Let the bike take the strain


Here is another excerpt from Bicycle Magazine. Though taken from a piece about cycle touring, this week’s subjects are equally valid for commuters who are thinking of abandoning their rucksacks.

If you want to carry the groceries home, take your laptop, or a change of clothes into work, seriously consider a rack and panniers. Let the bike take the strain, you’ll say goodbye to a sweaty back and backaches and increase the opportunities to cycle more often.


The amount of equipment that you propose to carry will ultimately determine your choice of carriers and bags. If you are cycle camping or carrying a great deal with you, pannier bags fitted front and rear will make the bike a lot more stable as well as giving extra capacity.

What should the carriers be made from? -Steel can be easily welded en route if it breaks, but is heavier. Also steel carriers are quite difficult to find. On the other hand, aluminium is lighter and it won’t rust and most quality aluminium carriers have a lifetime guarantee.

Your rear carrier should ideally be four-point fixing, that is to say, two fixings on the rear dropouts above the axle, and two fixings on the seat stays below the saddle. This means that even heavily loaded the carrier remains stable (and attached!).

The best choice for a front carrier is the ‘Lo-Rider’ type which will attach to braze-ons on the fork blades and on the front wheel dropout. The advantage of this type of rack is that the weight is in line with the front axle and it has little effect on the steering.

Finally, always fit at least one bottle cage. If you are using a liquid fuel burning stove, many people fit a plastic bottle cage underneath the down tube to carry their fuel bottle. Here it is out of the way and any leaks should end up on the ground.

Pannier Bags

An immense range of makes, materials and sizes makes choosing a challenge. However, pannier bags can be grouped into three broad styles.

First; waterproof with a roll top closure. These are normally quite expensive, generally have few extra pockets, but are completely waterproof.

In the middle we have shower proof bags with a number of separate pockets, usually made from cordura or ripstop nylon. These quite often come with waterproof covers to put over when it rains.

Finally we have the most basic; not many pockets or features and made from thin nylon. If you are in any doubt about how waterproof your bags are, always line your panniers with plastic dustbin bags.

The most popular arrangement is a handlebar bag and a pair of rear panniers. In the handlebar bag you’ll put your passport, your camera and other valuables, and in the panniers you’ll put everything else. Handlebar bags are quickly detachable, and can be removed if you stop somewhere briefly.

As a rough guide to size, buy bigger than you think you need. With big bags you don’t have to fill them up before leaving, but with small bags you certainly can’t make them bigger en route.

When loading the panniers it is best to put the heavy, least used things at the bottom to give a lower centre of gravity. Bags with several pockets are good, as you can stash things away individually and find them faster. Front panniers are an excellent size for cooking equipment or small sleeping bags.

Braking News

Are you being served?

Sustrans, the people who brought us miles and miles of car-free cycling, have just released the results of a ‘ladies only’ mystery shopper bike shop survey.

Over 600 women took part in this voluntary survey. Their ages ranged from eight to 88, and their range of experience ran from complete novices to very experienced riders, who normally cycled every day. Though newcomers and novices found cycle shop staff friendly and helpful, many of the more experienced riders thought that shop staff treated them as if they knew nothing about bikes.

The overall consensus showed shop staff to be knowledgeable and welcoming, but a lack of products and presentation skills marred what could have been an excellent result.

Rent-a-crowd comes to Glasgow

‘Hey Glasgow, Scotland. I’m coming your way tomorrow. Who wants to go for a bike ride?’

If you or I put this out on our social networking site, I doubt if a dozen would show up. However, if you’re a seven-time Tour de France winner and you try the same thing, then expect upwards of 300 riders to join you.

This is exactly what happened to American superstar Lance Armstrong, when he sent the message out on his Twitter page.

Among the hundreds jostling for a place alongside cycling legend Armstrong, was 1993 and 1994 World Hour record holder Graeme Obree, who later said:” It was fantastic, my friends will be jealous”.

Another rider in this impromptu peloton was Scottish road race champion Ross Creber. Creber had made a high speed 40 minute journey to the Ashtree House hotel in Paisley to join Armstrong at the start of the two and a half hour ride.

Surf YouTube: Lance Armstrong goes a cycle in Scotland

‘Muddy Hell’ at Herne Hill on Halloween

Those frisky fellows at Rollapaluza, you remember they are bringing old-time roller racing to the masses, are putting on a cyclo-cross event at Herne Hill Stadium on 31st October this year.

This night-time event (there should be a full moon!) promises to be another of Rollapaluza’s highly entertaining productions. Those who get the chance to go will not only see cyclo-cross, but they can also expect roller racing, a barbeque, mulled cider and a beer tent with the course running straight through the middle of it!

And finally,

Those of you who have been especially observant over the last few Fridays might have seen a fleet of yellow bicycles circulating the island. The riders are a group of Italian holiday makers who visit Jersey, as part of their itinerary, during a weeklong cycle tour of northern France.

Their tour guide, Silician Guiseppe Montalto , tells me that every week in August, he will bring a different group over for a final day of cycling before returning back to Milan.

Judging by their comments, they find Jersey charming, and a pleasant place to cycle.


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