The road less travelled

cycle path

It was a glorious day for a bike ride. I dug my bike out of the garage and set off down our street, got to the end of the road and paused.

Left or right?

Left would take me downhill, and into Wakefield. Right would mean a short uphill, but heading out towards the countryside. Not much of a choice then. I dropped a gear (or two) and set off.

Up and over the top of the hill and I’m faced immediately with another choice. Left at the lights, or straight on? Straight on follows the main road down past the big supermarket and out towards Pugney’s Country Park. It’s nice enough, but always busy on a nice day, plus the road by the supermarket is often heaving with traffic.

Left it is then.

Within a few hundred yards we’re away from the traffic and into the countryside. Up another hill (and down a few more gears) and I’m huffing and puffing up past the golf course on the outskirts of Wakefield. I’ve been cycling around here for many years, but oddly this is a route I’ve never taken. Towards the top of the hill I’m passed by a bunch of lads in a white Audi, who wound the window down so they could lean out and yell at me.

Out of breath as I am, I reply with a one-fingered wave in their general direction, to which I get a toot of the horn in reply. It puts a grin on my face, made wider as I reach the brow of the hill and I see the rolling fields ahead. Quick swig of water and I’m off again, zooming down the hill hunkered over the handlebars, half an eye on the bike computer’s speedometer and the rest on the road. I coast up to the next junction and again face the choice. Straight on, or left again?

Left heads towards Haw Park Woods – we’ve been there with the Scouts a few times so I take the turn and trundle off down the road. It’s not long before I come across a sign for a cycle track. It’s off to the left, and it feels like a left sort of a day, so I turn onto the bridleway. Up a short track and I find myself at Cold Hiendley Reservoir – somewhere I’ve seen on the map many times, but again, I’ve never been. I cycle along past anglers enjoying the sunshine and a cup of tea, couples out walking and a few dog-walkers. It really is a nice day to be out and about, made all the better for being off the road.

Not too much further along the track is Haw Park Wood itself. There’s a fence in the way, with one of those V-shaped sort-of-gates designed so that walkers can get through but not bikes. I half consider going through and up through the woods, but notice the main track heads off to the…

You’ve guessed it. Left. Off we go.

I’ve no idea where I’m likely to end up, but reason that as I’ve been turning left quite a lot, I’ll either end up back where I set off, or cross one of the tracks or roads I’ve already cycled down. Besides, the sun is out, the sky is blue and my bike is whirring along underneath me. It’s a glorious day for a bike ride.

It’s along this track that I took the photo above. The light was coming through the trees just so, there was nary another soul in sight, and it felt like I had the world to myself. I stopped, took the photo then just enjoyed the peace and quiet for a few minutes.

Off we go again and it’s not long before I reach the far edge of Haw Park Wood, and find myself at Waterton Park Golf club – another of Wakefield’s golf courses, and a different one to the one I passed earlier. The track continues enticingly on under the bridge, but as I check my watch, I realise that I’m running out of time and need to head home. One for another day.

As I’m leaving the grounds of the golf course, I realise that I always turn right at the end of the road to go home. I’ve got a few minutes, so I see where left leads me. Another enticing single-track road soon appears, but I add that to my list of places to explore another day and turn back.

I’m soon home, having clocked up a very modest distance of just under seven and a half miles in about 45 minutes. It’s not far at all compared to the distances I was getting to last summer, where a 30-miler wasn’t uncommon, but for today, it’s enough. I’ve done some exploring, found some new places and had a splendid time.

That’s what I love most about my bike. The freedom to just get out there and explore, to see where the wheels will take me. All part of life’s big adventure. In the words of Ferris Bueller:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Stop and look around. Then choose.

Left or right? Where will it take you?

too many bikes

too many bikes
Too many bikes – via Pinterest

I’ve been pondering getting a new bike for a while now.

I came to the conclusion that what I really wanted was something that I could use for the commute to/from the train station. It’s not a huge distance by any standards – about 2/3 of a mile from home to the station, then (weirdly) exactly the same again from Leeds station up to where I work near the Merrion Centre.

However, it’s downhill from home to the station – the time when I’d be looking to get there quickly, and downhill from work to the station – again, a time when I’m usually in a rush to catch the train home.

I see various people at the station with various flavours of bike, from the full-size, full-suspension mountain bikers to the fixie hipster racers. Then there’s the folding bike tribe – usually Bromptons – they’re the ones which interest me the most. My usual trains are usually fairly busy and taking a full-size bike on there, whilst an option, is risky and a little inconsiderate, squeezing it into the vestibule amongst all the other passengers, or worst-case scenario, not being allowed to take it on the train at all.

So, I’ve been looking at folding bikes.

In an ideal world, with a suitable bag of cash, I’d go for a Brompton M6L, in bright orange. But the price tag is just so utterly vast that it’s just not an option. Brompton owners swear by them though, and there’s almost an Apple fanboy-esque adoration of them amongst their owners. Second-hand Bromptons also hold their value incredibly well, with bikes going for virtually what they cost new. There’s a lovely orange Brompton in the shop window of Evans Cycles in Leeds, on my way to the station, and I pause and admire it rather too often.

There’s also a great blog called My Orange Brompton, which I love reading, and has whetted my appetite for a folding bike.

I decided that what I really ought to do was check out eBay and Gumtree. Going second-hand for my first folder is a sensible option, I figured. It’d give me a chance to see how practical they are on a day-to-day basis. They might be a bit heavier, and not fold quite as small as the Brompton, but they’d give me a good idea.

An hour on eBay later, and it seems there are a ton of folders for sale, often at entirely reasonable (if not ridiculously cheap) prices. I’ve currently got my eye on this Raleigh Stowaway 3-speed which has the advantage of being local for pickup, should I win the auction.

I also saw this one which I really like – the Oyama Manhattan. It’s rather nice to look at, though on a more practical note, it’s only a single-speed. That said, there’s less to go wrong on a single-gear bike, and it would build up the leg muscles!

Do you have a folding bike? What kind is it? Do you have a folding bike story to share?

B is for…

B is for… bikes

It was going to be for books, but I’ve written about that before. It could also have been about Bond. More of that another day.

So, it’s bikes.

image from hub ‘n ride

A couple of years ago I decided that I needed a new bike, and settled my sights on a Boardman Hybrid Comp. It wasn’t *quite* the model I wanted (long story), but I was more than happy with it.

A couple of months pass and I hadn’t really had a chance to ride it. Then my friend Ned suggested that we sign up for Nightrider 2012, a 100km charity bike ride around London. At night. Done. Cue lots of training. Here it is, ready for an eventful trip. More of *that* another day too. Such a tease, I know.


That’s where the problems started. I discovered fairly quickly that the bike had been set up badly. I’d bought it from the local Halfords (another part of the above-mentioned long story) and the handlebars were badly aligned, the disc brakes made one heck of a racket and so on.

Luckily I’m fairly good with bikes, so an hour in the garden with a large mug of hot tea and my bike toolkit set me right. I learned a lot about disc brakes in the process, having never ridden a disc brake bike before. Thank goodness for YouTube!

I also discovered later that the freewheel wasn’t behaving quite as I expected. On my old MTB, if you spin the freewheel, it, well, spins freely. On the Boardman? Not so much. It felt gritty. I’d only done about 250 miles on it by this point (as opposed to 3,000 on the MTB), and with only a couple of weeks to go until the Nightrider, I took it back into Halfords to sort out.

Wish I hadn’t bothered. The guy in there insisted that they were all like that (no, they’re not) and that they could *possibly* get me a new wheel, but it’d be weeks, or they could *possibly* swap it out for one on display (but they didn’t) and gave it a healthy squirt of GT-85 and sent me on my way.

My advice? Find a friendly local bike shop and get them to look at it. Someone who knows what they’re doing. I took the bike into Evans Cycles in Leeds for a pre-ride service, explained the problem and got back a properly working bike later that day.

As the photo says. Life’s too short.

Do it properly the first time.

Oh, and here are some photos of the Nightrider event. Enjoy!



I dug my old mountain bike out of the garage this weekend to give it a once-over prior to a long weekend away. I love this bike. I bought it probably fifteen years ago, and used it most days for my commute to work from Rothwell into Leeds, a trip of just over 5 miles. It was quicker than the bus most days and the place I worked had a secure parking garage and, more importantly, nice hot showers and lockers for kit. I’ve also taken it on a cycling tour of Ireland with my friend Rob – a memorable trip from Dublin to Cork and back again over the course of a week. More of that another day.

In all, this bike has probably done about 3,000 miles or so. I no longer commute by bike since we moved to Wakefield, as the journey is now more like 15 miles and isn’t really compatible with dropping kids off and picking them up on the school run. The bike owes me nothing, but sits unused in favour of it’s newer brother, a Boardman Hybrid, which is very shiny and lovely, but not really made for off-road.

When I had a look, the Ridgeback is still in fairly good nick, considering its age. The gears are borked – the front derailleur is frozen so you’ve only got use of the big cog, and the rear will only give me four gears, but it’ll do for the weekend away as it’s pretty flat on the holiday park where we’re going. The brakes still work and the freewheel spins better than my newer bike!

I’m contemplating stripping it down and getting it sandblasterd and resprayed – maybe a nice new powdercoat, then rebuild with some new bits. I reckon it’d need new front/rear gears, new brakes, new wheels (the old ones are a little corroded from years of commuting in all weathers) and maybe a new saddle to finish it off.

Yes, it’d probably be cheaper to buy a new bike. But where would the fun in that be?

reblogged: I would not believe it unless I’d seen it

I can watch Danny MacAskill do amazing things on bikes all day. Never seen someone do the same sort of things on a ten grand racing bike though…

I would not believe it unless I’d seen it.


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