Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sunday 31st August: Cycle Shopping on the Spesh

Ever since I've been to Amsterdam I have been mulling over how to use my bike more for commuting/shopping/general fubbing around and using my car less. I have a bike which is ideal for the purpose - my old Specialized Rockhopper. I bought it about 7 years ago and it was my first proper mountain bike and not cheap (around 800 pounds) but it was a 17" frame which is quite simply too big for me to comfortably handle offroad but was actually ok on the road. I now normally ride frames around the 14/15" mark offroad. I started cycling to work on it in the summer and just changed the tyres over and I put up with it as I knew no better and wasn't really doing anything particularly technical until meeting Jez who told me straight away the frame was too big. In the end I bought a 14" Rock Lobster frame from Merlin and moved most of the components from the Rockhopper onto it. The frame and forks languished in the garage all winter until I realised that doing a road commute on a small MTB was actually not that comfy and I couldn't be bothered changing the tyres over all the time as I was riding offroad about twice a week and trying to commute three times.

Jez managed to scrabble together enough parts together to build the frame back up into a commuter. It had a pair of his old Mavic disk wheels (disk only frame) which had white rims and actually looked pretty good on the frame as its white and red, we got a cheap pair of rigid forks and a pair of 170mm cranks from fleabay and we had old shifters/mech/cassette on it, I think I only had to buy a saddle for it in the end. I used this to commute to work for a couple of years and it was ideal for the purpose as I put a rack on it and used to carry my stuff in a rack pack. I only stopped using it as my commute changed from 8 hilly miles with the option of easy offroad through Cuerden Park to 18 flattish road miles to Blackpool and I bought a road bike instead and carried a small rucksack. I did persevere with the Spesh over the first winter but it just felt too heavy and the MTB ratio gears were annoying on the flat after getting used to a roadie.

Around November last year I put a new rear mech, cables, middle chainring and road 11-23 block on it which helped but I still preferred the roadie and its been hung up in the garage for months. I put 4 seasons tyres on the roadie as well just to make it handle better in the wet!

After our Sunday ride we decided we needed some lettuce so I thought, I'll cycle and pick it up and give my legs a spin out after this mornings ride. I knew by the time I'd sorted the Spesh I woldn't have time to get to Sainsburys so thought I'd go to Tesco which is about three miles away. So I wrestled it down from the wall (and hung the road bike up as I can lift that up and down easily), pumped the tyres up, lubed the chain then looked for my Kryptonite lock. I couldn't find it and in the end I had to use the mahoosive Abus one which took up loads of space in the rack pack and I decided to take a rucksack as well. I think I finally set off around 3:45 into some nice drizzle but quiet roads. I got to Tesco and discovered they don't seem to have any proper bike parking (or maybe its round the back of the store or somewhere equally unhandy) so locked it in the Trolley area along with a few other bikes then clattered my way round the store in my cycling shoes and looking like a dork no doubt in my helmet, the shoes were MTB ones thankfully else I'd be like Bambi on ice on that floor. I picked up lettuce, stamps (and posted my Nana's Get Well Soon card), then picked up a few blocks of President butter as it was on offer then headed out. Bike was still there thankfully and then cycled home on quiet roads again- easy peasy! It was a 6 mile round trip and took less than half an hour total cycling time, at that quiet time it would be quicker in a car but not by much.

I have plans to cycle to the Library, the farm shop, butcher and into the centre of Preston as it is definitely easier and quicker than taking the car nad I can park the bike for free (if I can get over the anxiety of having some scroat nick it, the Specialized branding and the disk brakes make it attractive). I need to find some quieter routes around Leyland if I'm cycling on a Saturday afternoon as the roads can be silly and I need to get organised enough to get most of my bulky shopping either once a month or delivered.

I have also invested in a pair of flippy pedals, one side SPD, the other flat as I would like to have the capacity to hop on with normal shoes. The only snagette is that I ride egg beaters rather than SPDs but I have a pair of Pearl Izumi shoes that I no longer use as I put my toe through the mesh on the front and if I can get the old eggbeater cleats off I will put SPD cleats on those as well as toe covers! There doesn't seem to be an equivalent pedal in the eggbeater style.

I have also ordered a pair of panniers for trips to the butchers and farm shop....I plumped for the Ortlieb back roller classic, they're completely waterproof and I figure I'll be able to sell them on if I don't use them enough. I've ordered the red ones, to match the bike (tart!). They should hopefully arrive in the next few days.

I need to find the Krytonite lock as its a more user friendly size than the extra long Abus one for ferrying around then I should hopefully be all set for errand running on the Spesh.


  1. I love shopping by bike. I'm lucky and my local Asda has sensibly located bike racks. I often use my singlespeed for stuff like that and up to 3miles I just cycle in trainers on my spds, not ideal but not as bad as you might think either.

  2. Just waiting for the panniers, already got some routes planned out for getting to varius places and just need to try them (watch me get completely lost or try to cycle onto the M6 sliproad or something daft).