Monthly Archives: May 2010

3 more great urban bikes

In 42: Great City Bikes I looked at two options if you want bikes to carry lots and lots of stuff.

Now for three options for general purpose city bikes that combine

  • Clean easy cycling in ordinary clothes
  • Very low maintenance
  • Good load carrying capacity

In other words for fast, hassle free transport around a city these are great.

Techno geeks will be interested that these three share a fairly recent innovation. None of them use a chain, instead they use a Gates Carbon Belt Drive. This has two key advantages for city bikes as it has no oil or grease to get on clothes and it will not rust or become less efficient if left out in the rain.

All these bikes will offer better performance than a typical Dutch style bike which is usually of interest in less cycle friendly cities or in hillier areas. On the other hand they may also be more desirable to thieves in cities where there is a lot of cycle theft.

In order of price they are

Trek Bikes: Soho.

Soho_rainygray  As the cheapest of these options, the most obvious cost saving is the brakes. Roller brakes one of the lowest maintenance brakes available (rear coaster brake being the only lower maintenance option). 

It comes complete with mudguards but no rack (it does have full mounting points for a rear rack and also for a rack for front panniers).

I have ridden one for a while around Cambridge thanks to Ben Hayward Cycles. In that ride it was very pleasant and easy to ride. I was unable to subject the brakes to any severe testing, in that simple ride they were absolutely fine. 

If you look for  reviews on the internet you will find a number of complaints that the brakes are poor and not very ineffective. My suggestion would be that if you live in a hilly area or are going to carry heavy loads that you test the bike carefully. My suspicion is that they will take a bit of bedding in so will not be at their best on a brand new bike, also they will need the brake levers to be squeezed harder than either rim or disc brakes and they will not provide very precise feel.

I like this a lot, sadly no step through frame available. For all but enthusiastic cyclists wanting to hammer along and be able to stop in an instant it seems like a good modern city bike that is somewhat higher performance than a typical city bike (more rigid, lower handlebars, more gears, lighter) while still being very low maintenance.

UK Cost around £800

Globe Bicycles: Live 3.

Globe-live-3-2010-city-bike This is a very interesting bike (from a spin off company from Specialized) that is sadly not yet available in the UK, but might be during autumn 2010. I have ridden the single speed version at the cycle show last year.

Compared to the Trek Soho the most obvious difference is the front basket which can carry 25kg. It still has all the mountings for a rear rack to balance the load (or simply carry more).

It also has Hydraulic disc brakes providing far greater stopping power for slightly more maintenance (changing the pads every few 1,000 miles, occasional cleaning and/or adjustment to avoid rubbing/squealing).

Globe-live-3-mixte-womens-2010-city-bike Unlike the Trek it is also available with a mixte frame style, a so called women's frame. Actually such frames are very practical for anyone who does not wish to swing a leg over the saddle to get on. Makes it so much easier to get on and off, particularly if heavily loaded (at a cost in rigidity).

As with the Trek there is a minimalist chain guard (but no chain, this is protecting the belt). This is not to stop the chain going rusty nor to stop you getting oil on your clothes (the belt does not rust and does not have any oil or grease on it). Instead it simply stops trousers/laces getting caught in the drive and if the belt picks up dirt should keep that away from you.

The mudguards wrap around much more than the Trek which is better for keeping you dry but you will need to be more careful of branches getting caught in them. A two leg stand is included.

The seating position is more upright with more swept back handlebars so it will be more relaxed to ride but a little slower. A test ride is recommended as a number of reviews on the internet mention that the steering is quite sharp/sensitive.

Current USA price converted to UK is approx £1,000

Tout Terrain: Metropolitan.

Metropolitan In this mini comparison the Tout Terrain Metropolitan stands out in many ways, not just the price.

First, the rear rack is an integrated part of the main frame, not bolted on. This is a standard feature of all the bikes from Tout Terrain. It means the load can be carried lower and the weight capacity is greater (40kg in this case).

Second, there are a number of super practical details such as the handlebar stop which prevents the handlebars from turning more than 90 degrees (less impact on actual cycling than the spring on the Globe Live 3).

The Metropolitan comes with 50mm tyres compared to the 32mm of the Trek and Globe that is going to be better on poor surfaces providing a more comfy ride and being more robust (more protection to the wheel and will also be less prone to punctures especially pinch flats). Thus a better choice for any off road riding (or cobbles for that matter).

There is support for front panniers and so this has the greatest potential load capacity (although still less than half that of either the bikes I mentioned in 42: Great City Bikes).

Like the Globe Live the Metropolitan comes with Hydraulic disc brakes (although these are Shimano rather than Tektro) so great braking performance with little maintenance.

Sadly no chain guard (well belt guard given that this is also a Gates Carbon Belt Drive bike), pity that as it will mean you will want to use cycle clips or tuck your trousers in which is a hassle on a city bike.

This is available both with the same hub gear as the others (Shimano Alfine 8 speed) but also with the ultimate hub gear which is a Rohloff 14 speed. That will last you for ever and has a much better gear range but at a high price.

There are many other options for the Metropolitan including dynamo lights with concealed cables. Also a choice of handlebars (swept back or more "sporty") and front suspension.

There are other models in the range from Tout Terrain such as the Boulevard which is essentially a chain version of the Metropolitan.

Priced in Euros which is approximately £1,300

Transport choices and missed opportunities

I have a couple of trips I need to make tomorrow. Trying to decide how to do them.

In the morning I need to collect some bags of dishwasher salt from Thrapston as we have run out at the Raunds Chapel and need the dishwasher for WOT (Worship On Thursdays). 

It is around 5 miles each way with a choice of fairly flat but busy on the A45 or up and down through Ringstead and Denford. The nice option would be to go traffic free through Stanwick Lakes but the surface of Meadow Lane is appalling and there are 2 very small kissing gates to get through. Plus at the Thrapston end there is no surface so you have to ride across a meadow.

3 x 25kg bags will fit in my bike trailer ok. I have a large Y-Frame bicycle trailer and have bolted on a huge plastic box (107cm long, 52cm wide, 44cm high) with lockable and watertight lid. I use my Giant Yukon mountain bike to tow the trailer as I need the low gears on hills, the full suspension is not ideal as it combines with the flexibility in the hitch to make it a bit jerky but it works fairly well. Obviously this is why I really need a Bullitt Clockwork (even if I do worry that the default low gear would be tough up the hill out of Ringstead).

At lunchtime I need to be at Wollaston which is the opposite direction. 10.5 miles by the most direct route which goes through Higham Ferrers, Rushden and Irchester. Or a much more pleasant route of about 13 miles via Chelveston, Newton Bromswold and Poddington.

I need to be back in Raunds, showered and ready for WOT by 3pm. Fortunately no evening meeting so I can just do some paperwork gently in the evening.

It all looks quite doable, but 36 miles of which 5 are towing a big empty trailer and 5 towing 75kg is a fair bit more than I normally do. Still if I want to lose some weight and if I want to try to use the car much less I should probably give it a go.

The sad thing is that this could all be made much easier if the infrastructure was in place.

This is the land of missed opportunities.

First, we have seen an expensive waste of money installing huge electronic displays on the A45 between Raunds and Thrapston. Presumably when they work they will show delays on the A14, however, that will be useless as at that point there you have essentially no choice of route (the warnings would need to be back at the junction with the A6 to give you any sensible options). Instead they could have made a real difference to people locally by installing a proper separated cycle route alongside the A45 from Raunds to Thrapston.

Second, while we have a nice leisure cycle facility at Stanwick Lakes it is useless for transportation as

  • There is no safe route into Stanwick for pedestrians or cyclists (you have to cross the busy A45 at a roundabout)
  • There is a very poor route into Raunds via Meadow lane (flooded for months at a time, very bumpy and 2 very small kissing gates)
  • The surfaced path ends before you get to Thrapston so you end up cycling across a meadow which is part of the flood plain area.
  • It does not connect through to Wellingborough and where it ends at the A6 there is another tiny kissing gate (I really struggle to get a bike with panniers through).
  • Much of the route surface is unsuitable for road bikes.
  • There are no cycle connections to most of the towns and villages along the route.

This is really sad as connecting this route to Wellingborough is one of the Sustrans Connect 2 projects but no sign of any progress yet. 

If we were serious about travel options in this region then a huge transformation is relatively simple by providing a high quality Dutch style cycle path from Thrapston to Wellingborough. It would be almost entirely flat as it follows the River Nene. 

Quality feeder routes with safe crossings of the A45 could easily be put in for Denford, Woodford, Ringstead, Great Addington, Raunds, Little Addington, Irthlingborough, Higham Ferrers & Irchester. There are bridleways and/or footpaths already in place for all of these. They would need surfacing (and in some cases raising to be above winter floods), some new bridges over the Nene would be needed and some safe crossings over the A45.

That might sound a lot but it would provide something like 50,000 people with a cycle route to Wellingborough Station and to several shopping centres. Plus of course a nice cycle route into the countryside for the 70,000 population of Wellingborough. The distances are not that great, it would be about 10 flat, traffic free miles from Thrapston to Wellingborough Station or Tesco. People around here make many journeys between these towns and villages and at the moment cycling is hard work and dangerous (as the minor roads go up and down the edge of the valley and have lots of fast drivers on them).

East Northants is supposed to be developed as a leisure and tourist area for the region. An extensive network of cycle paths connected to Stanwick Lakes would draw in many more visitors without overloading the car parking facilities. We already know that people come to Stanwick Lakes with their bikes. These routes would make it a far more interesting option than either Rutland or Grafham as there would be more options of distances and places to go (pubs, café's, shops, swimming pools etc). 

If I look at the rides I am thinking of for tomorrow I would use a proper route through Stanwick Lakes for both journeys and would be far more likely to cycle for work.

Compared to the huge cost of many of the road schemes that we see this would be cheap and quick. Yet it would have a very positive impact on health, the economy and carbon footprint of East Northants. 

Anyway, ranting over. If I am going to do those rides tomorrow I now need to finalise some hymns for the Raunds worship band to practice tomorrow evening. Oh well that is much more fun that doing accounts which is what most of the day has been taken up with.


So this was my last Pentecost weekend in the Nene Valley Circuit. It was a good one.

In Raunds we finished a 24×7 prayer week today. For various reasons I was unable to spend as much time in the room this time so it was good to see another step up by members of the Church (and as usual plenty of support from Raunds Community Church as well).

The last few days were very busy cleaning and tidying (given the mess we normally survive in tidying does not seem like a strong enough word) for a special visit yesterday. The place looks a lot better overall, although as the vacuum cleaner makes large patches of the carpet threadbare every time it is used (due to a moth infestation) there are some mixed feelings about seeing so much of the floor.

Today was lovely, a Pentecost service at Wollaston in the morning with Holy Communion. It started well as I was ready early (Jane having to take eldest son to Northampton for the town music festival at a silly time) so I drove over by the back way and it was a beautiful quiet morning, no clouds in the sky with the lanes edged with Cow Parsley and Hawthorn in flower. The service was good but I have realised that I have only one more service at Wollaston before I move on in August.

In the afternoon we had a Circuit Songs of Praise at Great Park Street, Wellingborough as part of a huge weekend of events related to "Christ of the Islands" an art exhibition by Mike Lewis my colleague who is just back from sabbatical where he created some wonderful pictures. I suspect it might have been good to spend a little of the sabbatical thinking about where on earth you keep these huge paintings :-)

I then nipped over to Old Weston for an extra service (well a replacement really) I had to cancel last Sunday night due to a bad tummy bug and so as they could not manage to get to Wellingborough I went to them. My standard congregation there is three elderly men and I always enjoy being with them.

After that a quick trip down to Raunds Chapel to help put away the last of the prayer room stuff.

Once a certain youngest son has actually finished his homework Jane and I will catchup on TimeTeam together.

I feel that the timetable for our move is now ratcheting up. Only 8 Sundays left so I have already had some "last" services and they will start to kick in in more places real soon now. I have a few big events left (Lucy being accredited as a Local Preacher, 125th Anniversary in Thrapston, …), but also need to get on with practical things like removals. We are nearly fully sorted with schools which is going well so far. All this with one son doing GCSE's and another doing A2's. 

Fortunately, the circuit we expect to move to (remembering that all stations have to be approved by conference) have been really helpful with plans prepared and shared for the work they are going to do in the manse. It looks good but the timetable is going to be tight as it will be tricky to move in if there is no driveway and no electricity. There is going to be the usual negotiation as each circuit wants their ministers to move out early and the new ones move in 

I imagine that things will be different around here over the next few weeks and months. For example my new superintendent reads 42 at least some of the time :-) Also they have an excellent circuit website with blogging facilities so some writing might move there.

Oh and no I am not yet making public where I am going.

Ok time for timeteam.

Raunds 24×7 Pentecost Prayer Room

Some pictures of this years prayer room. There are four zones focused on Pentecost:

  • Waiting for the Spirit
  • Coming of the Spirit
  • Gifts of the Spirit
  • Fruits of the Spirit

Besides that there is the prayer wall, refreshment area, resources for reading, colouring, listening to music or watching a dvd.

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Hello girls. Welcome to blogland

In Hello girls. Welcome to blogland Adrian writes:

I thought today I would highlight two blogs written by women, as Christian blogging especially is still something of a male domain. This surprises me a little as these days it is not a geeky activity, and since so many women are great communicators I would have expected there to be more.

Some news for you Adrian. In fact there are lots of bogs written by Christian women. It is just that few of them meet your selection criteria (as in accepting male headship and writing about how great you are).

Oh and please could you be a little more patronising and use stereotypes rather more.

I will make one comment on the blogs that Adrian links to. In Purposeful Purity: Interviewing the male mind :) Just joking… but it sounded insightful! there is a lot of stuff that Adrian will love about the need for girls to dress modestly and cover everything up. While I don't have a problem with that viewpoint in one sense I am concerned that it puts blame in the wrong place and does not properly challenge our society.

By saying that it is the responsibility of girls to dress modestly so as to not cause the boys problems we fail to challenge the way that all women are seen as sexual objects by our society. The sexualisation of girls is the result of the sexualisation of women. We see that sexualisation all around us in adverts and attitudes.

So when it comes to this modesty thing I want to challenge the blame game. It is because we as a society see women as sexual objects that we get concerned that girls need to dress modestly or be seen as sexual objects. If we ever see girls as sex objects then the problem is not with the girls or what they are wearing the problem is with us.

We need to reject the premise that anyone is a sexual object and we need to reject the reverse blame culture that put blame on the victim. Our newspapers are appalling for this, particularly in the way they portray women who have been raped.

We should be quite clear and straightforward. Wearing "provocative" clothing, indeed wearing nothing at all is not a sign that any woman or girl is a sex object. It is not an invitation to have sex. It does not mean a woman is to blame if a man rapes her. The problem is with the men and the way we have turned women into sex objects.

So while I partly want to applaud the girls of Purposeful Purity I also want to encourage everyone to get angry that they should feel this is necessary. 

Going back to the original point about Adrian's post, for me one of the problems with male headship is that it becomes complicit in this blame game and fails to recognise that when we treat women as sex objects there is a power issue at the heart of it. Men treating women as sex objects is about power of men over women. Male headship is also about power over women. The key change that needs to be made is to remove power differences based on gender. When we do that then we will have made progress towards not treating women as sex objects and then we will have made progress towards not blaming the victim.

Recumbent bikes and trike for sale

[Update] All three are now sold. No more bikes or trikes fro sale at the moment.[end update]

Due to expected lack of space (and trying to have less stuff generally) when we move in the summer we are selling two recumbent bikes and one recumbent trike.

Just in case you are interested they are

  • Challenge_fujinChallenge Fujin. Semi low racer style recumbent bike with full suspension, mudguards, dynamo front light, rack, bags, disc brakes. Probably fastest and most comfortable way to go touring (or fast day rides). The image is of a similar bike, mine has mudguards, additional side supports for recumbent bags, neck support, font hub dynamo and rapidfire gear changes rather than twist grip. Also two seats (one large and one standard) and two seat cushions (standard foam and one of the dry padded mesh).  Looking for £900 
  • N587783505_238432_7676Kingcycle. [Update}Sold![end Update] Classic British short wheelbase recumbent upgraded to disc brakes and a 26" rear wheel. Complete with tailbox. Looking for £500 [Update] 10 more photos available on Flickr Include notes about changes[end update]
  • 6a00d8345296c369e200e54f160dc78834Stein Road Shark. [Update] Sold! [end update] A recumbent trike by Rob Stein, one of the very first into the UK. Very practical and good load carrier. Any offers considered

6a00d8345296c369e200e54f6756418834-640wi  Please note that we are not (and will not ever) selling our wonderful Trice X2 recumbent tandem. So stop asking :-) Oh and that goes for the Trice XXL as well.

A lighter footprint

We will be moving in August and are trying to use this as an opportunity to lighten our environmental footprint. There are two main elements to that:

  • Using less resources for what we do
  • Having less stuff to move, store and maintain

Today marked a significant step in that process as we have sold our caravan. Today I delivered it to the new owners. Our caravan has been a wonderful home for our holidays for 5 years so we are sorry to see it go. 

We have used it all year round in sun, rain (floods even), wind and snow. We have been to Yorkshire, Derbyshire, the Lake District, Wales, Cornwall (many times), the South East, Norfolk, Greenbelt, Brittany and more.

However, a big twin axle caravan with 6 berths and a fantastic washroom with proper shower does take a lot of towing. Our fuel consumption when pulling it is dire until you convert it to per person. For example last summer going to the Cotswolds and then Greenbelt we managed 140 miles per gallon per person (7 of us and an overall mpg of about 20).

1266926956-326_1 We won't have space to store it at our new home and with sons eager to do their own thing for all/some of their holidays we decided we could switch to something very much smaller. So we have a trailer tent/folding camper that weighs less than 1/3 of the caravan yet is still 5 berth and about 3 1/2 season. I'll probably write more about that later. For the moment I'll just say it is a Dandy Designer, about 5 years old, similar to the one on the right.

So selling the big caravan is not because we are suddenly going to start flying or anything. Instead our Dandy will fit on our new much smaller driveway and it gives us the possibility of changing to a much much smaller car as pretty much anything can tow a 500kg braked trailer (sadly not our Citroen C1 as it can't have a tow bar fitted). Even with our current big Citroen C8 I expect to see an improvement of 10mpg or more when towing. Long journeys will also be less tiring (especially on small roads and at night) and parking en-route will be a lot easier.

We are going to be selling other things or passing them on to where they can best be used. I am even selling three bikes! Please note that we are not (and will not ever) selling our wonderful Trice X2 recumbent tandem. So stop asking :-)

Windows breaks everything again

Last week I booted Windows 7 on my Dell Laptop. It is not something I do very often and now I can't remember why I did. Generally I only use Windows 7 for very complex Powerpoint presentations (Openoffice does not import complicated MS Powerpoint animations perfectly yet) or new bits of hardware that don't come with proper Linux support (eg TomTom for map updates).

As I boot Windows so rarely it always needs to update the anti-virus definitions and update windows. It always takes an age.

Last week it did a big set of updates and then needed to reboot. Problem was that somehow in the process it broke Grub (the software installed by Linux that presents a menu allowing me to choose which Operating System to start up). So when Windows rebooted the system Grub crashed with an error and I was stuck.

I had to leave it for a while due to a combination of being sick with a cold and then a few busy days. However, I got to it this evening and fortunately there was straightforward help on how to fix the problem. So now everything is hunky dory again. Ubuntu has of course installed a few updates while I have been typing this and I'll be installing the brand new version of Ubuntu next. I am confident that it will be a simple process (it has been every other time) and I am certain it won't break Windows. I'll have a better system, it won't have cost me anything and will be fully legal).

So why does anyone still use Windows?