Tag Archives: equipment

Bicycle navigation – reinvented…

It was wild, wet and windy (again) today, so I surfed a little instead of riding – don’t be too hard on me, I did get out for a jog. One link after another led me to GizMag and their top ten cycling innovations of 2013. Top of the list is the intriguing Hammerhead for Bike Navigation.  I think it is well worth a look.

Hammerhead - navigation re-invented

Hammerhead – navigation re-invented

The new startup team behind Hammerhead say they are inspired by simplicity – get the essential right then junk the rest is their philosophy: in this they (and their advertising video) reminded my strongly of Apple and that cannot be bad.  Their breakthrough to simplicity ideas include:

  • team the Hammerhead to a smart phone, using all its complicated and expensive electronics;
  • replace spoken or turn instructions with peripheral vision colours as direction indicators
  • a really smart, minimal design and look
  • incorporate a built-in headlight.

I like this idea a lot for several reasons:

  • it’s great to see someone other than Garmin looking at navigation
  • I want to make better use of my iPhone
  • it keeps the iPhone safe and dry without needing a new case
  • it’s refreshing to see a new take on an old problem
  • conventional satnav screens are a nightmare for those of up who need reading glasses
  • it looks like great value for money.

I see Schwinn have an alternative out (see below), so I will wait until some user reviews appear, but I hope I won’t have to wait too long.  This looks like a great device full of promise.

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The Brooks B17 Saddle

When we met with Andy Blance to specify our bikes we had a lot of choices to make. Many were difficult options on technical matters. My choice of saddle was instant, however: I knew I wanted a Brooks model B17.  The B17’s reputation had gone before it!  Here’s a glimpse as to why:



Three years into riding the Thorn I am still convinced I made the right initial choice.  The B17 is just coming into its best, although it was never uncomfortable, it is now a real pleasure to sit on over a long day.


Brooks England saddle. B-17 model.

Brooks England saddle. B-17 model. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Click-Stand – my favourite cycle accessory – ever!

I had been thinking of getting a Click-Stand kickstand for my Thorn for over a year: but niggling doubts over the concept, delivery from the States and the cost put me off.  Finally, I took the plunge. It arrived yesterday. Wow,  am I pleased!

The amazing Click-Stand

The amazing Click-Stand

It was love at first sight – no, first touch. The Click-Stand just oozes quality. First, it is so very light. Mine, for a pretty standard bike size, weighs a paltry 99 grams. Compare that to most bolt on stay-mounted stands. This first positive impression was immediately confirmed as I undid the velcro retaining strap and felt the individual links snap into place to create the Click-Stand.  Like magic! Examining the velcro strap showed it to be cleverly and neatly knotted to retain it on the stand – neat and efficient –  like all other features of the stand.

The neat Brake-Bands

The neat Brake-Bands

How did it perform on my bike? Perfectly! The elasticated straps (brake bands) slipped easily over the bars and extended over the brake levers to hold them on with just the right amount of effort and pressure. The cup of the stand slipped right into place on the frame and produced just the right angle of lean when the point was positioned the suggested 10 inches from the bike.  Then I ‘tested’ the bike’s stability by gently rocking it back and fore. Then I tested it again with less gentle rocking: I could not believe just how rock solid the stand was in use. The Click-Stand inspires complete confidence from the start.

Turning back to the quality of the Click-Stand, I was struck again by how good it felt in the hand. Like a quality camera or an Apple product, it feels and looks perfect. It reeks of simplicity and no feature seems out of place. Even the brake bands are made from the same elasticated material as the stand itself – I suspect from off-cuts, further securing the environmental credentials of the Click-Stand. It may not come from your local bike shop, but everything about it speaks to it being hand-made with precision and care for the design, materials and final quality.

Click-Stand by Tom Nostrant

Click-Stand by Tom Nostrant

The ordering process, too was excellent. The web-based form on the Click-Stand.Com site sounds a bit OTT, but it steers you exactly to the detailed information you need to give to get the size and specification just right for your bike. Payment by Paypal (or you can use a credit card) was quick and painless and prompted an individual email response from Tom, the owner and maker. Delivery took a matter of days rather than weeks and the customs form allowed the package to arrive in the UK without attracting any further duties or handling charges.  A very welcome thing. With postage, by Click-Stand purchase came to $52.00. Not cheap, but compared to any other quality bike stand, very competitive – and you get a much better stand when considered by concept and design.

I am looking forward to many successful journeys with my Click-Stand – and an order has been placed for one for Jacqui’s bike of course!

UPDATE October 2013: We used the Click-Stand on our recent trip to Holland and one wee issue arose. If you have a heavy bar bag fitted, as we both did, then you have to turn the handlebars at right angles to the rest of the bike to get things stable.  Otherwise any slope or high winds will result in a failure.  But this was a small matter and easily resolved.

Tom Nostrant’s (Click-Stand inventor and maker) story from the Daily World

New Bikes in Portugal

We picked up our new bikes from Bikeland on the N125 near to Quarteira on the Algarve. Our previous bikes in Portugal were a Trek and a Specialized, both having seen better days and both pinched in the aftermath of Jacqui’s accident a year ago.

We went for a pair of Scott’s – hybrid bikes, suitable as road runabouts and for light touring duties. We bought them sight unseen, on the assurance that they were similar to Trek 7100 models, so it was a relief to find they looked the part when we first set eyes on them.


They are nothing special, but the 35km ride back to Algoz was enough to reassure us that they ride well and are more than up to the light duties we will expect of them on our trips here in the south of Portugal. Just nice relaxed runabouts and all the better for that. I will be interested to see how they hold up over the next few weeks as we micro-tour along the coast to Spain and back.


Re-purposing joys while cycle touring

One of the joys of cycle touring is travelling without the clutter of everyday life.  Knowing that your maximum pannier load is 4.5×2 kilos creates a wonderful discipline.  Knowing that every kilo less than the maximum will feel great on the first climb makes your self discipline all the stronger.

Other joys follow the freedom from clutter: once into the routines of touring you learn the joys of re-purposing and ‘make do and mend’.  Here are some of our favourite discoveries from our last tour.

sflickr0602 - napkins encroach

sflickr0602 – napkins encroach (Photo credit: cygnoir)

Never leave a napkin behind after a meal.  We seem to cycle every kilometre with a drip on the end of our noses and a fresh napkin as a giant tissue is a great treat.  And they make great bike cleaners at the end of their lives.  A fat napkin will clean a set of wheel rims stopping the dreaded wheel/brake scream just a treat.

Petrol Station disposable gloves (the kind issued to stop fuel spills on driver’s fingers) make great hand warmers on a frosty early morning or will help keep gloves dry in an unexpected downpour.

Liberate a few used newspapers when the weather is unsettled and when you are climbing.  Nothing dries out soaked cycle shoes better than crumpled newspapers; tuck one down your shirt at the top of a climb and escape the chill as you descend; a few opened sheets will protect a hotel floor from dripping bike dirt and reassure a dubious if not hostile receptionist.

Wringing soggy socks

Wringing soggy socks

Supermarket polly bags make great overshoes in a thunderstorm or when rain follows in our wheels all day long.  There is nothing more dispiriting than finding your shoes are so totally soaked that you can no longer coordinate your pedal revolutions: polly bags will stave off this moment for hours.  If need be they will also protect your seat.

Hotel reception sweets must never be left behind: it’s amazing how instantly a simple boiling turns into a performance enhancing substance at the bottom of the last steep climb of the day, or a medical miracle when you hit the wall and run out of energy.  Apples and bananas work even better!

Dental floss

Dental floss (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dental floss has more uses than WD40. On our last trip we used it as a navigation range finder aide; instead of thread; instead of cable ties and to reinforce tired bungee grips.

A suitably sized stone chip will serve as a great spacer to hold a front derailler in middle chainring alignment if you have the misfortune to snap a front gear cable as we did on a recent trip in Portugal.

Old paper receipts and hotel notepads make great disposable navigation crib lists when leaving of a morning.  We write out 3 – one for departure, one with en route decision points and one with details of our next hotel.  Each can be thrown away when no longer needed.

Our Picks of the London Bike Show 2013

Well, it’s a long way to go, Aberdeen to London, but we just about felt we got enough from the London Bike Show 2013 at Excel.  Here are our favourite picks – in no particular order.

Airnimal certainly impressed

Airnimal certainly impressed

We still have a hankering after a couple of folding bikes to increase flexibility when travelling and especially, going and coming on tours.  So we were keen to visit the Airnimal stand – and we were not disappointed.  Of the various models, the Joey took our fancy as a ‘do it all’ bike combing speed, versatility and a go anywhere capability.  Best of all was to speak with the bike’s enthusiastic and knowledgable promoters.  They made such a positive change from the half-hearted and frankly feeble bloke we met on the Brompton stand.  Chalk and cheese I am afraid to say.  Airnimal were the clear winners in our mind.

Jo McRae gives great advice

Jo McRae gives great advice

Creditability was also the keynote we took away from Jo McRae and her ‘Training for Cyclists’ company. Jo’s presentation centred on the need to fit the bike correctly and to correct the negative effects of turning only to cycling for exercise.  She told a pretty convincing tale of the need to do other activities to build up core strength and correct weaknesses and problems likely to follow too much cycling.  We found her talk and demonstrations totally convincing.  Google her and her company for more details.

The award for the most innovative new start we gave to “Water off a Duck’s Back” and their range of attractive and stylist all weather gear for commuting cyclists.  Their stuff was really stylish and the designs were original and we felt they deserved a good look.

Innovative design convinces

Innovative design convinces

Next to catch our eye was the Topeak Tourguide Bar Bag.  This is their mid size bag and we were attracted to it for its good size and multiple compartments and long list of features.  Nominally priced at £54, we were pleased to pick up an example from Halfords, no less, for a 20% reduction and so paid £43.  It will be with us soon and we will review it as soon as we can, but it is an eye-catching and fully featured bag.  Hopefully, it will make a good keepsake from what was an interesting visit to the show.

The Topeak Bar Bag

The Topeak Bar Bag

Cycle touring kit list – for non-camping softies who like toys and comforts!

We have been revising our essentials only kit list  we prepare for our month in Spain in October.  So far we plan to take:

Norman (Jacqui much the same in panniers (2@4.5kg) and bar bag(1.7kg), but no saddlebag)

BarbagOrtlieb Model 4 (weighs in at 2.7kg)
Wallet with cash and cards
Travel Tickets (train and ferry)
Next accommodation details
Travel Insurance Card
E111 Euro Health Card
‘Business’ Cards

Pleased to meet you!

Diary/Journal – Moleskine
Camera – Panasonic Lumix TZ30 (stills and video)
Camera – Flip Ultra (video)
Sat Nav – Garmin Edge 800
Mobile Phone – iphone 3S
Cycle Computer – Cateye Wireless
Torch – micro model
Swiss Army Knife
Sunglasses (off bike)
Reading Glasses
Waterproof cover
Micro Towel
Fieldglasses 10×25 – 7Dayshop.com

SaddlebagCarradice Long Flap (weighs in at 5.0kg)
Large D-Lock and 2 cables – Kryptonite New York 3000
Insulation Tape
Spare Tubes x2
Spare Cables – Rohloff x2
Cleaning Cloths x2
Bungee Ties x2
Paper Road Atlas – Michelin Spain and Portugal
Waterproof Jackets – Gore x2
Multitool – Toepeak
Eccentric Hub Spanner – Thorn
Latex Gloves x4
Cleaning cloth
Puncture Repair Kit
Tyre Levers
Cable Ties
Chain Lube
Mini Floor Pump – Revolution

Left Rear PannierOrtleib (weighs in at 4.5kg)
Hotel and Travel Documentation
Passport and Card Details (Photocopies)
Emergency Contact Numbers
Bike Details
Toilet Bag
Cycle Shorts x3
Cycle tops x4
Cycle Socks x3

Right Rear Pannier – Ortleib (weighs in at 4.5kg)
Trousers x2 Rohan
Microfleece – Rohan
Chargers’ Bag
– iPhone
– Nokia
– iPad
– Still camera – Ixus
– Still camera – Lumix
– Garmin
– iPad photo cable
– Mains Adapters x2
– Cateye Batteries x2
Medical Supplies
Reading Book

The Thorn Raven Sport Tour bikes we have are recommended to take no more than 16kg on the rear rack, so we are well inside that at 9kg.  The only downside is the massive 2.7kg for the D-Lock and cables.  I am tempted to take the lighter model and just make sure of the bikes physical safety wherever we can.  Good idea?

Ah, the joys of Shimano Cartridge Brakes

I had promised myself I’d change the brake pads on our Thorns before our trip to Spain in late September.  It was not a job I was looking forward to.  I am not one of the world’s natural mechanics.  My projects often end in disaster, with the original problem half solved, but another two new problems created.

In my experience fettling brakes can be a time-comsuming and fiddly job.  Not so with this marvellous Shimano cartridge system.

Shimano Deore M590 V Brakes

Both of our Thorn Raven Sport Tours are fitted with Shimano Deore M590 V brakes. They work wonderfully, giving super stopping power and great confidence.  However, after a year or so they were showing signs of reduced performance, especially on Jacqui’s bike.

The for a change

Inspection of the pads showed that the wear levels differed, but all were approaching the limit marks and some were unevenly worn or badly scored.

In some ways the worst bit of the job was deciding which replacement pads were needed.  Unless you know the model name of your brakes and the pads required you are faced with a welter of options when ordering online.  A good tip if in doubt is to remove one of the original cartridges. (I assume cartridge is the new speak name for pad!)  Ours were clearly marked on the reverse – S70C from Shimano.

What I was not prepared for was the price – I paid over £30 for the four pairs needed from SJS Cycles.  That seems a lot of money for 8 small blocks of rubber like material!

However, working on the bikes was a treat.  All you need is a bull-nosed pliers or a small awl to remove the retaining pins on the pads.  Pushing them upwards then pulling with the pliers to extract them worked for me.  The pads can then be pushed out – towards the open end of the grooves they sit in.

One of the sources below delivered the best tip – remove and replace one pad at a time.  That way you cannot muddle up the right and left pads or fit them facing the wrong way.  Remember to fit the new retaining pins that come with the kits.

I was delighted to find that the new pads slipped into place without needing any further brake adjustment in all but one case.  All that was necessary was to release the brakes using the quick release mechanism.  There was no need to remove the wheels or to dismantle the brake pad assemblies.  As a result the whole job took only 20 minutes for all four sets of pads.  Simples!

I looked at these YouTube videos and sources before starting and found them all useful:

Jim Langley on Brake Maintenance

The Cycle Systems Academy

The Livestrong Guide

Equipment Review: the Panasonic Lumix TZ30 as a cycle touring camera

I decided some weeks ago that neither my Nikon D90 nor my Canon Ixus were quite right for our forthcoming tour of Spain.  The D90 is wonderful, but it’s heavy and while it does fit in my barbag, it entirely fills it leaving no room for anything very much else.  The Ixus 75 has been a faithful friend, but Jacqui wants it more often than not now, so it seemed time to find a stable mate for it.  Having a camera each will hopefully result in more pictures being taken.

I looked at a number of options before deciding on the Panasonic Lumix TZ30.  I almost went for a new iPhone on the grounds that it carried the advantage of being a single, multi-purpose phone, musicmaker, web browser, stills camera and video camera all in one.  I still like that idea, but baulked at the cost at this time.  I looked at ‘system’ compacts, but turned them down, mostly again on cost.  They are blooming expensive.

I decided the DMC-TZ30 would fill the bill for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I was sure I wanted a compact I could fit into the barbag with lots of room to spare.  I like the idea of having easy access to the camera while cycling.  The TZ30, like the Ixus, can be carried out of its case in the barbag or a waistcoat pocket on the road. Easy access makes for more photos in my experience.

Secondly, I was attracted to the superb telephoto zoom on the Lumix. Covering 24 to 480mm in old money, it promises you great flexibility on the road in a tiny package.

Thirdly, I wanted something competent with a good combination of ‘point and shoot’ friendliness and user controls.  The Lumix has everything from  ‘intelligent Auto’ (which is very impressive in use), through scene modes to Aperture or shutter priority and full manual control.

Fourthly, and decisively, I fancied something with GPS onboard and location tagging of photos. Again, reviews suggested the Lumix GPS worked as well as any on a camera.

Finally, I want to get into video, and the Lumix seems to be a more than competent video performer.

So, after a couple of days of road testing what are my initial thoughts? I like it!  (Just as well given the money!) The GPS works, and works reasonably quickly, albeit at quite a cost in terms of battery life.  I sense that it might be necessary to carry a spare battery on the road, or to turn the GPS off and on as you travel – to my mind, defeating the point of having it to a considerable degree.

In use, the Lumix is a pleasure.  Quick and responsive and with lots of options and control for the user.  As I hoped the zoom lens is its best feature in many respects.

The camera sits nicely in a pocket or barbag compartment and inspires confidence every time you pick it up.  It is not however perfect for the job of a cycle tourer.  For example -

It’s not waterproof and it does not seem all that robust.  However, neither did the Ixus and it has proved bullet-proof in use.

The manual is anything but friendly and I would have been a bit at sea were it not for the help of some excellent tutorials on YouTube.

Compatibility with my Apple iMac and iPad is a bit hit and miss.  In fact the data card has to be removed from the camera and used with Apple’s card reader to import photos into the iPad.

Batteries have to be charged in the camera, with a full charge taking 260 minutes.  Not ideal, unless like us you are hotel-based on tour.

All of this part, I am well pleased with my Panasonic Lumix TZ30 and look forward to happy snapping in spain in the coming month.

UPDATE September 2013: I have abandoned the TZ30 and passed it on to the family. Why? While all of the above is true and it is a small, but very powerful package, finally the lack of a viewfinder proved to be a deal breaker for me. Somehow, not being able to see without fiddling with my reading glasses kills off my creative side.  It’s a pity, but the TZ30 travels well, but tends to get left in my bar bag too much to be successful.  A great and rather expensive pity.

Cycle Touring Kit List by Emily Chappell. Wow!

Emily Chappell is clearly quite a cyclist, by profession and inclination. Here is how she put it herself on her blog:

“Not all people cycle round the world for the same reason. Most of the other cyclists I’ve met consider travel their main priority, or have some other overriding project, like photography or education, and cycling is just the means they’ve chosen of doing this as cheaply or as thoroughly as possible. But in my case the urge to cycle was there long before the urge to travel. And, even though there are many sides to this journey, and many aspects of it – the people I’ve met, the mountains I’ve seen, the food I’ve eaten – have exceeded my expectations, at the core of it, I am a cyclist. I happily and obsessively cycled round London before I started to cycle round the world and, no matter what I end up doing when this is over, I am pretty sure the bicycle will be at the centre of it.”

Emily Chappell, from Fear and Inspiration on the Silk Road

Here is her kit list – to prove her point that having the right kit is the key to success.  I am hoping that lighter European touring might cut down on the necessities quite a bit.

“Having the right kit can be the difference between failure and success.


As a cycle courier, I had to work outside, five days a week, all year round, in all weathers. I very quickly learned that there are certain corners you don’t cut. Waterproof gloves aren’t just a luxury – they’re the difference between going home at lunchtime because you can’t stand the pain any more, and riding around in the freezing sleet till 7pm with a smile on your face. Decent pedals and the right saddle are the solution to painful feet, aching knees and agonizing saddlesore. A couple of layers of New Zealand merino and you’ll forget the abject shivering misery of your first winter, when all you had was a t-shirt and a hoodie.

So the kit lists that follow aren’t based on anyone’s advice or sales pitch – they’re the result of long experience, trial and error, and real-life pain and suffering. I know exactly what I need.

Bar Bag (Carradice Super C)


camera (Sony CyberShot)

Leatherman multitool (Blast)

Park multitool

mobile phone (still sans SIM)

head torch (Silva)



pump (Morph Mini Master Blaster)

puncture repair kit

tyre levers (Pedro’s)


business cards

toilet paper

hip flask

MP3 player (Phillips)

rear light (something cheap and old)

batteries (AA and AAA)


spare inner tube

lighter + spare

emergency energy gel

alarm clock


spare cash

spare memory card for camera


lip balm

moxa stick

spare key for lock

pocket mirror

Yunnan bai yao powder


nail clippers


spare pen


address book

Kindle + case

picture dictionary


Front Right Pannier (Ortlieb)

stove (MSR Whisperlite Internationale)

spare MSR fuel bottle (887ml/30 fl. oz)

Smart Lunar front light + bracket

spare pump (Blackburn mini)

miscellaneous food

Pac tool pouch, containing:

Park master link pliers

Park chain tool

Park spoke key

Shimano lockring remover

3 x Tacx tyre levers

small adjustable spanner

2 x V-brake blocks

5 x spare V-brake inserts

spare derailleur hanger

Rohloff chain wear indicator

doubled-up spoke (to remove dust caps from pedals)

4mm allen key

miscellaneous spacers

Green plastic bag, containing:

WD40 (100ml)

large roll of gaffer tape

spare inner tubes (Specialized presta; 26 x 1.2/1.5)

spare chain (SRAM 8-speed)

7 x puncture kits

spare spokes (Sapin; 256mm, 257mm)

Green Oil Ecological chain lube

spare gear cables and outers

spare brake cables

spare Time cleats

spare clip for Klikfix bracket

patches for tent

tent pole splint

tyre boot

many cable ties

velcro strips

bits of string

paperclips, for some reason

whole collection of spare screws, nuts, bolts, spacers, nipples, noodles, pins, clips, valves, powerlinks, barrel adjusters and those little screwy bits that fall out of your chain breaker and get lost just when you least want them to

Front Left Pannier (Ortlieb)

MSR fuel bottle (591ml/20 fl. oz)

Thermos flask (500ml)

moisturiser (400ml)

insect repellent spray (125ml)

Steripen water purifier + batteries

Evernew titanium cooking pot (1300ml), containing:

SeaToSummit collapsible silicone bowl

SeaToSummit collapsible silicone mug


100ml pot cao bang bitter tea

small cotton drawstring bag, containing:

small bottles shampoo and conditioner

mending kit

washing line

factor 30 sunblock

spare soap, toilet paper and wet wipes

small cotton drawstring bag, containing:

electrical adaptor

phone charger

camera charger

kindle charger

USB camera cable

USB stick

Medical kit:

antihistamine pills

hydrocortisone acetate cream

ibuprofen tablets

Canestan cream

sterilizing fluid

elastic bandage

sterile dressings


verucca removal gel

laxative tablets (senna)

immodium tablets

flucloxacilin tablets

ciprofloxacin tablets

avloclor tablets

oral rehydration sachets

dental floss

Rear Right Pannier (Ortlieb)

North Face waterproof trousers

Assos winter jacket

Swrve Milwaukee hoodie (S)

Salewa down jacket

spare bungee

file of paperwork, documents, photos, etc.


SeaToSummit 20l waterproof stuff sack, containing:

Assos 3/4-length cycling shorts (L)

Gore gilet (L)

Sugoi Wallaroo merino hooded jersey (M)

Decathlon silk glove liners (L)

Icebreaker merino glove liners (L)

Bontrager leather mitts

merino Buff (grey)

Swrve Blk merino winter cap

Sealskinz waterproof winter hat (XL)

Sealskinz mid length waterproof socks (L)

black kameez

green cotton scarf/sarong

swimming costume and goggles

2 x boxers

Brixton Cycles DeFeet socks

hand-knitted woollen socks

Rear Left Pannier (Ortlieb)

sleeping bag (North Face Blue Kazoo)

Rab sleeping bag liner (silk)

Thermarest Prolite small sleeping mat

Swrve winter softshell trousers (32)

Sealskinz Thermal Performance road cycling gloves (XL)

spare notebooks (in waterproof bag)



On the rack

tent (Terra Nova Superlite Voyager)

carrier bag full of food

On me (subject to weather, season, etc.)

Assos cycling shorts (L)

Swrve softshell shorts (34)

leather belt

Aldi merino baselayer

Shock Absorber sports bra

Sugoi cycling socks

Bontrager cycling mitts

Shimano MT43 shoes (42)

Wiley X sunglasses

Bontrager Circuit helmet

Abus chain lock (round waist)

key (round wrist)”

via her blog That Emily Chappell, in the section headed  Kit.