Summer Fixed Wheel Revelation (Just For Cyclists)

‘Ride a fixed wheel in winter’ is – I’m told – the old British approach to training and I guess I’m traditional enough to do just that. I don’t ride to train, I ride because I enjoy riding, I enjoy riding a fixed wheel and because they’re such simple bikes, they take the winter battering very well. I tend to do 15-20 milers, and do fewer geared road and off-road miles.

However, this summer I’ve been doing one or two short (10 mile or so) fixed wheel rides a week on top of longer geared road rides and I’ve been surprised at how beneficial it’s proving. The improved fluidity in pedalling is marked; there’s something about how your legs ‘learn’ to keep turning regardless that I find they don’t unlearn when on another bike. The result’s very positive – particularly so when you’re faced with a bit of a slog like I was today – the last 10 of 40 miles were into a stiffening headwind.

It might not work for everyone, but if you’ve a fixed wheel that you can get out on, try it in summer and see.

Drugs

A bad week of tedious sinus-induced intermittently searing tooth and jaw pain. I think it’s becoming a regular event, but this time around it’s late in the year because it’s aggravated by pollen, and spring is late. As a result, today’s was the first ride for a while and it was just a short one in the Sonning Common area to see how I felt – head and legs. Pleasingly, the weather was good enough to make a spin on a fixed wheel a sensible proposition.

Riding around and going surprisingly well, it occurred to me I was riding reasonably drugged-up – painkillers galore. And … it felt good! If at least some of the drugs the professional cyclists abuse are similar, I think I’m beginning to properly understand the appeal. ‘Performance enhancing’ doesn’t have to just be in the sense of making you go faster; having pain blotted out is also going to help. It’s obvious when you think about it and, indeed, experience it, even in a limited way, but thinking back, I’d always somehow assumed the drugs were just about speed.

The next time you’re trying to judge whether the sportsperson you’re watching is drugged-up, judge in terms of pain being endured as well as outright performance.

Colours in the fields

These colours are real, not drug induced!

The Flywheel (Just For Cyclists)

This is just an aside prompted by a couple of turbo-trainer sessions and, today and yesterday, two sub-20 mile rides on a fixed wheel.

Last year I was using a fixie on the trainer, this year it’s a regular geared bike. Comparing the speeds and comparing how I feel, the significance of influence of the flywheel effect that riding a fixed wheel offers is quite apparent. This is nothing scientific, I know, but it seems to me it’s worth at least one-to-two miles an hour, everything else being equal – gear ratio, the quality of the rider and so on.

And, this week, riding a fixie out on the road, the same feeling of the bike positively working with you – if that makes any sense – really struck me as I was coming up a gentle but fairly long incline. It has to be said that riding a fixed wheel does offer quite a different, and very pleasurable, riding experience … just not one that’s ideal on very hilly terrain or windy days!

An Old Evans Fixie (Just For Cyclists)

A short-ish (and cold) ride today, on a fixie just for a change. It was lovely.

For winter I’ve an old (early 80s, I think) FW Evans touring fame (thanks to @Sparky249) which has been converted to a fixed wheel mainly using bits I had knocking around from that era – an SR chainset with a nice drilled black Sugino 44 chain ring for example. Having full mudguards on it makes it a good bet for bad weather and it has the kind of clearances that allow fatter tyres comfortably – for comfort. It’s simply nice to ride.

And old FW Evans

“I’m on an Evans”

The frame and forks are good old 531 and, well, that’s a tubing that deserves its amazingly high reputation. It might even have been built by the legendary Chas Roberts if this excerpt from the Evans Cycles web site is anything to go by:

‘In the seventies the frames were produced by frame manufacturer Chas Roberts, who had his original workshop in Croydon close to one of the early Evans Cycles stores. In many magazine articles from the seventies and eighties journalists would boast ‘I’m on an Evans’. The Evans bikes with their steel frames can still be seen around the U.K, a testament to their robust high quality.’

I guess I’m boasting about being ‘on an Evans’ now, over 30 years later.

I was advised recently to hang on to my old hi-fi as it has a better build quality than most of what you can buy these days. I rather suspect there’s a lot of good things about old bikes that we all too easily overlook too. Perhaps there are advantages to being older …

Shocking For Everyone

Earlier today, if you’d been around the Bath Road/Twyford area in Berkshire, you could have endured the mildly shocking sight of a fat old bloke riding an old fixed wheel bike. You’d probably have thought something along the lines of ‘he looks like he’s struggling a bit’, and if you could have said as much to him, he’d have agreed. He’d have bemoaned that he couldn’t pedal much over 100rpm, mentioned that he felt just a little bit on the cold side of right, admitted that he was feeling very aware that he was an over-weight ex-smoker, and added that because this was the first time out on a fixed wheel bike for quite a while, it was all a bit of a shock to his system.

If you’d been able to speak to him at the end of the ride he’d also have added that riding a fixed wheel for the first time for ages on a cool day with the added frisson of heavy rain was even more of a shock to his system, because rain it most certainly did for the last 10 miles or so.

Needless to say, that fat old man was me, and that was one very tiring, soggy jaunt. The obvious conclusion, of course, is that I must do it more often.

A Cinelli Record handlebar stem - for readers of a certain vintage

A Cinelli Record handlebar stem – appreciated by readers of a certain vintage

Sitting Down Again

A late morning short leg-stretcher on a fixed-wheel – some exercise on an otherwise enervating hot spring day when it would be all too easy to just do nothing.

Nothing much was happening; there weren’t a lot of people around; nature – animals, birds, even vegetation – was remarkably still on a hot and quite calm day.

And now I’ve started noticing them, there were seats for the public cropping up all over the place – in Emmer Green, Sonning Common and in Binfield Heath. There was an elderly couple sitting on the bench at the end of Kiln Road, and families on the seats in the park at Binfield Heath.

Benches in a park, here in Binfield Heath

Benches in a park in Binfield Heath

These seats, they’re not just tokens or left-overs from a bygone era. I wonder if they’re more important than anyone might give them credit for; if they – in some quiet way – represent a really very basic decency that’s too easy to take for granted.