Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Fitting the Belt

The first prototype build is under way... The eccentric bottom bracket and belt combo has to be the way forward

When Commuting becomes Survival

We had been hearing all weekend about parts of the country with lots of snow. We even went up to Manchester to see some old friends but saw no snow. Yesterday the weather reports showed that it was going to snow overnight. Stu rang me at about 1pm yesterday to arrange riding in together on our MTB's as we did back in February. He seemed to be quite excited. So this morning we woke up to the first snow in Essex this winter. Mark texted me at just gone six and want to meet to ride in. By 6:45 we were all toegther with virgin powdery snow on the back roads to enjoy. This was the fun part of the morning. Mark left us half way through the ride to go back and work from home...

Stu fell off almost as soon as it was two of us and this marked the turning point in the ride. From that point on the roads became slippery and we tip toed our way into work. Past the cars struggling to get up the inclines and stuck at the lights. The only repite from the slippery roads came on a little off road cut through where all of a sudden the a slippery track seemed to make sense.

Now I am sat at my desk and the snow is still coming down. Roll on tonights survival test....

Saturday, 27 November 2010


Teflon-coated, stainless steel, Kevlar-reinforced stopping goodness... and in a colour of your choice!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Beginnings of the Brand

Initial sketches and a slightly more polished version of what may turn out to be the Milk Bikes logo... Let us know what you think!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Schwalbe City Jet Review

When I built up the Beta I ordered some cheap tyres to put on it for commuting. I didn't get the ones I ordered but the Cuty Jets as a replacement. At first I was disappointed. On the first few ride they had felt a bit draggy next to my 23mm road tyres. Not surprising really. I mentioned to Mark that as soon as they wore out I would replace them with something else... He laughed, he also has City Jets on his Beta and they look almost new after nearly 2 years of commuting. I knew I was going to have to ride them for a long time. That said they only add 5mins to a 1hr commute. Their biggest weakness is their grip on wet roads. In 10 months of commuting on minor roads I have only had 2 puntures. This is was really brough home to me when today I have had 3 punctures on my 75 mile Sunday ride and that has made 4 punctures of the week on the 23mm road tyres...

So the City Jets have been great commute tyres cheap, hardwaring and good resistance to punctures all of which is good for the commuter.

Their main weakness is grip in the wet but if you accept this and take it steady on those day then all is good...

Pedal - Cake - Repeat

Had a great Sunday ride today with just one companion. 75 mile loop around Chelmsford. I had planned the route on Saturday and wanted to take some roads that I had not ridden before. I planned it on www.bikehike.co.uk, simplified it so that it would go onto my aging GPS and downloaded it. The eTrex then guided us round without any issues. The route can be found here and is mainly on minor roads and made for a good training ride.

Also on Saturday I decided to make the Guinness (& Chocolate) Cake, the recipe for which can be found at here. This is a good solid cake (it would be good served hot as a pudding with ice cream instead of the icing) and was great to have with a coffee when I got home.

On the bike again tomorrow for the commute, no doubt will have some cake when I get home from work.

Cake anyone....

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Painted Prototype Frames

Factory-fresh pics of the prototype Milk Bikes commuter frames... Can't wait to ride them!!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Alfine Pics

Alfine Maintenance

Two and a half years ago I got Marks help to design and have made a Titanium hardtail. I wanted the bike to be able to use many forms of drive train so that it was flexible. At the time we decided to go with sliding drop outs to enable the bike to run any of the available hub gears.

The bike also had a derailleur hanger to allow the use of conventional gears. I built myself an Alfine rear wheel for the winter and for the last two winters have ridden it in all conditions. It has been great in both the mud and snow, especially when everyone else has been struggling with temperamental gear changes. In the summer I have run conventional gears and done long epic weekends and local XC races on the bike.

Last weeks Friday MTB commute home via the pub confirmed that it is time to make the switch over to winter Alfine mode, but before I put it on I thought I would look inside the Alfine to see if it needed any maintenance. It was a pleasant surprise to find the insides in excellent condition. I have now given it a clean and a re-grease and hope to get it fitted this weekend ready for another muddy winter.

If it takes this abuse on an MTB the hub is looking like an excellent choice for the commute bike. I only wish I had planned a belt port into the Ti MTB so that it was belt ready. Never mind...

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

GEN-01 Prototype Frames

The first generation commuter frames are finally at the prototype stage... The design has eveolved over the past few months and most of the various components have arrived at Milk Bikes HQ and the big bike build is on the horizon - very very exciting!

Once assembled, the bikes will have bits from all over the world; the States, Australia, Germany, Taiwan, Finland, Italy and of course the good old UK. And, if you're lucky enough to own a Milk Bikes bike, you'll have it all assembled here in the UK too, in Chelmsford in be precise!

It's all good, people!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Raw Frames

The Head Tube: Some beautiful welds going on there

Inboard Disc Mount: Racks AND guards?? No worries, mate!
The Belt Port: Neat little stainless T-piece

Monday, 15 November 2010

Reasons to Commute #23

What an awesome morning. You'd totally miss out on this if you drove to work...

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Getting 2 Grips

The postman delivered some innovative lock-on grips designed and produced by Herrmans in Finland. These will go on the flat-bar prototype I'll be testing in a couple of weeks time - not sure which will end up staying on long term though; the cork ones feel great (and will match the Brooks saddle nicely - more on that later), but the black ones have the great mini-bar ends (which I really like as you can get the same bar control without the 80's style granny-catchers!)

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Sunday Ride

Spent some time on Saturday getting the winter bike back in working order as a change from riding the beta bike all the time. Did the following 50ish mile ride with a training college.

The pace was brisk compared to the beta rides. The most noteable differences were the geometry on the bike which was much better for riding on the road (same as the Milk Bike design), how much I had got used to the stopping power of disc brakes (rim brakes need to be operated much sooner to stop) and the lack of a swinging saddle bag ( no longer did I need to try and match the resonance of the bag)

Beta Basics

Appropriately I met Mark while riding to work. We started to ride together regularly both to and from work and at weekends. We became good friends. Conversations often went over what would make the best commuter bike. A workhorse that could be used daily with minimum maintenance but still be a bike that you would love to ride and would become a reliable friend.
At the time I was riding my winter training bike. This was a steel framed racer that my dad built for me 20 years ago as my then racing bike. The bike was taking a beating being ridden every day and I was replacing the rims every 18 months. Before Mark decided to go ahead with Milk Bikes our conversations had inspired me to build a more dedicated commute bike that could be taken out of the shed everyday and ridden. I looked around at hybrid bikes because they had disc brakes but they all had flat bars and being an old road rider I ideally wanted drop bars. It did not seem possible to buy just the frames so I decided to make may own commuting mongrel which became the Beta.
The basis was a steel MTB frame so that I had the disc mounts. The forks came from a friend who had tried them on his MTB for the winter but had not got on with them. The rest of the parts came out of the spares bin in the shed. Originally it had flat bars as this was what I had spares for and I was keeping my eye out for a cheap set of levers on the bay. I rode it like this for a few weeks and then Mark found a set of levers in his spares bin and the bike was complete.
The Beta has been great. While the fat tyres originally felt very slow, still do, they have the advantage that you don’t have to concentrate to hard on the road surface as they are very forgiving. This is brilliant when it is dark and the roads are wet and even the best lights don’t illuminate all the holes in the road. The beta has not been maintenance free as it still has a chain that needs oiling and occasionally cleaning but I have needed to do way less than on the training bike and the training bike has remained in good condition. The few things that don’t work on the beta; the swinging saddle bag (as I could not fit a rack because of the disc brake caliper); the frame geometry being slightly wrong for the road and the chain maintenance are all designed out of the Milk Bike design so I am really excited about getting my hands on the prototype. (as long as it does not get sold before I’ve had a chance to ride it…)

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Black Box of Brightness

More goodies are arriving at Milk Bikes HQ - this time it's German designed Supernova E3 Pro hub dynamo-powered LED lights... Beautiful things, these. And they can pump out 370 lumens which is brighter than some cars. No batteries to forget the put on charge - ideal commuter lights!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Another reason to ride to work

While riding in this morning I heard this story on the news http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11664660

This is yet another reason to ride to work everyday and get 2 imune system boosts per day. I very rarely get colds and never get too affected by them although reading the report I would seem to be in the best category. I ride the bike 5 days a week, I am older, married and eat lots of fruit.

All good stuff.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Sunday Beta Ride

Had a good ride on the Beta's yesterday in the lanes of Essex. A small group of 3 of us did the attached 53 mile ride in very autumnal conditions. I really like this time of year when you can just ride your bike for the fun of riding....

The route can be viewed and downloaded at http://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=mmolpvbmrgnmytrl. I planned the route using our friends website
http://www.bikehike.co.uk/mapview.php which links into the ordnance survey maps which can be very helpfull when planning

Why I Ride (to work)

I started commuting back at school. My school was only 2 miles away but I rode everyday come rain or shine while my friends travelled on the bus. I continued bike commuting into my working life except for a period while my daughter was pre school. Recently I have thought about all the reasons why I love to commute by bike rather than using the car.

The journey times are consistent and you are always in motion
I get to feel my environment everyday.
I see the seasons change
The warmth of the shower after a cold (and possibly damp) ride
Early morning encounters with wild life
For training
For the Friday pub ride with great friends
To feel great both physically and emotionally
To be able to eat a packet of biscuits in one sitting and/or have pudding everyday
To make the first tracks in the snow
For the sunrises
For the sunsets
To save miles on my van
Saves money on petrol and time at the filling pump (although most of this saving is spent on more bike equipment)
Commuter racing (I am very bad at this – I rarely get involved)
Clear time to think about any issues
My best ideas come while I am pedalling

No doubt I have missed some that will come to me while I am pedalling…..