At last. A true “journey”.

After many months of riding from a place, to a point, and then back again (and not dropping a ring in a volcano in-between either), yesterday I finally did a proper journey.

I rode along the 5 weirs from Sheffield to Rotherham (via Hotel Chocolat of course!).

The start of my journey was Sheffield Cathedral. It’s an interesting building with a really beautiful church in there somewhere and then an odd modern extension on one end.

Via Hotel Chocolat I rode down to the start of the five quotes weirs. Again I found what I have found in other towns. The cycle network is very fragmented and often gets you lost (I know my way around Sheffield very well, but had I tried to follow the signs it would have been a very different matter).

The start of the five weirs (part of national cycle route 6) is a really cool bridge running through one of the wicker arches. The coolest thing being the really funky percussive sound your wheels make on the flooring they’ve used.

This bit is very Dutch in how it is laid out. I could imagine something like this in the Netherlands.

I carried on down the Don Valley, only to be disappointed that a section is closed and the diversion takes us along a section of the main road and has no cycle lanes. See what I mean about fragmented? Even though there are signs indicating cycles. Grr!

I carried on, losing the temporary signs at one point and so just carried on the way I know best; eventually making it back into the route near Meadowhall.

The rest of the route to Rotherham is both well maintained and clearly marked. It’s also fairly flat so for the most part I just stuck with seventh gear, occasionally dropping into sixth for the gentle hills. I have to say though that the first bit of the journey was very enjoyable. The middle bit was terrible (due to the closed sections) but once I reached Meadowhall it was a great ride and very picturesque.

Anyway here’s my map on Strava. I honestly can’t believe I’m actually doing these sorts of distances now. As kids we used to ride loads but never this sort of distance – but then we were on BMX bikes.

Another fitness post…

This week I crossed the 100kg boundary in the right direction (down). Now I’m aware how weight works and how a few hours later I could be back up at 101kg, but it was a delight to see the scales lose a digit.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been collecting together both my old and a little new camping gear, and I’ve started riding the cycle with a load on the rear rack to get me used to the feel of the extra weight.

Today I finally went out for the first time fully laden. The top bag on my panniers had two fire alarm batteries in to simulate the weight of my food and clothing. The total load is now just under 22kg:

The main items are listed below.

  • Zelter Shelter 1.2kg
  • Sleeping bag 1.0kg
  • Mat 950g
  • Thermal undermat 600g
  • Stool 760g
  • Kelly Kettle and accessories 900g
  • Folding Curobot Stove 650g
  • Pocket Tarp 300g
  • Pans, cutlery etc. 1kg
  • Panniers 600g

The big win is the Zelter Shelter. It really is an absolute Jack of all trades; a Swiss army knife of a tent/tarp/poncho which means that along with a lightweight rain coat you’re covered for pretty much a huge storm as you can use it as a tarp, or a poncho if required and then convert it into a tent and spend the night if you need to.

I’ve not spent the night yet but I did stop in a nice bit of woodland just off the trail and make a cup of coffee. Even though I have the Kelly Kettle on this occasion I chose to break in the new Curobot Stove which unlike the Kelly Kettle which is very much a one trick pony but does it’s one trick phenomenally week, this stove has a decent size burning pan to actually keep a fire with some warmth for a few hours, and because it’s got an ash tray you can stop it choking up on the burnt material.

22 miles!

When I was a kid I used to go all over on my bike with my mates, but in all honesty I can never say I went as far as 22 miles. The longest rides we used to do were to Elsecar reservoir, about 7 miles away; so about a 14 mile round trip.

Yesterday I did 22 miles – not easy miles either – the TPT towards Doncaster is uphill and quite strenuous – but wow is it worth it.

But it’s worth it for views like this from the Conisbrough Viaduct. This is the River Don as it heads downstream. The sad thing about this view though, is that it is close to a main road.

Why is that sad I hear you ask?

Well some of the views I’ve found on my cycling adventures are 2-3 miles from easy access. I think of them as my reward for the exercise and actually getting on my bike and doing something. For example, the really cool bridge below.

It’s miles from anywhere. You can’t drive to it. You can’t park near it. Karen in her SUV won’t visit it with her screaming brats.

The viaduct on the other hand was full of people who thought it was a nice day and they’d go and park on the main road and have a “nice walk”. By nice walk I mean stand in the middle of the cycle path and generally get in the way; even ignoring my bell and then looking offended when you ask them to move.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not become that selfish arrogant cyclist; but I am finding myself preferring the quiet routes. Luckily though as it was later in the day the canal towpath was quiet from Sprotbrough to Conisbrough. I would imagine at busy times this would be horrendous!

Now for my next adventures… A camping trip. As my fitness improves I’m starting to carry small loads on the back of my bike; and I’m gradually increasing them with the aim of going for a short (10 mile) camping trip. I’ve eyed up a campsite – it won’t be wild camping the first time I go – but I am looking towards a wild camp or perhaps meeting a friend on one of the trails.

First Operation Snap success!

I didn’t start cycling to grass on people; I started it to get fit whilst enjoying myself. However I also didn’t start it to get hit by an idiot in a car who thinks passing me at less than 30cm is an acceptable overtake.

Police now run a system called operation snap where people can upload videos of such things for assessment and possible prosecution, and a few weeks ago I submitted my first one. It was on a cycle ride just outside Normanton – I’d taken the bike on the van and had a little ride at work during my lunch break.

The car in question – strangely enough an electric vehicle – a mini – put the pinch on me and forced me to swerve towards the kerb as they did a MGIF (must get in front). We stopped at lights not 100 yards later and I went up the cycle lane on the inside.

Well I submitted the video to West Yorkshire Police operation snap and I received a notification yesterday that the driver had been sent a notice of intended prosecution and had been offered a driver improvement course at their own expense.

Driver improvement courses are an alternative to 3 penalty points; although they stay on your driving record for 3 years and you can’t do another until the previous one has expired – so if you commit another offence you’ll not be offered one and will be dealt with in the appropriate manner. They cost more than the fixed penalty fine (£140 versus £100) but you don’t have to tell your insurers.

Sadly, South Yorkshire Police have yet to roll out operation snap – I had one close pass yesterday which I would certainly have reported – but I’ve sent an email to them asking when the scheme is to roll out and attaching my close pass video for their consideration.

I’ll not be publishing the videos provided both are resolved successfully. Whilst cyclingmikey on YouTube does post them with the result; I have a belief that if you report someone off the back of a dashcam or cycle cam video and they are successfully prosecuted then they should not be embarrassed any further for their mistake and hopefully they have learnt their lesson.

A new bike.

Since getting into biking I’ve discovered what I actually like. I love the DaHon but it’s not easy to ride; so I thought I’d try a 20″ wheel folder and I absolutely fell in love with it.

It’s a Raleigh Stowaway 2021 model. A really nice solid feeling bike with none of the flex associated with my DaHon 16 (which to be honest is a wobbly little thing).

The first ride today was over 10 miles! I can’t believe we almost made it all the way to crossing the M1! Perhaps next ride we’ll achieve that goal.

We set off just after a rain storm; believing the weather forecast that there should be no more rain. Riding up the Wombwell TPT and then forking up to Worsborough; we passed under the railway viaduct.

Eventually we reached the entrance to Worsborough Dam on the A61. A whole 5.25 miles away.

Of course the heavens then opened; and despite waiting 20 minutes for it to abate we were left facing the prospect of cycling back in the rain. Thankfully I’d taken my old Stormforce 10 waterproof poncho from Drayton Manor Park! How lucky that was.

The ride back was soaking for the most part – we both arrived at the unit wetter than an otter’s pocket!

Thoughts about the bike…

Well it’s an unknown quantity from the bike community point of view – there are very few reviews out there for the Raleigh Stowaway 2021 model as it’s not been out very long.

From my point of view it feels great to ride. Very steady and yet with the small wheels it’s agile and easy to steer. The Shimano 7 speed gears are a nice range and I coped with all the hills thrown at me without even thinking about it. They charge cleanly and quickly with no crunch or clunkyness.

I’m definitely very impressed with it!

A little 8 mile hop.

I can’t believe how my stamina and fitness are improving. This little 8 mile ride would have killed me at one point but now I can do it on the DaHon without much concern.

I’ve even got myself a new bag for it – it’s meant to go under the saddle on the seat post, but for the DaHon it works well on the stiffener bar too.

I’ve also now got some decent lights. Only a cheap set from Amazon, but I’ve started venturing onto roads and even though it’s only for short periods I’m very aware how I can get totally missed when in the van, so I thought I’d make myself as visible as possible even in daylight. A bright flashing light is much less likely to get ignored as I’m approaching a junction, although I’m sure some of you cycling friends will tell me stories otherwise.

On a fitness note though, I’ve also noticed on my watch that my activity curve is shifting down – most of my riding is now in the aerobic section of my heart rate. Apparently this is good as it’s less dangerous as you get older – you shouldn’t push your body too far when you’re not at the peak of fitness. I’ve joined Strava to see if mutual exercise is for me – and I’m liking how it works because it just sends the stuff from my galaxy watch 3 to Strava. I can’t be faffed with extra apps.

100 miles in May?

The reason I added a question mark is because I think this will be a challenge for me – not just because of my fitness levels, but because of my time commitment – it takes me about an hour to do 7 miles at present, so that’s around a 15 hour commitment – however – I have started cycling to shops and am now planning to keep the folding bike easily accessible.

So this thing is for Prostate Cancer UK. It’s here: https://cyclethemonth.prostatecanceruk.org/fundraising/nomenloonys-100-miles-in-may-challenge so I’d appreciate a sponsorship if you can.

So far I’ve done just over 14 miles – all of it on the folding bike as I currently don’t have the mountain bike and as much as I love the BMX it really isn’t a distance bike as it has one speed.

So far so the rides have all been up the Manvers roads due to be being on a road bike at present. Wee Red can’t really cope with anything too arduous and Frankenbike is currently having a full new derailleur set fitted as the back one is really badly bent and keeps snapping mounting brackets.

I have to say though that I’m really enjoying riding Wee Red. There’s something really funky and quirky about it. The other half says I should ride it in a pinstripe suit in a Blott on the Landscape parody, although his folding bike looks like a Bickerton to me.

So I’m going to keep plodding on and trying to get myself to 100 miles; and I’m gonna look cool as fuck doing it!

New bike!

I was passing a farm sale on Wednesday and something caught my eye… It was a folding bike in bright red – very unusual, and definitely rather cool!

I went and enquired about it, expecting it to be about £100 and the old chap said £20. It had been in his barn for years and was covered in chicken shit; but I saw through the coating and saw there was a really nice condition bike underneath all that grime so I bought it.

On arriving back at my unit I gave it a good wash down, and then a good lubrication. The chain and cables all moved straight away and the Sturmey Archer three speed gear hub engaged all three gears perfectly.

So it turns out it’s a DaHon III; made in 1989. The tyres and brake blocks are actually original articles and the bell is also from the 80’s.

The gears are really what drew me to it though – Sturmey Archer gears fascinate me, and unlike derailleur gears there’s no mechanism hanging down to catch on all matter of things – the gearing is all done inside the hub.

All the metal surfaces have a very slight rust pitting, but no rust is penetrating any metals and a bit of chrome polish and elbow grease will sort that.

The cutest thing is the tiny kickstand attached near the back wheel. It really is so dinky! Again, factory fitted.

The company who sold it no longer exist, and the BS it was made to has since been superceded.

Of course the ultimate thing is the USA Design logo – it looks like something from the late 80’s, because in essence it is!

It folds down to a really neat package too, and although it isn’t quite as light as newer folding bikes it’s still very portable – and having 16″ wheels it’s definitely compact enough to take on a tram.