Monday, May 13, 2013

Suffolk Sunrise 2013 - My ride report

After staying up late the night before to fit mudguards to my road bike (because according to the Met Office even Noah would have gone for his tools if he saw the type of rain we were promised) I enjoyed at least five hours sleep before getting up to head off to to Brandeston Hall for the start of this year's Suffolk Sunrise sportive.

I don't mean to make it sound like I'm experienced at these sort of rides, in fact I've only ridden over 100 miles once before in my life and it cobbled up my innards and outers for a few days afterwards.  But at the start of the year I decided that I needed goals to help keep me excited about cycling through  the grim Hoth-like winter we were gritting our grits through at the time, and as I enjoy going weeeeee on a bicycle a 100 mile Sportive seemed like a reasonable goal.

In view of the fact I'm generally better off too cold than too hot I wore bibshorts, a longsleeve base layer and my rather fetching shortsleeve Adnams cycle jersey.  As I stood in line at 6.15am with many other riders waiting to register I appeared to be the only cove not in long bibs, thermal top, neck gator and wooly hat.  I tried my best not to let the side down by shivering, but I decided to let the shivers happen in the hope that the involuntary muscular activity would act as a pre-ride warm up.

Before being unleashed on the highways we were given advice and wished well, and then set free in groups of twenty.  I started the ride with a couple of friends (Jon and Simon) who like me were both embarking on their first sportive.

Over the next hundred miles I really pushed myself hard, and apart from far too long spent eating at the rest stops I kept myself spinning as close to the edge of my ability as I could without cramping.  Somehow, and I mean this with the utmost respect for Jon and Simon, it didn't seem to matter how hard I pushed they were always miles ahead of me!

I spent the final twenty five miles pushing forward by sort of leapfrogging the groups I found ahead of me.   Just before Framlingham this method was starting to take it's toll but I felt proud of myself for giving this ride everything I had.  Then up ahead I spotted someone mid-group spinning their legs like they rode so many miles every day.  I gave myself a shove and when I caught up it was none other than Jon!  A said a few genially-expletive words when I caught up, mostly to enquire how he managed to be so far ahead in the field, but he just laughed and kept on spinning his pins.

The last few miles weren't much fun physically; my legs were fine but the lovely food I gorged on at the lunch stop had churned into a giant cannonball in my gut.  But I did it.  I did it.

My bike GPS crapped out at the 85 mile mark so I don't know exactly what my moving average was, but sums done to remove the time I spent scoffing at the food stops puts me at about the 18.2mph mark (thanks to Jon for working that out!).

I've tasted Sportive events now, and I want MORE!

You can still sponsor me by going here -

P.S Special mention goes to my mate Simon who go THREE punctures and a tyre failure and yet still rode the full 102 miles - nice one!

Monday, May 06, 2013

How to fit modern style oversize handlebars to a threaded quill type headset

I've recently been posting about a singlespeed bike conversion I've just completed, but I thought it might be worth me making a blog post just about fitting the handlebars, mostly because they caused me to expend the most brain power!

The problem I had was that I wanted to use the forks that came with a vintage frame I bought with the modern handlebars I already had.  So I fitted the forks using the correct threaded headset with no issue, but modern handlebars and stems fit a different way to the old threaded forks. In basic terms the steerer on old threaded forks is much shorter than modern forks - on modern forks the handlebar stem bolts to the top bit of the forks (known as the steerer).

How to fit a threadless stem and handlebars to threaded forks.

First of all you'll need to buy a quill stem adapter like the one shown in the photo below:
Slide the adapter into the top of the threaded forks and use the hex bolt on the top to fix the adapter into the 'steerer' of the forks.

When you measure the adapter diameter compared to the internal diameter of your handlebar stem you might notice there's a bit of a gap (see below).  Apparently this is normal.

ID (internal diameter) of my stem

OD (outside diameter) of the top of the quill stem adapter

You can buy shims to bridge to the gap, and to be honest I reckon that's probably the best way forward, but if I didn't finish this bike build today I wouldn't be able to cycle to work tomorrow, so I made a shim by carefully cutting open an empty beer can.  The inside of the can appeared to be coated so I roughed it up by rubbing in on the old stone steps by my back door.

Pull the shim around the quill stem adapter nice and tight, and then use a tiny bit of tape to hold it in place while you slide the stem fixing over it.  I really like how this beer can shim looks, it's almost a shame it won't be on display!

All done!  Some folk think modern stems look terrible where they are replacing an old quill stem, but I think this looks just fine.  Please do make sure you get everything set nice and tight, a loose set of handlebars can be very dangerous for obvious reasons!

Read about the rest of this singlespeed build...

SS Blue Bimbler - Singlespeed | part 2

I am currently building a singlespeed bike based on an old Dave Lloyd frame.  In part 1 of this tiny record of this singlespeed bicycle build I fitted a threaded headset.  I've gathered together all the bits I needed and this morning I had a couple of spare hours to myself (a rare thing indeed) so I got cracking.

The donor bike was a singlespeed that I built using bits from bins, bits from friends and a naff modern frame I bought off ebay after consuming a bottle of wine.

I had to drill out the rear stays in order to fit the modern style dual pivot brakes I'll be fitting.  Due to the way the brakes fit you only need to expand the hole to 8mm on one side of the frame, unfortunately it's the rear side that you need to drill out.  Because it's almost impossible to drill out the rear of the stays I drilled out the front and fitted the brakes in front of the stays, which is unconventional but better than trashing an old frame by drilling at a dodgy angle.
My first job was to remove the crankset from the doner bike and measure the width of the bottom bracket.  I was hoping  it was the same width as the one that came with the 'new' frame.  It was.  Happy days.
Huzzah!  Also huzzah for the five quid a spent on a set of vernier calipers on ebay, they are very useful indeed!

I'm getting really cheesed off writing this post on a netbook screen, Blogger SUCKS on a small screen; it's almost impossible to position images where you want them and if you edit more than a couple of times the images move back to the top of the post.  Anyway, where were we...  well I needed to fit a modern pair of handlebars to this old frame so I needed to use a quill to threadless handlebar adapter, but I'll cover that challenge in a new post.

The crankset went on really nicely, I'll check it every few days for the next few weeks to make sure it doesn't loosen, because a loose crankset is the quickest way to destroy a crankset!  The wheels needed a little cajoling to go into the frame, but not so much that I'm going to worry about bending (or cold setting) the frame to fit.  The seat also went on easily, but that's not very exciting to report is it.

The old frame stripped of anything useful to the new build.

There was no way the chain alignment was even close to being acceptable...

...but fortunately I previously converted this rear wheel using loads of freehub spacers so I can make quite precise adjustments to get a nice straight chainline.

This chainline looks pretty straight to me!

I LOVE this look!  I had to use a cheap gear hanger as a chain tensioner on my old singlespeed and always hated it.  No need now I have nice horizontal wheel mounts!

Fitting the modern style handlebars took a bit of brain power, but it was worth doing if only to save me remounting the brake levers and bar tape!

I would have preferred to use a quill stem that was in keeping with the age of the frame, but it wasn't possible, that being said I don't think the headless stem looks too out of place.

All done!  The brakes were really easy to set up, although I can't seem to be able to get them very tight.

What a lovely looking bicycle!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Thrashing my thighs for charity - sponsorship needed!

On the 4th of September 2011 I was sat in a delivery suite in the maternity block of Ipswich hospital being given the news that my unborn child was potentially loosing oxygen, and my poor beautiful wife's life was potentially in grave danger.

The story had a happy ending and I will be eternally grateful for all the hard work and expertise of the medical staff who cared for my wife and daughter in those difficult first few days and hours of our life as a family.

I can never adequately repay the gratitude I feel, but I can do something to try and raise some money to help a relevant charity. On Sunday 12th May 2013 I will be riding over 100 miles to raise money for Action Research. It will hurt.

Please visit to find out about this charity, and to sponsor me :)

UPDATE 13/05/13