Final Tweaks

So, the ride is almost upon us. 8 months after agreeing to do the ride, it's time for the final little tweaks to the bike, and collate all of my shnizzle ready to take.

Having made the trip to Brimingham on the Thursday for the wonderful bbq, which was a massive success (thanks to everyone who came and supported us!) I noticed a couple of noises coming from my bike which I wasn't very fond of.

So, instead of your traditional bike maintenance stand which costs about a ton, I put my little product design hat on, and conjured up a alternative using materials from around the home, Blue Peter style.

So whilst everyone might not have a 1940's Massey Ferguson tractor fitted with a roll cage lying around their house, most will have a suitcase strap, and something stable to tie it round.

That's right all bike menders out there. Save yourself a hundred notes, and buy yourself a suitcase strap instead!

Oh, and while I'm on. Panniers fit well...thankfully they dont clack into my heel when riding! FEW!



Pictures From Last Night

Last night was awesome!

We managed to fill the Spotted Dog garden with 80+ people all enjoying Bratwurst hot dogs (or the veggie option) Cakes, beer and a raffle!

Myself and Andy rode around 3 different supermarkets in the morning clearing them out of bread rolls and sausages, we filled our panniers twice and had to drop some stuff off at Andy's before leaving again. We then took the stuff to the pub and set it out ready before shooting back home to get changed.

We made a whopping £500 in cash last night and it definitely wouldn't have been possible without the help of Dot (Andy's grandma) and Carole (Andy's Mum) who covered the raffle and BBQ respectively. We took £130 on the raffle alone and gave away 13 prizes including some slippers that you can microwave, some horrible cycling jerseys and loads of drinks and chocolate!

It was great to have so many people together, and a special thanks also goes out to Anne-Marie, Alison, Louise and Tessa for providing some great cakes and pretzels and to Steve for taking the brilliant photos above.

A Trip To Brooks

After a roaring success at the fundraiser BBQ last night (post coming soon) we were up again this morning cycling across the city to pay our friends and sponsors, Brooks England, a visit.

Feeling a little bit fragile after the late night previous we left from my place and got 0.5 miles down the road before Ed picked up a puncture. We didn't have a tube with us, so I span back up the hill to mine to fetch one. Meanwhile Andy (who was ghostying Jess' polo bike) went on ahead to get the bike to Jess before we arrived.

We were now running a bit late for our meeting time of 11, so we got our skates on a bit and arrived at the Brooks factory in Smethwick at around 11:11 (I happened to look at my watch), and were greeted by a guy called Steve who would be showing us everything they did there.

We were guided around the whole factory starting with the raw materials, how they were cut, pressed and folded before being branded and attached to the frames. we met lots of the friendly people who worked there and even saw an arse imitation device which tests the saddle 1 million times to make sure they are worthy of the stores they end up in.

The factory churns out a whopping 1000 units per day, and there were saddles of all shapes and sizes everywhere!

We noticed also that not only are all the parts made on site, but almost all the waste material is either re-used (by Brooks) or sent off to be re-used by somebody else.

All in all it was a great trip, and we have been invited back again after our trip. We'll hopefully get a go a making a saddle (hint hint) but if not will watch on with amazement as the pros go at it on their traditional machines.

Massive thanks to Steve, Bregan and all the guys at Brooks for letting us into the Brooks HQ.


London Open 2011

It is a little known fact that Matt, Andy and Jess from the Brum to Berlin team are also enthusiastic Hardcourt Bike Polo players and have formed a team called 'ill Pigs' (no we're not sure where the name came from either). We're really excited that we have managed to get in touch with bike polo players from Bremen and Berlin who have welcomed us along to play with them when we arrive. It will definitely be something to look forward to along the way!

We will also be playing in our first UK tournament together next weekend at the London Open. This year’s Open will take place in the centre of Hackney Downs, click to view map. Come and watch some of the best international hardcourt bike polo teams compete to be crowned 2011 Champions! You can catch all the action from 10am until 9pm on both Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st of July. It is free to enter and there will be a picnic area provided next to the courts (where food and drink will be available). Until then we will be practicing hard at Highgate Park in Digbeth so come and say hello!


Dunwich Dynamo

After a really long and annoying period of illness, I was feeling a bit useless and hadn't managed to get in many training rides so when I finally managed to turn the big pile of parts gathering dust in my office into a nifty road bike last week, I was extremely happy to say the least! The Giant frame was second hand and I bought a Shimano 105 groupset and some pretty strong Mach rims on Deore hubs. The stem, drop bars and saddle I stole from my first fixed gear build and the pedals with straps were a carboot find by my Dad (thanks Dad).
I would just like to say a BIG MASSIVE THANKYOU to the Tweed Run who donated some of their beautiful Carradice panniers to us (pictured above and in Matt's post). Also a BIG THANKYOU to my friend Andrew who stripped down my bike and fine-tuned her before the Dunwich Dynamo. Yes, I decided my first test ride on the new baby would be 120 miles overnight to the Suffolk coast!
Over a 1000 cyclists arrived at London Fields on Saturday evening to participate in the ride. We left at approximately 8:30pm to begin our journey, although it was a very slow start out of London due to the high numbers of cyclists and some inexperienced riding which meant the roads got very congested. It definitely wasn't a race but it was a big relief to finally get out onto the open road and try and overtake some of the slower riders separating those of us who got stuck behind.
I was glad I had decided to wear a proper jersey and padded shorts, although I felt a bit silly in head to toe lycra, it really helped keep me comfortable and cool. I was also glad I'd put my trusty worn in Brooks on the new bike as the miles started to take their toll on the pain threshold of my behind! However, I seriously regretted taking a rucksack as my shoulders were aching so much after about 20 miles and my back was definitely producing a lot of moisture. I did eat all of the food I was carrying though and lent my tools to other cyclists so the added weight was justified.
My energy levels started to flag fairly early (around 11pm) and I really needed to stop to re-fuel and drink some coffee to perk up. I didn't get much sleep the night before and unlike other DD veterans didn't take a nap in the afternoon to prepare. Night riding is completely different to normal riding and although I've done some quite long rides, I really hadn't thought I'd have to push myself so much to keep up with my seriously fit fellow riders. I became quite frustrated with myself at one point as I knew I was capable of more but luckily everyone was lovely and offered kind words of encouragement to keep me going. I knew as long as I kept one of them in sight, I'd be fine but at one point I lost all the flashing red lights in front of me which was absolutely terrifying. I had the moon, some bats and a windy country lane to keep me company... it was beautiful but I've never ridden so fast in my life! Seeing the sun rise was a massive morale boost and after yet more jelly babies, pasta and flapjacks I forged ahead overtaking groups of slower riders to get back to the pack.
By about 4am, I started to go a bit loopy. The delirious exhaustion had kicked in and I started to find everything funny. It didn't help I was riding with some of London Fixed Gear & Single Speed's biggest jokers who had also started to go a bit loopy - we started calling out bad riding, dancing on our bikes, telling stupid stories, giggling and whinging at every bump and hill! Finally after a long stretch of B road, we started seeing signs for Dunwich and we perked up again. I wasn't very good at riding geared and stayed in the same two or three gears the whole way, I found it hard to push up hills being so used to riding fixed and I kept forgetting my brakes were the opposite way round. I almost came a cropper on a particularly muddy and gravelly downhill where I built up alot of speed and then pulled the back brake, skidding mercilessly round the sharp corner at the bottom but thankfully staying upright much to the surprise of the high-viz clad ensemble behind me! Finally, at approximately 6:30am we made it to the beach - I've never felt such immense relief in all my life. I got off my bike but surprisingly didn't feel that tired so I wandered round saying to anyone who'd listen "I don't know what to do now, I feel lost!" A sit down on some grass after a lovely but very expensive(!) breakfast proved otherwise though and I was soon snoozing with the best of them.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable and eye-opening experience and I am seriously in awe of other cyclists that rode back too (well done Rosie, Tom et al!) and especially my friend Leo who rode the whole way on a Boris Bike... absolutely amazing. Thanks to Katie and John for sorting out our coach home and a HUUUUUUGE shout out to Simon, Iain, Henry, Matt, Michael, Olly, Pete and the one man party peloton that is Tibbs for being brilliant company and keeping the pace up! I now feel alot more confident about our daily mileage to Berlin and am happy with the bike after putting it through it's paces.


PS. Hello to Team Awesome - my fellow lady cyclists and alleycat winners from a few weeks back! It has been lovely to meet so many new cyclists these past few months and take part in rides such as London to Brighton. Everyone has been very encouraging of our ride and lots of people have offered bits of kit, places to stay and kind donations. I wholly appreciate it as it really does mean so much to us.


Lake Vyrnwy, Powys. Wales.

I gave up my only possibility of a lay-in bed after a busy working, week to go with some members of the family to Lake Vyrnwy, located right in the middle of Wales.

The ride was a 11.2 mile loop, twice.

The ride took 1 hour 13 minutes, and I kept an average speed of 17.7mph.

It was the first time I'd trained on the flat, as there is no way of avoiding them in Wales.


Backbreak mountain ride

It was last minute, but Andy and myself decided yesterday to take a 40 mile route fully loaded, stay overnight in the tent then cycle back the next day.

It's important that we get used to clocking up miles, sleeping, waking and then going again. So this ride was perfect. I have two panniers set up carrying around 6 or 7 kg. and Andy stuck to the more traditional rucksack.

We left late after a day each at work and spent about 2.5 hours cycling through some very dark and LONG A roads. We got to Malvern at 11ish and climbed up the hill before realising it was going to be way to steep to pitch. We found a nice patch of shrub land between to roads, and hid the tent and bikes under a tree. we made tea and some dinner then got some sleep before waking in the morning and doing it all over again!

This ride is good, but one for climbers rather than fans of flat land, some very long slow hills which got easier and easier as our legs adjusted.

Possibly going next week too, hopefully a new location.