Friday, 21 October 2011

My Bicycle

Update: 29th June 2016
I now have another bike, and I found an old pic of my first "proper" bike, so this page will now cover all 4 of those bikes. The latest developments will be at the top of this page, with older stuff being further down. The order is:
Hoppy (my current ride, a BTwin Hoprider 300)

Mermaid (my "fill-in" bike, a Universal Mermaid)
Cinzia folder (that I rode for almost 20 years)

Falcon (my first "adult" bike)

Hoppy, fresh out of the box, with Mermaid

I found Hoppy's saddle put too much pressure on my perineum.
Whether that is just a 50-year-old man's prostate, I can't say.
Anyway, this saddle with a nice cut-out is MUCH more comfortable.
On the original saddle, it was uncomfortable even for 5 km.
On this saddle, I have ridden two metric centuries (100km+, 62 mile+) rides already

Mermaid's bars, along with a couple of bar ends mounted half-way down the bars, acting as aero" horns, find their way onto Hoppy. the bottle mounts allow for longer rides without stopping.

Hoppy, just before a test run for the local
100km (62 mile) charity sportive. Mermaid's
wheels are fitted, and the mudguards
and stand have been removed to save weight

Hoppy came with a hub dynamo. Too heavy for sportives,
but VERY handy for commuting in the winter, and
audax/randonnee rides with long night sections.

Hoppy came with a halogen headlight fitted.
It will be replaced with an LED model I bought for my Cinzia

Hoppy came with a "carrier light".
It is only a basic bulb model.
It will be upgraded to an LED "standlight"
model in due course.

The Shimano Altus rear derailleur (shown right) came with Hoppy. But I had a brand-new, unused, Shimano M590-series
Deore derailleur in my parts box, so that went' on instead.
Hoppy started life with a 7-speed 14-28 freewheel, but is currently running an-8-speed 11-32 freehub.
A change to 9-speed may or may not be on the cards for the Summer.
(update: 8-speed for 2016. Maybe 9-speed for the Spring of 2017)

Me, setting out on the local charity sportive, on a somewhat modified, and lighter Hoppy.
Weight is down by about 2 kilos (4.4 lbs), and the gearing is 3x8 rather than the 3x7 Hoppy came with.
In this guise, I rode the charity sportive a whole HOUR faster than last year (when I rode Mermaid).
Happy has recently gained a speed/cadence sensor, and is shown on my new Tacx trainer.
Given that the wheels, tyres, crankset, gears, and bottom bracket are the very same ones I was using on Mermaid,
it is merely timing that means it is Hoppy on the trainer, not Mermaid (which I broke up for parts)

My regular ride was (at the time I wrote this page) a Cinzia folding bicycle, that I purchased new from a bike shop in Walthamstow, East London, in the early 1990's.
Following a frame failure (theoretically repairable, but far from economically sensible), I was riding Mermaid.
So this page was about Mermaid, which I rode to work every day, and in 2015, I rode Mermaid on the 100km route of the local Tour de Vale, the BHF London to Brighton Bike Ride, and a 200km "Audax" / "Randonnee" ride. Some of Mermaid's parts now feature on my current bike.
Pics of the Cinzia folder are further down the page, as is the story of the problems I had ...

Mermaid's final spec:
Weight (without panniers or basket, but with basket mount and mini-lights): 18.0 kg (about 40 lbs)
Gearing: 48/34/26 triple crankset (Sugino pattern) driving an SRAM PG850 11-32 8 speed rear.
Derailleurs: Shimano "cheapy" triple up front, Alivio (8-spd) rear.
Chain SRAM PG850
Wheels: 700c (622) heavy duty double-wall with Mach 1 240 rims (19mm) and 14g straight-gaage spokes.
Tyres: Marathon Plus, 622x35. In winter, I've been running Marathon Winter in the same size.
Mermaid in Rickmansworth, during my 200km Audax/Randonnee ride this Summer (2015).
Tools, rainwear, food and drink are in the panniers and the basket, as are maps etc. etc.

Mermaid is a cheap, steel framed, "hybrid" bike that I upgraded a bit for general usage.
Here Mermaid is seen at the end of the 2015 London to Brighton ride, which took us (me and Mermaid)
just 4 1/2 hours to cover the 56 miles from Clapham Common (London) to the seafront in Brighton.
This is Mermaid's THIRD "century" ride of 2015 (I know London to Brighton isn't 100km if you start at Clapham Common, but I started at the British Museum, and I had a "warm-down" on the seafront road at the end!)

All these parts, and a few more, were added to Mermaid's spec.
Another view of Mermaid - this is shortly after the rebuild in the Summer of 2014

Mermaid also makes a capable enough "shopper" - shown here with about 15kg (33 lbs) of groceries
And now some "archive" pics of my Cinzia in happier times ...
My Cinzia pieghevole with after-market front basket and
locks, February 2012
It's one of those relatively cheap, U-frame, bikes that were available at that time.
I used to live in various bedsits in North London, and I wanted a bike that
  • would fit in a modest space or in the boot (a.k.a. "trunk") of a smallish car ("auto")
  • had three or more gears
  • wasn't too expensive,
  • could be parked without being paranoid about theft!
  • would roughly fit my more than 6 foot (1.90m) frame

My Cinzia has 20-inch wheels, and a three-speed Sturmey-Archer hub gear, and came with a propstand and built-in dynamo lights.
Luxury, for only about (if I recall correctly) 120 quid :-)

Some of the features on the bike show off its age - it has cotter pins, steel brake levers and side-pull calliper brakes - you don't see those around much these days!
The rear brake cable and dynamo wiring are routed inside the frame (and through the hinge!), which looks neat and tidy.

The cable for the rear gears runs outside the frame, which makes me wonder if the three-speed gears were fitted later by the importer, or some such. The rear gear hub is stamped "12-88" (the month, December, and year, 1988, of manufacture), which is a good few years before I bought the bike.

The dynamo lights are nice, but the front light is a little feeble by modern standards - the lights themselves are French. 

The rear light mounts to the rear mudguard, and the front light is mounted on the front mudguard (they are ftted with the original bulbs, by the way)

Cinzia make a similar bike today, although it doesn't seem to be currently imported into the UK:
Look under "Products", then "City Bike", then "20 Pieghevole", and open the pdf.
The current models are a single-speed and a 6 speed derailleur version, which are very similar to my 20-year-old model, except that mine has a 3-speed hub rather than a derailleur.

Quite a few times I rode my Cinzia in London from the Bounds Green area, near the North Circular, through Highgate, and down to the West End - a journey of about 8 miles each way. Quite a hill at Highgate, as I'm sure anyone who has tried to cycle up it will know :-)
I cycled in a couple of times to see the New Year's Day parade, and as you can imagine, the roads in the area were pretty clogged, so the best way of getting about Central London was by bike!

When I left London, 11 years ago, I used the bike less, but it was my back-up for work, and was used in this capacity to ride to the local station, take the train to near where I worked at the time, then cycle the last couple of miles. I would then fold the bike, and park it in a corner of the office, next to a filing cabinet.

A bit more than 6 months ago, I changed my work for a job in the town where I live, so after a few weeks of walking, my little Cinzia folder was dug out of storage and was soon working again. Now I do the two mile round trip to work once or twice a day on my Cinzia, as well as lots of extra little trips to the shops, the doctor's etc. etc.

I've changed the rear tyre (chunks were falling out of the tread on the original!), the chain (I broke 4 sideplates on the original!), the rear brake cable (the original broke!) and the saddle (now an economical, and comfortable, Lidl "air" saddle). I've fitted an extra, battery-powered, rear light, a bell, and a removable front wire basket (I like the extra carrying capacity of the basket, but I got a removable one so that the bike can still be quickly folded).
But, apart from that, the bike is pretty much how I bought it, nearly 20 years ago.

I use panniers for shopping trips for more than just a few light items.

I clip a pair of Bike Bins hard plastic panniers on to the rear rack.

My review of the panniers is here - to summarise: 

  • they are very good
    • there were major heel clearance issues due to the rather short and low original luggage rack on the Cinzia, and the proximity of the pedals and the rear, 20", wheel (N.B. the heel problem has now been sorted out by using a longer, taller, carrier designed for a "full-sized" bike)
The repeated use of panniers cracked a weld on the original rear carrier, so I will be fitting a new carrier, sourced from a 28" wheel full-size bike :-)
Some Cinzia folders/pieghevoles have the carrier welded to the frame, and some have the bolt-on sort. Mine is the bolt-on sort, so it was just a case of finding a suitable carrier.

Update 6th April 2012:
The new rear carrier has been fitted.

It's just a cheap, old, one from my wife's old bike (which has much larger 700c wheels!). It is higher, and a bit longer, and it sits a bit further back. It also sorts out the issues I've been having with heel clearance when using our Bike Bins pannier boxes - although the higher pannier position does make the side/kick/propstand even less stable!
(the picture was taken while I was replacing the bearings in the bottom bracket, so that's why the chain is hanging loose! - the bottom bracket is, of course, a 36mm "Italian" fitting, rather than the more normal "BSA" fitting, and you should have seen the look the mechanic at Halfords gave me when I said it has a right-hand screw on BOTH bearing cups.)

Bike Bins panniers on the taller carrier

with front basket and panniers
With front basket and rear panniers, total load capacity is about 15kg (33 lbs), which is pretty decent.

Update 25th August 2013:
A couple of new pics showing the current specification of my Cinzia folding bike.
It now has a Steco front rack, a Shimano hub dynamo, and an LED front light.
It also has the Schwalbe Marathon rear tyre and the SRAM chain I fitted a couple of years ago. In the first shot you can see the extra battery light I have taped with gaffer tape (think "duct tape", and you're about right!) to the rear carrier as a backup - although I haven't used it since I fitted the Shimano hub dynamo and the LED front light.

You can see the Steco front rack and the Shimano hub
dynamo clearly in this pic. Although the rack means that
the bike doesn't fold as small as before
(an "S" fold now being the best, rather than the
previous "V" fold) it still fits comfortably
in the back of our automobile (a short station wagon).
The Steco front rack means I can now get a MUCH heavier load
in the front basket, which is the same basket as before.
By carefully selecting a bag with suitable handles, I can
carry a light additional bag on the handlebars, using the bell
as a stub to put the handles around - the handles are
crossed over each other to keep the bag closed.
It can be a good way of carring an additional light item,
such as a couple of loaves of bread, or some such.
Update 13th October 2013:
When the bearings've gone and you can't go on
Its tragedy
When the bike breaks up and you don't know why
Its hard to bear
With no way to fix it you're
Going nowhere
(with apologies to Mr Gibb et. al)

As I was just starting to cycle to work on the evening of the 8th February, there was a sort of grinding crunch sound, and the bottom bracket pulled away from the main U-frame.
It isn't just a failed weld, as the bottom bracket took a section of the metal from the bottom of the frame with it.

At the moment I am stripping parts from the frame of the Cinzia.
I will leave this page as it is, as a record of what was, and continue the tale under a new page entitled "The Spare Bike" (update: this actually became "All about Mermaid")

Way back when:
the Falcon!
531 tubing
Huret front and rear derailleurs
Centre-pull brakes
Steel (!) rims
Hard vinyl saddle.

My father bought me the bike, second-hand, in 1977, and it was originally a 5-speed. But you know how things are - a "double" chainwheel followed!
My Falcon on a camping trip to France, c.1996

A close up of my Falcon from the picture above. 531 tubing, 10 speed, Huret derailleurs, centre-pull brakes, and a hard vinyl saddle

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  1. Your article was very helpful and fascinating. I have just bought a Stratton Cycles folding bike that was sold to me by a backyard dealer who described it as Dutch. It's clearly a Cinzia by comparing it with yours and others on the internet. Curiously it has 24" wheels and is supposed to have a 5-speed Sturmey Archer though I can't yet verify that. It is silver and all looks original (except the tyres) though it may not be possible to keep it that way as it needs work. I may dispense with the dynamo lights which in any case have been badly re-wired and don't work. Quite soon it will go down a storm in Cambridge where I live.

    1. Thanks.
      Cinzia made a lot of bikes for other companies too, so there are some Cinzias that don't actually say Cinzia!
      Cinzias were (and are) sold in a number of European countries, so yours could have been a model that was exported to Holland.
      However, the shape of my bike is not unique
      - I believe the "original" U-frame folding bike was the Puch Picnic (Puch being Austrian), and MANY other companies copied the design, including Cinzia.
      Some later Raleigh bikes also look rather like mine, with the U-frame models being introduced at the lower end of the range.
      What marks my bike out as genuinely Italian is the odd 36mm crank bearings, which are both right-hand thread. This is pretty much just an Italian feature, and there are good reasons why it was not more widely adopted (!)
      If you have got a SA 5-speed, then you are a lucky person!
      You basically get the same 3 gears as me, plus one lower, and one higher.
      The SA 3 speed covers the same sort of range as 5 derailleur gears, while your 5 speed covers the same sort of range as 7 or 8 gears on a derailleur!
      Anyway, enjoy your bike!

    2. The thing about wheel size is: there is no "best" answer - it depends what you want to use the bike for.
      Smaller wheels make for a smaller folded bike (the Sinclair A-bike is about as small as it gets), but bigger wheels ride better (the Montague Paratrooper, a folding mountain bike, is perhaps a good example of the opposite end of the scale).
      Weight tends to run in lie with wheel size too - smaller is lighter
      Wheel sizes in between give varying benefits.
      Some small-wheel bikes fold up and go in a bag or suitcase for travelling by train or bus, and the London Underground (I think) had a limit of maximum 20" wheels to be allowed on the Tube (although, as I left London 12 years ago, I haven't kept up with more recent rule changes).
      a 16"-wheel Brompton folds smaller and is lighter than a similar 20" model from a different manufacturer, but a similar 20" is likely to ride better - indeed, a 16"-wheel Brompton has a rubber suspension block specifically because the wheels don't handle bumpy surfaces so well.
      Your 24" machine should make a nice ride, but is likely to be a bit heavier than my 20".
      So which is best depends what you want to do with it :-)
      But the most important thing to do with a bike is ride it!
      So enjoy yours!