Archive for July, 2011

T-Minus 1 Day

So, final day before we kick off Mizen to Malin and everyone is pretty excited. Fortunately the chest infection is much improved, but with a short 55 miles to start with tomorrow, I should be in fairly decent shape  (Having said that there is a Cat 3 climb to negotiate in the Caha Pass, but we’ll deal with that when we get to it).

Yesterday was spent doing a whole lot of little things, like unpacking and repacking the gear, to make sure nothing was missed. I also managed to do some last minute tweaking to the bike itself. I tidied up the mudguards on the back  (one of the nuts fell off and no spares: some tidy work with cable ties have everything now secure). Also I cleaned the chain and re-lubed, and gave a final rub of proofide to the saddle: I’m hoping in some karma, if I’m nice to the saddle it might be nice to me over the 450-odd miles next. And as a final weight-saving measure I removed my Lezyne mini-pump (other lads have bigger frame pumps, so no point hauling it).


Dolan Preffisio

Here's the bike, with added rack and mudguards, minus the pump. Chain looks clean though!

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Packing My Panniers: Part 2

In this edge-of-the-seat post I’ll just go over what’s in the right bag.


Pretty much the only stuff in this pannier are (off the bike)  clothes and toiletries. We’re only doing a week, and staying mainly in B&Bs, so I’m bringing the following:

  • 2 x t-shirts
  • 1 x pair shorts
  • 1 x hoodie
  • 3 x pairs boxers
Cycling clothes include:
  • 3 x cycling jersey  (2 should be enough, but can always use 1 if it’s
  • 2 x pairs cycling shorts
  • 3 x pairs socks
Basically the thinking behind this amount is that we can wash things as maybe every second night. Plus, if we’re really lacking in things we can just buy stuff, but that shouldn’t be necessary. And there’s no real point in listing toiletries, but again to save weight I just bought the smaller travel sized ones in the local pharmacy (the folding tooth brush is very handy).
Saddle Bag
this is the same bag I use all the time, but no harm to list the contents. When it comes to buying gear I prefer to pay the extra and get gear that that’s good quality, especially with tools.:

Inner tubes, saddle bag, Park tyre levers, Park multi-tool, patches, cash and spare cable ties.

  • 2 x schwalbe inner tubes
  • Park I-Beam multi tool (light but feels solid)
  • Park tyre levers & patches
  • Spare cash (just enough for a phone call or emergency
  • And an inhaler (breathing is one of those things that are useful when cycling)
  • Few small cable ties.
  • And the saddle bag itself is crivit  (bought in Lidl). I had tried a smaller bag before but couldn’t put half of what I needed in. This is cheap and does the trick.
Because I’ll only need the following at night time I’ll stick these in the right pannier as well;
  • iPhone cable and adpater
  • USB cable and charger for Garmin
  • and a small USB battery pack. This can charge off the garmin charger, but will be useful to recharge the iPhone or Garmin on the fly if necessary

Packing My Panniers: Part 1

Now for a very exciting post:  how I’m packing panniers for the Mizen to Malin cycle next week!

Gripping stuff for the non-cyclists, I know, but since we’ll be on the bike for a week it makes sense to put a bit of effort into getting it right. Now, I haven’t done a multi-day tour before, but even from one-day tours I know it makes a big difference in knowing exactly where everything is (it’s just started pouring rain, and you can’t remember where you’re rain jacket is: having to pull out all of you once dry clothes into the rain because you stuck your jacket at the bottom of the bag doesn’t make sense, now does it?)

Because we’ll be doing a light tour (A.K.A. credit card touring, because you can buy anything you need), in that we are staying in hotels and B&Bs, rather than camping, 2 x 20L  panniers should be enough. So in this post I’ll go into what goes into the left pannier, and a follow post will cover the right.

Why the fuss about left vs right pannier?

Right, let’s get down to brass tacks: why is there any difference between left and right bags? Well, like I said having a system is important. So the way I’m packing the panniers is that in my right bag I’m putting clothes and toiletries (i.e. things I’m only going to need access to when I’m off the bike, at night-time), and in the left pannier I’m putting things that I’ll be using during the day, such as rain gear, phone, food etc.

Why am I putting the most used stuff in the left bag? Well, because I mount and dismount on the left (sounds pedantic, but if you use clipless pedals (Ie pedals with clips!), you have a routine to clip in and out, so it’s second nature. If you try to do it the other way you’ll fall over and buckle yourself!).  And because I dismount on the left, I nearly always end up leaning the right side of the bike against something. So the left is always facing me.

Packing List

In the pannier I’m carrying:

  • Bad Weather Gear.  Unfortunately the weather for next week is going to be pretty changeable, a lot of showers, wind etc, but not over cold. So I’ll be bringing the following:
    • Light, hi-vis jacket
    • Arm warmers
    • Leg warmers
    • Waterproof  Overshoes
Rain Gear

Jacket, waterproof overshoes, leg warmers & arm warmers

  •  Food. Since we’re cycling around Ireland and not in a desert somewhere there’s not really a need to bring a lot, we should be able to just get by with stopping in shops, cafes etc along the route. 
    • I’m bringing some bikefood satchets, one per day. These are about as good as you can get in energy drinks, but the main reason I’m bringing them is that I don’t tend to eat that much before/during rides, so normally after about 50 miles I can run out of steam. With a bottle full of this I can at least get some carbs on board earlier in the cycle. The one draw back is that if the powder gets on the outside of the bottle it gets really sticky. So I tend to mix this at home by putting the powder into an empty bidon, then hal filling and mixing. Once mixed I top it up and rinse the outside of the bottle.
    • To help with hydration I’ll use some nuun tabs. Basically these should help restore elctrolytes, and other things I haven’t a clue about. But they’re cheap, easy to use and taste alright, so not exactly a burden.
    • And to help with emergency bonkage/running out of steam going up Cat 3 climbs etc, I have a powerbar and energy gel in reserve. But these are really a last resort!
    • 2 water bottles, 1 x 750ml, 1 x500ml  (these will be on the bottle cages).  The reason for the different sizes is just that it’s awkward taking a 750ml bottle  out of the rear cage. So I tend to just put plain water in the larger bottle, and then either of the powders,/tabs etc in the smaller.

Bikefood, powerbars, energy gel, Nuun tabs (week supply), water bottles (AKA bidons)

  • First Aid. To be honest, it’s not much of a first aid kit, but just a few things to help with non-emergencies. One of the other guys has a bigger kit.
    • Anti-histamines
    • Motilium
    • Neurofen
    • Immodium (in case of energy gel “side-effects”!)
    • Small sewing kit
    • Safety pins
  • Small Bag. This is just a light, free bag I got, that can double as a backpack. 
    • Asthma inhalers,
    • Sunglasses
    • Sunblock (you never know!)
    • Wet wipes (serve a multitude of purposes)
    • small wallet. It’s actually called a pokitt, not the cheapest, but a good alternative to my wallet (see picture). I keep a spare debit card in it and some cash, so I use it on nights out, training spins etc. Basically when I don’t need much, and if it gets lost it’s not the end of the world.
    • iPhone
    • Notebook and pen, with lists of B&Bs etc

Notebook, pen, inhalers, first aid kit, wet wipes, Pokitt (with cards & cash), sunglasses

Size comparison of  Pokitt versus my wallet.

The pokitt holds just the bare essentials (debit card and some cash, sometimes house key), the wallet holds everything else

  • Misc. Odds and end in this pannier
    • A few cable ties
    • Roll of electrical
    • Sandals (just to balance the weight in the bag)
And that’s about it for the first bag. Call back tomorrow for another gripping installment of “what I put in my panniers!”

Bike Mechanics Video

My better half just  found this video on the New Times , about the bike mechanics with the Garmin team. Pretty good.

Categories: Gear, General Tags: , ,

6 Days…

It’s now less than a week to the big cycle, and being worried about “over-training” I have done a grand total of 15 miles in the past 7 days! Also, as part of my carbo-loading regime I have spent the weekend first at a wedding (with a free bar) and then on Sunday at a stag party. Needless to say nothing even resembling restraint was displayed on either occasion!

Also I’m slightly concerned by a slight groin strain. This first occurred at the Ring of Kerry about 3 weeks ago, and has given a slight twinge on the  last 75 mile spin. It’s not sore, but it just feels different at the minute, so I want to rest as much as possible. Hopefully the 2 week break will help. I definitely need to recover after the weekend, and hopefully the wedding the day before we kick will be more controlled (from my POV).

Categories: Mizen to Malin

Ordeal Fitting Mudguards

Originally when I got my bike (a Dolan Preffisio), one of the main reasons for getting it was it was designed to be used as a training/winter/touring bike.  So when we figured out that the typical Irish Summer was going to be quite wet, and that we are doing a 450 mile tour in a few weeks, the fitting of mudguards (fenders) seemed like a good idea.

While some in the group went for simpler mudguards (just for the tour), I decided to go for something that I could just leave on the bike for the most part, partly because I’m not expecting any improvement in the weather. And since there were already all the eyelets and the bike is supposed to have added clearance I ordered these  SKS Bluemels Olympic Racer Mudguards from Chain Reaction. SKS have an excellent reputation, and these look pretty good, so the black ones on my Black and White Dolan seemed an obvious choice. Here is how the bike should look (One thing that really annoyed me was I contacted Dolan several times, via email and twitter, trying to find out what guards they recommend , or even sell. Not once did I receive a reply).

Anyway, the mudguards arrived on Monday, so I thought 20 minutes and I would have them fitted. That was ambitious! All in all, I’d say I spent maybe 4 hours fitting them. I’ll spare the full details, but firstly everything was quite fiddly to do on you own. Then the stays had to be marked, disassembled, cut to length and reassembled. A hacksaw would be quite handy (off course I didn’t have one with me). Also I had to shape the bottom of the back guard, to fit it between the chainstays.

But the biggest issue was that even though the bike should have plenty of clearance, with 23mm tyres they were catching the guard directly under the brake bridge. It took quite a lot of messing (over an hour), and I actually thought that it just wasn’t going to happen. But after readjusting the brakes several times (releasing the bolt and pushing the brakes  vertically uo),  and pushing forward the guard I eventually managed to create enough clearance.

After the hassle of getting the guards on, I’m not too sure if/when I’ll take them off, adding/removing them is not something that can be done easily: might be easier just get a second bike!

One Day Tour around Lough Derg

So, as part of our plans for Mizen to Malin (less than 2 weeks now), we* decided to do a full day spin, on similar roads and with similar mileage as to what we plan for the main trip. And as a final prep we said we’d go with the bags fully loaded.

So the route we chose was around Lough Derg. In theory a nice route, but the initial enthusiasm was dampened firstly by the weather (blustery at times and with the odd very wet shower, but in my case in particular, by stag-night related, um, tiredness! I had planned on taking it easy, but, well…

Anyway, after a slow start (about 11mph for the first hour, and that was when we were moving) we eventually settled into a half decent rythmn. As per usual I was the slowest up the hills, but having the extra weight in the panniers definitely didn’t help (fully loaded the bike is now 20kgs). We eventually plled into Portumna after about 2 & 1/2 hours, where we stopped for a sandwich and coffee. The road out was lovely and flat, and for a while we were able to tip away at 16-17 mph, not bad into a 20mph headwind.

But after another 20 miles the lack of sleep and not enough food on board took a toll, and it was a real effort for me to get into Scarriff. But after more coffee and cake (good timing as there was a torrent of rain while we waited at the garage) we made the last hour handy enough to get back to the cars. And as a brilliant idea, Martin P suggested we go to Goosers for a brilliant feed of bacon and cabbage. Fantastic!

Overall it was a good spin out, well worth while and a good laugh. Physically I’d like to be further along, but we still managed about 14mph, which isn’t bad considering the extra weight on the bikes. The route is lovely, although at places the signposting could be better, and we skipped some of the really scenic bits, just to keep moving. Definitely worth a spin out again in future.

*NB: Some displeasure was expressed that I hadn’t mentioned any names of the rest of the group, so here is a photo of us, after about an hour.

Cycle Tour Around Lough Derg

L-R Donal, Martin O'C, me, Mike, Martin P

1st Fully Loaded Training Spin

Last night 2 of us did our first spin with the bikes fully loaded (racks and about 7kg in the panniers, basically what we plan on taking with us for Mizen to Malin). Considering the sun had been splitting the stones all day and was quite humid we thought a nice easy 30 mile spin, just to get used to extra was a plan.

Of course the heavens opened just before we started! While baking and accelerating were quite tricky and over average speed was a lot lower than expected (given how flat the course was), overall it’s not too bad with the extra weight. Braking was basically non existent, but I think that was mainly due to the amount of rain. Also having to wear glasses was a real pain, I spent a lot of the spin not having great visibility, prob a bit late to try to get used to contacts again.

In the end we turned back after about 10 miles, just because we were spending so much time standing under trees, out of the rain. The good news is the panniers are waterproof, the bad news is even though it’s the middle of winter we will definitely need nearly all our wet weather gear!

Countdown to Mizen to Malin

So, it’s about 2 & 1/2 weeks to go and we’re in to the home straight for preparations for our cycle tour from Mizen Head (southerly most point of Ireland) to Malin Head (Most northerly point).  There are 4 of us doing it, and for at least 2 of us it will be a fairly big challenge, because of extra weight being carried (although the other lad is melting it off a fast pace!)

I think logistically we’re in good enough shape, although we still haven’t figured out exactly how we’re getting home from north Donegal! Our plan is to cover the (roughly) 450 miles in 7 days on the road. But because we’re aiming to start after lunch on the first day and finish early on the last day (rugby to be watched),  our daily goal will be around 75 miles. And to try to make it as scenic as possible we will be going a slightly longer route, but because of a wedding before the first day we will be skipping out some of the route around Westport. But still we should definitely have a decent time with the route we’ve planned

I’m still worried about my fitness, I had hoped to be a couple of stone lighter by this stage, and the weight is definitely going to be a big hindrance in the hills. Also I’m not getting out much mid-week but at this stage there isn’t much that can be done. And of course in the next few weeks there is a flurry of stag parties and weddings, so it’s not just bike stamina that will be tested!

But the sun is shining here at the minute, so 2 of us are going to have a spin this evening.We’ll load the bikes with roughly the gear we will be using on the M2M run (we’ll be staying in B&Bs etc, so hopefully not too much gear will be needed), and hopefully get 30 miles in tonight.

The weekend is designated for training and planning so on Saturday we’ll try another 70 as a final shakedown, and depending on hangovers etc Sunday we’ll aim for 40-50 miles. And we plan to finalize the second half of the route Saturday night (the first half was easy enough be cause we’re all from the area).  By the time we’re finished at the weekend hopefully all the gear will be broken in (so far I’m do only one with any mileage with the panniers, and at that it was only 50 miles with a very light load), and we should have a better idea of our fitness with a one day ride behind us.

Here’s hoping for a month long heatwave!



Garmin Edge 500; 6 Month Review


I’ll just do a very quick summary of this gadget, there are countless numbers of reviews out there already, going into the nitty-gritty of how easy it is to set up screens, change from one bike to another etc, so I’ll try not to do one of those.  But there are 2 things I want to cover, one is the advantages of this device over similar types and the other are some of the issues/problems I’ve had (some design faults, some because I’m a careless idiot).

Why The Edge 500?

As a new cyclist, who was struggling to cover 10 miles of flat terrain, it was kind of hard to justify spending over €200 on a device, when you can buy a bog standard cycle computer for a 10th of that. But being a techie and nerd, I like graphs and numbers, and going off of other reviews the Garmin was the device to go for.

And overall I’m delighted with it, it’s easy to use, hasn’t failed once (although it did do a funky pause- screen-thing during the Ring of Kerry, but miraculously it didn’t lose any data) and I love looking over the stats and routes at the end of the cycle. Given the amount of features it has, as well as support for the ANT+ devices it’s easy to see what it is probably the most popular bike computers out there.  I purchased mine with the Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) and also the GSC-10 cadence sensor.  As a beginner having cadence and heart rate information is very useful, as it helps to pace yourself.  (By disabling the GPS  and using  the HRM and cadence sensor you are able to usefully simulate outdoor cycling when on a turbo)

But probably one of the best reasons for going for the Edge 500 is its interoperability with analysis sites and software. Not only does it come with the free Garmin Connect (which I find to be as useful as anything for analysing rides done), it is also supported by Map My Ride and also by the Strava (reviews on these sites to come at a later stage).


Definitely the most annoying issue is how Garmin expect you to tie the cadence sensor to the crank, using just cable ties. Because of a combination of a smoothness in the crank material, and the hollow on the back side of my Tiagra crank arms the sensor was continually falling off, normally mid cycle!

Hollow on back of driveside crank, same shape on other crank

Hollow on back of driveside crank, same shape on other crank.

Having tried several methods of cable tying the senor to the crank, I finally resorted to just taping over the sensor as below, and so far it has done the trick (but not until I had to order replacement pedal senors!).

cable tied sensor, taped to hold it in position.

Here you can see that I simply used waterproof tape on top of the cable ties, to stop the sensor from moving. about 300 miles done, and so far no issues.

One possibly better idea (which I will try if the above doesn’t last), is to use one of the spoke sensors in the replacement kit I ordered. These are designed to screw into a plastic back around the spoke. But I think that by drilling a small hole into the crank, and then tapping it out, you could simply screw that magnet into the crank. I haven’t tried it, but if anyone does let me know how it works.


I really like this device, it’s nice and simple and does what its supposed to do very well. The pedal magnet is the most annoying issue so far, but the fact that I was able to resolve that issue with a simple roll of tape is a small price for a good value, highly functional device


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