A good cycle path

Cycle path over Donnington Bridge offers a rare segregated cycle way for people to cycle without having to ride with traffic.

cycle-lane-clear

No near misses here.

cycle-path-donnignton

At rush hour, there is heavy congestion on this road. The cycle path offers a convenient way to beat the traffic jams.

cycle-path-donnignton-2

A fair number of cyclists use this path.

cycle-path-donnignton-behind

Quicker by bike.

cycle-path-donnignton-4

The cycle lane is often used by children and people getting to school. It also helps that there are quiet cycle paths by the river and other back roads which connect a local school.

cycle-path-donnignton-3

Cycling along.  cycle-path-donnignton-5

It’s a good feeling to go  past stationary vehicles.

donnington-end-cycle-path

An integrated cycle path – another rarity – when the path ends, there are decent options, you aren’t immediately thrown into fast moving traffic.

beating-congestion-donnington

I don’t understand the attraction of sitting in a traffic jam.

one-leg-cycle-path

Quicker with one leg.

 

congestion

Although, it is surprising how many still use the pavement.

bike-in-cars

There is also a (non-segregated) cycle path on the other side of the road. This is good because of you’re on that side of the road, you don’t want to have to cross the road, just to use the cycle path. Still, it is often too narrow because wide cars spill over into the cycle lane. It’s a shame it’s not a foot wider.

donnington-bridge-left-side

Cars often follow suit, if one person moves into cycle lane, everyone else tends to. This is quite an inviting sight for a cycle commuter.

frosty-donnington-bridge-cycle-pathA frosty scene on Donnington Bridge.

path-by-riverThe cycle path by the River Thames, which offers a traffic free way into the centre of Oxford. Just a shame it’s very bumpy and often muddy. But, it offers great views of Christ Church Meadow

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Specialized Winter Short Review

Leisure Lakes and Bikes offered to send a free product for me to review. I chose the Specialized RBX Expert Winter Bib Short. This choice was inspired by using the Assos T.607 winter bib short. A very good product, but very expensive.

At this time of the year, I prefer to keep riding shorts and legwarmers – rather than winter bib tights which are less manoeuvrable and tight on the shoulders. It is easy to get warm leg warmers, but most of your shorts are thin lycra, which can leave you feeling cold in those parts, you would rather didn’t get too cold. I mentioned in the review of Assos, other companies should offer more insulated shorts for winter because I feel there is a big market for them, especially in the UK.

specialized-rbx-expert-winter-bib-short

specialized-rbx-expert-winter-bib-short

Review of Specialized RBX Expert Winter Bib Short – £61.99

Firstly, design is as simple as you can get – 100% black, no fuss, no design. When it comes to design, my only preference is – any colour except black. However, with shorts I make an exception because shorts are nearly always black. So they look like 80% of other shorts.

Insulation

There is a thin layer of Lombardia fleece, which gives the same degree of insulation as your typical pair of winter leg warmers. For this time of the year, this short is ideal. You could comfortably ride this shorts in any weather from 4 degrees to 18 degrees – which in the UK is a good percentage of the year. A pair of winter bib shorts should be on anyone’s Christmas list.

specialized-winter-shorts-padding

Generous padding of the Specialized bib short

Padding

The padding insert is firm. There isn’t much sponginesss, but it is well made and put in the right parts. There are no irritating seams or padding cut off at the wrong point. I went out for a three and half hour ride yesterday, it was fine. Though they are not as comfortable as the Assos; there is a definitely a difference between the two. Continue Reading →

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Commuting in the wet

Commuting in the wet.

line-of-cyclists-iffley-road-wet

When its raining and wet, the congestion in Oxford always seems to be 10-20% worse. I’m not sure why this is. But, with several serious traffic works, that extra 10% seemed to tip the city into near gridlock.

It does make you feel grateful for being able to cycle into town and avoid a near 30-40 minute journey which can take 15 minutes on the bike.

Though on the other hand, why do people drive when it takes twice as long?

waiting-lights-on-high

I used to think one reason for the perceived increase in traffic congestion is that when it’s wet, perhaps people use their cars rather than cycle. But it seems just as many people are cycling in the wet. If you have a reasonably waterproof jacket and waterproof trousers you can’t get too wet in a 15 minute commute. Your hands and socks may be a bit damp. (thick socks are as good as anything for keeping your feet dry)

line-2

This picture is good for showing the amount of cyclists who were able to squeeze down the narrow cycle lane – still a narrow lane here is probably better than nothing. What the picture doesn’t show is how stationary the traffic is – nor does it show the rising tempers which come from inching along a congested road at 3mph.

shadows

It is a little grim cycling in the wet, but I don’t mind. It’s kind of fun in a way, at least undertaking 100 stationary cars does make you glad you aren’t wasting too much time.

eon-advert-cyclists

The smiling E-On add in the bus stop where I was taking a few photos.

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Commuters in the usual mixture of clothes. Wet jeans are a bit of a pain though.

 

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On the high street.  grim-down-south

Reflection in the puddle.

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The camera exaggerates the effect, but when it is grim and grey, bright jackets do stand out. Look how the third cyclist blends into the road.

I’m glad Chris Boardman did his BBC piece wearing normal clothes. But, there are times when you need to be seen.

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The middle cyclist really stands out compared to the black clad cyclists.

line-of-wet-cyclists

Patiently edging forwards

iffley-road-wet-cycle-lane

I went shopping at Lidl and all I got was this pair of wellingtons.

Not sure about that duffle coat it does seem to block sideways view, which you ant need. A good old fashioned cycling cap can keep the worst of the rain off and fits under a helmet.

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The universal appeal of cycling

I remember vaguely a few months ago, something about a local politician from  Birmingham (1) who said that cycling was the preserve of young adult men and therefore we shouldn’t spend money on cycling infrastructure because it only benefits a small percentage of the population. At the time I was too busy racing, but I made a mental note to write something about this later.

one-man-foot-squeezing-carIt can be hard work cycling on British roads

I’m probably three months late to state the obvious, but if the roads of a city are sparsely populated with cyclists – and predominantly middle age men – then it’s a very good sign that the opposite case needs to be made – It is a very good sign that a complete rethink is needed to encourage the broad section of society back into cycling.

You only get a skewed demographic of cycling – if the roads are perceived as too dangerous – making cycling appeal only to those who have different tolerations or risk, danger and dealing with intimidating situations.

The thing with cycling is that it is universal and democratic form of transport. It is cheap, accessible and at some point in time, most people have experienced some joy from learning to ride a bike. It is a shame, when this ceases to be the case.

In the US, this report states that the typical cyclists is a 39-year-old male professional with a household income in excess of $45,000 per year who rides 10.6 months per year.

  • In Europe, statistics for rates of female cycling as a % of cycling population are 45% Denmark, 55% in Netherlands, and 49% Germany, in the US  it is 25%.

Age differences

Another big difference is the age profile of people cycling:

Age profile cyclingSource: Cycling for Everyone at Rutger.edu

In the US for people over 40, only 0.4% of trips are made by bicycle. In the Netherlands this rises to 23-24%

 

The only question is why do people stop cycling?

Statistically, you can make a good case cycling is still relatively safe. But if you have to fight traffic and heavy goods lorries, no amount of statistics can change the real perception that it’s a tough job cycling on many cities. Too many near misses, too much stress. Perhaps some people don’t want to cycle because of the way they drive.

car-turning-left-near-miss

watch out!

A very simple comparison is to look at countries which have built suitable cycling infrastructure – Germany, Holland, Denmark. In these countries, the demographic of cycling is spread across all ages and gender. Cycling is seen as safe; when there are good cycle paths, cycling is an extension of a pedestrian mode of transport. Pedestrians simply going a little bit faster. Continue Reading →

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Winter road tyres

Winter involves a lot of long cold miles on slippery roads. My main priorities for a winter tyre are:

  1. Strong puncture resistance
  2. Reasonable rolling resistance
  3. Grippy in the wet.
  4. Long lasting
  5. Not too difficult to take off rim with cold hands.

Over the years, I’ve ridden several different tyres during winter. Primarily Continental Gatorskin and Continental 4 Seasons. Sometimes, I’ve gone into winter with lighter summer tyres still on, like  the Gatorskin, Continental Grand Prix 4000. Sometimes I’ve gone to the other extreme and ridden really hard, heavy puncture resistance tyres like Specialized All Condition, but find these are just a bit too ‘heavy’ and slow – even though I never picked up a puncture with these tyres. Generally, it becomes a toss up between spending time mending punctures and being slowed down by heavier tyres. The good news is that even reasonably light and decent rolling resistance tyres are now fairly puncture resistant. There seems to have been improvement in tyre technology since I started cycling 20 years ago.

Best size tyre for winter?

For myself. 25″ is the new 23″ I’d strongly recommend 25″ in winter, especially for the rear tyre. I used to have this idea that the smaller the tyres the faster you go, but it’s more complicated than that. There is no discernible difference in speed between using 23 and 25, but you get a bit better grip. I’ve visited quite a few bike shops this week, and many road tyres seem to be 23″. But, for training, I prefer riding 25″ – especially in winter. 25″ will be perfectly fine for summer riding too.

The Best Winter road tyres

schwalbe-durano

Schwalbe Durano Plus Performance

These are an excellent tyre. They last a long time, have one of the best puncture resistance and have reasonably rolling resistance. It’s everything that you want and need from a winter road bike tyre. I’ve only used one. But, it lasted a good 3,000 miles and I don’t remember getting a puncture. I’ve ordered another one for the rear wheel. It was 33% off which helped. The downside is that it is a bit on the heavy side, the smartguard puncture protection is fairly thick. It means the 25″ tyre weighs 380g (23″ weighs 340g) Compared to the Specialized All Condition it feels it has a little more spongyness, and a little better grip. Though heavy, they are not completely ‘dead’ and offer decent rolling resistance. Keep them well inflated, and you should get few punctures. The other downside is that, especially the first time, they are hard work putting on; they are very tight to the rim. But, once on you can almost forget about them for quite a while.

Continental Gatorskin / Gatorskin Hardshell

gatorskin

I’ve used Gatoskin for the past couple of winters. They are relatively light for a winter training tyre, and good enough for summer training too. (23″ only 230 gram and 25″ 250gram) I’ve left the last pair on almost all year. They are quite flexible and a quite easy to fit.  They are quite fast. However, I want to change them now winter is really setting in.

They have been a bit slippy on recent rides. I got bad wheel spin on a climb to Brill (16%) and nearly skidded out on a damp corner. I might have been better off with a 25″ and it’s always slippy in winter. But, I’m going back to Durano Plus for my real mid winter tyre.

Continental have also brought out a Gatorksin Hardshell. This adds an extra 48 gram to the tyre and adds an extra layer of puncture protection. I’ve had one hardshell variety, and I couldn’t notice much difference in terms of  rolling resistance, so the better puncture protection is good for winter. For winter, the Hardshell is  definitely a good option. The Gatorskin are more of an all season tyre.

I find the Gatorksins are very long lasting. I’ve been riding on the same pair for the past 12 months, which is perhaps close to 5,000 miles on that wheelset. Continental have made progress in making the tyre more resistant to  scratches and sidewall splits. Continue Reading →

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Winter miles

At the end of the hill climb season, you finish with great top end form, but the less exciting, base aerobic fitness has been given a bit of a back seat. Late October is not the time to be getting 5 hour slow, steady rides under the belt.

After a couple of quiet weeks, the top end form soon dissipates; or perhaps it’s just that you don’t have any motivation to see if you can still sprint up hills. Instead, my thoughts turn to all those miles I’ve been missing out on, and all the miles I need to be getting in.

30mph-barringtons

I was born in a frankly pre-historic, last millennium type analogue era. It was a time before heart rate monitors, power meters, Strava and all these notions of efficient training. I was brought into cycling on the traditional Sunday Club run. At the end of the 12 hour, 110 mile ride, you would just put your feet up and stuffed your face with food – there was no logging on to see how you were digitally comparing.

The greatest excitement for measuring performance was the annual Cycling Weekly mileage double spreadsheet. I used to cut it out and put it on my wall. There was a simple target to fill in as many miles as you could. The more miles the better. This is what is now called ‘Old School Cycling‘ – but we were real men in those days, no indoor virtual races from the comfort of an internet connected roller ride. And I would rather Cycling Weekly kept publishing a paper mileage chart rather than these adverts for Ritmo – which, on principle I have no intention of ever trying to understand.

***

Anyway, grumpy old man ‘things were better in my day’ complaint over.

For no particular reason, I get to winter and generate a target to try and do 1,000 miles in each of the winter months – November, December, January and February. There is no good reason for this; no scientific basis that the key to a 4 minute hill climb in October is doing 4,000 miles in the preceding winter. But, it’s good to have a target, especially one where it doesn’t matter so much if you miss out a bit.

To be honest, 1,000 miles a month does requires quite a lot of discipline – especially as the nights draw in and the weather turns remorselessly colder and wetter. I don’t think I’ve ever managed 4,000 miles for the four winter months, but I’m sure if I can do it this year, the 2015 hill climb season will be my best ever….

***

80 miles down – 3,920 to go

After two weeks of testing the waters – nothing more than the odd 32 mile ride (even if they did take 2 and half hours). Yesterday was chance to go out for a proper winter training ride. Five hours of plodding a lonely furrow through the Cotswolds.

If winter miles can feel a bit like a chore at times, yesterday was one of those great days for cycling, where you are just grateful to be out in the perfect autumn weather. If winter training could always be like this…

november-flowers

November 10th. I’ve never seen so my flowers still out.

At 10 degrees, it was as good as it gets in mid-November. I took a meandering route to Bourton on the Water and Lower Slaughter; these have been voted the prettiest villages in England, and for good reason. It does make a refreshing change to be spending Sunday cycling through the late Autumn fall – rather than stopping off at a motorway station on the M6 after a brief 4 minutes of torture up some hill climb. I like the off-season – a reminder there’s more to cycling than racing. Continue Reading →

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101 Damnations – dispatches from 101st Tour de France | Review

101-damnationsNed Boulting’s 101 Damnations ‘Dispatches from the 101st Tour de France‘ is an entertaining account of his perspective on the last edition of the Tour de France.

If you’re expecting a blow by blow account and evaluation of Nibali’s average power outputs on the final climb, you will be dissappointed. The actual race is very much in the background, a canvas to tell amusing tales – from the Tour de France’s very own public urinals to ruminations on the Anglicisation of the Tour de France.

Ned makes little effort to hide his disappointment as the major contenders slip and slide out of the tour. I actually remember many exciting stages of the tour – even if they were won by no-hopers in the overall standings. But, this is a minor quibble – this is not a book for aficionados of  detailed race analysis – it is a book which will appeal to those who like amusing stories about the the characters and idiosyncrasies which make up the Tour de France caravan.

If we have forgotten already, the Tour de France really did start in Yorkshire. As Boulting says – ‘Leeds to Paris’ – how often do you get to say that? Still, six months later I’m trying to digest the scenes of actually seeing the Tour de France go 2 miles from my home town. There is still an element of surreality to these memories of baking sunshine – as the Tour de France in Yorkshire passed by 3 million spectators, but more than anything the surreal aspect of cycling being so enthusiastically welcomed by nearly everyone.

Ned Boulting comments on the Tour in Yorkshire with a similar degree of astonishment, bewilderment and genuine excitement. This is a rather random excerpt from the chapter about the Tour starting in Leeds.

“…The sign age was in French, most of the languages being spoken were not English, and even the rays of sunshine that beat down on the makeshift courtyards between marquees felt unusually strong for Yorkshire.

It was curiously unsettling and not altogether  mediated by the presence of a truly terrible burger van knocking out gristly sausages in stale baguettes to a bewildered clientèle, more used to being served foie gras and gazpacho. I queued up behind a German, who asked for a ‘beef pattie’ The man looked at him as if he were simple. “We can do you a burger, pal.’

– This is not necessarily the most memorable excerpt from the book – it is a rather random choice – perhaps I choose it because of my strong recollections of cheap burger vans outside Headingley, Leeds which I would go past every weekend on the way to watch the rugby. Nevertheless it gives a flavour of the book. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but I enjoy the humour and random recollections which give an unexpected insight into very small aspects of the race – be it the challenges of interviewing Mark Cavendish or working with the systematically efficient and methodical Chris Boardman.

As well as snippets from the current tour, the book is also an excuse to bring up lesser known stories which make up the great history of the Tour de France. Some excerpts from the past, like the legendary Roger Rivière’s, tragic drug induced high speed crash are reminders of the chequered history of the tour. But, no matter what happens, the stories give the over-riding impression that the Tour is an unmoveable force which not even getting stuck in Pyrenean mud can hold back.

But, although there are plenty of whimsical moments and analysis of disappointing aspects, you can’t hide Boulting’s genuine almost innocent enthusiasm for the sport and the Tour de France – this is quite refreshing.

I read the book all the way to the end, which is praise indeed. I would recommend it if you would enjoy a light-hearted look at the Tour de France. The final word is that the humour is quite British; I’m not sure how quickly it will be translated into German or French, I fear something may get lost in translation.

Buy the book online

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Lifeline hygiene water bottle

A review of ‘Lifeline performance hygiene plus membrane waterbottle‘ – well quite a mouthful of a product title to start with. Doesn’t exactly slip off the tongue.

lifeline-water-bottle

Firstly, it looks quite good, even if it does remind me of some bottle you may find in a hospital with all those clear labels to write your name and blood type on. It is well designed and looks good on the Trek Madone, less so on the winter training hack.

Old marginal gain hill climbing habits die hard. The first thing I did was to put it on the weighing scales because it felt heavier than your typical plastic water bottle. It is of no consequence, but for the record it weighs 125 grams; that’s 40grams more than your standard 750ml bottle.

But no one (I hope) buys a waterbottle on weight – not even me.

Bacteriostatic glass like inner surface

One reason for the extra weight is the ‘bacteriostatic glass-like inner surface‘ again, another suitably impressive sounding title. The good news is that this inner surface does seem to give a noticeable performance feature – the bottle tastes less like plastic – more like drinking out of a glass cup. For those who get tired of retained odour and taste in plastic bottles, this is quite a notable feature. Definitely a strong selling point.

Adjustable cap

cap-turn

Another feature of the bottle is that you can adjust the cap to alter the water flow. In other words, either off or on – I never needed anything in between. I’m not quite sure of the point of this. The problem is that to open the cap you need two hands. When you’re cycling this gets a bit tiresome, especially if you have thick winter gloves on. After a few times of opening and closing I got fed up and just left it open. The good news is that if you leave it open, I didn’t notice any water jump out. But, if no water jumps out, why close it? Continue Reading →

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Jackson Bridge

It’s November 6th – so only 353 days to go to the 2015 national hill climb on Jackson Bridge. Not quite time for the raw carrot and cabbage diet just yet, but a quick look at the hill for next year.

first-hairpin

First hairpin on Jackson Bridge Photo by PJ

 

Jackson Bridge

Jackson Bridge is another classic British hill climb course, with a variable gradient all the way up the climb. There are 4 sections of 15% plus, interspersed with some more gradual gradients in between.

 

The start is particularly hard, with a steady increase in gradient to 18% around the first right hander. The climb then flattens out offering some brief recovery, but there are more steep sections to come, including a section of 100 metres at 18%. Over half way there is narrow, relatively fast turn to negotiate – you can’t maintain full power because it is quite a sharp corner. After this, there is another last little kick for the line.

Jackston-bridge-rider-top

Good views from the top. This is by the finish.

The average gradient is 10.6% for the course of just under one mile – giving an impressive height gain of 150m in just a mile. It makes it a very good all round test.

rider2-top-jackson-bridge

Last 70m flattish finish

It is quite similar to the 2014 course on Pea Royd Lane, with just an extra few hundred metres; it is perhaps not quite as steep – but there’s not much in it. Still the extra length compared to Pea Royd Lane may just give a bit more help to those who prefer the longer climbs, and make it a little harder for those who favour the shorter anaerobic climbs. At over 10%, it will favour a hill climb specialist, who can peak for a 4 minute effort at the end of October.

For the 2015 national, I hear that the start will be extended by perhaps a 100 yards at the start. This is primarily so it doesn’t start outside someone’s window. But, this extra 100 yards will not reduce the average gradient – it is quite steep all the way from the bottom of the road. If the start is extended it could make a winning time of 4.10 to 4.30.

Some more photos to come.

Jackson Bridge V9912

  • Distance 0.9 miles (maybe closer to a mile when the course is finalised)
  • Average Grade 10.6%
  • Max gradient: 20%
  • Lowest Elev 910ft
  • Highest Elev 1,401ft
  • Elevation gain 491ft  / 150m
  • Course record men: Jeff Wright (1994 – 3.49)
  • Course record women: not sure but quickest in recent years Helen Roby  2014, 6.07
  • Strava – Jackson Bridge 100 climbs – all the way
  • Strava – Jackson Bridge open HC course
  • Jackson Bridge – small Yorkshire village few miles south of Huddersfield.

Jackson Bridge is no. 42 in 100 climbs

History of Jackson Bridge

Jackson Bridge has been used for the national hill climb championship in 1994, where Jeff Wright won his first and only national hill climb championship. In 1994, he inflicted a rare defeat on five times national champion – Stuart Dangerfield. Jeff Wright finished 2nd in the national hill climb championship on six occasions, but won only once. In the north of England, he holds some very impressive course records which still stand today  – 3.49 for Jackson Bridge is really flying. Only 3 people have ever gone under 4 minutes.

Jackson Bridge has featured in the Huddersfield Star Wheelers open events for many years, which  also incorporates the Bradford Schools championship too. In recent years it has been run on the same day as the Holme Valley Wheelers climb up Holme Moss, which is just a few miles away. If you’re looking for hill climbs, you are really spoilt for choice in this part of the world.

Huddersfield Star Wheelers have a strong hill climb tradition winning several team prizes in the 1960s and 70s; it also is the club of Granville Sydney who won the championship on a record six occasions.

Recent winning times in the open event

names-trophy

The Huddersfield Star Wheelers trophy. It is quite valuable apparently.

2014

  1. D.Evans – 4.06
  2. T.Pettinger 4.08
  3. M.Clinton 4.17

1st lady – Helen Roby, Huddersfield Star Wh 6.07

2013

  1. T.Pettinger – 4.18
  2. M.Clinton -
  3. J.Teasdale -

(can’t find results for 2013 on CTT site. blog from 2013)

2012 (CTT)

  1. M.Clinton – 4.21

2011 (CTT)

  1. M.Clinton – 4.17

2010 (CTT)

  1. M.Cuming – 4.28

The open event has an impressive list of winners. In other years:

  • 2004 – J.Henderson
  • 2005 – D.Clarke
  • 2006 – J.Dobbin
  • 2007 – D.Clarke

More Photos

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View from the top.

view-top

Another rider comes to the finish.

more photos to come

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LifeLine Track Pump Review

I received a Lifeline Professional Track pump for review.

lifeline-track-pump

I have had a couple of track pumps over the year. Overall, this is very good so far.

It looks impressive and is well designed, with a smooth wooden handle to finish it off. The air hose fits neatly by the side of the track pump when not in use – an improvement over my current pump where valve and hose are always swinging around.

It is relatively easy to use. The locking mechanism is pretty solid. To blow up tyres to 120psi is quite easy, with the nice big dial clearly showing the tyre pressure. There is a long stroke for quick inflation.

The one thing that took a bit of getting used to is that the Presta valve cap only needs to go lightly on the end of a valve. With my old one you push it much further other the valve tip. It seems to go on only a small part of the valve tip to inflate. You don’t have to push it far over the end.

lifeline-track-pump-psi

A good feature I haven’t had before, is a release button to reduce any excess tyre pressure. Useful for when racing, and you are trying to get the exact PSI.

Taking the valve off, is always the tricky part of a track pump. Be careful of the metal lever – it really snaps out of position. I can’t help but loose some air when taking it off. But, that’s the case with every track pump I’ve used.

Continue Reading →

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