Sunday, April 28, 2013

SS Blue Blimbler - SingleSpeed project, episode 1.

I've been commuting to work on a singlespeed bike for about six months now, and the reasons I love riding with just one gearing is a list that is as long as it is uninteresting to anyone other than me.

My current singlespeed is built around a modern frame that has vertical rear wheel mounting slots, which means I have to use an ugly durrelier hanger as a chain tensioner.  The tensioning of the chain is only the tip of the discontent, I've never liked my current frame even although theoretically there's just nothing wrong with it.

After a few false starts I finally found a nicer frame for my bike, a lovely old Dave Lloyd frame (with horizontal rear wheel mounts).  I'm not sure exactly what what the tubing is made of, but it's fluted in all the right places and butted where you'd want to see butting.  A better man than I has guessed that this frame is probably made of Reynolds 531.

Today I started the joyus work of preparing the frame to take the kit from my current bike, and as an aide-memoir as much as anything else I've decided to log the work I'm doing for this conversion.

I took the wheels off my current bike (seen in the background, named 'SS FrankenFreak').  The front wheel fitted better than it does on my current frame, but in order to fit the rear wheel I had to apply a little bit of muscle to gently pull the mountings outwards to get the wheel in.  It's snug, but hopefully not so snug that I need to adjust the frame.

So that I can use the original forks I decided to add a threaded headset, I now need to find a way of fitting my modern handlebars to this old frame.  As you can from this photo I added plenty of grease!

Here's the nice Campag headset that a friend helped me out with from his spares box.

I fetched some Campag brakes off eBay but the rear fixing was larger than the hole I had on the back of the forks so I had to carefully drill out the rear hole to 8mm.

The front brakes are now in place.

The rear brake mount still needs to be drilled out, but I can't get to it with a standard drill bit because the seat tube is in the way.  A friend has a flexible drill bit and has offered to help out with this bit of tricky drilling.

I've got some cheap vernier calipers coming from ebay so that I can measure the handlebars on my current bike, then hopefully I can find a quill stem with a front hinge or removable plate so that I can fit my handlebars without removing all the tape and brake leavers.

Go to part two of this singlespeed build...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Andrew's profanity sauce - hot sauce recipie

I've even mucking about with my own hot sauces for a while now, and in much the same way that brewing my own beer has given me the opportunity to create some tastes that can't be bought, so has making my own hot sauce. Here's the recipe I made up as I went along this morning. It takes moments and doesn't involve any actual cooking!

2x packs of dried habaneros
1x pack of dried naga chillies
3x tins of peach halves in syrup
2x tablespoons of ground cumin
1x tablespoon of ground coriander
1/2 tablespoon of turmeric
1/2 tablespoon ground white pepper
1x tablespoon salt
3x tablespoons sugar

1. Soak the dried peppers in boiling water straight from the kettle for about half an hour.
2. Drain the water and put the chillies in a food processor and add the rest of the ingredients
3. Blend the whole chuffin' lot until smooth.
4. Consume!

This sauce is pretty brutal, so watch out! If you like Jalfriezi then you'll probably love this sauce,a even although it doesn't have an obvious curry flavour.

P.S Don't try whizzing the chillies in the blender on their own, I made that mistake and within seconds my eyes started streaming and I could hear my daughter start coughing (she was the other side of the house!).

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Prison governors agree that the war on drugs isn't working

The 'war on drugs' is not only destroying thousands of lives in countries around the world, it's also costing UK taxpayers money by packing full our prisons.  The origins of prohibition (in America at least) were founded on good old fashioned racism, partly to drive minorities back south of the border, so not for public protection as is often assumed.

Today the Prison Governors Association (PGA) added their voice to the growing call for a major rethink on drug laws.  The last 100 years of drug prohibition have done a LOT of damage, and there may not be an answer to the drug problem, but this problem was in no doubt partly exacerbated by prohibition fulled scarcity.  Making drugs illegal has made a lot of criminals rich, and a lot of drug users very dead.  The current drug laws have also made criminals out of many who otherwise may have led law-abiding lives:

"PGA president Eoin McLennan-Murray said it believed "a substantial segment of the prison population have been convicted of low-level acquisitive crimes simply to fund addiction".

"The current war on drugs is successful in creating further victims of acquisitive crime, increasing cost to the taxpayer to accommodate a higher prison population and allowing criminals to control and profit from the sale and distribution of Class A drugs," he said."

A common response from law-makers is that 'drugs are illegal because they are dangerous', which is in no doubt, but it's interesting to see the PGA that current laws may also be doing some financial damage.

Some countries are showing the world that there might be another way forward.  The path has been far from smooth, but in the ten years since Portugal decriminalised all drugs there are been some interesting developments:

“There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal,” said Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, a press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the law.

The number of addicts considered “problematic” — those who repeatedly use “hard” drugs and intravenous users — had fallen by half since the early 1990s, when the figure was estimated at around 100,000 people, Goulao said."

So why are we still fighting this un-winnable war?  Who is really profiting here?  What is the real motivation and when will our government be brave enough to radically change drug policy?  Hell, when will they be brave enough to even talk about it without coming across like patronising Victorian governesses?

Friday, April 19, 2013

New Black Sabbath... actually pretty good!

Big riffs, somnambulent head swaying pace, crunchy bits, smooth bits, tumbling chord progressions.  Even Ozzy sounds pretty good!

If you're a fan of 'old' Sabbath give this a listen, the six minute mark is where things get really great.  The riff at the eight minute mark made me stand up and throw up the horns.  YES!

Kudos to all involved!

26" Inch Dawes frame - ideal for fixie or singlespeed conversion

I recently bought this Dawes frame off ebay, but due to getting a bit confused with my metric / imperial math this frame is too large for me to use (see last photo).  So my search for a new frame for my singlespeed goes on!

Seat tube 62cm
Top tube 56cm
Head tube 20cm.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Best bike for climing

What's the best bike for climbing?  This bike I have just invented of course!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Feisty Fens Fun

This is a report for an informal forum ride.

It was a tad windy today, but we didn't let that force us to focus on anything minor like heading in the right direction. After ten miles we eventually found roughly the direction to head in, but unfortunately the correct direction was head first into 47mph gusts. After a gruelling slog next to a rowing lake we stopped, took stock and thought long and hard about whether to continue. The promise of cake was just about enough motivation to struggle on, and a very tight three person peleton got us to the promised land of cake and tasty beverages (a.k.a Elton Hall).

The route back to Peterborough was mostly downhill and entirely powered by out former foe, the brutal headwind.

One of our number (TheDoctor) headed home via Peterborough Station and my new mate Marshmallow_Fluff and I headed off in search of the extra ten miles she needed before heading home to round up to a Metric century.

In the interests of experiencing everything the weather could throw at us we added experience of side winds to our earlier adventures with head and tailwinds. We headed out past the Key Theatre and along the river path to a town called Whittlesea, passed a man with a very strange grin indeed.

Time was running out for Miss Fluff to catch her train so we biffed back along the opposite bank of the river, pausing only for a quick bit of bike fitting advice, a quick bit of advice that sadly caused Marshmallow_Fluff to miss her train. We saw the man with the strange smile again, but he appeared to have mislaid it when I showed him my homage to his odd expression.

A very fine day with cheerfully adventurous company.

Strava -

Endomondo -

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Unfortunate episode with a mobility scooter

This morning on my way to work I was in a particularly ebullient mood and full of the joys of the slightly broken promise of spring; despite the drizzle and headwinds I was enjoying pushing the pedals and passing the miles.

Ahead of me on a broad cycle path by a river I spotted a motorbility scooter up ahead.  I've seen this particular wee cart about a lot over the last few months of cycle exploring, and I recognized it immediately because it is always covered with an all-weather indivisibility cloak regardless of weather.

This particular scooter looks so much like a small vinyl greenhouse that I have previously pondered whether one such greenhouse had become sentient and started wandering the town in search of lost seedlings.
The cart was about as far left as was possible on the cycle path and perambulating with gently noble progress.

As when passing all other man and beast on cycle paths I slowed to an almost complete stop and (as I always do) I chirped, "Excuse me, please may I pass on your right?"  And after a pause I rolled past, and that's when the following dialog was bourne:

Voice from within the travelling propagation unit - "HOY!"

Myself, upon stopping to make sure all was well - "Hullo?"

Voice from behind the mist obscured depths - "Manners cost nothing!"

Myself, with genial lilt and cheery smile - "Oh; I did ask if I could come past you..."

Troubled traveler - "I would have moved out of the way if you had of asked."

Myself, with soft disappointment in my delivery - "I did say please?"

Aggrieved entity made a noise like a rusty can opener being operated inside a tub of Vaseline.

Myself, preparing to depart - "Oh no... don't be like that.  I think it's sad that you misheard me."

By this time the mobile electric greenhouse had pushed past me so I crossed a little void of verge and made my way to work on the footpath that runs beside the cycle path.

The moral of this tale?  I'm chuffed if I can figure it out...

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

You know you're addicted to cycle commuting when...

I started cycling to work for lard reduction reasons, but also because I like going weeeeeeeeeeee on a bicycle.  The weight fell off quite swiftly and yet I carried on cycling to work, so I gave some thought to why I would continue to pull my body through heavy weather to work every day when I could borrow a friend's van and enjoy such modern wonders as heating and protection from the elements.  Here's my list, feel free to add your own in the comments box:

Signs you're addicted to cycling to work:

  1. You live three miles from work but your commute is ten miles
  2. You know exactly how much quicker cycling to work is that driving through traffic to work
  3. You tell anyone who will listen (and some who won't) how much quicker cycling to work is that driving through traffic to work
  4. You look forlornly at your bicycle on your days off from work
  5. You apologize to your bicycle on days off
  6. You know exactly how long it has been since your last puncture
  7. There are days when you'd like a few words in the ear of the inventor of 'puncture-proof' tyres
  8. You love that your colleagues think you're insane for cycling to work
  9. You check weather apps more than social networking
  10. You can tell how early or late for work you are according to who you see on your commute
  11. It's not breakfast, it's fuel
  12. Summer rain (on the way home) is a joyous wash
  13. You have at least three different types of cycling gloves
  14. Strava & Endomondo & other GPS tracking
  15. You're reading this list just because it's about cycle commuting.

More hints of commuting addiction courtesy of the fine and lovely members of 

  1. Even when it is hissing down, dark, cold and windy you do not even think about using the car(if you have one)
  2. You keep getting goods delivered to work and they are building up in a corner as you can't face bringing the car into work to take them home
  3. Your office resembles a bedsit with the spare shirts, wash kit, cycling clothes all strewn all over the place
  4. You know the best radiator in the building for drying off your gear
  5. You are able to fit an entire crate of Duvel in your panniers at the shop on the way home and you still have room left over for your work clothes, empty sandwich box and repair kit
  6. You feel sorry for drivers, bus and train passengers, and pedestrians
  7. You look at what every other cyclist is riding and know if it has Sora/Tiagra/105/Ultegra ....
  8. You get into arguments on the internet about the relative benefits of hi viz
  9. You laugh when trains delayed "due to bad weather" and don the rain jacket and head home and get there normal time :-)
  10. You get up at stupid-o'clock every work day, and it's still dark when you get to work, but you still love the "morning" commute.
  11. You turn down a new job because it's closer to home
  12. If you are forced to take the car to work you get mega jealous when you see people cycle commuting also in contrast to some of the above
  13. It takes you longer to cycle to work than to drive but you do it for the love of it
  14. Driving could be quicker, could be longer, its just so unpredictable
  15. When you can counter argue everything a driving commuter sais about the benefits of driving to work, even when its snowing
  16. You've placed a set of tools, track pump, spare tubes and a can of lube under the stairs at work.
  17. Work colleagues stare incredulously as you cycle off somewhere at lunchtime, 'But didn't you cycle into work as well?' they say
  18. You have a "special" place in your workplace to park your bike whilst everyone in cars have to hunt for a space
  19. When you buy two brands of detergent - one for your normal clothes and a cheaper brand for your sweaty cycling ones
  20. When you alter your route to work based on the wind direction
  21. You work in IT and use the backs of server racks to dry your gloves
  22. When you most visited web pages are, yada
  23. When the cyclist in front of you no matter their ability/sex/age needs to be scalped....ooosh!
  24. You think "I'm saving money by showering at the office", and don't mind that the whole office has to spend the day smelling your sweaty clothes, and your wife has to spend the evening doing so
  25. When everybody at work points you out as "the cyclist"
  26. When you sneak off work 10mins early to get changed
  27. When you keep forgetting to take your trousers into the shower/changing room and have to walk to your desk in office shirt and cycling shorts to retrieve them after the shower.
  28. You buy baby wipes in catering packs and you haven't had a baby in the house for ten years
  29. When your cycling attire out numbers your normal clothes by 10 to 1 in your wardrobe
  30. You plan your packed lunch according to how much the component parts will add to your travelling weight efficiency
  31. When you can skillfully fold two shirts and a pair of trousers socks pants and water proofs and load in to a ruck-sack along with a laptop, and food for the day, and it all arrive, undamaged and you still look smarter than someone who's driven to work
  32. When you did not worry about garage security when it was only occupied by a car but it has been transformed into Fort Knox now there are bikes in there
  33. When putting on your cold weather gear takes longer than it would to drive home...
  34. When you no longer look at the cute young ladies bottom on the bike in front of you because you're looking at the bike she's riding
  35. You work out how long till you can do the commute again when you have to use public transport when you are ill and a week sounds like "forever"
  36. You buy new s/s jerseys for the summer because last years tops just CAN'T be worn
  37. When buying new jerseys, you show workmates a pic on your phone first, to get approval
  38. You stay up until 2 am wrestling with mudguards and finally admit the front one doesn't fit
  39. You stay up until 2 am wrestling with mudguards and finally fit them, but then it doesn't rain for a month
  40. When getting a puncture is merely a breather stop
  41. Not having a VED badge stuck to the bike to slow you down.
  42. You spend some of your day telling/preaching/discussing with people you work with with the benefits of cycling to work. You are convinced that the guy who has a round trip of almost 100 miles and has no interest whatsoever in cycling will finally come around to your way of thinking...
  43. You laugh in the face of a fuel duty rise!
  44. When you do drive, you start going the same way as you cycle. Only to have to turn around as you cant drive on the cycle path.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Merging cells in Excel or Google Drive / Docs without losing data!

I'm currently compiling information gathered from business cards collected at a trade fair into spreadsheet so that I can import them into Google Contacts (because I use Gmail and Google Drive for CRM) and hit a snag.

My colleague kindly typed all the contact information from the many business cards I collected into a Google Spreadsheet for me, but for the postal address field my colleague entered each line of the address into a different column on the spreadsheet, this is a problem because to import the contact data into Google Contacts (by first saving / downloading the spreadsheet as a CSV file) the entire address needs to be in a single column.  So the information currently spread across three columns needs to be merged into one column.  The problem being that when you merge cells in a spreadsheet the software only retains the information you have in the left hand column of the selection.

How to merge cells / columns in a Excel or Google Drive spreadsheet without loosing data.

  1. Create / insert an additional column after the columns you wish to merge
  2. In the top cell of the new column write the following formula making sure to list each of the cells you wish to merge =concatenate(A1,B1,C1) 
  3. When you hit 'enter' you should see the data from each of the cells in the formula, if you're happy with the way the data is displayed then use the 'fill down' function to spread the love throughout your column (fnar fnar)

Formatting concantenated data.

To insert spacing (or other characters) into a cell that contains concantenated (merged) data you need to insert some speech marks into your formula between the cells that you have listed in the formula.   So the formula mentioned above with spaces inserted between the merged cell data would become achieved with the following formula =concatenate(A1," ",B1," ",C1)

So anything you place between the speech marks will be added to your merged data cell.