Archive | Bike Talk & Gear RSS feed for this section

The tent that blew away…..

5 Sep

A few years ago I bought a Terra Nova Laser Space 2, until then I had been using a lightweight super rigid tent but not very spacious.  The Laser Space 2 is a very large lightweight tent which sleeps 2 people and has a huge porch area.

Dol Llys Campsite

Terra Nova Laser Space 2 Tent


Its not a cheap tent, it now retails for £600 and when I bought it in 2010 I managed to get it for £300 online.  The tent weighs just under 3 KG and packs down to a reasonably small size of 55 x 20 cm.  The porch area is high enough to stand up in, for two people to comfortable move around in unpacking bags etc at the same time and if I remove the front wheels from the bikes I can fit two bikes inside with still plenty of room to move around.

On the downside it is built a bit like a sail, pitching in wind is a bit more challenging than smaller tents and the 18, yes 18 guy ropes can take a little longer than normal to set.  The tent comes with super lightweight titanium pegs although I now use some sturdier aluminium pegs for key points.

Terra Nova Laser Space 2

Cooking in the Terra Nova Laser Space 2

Terra Nova Laser Space 2

The tent pitched with no inner

Terra Nova Laser Space 2

There is a front and rear door to the Terra Nova Laser Space 2

The first time we pitched the tent was in a valley below Mt Snowdon, on our way back down the mountain we could see the campsite but I couldn’t see the tent anywhere, Kate convinced me we were too high up to see the green tent but once we were back in the field the tent was still nowhere to be seen!  Where had it gone; it had blown away and was caught by some bull rushes, it wasn’t the only tent in the campsite to have been blown away, I counted 6 damaged tents in the campsite and several of them badly ripped by the wind.  But still, it was summer, it was an expensive tent, I felt it should be able to stand up to strong wind on a valley floor.  The tent was slightly damaged, it had a bent pole and some of the loops had broken off.  I contacted Terra Nova and they repaired the tent free of charge and sent me some new pegs to replace the ones lost, it was only a week old so I thought this was the least they could do.  Since then I have been a lot more careful where I have pitched it and if I know I am going on any trips where it will be exposed or above the tree line I make sure I take a more suitable tent.

With this said; its an excellent tent for cycle touring.  Its lightweight and very big once pitched, people are often amazed it was transported by bike.  Its great in wet weather as there is plenty of room inside to change clothes and cook.  The material are excellent quality although I am not sure how long they will perform for, the inner tent floor is starting to let in water after a night of camping and it is probably in need of waterproofing although it is still to let in water through the fly sheet.

Bikes inside Tent Porch

Plenty of room in the porch area even with bikes inside.


Terra Nova Laser Space 2

Terra Nova Laser Space 2

The tent has 18 guy ropes



  • Sleeps: 2
  • Season Rating Spec: 3 season backpacking
  • Free standing?: No (tent requires guy lines to be pitched)
  • Minimum Weight: 2.77Kg (6lb 2oz)
  • Packed Weight: 3.05Kg (6lb 12oz)
  • Pitch Time (estimate): 10 mins
  • Number of Porches: 1
  • Number of Doors: 2
  • Pitch Type: Fly and Inner pitch together

Packed Size: 55x20cm
Poles: DAC
Pegs: 24 x 5.5g Titanium skewers and 4 x 2g Titanium pegs
Reflective guylines

The first Superlite tent you can stand up in, with room for 2 bikes in the porch

Pedalling for Power

28 Aug

It was always my intention to fit a dynamo hub with USB charging to my Surly Disc Trucker and after a month of deliberating and 3 months of waiting I finally got a hub and light with a USB connection fitted.

My original plan was to go for the Schmidt Son 28 6 bolt disc fitting hub which is one of the most highly rated and expensive on the market.  I ordered the hub in April from Spa Cycles who offered the best price on a complete build but by July I had given up waiting as the shop still hadn’t got it in stock despite an original order time of 3 weeks.

In the end I decided to go for the cheaper Exposure hub manufactured by SP Dynamo System.  The hub model is the PD-8 weighing in at 410 grams with a 6 bolt rotor fitting.  The hub is relatively new and there isn’t much information about online about these hubs; CTC had given it a good write up in their Cycle magazine in 2012 and the price of the hub is significantly cheaper than the Schmidt.

SP 8 Dynamo Hub connection fitting

To go with the hub I wanted to fit the Busch + Müller Lumotec IQ2 Luxos U LED which has a USB charging port and switch which can be mounted on the handlebar.  I was waiting for an online shop with a competitive price to get it in stock but with the hub bought and a month wait on the light I decided to go for the much cheaper Axa Nano 50 Plus Auto LED light.  On the Axa the USB cable plugs directly into the light.
Axa Dynamo Light USB

When the hub arrived it didn’t come with a cable connection and the light arrived with just bare cable ends.  As a make shift solution I connected the cables using some electrical tape as can be seen in the hub photo but the correct connectors were easily obtained online as the Shimano connectors fit fine.

I had read a few reviews on the light with a few saying the quality isn’t great but considering the technology and price I wouldn’t say it was bad and after 200 miles of riding so far I haven’t had a problem.  You can find some great information on a wide range of dynamo hubs and lights at

Axa LUXX 70 Steady Auto

The Axa Nano 50 plus has a USB charging port on the side of the light.

The light has a switch on the back with 3 options, off, light on or USB charging only.  Its hard to distinguish between the clicks but it works well enough.  You can’t use the light and charge at the same time but I haven’t seen a light which gives you this option due to the power required to run both.

xa Nano 50 plus dynamo light switch

The light also has a front reflector as part of the design, this is a nice feature as without trying I now almost have a road legal bike as the Shimano XT pedals came with reflectors and the rear Cateye light has a reflector incorporated into the design; just wheel reflectors missing at this point although the Schwalbe tyre have reflective bands on them.

When using the light it stays on for a surprisingly long period when stationary, this is useful at night when stopping at traffic lights or when I arrive at work and the basement lights are off.

Dynamo Light fitted below Ortlieb Bar Bag

With some adjustment it was possible to fit the light under the ortlieb bar bag.  This was important as when charging my phone I place it in the bar bag with the USB cable connecting the two.

So you might be wondering how well does the USB charging work; well I am yet to attach a multimeter and ride around measuring the exact voltage but I can tell you it does charge the phone at surprisingly low speeds.  I recently got a new Samsung Galaxy S4 and I was worried about damaging it at first but after 200 miles its working fine.  The phone beeps when it starts receiving power and this is almost immediately when the wheel starts turning.  Before I used the Samsung I tested my old HTC wildfire and this started charging at 6 mph.  The speed at which the phone started charging was one of my biggest worries, when touring with a loaded bike I average 8.5 – 10.5 mph depending on the terrain and distance.

I have been on a few trips with the phone so far and charging varies depending on the terrain and the apps that are running.  A couple of weeks ago I road the Gospel pass and during a 40 km ride with 653 metres of accent the power only managed to maintain its battery level whilst running Googles Mytracks.  We spent most of our time climbing at a slow pace and although the decent was fast it was over in a relatively short period of time compared with the climb.

The next day I road 61km and descended 706 metres whilst using the endomondo GPS app and the phone charged significantly through the day.
Axa Nano 50 plus dynamo light

Since then I have also used the dynamo hub for a five day trip covering 240 miles across Wales, I was able to keep two phones charged enough for the duration of the trip and both of them were used for calls and internet.  A small HTC was easy to charge and if it was plugged in for more than a couple of hours I was able to achieve a full charge, Kates Iphone took longer to charge and was not plugged in long enough to reach a full charge.  Surprising the Iphone would beep to say it was charging at just over 3 mph.

So charging whilst using the phones GPS to track rides gives mixed results although the battery level does not decrease.  When not using the GPS the phone charges well and at low average speeds.  Using the hub over five days of camping gave good results and although we didn’t use GPS tracking for the ride the phones got quite a bit of use and we were never without battery power.

A new bike project

29 Jul

A couple of weeks ago I struck a deal with an old neighbour to swap bikes; she wanted a comfortable upright bike and I was keen on her 1986 touring bike.

In 1986 a few years after I was born she had a custom built Harry Quinn touring bike built for her.  It was handbuilt in St Florence, Pembrokeshire by Harry and his son and in 1989 she road the bike from Lands End to John O Groats in nine days of cycling; but since then the bike has had much use but carefully stored in her garage.

Whilst I’m constantly told I don’t need another bike I had to have this one. It was rich in history and beautifully made; and for a 27 year old bike it had all of its original parts!

The bike upon collection.

The bike upon collection.

20130718_134402 (Large)

The books saddle is in better condition than the one on my Troll

20130718_134408 (Large)

The bike has 18 gears with a 6 speed rear mech. The mech is in great condition but the chain is showing signs of wear.

Harry Quinn Chain Stay

Eleven Pedals with Christophe toe clips

The bike has Stronglight cranks and Christophe toe clips, just in need of a simple clean

Harry Quinn Stronglight Crankset

Old CTC sticker

On the rear mudguard is the original CTC sticker; I hadn’t seen this style before.

Dawes Handlebars on the Harry Quinn

Dawes Handlebars with the logo etched onto the bar. The bike had a computer at one time but it only came with the bracket.

Dawes Chrome Handle Bars

Whilst I wanted to saviour the restoration of the bike I couldn’t resist getting started.  I began with wiping the years of grime off the bike, with a toothbrush and some Muckoff it came away easily and after wiping down with a sponge parts were already shining.

The wheels were a lot tougher to clean up, the spokes were dull with a thick layer of grime, a scouring pad took most of this off but having to clean each spoke individually was tedious to say the least.

A friend called by to take a look, he soon disapeared but shortly returned with a tube of Autosol a German made metal polish.  We tested it out and the results were amazing; the brake levers polished up incredibly well within minutes.

Weinmann brake lever on the Harry Quinn

Weinmann brake lever on the Harry Quinn

Polished Weinmann brake lever

With the success of cleaning the levers I couldn’t resist testing the polish on other parts and there was almost instant success; to take things a step further I got the Dremel out of the garage and fitted a polishing tip, instantly the dulled metal finishes became almost mirror like.

Harry Quinn Cantilever brakes Harry Quinn made in Pembrokeshire
Christophe Toe Clips Maillard HubHarry Quinn Headtube Harry Quinn Headtube Harry Quinn Down tube shifters
Harry Quinn Harry Quinn Touring Bike Harry Quinn Brooks SaddleHarry Quinn Chainstay

Harry Quinn Bar Tape

I have changed the hoods on the brake levers and fitted new bar tape.

Mirrycle mirror on Harry Quinn

The mirror was made by Mirrycle in Boulder Colorado. It seems the hex key size is imperial as it took me a while to find one that fitted. They still make these mirrors today.

The mirror was made by Mirrycle in Boulder, Colorado.  It needed a clean and the bolts needed tightening but other than that its like new.  I have never used a mirror before and I really like it although I don’t think I will be fitting my other bikes with mirrors.  You can find instructions and replacement part numbers on the mirrycle website:

Harry Quinn Bell

The bell was the final touch; I’ve had it a while but it hasn’t suited any of my other bikes. Its perfect for this one.

Harry Quinn Touring Bike

Refurbished Harry Quinn.  Just in need of some mudguards.

I found my socks

20 May

My brother got me some cycling socks for Christmas, I wore them a week or so later when we went mountain biking but after that they disappeared.  I forgot all about them until last week when I was due to go for a ride with him  but surprisingly they turned up today!

This photo was taken back in January during a cold day out riding.

This photo was taken back in January during a cold day out riding.

They turned up at my parents house, I must have left them there when I had been mountain biking in the area.  Well the plan for Sundays ride was to cycle to Caerphilly and over some mountains but I got a call at 9 am from my dad asking me if I would repair the lead on his roof.  Even though the sun was shining I couldn’t say no so Kate and I drove to Neath.

Whilst we were there we thought we could still get a ride in and decided a trip to the top of the mountain would be a good option, its not  far and the route to the top is easy and it has great views at 272 metres and seen as I had found my socks I thought why not where them one more time!

The description from Sockguy reads:
SockGuy Wanker Socks
Made with 75% Ultra-wicking Micro Denier Acrylic, 15% Nylon, and 10% Spandex for exceptional comfort and strength. These features create superior softness and comfort and help eliminate blisters and hot spots.

On top the mountain the views were great, there was a mild wind but nothing too strong.  I hadn’t been out on the mountain bike for a while and whilst this was just a simple forest track accent and descent it was fun to get out off road!


On the top of the mountain is a standing stone which is thought to be a boundary marker, it is mentioned in a Charter of King John in 1203.


Carreg Bica or also called Maen Bradwen. Perhaps a monument of a buried Celtic chieftain it now forms a gatepost.



Port Talbot is in the distance.

So it was a nice ride just over 6 miles with some excellent views.  I also fixed the roof and when I got home I put my feet up.


SE Draft

16 May

Kate has said goodbye to her big pink single speed but she’s not sorry.  When we living in London Kate was in need of a bike and did’t want anything fancy as she was short on cash and didn’t want something fancy that would get stolen.  So she ordered a SE Draft from Wiggle in a massive 54 cm frame size and also bright pink.

P1000782 (Large)

Now when we lived in London there weren’t many hills so having no gears was never an issue but that was before we moved to Cardiff.  Cardiff is relatively flat but despite this with 3 single speed bikes between us we moved to the top of the biggest hill for miles.

We live on top of the headland in the distance

We live on top of the headland in the distance

Soon after moving in I changed the gear ratios with new free wheels, we had never used the bikes as fixies, we are just simply not cool enough.  And I’m too afraid.  I changed my 14 tooth freewheel to a 16 and Kate’s bike got a stupidly small chain ring up front.  I can get up the hill most days but its hard work and on a hard day I get off and push the last bit.  Kate’s heavy steel framed bike was a mission to get up the hill and she quickly got fed up of not having any gears!

Sunny winter's day commute across the bay

Sunny winter’s day commute across the bay

After the initial gear change on Kate’s bike was not good enough I resorted to buying her a new rear 2 speed hub wheel.  Costing £100 the wheel had a kick flick hub meaning when you peddled backwards the hub would change gear.  But with only a 30% change it still wasn’t practical for riding around on the flat and then changing to go up a 16 metre elevation in 0.2 miles.  Before the hub was fitted the bike was heavy so its additional weight wasn’t welcomed.

P1000784 (Large)

So after 18 months of life in Cardiff it was time for the single speed to go.  It cleaned up really well and with a new chain, the old chainset fitted and new pedals the bike was ready for a new home.

P1010186 (Large)

P1010190 (Large)

P1010194 (Large)

Cycloc Review

27 Jun

Now we no longer have a shed storing bikes has become a problem, so I decided that the Cycloc would be a good solution and after 6 months they are all still firmly bolted to the wall!

We have 3 bikes on the wall in the hallway

The Cyclocs were attached to the wall using 3 plaster wall plugs each with a 10mm diameter apart from the one above the door which has 12 mm plugs; well you don’t want a bike landing on your head when you slam the door!

Charge hanging on the Cycloc

They are easy enough to lift off each morning before we leave the flat with the exception of the one above the door which requires a tall step ladder.  Originally a Trek 1200 Road bike lived there which was easy to move but that has been replaced with a Surly Trucker which isn’t as light weight.

In the living room we keep Kates Audax bike above the door, its only been used a few times so it rarely comes down, fitting this one was a bit more challenging as the walls are Victorian lath and plaster.  I drilled holes right through the wall and cut bolts to fit.

Bolts to go through the lath and plaster wall

A picture is required in the hallway to hide the nuts!

The Tifosi which lives above the living room door

The only problem with the Cycloc so far has been the rubber parts which occasionally fall off but otherwise they have been great.  The Cycloc’s mounted to the wall with raw plugs have need tightening occasionally, I fitted the extension piece to the holder designed for wider bars and this makes it more hassle to tighten the holders as you have to use a socket set to remove the Cycloc.  I have had to do this once in six months to two of the racks but they get used every day.

Ladles and Spoons

5 Aug

Who’d of thought a spoon would be so comfortable.

%d bloggers like this: