2013 TdF trip (La Maurienne Valley)

This year I decided to see TdF in Alps. Plans for slow touring in Normandy been abandoned, and after quick research me and friend of mine decided to book camp.
We stayed on Camping des Grand Cols (map) in the heart of Maurienne Valley. The camp is made for cyclists, and probably 99% there are road cyclists, specially during TdF time. The main objective was to climb most (or all) of the iconic climbs around and have a good time (means not boot camp but keep the wheels rolling every day). Below you can see sign on the way out from the camping, with altitude and approx distance to the top of climbs.

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So we did almost all of them (apart from Le Mont Cenis). Numbers in brackets means how many times they’ve been ridden in TdF.
Col de l’Iseran (9), Col du Télégraphe (18), Col du Galibier (31), Col de la Croix de Fer (16), Col du Glandon (13), Col de la Madeleine (24) plus Alpe d’Huez (28) on the day of 18th stage 2013 Tdf. What is more classic than 100th Tour de France and Alpe d’Huez climb?

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Bicycle climbing in Alps means you need to be prepared for not as crazy steep ascents, but steady 6-10% very long stretches of roads. Time is the killer, not steepness. Anyway after finding your rhythm everything becoming easier and whole experience is “mind clearing”. Don’t be afraid you see the pictures and even middle age doughnut like me was able to do it. We’ve been in super minority with our bikes, as I took touring bike, and Woytek had mtb with slicks. Normally 99% of the people riding road bikes, occasionally you can see touring bikes with panniers. In terms of MTB, for some reason (ski lifts?) exist as downhill mostly.

Gearing and some thoughts about riding.
I’ve seen some people riding Col du Galibier on racers with 39/25, but you need to be confident (skinny and fit) to do it. On a racer I would say 34/30 or more standard 34/28 easiest combination will be just right (again I’m doughnut you need to remember). That will give some extra gearing if you want to recover at some point, rather than pushing big gear all the time. Eating and drinking is quite important and again I would prefer 2X750ml, but is really a personal preference, and in most villages you can find tap with water so you’ll need to carry isotonic tabs. As always it’s nice to have something sweet to eat as the climb is literally sucking the juice out of you. Clothes. I recommend arm warmers as well as wind shell. Ascents are usually warm-and-sweaty but descents are completely different story. Descending means usually 15 minutes ride down and you’ll freezing at the bottom. I was always surprised that I actually rode the whole way up, and how long it takes to get back down.

The whole trip was epic. Camping, very good. Views stunning. We’re slightly disappointed with food this time. Quite a hassle to find something open in “normal” hours.

Second objective was TdF.

Same as last year TdF was slightly boring, because of Sky team domination, but that’s how it is. “Froome train” was spinning steady towards win. Nobody was talking about his gregari, nobody knows who they are. The main actor stayed untouched from stage 9.

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Quite impressive was Quintana, ended with two jerseys (white and polka-dot), and that was probably the best part of TdF this year. This guy is just killer in mountains, reminds me Marco Pantani. Below is Pantani statue on the way to Col du Galibier where this year Giro d’Italia stuck because of snow. If he’ll only be able to ride TT better, Froome might be not as comfortable as he was. Ok, there are people which knows better the sport and more clever analytics than myself. We’ve been there to feel the buzz, atmosphere and excitement of “le Tour” not to analyse.

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Couple of words about journey to and back from France.
I’ve decided to go by train this year and I must say that was a mistake. Each way was couple stages: home->Poole(by bicycle), Poole->London Waterloo(train), commute by bicycle in London to St Pancras (terrible traffic, and even more terrible roads), London St Pancras->Paris Gare du Nord(Eurostar), commute in Paris to Gare du Lyon, and eventually train (SNCF) to Grenoble. Same procedure on the way back. I’ve choose train because I thought will be less hassle with the bike than flying. In fact is the same annoying procedure with Eurostar as with plane. I sacrificed one pannier for bike bag (padded) which proven to be very useful as in France bike needs to be in the bag otherwise you’ll need to pay. Eurostar charging £30 for assembled bike £10 for bike in bike bag, Paris-London is more expensive as I paid 15 Euro. Why? French labour more expensive? Don’t ask me.
On the way back Eurostar didn’t expect so many cyclists (apparently was 80 people with bikes appeared on the station). Effectively I spent 2.5h waiting for my bike and nearly missed last train to Poole. Ended 1:20am in Poole with 30km ride home. 😉

Hint’s for people want to travel by train anyway.
1# Don’t book whole journey trough Eurostar webpage. It’s not cheaper, price is the same. Even more important, you can decide how much time do you need for commuting between stations (if you doing so) (BTW, you don’t want to go to tube/metro with you bike in bike bag believe me).
Normally when you’re booking on Eurostar page, the standard commute time is 50-90 minutes. 50 minutes is really tight with bike (unpack-assemble-ride-disassemble-pack), and you’ll need to be very well organized. In 50 minutes scenario you haven’t got any time for chain drop, or flat tyre. Personally I would rather wait longer, than changing tyre with shaking hands in central London. The other thing is that dispatch office is always some distance from main gate, so it’s waste of time walking up and down.
2# Buy cheap not padded bike bag. For padding use pipe insulation and put them on the frame. To keep together bike use standard bungee cords. With that setup you’ll save 50% of volume in the panniers comparing to padded bike bag.
3# Protect chainrings with some rubber or old piece of tyre.
4# Be organized. I used two 30l panniers. That’s plenty of space and is really handy to just stick panniers on the bike and ride, rather than fiddling with some other stuff attached to the frame.
5# Think about rucksack. In some circumstances, rucksack is more handy than panniers. You can survive 5-7km commute in cities and if necessary even 30km ride is doable. If the plan is staying in one place and riding around (like we’ve done) this might be the best solution.

Next time some camping tips, stay tuned…

Some pictures

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Normandy short (D-Day) trip

That wasn’t the planned, but the first night on a ferry I realised that the short trip to France will be exactly following the beaches where Allies troops landed in 1944. The exact date was 6th July, so was really close to 69th anniversary. Riding along the coast and seeing all museums, memorials, cemeteries makes you think how lucky you’re to be there, and how unlucky was those boys storming Normandy beaches, and how much you owing them.

Ok the trip. The timing was just perfect, as day before weather was a disaster (strong wind and rain), and last 5km before arriving back home started pissing again. Nevertheless nice sunny weather, temperature was around 15C. In fact this year is one of the coldest in last 100 years. I slept with all my clothes, wrapped completely in sleeping bag. I bet in the night was something like 3-4C (is nearly June for god sake what is going on?!).

The trip was a test as well. The first time I went with my Extrawheel trailer and new set of panniers Crosso. Quite overkill for two nights trip, but as I said it was a test, and the advantage was spare space for French cheese, and other good stuff ;-). The other thing I used first time was Karrimor X-lite inflatable sleeping mat. Here you can find a review. Anyway in my opinion, all three things are reasonably priced and doing the job perfectly. It’s hard to say after two day trip anything durability, but the first impression is positive. I must say that touring with trailer, is slightly different experience than ordinary panniers on a rack. At first of all clearance between the ground and pannier is about 20cm, and using same principle “heavy things on the bottom” will give you more stable bicycle. The other major difference is weight put on the rear wheel. Basically if decent wheel is used for trailer (standard 700C wheel with 100mm spindle) and well pumped road tyre (up to 110psi) I would say is same resistance as standard panniers. On one hand trailer is heavier 5kg+wheel than standard setup, but on the other hand there’s less rolling resistance with trailer as tyre is less loaded. So is really in my opinion just a individual preference. I don’t like front panniers, and as I hardly going on off-road I don’t need them. The other benefit is bike choice as is just a matter of replacing existing skewer with extrawheel specific and you ready to roll. So even carbon frame racer can be used if that’s your weapon of choice. The trailer I bought with extra rack (you can see here witch attached bag). I didn’t use the rack, but even without bag, I used top of the rack as a handle which proven to be quite handy.

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The best thing about Extrawheel in my case is when you arriving at the destination. Just disconnect the trailer and off you go with clean bicycle. So far I love it.

The other thing was Karrimor sleeping mat and it’s quite an improvement comparing to self inflatable mats I used before. In all aspects comfort, weight, and space as well.

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Each trip you’re learning something (and making mistakes). Next time I have to have sun cream, I forgot hay fever pills (big mistake in my case), I was too optimistic about temperature and ended up sleeping with all clothes, even cycling leg warmers (sic!) – a decent sleeping bag liner will do the job this time, but I also need better 3 season sleeping bag. Also I made some discoveries. Chamois cream can be used on lips ;-). I need a 11-34T sprocket on the back for pulling the trailer uphill. I didn’t have any punctures, but I need better tyres next time. I’m thinking about Gatorskin from Conti or Gator Hardshell. As I’m riding on tarmac probably I’ll buy something like 25-28mm.

Some Hints.

#1 Now I’m mastering the route from my town (Blandford Forum) to Portsmouth ferry. I used two ferries this time: Hythe (route to Hythe Pier) and Gospot-Portsmouth (route to Southampton-Gosport) so I’ve minimised route on A35 and A27. The other benefit is time on the Hythe ferry you can use to have a snack, because basically you’ll have at least 20 minutes, and after 70km is just perfect place for first break. Then quick jump to Gosport and you know if you on the schedule or not.

Hint #2. When you boarding on the ferry, and you haven’t got cabin with a bed, get your sleeping bag and sleeping mat with you. also ear plugs will be quite useful ;-). Then you can put your mat anywhere on the floor and have (almost) normal night. Hint #2. Get your towel and shower gel. There’s no feeling like hot shower with over 100km in your legs. (if you’ll add a pint of lager afterwards you’re king).

Gps output:

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

Some photos:

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What’s inside pedals…

Last week I’ve purchased new platform pedals for my commuter. Because of the price, I’ve chosen diamondback alloy platforms from wheelies. I’m always using the cheapest platforms for commuter, as I don’t want splash 50-60 quid on fancy pedals. Let’s be honest, if you’ll spend 60 quid on pedals how long they’ll last? 5 years? Ok let’s say 5 years. For half of the price, I have every two years, new pair of cheap platforms for ten quid. Anyway, the first thing I’ve noticed after unpacking box, was how tight the bearings are (but hey don’t be fussy, don’t expect 10 quid pedals be ready to rock out of the box). So, I pry the plastic cap and attempted to adjust bearings. Below you can find, what I found inside…

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Inside was plenty of alloy fillings (probably left after machining pedal body for dust cap). Just wondering how crap is the procedure that they greasing bearings before boring the hole?! Same both pedals. No comment.
First thing I wanted to do, is just send them back, but that’ll take longer than cleaning, greasing and adjusting…

Poor man cyclocross building problem #1

Road lever and mtb rear mech cock-up during drivetrain assembly in my cyclocross bike. Small mistake, just posting to prevent anybody having same situation. I think I heard about differences between standard Shimano and dyna-sys before and even reminded myself couple of times, and then… of course I forgot.

At first of all, if you’re planning strange marriages between different components be sure that will work. Ask your LBS or google some information. I have Shimano road levers 6600 (10 speed) and rear mech Shimano Deore RD-M593 Shadow 10 speed rear mech. You see that “shadow” bit in the name? 😉 Yeah, that’s the thing… It means the system is DynaSys and it have completely different cable pull. F*ck!. I slept with the problem and next day I’ve tried different solution as an exercise. Measured cable pull in both systems. In standard Road cable for rear mech travelling about 22-23mm in Shadow systems the distance is about 35-36mm. I didn’t check that but tested cable pull 9 speed system in my commuter and looked more less the same around 23mm. As the cassette for both 9 and 10 speed systems has same width I decided to make experiment and borrowed rear mech RD-M530 for tests. And here we are! My strang setup. Front STI levers are Shimano 105 (5600), Crank is FSA Omega 46/34T with BDC110 and (road) chainline 43mm, cassette Shimano Tiagra CS-4600 12-30 (10 speed), rear derailleur  RD-M591 (purchased new as RD-530 was just for test only – on the pictures). Tested on the road. No problems whatsoever.

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soon more about the bike and other experiments…

Gran Canaria impressions …

As spring in Europe is officially cancelled I went with family to Gran Canaria. Trip looked from the start as standard “lay-on-the-beach” borring time  , and that’s kind of vacation people mostly looking for. BTW. Standard British way is: wake up in the morning (about 10am), go to the pool and take sun bed (by placing towel on it). Then get back to hotel room, eat, drink, and then spend whole day next to pool on sun bed, stuffing yourself with chips, coke, candys etc, trying to survive massive hangover from previous night. Occasionally go and have a shower, or dip into pool. About 9pm is time to move down town, for a slap-up meal (trying avoid vegetables if possible, apart from potatoes of course).  After dozen pints of lager about 1am, get back to hotel room. Sounds like fun, innit?
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Not really for me…

My college days are gone, and as a middle age doughnut I won’t survive such stomach and brain abuse. So I decided to spend half a holiday cycling around the island.

I went to free motion company as they where on top of the list displayed by google. Choosen cheapest option Canondale CAAD10. Pretty basic alloy model, but solid as equipped with Shimano 105 groupset/wheels and Conti tyres. The company seems well organized and professional. Very friendly stuff, no problems whatsoever.

The island is quite small but there’s plenty different routes. You can go along coast line, which is up and down with refreshing breeze or you can choose mountain with spectacular valleys (barranco) different climbs and smooth tarmac.

I was focused on mountains mostly as coastline I have at home in Dorset ;-). Below is an example route to Ayacata and some pictures.

route to Ayacata

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Couple of hints if you want to rent a bicycle there. What you’ll need? Helmet (mandatory there), standard summer setup of clothes, plus arm warmers and gilet.  Shoes (pedals if you have some exotic system, but if you have Shimano shoes/cleats shouldn’t be a problem). Lights!!! Front (basic blinking white led) and rear. This is mandatory as well, if you want go trough tunnels which is almost unavoidable in most cases (of course you can rent light but it’ll cost money). Also: spare inner tube (as you’ll have only one) or patches, allen keys/multitool, bottles (or you can buy sport drinks already in bottles, but they usually 0.5l and you need at least 2×0.75l). At last, if you want/need your favourite saddle (don’t forget allen key 8mm!). Looks like quite a list, but really everything you can squeeze into helmet and some hardware into pockets. Washing clothes is not a problem, as the sun is oppressive there and everything is dry in no time. Talking about sun, remember about sun care otherwise you’ll look stupid like me, with peeling skin on nose, sun tan on chicks and pale around the eyes 😉

Summarizing. I didn’t expect such a nice time on the bike there. Must say it took quite a while to get used to the heat, but higher in mountains wasn’t too hot, and all you need to remember is sun care. As cycle holiday place strongly recommended, or like me part of family holiday.

Keep them rolling. Adam

Garmin 705 mount (diy)

A year ago I found neat solution to mount my Garmin 705 on my racer . This time I’ve tried to find a budget solution for my crap cyclocross bike, as I had all the bits and piece available “for free” at work. I’ve used some alloy pipes, stainless steel screws M5, and I also managed to find some plastic corks in the workshop (wireman using them for something I’ve asked if I can nick four and they gave me a lot). The rest of the story is pretty much on the pictures. The goal was to make “shed engineering” despite the fact that I have an access to lathe or can have theoretically an access CNC. Instead of painting (I hate painting aluminium) I’ve used heat shrink (I developed kinda fetish with heatshrink, love watching it shrinking ;-)). Effect is instant, you don’t have to wait for paint to dry. It’s scratch resistant. It’s easier. Instead of heatshrink, a vinyl sheet will do the job (to match handlebar tape colour for example ;-)). The whole bracket is attached to bottom screws of stem face plate, and Is very stiff.

Direct link to instructables

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Full story in pictures below…

Continue reading “Garmin 705 mount (diy)”

Commuter mk2 (diy)

And again I’ve put together another commuter bike, as the previous old Giant frame will wait for better use (as winter bike) and better components. The price/quality factor is pretty Ok this time, as I had plenty parts lying around and some of them I transplant from previous commuter ;-). So in terms of costs, I spent 75 quid all together. Cassette Shimano HG50 9 speed- £15 (new), shifter Shimano Deore M511 £9 (new old stock! from chainreactions), rear mech (used from ebay) £8, chain Shimano Deore HG53 £15 (new), chainring plus bashguard Shimano Alfine 39T – £5 (new “old stock” from ebay), alloy frame Carrera Virtuosso – 15 quid, alloy fork (with spacers and cap) £7(!) (used from ebay). The rest bits and pieces I transplant from the old bike or I had already. Like handlebars, saddle, crank ancient Shimano (originally 3 rings road crank with 130BCD, painted, will see how long the paint will last) rack, wheels+tyres/tubes, pannier etc.

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I decided, after few calculations, to go for 1×9 drivetrain. So on front is standard Shimano Alfine chainring 39T and on the back is cheapest MTB Shimano cassette 11-34 which in terms of lightest gear is very similar what I had before 34(front)/30=1.133, now: 39(front)/34=1.147. The hardest gear is 39/11=3.54 which is enough for commuting, as I haven’t got a problem riding 30km/h without pedalling like complete retard. Now bad things. Despite the fact, that the frame has got threads for rack/mudguards, the bottom eyelets looks very weak. So I probably will not try carrying heavy stuff.

The fork apart from good price looks like is from an old school racer, and got a clearance just enough for 25mm tyre itself. No space left for mudguard at all. Other bad thing is lack of eyelets for mudguard (crap! I didn’t check it). I needed to make “problem solvers” of aluminium strips covered with heat shrink (you can see on the picture).

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Another bad thing was lack od thread to support rear mudguard against seat tube. Actualy there is one but the mudguard wasn’t long enough. This time I used DMR hinged clamp as on the pic. Lack of front shifter creates a bit of space for light as no cables are on the way.

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For rear light I’ve discovered very neat looking light from RSP.

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Ok, maybe it isn’t the prettiest bike in town, but so far doing the job perfectly, and the only thing I need to think of is front fork, which needs to be changed to something with eyelets and bigger clearance for mudguards.

Happy pedalling. Adam