I created this video from our rides on 4th, 7th and 8th of July 2018:
The featured bird is, by the way, a Jackdaw.
I created this video from our rides on 4th, 7th and 8th of July 2018:
The featured bird is, by the way, a Jackdaw.
We'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:
That might seem impossible to you now, but here's a sample of the stories recent joiners to our rides have to tell:
Another year of excellent entries.
After voting by the members who attended, we awarded prizes to:
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...
I had my first ride as a new member on Saturday and thoroughly enjoyed myself, despite a few sores here and there. I would just like to thank Andy, Paul and the rest of the group for their support during the ride and it was a pleasure to meet the other members that took part. Looking forward to the next one. Thanks
Chain links allow you to join a chain and - in some cases - break a chain without tools.
They are useful for:
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.
Types of chain link
There are three main types of chain link:
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.
Telling reusable from use-once links
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:
Adding a link to a new chain
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.
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).
Breaking a reusable link
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.
Breaking a use-once or 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.
Arguably 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!
Other types of chain link
This 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.
There was some discussion about this on todays ride. I went over both twice today and the heights (as measured on the Garmin) were consistently Buriton 141 metres and Butser cutting 163 metres. Note this is heights shown after readings were corrected for pressure changes.
Photos are a great way to share and remember cycling experiences, and we use them heavily on the website, the club magazine, and at club evenings. While you can include the odd few photos in website articles, our website isn't really set up to store hundreds and hundreds, but don't despair.
Sharing photos on the web is getting easier and easier and can even be free. In fact, we recommend uploading your precious photos and other files up to the web as a backup for when (not if) your phone or computer eventually dies! Once they're uploaded, you can very easily share a link to them in a post, or by email - e.g. for use in the magazine, or club meetings.
It's not difficult these days. The easiest and free way to get started is to register for a free account with one or more of the websites below, if you haven't already. Here are some we've tried and can recommend:
Once your your photos are uploaded, click the 'sharing' option to get a link (a web URL) to them. Usually, you'll be sharing more than one photo, so best to first group them into a folder or album and share that in one go. Simplest is to make them public, but it's pretty secure, as the link is usually so complex that no-one else could guess it, but if you're paranoid about security, and don't mind a bit of extra work, you can share them so they're only visible to specific named individuals.
As an example, I just created an album on Flickr of my CTC ride to Wiggonholt - you can follow the link here.
Do give photo sharing a try!
Alternatively if you just want to send one or more photos to someone without filling their email inbox, there are several free services that allow you to send your photos via a web site. Your recipient gets an email to let them know your files are available together with a link allowing them to download them when they're ready.
There are a lot of sites offering this service for free and without asking you to create an account first. You just provide the destination email address(es), your email address and the files you want to send. The web site does the rest. Beware, however. These sites have to earn their money somehow. Some ask you to give permission for them to send you and your recipient 'promotional material' which could be irritating at best and offensive at worst - so read the T&Cs carefully. This site...
... gets its revenue by displaying adverts as background images while you use the site, It seems to be benign. You can even upload files without providing your recipient's email address (they might not take too kindly to you giving their email address to a third party). You get a link you can email to your recipient privately. To use the free service go to the web site and click the '?' icon at the bottom right of the left-hand pane for more information.
Cycling UK published a useful article in the April 2016 edition of The Cycle. You can read that article here.
We are very lucky to have the South Downs National Park on our doorstep. It's a great place to cycle with fantastic views and the scenery seems to change mile-by-mile and week-by-week.
But there's no getting away from it, cycling in the SDNP means tackling hills.
This note describes some approaches to getting up hills on a bike - and some suggestions for what to do if you can't. Click any of these headings to find out more...
Strength and fitness
Of course, you need a certain level of strength and fitness to do hills. But you don't need to be super-human. Anyone with average strength and fitness can manage most of the hills we do.
Other issues such as technique and a positive attitude are usually more important.
Having said that, cycling up a hill requires a particular set of muscles to work together. Collectively we call them 'hill legs'. When you start doing hills you're bound to get some stiffness as your legs adjust to the new demands you're putting on them. The only way to get 'hill legs', however, is to do hills.
As you do hills, your strength and fitness will improve. It's not always possible to tell that's happening. Your first indication might come when you realise you're taking less time to recover for the next hill.
Don't believe your eyes
You might have experienced the foreshortening effect already. As you approach a hill it looks impossibly steep. When you get there, it seems to magically level out into an easy climb. Where did it go?
It's an optical illusion, you really can't believe your eyes.
The effect is magnified if you're going downhill into a valley looking at the hill the other side. In this situation, hills can appear almost vertical.
Obviously, you can't ignore the fact that there's a hill coming, but don't let it defeat you before you even get there. Don't trust your eyes.
False summits can really get you down. You think you're approaching the top, the road is levelling out, but then you realise you've been unable to see there's another section of hill to come. If you're on a hill you don't know, try asking others cycling with you if there are false summits - it's much better to find out before you get to them.
Because of the foreshortening effect and false summits, some people find it unhelpful to look up the hill while they are on it. You need to be aware of what's in front of you, but try looking at the road four or five metres in front and resist looking up until you know you're at the top.
You might also encounter a 'false flat': a stretch of road that looks flat, but isn't. The only solution is to be aware of the possibility and be prepared to drop to lower gears if you encounter it.
Get to know your gears
Some people can manage to get up hills on a single gear, but that's not normal!
You're going to need to use your gears, so it's worth getting to know a bit about them:
To change to a large chain ring, your shifter pulls a cable to drag the chain across. To return to a smaller ring, your shifter releases the tension in the cable and a spring pulls the chain back. You cannot therefore control the tension used to change to a smaller ring. If you are cycling up a hill, the chain will be straining against the chain ring and the spring won't be strong enough to move it. You try to change to a lower gear and nothing happens! As you approach a hill, you should change to a smaller chain ring before you get to it.
When you are on a hill you'll find it easier to change to a lower gear at the back than at the front. Even so, you still need to overcome tension in the chain. So:
If you drive a car with manual gear change, you'll already be familiar with some of these techniques.
Slow and steady
When faced with a hill, it's natural to try to take a run at it and get to the top as quick as possible. For some hills that will work but for long or steep ones that's exactly the wrong approach. You'll find either your legs will tire quickly or you will run out of puff. Either way, you'll have to stop part way up.
Going up slowly in a low gear takes patience, but it's easier. Take it slow from the start of the hill, if you wait until you feel the effects before slowing down, it will be too late; you're already running out of oomph.
... unless it's a dip
If you're riding down into a dip with a hill the other side, use all the speed you've built up on the downhill to give you momentum to help you up the other side.
Bear in mind, though, that you might need to switch quickly between a high gear on the downhill to a low gear going back up. To change gear while you are coasting, you have to turn your pedals - that's just how they work. If you don't turn your pedals, the gears won't change and you'll get a nasty crunch when you push down hard.
Here's a thought. It's can be easier to do a difficult hill that you don't know, than one you do.
Surely it should be easier to do a familiar hill because you know what to expect? But that's the point. Psychology plays an important part in getting up hills:
So treat all hills as if you were approaching them for the first time. You might have had a bad experience last time, but that could be for a number of reasons. We all have off days (or weeks, or months). Maybe you're a bit stronger this time, perhaps you've improved your techniques. Set bad experiences aside, and see what you can manage this time.
Get out of the saddle
This technique involves straightening your legs so you're standing on the pedals and then transferring your weight on to the highest pedal forcing it down then switching your weight to the other pedal; then repeat.
It allows you to put more power into the pedals, but is a lot more tiring than normal pedalling.
It's standard practice for professional riders, and some of our members do it a lot when climbing hills. Most of us, however, reserve the technique for:
Watch your weight
The lighter you are, the easier the hills. Have a look at what you are carrying. Do you really need all of it? Individual items might not weigh much, but taken together you could be adding quite a bit of unnecessary baggage.
Take care if you have large panniers. They invite you to add more and more stuff that you might need, but never do.
The heaviest single component can be the most difficult to deal with: the one on the saddle. Going out for regular rides with us can help but you won't lose much weight through exercise alone. You need to get in control of what you eat too. In fact, exercise can increase your weight since muscle weighs more than fat.
Food, air and water
For your muscles to work they need fuel, and oxygen to burn it. Your body needs water to function.
If your body wants to breathe or pant, there's a reason. It needs extra oxygen. So give it what it needs. Breathe through your mouth and deeply.
The longer and hillier the ride, the more fuel and water you'll need. So:
If you sweat, you lose more than water. You also lose important elements, notably sodium and potassium. Most meals will replenish sodium and potassium levels but you might find it helpful to take supplements between times. For example, a bag of crisps at elevenses or tea.
Supplements in your water bottle can also be helpful. There are three basic types:
As you're cycling, you might feel a little light-headed and strange. If you do, let the rest of the group know and stop. You might be about to 'bonk'. Your energy levels are so low, your body simply packs up and you faint. Eat and drink something. Take advice from more experienced riders. Please don't ignore the symptoms if you get them, fainting on a bike can be extremely dangerous.
If you can't make it
You either run out of puff, or your legs won't work for you.
Stop safely. Be aware of traffic around you. Give riders behind you warning you might be stopping so they have time to get round you. Ideally you want to stop where you can get off the road.
Let someone know you've stopped. The back marker should be aware of you, but it's worth making sure. The ride will wait for you (and anyone else that's struggling). They will normally wait at the top of the hill, but might be a bit further on if there's no safe place to stop.
Having stopped, you have two choices:
If the hill is steep, it can be difficult to restart, so pushing might be the only option. Otherwise, you might be surprised how quickly your body recovers when you try option 2. It can be less tiring overall than option 1 - and you will have the satisfaction of completing the hill on your bike.
Don't worry what the rest of the group is thinking. Everyone has had to push up hills. They know what it's like. Try not to think of pushing as a failure; instead think of it as preparation for the next hill.
Look after your gears and chain
To ensure gear changes are as smooth as possible:
Cables will stretch over time in which case you'll find it increasingly difficult to engage the gear you want. Your bike will have tension adjusters either as part of the derailleur, the gear shifter, or both. They allow you to adjust cable tension without needing tools. To make larger corrections you'll need a screwdriver or an allen key.
We say that chains 'stretch' too. In fact they get longer because of wear in the chain. If your chain starts slipping on your sprockets it has stretched too far - but by then it's too late. You've almost certainly damaged the sprockets and they'll need replacing too. Some of us carry chain gauges for checking chain stretch, and any decent bike shop will be happy to check your chain for you. Try to check it every couple of months and - as it gets close to needing replacement - more frequently.
In any case, sprockets and chain rings wear over time and will need to be replaced. There's an argument for replacing your sprockets with every new chain - you can keep using your chain until you detect chain slip, making it last longer. Some of us allow up to three chain changes before changing the sprockets - but you need to keep a close eye on chain stretch, and change the chain as soon as it's failing the gauge. The most disciplined of us use three chains in rotation, switching every few weeks - that maximises the life of the chains and the sprockets, but needs dedication!
Replacing chains, sprockets, chain rings and cables needs some specialist tools and expertise, but it's not particularly difficult. There are loads of 'how-to' guides on the internet. If you're lucky, you'll find a video of someone working with the same model of gears as you have.
If you don't want to DIY, find a bike shop you can trust. Ask around to see which one others can recommend.
Consider toe clips and cleats
If you cycle with flat pedals and shoes, you can press down on the pedals for less than half of each rotation. When a pedal is at six-o-clock, your foot is just a passenger until your other foot rotates the pedal back up to twelve-o-clock.
Toe clips attach to the front of your pedal and surround the front part of your foot. They give you some scope to pull a pedal up as well as push it down. They also allow you to put more oomph into the pedal as it moves forwards. When you stop, you have to take your foot out of the toe clip by pulling back.
Toe clips come with straps that allow you to tighten the clip around your foot while you cycle, and quick releases to allow you to extricate your foot when you stop. That's more efficient, but it's practical only for race tracks.
Clipless pedals - or 'cleats' - require both special pedals and shoes. A cleat on the bottom of the shoe engages with the pedal so the two are stuck together. As well as pushing down on the pedal, cleats allow you to pull up, push forward and pull back. You get to use more of your leg muscles and share the work between them. Cleats also ensure your foot is always in the optimum position on the pedal.
You get out of a cleat by twisting your heel sideways, away from the bike. That's not a natural movement and - until you're used to them - stopping can be a problem. It's normal for people to go over sideways - rather comically - a few times at first. Fortunately you are moving very slowly when it happens. It quickly becomes second nature and many argue that clipless pedals are easier and safer than toe clips.
There are two main types of clipless pedal:
Most of our riders that use cleats use the SPD style as they're more practical for our type of riding.
Note that it's important to fit cleats correctly. Knee joints work in just one plane. They cannot twist like your wrists. If you fit cleats at the wrong angle you can damage your knees. A high degree of float is important when you're starting out with cleats. Use an SPD cleat or a grey/yellow race cleat.
You can use an allen key to reduce the pressure needed to unclip a cleat. When starting out, set this to its lowest tension to make it as easy as possible to get out when you need to.
Pimp your bike
In the past, bike manufacturers seem to have designed their bikes for people riding fast on the flat. The lowest gears just aren't low enough for normal people doing our more difficult hills. That seems to be changing. As a result, more bikes are being sold with sensible gears and with options to replace components to give you lower gears.
If you want to lower your gears, the simplest way is to replace your cassette at the back with one that has more teeth in its largest sprocket. Your bike and derailleur will have a maximum sprocket size and range of sprockets (smallest to largest). You might, for example, be allowed to go from 25 teeth to 28. It doesn't sound a lot, but it will definitely make a difference. The manufacturer of your gear changers will have a web page that tells you the limits. A bike shop will also be able to advise you.
You can get an even larger sprocket at the back by either:
You can also get lower gear ratios by:
But, unless you are prepared to experiment, you should get professional advice before taking any of those steps.
If your bike has hub gears, your options are limited because you can't change the gears inside the hub.
We hope the above is some help. Please ask around the next time you are on a ride if you have questions or get in touch via the web site. But remember, three cyclists can mean four opinions!