Thursday Jun 25, 2009

Why a fixie

Why a fixie1?

A few people have asked me this so here are the reasons for a fixie:

  • They are alleged to improve you pedaling.

  • They are supposed to make your legs stronger.

  • People say you are more in touch with the bike on a fixie

  • People say they are fun to ride. Quite why is hard to understand why would this be significantly different from just picking a gear and sticking to it. For a single speed bike with a free wheel I would agree except a single speed there is no way to give in up hills without getting off.

My additional reasons were:

  • I had noticed I generally ride in 3 gears during the winter so wondered if I could make it on a single speed.

  • Bike to work made it very affordable.

  • I wanted one.

Now having one I agree they are fun more fun than I ever expected and even though I don't think I have mastered it yet I do understand about it being in touch with the bike. Going up hill there is nowhere to hide I don't know if it is making me stronger but it feels like it.

It certainly has improved my ability to "spin".

1Obvioulsy the answer that you can never have too many bikes I assume will not wash. Indeed I have that problem at home since the house rule is that I can only have three bikes. The brompton, luckily, does not count leaving some others. However since under UK law a bike that has no pedals is not a bike I only have three sets of pedals so I'm o.k.

Tuesday Jun 23, 2009

500 fixie miles

I've now commuted 500 miles on my fixie. Riding with a single gear and no freewheel has proved to be more fun than I expected. I've managed to stay on the the thing despite it having a pretty good attempt to throw me on three occasions:

  • Trying to “freewheel” as I went over a speed bump.

  • Trying to “freewheel” going round a roundabout. Very exciting as I got lifted up at the same time as the rearwheel stepped out.

  • Going down hill and letting the speed build up and my legs not being able to keep up, in the wet all went very wobbly.

All these happened on the first two commutes since then I have mastered not freewheeling and can control the speed going down hill and spin at a rate that I previously thought impossible although it is much easier to use the brakes.

  • Track standing is harder on the fixie than on a freewheel bike. I think this is just lack of practice as it is getting better.

  • Gettting too close to the kerb is frightening as that pedal is going to go down relentlessly so narrow gaps are narrower.

  • Judging whether there is room for another turn of the pedals before you have to stop is more important than I relised. If you get it wrong then your foot is stuck at the bottom of a pedal stroke so starting is really hard.

  • Getting your foot clipped in once you are moving is impossible, better to get clipped in before putting the power down. Another reason to perfect that track stand.

  • I've not scraped my pedals going round corners, Yet.

Friday May 22, 2009


Today was my first ride to work on my Sun's new bike. This year my bike to work bike I have chosen a single speed fixed wheel bike. Fixed wheel bikes are supposed to improve your pedaling action and that is my excuse.

I've not ridden a fixed wheel bike since I was a teenager when a boy at school had one and I rode it a bit. However that was all before clipless pedals. I don't even recall if it had toe clips but I suspect not as I was considered a bit odd for having them.

I was expecting hills to be a problem having no gears going up, but in reality the problem is when going down where I've not managed to just relax my legs and let them spin or effectively use them to slow the bike without it all being a bit scary. Once I had got my self scared as my legs were whirling round it was not instinctive to use the brakes to slow the thing down. All very odd.

Traffic was less of a problem than I expected and I managed to get into the habit of slowing before junctions so I could just roll upto them. Since there is no freewheel you can't just lift the pedal to the top of the stroke to start again so you end up planning where you want to stop. It came as quite a suprise how far you move forward on a single pedal stroke.

The real surprised was how long the journey home took. I have no computer on the bike so I was only able to time myself approximately using my watch but it was 1 hour 10 minutes which was quite pleasing. I'm pondering whether a slightly larger gear might be a good idea.

Saturday Aug 30, 2008

Chainrings made of cheese

I rode my blue bike to work this week for two reasons. First I needed to carry more things home than usual and so had a pannier and second to make sure it was all ready for the winter. It turns out that all is not well. Having replaced the chain and cassette at the end of the winter and now I know that the Shimano Ultegra chain rings are only marginally more hard wearing than the 105 rings.

Prior to the bike's last major rebuild the 105 rings had only lasted one winter (3000 miles or so) and were replaced with TA rings. When the whole chain set was replaced it had Ultegra rings on so I left them. The Ultegra rings have lasted three winters (about 10,000 miles), not that bad until you compare the my summer bike. It is 9 years old and has done over 36,000 miles and still has the same chain rings (Campagnolo Record). The maintenance schedule of both bikes is the same, new chain and cassette after 3,500 miles. Yes the summer bike is lighter and does not go out in the winter but I still don't think that explains the drastic difference in the wear. I can't help agree with those that claim Shimano chain rings are made of grey cheese.

Luckily I have a spare set of chain rings, Stronglight ones, that I spent a happy hour fitting.

Friday May 23, 2008

All lockers full

I love getting emails like this:

Date: Fri, 23 May 2008 10:47:56 +0100
Subject: Guess what guys...?
To:  Chris Gerhard <Chris.Gerhard@Sun.COM>, .......

... We ran out of cycle lockers on Monday! ALL 20 of them!

Clearly the solution is more lockers so as to not suppress demand.

Friday May 09, 2008

What is better than not owning a Brompton?

...not owning two Bromptons!

As I mentioned previously there is a rule in the house that you can only own three bikes which thankfully since the Brompton is leased not owned meant I was o.k. However the lease runs out after a year at which point the bike goes back or I can buy it. If I buy it I break the three bikes rule. Hence the problem. Simon suggested that I claim that the Brompton is not a bike, which I thought was an interesting defence but since it clearly has 2 wheels (bi) and can be cycled it would be a bicycle. Although I may yet try that defence in the future, I mean for goodness sake look at the picture. You can't ride them like that!

The other problem is that is just seems wrong not to take advantage of the bike scheme. A Tax free bike to ride, where is the downside?

So I signed on for a second year and ordered an identical model\* having found a suitable home for the first one (my sister needs a brommy). When the lease runs out I'll buy the first Brompton and on the same day sell it to her so at close of business I still don't own one.

I think I may never need to have a Brompton that is more than a year old......

\* It is not completely identical as the new model now has a clip that will stop the rear wheel dropping if you lift the saddle. Useful if you are man handling a bike down station steps. I can confirm it is both useful and easy to use.

Wednesday Apr 23, 2008

A Long Way to Work

Since I do really need to get fit for the Ventoux ride in June I took the long route to work today. After a few miles it began to rain but since it is not unknown for the weather on Ventoux to be inclement even in June turning back did not seem very good preparation. The rain howerver persisted for the whole ride, so much so my normal cycle computer stopped working1. The route is essentially the same as the long route I used to ride prior to the Office Move until the turn into Christmas Pie which I don't take. Oddly only 3 miles longer however now the home run is 21 miles rather than 14 so I ended up with a 57 mile day.

The route is not especially pleasant during rush hour as there was quite heavy traffic for large sections, particularly from Chilworth onwards. There was some relief on the road through Ash Vale to Frimley as the bridge over the canal is closed to traffic but by becoming a pedestrian a cyclist can get through so there was almost no traffic up that section.

1The failure mode was once again very strange in that when I returned to my bike to ride home in the evening the computer had clearly stored a number of miles worth of pulses so that the distance suddenly moved forward three miles while I was putting my shoes on. Most odd.

Thursday Jan 24, 2008

Another January Bonk

It happened again last night. I did not even get out of Frimley when I started to feel all the energy drain from my legs and started to get the horribly familiar sweating that seems to accompany bonking. Being wise to the tell tale signs I consumed my emergency Go Bar and took on fluids which enabled me to climb our of Frimley and make good progress all the way to Webridge but with just two miles to go everything just stopped. I still find it hard to believe how total the lack of energy is and how quickly it takes you over when you bonk. I freewheeled down past Walton Station and the crawled the last few yards home.

I suspect a few things came together to get me this time:

  1. I'm not as fit as normal since it is winter, I've been traveling, I've been eating too much and not riding enough.

  2. I did not have a second breakfast when I got to work. (I know this sort of contradicts the eating too much above but the important thing is to eat the right food at the right time, which is within 15 minutes of the end of your ride).

  3. Lunch did not have enough carbs in it.

  4. I left work late so Lunch was now 6 hours earlier.

When I finally did get home I then went OTT and ate much to much. Now looking back at my blog I realise that January does seem to be the month when I most often bonk all though apparently not in 2007.

Wednesday Jul 25, 2007

Rare event

This happens so rarely that catching it on film is quite hard. The effect is achieved my multiple unlikely events all happening together:

First the car at the front of the queue of traffic is obeying the speed limit, since this is a learner driver that is not quite so surprising. Second it is slightly downhill. Thirdly I still had some energy (this is in the last mile of my return commute) and finally the road was clear enough to go for it safely.

Finally the fact that the blue car at the back of the queue of traffic pulled in to let me go made it rude not to.

The irony that I overtook just as I approached the traffic lights where I had to stop was not lost on me. Cars do this to me all the time often squeezing past dangerously close to me only to then have to brake hard to stop. At least I did not do that.

I reached about 34mph according to my speedometer (speed limits do not apply to cyclists in the UK).

No drugs or extra blood was added to the rider in the making of this commute. Yes I am really annoyed about Vino's test results. He had the story of the tour, the crash, hanging in their while injured and then the stage wins and as so often seems to happen, now some doping scandal.

Tuesday Jul 03, 2007

Rain, Hail and a VW driver

I thought the rain and hail was bad....

And then the nice lady in the VW came so close I could tap on the window to get her to move out.... she did not.

Wednesday Jun 20, 2007

Another bike I don't own

There is a rule in our house, one that I think needs overturning, that no one is allowed to own more than three bikes. Hence when the triplet was bought is is “owned” by the whole family as my bike quota is used up.

Today I took delivery of a Yellow Brompton with three speed hub gear, as between the Brompton and the Bike shop they could not order a two speed bike, hub “SON” dynamo. This is a practical bike to use when I have to get a train.

Luckily for me this is via the Bike 2 Work scheme so it does not belong to me, it belongs to Sun, hence I remain below the three bike limit. No need to renegotiate the “rule” yet.

Wednesday May 02, 2007

Commuting Peleton

It was not a “Commuting Buddy” more a “Commuting Peleton”. I met three riders on the Bridge in Weybridge and we rode together to within a mile of the Sun GMP campus. One rider was on a fixed wheel bike and I never came close to dropping him even when we were whizzing along at 28mph. He then dropped me up the hills on Red Road. Not much chain ganging due to me going to fast. I can now convince myself that I could have kept up on the hills if I had not been pushing along on the flat

It certainly made for a much more enjoyable commute. I think we will do it again!


Tuesday May 01, 2007

I may have found my commuting buddy

I just had a call from the cyclist I met on the way to work suggesting we meet up tomorrow. Time and place agreed so we get to “chain gang” to work. So perhaps my wish to find a commuting buddy has been filled.

Now I need a way to hide the fact I have eaten too much and not ridden all last week while I was in the US.


Friday Apr 20, 2007

Commuting Buddy

This morning as I left Ottershaw there was a cyclist that was a few hundred yards up the road from me. I thought I was gaining on him and indeed just as I was doing the very short Climb I passed him, slightly worried that this would lead to a more competitive ride to work. He got on my wheel and stayed there all the way to Chobham and then up towards the roundabout on the A322 where we became less focused and had a quick chat.

He was riding from Richmond to Fleet and it turns out must work only a short distance from me. Now I never tried to drop him and with the exception of the climb of hill on the Red Road never did. However it did make me ride faster and in a more consistent way, you don't want to slow down and have the person who is sucking your wheel run up the back of you. I enjoyed the ride more, I got to work quicker and I felt better for it. Whether I will still feel this way on the way home is another thing.

It has left me wondering two things:

  1. How many other riders do the same journey as me but at approximately the same speed so we never meet?

  2. Given a 1mph speed difference over 20 miles within how many minutes after the slower rider does the faster rider need to leave to be sure of meeting somewhere on route? (First rider does Xmph second will be doing (X+1)mph. 20 miles will take 20/X hours for the first rider and 20/(X+1) for the second. The longest gap would be when they both reach the end together so the time difference would be (20/X – 20/(X+1)) which cancels down to be 20(1/X – 1/(X+1)). If X is 20 that becomes 20(1/20 – 1/21) which when you work out and then multiply by 60 to get minutes gives 2.86 minutes.) So my chances of meeting a rider of a similar performance on the way to work is pretty small as I have to join the route in a window that is less than 3 minutes long and if I am to get any real benefit the window is more like 1 minute.

I do however wish I could find a “commuting buddy” as it would certainly make the commute more interesting, unlike this post.


Wednesday Feb 28, 2007

Why do I bother.

I got a real soaking this morning so have sat with my top drying on my monitor all day which has worked. I don't want an LCD monitor.

As I am about to leave I now wonder why I bothered. It is chucking it down so I will get all of a few yards before I am soaked again.

Update: It stopped raining in the time it took me to get changed and get to my bike. There was not a drop on the way home!. Clearly I out smarted the weather man this time;-)


Friday Nov 17, 2006

Terrible journey home

Two hours forty five minutes to get home. A new low. The rain was terrible but having a puncture before I could even get on the bike was worse. Since I could not find the thing that caused the puncture I put on the spare I carry. That got me only 2 miles before the tire popped off the rim. I was able to stop before the tube punctured so I put the original tyre back and hoped for the best.

Less than a mile further that tyre apparently came off as well this time puncturing the tube. On my last tube now and still 18 miles to go. I was very careful about fitting the tyre to be sure the tyre was properly mounted. From here things started to look up and I was making progress and things were looking good. About half a mile from Ottershaw the tyre let go with a pop. 7 miles from home and now walking. Walked to Ottershaw and hid in the bus shelter and decided to put the original tube back on in the hope it would get me home. The tyre's steel bead had come off for about 10 cm which explained everything....

The original punctured tube only had a slow puncture so I pumped it has hard as I dared without risking the another blow out, resolving to get the train in Addlestone if required and putting more air in the tyre when needed.

Got home on this tube, cold and wet. Ordered new tyres and tubes on-line for next week.

Update 19/11/2006: I was not in the best of mind when I wrote this and forgot the key point. That was this: "Don't ever throw away a punctured tube until you get home!". Had I done so with the first tube I would have been walking all the way home or trying to hop on various trains to get there.


Friday Nov 10, 2006

Where did you park your Airship?

A slight surprise seeing this parked, moored (Dave tells me this is the technical term for what one does with an Airship) on the Airfield I pass on the way to work.

The photo does not really do it justice.


Saturday Nov 04, 2006

In praise of....

Customer Service.

I started riding my winter bike a while back in case I got caught out in the dark on the way home. On the first trip I checked all the lights and all was well. However just over two weeks ago I was returning home and it was getting properly dark so I turned on the secondary front light. Nothing happened so I figured the bulb had blown. If I have one complaint against the dynamo it is the life span of bulbs, in my experience it is about a year, about 5000 miles on the road and about half of them switch on, perhaps not that bad after all.

I always carry a spare bulb or two so stopped and changed the bulb. No joy, so I continued home. Since the lights are wired in series and the primary light still worked the lamp was still passing current and after a posting to uk.rec.cycling to see if there was any known issues or ways to fix them. I emailed SJS cycles where I had bought the light two years ago to see if they could get it repaired. By return of email, less than 24 hours, they said send it to them and they would get it repaired.

Today it arrived back in the post. Well it did not, instead a brand new one did with an invoice for £0.00 “Warranty Free of Charge replacement”. No questions about where or when I bought it. No receipt had to be produced.


Saturday Jul 15, 2006

Cycling in London

Transport for London is encouraging everyone to cycle in London, realising that cycling is a practical, quick and safe way to move around the city. So often cycling advice from government organisations is poor but in this case it seems very sound.

Check out the press release and TFL's Cycling site.

Thanks Ken.


Saturday Jun 03, 2006

New Fastest time for this year.

Got home 58"51' yesterday giving and average speed of 21.4mph according to my old speedometer and 21.79mph with the new. The new speedometer or wheels have increased the reported distance to 21.27 miles hence the discrepancy.

Why so fast?

  1. Half term. There was not a big tail wind and I got stopped at a lot of lights but overall the first section around Frimley was nearly traffic free allowing me to keep a good speed along the Frimley bypass.

  2. Motivation. I had a conference call that due to the wonders of timezones was not at 3pm as I had in my calendar but at 5pm. So I wanted to do this at home as it would run on. However since I had some things to do in the office before I left this meant I was down to the wire for the call. If I could get home in an hour (a real hour not a cycle computer hour which stops when I do) then I would not be late. I ended up two minutes late which irritated me as I hate being late but I was not last by a long chalk.

As there is nothing I can do about the traffic I can see I will have to work on my motivation.



This is the old blog of Chris Gerhard. It has mostly moved to


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