out the 28mm Marathon Plus tyres and throw on the 38mm Marathon Winter. These are a fatter, lower pressure road tyre exhibiting a chunky tread made from a soft compound with small tungsten carbide studs inlaid that bite into ice, mud and road debris. They’re noisy, don’t roll too well, but grip, even on black ice, like demons. They’re not cheap, but for any commuter who keeps going through rough conditions, I highly recommend them.