Bike Friday

Iceland - Day 3 - Skógar

Date: 25th July 2008

A day for some travel. It was a pretty easy day, we took our time. left Reyjavík heading for Skógar. When we went in this direction in 2006, we went via Seltún, emerging on Highway 1 at Hverageði after travelling on gravel road 42. This time we went directly on Highway 1.

Monica near SeljalandfossSeljalandfoss

We had good weather for the day. It was warm and pleasant. We stopped at Seljalandsfoss which is about 20km along the road from Hvolsvöllur. Seljalandsfoss is a waterfall, visible for miles along the road as a vertical streak on Stórhödði. There is a picnic area there, as well as public conveniences - and that's it.

Seljalandsfoss is formed from the meltwaters of Eyjafjalljökull, the baby glacier of the Eyjafjalljökull, Mýrdalsjökull, Eyjafjalljökull, Vatnajökull trilogy. Vatnajökull being the big daddy of the glaciers, indeed, it's so large that the various extremities of it often have their own names.

At Seljalandsfoss Monica and I walked behind the waterfall. The paths isn't particularly hard, but it can be slipperly, and on a few occasions it can be steep (but it is 'stepped'). If you decide to do this, start by going to the right of the falls, it's easier that way - and take a waterproof due to the fine spray.

Continuing on, we arrived at Skógar, we were staying at Hotel Skógar. It's a nice little hotel - quite quiet. The trouble was that being all at ground level, occasionally someone walked past the window - we had a small kid looking in at one point. The same was true later in the week at the Northern Lights hotel, but people seemed less inclined there to walk around the hotel.

When we arrived, at about 4pm, I decided to unpack my bicycle and go for a ride. The bike went together with no problems at all. Open case. Lift out. Unfold. Remove fork spacer, put quick release on wheel. Attach wheel. Put in stem. Put in handlebars. Put in saddle. Pedals. Done. Then it came to pumping the tyres. Now, here I had problems. The pump I had brought with me chose this point to fail. It simply would not get a good seal around the valve. It was a non-starter - I could not ride. This was so frustrating. I had to pack everything up again.

So, what to do now? Well, Mum had gone for a walk up to Skógarfoss, so Monica and I went to find her, then suggested that we take a trip down to Vík. At Vík there are some superb black sand beaches. Around the corner is Dyrhólaey, where one can see puffins and nice rock formations (although we didn't get there on this trip). As we got near to Vík the weather changed. It became very windy - and so this small excursion became nothing more than arriving at Vík, getting blown about on our way into the touristy wool shop there, and returning to the hotel (where the weather improved again). That's the thing with Iceland, the weather can change quickly both with time and with geography.

In the evening, we ate at the hotel. It was rather expensive, though very nice. Other options (discovered the next day) included a cheap-end diner nearer Skógarfoss, which served things like the obligatory pizza, and a diner in Vík at the service station.

Sky Sports sponsors the London Freewheel

It has been announced that Sky Sports are the title sponsors of the London Freewheel in 2008. This is a devastating blow. Last year the sponsors were Hovis and we got free sandwiches. I'm not exactly going to get a free satellite dish out of it, am I?

The freewheel is a good event, is free, and takes place in the second half of september. It's worth making the effort for if you can get into London.

Further reading: Press release about a summer of cycling and an Evening Standard article where Boris exalts Londoners to dust off their bikes. Also, here is a summary of the freewheel. Finally, the BikeforAll site on the freewheel sponsorship.

Riding to Portsmouth

My trust steed (the one with wheels)

I did a huge bike ride yesterday, about 80km to Portsmouth. My route took me over the South Downs - and this was very hard going. More than once I had to walk it.

The downhills were great though, some of them just seemed to go on and on - and I got a new top speed of 62.2km/hr.

The ride itself was done at a lowly average of 11.5km/hr, as I say, the hills really affected things.

This represented a huge undertaking for me, and I gratefully staggered onto the train at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, unlike saturday, there was no medal for me. I think I deserved one!

I had arrived in Portsmouth

I completed the ride on my New World Tourist. It's developed an odd squeak when being walked (not ridden) - I think the brakes need a little adjusting - I'll try and do that soon.

My train got in after dark, and I did find myself befuddled again that Greengear saw fit to make a bicycle rack without a standard attachment for lighting. Let's hope that they can come up with a bracket which can bolt on to provide a standard light plate (with 50mm and 80mm spaced holes). This'll then accept a cateye adaptor (or similar). I have asked them directly if they had a particular brand of light in mind when designing the rear fitting - to my surprise they could not recommend anything.

I got home using a light attached to my under-seat tool carrier - but this isn't ideal.

Odd Rack FittingRear Rack Lighting Bracket Design

Bikeathon Completed

My Bikeathon Medal

So, I did the 26 mile (46.2km actually according to my cycle computer) Bikeathon, having cycled some 20km to get to the train in the first place due to engineering works, another 8km at the other end to and from the station, and then 5km from the train station home (I used a different station).

My New Bike and the Thames Barrier

It was a nice route, well signposted, with only one unclear part on the return leg. The route took me from Chelsea, up to Smithfield Market, around the Isle of Dogs, then to the Thames Barrier. Evans cycles were there, and they did a 'tune up' of the bike (a new bike should be checked after some distance, and this was a free check!).

The route returned through the City (I stopped in Evans Cycles' City branch as I'd lost a bolt on my cycle rack, the tuneup people didn't have a spare. The guy in the City branch gave me a new bolt in goodwill). Kudos to Evans Cycles for being helpful without fuss or bother. This earned them a lot of goodwill. Okay, admittedly that was the point of them sponsoring the event and doing their 'surgeries' - but the guy in the City branch didn't have to sort out my rack for me.

As the end of the course approached, I did feel weary - but Monica was there to meet me, which was most welcome.

Returning home, she wasn't on a bike, so I cycled to Clapham Junction whilst she walked and took the bus. I got there in plenty of time, allowing me to refuel with a pastie. She arrived in the nick of time and we both got the same train home.

There were engineering works for our station, so Monica got off 20km away and used the train replacement bus service. I was tired and so stayed on the train (which went down a different branch) and cycled 5km back. She arrived just before me, I was slow.

On the way back, I was almost taken out by a guy in a black estate car who decided to emerge the wrong way from a one-way street at a high speed as I was about to cross it (having looked that way and then, seeing it was one-way, concentrated on the cars coming from the right). This wouldn't have been a good end to the day - but fortunately, he missed. There are some real dangers out there. This wasn't a function of the bike though, he was at a speed to have been a danger to crossing pedestrian or any other road-user.

Anyhow. I've got a medal... I wore it all evening as I dozed. That's not tragic, is it?

My sponsorship site is still open (until October this year), so please visit it to help Leukaemia Research.

My Charity Ride is tomorrow

I'm about to turn in as I have an early start tomorrow for my Charity Bicycle Ride.

I have to cycle for about 10 miles in order to catch the train into London (there are engineering works). I will then get off at Clapham Junction and Cycle to Chelsea.

At 10am, people will start to head off. We'll be going east, over the river, back over at Blackfriars, then via a diversion to Farringdon, we'll head east, around the Isle of Dogs, and then turning around at the Thames Barrier to head back west.

It'll be 26 miles in total - for the offical event. I'll then cycle to Clapham Junction, get off the train and cycle another 10 miles home.

All told, I'll be surprised if my tally for the day is under 50 miles.

This will be the first serious outing for my New World Tourist, though I have been out on it for about 20km before.

I can be sponsored at this site - all proceeds to Leukaemia Research. Go on, click the link, you know you want to...

Update on my New World Tourist

My new bike arrived today and I went out for a little test ride this evening. Nothing serious, just to the corner shop and back. I did this twice as I had forgotten my wallet the first time. I found one problem straight away. I had fitted the rear rack using the fixtures supplied - and found that the screw on the drivechain side was so long that it fouled the chain. As a short term measure I loosened it, but I'll need to do something about that - I did find this rather annoying.

There are screwholes on the rack near the hub that I'm not familiar with, and I wonder what they're for (my panniers have a sort of hook thing, I presume that some other panniers require a screw hole).

The hub gear makes a clicking noise that I'm unused to, but I loved the ability to change gears when at a standstill.

I solved the issue of 'only two hub gears' - it was a cognitive issue (i.e. in my head); the position of the lever for the 'uphill' setting looked like it was the 'flat' setting. So the lever was naturally one notch to the right of where I thought it should be. I.e. instead of not being able to push it left, I just needed to push it an extra notch to the right and found the other gear (I had found one and two, where I thought I had found two and three).

Generally, it was nice to ride, and I will need to look at the rear light and cycle computer soon. One nasty point was one driver travelling in the opposite direction who went out of his way to slow down and shout abuse at me for the temerity of being on an odd looking bike.

New World Tourist is here!

My new bicycle arrived today.... My new bicycle arrived in a big white box. It was hard to guess what was inside, what with the big logo and all...

My new bicycle

The bike came in a samsonite case, but I soon opened it to reveal it in all of it's glory.

My new bicycle, mid assembly

I soon had the bike partially assembled, I need to tweak things more carefully before I go out on a big ride, I'm trying to treat the bike well from the get go. After all, I do have big plans for it! (To be revealed after the event, that way I don't have a hostage to fortune.

My new bicycle, folded.

Here's the bike folded. It doesn't fold as neatly as a brompton or similar, but that's not the purpose. The fold is a 'if you have to' thing - it's primarily a touring bike which can be disassembled for packing in a case for flights etc.

I'm not sure I've folded it right - the velcro strap didn't have enough play to attach back on itself properly, and in the end I tied it to secure. Also the front wheel wobbled about a bit as it wasn't fastened. I'll have to look at this again.

Bike Friday Badge

Built for me!

I'm quite pleased with it so far. I showed it to a few work colleagues, one of whom is very knowledgeable about bikes, and disparaging about folders - he was impressed with the overall quality.

The hinge attaching the back wheel to the frame caused some interest as, in order that the rear wheel misses the frame when folded, it is at a slight angle. This looked odd at first sight, as if it hadn't been brazed on properly, but it was fine.

The routing of the cabling for the rear brakes seems odd (the brake is very low on the wheel) - I'm a little concerned that it'll snag on the cranks - and there is a little tube which suggests that the rear brake cable should be routed above the bottom bracket - but that'd interfere with the fold. Also the shimano dual-drive only shifts between 2 and 3. I read the 'how to assemble manual carefully before getting short on time. I'll have to read the other manuals more carefully before taking it out for a proper spin. I want to ensure it's set up right first - more haste, less speed and all that. I'm not concerned right now, I know I've more reading to do, and I hope the answers are in the books.

Oh, and it's ninja black (or 'stealth' black - but I prefer thinking of it as 'ninja').

A followup post, in which I solve the hub gear issue, is here.

Bike in Customs

We're always being told that we're in a global economy, so why have I just had to pay so much to get my new bicycle, a new world tourist, through customs? Is the UK being protectionist about bicycles?

Ah well, I should have done my research more carefully to avoid the surprise - but from past experience it wasn't easy to put a hypothetical to the customs people.

Anyway, I should get it tomorrow. Exciting.

Two Weeks until NWT Shipping

My estimated dispatch date for my New World Tourist is two weeks today. I'm so looking forward to getting the bike - it'll get some good use this summer if my plans come to fruition. It'll be used in the London Bike-A-thon, (I'm raising cash for Leukaemia research here). It'll be used in the London Freewheel. It should be used in Iceland, and I'm 'planning' to do an 'out the door and see where I end up' trip.

The suspense is unbearable - how's the bike looking, has it even entered the start of the construction process?

A thought occurs for something GreenGear might like to do as a good bit of PR. At every stage of the process, get whoever has been working on a bike to take a photo or two (a few seconds), and upload the photos to a page which the customer can access. Encourage a few words from the employee (e.g. "The spray job went well, the bike is now on the way to final assembly")

If customers are happy for their build to be public - which should not be a problem if the customer info isn't shown, then WordPress can be used for all of this (set the category to the stage of the process, set the tag to be a bike reference number). One could give the customer the opt-out by putting on the order form 'we will post information about the building of your bike at this address, http://foo.bar/tags/orderID - tick this box if you do not want us to do this' (doing this would print a message like 'NO WEB UPDATE' on the top of the tag used to track the progress of the bike in the workshop).

The site to do this could literally be set up in minutes. Styling it to look 'right' would take a little longer. Training people to use it would depend on the willingness of the staff (it'd need to be easy to take the photos from the camera)... though a text update ("I've just welded the frame" would be very quick).

In a stroke, several things would happen:

  1. The customer would be able to see their bike being made, this would be cool.
  2. Potential customers would be able to look at the range of bikes being produced.
  3. Existing owners would get a regular fix of "Bike Pr0n".
  4. It could potentially save responding to 'how's the build going?' emails.
  5. By browsing categories, people could look at a particular stage of construction that interests them (e.g. see all posts in the 'welding' department). By browsing a tag, people could track any particular bike. I would also add a category for the type of bike (e.g. New World Tourist, Pocket Rocket, Llama etc.)
  6. Most importantly, it further improves the relationship between customer and company.

The only downside I can see is that if the process isn't fast and easy for the employee, it'll get in the way - but if this can be addressed as part of the workflow it'd add a lot of value, and would be a distinctive feature for the company.

I know this customer would have loved it for his bike!

New World Tourist and Leukaemia

Assuming my New World Tourist is not delayed, I shall be using it to cycle across London in aid of Leukaemia research. It's a good cause, and you can help out by going to my page for the event. UK taxpayers can even tick a box and automatically their donation gets a boost from the taxman. Any donations go directly to Leukaemia Research, so please consider putting a little currency into the collecting pot.

Also, do pass on the link to people who you think might help. Thank you.

Bike Friday

There are several occasions where I will need to take a bicycle on public transport. For example, if I want to cycle in London, taking my regular bike is inconvenient, and could mean that I'd have problems with bike security. With this in mind, I've started thinking about a folding bike, which have moved on a lot in recent years.

I've thought about a Brompton, as they are pretty ubiquitous in the UK. I find myself drawn to the 'Tikit' - these are made in the USA. They have a fast fold and can be custom built to fit the individual (to my mind, folders need to be much more mechanically sound that a fixed bike - and I'm not a small bloke, so this is to be desired).

See the Fast Folding Tikit

They can be bought 'off the shelf' but to do that removes the 'custom' attraction, and makes the Brompton more attractive again. There is a newer version with a slightly slower fold (as it involves a twiddle-knob instead of the hyper-fold mechanism) - but the hyper fold looks like a great piece of engineering, and that's always a good thing for me. Elegant solutions are good.

I'd like to get a folder prior to the London Freewheel - though not essential, the transportation into town will be much more pleasant.

With the dollar being depressed at the moment, it seems like a good opportunity to seriously look at the tikit. The trouble is that I can see the need for other bicycles, a good tourer for instance - I would like to try getting on my bike, loading it up and just going this summer.... and I wouldn't trust my creaky Halfords bike for a long distance reliability....

Bikes are addictive things, the current one is never quite right...