Saturday 27 September 2008

4001 - a utility cycling odyssey

I noticed yesterday as I put it away that my town bike had managed to clock up exactly 4001 km on its bike computer.

The computer was given to me for Christmas by my children and fitted around the middle of January. January 15th to September 26th is 255 days, so this bike has covered an average of 15.6 km, or just less than 10 miles, each day.

So how does this break down ? First, what this doesn't include:
  • I mostly work at home so don't have a commute.
  • Most times I take parcels to the post office I use the Xtracyclee.
  • For longer rides I use the PDQ (or, later on. Mango).
So, what does make up this distance ?
Is that it ? No. The PDQ also has a bike computer and has done 2500 km in the same period. It was a surprise to me that all the little daily utility rides added up to more than the "big" rides, but they do. I've no idea how far the Xtracycle has gone, but that does the post office run a couple of times a week and did a 100 km weekend due to visiting a basketmaking exhibition (only 40 km away, but I also had to get between the venue, the campsite, the barbecue etc.). The folding bikes do very little by comparison.

So, that's about 7000 km in total so far this year, and I'm in line for 10000 km by the end of the year. I'm looking forward to the next 3000 km !

And what is this bike ? It's an anonymous 1980s British made "all steel" 3 speed equipped bike with proper 26" wheels (26" x 1 3/8 or ETRTO 590 - over an inch bigger in diameter than MTB 26" wheels). It's also still got its original steel mudguards and chainguard, so it's a bike you can ride in any clothes without getting dirty. It's not light, it's not at all flashy, it wasn't expensive when new, but it's very reliable, very comfortable and definitely suitable for everyday use.

The bike actually came to me by an unusual route. It was found dumped in a lake north of Cambridge some years ago when walking the dog.

It looked a bit of a state, but the only thing that made it unrideable was the state of the tyres and needing a few more spokes in the rear wheel. It's since had a new chain (steel chainrings aren't like alloy ones and last almost forever), another set of new tyres, a proper dynamo light system (what would it have cost me in batteries by now if I used battery lights ?), new brake blocks, a new brake cable, a black hammerite paint job to replace the nasty red/white that it had from the factory, a new black saddle to match the paint (and to replace a damaged one) and a new front wheel hub when I rebuilt the wheel that last week. Apart from fixing things which had been broken by the person who'd dumped the bike, these are parts that eventually wear out on any bike.

Buy a Dutch lock online
The bike is fitted with matching front and back baskets which carry a lot of shopping between them, and it's gained a couple of small Dutch influences in the form of the very useful wheel lock and the "Blij dat ik fiets" sticker on the rear mudguard. This translates to "Happy that I cycle". And riding along comfortably on this bike, I smile as much as the figure on the sticker...

A typical use for this bike is a shopping expedition.


Anonymous said...

You know, you're beginning to sell me on a three speed for local riding (Hills notwithstanding)

David Hembrow said...

If efficiency concerns you at all, take a look at these tests of comparative efficiency of various gear systems.

People tend to think that hub gears are horribly inefficient, but the test outcome shows that the good old Sturmey Archer AW three speed hub is comparable with, and sometimes more efficient than, 9 speed Shimano Ultegra.

Stewart C. Russell said...

The 3-speed hub is a joy forever - even if it's actually an 8-speed, like on my Batavus.

Andrew said...

I have a 7 speed nexus hub on two of my bikes. They have diffrent gearing. The one fitted to the Dawes for the British market has lower gears. The one fitted to the bike for the Danish market has higher gears. Its a small diffrence but they work really well.
Trouble free? I was trying to work out how long I have had the Dawes for and its between 15 and 20 years It has being used nearly every day in that time , for short hops. So I would agree with David dont be afraid of the hills with these hubs

Multiparty Democracy Today said...

Why do you have a hockey stick chainguard? For the cost of replacing the chain each year, you could quite easily afford a proper chaincase.

David Hembrow said...

I have many bikes. This one came with a hockey-stick chainguard and I left it as it was. We sell fully enclosed chainguards. If I'd wanted to change the chainguard on this bike, believe me that I'd have done so. Vive La Différence.

Taylor said...

The chainstays on this bike look far more receptive to a chaincase conversion than my chinese-built american 3-speed but having grown up on hockey-stick chainguards, i can see how a casual runabout can get away with one. For me, it took three weekends of tinkering and walking back and forth to the neighborhood hardware store, eventually involving extra-long machine bolts, four nylock nuts, innumerable washers, and a length of aluminum bar stock! The problem was that right where the bracket is meant to attach to the bows inward! I ended up having to fabricate a bracket to clamp onto chainstay AND clamp onto the chaincase. If I had the convenience of being able to just go and buy a proper Dutch bicycle, I surely would have done that instead of this...though I probably would have tried eventually.