Surviving in Manchester – Musings by a Pampered German Cyclist

Having been to Manchester recently in order to explore a city I knew 35 years ago, and found greatly and positively changed upon a visit about last year, I was amazed at how much time and energy the powers that be invested in creating a cycling infrastructure there, and shocked by how ineffective it is and how little motorists care for cyclists.

The first thing you note when cycling in the city are these, traffic islands, pylons and green fields:

You cycle up to a crossroads, wedged between buses and cars, tucked away on bumpy (!) cycle lanes that I didn´t particularly like,

and then you stop at a red light. You are going straight ahead, car next to you too. Or so it seems, because upon the light turning green, that car goes left without having indicated once and takes your right of way with such an easygoing causalness that you begin to think that maybe in the UK cyclists don´t have right of way at all, and only a conversation with one of the few other cyclists around reassures you that you do have rights in traffic. So, next time you use that green rectangle and move in front of the cars, only way if you want to live.

And so it goes on. Look at this:

Or even this:

Do I need to comment on this situation? I mean why bother with designating protected lanes at all? After a very short while I didn´t any more as the surface in the car lanes was much better anyway.

Then you have these green rectangles which should make cars take special caution with regards to cyclists.

Reality however…

And so, despite tons of green paint having been used, thousands of pollards and other items having been erected, you still find ghost bikes.

Still, making use of all due caution, I did have fun on the bike, and found it superbly useful to have had it with me, my trusty Rohloff equipped steed, light pannier and two massive locks.

On Hartshead Pike, overlooking Manchester, the Welsh hills and most of Cheshire

With which we´re hitting on the second part of my rant. Wonderful cycling paths along the picturesque canals that crisscross Manchester. Yeah. Look at the surface. It´s unbearable even on a well shod bike.

And some stretches are dangerous too:

And then, to add insult to injury, in those few places where you can attain a speed above walking pace on horrid hand laid tarmac, there are real honest to God speed bumps, that actually end a few inches away from the edge of the path too, tempting cyclists to use the small space between the bump and the drop to the water.

Very cute also, these green solar powered lights that in theory show you the edge of the path. In practice they are that weak that a strong light shining on them (headlight even) will make them invisible.

The rest of the canal cyclepaths is nice and suitable for post cards photos, but not very suited to be used as a regular channel of traffic in order to make commuters use bicycles more. This for example is the entrance to one towpath, findable only for locals:

Historic, but cyclable only for seasoned cyclists. Both are steep ramps of bridges, sorry not overly visible in the snaps.

So would I recommend anyone exploring Manchester by bike? I guess, it´s still so practical. Only look out you don´t get killed.

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Very Funny!

It was 1992, the time of Miguel Indurain and well before the Jan Ullrich and Team Telekom hype that a board game appeared in Germany that was called “Um Reifenbreite”, “By a Tire´s Breadth”. I haven´t  played board games for ages, but kept it on my bookshelf because of its colourful artwork. The jokes displayed are insider jokes, so maybe the draughtsman or -woman was a cyclist him- or herself.

The game basically works as so many of them, you have a board, a few dice, a few markers, and some cards that together with the dice decide who wins the game. That´s it, and it being so full of drawings that leave little room for imagination, unlike Ludo for instance, I can imagine that it gets boring soon.

Anyway, here are a few impressions.

Holten Ride June 2, 2019

Again, pics only, but I suppose you will be alright.

I was a marvellous ride of roughly 60 km in hot weather, and the whole peloton was even invited to the refreshments pictured. Thank you very much to the organizers, including families. Definitively, tot volgend jaar, see you next year.

Scroll down for some bike detail snaps.

Stalen Ros Deurne 2019

 

In spite of what I said last month, here I am again.

Deurne was quite OK this year, and I took loads of photos (bought some nice and useful (yeah) stuff too), so no text, just a photo bomb. This might actually be a way to go to have a few posts off and on, just photos of special bikes, or events.

 

Here goes:

 

   

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Instead of a proper post this month, for reasons of lack of time just a few impressions fom the first commuting cycleride this year. Taken in brilliant spring weather, the 65 km roundtrip was a nice start to the season.

Nature is awakening, and cycling to work makes for a very much more relaxed working day than driving, especially now as locals petitioning and pressurizing authorities for cyclepaths has not (yet) succeeded.

 

The relatively heavy KFS bike with the Rohloff hub is still my vehicle of choice for those rides as I need to carry much luggage, too much for any lighter cycle.

Over the winter some direly needed servicing brought a change in the sprocket, me choosing the largest there is. My rationale behind that was that I wanted to try to use the higher 7 speeds as much as possible to get out of the ratios that produce a grinding sound which I feel also makes pedalling heavier. This was successful as there is hardly any more of that nasty sound at least. Should have done that years ago.

Now, looking at my time budget things have not improved over the last years, and while in the beginning of this blog (seven years ago now!) I was full of ideas and energetic about it, I feel now that my posts have become less than inspirational. ATM I´m pretty sure I´m giving he blog up.

As I have no idea regarding the rules pertaining to a disused blog, if it will eventually be taken down or so, it might be a good idea for readers to scan it for any possible photos or info they want to keep, unlikely as this may be, and download them. Always the optimist, me.

 

 

Time Capsule Ellis Briggs

This wonderful 1983 Ellis Briggs surfaced this year in a charity shop in the East of England.

A friend of my son spent a year doing an internship at a school there, and volunteered as a helper in the charity shop to which on one of his last days of the internship, the bike was found leaning one morning. My son´s friend had seen that we already own a good flock of EBs, and thought he´d send us a text while the people at the shop were affixing a very moderate price tag to the bike, and after a short exchange of messages I was able to acquire it.

As if there had not been enough good luck, my son´s friend owns a 940 Volvo estate car in which the bike fitted easily, and it was expedited in all comfort and style to Germany. What a story.

But it goes on. Paul at Ellis Briggs was contacted, and promptly sent a scan of the page in his build book which described the bike, and it turned out that it was a veritable time capsule. Paintwork down to the sticker of the bike shop that is mentioned in the scan, and all the rest too seems to be original, save the saddle and the seatpin, which had over time been replaced with really cheap horrors, but I had better ones in my Box, so that was good too.

So, the bike itself. No chrome, Campag only where absolutely necessary, TA as an added bonus, my favourite derailleurs, early SunTours, and also the blue handlebar tape and toeclip straps go well with the blue lug lining. Exceptionally beautiful in its simplicity. Money spent where it was necessary to achieve a good ride, but no shying away from less prestigious Japanese parts where they had proved to do a good job. OK, the pedals, I would have chosen others there, but ok, that´s how it is. It´s precisely what I would have ordered for the job at hand, which seems to have been Club Riding, as there is no lighting or any luggage capability visible, save a saddle bag support which is not pictured.

Also looking at the rims and the mudguard flap as well as at the near absence of any scratches, let alone dings or dents, it seems the the bike has not been ridden a lot.

What will I do with it? I think I will leave it just as it is, riding it easily and rarely (the chain is nearly worn). The only SR seatpin in 27.2 I still had is a long version, slightly younger than the bike too, but I chose it as the frame has 62 c-t while I usually need about 4 cms more, so a slightly longer seatpin came in handy for moderate riding of a bike which is a bit too small.

Hey, what an enormous pleasure this bike is, and completely unexpected too.

Enjoy the rest of the pics.

 

 

 

Tubes and Coffee 2018

Sorry, somewhat late this time, but better late than never.

 

Last December Marten had his M-Gineeering Tube and Coffee open day again, very enjoyable as ever, friendly company,

nice tubes

and great coffee (and food) inside the warm workshop

on a very grey, cold and snowy day.

The highlights of the day as far as I was concerned were two Alex Singer bikes, a modern solo and an older tandem, of which here are a few details. Starting will the fully plated solo, which is only a few years old.

and then moving over to the tandem.

The attention to detail in those old Singers is quite high, but that goes without saying really.

 

As a great surprise Marten presented his first frame, a streamlined one in fashion of the day, but very nicely made.

The time passed much too quickly again, and soon we were heading home, but we hope there will be another Tubes and Coffee this year.

 

A New Bike! (2)

Back to cycles this month, to round off a story I started in 2017.

At last it was so far, on Marten Gerritsen´s Tubes and Coffee event last December I collected my racing frame. I had known from the start it would take some time for the frame to be done, so the waiting time was ok.

But before that, in August, I was invitited to have a look while the main triangle and the fork crown would be brazed, which I found very nice indeed of Marten. Watching craftsmen at work is something I find fascinating, but not all of them appreciate that.

I arrived with the tubes all mitred and laid out ready to be clamped into the jig, everthing well guarded by the fierce hound Marten keeps in his workshop.

 

Parts are treated with flux, and then the brazing as such begins.

Then a spectacle started which I found amazing. Brazing a frame produces very interesting colour effects.

 

But also after brazing some parts remain quite colourful.

After that, a thorough check on the alignment table.

And this is what has become of it. I do love it.

I have to apologize about the quality of the photos, but I don´t have much time for editing these days. Take them as a first view, I can (and will) edit them later. Or retake in better weather.

Now a quick look at the bits which I hope to hang from the frame soon. Wheels are going to be 650B, chainset Stronglight 100, b/b a Phil just like the hubs, derailleur will be old SunTour, brakes Weinmann Cantis. I can´t wait for spring to begin, honestly.

It has to be said that this complement of parts would not have been assembed as easily as it was if it hadn´t been for the CR list. The rear derailleur actually was a gift from a member for which I will always remain grateful, while the hubs and some other bits were bought from there. Of course some parts also came from my Box, and the tires were bought at Stalen Ros last year, overstock, great.

So, the next part of the series will be about assembly, and the finished bike, and soon, I hope. And with better photos.

Two Thirds, Two years, Part Four

So here we are again, two views of the NSU Konsul, or rather Svalan M 100, I bought in late August of what is just about this year. A beauty, right?

Well, it passed the ten foot test, but not more. Already at the first viewing my son and I saw that there was a LOT amiss with this bike, really a great deal, so we declined to buy it at first and only a week later changed our minds and got it.

Pros: It was nearly complete, we thought; it ran, sort of; it has EU documents, it was relatively cheap, parts availability is better than for many ten year old Japanese bikes, and there would not be too much paintwork to be done as I don´t really care about the looks of a bike as long as it´s reliable and doesn´t rust. I was able to buy an unrestored Konsul, a rare thing indeed, and would, compared to a restored bike, not have to buy thousands worth of chromium plating which I don´t want, and a possibly not too well done engine/…, which I do want to be reliable above all.

Cons: There was a lot to be put straight, which is the subject of this post.

First impressions

Already at the first viewing we found that there was a slot where the head gasket should have been. Exhaust gases could be seen escaping between the cylinder and the head.

They had left an oily, glazed surface on the topmost cooling fin over the years. Good news in a way as Konsuls have the habit of developing cracks between the topmost and the second fins as the head is bolted onto the top of the cylinder, no bolts run from the head down to the crankcase.

Next thing I noted was the loveless way the engine mounting bolts had been replaced. Things like that are never a good sign.

Somebody had completely f….d up the steering head. The races notched badly, the top nut was butchered,

the steering damper had been secured with oversized bolts just powered into the alloy of the front fork´s lower bridge. The bolts are probably one size fits all with the engine mounting ones.

The exhaust was home made and again rusted out,

plus the exhaust threads on the cylinder head were stripped entirely. Actually somebody had put screws through exhaust and threads, right through the exhaust gas stream. Wonderful.

The seat was obviously home made too, and while we knew that Svalans have no German style single “Schwingsattel” but a British looking seat, this specimen looked very odd, with a wooden platform and tiny struts badly welded to some frame.

Also the ignition condenser had been bolted underneath it, in the wrong place and not very safely either.

Further issues

But that was only the beginning.

The next weekend we started the disassembly of the bike for a complete overhaul. The clutch had ceased to work completely, it had no function whatsoever by the time we had the bike home, adding to the difficulties.

Looks nice, no? Don´t be deceived. The brake has no function, one might as well put a glove on the tire for braking, and the wheels had been built up wrongly, but we found that out only later. When viewing the bike we had just marveled at the shiny new spokes, but looking very closely we might have seen this:

Konsul wheels need to be built dished to accomodate the outboard brakes. The former owner had not known this, or not cared, took too long spokes anyway and ground them down after wheelbuilding. Hell, that came unexpected. Next issue were the front fork telescopic struts, both weeping oil. Crying oil, more like it.

Tires of course were goners too, but luckily easily replaced due to the size being a popular one. Avons are available off the shelf, great.

More unexpected daftness was the electrics. It was homemade and had a number of elements in the wrong places, like the horn, and also the central switch is all wrong, note the little lamp socket on the right, under a place in the lamp shell in which there is no window for the light to shine through:

This is the earth connection, it´s where the horn should be in real life:

 

Then look at the speedo, or rather the way it was fixed the the lamp shell. Ugh. Leaving that though; anything connected with the lamp is crazy expensive. Buy lamp shell, reflector, glass, speedo, central switch, and you´re looking at nearly 1.000€.

More stocktaking, also positive

So at the end of the first day, my Konsul looked like this:

OTOH, the bike also had its strong points. The former owner had indeed thrown some money at it, like finding a perfect rear brake drum, which daftly also carries the rear chainwheel.

The chain was good too, as was the sprocket at the gearbox exit. The next good thing was that the rear wheel was held perfectly straight by the suspension. They will hopefully be easy to overhaul.

But then disaster struck again. The bike must have had an accident, or was dropped, once in its long career, as the frame was damaged. The footrest on the right hand side was held by a strange bracket, I had noted.

The Konsul frame is a marvel of framebuilding art, brazed, lugged, cast lugs everywhere, just wonderful. Only it´s less wonderful when a part of one of the brazed in castings has broken off, as had happened to one of the footrest attachments. The top half had broken off, hence the odd bracket. A acquaintace of mine is a welding and brazing specialist, and he will try to execute a repair, but it´s all not very nice.

Good thing for a change? Somebody must have fitted an Amal carb to the bike sometime, or perhaps the Swedes did right at the start when assembling the ckd Konsul parts. I love Amals, so I found that a great piece of news.

 

And lastly, nobody has been daft enough to amputate the attachments for the single seat I intend to fit in the place of the Swedish seat, Svalan or no Svalan. It´s all there, and should work fine.

So that´s it until next year. ATM the project feels as if it´s never going to work out, all in bits, so much still  to do, so many bad surprises still possible. But I´m not giving up hope, I know it´s going to take some time.

Two Thirds, Two Years, Part Three…

… already.

So this month it´s all about how I got by my bike. Starting at when I first tentatively looked at ads on the net, and being shocked by prices just in the five figures for a simple 350 Konsul I even sometimes. Ugh. So my visits to mobile dot de became less frequent, until one evening in June I spied an unrestored specimen, despite the fact that I had been told that they didn´t probably exist anymore, all Konsuls having been pimped up beyond recognition apparently. I don´t want a museum piece, garage queen or whatever you want to call those poor animals, I want to enjoy a machine on the road which will not lose thousands in value with every scratch it receives. I want that Konsul that looks worked, but with sound mechanicals, which could only be achieved by me myself or people I trust looking at all the important bits. So an unrestored one it had to be. And there it was.

I had had the idea to go and visit some sellers to see what could be done price wise, but no such luck. One seller refused to budge an inch even though he did not allow me to start the engine. Not allow me, you are reading it correctly. So what with bikes costing 8 or 10 grand that had been lavished chrome on, yet the engine probably still sounded like the caretaker was moving coal into the basement, and unrestored specimens unavailable, I basically gave the idea up.

Until that fateful evening in June, as I just said. There it was, a Swedish assembled 500cc Konsul, called  Svalan in those northerly realms, and even judging from the pics on the net in dire need of TLC. But the price, nope, sorry, no way.

Holidays in France, watching bikers on all sorts of machines zooming past. So after the hols another look at the net, and lo and behold the unrestored Svalan was still there. Price dropped even, so my hunter´s instinct was awakened, and a phone call was made. On the following Friday a visit was also made to the seller who liberally applied ether from a spraycan to get the engine running, offering me a test ride.

I get on the bike, engine throbbing, strange noises everywhere, I pull the clutch and lift the gear lever. (Konsuls have British ways, with the gears shifted like British bikes and the kickstarter on the right side of the bike.) There is a clunking noise, the bike lurches forward, the clutch apparently has no function, but the tractor the 500cc engine is, it doesn´t stall but plods on in tickover along the grassy way I have been pointed out to use. More hectic clutch pulling is followed by the idea to brake the bike to a standstill, thereby stalling the engine, but you will have guessed it, the brakes don´t work either. The ignition key does. The seller has of course never heard of the clutch not working, and serious bartering begins because I have fallen in love with that wreck.

In the seller´s garage another close look at the bike, and another trial run of the engine. My son who is standing on the other side of the bike from me suddenly looks a bit amazed and points to the cylinder. There are exhaust gases emanating from between the cylinder head and the cylinder in visible quantities.

Plus the exhaust is completely gone, it is a homemade one complete with pop rivets to hold bits together.

Empty, rusted out silencers, no way this is ever going on the road. Then the clutch, the brakes, a homemade unoriginal seat, only looking like the English seat Svalans would have had, and with the ignition coil in a completely wrong place,

a shot rear mudguard, and other bits and pieces too numerous to mention. Oh the electrics are horrid too. Good heavens.

So we take a break of a few minutes, have a drink in the seller´s living room, a chinwag with him and his wife, and then sense wins over love: This project is several sizes too large for me. I decline, despite what is the lowest price I have yet seen for a recognizable Konsul, and we drive home. End of story.

One might think. Next weekend, brilliant weather, on a cycleride I pass by a friend´s house, and tell him in passing of the declined NSU. He nearly flips, how can I decline a project like that, hen´s teeth they are, and the long standing and experienced bike mechanic he is, he offers me help, saying he enjoys the idea of getting a 500cc NSU under his paws, not restoring it to museum standard or whatever people think that means, but making a good reliable used bike of one, which is perfectly my idea too. Wow. This is just what I need, suddenly the project is within my reach.

Too late? Phone call to the seller, no, it´s not, bike still unsold, so an appointment is made, a van is hired with some motorbike transporting gear in it, and a week after our first visit we are back, this time with an envelope full of Euro bills, and after the envelope has been handed over and a decent contract has been filled in and signed for, we are off. Hey! It feels so good having that big old NSU behind us in the van.

Taking a break at a motorway service area, we shoot a photo, and then suddenly we see a problem: Getting the bike into the van was easy with three people, but how to get it out at home? Once arrived, we roll it on the ramp, that came with the van, with trepidation, but then we realize that the brakes do work when you apply them with the bike rolling backwards, only the forward direction is not functional. Yey.

Then we park he bike in the garage, and I´m thinking that this is it, an adventure in more than one dimension has started, and I´m feeling great.