Monday, 29 March 2010

Cannondale Touring Ultra Review

I've had my new bike - a Cannondale Touring Ultra - for a month now and thought it's about time I passed early judgement on it.
Cannondale Touring Ultra

I've been thinking about getting a proper touring bike that could replace the mountain bike/tourer I've been using for years. It needs to be a bike that will last for years and can cope with serious miles in comfort.

I looked at a number of options for the bike, including Trek and Dawes tourers, plus custom bikes such as Santos and Thorn. Decided pretty quickly that I a mountain-bike style bike was the answer for me, partly because I'm getting rid of my mountain bike to make way, and it would be useful if the new bike could see service off-road if needed.

MTBs are also more upright, safer in traffic and the braking is more comfortable on long descents. Plus 26" wheels are tougher than road (700c) ones...

The bike came from Evans (not my first choice retailer, but it was cheap and the only one in stock in the right size I could find). It's a 2009 model, which has a similar spec to the 2010 but is £500 cheaper (although they've brought in a new frame design, plus integrated lights, this year).

Overall I really like the bike. It's not immediately 'sexy', but it's very well put together, is great to ride and I have high hopes for its long-term prospects. Many of the components are excellent, others are sensible if not top drawer and a couple are junk.

Overall rating: 9/10

Anyway, here are my detailed thoughts. Please feel free to skip if you're not a cycling geek...

Sunday, 21 March 2010

'The Swiss Roll' - Cycling to Switzerland 2010

Last November my mum, Shirley, died at the age of 68 as a result of Leukaemia. Mum was very active and did a huge amount for others. Sadly she never got to meet her first grandchild, our son Oscar, who was born in February.

This summer in memory of her, and to raise money for Leukaemia Research, my brother James and I are cycling the 550 miles from the Belgian coast to Zurich in Switzerland in 7 days (subject to complex negotiations on the home front, I'm hoping to start 2 days - and 200 miles - earlier in Birmingham).

James and me at the top of Mont Ventoux in 2008

Starting on July 18th, the route will take us along the First World War western front, through Belgium (including Ypres), northern France (including the Champagne and Alsace-Lorraine regions and the Vosges mountains) and Switzerland. We also hope to find where our great-grandfather, John Cope, was injured during the war.

Here's the route (and, before anyone asks, I'm not going to be cycling the Channel - that bit's by ferry!):

Bike route 322271 - powered by Bikemap 

If you want to make a donation completely securely via, please use the icon top right or go here.

This isn't one of those 'sponsor my holiday in Peru' jobs - first, we'll be cycling for at least 6 hours a day, and second, none of the donations will go towards our costs!

For more details, and to follow the ride, go here.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Cycle Commuting in London

Collecting my new touring bike from London last week was the first time I've cycled in the city in five years, since I moved back to Birmingham to work from home.

Cycling in London (Photo: Crispin Hughes/Getty Images)

And, boy, have things changed in that time - and not necessarily for the better!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Evans Cycles Waterloo Cut - Quick Review

Picking up my bike from Evans Cycles ('the UK's largest specialist cycle retailer') last night it had supposedly been through a full check-up before I arrived.

So why was the front stem not on straight and the tyres only inflated to 30psi, when they should have been at least 60psi? Did it include checking spoke tension, I asked (as they are machine-built wheels)? 'We look to see if the wheel is wonky' was the reply.

Evans Cycles, Waterloo Cut (Photo: Evans Cycles)

Having said that, the price was fantastic (and they knocked an extra £150 off the sale price without a quibble) and the advice on buying a new light was good too (the salesman even told me not to replace my existing rear light). I would have to say that the quality of advice given by other staff was pretty poor (one even claimed not to know anything about lights!).

They also offer an excellent price match service which means that even if you find the item cheaper in the seven days after you've bought it they will refund the difference.

So good value, but don't expect to get the same service as a proper local shop (although they can also be very grumpy and stuck in their ways).

So overall rating: 7.5/10

Monday, 8 March 2010

Another New Arrival

After a lot of thought, and bank account checking, I've finally taken the plunge and bought myself a new bike.

Why on earth would I need that, you may well ask, isn't the side passage of our house already cluttered enough with bicycles? You can only ride one at a time, after all.

How many bikes does one man really need...? (Photo: Flickr User Ms. Abitibi)

Well, let me explain...

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Cycling is the new celebrity charity black

Question: What do David Walliams, Davina McCall, Lawrence Dallaglio and Fearne Cotton have in common?

Answer: They're all cycling hundreds of miles for charity.

David Walliams - on his bike

While David Walliams - following on from his cross-Channel swim - has brought together a team of celebs to cycle from Land's End to John O'Groats (well, John O'Groats to Land's End) for Sport Relief, Lawrence Dallaglio is doing likewise with an 1,800-mile ride from Italy to Scotland to raise a million pounds for charity. A million quid seems to be the going rate these days...