Cycling Chat

Mon, 1 July, 2013

As I write this in mid-May, we have at last had some lovely days for our weekend riding. I recently joined a Wantage off-road ride and we were surprised to see how well the trails were drying after the winter’s onslaught.

We were also delighted to have favourable weather for the bank holiday weekend near Yeovil in south Somerset. Having booked our accommodation in March, we 5 campers were cautiously searching out our 3-4 season sleeping bags, anticipating a record for the “coldest May 1st on record”. How nice to be proved wrong! Those who chose bed & breakfast accommodation were untroubled by weather forecasts.

On the Saturday, Peter Hallowell led our group of 12 on a 100km hilly ride with 1,633m of climbing and several 18-20% hills. A bit more than we are used to on our leisurely Sunday rides! The 9 members of CTC Oxford City were joined by 3 from further afield – Caversham and Newbury.

Sunday’s ride to Glastonbury was led by James, thankfully much easier, allowing us to recover from Peter’s 6-hour ordeal. After this, you might think we would all want to go straight home on the Monday, but no. Most of us went out for yet another ride before packing up to set off home and join the bank holiday traffic jam on the A303.

The 18-20% hills reminded me of the need for appropriate gears. This is not so much of an issue for touring bikes, which tend to come with decent gears in the first place. It is an issue, however, for many of our City riders who have no intention (ever! they tell me) of cycle camping, and for whom, therefore, a touring bike designed to carry 30-40 kilos of luggage would be over-engineered. Wishing to upgrade from town bikes, they often choose the relatively new “sportive” type road bikes, with compact chainsets and relaxed geometry or perhaps a hybrid as in the example below. However, the downside of their lighter bikes is that they too often come with gearing that can make even a 10% climb a struggle. Here is a copy of the advice I have prepared for our members (4 bikes so far upgraded to this spec):

Some of the cheaper road/hybrid bikes are sold with an 8-speed 13-26 cassette with a triple chainset of typically 30-42-52. CTC’s recommendation for touring is have a rear gear at least as large as your smallest front ring. In this example, you need a cassette ring of at least 30. If you have a compact chainset with a small 34 ring and a largest cassette ring of only 25, you are even further away from this ideal. The minimum derailleur capacity for your 8-speed setup is 35 and the chances are that your current derailleur won’t cope with any more (google to find out). So, you will need a new derailleur as well as a new cassette. Actually, you can exceed this maximum capacity slightly but there is another reason why you need a new derailleur: that’s tooth size, which shouldn’t be exceeded; otherwise the derailleur jockey wheel might hit the largest cassette ring. Your current derailleur cannot cope with a ring of larger than 26. If you choose an 11-30 cassette, then (using the calculation in the footnote) you will require a derailleur with a capacity of 41. A Shimano Deore derailleur (RD-M591) has a maximum capacity of 45 and a maximum tooth size of 34, so you will have plenty to play with. Finally, don’t forget that you will also need a new chain to fit round the larger gears. No more pushing your bike up those 20% climbs.

The other big event organised by CTC Oxfordshire was the All-comers Century. This was a chance to ride 105 miles following the same anticlockwise route around Oxfordshire planned for the Tri-Vets on 9 June. Starting from Islip village hall at 8am, coffee was at Weston-on-the-Green, lunch at Ramsden and tea at Robin & Kerry Tucker’s in Steventon. A group of 10 from CTC Oxford City met the 100-milers at lunch (having made sure we got there first!) and were regaled with heroic accounts of the first 50 miles. We could then choose to join them for the second 50 miles or go straight home. After almost no deliberation at all, we all chose to go straight home.

At CTC Oxford City, we are looking for more ride leaders. Lack of local knowledge and/or poor visual memory seem to be major obstacles. With this in mind, we decided to organise a pilot training session and selected 2 members to create routes online using Garmin Connect software and follow a down-loaded route on my Garmin Edge 705. Success! Our first “new” leader will start next week.

Talking of ride leadership, at CTC Oxfordshire, we created our own guidelines, which included sections for leaders, sweepers and riders. Oxford City made a few minor amendments and the document Guidelines for safe riding can be viewed on their website at The website for CTC Oxfordshire is now online, though still in need of a few tweaks: The purpose of the new website is to summarise all local cycling and to advertise events of interest to members across the County and beyond. For example, the south Somerset weekend, Century Ride, Abingdon Freewheeling Spring Festival and Tri-vets. In this respect, it serves much the same function as this magazine.

According to the 2011 Census, around 2 per cent of adults in England usually travel to work by bicycle, with the highest proportion of 18% being in Cambridge. Ah well, we thrashed them in the boat race…

Richard Morris