All posts by Andy Henderson

Cathedral Challenge

Chichester CathedralWe're running a series of rides for people new to group riding or who haven't cycled for a while. They start with a short, 'get to know you' ride that includes a free bike check and progress through longer distances, tackling a series of challenges on the way:

  • Bronze: Havant to Portsmouth cathedral and back
  • Silver: Chichester cathedral and back
  • Gold: Winchester cathedral and back

That might seem impossible to you now, but here's a sample of the stories recent joiners to our rides have to tell:

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2017 Photo competition results

Another year of excellent entries.

After voting by the members who attended, we awarded prizes to:

  • First place: Anthony Beggs who also wins the photographic competition trophy
  • Second place: Roger Pratt
  • Third place: Wilf Forrow

You can see the winning entries below. Click any image to see a larger version.

Anthony was the clear winner. Roger and Wilf tied on the same number of points so second and third positions were decided by Andy's casting vote - see if you agree with his decision...

Anthony Begg's entry

Roger Pratt's entry

Wilf Forrow's entry

Replacing a hood

Following an unplanned meeting with a gravel path, one of the hoods on my bike got ripped, so I looked for a replacement. It was more difficult than I expected, but I finally succeeded.

HoodsI first thought I'd found just the thing on Amazon for a reasonable price (but, all the options I found were for a left and right hood, so I had to buy two when I wanted only one). When it arrived, however, it was obviously too small to be the right part. I'd ordered a SRAM Force 1 hood not realising there were two versions: one for hydraulic disk brakes and one for cable pull brakes (the hydraulic fluid reservoir sits above the levers making the unit taller). Oh well, it was easy to return. I downloaded a parts list from SRAM and found the exact part number I needed and Googled that. I found a matching hood on eBay, sourced from China. It said it was a genuine part and I was encouraged by the correct part number, so I ordered it. A few days later I got an email to say that there had been a manufacturing problem and did I want to wait a few weeks. I couldn't see how that could have happened for a genuine part, so I assumed it was a fake copy and immediately cancelled. I finally managed to order the correct part on eBay but it took a bit of detective work. The advert didn't include the part number, but:

  • The item said the hoods were for a SRAM Force 1 hydraulic shifter
  • The picture looked right
  • The enlarged picture had a faint 'Hydra' logo which matched the ripped one
  • The source was in the UK

The hoods I received matched exactly and came in a SRAM box - but I've no idea whether they are genuine or not.

Then came the difficult bit.

The hood fits over the shifter through the base and there's a cut out for the brake lever. So all you have to do is pull the old hood off and pull the new one on. In my research I'd seen several reports of people being able to do that without disassembling the shifter. The trouble was that the openings looked far too small to fit over the shifter. No way could I pull them on and off! Then I found this video:

They do pull on and off but you have to really stretch them. Mine were more difficult than the ones shown in the video because I had to pull them over the oil reservoir. Thankfully, I could practice using the old hood. It still took a bit of courage to pull the new one on, but after a few minutes struggling it went on!

Anyone want a right hand SRAM hydraulic hood?

PCTC update for members using TalkTalk

We have encountered random issues with emails sent to TalkTalk and Tiscali (part of TalkTalk).

Some of our emails were rejected out-of -hand so you never received them. We don't get rejections from any other service provider and we don't get rejections from all TalkTalk accounts.

It's nothing you have done, and you are not alone. An internet search for 'Talk Talk IP Blacklisted' will reveal loads of people with this issue. You'll even see occurrences when TalkTalk has blacklisted itself!

To try to get around this issue I am experimenting with a different method for sending to your address. I'll use the new method for all emails coming from the Portsmouth CTC web site for the time being.

Please let me know if:

  • You see any issues with Portsmouth CTC emails
  • You don't get Portsmouth CTC emails (if you log in to the web site, you can see the latest 'PCTC Update' email under 'Recent news and articles' on the home page) - but first, please check your spam or junk folder

Thanks,

Andy

Our journey into cycling: Malcolm & Debbie Wilkinson-Tough

MalcolmDebbieMalcolm - the "necessary" cyclist from the age of about 11. Lived in what was then a remote Sussex village (West Hoathly - East Sussex ) and a bike was his only means of transport. Then later in his 30's as a new Dad, as a way to catch the train to work in Brighton, he used an old rusty bone shaker of a bike picked up second hand for about a fiver. A mad dash in all weathers along the path next to the railway line from Ferring to Goring (West Sussex) quite literally racing the train because he was always late leaving home.

Debbie - the cyclist "that never really was". As a child my parents deemed cycling to be an extremely dangerous occupation and so bicycles were regarded much as sharp implements were to Sleeping Beauty. Needless to say forbidden things attract and by the age of 11 I was caught by my parents riding my best friend's brother's bike (he was 16 and a lot taller than me) in (I realise now) an extremely unsafe and wobbly manner on the main road through our village. Needless to say I received a double/triplicate/quadruplet/1000 times ban on riding bicycles along with a hefty curfew on going out. And so bicycles were placed on the back burner for a number of years.

And then came children. I was determined our children would cycle from an early age despite my apparent inability to stay upright on a bike. On family camping holidays we would manfully strap 5 bikes on the back of the car and the trailer tent to cycle "family railway line routes." As a result our 3 children all became competent cyclists who looked on with some amusement tinged with concern when their Mum fell off "the thing that refused to stay upright" for no apparent reason.

As the children got older Malcolm and I cycled less and less frequently but still retained a mild interest. But then came retirement. What could we do together that was outdoors based, would keep us fit, wouldn't strain the old knees too much and wouldn't be too costly . After much thought - cycling! So we both got new bikes, both hybrids, thinking we would continue to ride cycle trails probably mostly flat ones. Indeed the route from our house in Eastoke along the seafront and up the Hayling Billy Trail to the Ship and back was regarded as a good workout.

Then we saw an advert in the Hayling Islander from the Portsmouth CTC for the Cathedral Challenge - April 2016. The sentence that drew my attention was "If you cant keep up someone will wait for you"! Must be calling to us we thought. So despite the eventual target of a ride to Winchester cathedral from Havant we decided to give it our best shot.

We duly registered and took our bikes on the car to the start of our first ride from Havant. (didnt want to risk not being able to get home when the first ride was about 12 miles!) There were about 30 riders including several CTC members who were very encouraging and welcoming. We were each allocated into groups of about 5 or 6 with a leader and a back marker for each group. Marvellous! as a ride on the road was not the easiest prospect for me.

Half way into the ride Malcolm's bike chain broke. Immediately CTC support leapt into action. The remaining riders in our group were asked to ride on with a leader and 3 other CTC members stopped to help. Malcolm's bike was upended before we knew it and it was fixed 10 minutes later! Amazing!! And all with such cheeriness. Only 10 minutes more to the pub where we consumed tea and cake whilst chatting to several "would be" and experienced cyclists all of whom it seemed regarded tea and cake and a good chat as a necessary highlight of any cycle ride. Hmm - this cycling lark was looking promising! On our return back to base Malcolm and I were invited back to "Bill's" house who offered to properly repair Malcolm's bike as the unofficial CTC "bike mender." Needless to say we took him up on his kind offer. (Thank you again Bill.) And by the way I never thought I would be able to cycle 12 miles.

The cathedral cycle challenge gradually increased the length and hilliness of rides. My stamina and confidence grew. Malcolm's stamina grew. I graduated from the "Cyclist that never really was" to the "Never thought I could do it" cyclist. I progressed from having my saddle really low to a "just right" saddle height. I developed the ability to get through staggered cyclepath entrances without always having to get off. I could stay upright more often than not and my stopping and starting got better. I had never been able to use gears but gradually with CTC members' support and encouragement gear changes are now pretty much OK. I always had to get off a bike to go even slightly uphill. One of my greatest achievements was cycling up Portsdown Hill from Bedhampton albeit at a snail's pace but I did it without getting off! We cycled the Silver Cathedral Challenge ride (25 miles) and our longest ride was 35 miles including some hills. We "never thought we could do it". We will never be the fastest in the group but that's OK by us.

We have recently bought a motorhome with an impressive bike rack. An added bonus to our new found ability to cycle longer distances that are not entirely flat. We look forward to cycling in France, Spain, Italy, Scotland, Wales... and of course more rides in the company of members of Portsmouth CTC through the beautiful Hampshire and West Sussex countryside.

My journey into cycling: Paul Wheeler

Paul at SouthseaDespite having the surname 'Wheeler' I had little previous cycling experience until last year and certainly very little experience of riding in groups. I also had just moved to the area so was a relative stranger to the back roads and lanes around the Hampshire and Sussex border. I was looking for something to get me active and to meet new people when my wife suggested that I should contact Portsmouth CTC and get involved with their Cathedral Challenge. My first thoughts were that it had something to do with eating one of my favourite types of cheddar cheese, but of course it was an opportunity to go cycling.

Once I had this point clarified I contacted the CTC and I arranged to meet the club at the allotted location in Havant. When I arrived, there was a group of cyclist already there but reassuringly they were certainly not a training group of lycra-clad Sky Cycling riders and so I immediately felt comfortable and that I would not be out of place or embarrassed as a 'newbie.'

After an introductory talk on the 'rules of cycling' and some very sensible safe cycling guidance we set off on a series of rides that were suitable for a range of cyclists and always led by an experienced club member together with a good shepherd at the back to ensure no-one got lost. The rides initially took us out from Havant along the mainly flat landscape and gradually increased in distance as us new riders' confidence and capability increased. Over the course of a few weeks we visited, as advertised, the cathedrals of Portsmouth and Chichester to achieve our Bronze and Silver awards while still cycling on roads that were not steep, just rolling, and at a pace that suited the group's ability.

The final challenge was to cycle to Winchester and this was understandably more of a test in terms of distance and the gradients tackled. In 2016 the added challenge was an unseasonably hot day but with good leadership, plenty of water and key stops for refreshments I made it to Winchester Cathedral and then back to the South Coast.

I have neglected to include arguably the main reasons why I came back week after week on the challenge, the people. Whether it was the existing members of the club or the new riders everyone was always very friendly and encouraging and made me want to come back the next week. Oh, and of course all the wonderful cafes where we stopped to enjoy a cup of coffee (or tea) and a slice of cake.

Chain links

Chain links allow you to join a chain and - in some cases - break a chain without tools.

They are useful for:

  • Routinely breaking and making chains for cleaning - arguably the most thorough cleaning methods require you to remove your chain from your bike.
  • Repairing a broken chain - particularly while out on a ride. Note that this will usually require a chain breaking tool as well.

If I buy a new chain that comes with joining pins, I always use a chain link instead. I also carry several chain links with me on a ride - just in case.

The following sections describe several aspects of chain links. Click any section heading to show or hide it.

Reusable LinkReusable link
Use Once LinkUse-once link
Connex LinkConnex link

There are three main types of chain link:

  1. Reusable chain links - these are designed to be used to join and break chains multiple times.
  2. Use-once chain links - having used one to make a chain, you are expected to discard it if you use it to break the chain again. I've read scepticism about the need to replace (which might be justified) but reusable links come with a price premium - if all links were reusable there'd be no point in producing use-once versions. The issue seems to be that the retaining edge can be damaged when removing a use-once link meaning the link can come apart while on the road.
  3. Wipperman Connex chain links - are reusable chain links. They deserve their own category because they have been specially designed to make and break easily. They cost more than other types of link (unless bought with a Wipperman chain) but breaking a Connex chain link is genuinely easy to do without tools - you simply make a 'Z' shape with the chain link and slide the two halves apart.

You'll see that chain links are sold in 'speeds', for example: 10-speed or 11-speed. That refers to the number of cogs on your rear derailleur. The more the cogs, the smaller the spacing between them and the thinner the chain - therefore, the thinner the chain link.

In the final section 'Other types of chain link' I describe a 'Master link' which is sometimes described as "Universal". That was true some while back, but I wouldn't attempt to use one with modern 10- or 11-speed chains.

So, you've decided you want to buy a re-usable chain link. Great. But how can you tell that a chain link is re-usable or not. Should be easy - but it isn't. In practice, you'll need to take account of several clues:

  • Package description - as long as you're buying a reputable product (Shimano, SRAM, Wipperman, KMC or similar) from a reputable supplier, the package description should be definitive. If it says "reusable", it is. If it is silent about reusability, it isn't.
  • Chain size - if you have an 11-speed chain link, the chances are it isn't reusable (the major manufacturers seem to have decided that it isn't practical to produce reusable 11-speed chain links).
  • Product name - we're now getting into murkier waters because names can be used interchangeably. As a general rule "lock" in the name implies a use-once link. If it's a Wipperman Connex link - it's definitely re-usable.
  • Price - use-once links cost around £3 per link (two halves); reusable links come at a premium starting at around £6. Obviously it's still possible to encounter over-priced use-once links!
  • Supplier's description - this should be accurate. Better, though, if you can confirm via the manufacturer's web site. Check the packaging when the link arrives.
  • Purchaser comments - are, in my opinion, useless. You'll often see people saying links are reusable when they mean "I reused it and got away with it". That's not the same thing at all.

Replacing an old chain with a new one and a chain link is pretty easy - provided you have a chain-breaking tool. My multi-tool has one and I've always got it on a ride - although I've only ever used it at home - so far!

This video describes the process of cutting the new chain to length and fitting it with a chain link. The process is the same for most types of link.

Click to display the video

The fitting process is slightly different for a Connex link. This video shows how it's done (and how easy it is to break a chain that uses a Connex link).

Click to display the video

In the previous section I included a video that shows how to break a chain that uses a Connex link.

For other types of link the process can be as easy as pushing the two halves of the link inwards (towards each other) while sliding the two halves apart.

In practice, I have found some links to be this easy, but others either very difficult or impossible to do this way. It's perhaps at this point you appreciate the difference between a use-once link and a truly reusable one!

The next section explains how to break a difficult link.

My favourite technique for breaking a chain is to use this method as advocated by Chris Juden when he was CTC Technical Officer...

Here’s a quick and easy, tools-free way of opening a chain link from CTC member and Chartered Mechanical Engineer Ian Sheppard.

"Have the chain on your largest chainwheel, with the quick-link to the front of it. Hold the crank and pull the lower length of chain forward one tooth on the chainwheel. Move the one tooth’s worth of slack up and around the teeth, so that the quick-link and one other link form a sticking-out 'V'. Tap the point of the V sharply with a something hard and heavy (a hammer is ideal but a rock will do) and the quick-link will slide open – just like that!"

I tried this method on several chains. Some links needed a little pinch first (or a sharper tap) and it helps to aim at the side of the link without a slot at that end, but if you do that it always works a treat! Ian assures us that there is no danger of damage to the teeth, because the chain is forced into their roots where they are strongest.

Fortunately, it's a lot easier to do than explain. I couldn't find a video to show the method - please let me know if you find one.

This video shows an alternate method using a bit of brake cable. I suspect one or two pairs of pliers might help the process. I would also simply take the chain off the front rings to relieve tension on the chain rather than using a broken spoke as shown.

Click to display the video

Chain Link RemoverArguably the simplest - but most expensive - method is to use a tool designed to separate chain links like this one.

But where's the fun in that!

Master LinkThis type of link is called a 'master link'. I haven't used one, but Mike Skiffins writes:

It was the only one I knew in the fifties. Single speed or hub gears so it didn't need to be sloppy in the joint, and the spring plate was no problem being used again and again. I always slid the closed end over one pin, hooked one arm on to the other pin and used a screwdriver to lever the other arm over the head of the pin into the slot. Rules are that you have to have the closed end in the direction of movement - that prevents the open ends catching and possible springing out. It is too thick to work well on a derailleur as far as I know, but then I didn't have a derailleur in those days.

The other method I know about is to use a connecting pin. Definitely not reusable (although in past times they might have been). You also need a chain breaking tool to make and break a chain using a pin.

2016 Photo competition results

Another high standard of entries this year.

After voting by the members who attended, we awarded prizes to:

  • First place: Keith Wileman who also wins the photographic competition trophy
  • Second place: John Rosbottom
  • Third place: Pat Mitchell

You can see the winning entries below. Click any image to see a larger version.

An honourable mention goes to Wilf Forrow who was just a few points behind Pat.

Keith Wileman's entry

John Rosbottom's entry

Pat Mitchell's entry