Showing all posts tagged cycling:

Easy Like A Sunday Morning

This Sunday morning was not a time for epic rides, not least because it's the day after a good friend's wedding… I took a 90-minute loop from my front door, up into the foothills and back down. This landscape has not changed much since Roman times, and probably before; people were tilling the land and making wine around here before the Romans showed up, at least back into the Bronze Age.

This is the gate of Rivalta, on the bank of the river Trebbia.

If the name of the river Trebbia is ringing a bell, you may be thinking of your classical history. This was the site of a major battle of the Second Punic War, in which Hannibal defeated the Romans. The battle is commemorated today by a statue of one of Hannibal's war elephants.

People never believe me when I tell them of the wildlife I encounter on my rides: rabbits, deer… elephants?

Midweek Ride Through The Shire

I took a mental health day off and rode a (metric) century up into the hills. Unfortunately the more spectacular scenery was a) tiring to ride, so I didn't want to stop, and b) on a main road, so there wasn't always a good place to stop even if I had wanted to. These shots are from the earlier, flatter part of the ride.

Riding up the bank of the river Nure (on the left behind the trees)

Crossing the old railway bridge at Ponte dell'Olio

Old lime kilns at Ponte dell'Olio

Who Needs Alps Anyway

Booked a day off work today because 2021 has done a number on me — and I really lucked out, with a lovely warm day for a 100km ride up into the hills. My legs are hurting now, but it was oh so worth it!

I also got to use my new Hestra Nimbus Split Mitts for the first time. These things are not gloves, but over-gloves; you wear them over your normal cycling gloves. They are completely unpadded and pretty unstructured, but that's the point; they are only there to protect your hands from the elements. The idea is that, on a ride like today's that spans from the low single-digits (Celsius) to the mid-high-teens, you can start off with the mitts, but then as you and the atmosphere warm up, you can peel them off and stuff them in a jersey pocket, while still having your usual gel-padded cycling gloves that you were wearing underneath.

I jumped on these mitts based on a recommendation from The Cycling Independent because I have hot hands, so there's a gap between the sort of weather where I want my heaviest gloves, that could masquerade as ski gloves in a pinch — basically sub-freezing — and when I'm comfortable in just plain finger-gloves without quilting on the backs. It felt a bit ridiculous to buy a whole other pair of gloves just for those in-the-middle days, plus I'd never know which gloves to wear and probably get it wrong all the time, so this combo of glove and over-glove works perfectly.

At least so far, they definitely work as advertised; they kept my hands warm as I pedalled through the fog, and then I took them off when I stopped for this pic, just before the serious climbing started. This ride spanned from 65m to over 900m, and it wasn't just one climb, either; there was plenty of up & down, as my legs will attest.

That Feeling When…

You know that feeling when you realise you may be a little bit outside the design envelope for your gear? That.

I was on the Bianchi, my gravel bike, not my full-sus fat-tyre MTB, when I ran into a stretch of uncleared road. I thought it was just two corners' worth, but it turned out to be quite a bit more than that, and icy underneath the snow.

Not bad for the last ride of the year!

The Long Way Round

I had the day off today, but the kids were all in school — so I jumped on my bike and went looking for some sun.

I did at least get out of the fog as soon as I started climbing out of the plain, but despite a couple of attempts, the sun never did quite make it through the overcast.

Why do I ride a gravel bike? Precisely so I can do rides like this, with a long on-road approach, and then a fun bit at the top.

To be honest around here I would have been much better off with proper fat mountain-bike tyres; the Kendas on my Bianchi are pretty good for what they are, but they weren’t quite up to literal rivers of snowmelt coming down the path I was trying to ride up — so I stopped for a quick photo op and a breather.

The long way down, back on tarmac.

This sort of thing is good for the soul — that, and the shower beer I allowed myself when I got home… Cheers!

Hipster Bike Downtown

In my last bike post introducing the Bianchi, I mentioned that I had turned my previous steed into a single-speed city runabout. Well, today I was out running an errand astride said hipster conveyance, so I thought I’d get a pic of it too.

I love how the conversion turned out. The gear ratio is fine for short trips around town, optimised for short bursts, not sustained speed. The thing on the back wheel is just a chain tensioner. The flat bars are raised up by flipping the stem upside-down, so it’s actually a pretty comfortable thing to ride. It’s also still a very light bike, with its carbon fork and all, so it’s nippy and manoeuvrable around town. The old Campagnolo drive train was completely shot, and these days a gravel bike frame that won’t take disk brakes is basically unsaleable, so this is a better fate for my old Rat — even if it does mean that I now own more bicycles than the rest of the family put together!

Appropriately enough for such a bike, what I was doing out and about was buying fresh-ground coffee from my coffee roaster. The shop is a couple of streets back from the square in the photo, but they have a century-old roaster, and when it’s running you can smell the coffee clear to the square!

Gravel Bike In Its Natural Habitat


My old gravel bike — an original Cinelli Racing Rats set — had eaten its Campagnolo running gear, so I was due a new bike anyway. Then the government announced a fund to support alternative forms of transportation, effectively price support for bikes, so I dived in. I ordered this Bianchi Via Nirone 7 gravel bike in July and it didn't arrive until mid-November, so only just in time for the subsidy cut-off date! Then what with one thing and another, this was the first time I actually got to take it out, but I am very happy with both look and feel.

The one aspect that is not 100% spot on is that the wheels feel disproportionately heavy. I'm not sure whether this is the Kenda tyres — I've only ever seen the brand on e-bikes, where weight is not the primary consideration — or the wheels, which are generic. Maybe I'll look out for a discounted wheelset in the new year sales and try my go-to Schwalbe Marathons on them, and see what that does for me.

And the Cinelli? Oh, it's still part of the family; I swapped the worn-out Campy drivetrain for a single-gear setup, put straight bars and flat pedals on it, and now it's my hipster city runabout. I'll get a pic of that on our next expedition.

Rider On The Storm



Managed to dodge the storms almost all the way home on this morning’s bike ride. At least it was refreshing!

An Unexpected Holiday

Every year after the end of school we have the habit of travelling to Finale Ligure, where my father-in-law’s family is from, for a couple of weeks. This is a a couple of hours’ drive from home, so not too strenuous. In a normal year, SWMBO and I spend the weekends at the sea, and then drive to offices, airports, or train stations early on Monday morning, leaving the kids with her parents. We would then return to Finale on Friday, or if possible, on Thursday night so we could work from the beach on the Friday.

This year was a bit different. Once the Covid lockdowns hit in earnest, we had assumed we would not be able to travel to Liguria in June; the border with the region where we live had been closed to non-essential travel. However, in early June the restrictions lifted, and so we trekked out here.

This year is the first year I have spent the full fortnight in Finale, instead of disappearing during the working week. It has been somewhat challenging to work from here, but I figured it out, more or less — and one benefit is that I have been able to get up early, sneak in an early-morning bike ride, and be back with warm focaccia straight from the bakery for breakfast, all before 9am.

Finale is one of the top mountain-bike resorts in Europe, and stiff with ancient rusty camper vans from Germany and Scandinavia with bikes strapped to them that are worth several multiples of the van and all its contents. What is also great is the variety: you can be bombing downhill through a forest, then there’s a village that looks like something out of the Lord of the Rings where you can stop for coffee, then there’s a technical rock garden, and then at the end you can cool off in the Med. Pretty good, for an unexpected holiday.

That last picture is my office in Finale, yes. So if you’ve been on calls with me in the last fortnight, now you know why I’ve been using Zoom backgrounds more than normal…

The one downside is that the two episodes of the Roll For Enterprise podcast that I recorded down here have noticeably worse audio for my parts, because I was using AirPods instead of my fancy home studio setup. Something to bear in mind in future years, since we typically record on Friday afternoon at my end, when we would usually aim to be in Finale even if we had not spent the whole week here.