Category Archives: Bicycles

Last stop: Singapore

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From Tokyo I flew to Hong Kong.  If you have ever been in Central Hong Kong, or seen pictures of the streets there, you’ll know why I did not take a ride.  It is one of the least bike friendly cities there is.  It’s actually not very pedestrian friendly either!  So a day off of riding, which due to my continuing tiredness after another late arrival, turned into a two day break.  So, Thursday night in Singapore I left the office a bit early and got the Origami out of its case.

View from the hotel

Again I used Brouter to create a route and load it on my GPS, but as it turned out, the ride I took really did not require a GPS at all.  It was all car free, and for most of the ride, on bicycle only designated trails.  Leaving my hotel on the North side of Marina Bay, I head past the Sands hotel and casino, then past the Sky Gardens and over the Barrage Bridge.  The rest of the ride was on the ECP, right along the shore front, and very civilized. 

Dusk in Singapore

I was lucky it was cool in Singapore this week, with the temperature only 26c.  But with the relative humidity at near 100%, you sweat even if you’re standing still… 

East Coast Path

So, six cities in two weeks, riding in five of them.  Other than the chain issues I faced the Origami and the Pinion gearbox performed really well.  Azub are sending my a Rohloff chain tensioner, which should solve the issues, and I also will be swapping out the brakes for some NOS Shimano XTR brakes, and making some other modifications when I get back to the UK.  if anyone has questions about the bike, please get in touch through the comments box.

A gps trace of the ride in Singapore:

First stop in Asia – Tokyo

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A flight across the international date line had me loose the whole weekend flying from San Francisco to Tokyo.  I had thought of riding on Sunday afternoon in the city, but by the time I arrived at my hotel, I was too fatigued to even think of taking the bike out of its shipping case.  The next morning, Monday, I was unable to ride as I had to be in the office early.  Then Monday night, again too tired.  I thought if I got on the bike , I might just fall asleep.

View from the office

So, Tuesday morning I was up before the sun, and hit the Tokyo streets at 06:00.  I used Brouter to program a route that would take in Shibuya Crossing (made famous by the movie ‘Lost in Translation’), and the Imperial Palace.  It would have been more interesting to do this when the crossing would be crowded, but riding in a new city for the first time is easier when there are less people about.

The fun thing about the picture below is that this location is to Tokyo what Times Square is to New York, so the book-ending seemed like a good plan.

Shibuya crossing – 06:30

From Shibuya I crossed the city riding all on the road.  In Tokyo many people ride their bikes on the pavement (sidewalk), but most streets are actually pretty wide and safe.  Drivers were deferential, and I had no issues.  The ring around the palace is the only place where the traffic picked up, but other than following my gps onto a second time around when I really wanted to head back to the hotel, all went well.

Imperial palace gate house

It was a great ride, and a great way to start the day.  Below is a gps trace of the ride.


2nd City (Literally and Figuratively)

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From NYC I flew to Chicago.  My first ‘issue’ (aside from the chain issues) occurred when checking into my flight at Newark Airport.  Since I’m traveling for work and traveling business class I had read on the United website that I would be able to travel with one ‘special’ piece of luggage.  Well, that’s not actually the case, and I was charged an extra fee for the bike case.  Not the end of the world, but if I were traveling on a budget, I’d have had an issue…

I was only in Chicago for one day, so I woke up early and, since my hotel was right on the East Chicago River, next to the Riverwalk, I was able to ride on bicycle or bicycle /pedestrian paths for the whole of the ride.  From the Riverwalk I headed south along the bike path that runs along the lake.  It was a terrific way to start the day, though it was very cold (+/- 0c).

Chicago Riverwalk

From the Riverwalk the ‘Lakefront Trail‘ runs north and south along the lake.  It is a fantastic resource for people in Chicago and was terrific to ride.  I head south and the path sweeps along the river around the various museums and park land.  The surface varies from very smooth to less than ideal, but for the most part it is very nice.  As I head south there were a few bicyclists heading the other way, and they all seemed to be working very hard.  It was not until I decided I had ridden far enough and turned around that I realised why…  The wind out out of the north was pretty nasty.  I was glad I was on a recumbent! 

Lakefront Trail along Lake Michigan

As I head back north toward the city the view of the cityscape were great.  I was stopped by someone who saw the bike and was interested in recumbents.  We chatted for a little while (I recommended a trike based on his requirements), and then I stopped to take a shot of the city.

Chicago skyline – Willis (Sears) Tower is on the far left

All in all it was a great way to ‘see’ Chicago, and to start the day.  Next stop, San Francisco.  A gps trace of the ride below.

An update to my recumbent world tour

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I’ve been in San Francisco since late Thursday night, having traveled here via NYC, and Chicago.  The Origami folding recumbent bike is still with me, and I’ve been able to ride it every day, wherever I am. 

I started this trip in New Jersey visiting family, and took two nice rides in rural NJ.  I was having issues with the chain coming off from time to time, which was frustrating, but I rode as much as I could anyway.  (I’ve since figured out the chain issue, or at least enough to deal with it.)  The bike itself has been a joy to ride, it has 20″ wheels and no suspension, but I had really fat tyres installed (Schwalbe Big Apple) which soak up most bumps.  The Pinion gearbox has worked well, though there is one gear change that is sticky.  I assume it will smooth out over time.

Riding in rural New Jersey

The bike fold is not as straightforward as with a Brompton, but I did not expect it to be.  It takes some getting used to, but it does create a really compact package, and the ‘carry’ bag that is fitted to the bike is great for bringing the bike into hotels without causing any fuss.

I already posted a picture of the bike in Times Square in a previous post.  I went down there early in the morning pretty much just to take that shot, and the other two days in NYC I rode around Central Park.  The lane that runs around the park is terrific for cycling.  The first day my chain issues continued, but after adjusting the chain tensioner, and shortening the chain, the second day the chain stayed in place and I had the best ride yet.

Origami in Central Park

The lane around Central Park early in the morning

From NYC I went on to Chicago, which I’ll cover in a further post.  Two gps traces below, the first from my rural NJ ride, the second from NYC.

Another new bike?

I travel.  A lot.  So, with the training for a long ride this summer in full swing, I decided that I’d like to ride while on business trips.  I’ve had Brompton bikes in the past, but now that I’m riding recumbents generally I wanted to get a ‘brompton like’ recumbent. 

While, as it happens, Azub make just such a bike.  And I’ve had them build one for me that is a little special.  Here is a link to their blog showing the bike before it left their factory:

Azub Origami Pinion

I’ve installed Speedplay Frog pedals, which I use on my other recumbents as well.  I had the bike built with pretty basic v brakes, but I sourced some NOS Shimano XTR M960 brakes and levers which I’ll install when I get back to London.  At some point I’ll take some more pictures of the bike.

The Origami was delivered to Bikefix in London two days before I was leaving on a six city trip.  I’ve picked up a Biknd Helium bicycle travel case, figured out how to pack it, and made it to NYC.  Since I’ve been here I’ve had three rides.  This morning I rode the bike down to Times Square, and then up to Central Park where I did the circuit.  This is a really nice ride, especially early in the morning.

Origami in Time Square

Tomorrow I leave for Chicago, then San Francisco, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and finnally Singapore before heading back to London.  Logistics in each location should be interesting!  But my plan is to ride in each city at least once.  There will be more posts over the next two weeks regarding this slightly nutty plan.


The new ‘ride’: an Azub Ti-Fly

Following on from my end to end ride in 2015, I’ve been planning to do another long ride.  The current plan is to ride from Nordkapp, Norway to Gibraltar two weeks at a time over the next three years.  It’s 6000 km overall, so 2000 km over two weeks seems an achievable goal.

One thing I learned from the end to end ride is that riding a fully loaded recumbent up a steep hill is not exactly fun.  I fell over several times, and was lucky that each time the only thing hurt was my pride.  Also, turning at ‘t’ junctions can be un-nerving.

So, for the next ride I’ve decided on a recumbent trike.  Three wheels, no balancing concerns.  The trike has two wheels in the front, and one in the back.  I went back to Azub, since their recumbent I used for the end to end was so good, and have purchased their new Ti-Fly trike.

The frame is sandblasted with a lacquer coating over the aluminium.  The trike has a couple of interesting features; it has a Pinion 18 speed gearing system at the crank set, Son dynamo hubs on both front wheels, one for the lighting, the other to power devices, and Azub’s very efficient front suspension which uses titanium plates as ‘springs’.

The trike folds after removing the seat, and once folded, is a very compact package.  I chose a 20″ rear wheel so that it would fold smaller for when I need to get it on a plane.

Like the recumbent, the trike includes Azub’s super adjustable seating system.  The seat and handlebars can be adjusted to suit a wide range of riding positions.  All of the adjustments are locked with red anodised quick release locks.  The rear wheel is suspended using a Fox air shock absorber.

The trike has racks that can carry four panniers and a rack top bag, like the Azub 6. 

I’ve taken a few rides and it’s a real blast to ride.  Cars and lorries give you plenty of space as they pass and try to figure out what you are riding…  The trike handles well, even at speed.  It’s a bit heavy, but so am I.  I’m adding a device charging system with a cache battery, and am working on how best to mount my smart phone/gps, and my Garmin bike computer.

The ‘bent

With little time to make the transition from DF (diamond frame) to recumbent I had to find a bike that was fit for purpose, but also available in a reasonable (less than 6 weeks) amount of time.

After ordering the Streetmachine I spent the weekend doing more research and found out about AZUB, a recumbent and trike manufacturer in the Czech Republic.  Monday was a UK bank holiday, and I was on a ride from Essex to London, so I called them from a Costa in Chemsford.

I had also emailed, explaining why I was looking for a bike I could get quickly. On the phone I was told 8 weeks, and I figured that was that. But then I received an email from them that they had a demo bike from a recent bicycle show, and they could get it to me in a week as is, or how I wanted it configured in two!

So I worked with them on the specifications, and, just as promised, the bicycle arrived at Bikefix, their London dealer, in two weeks.


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So this is what I’m riding the length of the UK on.

“What do you call that?”

Following on from my longer training rides, I decided to look into alternate means of cycling.   Some time ago I bought a Challenge Mistral SL recumbent bicycle.  I was looking for a more comfortable riding experience, and I ordered one from Angletech Cycles in the US.  They are specialist recumbent dealers and I had worked with Kelvin in the past when buying an Alex Moulton bicycle.

ch mistal sl

I never connected with the Mistral.  It had under seat steering which I found twitchy, and worse, it had no mirrors.  Why is this an issue?  On a recumbent you can not really look over your shoulder, so, without a mirror you have no idea what’s happening behind you. That induces a lot of nervousness, which just makes the twitchy handling even worse.

What is a recumbent?  It’s a bicycle where the crank (the thing the pedals are attached to by arms) is ahead of, rather than under, the rider.  There are many variations of this theme, from very fast, low, high speed recumbents, to nearly conventional looking ones.  The other common element is that the ‘seat’ supports your butt and your back, spreading out the load.

But, why a recumbent at all?

  1. They are comfortable; there is no pressure on your wrists or hands, no neck pain as you are not looking up, and no pressure on your privates.
  2. They are better in a head wind; recumbents are more aerodynamic and less effected by headwind.
  3. They create the possibility for connecting with the environment around you; you can lookup at the clouds and birds, and you are at eye level with car drivers.
  4. They can carry loads of stuff without a detrimental effect on handling, the centre of gravity, especially when loaded, is low to the ground.
  5. They are comfortable, really comfortable.

So, I thought maybe I should consider using one for my JOGLE attempt.  On the 16th of May my wife and I went to Bikefix to have a look at some recumbent bikes.  I bought my Tout Terrain Silkroad there, and I knew that the proprietor, Stuart, was a keen recumbent advocate. I tested a trike (a three wheeled recumbent) and an HP Velotechnik Spirit.


The trike was too low and too wide for me.  I also did not fancy the idea of giving up on the steering ‘feel’ of a two wheel bike.  So, I decided on a short wheel base, above seat steering, mid height touring recumbent.  Like the HP Velotecknic Streetmachine GTE below.


So, I ordered one from Bikefix.  At this point my ride date was 7 weeks away.  So, lead time was key.  Recumbent riding uses slightly different muscle groups, and requires a different sense of balance.  If I was going to be ready to ride a recumbent 1400km in 7 weeks time, I needed to get on it asap.  I called HP Velotecknic in Germany and explained the situation.  They said that a bike ordered on that day would be shipped around the 3rd of June.  Not great.

Enter Azub…

More training for JOGLE

I’ve now completed two additional 140km rides as part of training for my end to end ride in June.  I’ve learned a lot by taking these long rides, and my fitness level is certainly improving.

Me on arriving in Kirby Le Soken:


However, there have also been problems…

In January I had a professional bicycle fitting done for my Tout Terrain Silkroad bicycle.  I found that I was sliding forward on the saddle, and that I had neck and wrist pain.  The fitting did help, and I think it also made me faster, but some of the pain remained.  When you are on a bicycle for 10 hours, there are pressure points that no bike fitting will likely resolve.

I found that on these long rides I would lose feeling in my pinky and ring finger.  It appears this is common for bicyclists.  As i understand it, this is caused by the constant long term pressure on the Ulnar nerve in the tunnel that runs below from the wrist into the hand.  Prolonged pressure can cause damage that could require surgery.  Not great.

I also have neck pain and upper back pain from looking up all the time while riding.  Maybe other cyclist get used to this, or just shrug it off, but that’s not going to cut it for long.  While my Brooks saddle does a great job supporting my sitz bones, I still get numb in my privates which is also less than ideal.

As a Buddhist I try to practice ahimsa (non-violence) and the collection of pain I feel when riding long distance on a traditional bicycle was not going to cut it.  Enter the recumbent bicycle…