Monday, 12 December 2011

Done: 29 inches.

It's been decided; the next bike to come from Milk will be a ferrous-framed 29er.

Won't say more than this just yet; it'll be constructed from some pretty cool steel tubing, the frame will be belt-ready and it'll come available as frame and forks or complete custom builds. The production runs are going to be limited to a yet-to-be-determined (but small) quantity...

Hell, I'm bloody excited out this bike!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Dusk til Dawn Photos

Dusk til Dawn Report

Apologies the race report is a bit long but it was an eventful night.

Pre Race

Saturday morning and the house was busy with final race prep and packing of the Van. I ate as much as I could at lunch until I could not even contemplate another slice of cake. Mark came round at 2pm and we hit the road. I had been checking the weather forecast for Thetford all week and it had always forecast that the D2D evening was going to be mainly dry. This was until Saturday morning when it forecast drizzle from Midnight with heavy rain at the end of the race. As we drove up the A12 towards Thetford the drizzle started. But this was only 3PM. Having arrived early the drizzle continued all the way to Thetford. On arrive there was the usual prerace faff , set-up, registration and lugging stuff to the comfort of the Solo marquee which was there for the evening service. This all done I lined up on the start line at 7:45PM in the now light rain. People had been on the start line since 7:30 but 7:45 was keen enough for me for a 12hr race that started at 8PM. On the start line I felt good. I had made a mental agreement with myself that I was not going back into the Solo marquee until it was all over. (I have only ridden solo once before and on that occasion I made the mistake of stopping to eat and do bike maintenance. On that occasion I found that it was always very difficult to get going again and although my riding remained pretty constant my stopped times got longer and longer.)

Mini Lap & Lap 1

The klaxon went and we were off. Well the leaders were off. My part of the field took a while to get going. Once rolling I stuck to the plan, just ride steady. 12hrs is a long time. I had a 4hr Saturday ride planned. This would be a warm-up training ride immediately followed by an 8hr enduro race when Sunday came around. So on the first lap there was no hurry. In my own mind the race did not start til Midnight. Despite this on the mini lap behind the quad bike I was moving effortlessly through the field I had lined up with. Sure the leaders were long gone but I knew I had to ride to my own capabilities. Through the start/finish banner for the first time and we were out on the 1st true lap. My riding companions had started to thin out but there was a continuous stream of riders ahead and behind. Not having done a pre ride of the lap all the turns and drops were a new experience. The ADL handled them all in its stride, flattering my riding skills. At this point the course was still in good condition and I settled into a small group of riders. One in particular was riding similar to me. He was in full Giant riding kit and on a Giant bike. His riding style was steady and I had only caught him very slowly so I decided that it would do me good to sit behind him for a while and use him to control any other enthusiasm that I might pay for later in the race.

At the end of the first lap I still had plenty of food and drink left so decided not to stop at all. It looked like a 2 lap load up was going to be a good strategy. Mark was stood outside the solo marquee so I barked at him that on the next lap I would like a new bottle, a couple of gels and 1 bit of solid food.

Lap2 was much like the first. The pace behind Mr Giant was comfortable for me. The course condition was still good. We had done 1 lap now so I was starting to recognise and enjoy parts of the course. We were able to ride out of Tom's pit on the second lap as it was not covered with riders like it had been on the first. The second big drop still caught me out on the rooty section and I went the wrong side of the tree again. Apart for Mr Giant and myself there were a couple of other riders around us that were riding more in bursts so that they would come by quite quickly only for us to catch and pass them again 5mins later. Being with Mr Giant was definitely helping me keep a steady pace and I knew that was going to pay off in the end. The rain was really coming down now and I was glad that I had started in my full rain coat. I only had a T-shirt underneath and on the faster sections I could feel a slight chill but on the slower sections through the woods I was plenty warm enough.

The end of the lap came around quickly and I was ready for my pit stop. Mr Giant was on the same strategy and his pit crew and Mark were stood about 5m apart. Mr Giant stopped briefly with his crew got what he wanted and was gone. I stopped at Mark and noticed that he was empty handed… I had not told him that I was not going into the marquee. I quickly explained that the marquee was for broken soles and broken bikes and that I did not intend to enter it. He quickly ran in and collected some food. Mr Giant was now out of site and to further extend he lead on me I managed to drop a gel just over the start/finish line. I stopped to pick it up and was off again.

Lap 3

The first part of the lap was a long fire road section. I rolled along this a got some food down. The fire road now was like a river bed and there was a lot of water coming up. I was glad that we had fitted the rear mud guard before the start. Comfort in these long events is key. In my experience all the little things that was getting to you and really drag your mood down. Mentally I was having a whale of a time. The bike was just working…. The geometry made for fun riding and I was just enjoying each section of the course rather than projecting into the night and thinking about how long there was to go. Infact I had no idea what the time was and decided not to ask. If I could concentrate on the here and now and just ride til someone told me to stop that was going to be an easy thing to do. I had an ipod shuffle with me but had yet to turn it on. Again I had decided to save this until I needed a mental pick me up. Right now I was having a ball.

I re-caught Mr Giant at the end of the first fire road section and had a joke with him about the relative skills of our pit crews. The course was now starting to get slippery in places. This was the only thing I was concerned about as I did not have the possibility of fitting mud tyres. This was because I only had 1 wheel set, as the rear wheel was hub gear and the front wheel was dynohub, and having gone tubeless to avoid stopping for punctures. Fortunately the Mountain King front was providing enough grip and the X King on the rear was not sliding uncontrollably. Mr Giant was also starting to struggle with grip. Half way round the lap we got passed by some team riders who were fresh but were not travelling a lot faster than us. I decided that I could go a bit faster so latched onto a new wheel and left Mr Giant. The new wheel only lasted 2-3 miles before he went too hard for me on one of the climbs and I let him go. I was now truly solo and was feeling good so got on with just riding. The ADL helped a lot here as it was all working flawlessly. I had no chain suck and had all 8 gears that I had started with. The tyres were manageable and the geometry and 150mm fork were making the technical stuff easy. The only thing that was in the back of my mind was brake pads. I had not started with new pads and by now there was a fairly constant sound of mud, grit and water wearing them away even when you were not using them. I started trying to use the brakes as little as possible. I did not want to have to waste time later on change brake pads if I could possible get away with it.

At the end of the lap I saw Mark and told him I would need a food and bottle again next lap. He had already got a tray waiting with a selection of goodies on it as I sailed past.

Lap 4, I knew I was making headway now. All was going well and I was over 3hrs in. I could feel my legs but it was fatigue that was easy to ignore and I knew all I had to do was keep eating and all would be well. There were parts of the course that I was really beginning to enjoy now and I was noticing more and more of the mile markers on the trees. I still did not have my music on and had not yet required a jelly baby boost.

I was also starting to become the envy of the majority deraulier geared riders although I think they saw the hub gear and not the belt. The 8sp Alfine was still working without fault and the belt had meant that I had not had to worry at all about lubrication. Not that lubrication for the chains was much use as it would have been washed off pretty much as soon as it had been applied. It was difficult to tell where I was in the solo field and to me it did not really matter. My goal had been to ride without stopping and that was being achieved.

Half way round lap 4 was where I had my first issue. Riding with the dynohub meant that I had 375 lumins of light from the bars but I also had a head torch to look round corners and into holes. This was the time the batteries in that torch decided that they had had enough. This was not too bad as we were now 4.5hrs into the ride. I had spare batteries so at the next fire road I stopped to change them. Things did not go to plan. The light would not open so I had to take my gloves off. In opening my tool bottle I managed to drop a tyre lever into long grass. I decided to concentrate on getting the light working again so that I could search for the lost lever. I dropped the light while I was loading the batteries and thought I might have lost one. After many minutes of trying to sort out the headtorch I gave up. It was giving out a small amount of light but not enough to ride by. The dynamo light is only on full power when rolling so to find the lever I stood the bike on it's end and rolled it on the front wheel backwards and forwards until I found the lever. Many minutes lost I got back on my bike and rode the rest of the lap. The next section was mainly single track and included the beast. Now only having a light on the bars was fun there was loads of light but not always in the right place. When I dropped into some of the whoops on the beast I was half way down them before my eyes had adjusted and I could see the roots that wanted to throw me off. But it only slowed me a fraction and soon I was coming into the start/finish area again.

Mark was outside the marquee with his hostess tray. I stopped and asked him to swap the head torch for his as fortunately we have the same one. He started to do this and sorted my food and drink. It also gave me a minute to get a bit more solid food down. Lighting fixed I set off for lap 5. My spirits were still sky high and I knew I now had another 4hrs before I needed new batteries again.

Lap 5

On lap 5 the course was now getting really bad in places and on some sections it was better to ride off the main track on the grass to the side. Everything was working again and I was riding with a grin on my face. The bike selection was brilliant and I was reminding myself how it had been last time I had ridden at Thetford in these conditions when I had had constant chain suck which also happened at a critical point and led to either falling off or at least to walking. Non of that on the ADL. All I had to do was keep turning the pedals and keeping the bike upright on the ever more slippery course. I was soon past the 8 mile marker and thinking about completing another lap. Soon after this I was lapped by the leading solo. He was now 10 miles ahead of me. It was not a surprise as when I rode solo 4 years ago the winner did 36 miles more than I did and I was still going to complete my strategy.

From the 9 mile marker to the start/finish was a continuous up hill drag. I was on this drag now and looking forward to completing another lap. At one point there was a loud bang. I wondered if the belt had started to slip. The belt wears quicker in those extreme conditions just like a chain. The belt had not been new at the start of the ride so it could be wearing out. I don't normally have massive torque so I was not too concerned. I could use my gears to keep a lower torque and reduce the belt slipping. 300 meters later this was not an issue. I hit a steeper part of the track and went to pedal harder when suddenly I was pedalling fresh air. Looking down there was no belt…

I went back and collected the snapped belt from the trail. I walked the rest of the course until I got to the solo marquee and met up with Mark. He looked devastated. We had not brought a spare belt so it was game over. The time was 1:15am. When the belt had snapped there had been about 7 hrs to go to the finish. I entered the marquee and it was everything I had imaged. There were broken souls and bikes littered around. Men looking cold under towels & blankets while partners scurried around sorting things out for them. I was still feeling up beat. I could not carry on but I knew that physically and mentally I could. If we had only brought a spare belt along. But we hadn't. We packed up fast and got on the road. Might as well get home and grab some sleep. Might even be able to do something useful on Sunday.

Post Event Analysis and Conclusions

There was much discussion on the drive home about why the belt had snapped. We had always been a bit concerned about the first generation of Gates belt as the rear sprocket has no shedding clearances and we had though that mud may make the belt wear excessive. We believe what happened was the belt picked up a stone that was too large for it to get rid of. Either the stone had to turn to dust or the belt had to give. This was the bang that I thought had been the belt slipping. This broke 4 of the 6 carbon strands in the belt. The belt then hung on for another 300m up hill before totally giving way. Up until this point the belt solution and hub gears had been the ultimate solution and I believe still can be. The purpose of prototypes is to use them for learning and there are more positives than negatives in the result. Although the belt had worn significantly it had not slipped up until the break point. The belt and hub gear combination with Mark's frame design are definitely the Mountain Bike I want to have for all my long day and enduro riding as well as everyday local trail rides. There are still 2 alternative belt solutions that should be better for clearing foreign objects that can be tested and rest assured we are already in progress to get these on the ADL and tested through the winter when conditions are at there worst.

As for the results I was only recorded with 4 laps in the official as I did not really see the point of crossing the line when I knew that I could not continue. I had a quick analysis of the results and my positions on each lap were

Lap1 – 24th

Lap2 – 17th

Lap3 – 11th

Lap4 – 10th

If I had not broken the belt then on lap 5 I would have been 5th. I compared my lap times to the winner and 2nd place and was 17% slower per lap than the winner and 9% slower than 2nd. Assuming that I would have continued to have a similar offset to them as the race continued it looks like I would have been fighting for the final podium place. Roll on ADL testing and future endures.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

ADL - The Final Test

We're pretty much ready for the 12hr Duck till Dawn that'll start in about 7 hours time... here are some pics, and more are on Flickr.

Oil Tattoo and Icelandic Shower

Rode into work steadily yesterday with tonights Dusk til Dawn on my mind. I've been on my old commute bike as Mark has had the RDA on promotional duty. On the way home got myself caught in an Icelandic shower which was a bit of a shock after the last two weeks of Indian summer. This feeling of cold prompted my body to request a natural break. I found a suitable spot at the side of the road and shuffled over to be discreet. In the awkward sideways shuffle did the classic of catching my leg against the outer chain ring and hey presto, instand tattoo. Hopefully will have the belt drive RDA back next week so I can't brand myself again.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Final Prep for Dusk-til-Dawn

The ADL was put put through a about 4 hours of torture this morning ahead of next weekend's final test - the annual 12hr night race in Thetford. Looking forward to it!

Saturday, 1 October 2011


Built up a dynohub wheel this morning for the ADL (All Day Long) as next weekend I will be riding the Dusk til Dawn solo. The E3 Supernovo is awesome powered from the dynamo so hopefully no stopping for battery changes for me this year. ADL can now go All Night Long.

Full shake down of the bike tomorrow

If next weekend goes well might consider going back and trying to do the 150 mile Lakeland Loop in 24hrs next year...

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Quarterre & Milk at Look Mum No Hands!

All of this week the mega-cool Look Mum No Hands cafe on Old Street is hosting a show as part of the annual London Design Festival. Fittingly, the show has been put on by local industrial design team Quarterre who have designed a range of really unique and functional 'bike furniture'. We helped out by supplying 'models' to show how the furniture looks in-use...

The first three products are to do with bike storage - a problem in any major city where space comes at a premium. Check out these website and below for more information about Branchline (below), Shadow and Hood (my favourite).

The guys from Quarterre have put together an amazing display, so if you happen to be in the area do drop by - it'll give you an excuse to have a couple of coffees and maybe even a bit of cake!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Downpour !!

So tonight the BBC weather got it wrong and instead of sunny spells on the way how it was heavy showers. I was doing a long ride round to the club hill climb. It was raining when I left work but half way to the hill climb the heavens opened and there was a deluge that was like standing under a waterfall for about 3-4 mins. I was soaked to the bone and the roads were running like rivers. I decided not to continue to the hill climb as I did not want to get cold standing and headed home through the flooded roads.

It’s days like these that the RDA really makes sense and I know we designed the right product. The disc brakes stop you in the wet. The dynamo light shines while the skys are getting darker. With a chain tonight the lubricant would have been washed off and the last half hour of the ride would have been very noisy. The belt made no noise at all.

Best of all i know I can roll the bike out of the shed tomorrow and not need to do anything except get on and ride ;-)

Friday, 26 August 2011

Tony's Bike

Soon to be cruising the streets of London town

Monday, 15 August 2011

Geoff's RDA-11 Winter Training Bike

The first Milk machine to roll off of the line was Geoff's winter bike. I don't particularly like racks, think they look ugly (even though I have one on my bike!), so really enjoyed seeing an RDA built up in this guise - clean, neat and tidy. 

Friday, 12 August 2011

Hackney Wick Gets Bullet'd

Uber graphic designer and man behind the Sharpie (other permanent markers are available!) livery, Ed Stubbs, let the Bullet prototype loose on the area of East London known as Hackney Wick... it may never be the same again! Check out what he managed to capture on his blog and on the Milk flickr feed...

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Milk Bikes Stem

Milk Bikes Stem
Originally uploaded by Milk Bikes

Light weight, 31.8mm clamp, +/-7degree rise, available in 90mm and 110mm length

Saturday, 23 July 2011

If you've got it....

Milk It! That's what MBR magazine had to say about the ADL prototype:

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A few 2011 Dynamo pictures

Dunwich Dynamo

On Saturday night we took 2 RDA Milk Bikes on the Dunwich Dynamo night ride from Hackney in London to Dunwich on the Suffolk coast. The ride itself is about 110 miles however we needed to get into London so rode in from Chelmsford. This plus the ride to the campsite to meet up with the other halves at the end of the ride led to a planned ride of 150miles. Last year Mark and I did the ride on our beta versions of the RDA commuter bikes and had a great time so were really looking forward to riding the full production versions with belts, hub gears, dynamo lights and panniers racks as additions on the beta versions.

Our enthusiasm for last years ride meant the we had 2 additional riders with us this year from our Friday pub ride crew. The evening did not start well with 3 punctures in the local park due to broken glass. These were within 5 mins of setting off and no more than 200m apart. It looked like it had the potential to be a very long night. Eventually we escaped Chelmsford and rode the lanes as long as we could before entering London. The weather gods decided to make sure we got a good soaking on the ride in but the forecast for the evening had looked good so we where not put off by this early soaking.

Last year as we entered london we had been met by a stream of lights coming out and had not made it all the way to the start for fear of arriving there and finding that everyone had already gone. This year with better planning we made it to the pub in the park, had a pint and enjoyed the atmosphere of lots of cyclists from many different aspects of the sport milling around together. The totally inclusive nature of the event is definitely it's charm and I was once again struck by how variable bike culture is. Everyone in the crowd was up for a good night ahead and a bit of an adventure.

Our adventure did not start well. The 4 of us got separated almost from the off and many mobile calls later and a few missed meeting points finally all met up again about 7 miles into the ride. We then rode into the night following the trail of blinking red lights. We reached Moreton at 10:50 and stopped for a pint as did most of the riders. It's great to see a whole Essex village overtaken by a mass of people on 2 wheels all having a good time. The rest of the evening then ticked away. The moon shone down on us through silvery clouds. We had a spell with a fancy dress couple who were playing some of our favorite hits. Soon we were heading into Sible Hedingham for the half way stop. I'm not sure what time it was exactly but think it was around 1:30am. We stopped before the warm hall, doh!, and had 10 mins eating the food that we had carried before setting off again into the night.

For some members of the 4 the second half probably felt a lot longer than the first but soon the sun was coming up and we were only 20 miles from Dunwich. The miles passed beneath our wheels on the pleasant Suffolk lanes and eventually we were on the downhill run to the beach cafe and a much needed/wanted cup of tea and breakfast.

The Dynamo is a great night out and I'm sure we will be there again next year hopefully with an even bigger group.

If you want to get a feel for it go listen to the podcast at while you have a post ride cup of tea like I did today (the player is at the bottom of the page) :-)

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Reviewed: The BULL:it

The BULL:it prototype spent a bit of time in Bath with the guys after the bike show in Bristol... think they liked it:

Sunday, 19 June 2011

ADL First Ride

The ADL (All Day Long) was show for the first time at Bespoked Bristol last week however we had not ridden it before the show as we finished the bike on the show stand. We are still short of a few parts (like the correct belt-drive sprockets) however I tried to put all of those behind me today and managed to get a ride in. I needed to ride it as I want to use this bike on the Devon C2C with friends next week. The ADL was designed with these kinds of all day adventure rides in mind. Rideable on the the tracks and roads on the flat and the climbs but with a set up that allows you to enjoy the down hills when gravity lets you play. The head angle is 69deg and has been designed for a 140mm fork. The drive combination of Gates Belt and Alfine hub also mean that there should not be too much to think about at the drive train end.

Todays ride was a simple one around local woods. The bike was incredibly easy to ride and it was real fun to pre load the forks an pop over obstacles on the trail. This was way easier than the XC bikes that I normally run. I had a lot more confidence in the drops and whoops that are part of our local trail riding. Today I rode with a traditional chain as the belt sprockets were not available. The bike would have been easier to set up with a belt and I would have liked to ride that combination however running the chain with an Alfine is also a pretty low maintenance combination. I think this bike with an 11spd Alfine would be my ultimate all year round ridding machine. If you are a racer you would probably also want a race bike set up but I feel like this bike has many smiles to provide in normal riding....

The Milk Round #2

Hot off the press:

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Silent Movie (just the rush of the wind...)

First Fixie Ride

The dust has started to settle after the Bespoked Bristol show and tonight I got to do what we all like to do best. Ride. Especially a new bike. The Fixie got a lot of attention at the show for it's looks and it's tattoo but we all know that the proof is in the riding.

The first thing to notice is that the bike is silent and I mean silent. It was like floating above the pavement. The belt drive also makes the pedal feel very direct and very control able. there is no back lash when you want to slow the bike and track standing is a breeze. All the kit from Brick Lane Bikes worked a treat and looked great. As I rode through Chelmsford I could hear people admiring the bike as I glided past. The bars were very comfortable with a couple of positions so that you could keep moving your position.

The frame geometry was perfect for maneuvering through traffic and pedestrians and felt correct at both low and high speeds.

Nice work Mark and when do I get one of these permanently for errands about town.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Monday, 6 June 2011

Show Week

Get your Milk Bikes milk carton at the UK Handmade & Boutique Bike Show this weekend!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Another fine example...

... of why belt drive is best; none of this s#*t gets on your hands!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Snail Cams

Designed and developed by Milk Bikes specifically for the Gates carbon drive system and the Shimano Alfine internally geared hubs. These beauties will allow quick and easy tensioning of the belt. Milk is the first bike company to use a snail cam system with the Gates belt drive.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

The Social (Commuting) Network

One evening a few weeks ago I was caught (doesn't happen often!) by a couple of guys I know heading home - they also live in Chelmsford and commute on similar routes to me, so we quite often bump into each other. We got chatting and conversation got onto how social commuting by bike is; it's something that you'd initially expect to be quite a lonely thing, but if you commute regularly you'll know what I mean when I say that it's way more social than for example driving or taking the tube (which is famously unsocial and I thankfully don't have to do too often).

On a bike you are very seldom ever held up by traffic so you know exactly how long a commute will take, within a couple of minutes. You're in a good routine and leave the house at about the same time each day. As are most other bike commuters. You'll quite often see people (or bikes) you recognise at particular points or stretches of road. Chances are you'll at least nod to acknowledge each other. This simply doesn't happen if you drive.

There's a girl I refer to as the Kona Chick who I often see going the other way to my in the mornings. She always nods and is invariably riding a Kona bike - she must have a few coz i've seen her on 3 different ones.

On the same stretch of road there is a chap who I reckon is a school teacher, not sure why I think that but over the years this is the most common conclusion I've come to. He's tall and has a massive bushy beard and trousers that are way too short. He's worn the same red cycle jacket since I've been going that way, year-round (either that or he has a few of them!). The stand-out thing about this guy though is that he has never ever acknowledged me, even if I shout across to him, "Morning!"... most unsociable!

You'll meet other people too; at the moment, there are some roadworks going on in Stock, one of the little Essex villages I often go through on my commute. There is a bloke who's job it is to operate the temporary traffic lights at these road works. He's there in the mornings when I ride through and he's still there in the evenings so we have a brief chat when passing.
On my commute I've met a bunch of guys who over the years have become good mates. We often meet up on Fiday afternoons to ride home on an off-road route a couple of them have developed over time, ending up at an award winning little pub in Writtle. Now that the weather is picking up again we'll be doing this more regularly - can't wait! Should be a good opportunity to test out the ADL when it's built up!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


It's all happening here at Milk Bikes HQ (I've often wondered about calling it 'the dairy', but maybe that's a bit too far!) at the moment... prices for the RDA super-commuter were released a couple of days ago; last night the first ever Milk Round newsletter was sent out to our growing little mailing list, and now I can reveal what the Bullet fixie will look like...

The Bullet will be a belt-drive fixie with a few other rather nice little differences. Watch this space - and the website - for more info soon