Archive for the ‘Tips & Tricks’ Category

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!”

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!

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