Friday January 22nd 2021 – Normally in winter I ride studded tyres. I do so because they’re bombproof and hold me upright even on black, sheet ice. They are noisy and hard to ride, but always my winter weapon of choice.
This year I read about other, studless winter tyres: Continental Top Contact 2 Winter.
Now I’ve not had a great experience of Continental tyres before now – Gatorskins were dire, although Continental’s inner tubes are up there with the best. So I tried this complex-treaded soft rubber commuting tyre with some trepidation.
I needn’t have worried: They are stunning. Not as good on black ice, but they are extraordinarily grippy. They have dealt with snow, ice, slippery mud and good old fashioned wet leaves. The grip is incredible.I am seriously impressed.
What’s more they’re pretty fast and silent too.
I could get used to these. Well done, Continental. Well done.
Tuesday November 24th 2020 – I’ve got hold of a GoPro Hero 9 action camera: The last model I used was the Hero 5, I was never particularly impressed with, so I drifted out of using it.
I decided to revisit ride cams and managed to borrow a Hero 9 from work, and it’s quite a bit more complex and more polished than the 5. I have to work out how best to mount the thing for a start, so this cam is cropped down from a 4k shot in portrait. The image quality considering that is remarkable.
The light balance, exposure and colours are better, and I have to say the image stabilisation is remarkable. It’s really quite impressive. Once I can work out how to mount it on the bike securely in landscape, we’re off on some adventures. Be interesting to see the low light quality, and if they’ve sorted the formerly lousy reliability of the flash card interface.
Here’s an unedited, real time journey from an appointment near the Arboretum back towards work through the ring road of Walsall on a grey, dull Tuesday afternoon. The music is Bent’s lovely bit of electronic blippery ‘Exercise 6′.
Friday November 21st 2020 – One here for Bob’s big book of bizarre mechanical failures – specifically the ‘This is not my circus, and those are most definitely not my monkeys’ chapter.
This is not my bike. I was asked by an old family friend to change their tyres, as they didn’t feel comfortable to do so themselves. ‘No problem!’ I assured them as they wheeled the bike into the garage.
First step, remove rear wheel and let air out of the old tyre. Simple enough. Since the tubes would be too big for the new tyres, I removed the valve for a full deflation – and the telltale green ooze of tyre sealant – slime brand – bubbled out.
This would be no problem, usually, except the local bike shop who originally fitted these tyres made a mistake.
What I found was only half of the tyre went down – the other half opposite the valve state inflated. That I was astounded and somewhat bemused is an understatement.
Never, ever had seen that before, and it took me a few minutes to work out – with the help of a mate by text – to diagnose that the tube had been twisted when fitted, under inflation the pressure had compressed the two twists, and the sealant blocked them creating an effective seal.
Great. But how do you release the trapped air?
I didn’t want to try puncturing it. Friend suggested a sharp tap with a blunt, soft object on the inflated section, or bouncing it off the floor. I grabbed an offcut of 2×2 and rapped the tire sharply.
There was a loud bang, and a volcanic ejaculation of green sealant.
Everywhere.It went everywhere. It’s just possible there’s an object in the workshop that doesn’t have green slime on it somewhere, but as yet I’ve not found one. A total mess. I was dripping.
The areas where the tube had twisted had clearly worn tissue-thin against the tyre, and the tap with the wood was the straw that broke it’s back.There was no patching THAT tube.
I have never seen this before, and probably never will do again, but it was a messy, if perplexing adventure.
That was a blowout on the road waiting to happen, and the bike shop deserve a slap.
Fixing other people’s bikes is never as simple as you think…
Sunday November 15th 2020 – As another wet, grim weekend drew to a close without a decent ride I pottered down the Black Path and stopped to watch the local fox travel back to his nearby set carrying a discarded chip wrapper, sadly too hastily for a picture.
It’s been a few weeks since I last came down here and the leaves will soon be all gone, instead littering the path and creating a slippery but fun hazard for the unwary cyclist.
It’s stark, but a beautiful spot at night with a surprising amount of wildlife.
Can we have some decent weekend weather soon, please?
Tuesday, October 27th 2020 – Another cycleway, beautiful in the autumn night, but very treacherous as I found out, very nearly taking a spill on a corner.
This is the shortcut between the A51 near Beacon Park and Leomansley, a great way of cutting off the Friary island that pops you out further up the Walsall Road, giving a great route through the park when coming back from Lichfield.
The leaf mulch here was very wet and slippery, and despite taking care, my summer tyres still failed to grip as I skirted the anti-vehicle barrier.
Thankfully I held it and no harm done, but a timely reminder that there’s danger in the darkness.
Monday, October 12th 2020 – Back to the rain and grey. Such is the season.
I’ve been ignoring as much as possible the nights closing in, for my hatred of the darkening in Autumn causes me to get down if I think about it too much, but this evening, leaving work only a little later than usual, I hit The Suck.
The Suck is the season of commutes from when they start occurring in darkness until about Christmas, until motorists are used to the dark and bad weather again. All through this period, riding a bike home especially, is more arduous mentally and more hazardous. Unused to the gathering murk, drivers seem less attentive, more aggressive and riding safely in traffic requires absolute attentiveness in a way it doesn’t in daylight.
At around Christmas the hazard wanes as the traffic is more used to the lack of light, and the pressure and aggression gradually eases.
This evening, at Rushall feeling mentally flat, I realised how hard I’d been concentrating and that for another year, the traffic was sucking me down.
Be careful out there folks. Every other person on the road is someone’s child. Let’s look after each other.
May 9th – A run into Birmingham the day before had me hankering for the Sandwell Valley. I had errands to do, and the park is on the route between West Browmwich and Rushall Junction on the Tame Valley Canal, so what better chance to pay it a visit?
It was on my return I chose to visit the park: With snacks in the saddlebag and a cooling alcohol free G&T I enjoyed a small, private picnic overlooking Swan Pool.
It was busy with walkers, runners, cyclists and promenading families, but everything was well distanced and pleasant.
And while I sat cross legged and munching, the late afternoon sun warmed my soul and the azure blue sky, reflected in the water, was gorgeous.
March 13th – Between Walsall Wood and Clayhanger in the failing light, the towpath was sodden and the going tough, but the wet environment did catch the light rather well.
I keep grumbling about the rain, and this winter has been truly, remarkably wet. I’m at the stage now where it just doesn’t bother me anymore. If it’s raining, I don’t grumble – I have no choice. I just haul on the waterproofs and get on with it.
But I do kind of think fate now owes me a very dry, warm and sunny summer to make up for it…