One Man And His Bike
A life-changing journey all the way around the coast of Britain
by Mike Carter
I must confess, I didn’t pick up this book with a great degree of enthusiasm – I’ve read motorcycle-based travel books before and found some can go on long after they run out of interesting things to say. So imagine my surprise when I picked up One Man And His Bike and was almost instantly drawn in – the tagline is simple enough (“what would happen if you were cycling to the office and just kept on pedalling”?), but it’s the execution that makes it fantastic. You can almost see it – a man desperate for escape, for change; he’s cycling to work and reaches a junction. One way – towards work is; traffic jams, road works, blowing horns and exhaust fumes – the other runs alongside the Thames, and onwards out to the sea. Who wouldn’t be intrigued at the possibility, the promise? It’s almost poetic.
Well, Mike Carter was, for one. Instead of heading to Argentina, he decided to load up the bike and follow that road to the sea, and the result is an amazing, epic travelogue, 5000 miles around the coast. It’s not written as a travel guide, or a “how to do your own epic ride”, it’s purely Mike’s story – as a consequence, he doesn’t get bogged down in detail and the narrative fair dances across the page. If you’re looking for his in-depth thoughts on your coastal town, or want a useful guide to an interesting seaside destination, you won’t find it here. But what you WILL find are 350 pages of the most wonderful snapshots, of places, landscapes, history, cycling, beer, cakes, camping, and most of all, people – Mike will clearly speak to anyone, and it’s his encounters with the broadest variety of the populace that really bring the book to life. On almost every page, it seems, there’s an artful vignette of a meeting between any kind of random person you can think of, and some bloke on a bike.
What makes this a stand out book is that Mike is first and foremost a writer, rather than a cycling enthusiast. His prose is wonderfully measured and efficient, a deftly-wielded artist’s brush picking out beautiful detail rather than a housepainter’s roller covering everything in stodge, so it races along, but it still leaves you with strong impressions of the many things he saw and did, so you get a wonderful sense of the country and its people in a nutshell. And it’s funny, too – proper laugh-out-loud-in-public funny, as well as wistful, insightful and informative.
If you’re a hardcore racer who’s only interested on the inside story from the peloton, this may not be the book for you. But if you’ve a love of cycling in general and you’re looking for a good read, whether it’s to pass the time whilst winter rages outside, in a hammock on your summer holidays, or even (dare I suggest) on a cycle tour round the country, I highly recommend it. This is a book that has the power to inspire.
One Man And His Bike
Author: Mike Carter
Published by Ebury Press
Available in Paperback & eBook
RRP £7.99 (Paperback), RRP £7.99 (eBook)
Following my high scoring reviews of the Bike Floss (90%) and the Bike Polish & Frame Protector (100%) from UK Company Purple Harry, I now turn to their Wash & Polish Mitt.
It is made from good quality microfibre material and shaped into a three fingered ‘lobster claw’ glove, which according to their website “has been ergonomically designed with the bike’s shape and contours in mind – allowing access to difficult areas whilst avoiding catching on the drive train and snagging in components”.
For this review I will be comparing this mitt with my usual cleaning materials; standard square shaped microfibre cloths bought from my local Pound store!
The Mitt costs at least SIX times more than the cloths I have been using for many years for cleaning and polishing duties, but is it worth the extra expense?
I hit a problem with the Mitt straight away; I couldn’t get it onto my hand.
My hands are not excessively large, but I struggled for a while before having to resort to using scissors to cut the black narrow cuff stitched into the Mitt to allow my hand in. Due to the Lobster claw shape your second and third fingers are forced apart, which felt uncomfortable to start with, but overtime became less troublesome.
Also while working on the bike, because you have two pairs of fingers held together, it restricts how well you can get into those small little gaps and crevices that need to be reached while cleaning or polishing. My natural instinct is to use just the finger-tip of my index finger to get to those more intricate areas, something you can’t do very successfully with this Mitt as the combined width of two fingers stops you reaching as far as you would like.
Also with my normal square cloth I can easily reach every corner on the frame by using it in a flossing action by just pulling one corner into the tight spot, for example cleaning between the rear wheel and chain stays, the gap is far too narrow to get my finger in between.
Another disadvantage of using the Mitt is that the actual area of material that you can use for cleaning/polishing is very limited; meaning that it quickly becomes too dirty or clogged. You have the whole Mitt but in reality can only effectively use the finger tips for finer work and the length of your fingers for working on the more accessible areas.
To use the other side you will need to take the Mitt off and put it on your other hand. This means that it might become too dirty to finish the job, you will have to wash it after every use or you will need to buy a couple more!
My way of working is that I currently have several microfibre cloths in use, each one is given a different task depending on how dirty it is; brand new ones are used for dusting and polishing only, but once they become clogged or a little dirty they then move onto drying or light cleaning duties and the previous one used for this purpose is ‘downgraded’ to more dirty tasks and so on until the very last one is used exclusively for chain cleaning work – and once this is oil soaked it is binned and another trip to the Pound shop is made to buy a fresh one to start the process again.
These cloths can be washed too, but as they cost as little as 99p for three it is not worth the effort. As they are square shaped you can use every inch of the cloth, both sides included, and by wrapping your index finger in the cloth with the remainder held in the palm of your hand you can reach those smaller awkward places with a clean patch of fabric every time unlike the Mitt.
From the picture above; in the bottom left is a new cloth, and each one in a clockwise direction becomes progressively dirtier.
So, as you can gather from my comments, I would not recommend that you pay £5.99 for this Mitt, instead buy six standard cloths and use a rotation system similar to mine, you will get much more value for money and they’ll do a better job too!
Left, is a comparison of cleaning area between the Mitt and cloths for the same price. Unfortunately I am awarding my lowest score so far, all the effort that has gone into cutting out the shape, stitching it together and attention to detail like adding the cuff and Purple Harry label has not only cost a lot to do, it has also severely restricted its usefulness, which is reflected in my score below:
Sorry to the Guys at Purple Harry, I can only give the Mitt a paltry score of 17%.
With the constant rain that has become the norm here in the UK lately, it has become more important than ever to regularly clean your bike. This will not only reduce corrosion, but also limit the wear from those little bits of grit and muck that stick to the frame and components when cycling on wet roads.
The UK produced Purple Harry Bike Polish will not only leave your bike sparkling, it also leaves a protective layer of waxes and silicones, adding an extra barrier to your paintwork which will make it easier to clean in the future too!
Simply pour a small amount onto a clean soft cloth of your choice, apply to the bike in a circular motion and then wait for at least 5 minutes for the polish to dry, then buff off to reveal a gleaming silky smooth surface. Of course, as with any polish, avoid getting any on the braking surfaces and it’s not recommended for use on the saddle or brake levers!
In the past I have only used the same polish as I use on my car (Turtle Wax), and have been pleased with the results, but I was very impressed with the Purple Harry Polish.
The crown on my carbon forks had minute scratches that always caught my eye in the past, but now they are gone, to be replaced by a nice deep black mirror like shine!
I also got a good finish when applying the polish to the painted Aluminium frame, carbon forks, Aluminium chainset and even plastic mudguards, so it can be used on most bike surfaces (take extra care if polishing wheel rims not to make the braking surface super slippery!).
My bike has never looked so good, after using the Bike Floss sticks to clean the cassette and chain and now protecting every suitable surface with the Bike Polish, it is almost in ‘as new’ condition. This is impressive; when you consider that it is a 2008 bike that I bought secondhand, which gets used nearly every day, for either a weekend ride or my commute to work.
It is difficult to say how often you should apply the polish, I guess it depends on the weather conditions and how often the bike gets washed, and obviously you wouldn’t use it every time you clean the bike. Perhaps 3 to 4 times a year seems to me to be a sensible figure. The bottle should therefore last for years (Unless, because of the fantastic results, you go on to use it on your car, caravan, or boat too!).
I really can’t find any negatives; it just works better than anything else I have tried before.
So, a first from me, a score of 100% for Purple Harry Bike Polish!
With a history steeped in textile spinning, Sportful was founded in Italy in 1942 as an undergarments manufacturer, before developing its first cycling specific garments in 1985. Come 2002, Cipollini rode to become World Champion, one of the Italian cycling team members to be wearing Sportful kit in the professional peloton for the first time. It’s fair to say, the 60 years of working with professional athletes and distributors is testament to the quality of their products. And this year’s range looks to set the benchmark even higher.
I’ve heard raving reviews about Sportful from various different cyclists and when looking for new kit for the coming season their designs seemed to stand off the page with some pretty impressive supporting statements. With distinctive white, black and orange bursts of colour, I was excited by the idea that I may finally stand out on the Sunday club run. Plus, with a statement as bold as Developed by Women, for Women, I can’t possibly go wrong.
4mm layer of Poron – does my bum look big in this?
The first thing I noticed on unpacking the BodyFit Pro kit, was the attention to detail. Developed by Italian garments designer Linda Bellio, this year’s kit really is designed by a woman for women. Breaking the pieces down, Linda and Sportful have looked at every element and individual panel in a bid to make the ‘best performing kit’ for women on the market. Forget the ‘pink and shrink’ strategy, with insight from their sponsored Women’s team, ASD Top Girls, Sportful really have developed a kit to suit our womenly bodies.
The BodyFit Pro technology uses the same ergonomic lightweight materials as ridden by the Tinkoff Saxo team. The bibs have straps like no others I’ve seen before. With a flat no-seam design and elasticated flex, they mold perfectly to the body whether you’re on the bike or stopped for a coffee. Plus, a bonus to the flat-flex design means they fit perfectly around the bust for seamless aerodynamics (I could probably do with loosing the bust if we’re to really talk aero!)
The same BodyFit Pro technology is again bought into the leg with AeroFlow, to provide a tight compression fitting that supports the muscles.
Moving further down the body to an area I have the majority of my problems with when buying comfortable kit, I notice quite a thick padding on the sit bone area of the chamois (con), but a highly flexible middle section (pro). Although they felt rather tight, these proved extremely comfortable. According to Sportful, the Infinity Seat Pad features progressive damping with softer foam on the top surface, medium foam in the middle, and in the most important sitting area, a special 4mm layer of Poron that gives shock absorption and is lightweight, breathable, and avoids heat build-up. I didn’t feel as sweaty as I normally would at the end of a ride, but only warmer weather and a longer session will prove this.
AirMesh one piece shoulders with raw cut sleeves
Both the bibs and the jersey feature seamless, non-grip, raw-cut edge sleeves and legs. Every cyclist has a preference, but with a slightly bulkier thigh, there’s no chance of the horrible ‘sausage’ effect or irritation, yet enough natural grip in the fabric to stay in place for those crisp tan lines. Lovely!
Both the jersey and bibs have clearly been designed for the warmer weather, featuring a breathable AirMesh in the single-piece shoulders and underarm of the jersey and the sleeves of the bibs for maximum airflow . This not only helps keep the body temperature down, but also makes for an extremely soft feel on the skin, yet with holes small enough to not appear see-through (and hopefully protect from a”Froome-tan“).
The only silicone grippers you’ll find on the kit is on the base of jersey, helping keep three full back pockets in check whilst on the bike.
All over, this kit is comfortable, looks and feels great on, and it performs. Definitely not cheap, every bit of kit is designed for perfection and well worth the investment.
Cycling Shorts gives the Sportful BodyFit Pro range a Star Buy rating of 95%
Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Rhino Goo and Rhino Shine are relatively new products to the UK market for bike cleaning and protection, and I was lucky enough to be sent some to test by my Editor.
Let me start by saying I am always highly skeptical of new products and it has taken me years of trial and error to find the best cleaning combination for road bikes and MTB’s. After trailing Muc-Off, Sh1t Shifter and Pedro’s I thought I had finally hit on the perfect combination Fenwicks FS1 concentrate and WD40.
BUT Rhino Goo and Rhino Shine have just blown away all that went before and to top it off its Biodegradable what a result! I did not give these new boys an easy time of it.
My Normal clean down routine happens immediately I get back from a ride. I give the bikes a quick low pressure hose down to dampen off any dried mud and dirt. I then give the bike a good spray of cleaner and leave to soak for a few minutes. Once soaked another low pressure hose down and the muck flies off. Turn the bike round and repeat. Dry off then wipe down with a soft cloth or piece of kitchen roll soaked in WD40. Job done one nice clean shinny bike protected from the elements. Go on then Rhino Goo and Shine beat that!
Was I going to give Rhino Goo a fair chance? Was I stuff. The first time I got home with a very very muddy bike, a lot of which would be dried on, was when I was going to test Rhino Goo!
No head start with a low pressure hosing for Rhino Goo, I was going to make life as tough as possible for Mr Rhino! A liberal spraying of Rhino Goo using the bottle and nozzle provided, leave to soak. Oh this is going to be such a fail! After the normal, actually a lot shorter then usual soak (oh I am so mean!!!) out comes the low pressure hose and oh my words the dirt is flying off faster then a Mach 1 Mig fighter, boy does this stuff work and work really well. Quick flick the bike round and spray and wash the other side. Wow this stuff is really impressive. My CX bike is looking cleaner than I have seen it for ages. Now for the shine.
Rhino Shine recommends a spray down then leave for an hour and then give the bike a wipe down with a soft cloth. Now that sounds similar to my WD40 treatment. Instructions followed and bike cleaned ready for the next outing. But how clean will it really look.
I have to say the proof is in the admiring! Well just say the next ride out with friends, they were all asking if I had got a new frame or bike! I have to agree with them my cx bike did look rather special. But was this just beginners luck?
I have used Rhino Goo and Shine for a few post ride cleans of mine and a couple of friends bikes and I can safely say that it is the best bike cleaner I have ever used. In fact, it so good that if I had enough money, I would buy the company. No longer with I be using my old regime for cleaning, for me it has to be Rhino Goo and Shine.
All I can say is believe the marketing information and unlike all the other products mentioned Rhino Goo and Shine does just what it says on the web:-
Rhino Goo will not damage aluminium, anodised parts, any rubber components i.e. fork seals, wheel bearing seals, gaskets etc, or remove the shine off your plastics.
This is a truly safe product with no nasty chemicals. Rhino Goo’s products are biodegradable, non abrasive and safe on all surfaces. There are products out there which claim to do all the things mentioned above and there are products out there which will damage all the things mentioned above.
It’s also widely used for motorbikes, caravans and marine use. Great value at around £6.99 for 1 Litre and £17.99 for 5 Litres
I am a 100% convert and when my samples run out I will be dashing out to the nearest stockiest to by 5 litres of Rhino Goo and Shine. If I could give it 110% I would but my Ed (boo!) says no… so a lowly 100% is all I’m allowed!
It’s a Cycling Shorts Star Buy!… Go get some!
Probably the best bike cleaning product in the world!
For your nearest official stockist: www.rhinogoonorth.co.uk
B2B Online retailer: www.edgesportsuk.com/store/
I have been testing the full range of energy products from TORQ Fitness for Cycling Shorts. I first came across TORQ products last year, so I was interested to see what their other products were like. Here are my findings…
TORQ are well-known for their varied choice of flavours so it was with some apprehension that I tried the vanilla flavoured energy drink, as I wasn’t convinced that I would like it. How wrong was I? It tastes more like marshmallow, but I was hooked from the first drink. Not too sweet, and it didn’t make me thirsty (there have been many that have over the years), so I take that as a positive. Having said that, would I think the same if I had tested it in the heat of summer? Possibly not, as I am not sure it would go down as well in a warm climate however I think an ice cube in your bottle would keep it cool and solve that problem.
If vanilla is not for you, then don’t despair! They have pink grapefruit, lemon and lime, both of which are really tasty and thirst-quenching, as well as orange and lemon. I have to admit that the orange flavour isn’t for me (it seemed to have a bit of a weird aftertaste that I couldn’t get used to) but others would probably disagree!
For a breakdown of their flavoured energy drink go to: http://www.torqfitness.co.uk/nutrition/torq-energy
The other amazing energy drink that TORQ do is their natural organic flavour. This has proved to be a lifesaver over the winter, as I have had it in my tea (yes, that’s right, in tea) as a top up of energy for those longer back to back training rides. It also means that if you’re not keen on flavoured energy drinks and would prefer to use cordial, then TORQ energy is the answer there too.
More information can be found about the Energy Organic here: http://www.torqfitness.co.uk/nutrition/torq-energy-organic
In a word, I guess you can say that they cater for everyone!
I have had TORQ gels before, and the first thing that occurred to me was that TORQ have changed the design of the wrapper to make them easier to open on the move. The texture is also great – some gels can be too thin and watery whereas others can be too thick and similar to wallpaper paste – so TORQ have obviously been doing their homework as to what works best. In addition, like the energy drinks, they have combined maltodextrin with fructose so that they work super fast, which means that you can keep going longer!
The first gel that we tried was the banoffee flavoured version. Having overdosed on bananas as a child, I’m not overly keen on anything vaguely banana-related, so I was fully expecting not to like this flavour. Good news for people who aren’t too keen on bananas – the after taste was one of caramel not bananas!
Rhubarb and Custard flavour is one that seems to have a Marmite opinion when you talk to people about them – some love it others loathe it. I am in the “love it” camp – it’s really sweet, which won’t appeal to some people, and you do need a drink after it, but there’s no vile after-taste!
Another hot favourite was raspberry ripple – again very sweet, which won’t appeal to some, but TORQ have obviously worked hard on the flavouring of these gels so at least you know that it actually tastes like it says on the wrapper, and not something random. Top job all round, I’d say!
By the way, did I mention that all of their gels are dairy and wheat free and are suitable for vegans too?
The technology and science behind the gels can be found in more detail here: http://www.torqfitness.co.uk/nutrition/torq-gel
The beauty of the TORQ energy bars is the high moisture content – some energy bars need a pint cup of tea with them, but these energy bars are really easy to eat on the bike – you don’t feel as if you’re expending more energy chewing the bar than riding the bike, which is always a bonus!
These bars come in a variety of flavours, from mango to apple and raspberry to pineapple and ginger. I particularly liked the latter, as it sounded a bit weird but in actual fact you could even taste the ginger!
The only downside of these bars (sort of) is that they are foil-wrapped to preserve their moisture and keep them fresh (which is a good thing) but it means that they can be difficult to unwrap with gloves on. In a race situation though, the ideal would be to have them unwrapped in your back pocket, in bite-sized chunks, so that you don’t need to worry about it. Problem solved!
More information on the bars can be found here: http://www.torqfitness.co.uk/nutrition/torq-bar
All TORQ Energy, including the natural flavour, comes in three different pack sizes – 500g costs £13.99, 1.5kg costs £27.99 and 3kg costs £47.99. The flavoured energy also comes in a box of 20 sachets, which costs £27.40. Don’t worry if you want to try before you buy too, there is also a sample box of five flavours which costs £17.40.
Gels without the added guarana (i.e. all flavours except Forest Fruits and Banoffee) retail at £1.45 per gel, with the guarana gels retailing at £1.75 per gel. However, if you buy a box of 20, then they cost £1.37 and £1.66 each instead, so a box would cost £27.40 for those without guarana and £33.20 for those with guarana. Not cheap, but bearing in mind all TORQ products are made with Fair Trade ingredients, they are punching above their weight, given that they are very competitive with other brands. If you want to try before you buy a box, you can also purchase a sample pack of 12 gels for £18 and you can also buy a box of mixed flavours. At the moment, TORQ are also doing a deal whereby you can buy two boxes of gels without guarana for £52, so you can swap flavours!
With the exception of the Organic Mango which retails at £1.65 each and £37.40 for a box of 24, the other bars retail at £1.45 each and £32.88 for a box of 24. Again there is the option of multiple boxes and mix and match for those of you wanting to try before you invest in a box of 24 which you may not like.
Free postage and packaging
Now this may seem like a foregone conclusion nowadays, but some of TORQ’s competitors do charge postage and packaging, so I think this is a bonus!
So, what do I give the products as marks out of 100?
Taste – 92% (it would have been higher but I wasn’t convinced with the Orange flavour)
Price – 90% (competitively priced, with different quantities to suit different budgets)
Value for money – 95% (the larger quantities work out to be really cost-effective, if you can afford it)
Overall – 92 out of 100 – it gets our Star Buy Award!
- TORQ Gels
Taste – 95% (all really tasty and can’t really fault them)
Price – 85% (competitively priced, but may prove to be an expensive luxury for some)
Value for money – 90% (the science and thinking behind the energy gels increases their value in my opinion)
Overall – 90 out of 100 – another Star Buy Award!
Taste – 80% (tasty but some can seem similar to others, the texture is great though)
Price – 85% (again, competitive but could be seen as expensive for some)
Value for money – 85% (a lot of thought has gone into the products, which is what you are paying for)
Overall – 83 out of 100