Monday, 9 December 2013

How safe are UK roads?, Cycle Statistics

I have been reading the news today and the report relating to Boris Johnson and the heading "Boris Johnson protesters 'scaring cyclists' claim withdrawn" caught my attention. I only got a few lines in, specifically these lines

In an early draft speech, Boris Johnson was set to say: "Of course I accept that people want to create pressure for action to get more Londoners cycling.

"But the risk is that the association of cycling with death... may be scaring people away."


This got me thinking having recently had an inconsiderate driver force me off the road. There is a section of the article that show the number of cyclist deaths per year but this figure is not what makes me not want to cycle on the road its more that I know the roads are not safe. The thought continues into why the government does not address the unsafe roads which eventually got me pondering about these statistics and that they are out of context. I turned to google and thought 'I wonder if I could find some statistical context'.

I thought listing the number of cyclists that have been killed on the road does not really show how safe or unsafe the roads are without something to compare to such as total number of accidents for cycling. I started looking for the total number of injuries that had occurred on the road involving cyclists and identified that for 2013 there had been 19091 (Source accidents involving cyclists where the cyclist had been injured, seriously injured or killed. This figure again needed context so I identified that in 2001 there were about 750000 cyclists that commute to work based on census data (Source: Granted the dates were different and probably not the most accurate but I could not find anything more recent.

But armed with these figures it appeared that 2.5% of these cyclists are injured per year while cycling. 

I then thought well how many cars are involved in accidents each year so I could compare.

I identified that there had been 195,723 slightly injured, seriously injured or killed from road accidents in the UK. (Source: As this was the same source for the cyclist injury I presumed that this included cyclist data and subtracted the 19091 cyclist injuries which left me 176,632.

Again I needed context so I thought if I knew how many drivers there were in the UK I could perform the same comparison but there was no such data available online. However there was a record on the number of registered vehicles in the UK for 2011. 

There were 34.2 Million (Source: this was again a different year and did not include foreign registered vehicles or a person owning more than one vehicle so would not be an accurate number of drivers on UK roads but was a good indicator of the number of vehicles on UK roads.

Again armed with these figures it appeared that 0.51% of the drivers driving these registered vehicles would be injured while driving.

I understand the figures were not entirely accurate or would cover every scenario but it suggests that as a cyclist it is 6 times more likely to be injured while cycling than a driver is while driving on UK roads.

Finding useful data on this seems to take more time than I have to spend but that said it seems that media and politicians are not highlighting the risk of using the roads in the UK. I just think if an article was written stating your 6 times more likely to be injured or killed driving there would be far more action. I must point out I am not a statistician or a mathematician, I just like to ride my bike, I think there needs to be more research to obtain accurate statistics to allow an informed comparison but still my thoughts as a road user.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

A Cold Day at Swinley

A day off work and the sun was shining so on the train to the LookOut! The trails were practically empty and the only company I had was a squirrel which was clearly planning something. Blue trail was not too bad but did have some boggy sections, stumpy 2.0 was clean when I started after half the blue it was not quite as clean!

Still getting used to the bike but it is a solid, light and fast bike, managed to get my feet soaked so by this point my feet numb. A couple of plastic bags for my feet on the next run although a pair of dry socks did feel good when the feeling started to return.

After the day and with that most of the shrubs have gone you get a better view of the trail ahead

Definitely time to pack the lights, the forest gets dark quite early. Here is to the start of the winter riding!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Specialized Command Post Remote Lever

Having a lot of fun on Stumpy 2.0 (Stumpjumper Expert Evo), my first ride on it and the remote level for the Command Seat post came off, I managed to catch the spring as it got caught on my glove so I re assembled it although the lever did not work for the rest of the ride.

When I got home I checked and found that the pivot bolt was missing so off I go to find a replacement of which no one stocked. I turned to Google and I found the following post on Specialized Support forum:

############NOV 21, 2012 07:58AM PSTSPECIALIZED Agent
Spare parts such as these are only available through dealers. They must contact their service parts/warranty representative to get them. Currently we do have replacement levers and the pivot bolts available.

2012 or newer version part # is S2020401

2011 or older version part # is S116400008.

I wouldn't expect dealers to stock these bolts and have them in stock but we do have them available.

Kind regards,
I asked Evans Cycles to order one but they never called back. Returning to Google I found a technical bulletin from Specialized stating the following
In some instances, the pivot screw and bolt that secure the lever to the lock collar might come loose 
under regular use. 
To prevent loosening, remove the bolt and apply blue Loctite® 242 to its threads. Re-install and torque 
to 15 in-lbf (1.7 N*m).
This modification does not apply to the previous generation lever (shown below). It is not necessary to 
remove the lever from the grip and/or handlebars. 
So I asked Berkshire Bikes to order a replacement bolt as the bike was 6 weeks old. They called to say Specialized do not stock the bolt and I have to get a replacement lever for £25 which is not covered under warranty.
So I have a pivot bolt on a bike at that time was 5 days old which fell out, a technical report stating that the bolt is prone to fall out, presumably due to a design flaw and this is not covered under warranty. The lever they sent for my model bike was standard whereas the lever on the bike was part of the locking grips so I had to re arrange my setup to fit it in.
This may be an isolated incident but I expected better from Specialized.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Stumpy 2.0 First day out!

Finally managed to take Stumpy 2.0 out for a trail session, it has spent the first few days of its new home cycling to work pushing me to do something other than dodge the swans that are clearly planning something.

I was a bit uneasy about the pre set shock settings but I must admit the bike handled like a dream and I could not tell any difference between the carbon frame of the Stumpy Evo Expert and the aluminium frame of Stumpy Sworks 2006. 

The bike handled everything I threw at it and it just kept going. The pre tuned suspension  allowed me to quickly change depending on what was coming up, although a remote switch would have been useful. the bike can corner even at speed and the bike rolls really well. The gears seem mostly configured for climbing with the last 2 for descending but this bike is very good at going fast and you find yourself holding the bars tighter.

The seatpost kind of worked but the remote leaver sort of fell to pieces so I guess specialized still need to work on their command post.

Upgrading my Sworks Stumpy 2006 to the evo was a long and calculated decision but so glad I did, everyone needs a stumpy next to the downhill bike.

Specialized have always made the stumpys well, even if their saddles feel like sitting in a church pew!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Stumpys Estranged Cousin Grime Time

The time had come, the session 8 had to be cleaned as the trails had left their marks on it. I even found a leaf in in hollow spindle of the bottom bracket and foliage and dirt had gotten into most places a cleaning brush will not.

Armed with a wide range of muc off cleaning squirty bottles, torque wrenches and a box of bits for them (amazing how many companies do not make socket sets designed for mountain bikes) and finally the all useful multi tool my afternoon was set in motion.

Lifted the 18KG odd bike onto the maintenance stand as you only have to get a sore back once the wheels came off. First time both wheels had come off and the bonty wheels were surprisingly heavy, particularly the back one.

So cassette off clean, de-grease, re grease and re assemble the trail dust gets everywhere. The main focus was the rest of the bike. Drive chain came off and thick black gunk (technical term) had caked onto the jockey wheels and the drive chain and a few areas close by. The trusty bit of slate dotted around the garden came into a world of its own and since the two trees had been chopped down I had more light and was less likely to hit my head or walk into the clothes line.

After the gunk had gone attention turned to the chain which was pretty much being held together by the black gunk so time to replace it as it was just over a year old and I normally change them about that time. New chain out, SRAM PC1071 replacing the factory chain which looked like a KMC X10 not much weight difference but there was a build quality difference. Just had to remove the very sticky preservation grease from the chain first as everything will stick to it.

Clean and Grease all the pivot points as well as the disc rotors and pads it was time to check the suspension and then check torque settings for all the frame bolts, headset etc. These do work loose and they are often not checked often enough. Quick polish and wipe down and the frame is ready as clouds move in and the wind picks up.

Time to grease the bolts and re attach the wheels. Annoying part of it was that the back was in-LBS and the front was Nm. This is dotted all over the bike some parts using one, other parts using the other but the torque wrenches list Nm so conversion chart was needed.

With the wheels on just a slight adjustment to the chain retention device and a check to make sure the gears still worked. The it was a oil the chain and a GT85 moment for some other areas such as the SPD pedals.

About three hours work and the bike is all cleaned and re greased just in time for the rain to start. The change in chain was much smoother when changing gear. I did need to drain small amounts of water from the frame as it was a low pressure hose pipe but it can still get in there, one of the reasons why I do not use a pressure washer as it can force water and dirt into areas it would not normally reach. The break pad clean and rotor clean still did not stop the common elixir 7 squeek.

All clean and serviced again and complete before my shorter half and 10 week old woke up!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Swinley Forest on a Session 8

I decided to modify Stumpys Estranged Cousin, also known as a Trek Session 8 and swapped the cassette out for something that gave me a couple of climbing gears instead of 6 down hill and 4 hold on with your teeth gears.

I got the ratio quite well I did not loose much top end down hill gears but was able to climb a good number of hills. I went for a SRAM PG1070 12-32T instead of the factory SRAM PG1050 11-26T. First thing I noticed when I took the old one off was how light the new one was in comparison, did not expect that much of a difference.

Riding around on the Session with the new cassette made transitioning between trail sections easier. I found the change gave the bike better handling as I could pull off easier, even do wheelies which is achievement as the bike is about 18KG.

That said I had a lot of fun moving around trails designed for XC bikes. Although there were 3 points in the 28K run where my handle bars got erm stuck between trees and going into one corner it just could not turn without almost stopping.

Anyway a couple of vids of the day (it was 28 Degrees Celsius too)

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Bike Security

Securing your bike is of vital importance, more as a deterrent if it looks difficult they wont bother. When bikes are stolen you can report it to the police but they are limited with what they can pursuit if the owner has not taken adequate steps to protect their property.

Step One - 

Purchase a decent D-Lock or Two, a high quality chain lock and an krypton extension cable. At the very least a D-lock that is branded.
I also have a second D-Lock and Chain Lock if the environment is 'dodgy'.

The following site may assist

Step Two - 

Invest in security tagging usually allowing you to chemically mark the frame with a unique identifier which is registered on a national database tied in with the police. Electronic devices also exist. Check with your local police force as they may do this for free.

an example would be or

Also photograph your bike and any identifiable marks including the frame number and wheel serial numbers if present. Also obtaining a UV marker pen and decorating the frame or other key parts will come in useful when tracking components as the markings can only be seen by a UV light which most police forces have.

Step Three - 

Get insured,you can add a bike to a property insurance policy but chances are your bike is more likely to be stolen than your house (Lift with the knees and not the back). Cycle specific insurance exists not only for the bike when it is correctly secured using appropriate locks for the bikes value but it also insures the rider regarding public liability or being hit by an uninsured driver, cyclist or low flying pigeon. This may seem odd (not the pigeon) but this does help as it counts towards the character of the rider. Some policies also do a recovery service. I suggest looking at the following website

This may seem excessive but i do not drive, i have cycled since i was 5 and seriously when i was 12. I have had multiple theft attempts mostly when on the bike including at knife point (they failed).

The police will do what they can as they really do like arresting people if the evidence is available and they also like breaking doors down and they do recover a hefty amount of bikes as most stations i have seen have racks of recovered bikes. If they cannot find the owner they cannot return the item. Adequate locks will only slow the individual down or deter them from trying but we need to take steps that law enforcement can identify the owner and return the item.

That said there has also be an increase in riders with expensive bikes being followed home from trails and have bikes stolen from homes with poor storage like sheds or garages make sure the bike is securely stored at home as some locations may not meet insurance policy requirements.

One of the items I tend to do is remove the seat and post when the bike is locked up, it may not prevent the bike being stolen but it it will make it far more uncomfortable to steal.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Early Start but a good 1 hour 45

My son woke me at 0530 and my brain automatically goes yey breakfast! regardless of the time. Sometimes tries to get breakfast twice, often successful too!

Granted I could have gone back to sleep but as I was eating my first breakfast I saw the sun was out, it was meant to rain later and like any other normal person the first thing that came into my mind was if I left now I could head to The LookOut (Swinley Forest) loop round both the Red and Blue trails and be home before my other half got out of bed.

So I ran around to pack by trail bag which remains mostly packed for just such an occasion. Got dressed and I was at the railway station by 0730 and looking at the entrance of the Blue trail by 0805.

There was not many people around at that time in the morning and it had rained in the night. One thing I had noticed was the amount of heavy breaking, in some places the trail had been damaged and there was no real reason to brake at all but still.

Here is a section of the Blue Route I had missed last time as the camera battery died.

Was a good run, had a lot fun.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

A couple of days at Swinley Forest!

The summer is sort of here and the weather is getting better, my son is now 14 days old and my other half tells me I should go out on the bikes as she does not want me to stop riding and it is strange when I am not out on the bikes at the weekend (she bakes pie too!) so i did.

Now that the new trail system at Swinley Forest aka The Lookout was complete and had time to set in and hopefully dry out a little after all the rain. So I give the bike a once over and check up, went with Stumpy (SWorks Stumpjumper) as Stumpys' Estranged Cousin (Session8) would make me do lots of things that would make my Chiropractor unhappy, almost healed though :)

I identified a good run that starts on Blue Route, completes the Red Route then finishes off on the second half of the Blue Route. Some of the old trails are still there so you can take a detour for some of the jumps etc. Day one was sunny and a good 20 degrees Celsius so the air was dry and the trail was dusty and far more loose than it had been the previous couple of trips, it had dried out nicely so that added a twist to the routes as the trails were loose and dusty.

I managed to fit the handle bar mount for my ContourHD to stumpy, still think it needs a bit of an old inner tube around the bar and I managed to reconfigure it during the two days so hopefully the image is a bit more stable. I managed to record quite a few videos which I will add below. The Blogger video up-loader has been causing random errors so hopefully the videos work.

Blue Route

First impression of the blue route was it was smooth and fast flowing with decent berms. The route is designed as a mid level out of the current trails. The route can be used by those new to experience what is XC/DH mountain biking as there are not many technical areas so it is a good area to practice. For those that are experienced you can just run the route faster and the course does seem to accommodate the faster moving riders.

The beginning of the route is sanded with decent berms for high speed although there is quite a lot of hill climbing (not the session 8 strong point)

The above video shows one of the descents between hills and you can easily throw the bike around the corners, there is plenty of space. There is the odd little jump by design but I have also noticed additional larger jumps strategically placed at certain points while descending the route. I do not know if they were supposed to be there but they are not bad for a little air time.

The trail gets to a point which some may recognize if you ever followed the endurance route and is somewhere near pudding hill. The trail snakes across the hill side before taking you to a relatively flat area.

The route descends a little before leading you to a fire road where it links up with the Red Route. Once completing the Red Route following the Blue Route back to the look out is fairly flat and snakes across the forest. The route follows a couple of hills and is a fast flowing section and the later part of this route is more fun than the first half.

The rest of route has climbs and decent decents and massive berms, the route still has the smooth flat location although there is a bit of rubble in places. The end of the route has a pretty steep climb until one last decent and flat section before returning to the Lookout.

Overall the blue route is not too technical but can be fast, families and new riders use this route so when using this route keep an eye out for slow riders or children.

Red Route

The red route is the highest level available at Swinley and is not designed for beginners, it starts with a fairly long twisty section which remains relatively level but the trail is mostly rubble and dirt trail but has some interesting corners which I can only describe as a snooker pocket.

The above shows a twisty section through a gully near the tank traps which can be fast flowing and tests cornering ability if heading in at speed which the previous section does allow just remember there is a drop before entering the gully.

The route enters a denser part of the forest and becomes hilly with some good decents. There are some good corners too but depending on the weather you will need to keep an eye on some of them.

One of my favorite parts is near the reservoir and is a fast flowing decent with jumping sections. There are often people hanging around there repeating the jump, there is a good lead time so they should spot you but if not keep an eye out.

The route then moves up to the DH section and takes you down Deer Stalker which is similar to Deer Chaser next to it. The route then heads into the labyrinth, there is a diversion as the route is not completed due to ground nesting birds but eventually heads to a pretty big hill which can take it out of you especially after going through the labyrinth. It is worth the effort as the next bit is pretty fun and there are often jump and downhill bikes repeating the section.

The trail then hits a fire road which loops back to the beginning of the red route, following the blue route will head back to the Lookout.

The Red route is a big step up when compared with the Blue Route and has far more technical sections and good descents and jump sections. There are still families and beginner riders using this routes as well but you often have less reaction time than the Blue Route.

All in all a good couple of days with lots of riding, wonder if they are going to build more routes.....

Monday, 20 May 2013

Brake Pads!!

As this is not my first set of hydraulic stoppers I can say that servicing them is often one of main points when choosing which to buy. I started with the Avid juicy as a budget buy they did the job but when it came to changing the pads it was a nightmare especially as the pistons were consistently all over the place.

Now change to the Avid Elixir R which all in all is a really good break from stopping power to control which is interesting as the Improved Elixir 7 was bundled with issues from a control and feel point and there seemed to be a small brass band near the rotor. I have a set of those too so soon will find out how much fun they will be to bleed and if that fixes any of the annoying squeaks and the soft touch that seems to do nothing then all of a sudden kick in.

I have just had to change the pads on the elixir r and the swap over was really easy but the thoughts in my mind are that no matter how may different brakes I try or how easy the pads are to fit the rotor never seems to fit back in after no matter how much you reset the pistons as it states and it often results in having to release a bit of fluid to get the rotor to fits again.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Just two wheels

I was reading an article a few days back about Cambridge, a questionnaire for the various political parties on their views in relation to cycling. There was was one particular person, the persons answers got me thinking as this individual did not have a clear understanding of cyclists and seemed to believe the general ignorance.

If you read the news cyclists are often the people around town running over pedestrians and getting in the way of cars, lets not forget getting knocked off. Granted this blame culture has existed for as long as I have been riding, which is longer than some people have been driving now.

I think that the social outlook on cycling has to change for any real change in how people view cycling so that the general ignorance can change and be replaced by facts. When people ask what I do on the weekend (or any other moment I can) I do not say I go cycling, in my mind that is something different. I am a mountain biker, when you say that, there is a little look where you can see they are thinking of it and work out I obviously mean something other than cycling. I explain I go off road then it dawns on them that I mean riding on a dirt road or something similar but I often go into more detail for them to realize what it is.

I do not mean to say that everyone have no understanding, I just merely hope to highlight that people base it on their own experience and the term 'its as easy as riding a bike' highlights this as most people will ride a bike at an early age and that is what society ingrains in our minds as to what cycling is.

The truth of the matter is cycling has developed a great deal in recent years creating different disciplines and areas which of course requires different skills. As I ride XC/DH I am aware of the capabilities of the bike i ride and myself for that matter and may be able to maneuver a bike better than the typical commuter for example but I am viewed like every other commuter, although in some instances my ability to throw a bike around spared me unpleasant interactions with cars. Of course I realize while typing this that I am used and brush of the dangers of riding on roads with how I have experienced drivers to be as 'normal'. The question becomes having this normality we may begin to believe that there is nothing broken, this is just how it is.

I read another article recently regarding dutch style roundabouts in London but the main item that struck me was change is being considered for dangerous roundabouts where numbers of cyclists have died and I think that really sums it up. Change occurs when people are killed but between motorized transport and cyclists the cyclists are far more at risk of being killed than drivers.

As I do not drive I can only speculate, but I can highlight an observation. Drivers who are cyclists make better drivers when it comes to noticing cyclists and giving them consideration on the road, perhaps having experience of being in that vulnerable position alters their perception when driving.

Well my thoughts, soap box stand down.....:)

Monday, 1 April 2013

Day At Swinley Forest

Despite the cold weather I decided to take stumpys estranged cousin out well it was not that cold :), I had recently fitted new camera mounts for my ContourHD and I wanted to see how well they would manage.

Having recently been climbing for 2 hours after a 6 month recovery therefore not riding or climbing my arms were hurting before I left the house and I was having issues lifting the 16KG Session 8 but I was not going to let that stop me.

Off I set for Swinley forest, AKA The Lookout, I had not been here for a while but I knew they were looking into new trails so could be good. Swinley is known as one of the best trail areas in the south and there are plenty of reviews on the range it has to offer. Living 24 Mins on a train away it is ideal and there are always people from all over the south traveling in for it. You get to meet a range of fellow mountain bikers and before you know it little groups start to form.

I started at the Jump Gully and spent some time there, although there was a guy teaching a class it was not too bad although I thought basic bike handling would be before jumping but that is just my opinion.

Camera mounted just behind the front wheel:

Rear shock is squeaky and the Elixir 7s have always squeeked, on the upgrade list for sure. The shot does highlight how much shock the body goes through even with suspension, you do not really notice when on the bike.

Off I set up to Baby Maker, when I first ran this years ago it cost me a heavily bruised shoulder, back and ribs and a cracked bottom bracket. Do not know how I did the bottom bracket the bike landed on me. Still I got up and did it again, and again, and again although now there is an increasing trend of suing the park as its apparently the parks fault the riders have a lack of skill. That is probably an entirely new article...

From the top

At this point my arms and legs were out to get me so I thought I would try the new one!

Was a smooth flowing trail although one of the first burm was quite tight do not know how many could hit that at speed. After the first burm or two it seems to just go into Deer chaser so I am not too sure how much of a new trail it is.

Although rumour has it that the cycle permit scheme is due to finish in April and that these new trails are all that will be allowed and the trails built by riders will be blocked off and closed. This seems a little odd that what made the park great were the trails built and maintained by riders, some think it is due to the amount of law cases being brought against the park due to injury, others still do not know if the main trails will survive. A quick check on Gorrick found this statement though:

I will post anything new I hear about this but all in all 5 hours riding and I must admit feel alot better despite the aches, I missed my bikes.....

Friday, 22 March 2013

Serviced shock

A fully serviced shock thanks to mojo suspension, I did not think the parts would still be around as its 6/7 years old. But as the only fox supplier at that time I was in luck. Full service made all the difference.
Granted a full service of a shock can be expensive and inconvenient but it helps the shock performance and life of the item.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

2013 Mountain Biking season

Its official, my season has started, mud everywhere and hale made an appearance. After 4 months recovery it is interesting how the brain forgets how the bike handles but the muscles remember even with the 3 inches of mud to keep it interesting....