Project: Roadrunner, the evolution of a personal bike...

I thought after some months of posting pictures & updates on the social media on this, it was time to collate it all into a blog.

So how did it all start, well having returned to cycling 3yrs before I started this project to help overcome my disability (something I am still doing). One thing I found was each bike I bought I ended up pulling them apart & changing it piece by piece to suit me & my cycling ergonomics. So in 2013 I decided it was time to get a bike built up to suit me from the frame upwards. Now I just needed to work out how to go about this & first thing I did was draw up a concept design to get an idea what I wanted.

Why call it Roadrunner, well the idea was to build a bike to be light as possible (for my budget), built to be comfortable to ride & thus be able to do long distance rides which at the time I was finding almost impossible to do on the heavier bikes I have. So it was a road runner, plus I love the cartoon character of the same name. ;-)

Now I looked around at having the bike built for me & as good as they were, custom built just was not affordable for me & not an option. So next best thing was go with buying a 2nd hand frame & build the bike up from there. And at the time I was volunteering at Re-Cycle, a charity that sends bikes to Africa. They managed to find a frame with forks as well as wheel rims for me at a price I could afford. So I bought them & managed to get it all home by bike to start the project.


Doesn't look much but was a starting point, so next was to get tyres & I decided I wanted hybrid tyres as some of the cycle 'network' was more like dirt tracks. Only ones I found that would fit & made by Schwalbe were the 23x700 Marathons & I was concerned they be too thin a profile for me but there was no room for wider & as I found out from many miles done on them, they were the right choice.


So next was to find parts in boxes around the flat to piece it together until I find the parts needed & replace them. Like the saddle, I tried a few & just couldn't find what I wanted so went with what I had used on previous bike for now. And then changed handlebar to a boomerang (ergonomic) one as it felt right to hold & of course the brakes...

 It was slowly starting to take shape, so next was a rear rack as I always use panniers so went for some low profile Tortec Velocity as they were on offer & felt they looked good on the bike.


Now whilst I was building this bike, I had won tickets for Nightrider London charity ride. So I needed this bike ready ready faster than I could get it, so got Re-Cycle's mechanic to help (for a fee) build the final pieces of the bike. So the chain, sprockets, bottom bracket & gear mechanism was added to complete the bike & this is how it looked on day I collected it & rode it for the first time.

Its starting to look like what I am aiming to build & riding it for the first time was definitely a joy. Far easier & quicker to ride than my other bikes. Tho of course with all prototypes, you find some snags. Main one which worried me was the panniers kept going into the wheels & I needed to change the rack. So I changed it for a slightly pricier Axiom Streamliner Disc Deluxe Rear Rack which resolved the issues as it supported the whole pannier & moved it further back thus giving a bit more room to pedal.

 And of course as an all weather cyclist, I needed mudguards. So I went for SKS Raceblades as they had to fit around the brakes. 

So now it's May 2104, a month before Nightrider London & just done a 50 mile cycle ride for Pedal 4 the J's on lil Trekr & it was a struggle. Roadrunner was almost ready & after a few more tweaks on setting up I had Roadrunner set up as best as I can get her & she looked good!!

So now Roadrunner was ready, her first long ride was Nightrider London as no chance to do any before then. So in a way this was her maiden voyage & a true test on the design. 

So how did it go, 100km overnight around London on a bike I built & was it's maiden voyage? It was Fantastic!!! Bike was a dream to ride, it did better than I did on the ride but we both completed the 100km with no hitch or issues. Not only was the build a success, this bike was so well balanced it saved me from a nasty tumble as I was going downhill fast & hit a pothole. The bike refused to go down so to me, Roadrunner is a keeper!

So now to try finish what I started, it was time to add what I want on this bike & get a paint job sorted. Since June I went & bought another Boomerang handlebar but in black, a Brooks Cambium saddle for starters...

Then after I was happy & ready do get it done, I stripped her down for a paint job & then rebuilt her again with her new looks & oh boy she looks sexy...

So here's the almost complete Roadrunner, why almost? Well there's a few more bits I like to do, gearing mostly as I like to tweak the gear ratios a bit to get more out of pedaling with less effort.

But for now I am enjoying the rides on her, we've already conquered Box Hill, cycled across the Surrey/Hampshire borders, gone from Chelmsford to Colchester & many more rides. And all this whilst my legs arent doing too good too, so Roadrunner as a design concept becoming a reality has really become a success in my books. She hangs on my wall as my pride & joy & hope eventually she manages to help me finally do a 100 mile ride. :)


Alternate commuting options between Colchester area and Brightlingsea.

If you live in the Colchester area, the chances are you've gone & visited the coastal town Brightlingsea. And those in Brightlingsea no doubt have more than likely travelled out of the town to Colchester or the surrounding area.

Now, what's the roads like travelling? Not great are they? Coming in & out of Brightlingsea is just one road & can often snarl up due to congestion, weather conditions & maybe a road accident.

Now if only there was another option? How about using the bus services? No?

Not surprised, its unreliable at times & if the drivers get caught up on traffic due some issues on the road, a bus service will too...

Ever tried to cycle or walk it or even considered these options? No??

Can't say I blame you, not the nicest of roads to go onto on with 2 wheels or feet. Actually some of the roads don't appear to be suitable to walking on at all. One major issue I've seen when using the roads seem to be Tenpenny Hill. Definitely not nicest to cycle up & I couldn't see paths along it too & sure doesn't look safe to walk it anyway.


Now if only there was an option to sort this, well there are. Government could get another road built into the town but that would be very costly & very unlikely as well as just add more cars on the road & clog up like the rest eventually.

I was thinking something a lil more affordable, easier to do & part of the route already exists & just needs linking to Brightlingsea which would help encourage those going in or out of Brightlingsea to walk or cycle, it's also something I have looked into & thought it through & do feel it is needed. If it was to happen this would help ease traffic flow in & out of the town & benefit all. It's also something I have discussed with others travelling to & from Brightlingsea or who have travelled between Colchester & Brightlingsea & they love the idea I am about to explain.

So you're no doubt asking How? Well if you're familiar with the area you will know there's an old rail line that's now used to walk on along the river bank & acts as a sea defence too, go far enough & you'll come across the footings to an old rail bridge & on other side of the river the route continues to Wivenhoe. 


So what I was thinking was if a path suitable for walking & cycling was created along this old rail line & over a new bridge in place of where the old bridge over the river was & then follow the coast line to Wivenhoe to then join up with the shared path route known as the Wivenhoe Trail, you will then have a direct route to Colchester for those walking & cycling as well as a walking/cycling direct link from Brightlingsea to Alresford & Wivenhoe.

Now I know some of you will be screaming out, 'but this idea has been suggested before & failed to get the funding' & yes you are right. But why is that? Wrong time to suggest it or just the fact it was being suggested as a leisure route. Doing so, it's no wonder it was set to not get far...

Others are probably thinking 'The bridge would be an eyesore'. Would it? Have you seen designs used in places like the Netherlands? They are beautiful to see & can actually enhance the area & some are being built in the UK too.

To be honest We need to think bigger! We need to have more sustainable routes for travelling, roads are congested due to over capacity. People would like to walk or cycle but there's no safe route to do so on the roads joining Brightlingsea, we need to get routes suitable for walking & cycling not for just leisure but to actually commute.

So with a bridge built in place of the old rail bridge, upgrade the paths suitable for walking & cycling all the way from Brightlingsea to Colchester. Then we will have a viable alternative for those wanting to travel by foot or bicycle, then when those who want to do so the number of those driving will fall & it will help ease the congestion.

And now I have got that in your head, we need to get Councils to listen. Councillors & the public to discuss this as a viable option. Its affordable if you consider what it will benefit for all & I for one would use it as I just love going to the cafe at Batesman tower.


Now if this was possible, here's a seed of thought to implant in your mind following the blog. How about if we could expand it, just think what if we could link Points Clear to Brightlingsea? Then we could possibly have a walking cycling route along whole coastline to Clacton-on-Sea & beyond from what I have read in the local news of new shared paths in that area.

Just think how that would be so much easier to get from Colchester/Brightlingsea or any route in between to Clacton or beyond. Especially in Summer, I've seen those miles of traffic trying to get into Clacton-on-Sea & next to no parking. Cycling it would be so much better with a direct safe route.


Quick review of the Isaw A2

I thought it was time I did a quick review of the Isaw A2 as I have often talked about it again & again & again, time to put it all in a blog & then can just send the link to it. It is being phased out for newer models but some are still around & thought this would be useful for those looking at the brand & model if looking to buy one.

Over a year ago I decided to replace my Contour Roam 2, although a nice action cam it had limitations of a sealed battery lasting 3hrs & very poor night filming. So a follower on Twitter suggested Isaw after I complained about the poor experience I had with GoPro (and very grateful he did too) & sent me footage from the older A1 model & I was impressed. So I went for the current model the A2 which was going for around £100.

This is what came in the box when it arrived, it also can be used with current GoPro mounts too.

I have tried it out on the bike & most often on my helmet. Here's the comparison video of the Isaw A2 to the Contour Roam 2.

As good as the filming, the sound was slightly muffled, even with the open slotted back door. But it was good enough to start with so I tried it for a while & after I was happy with it I modified the case to improve the sound using a microphone foam, old part of a pump & some Sugru. Photo will show the stages of the modification.

 First was to Sugru in a slice of Microphone foam to the slotted back door. This made the door more water resistant.

Next was to work out the location of the mic & how to fit something over it to improve sound when holes are drilled in. This was the mock up to see how to do it...

But I decided I wanted a professional look & found a piece of old bicycle pump & a brainwave occurred.

You can see the holes drilled in line with mic & part of the pump with microphone foam inside Sugru'ed to casing (ensuring Sugru doesn't cover the holes). And the sound quality has vastly improved & the Sugru has held on well as still on there a year later.

So now for the running of the Isaw A2, I run the cam at 720p & not 1080p as the quality is just great & maximises the amount recorded on Memory Card. I can get around 5.5 hours of recording at 720p on a 32Gb Class 10 Micro SD Card. Battery life is around 1.5 hrs each & easily swappable, replacement batteries you can get for around £5 each & separate battery charger for around £10. I managed to record my whole ride whilst doing the Nightrider London 100km ride that took about 9hrs & I used 2x 32Gb cards & less than the 6 batteries I took with me. Footage below if you like to have a look.


The Isaw A2 is very reliable, only issue I had was a faulty memory card but once replaced all was running smoothly. They're so good I have bought a 2nd one to mount on the bike for when doing long rides.

So do I recommend Isaw A2, you bet I do & will stick with them until they finally give up the ghost. They are a great action cam to use & as they are slowly disappearing from the shops, I would seriously consider the Isaw for replacements as they are quite reasonably priced for what you get, unlike the GoPro with my experience of them.


Widening of the A12 & the knock on effects to non-drivers

As most will know the Government are planning to add a 3rd lane to the A12 in both directions & try make it a motorway like A road between M25 & Colchester. Now all the news about this has been focused on the destruction of buildings that are next to the road itself as well as if the widening of the A12 will actually improve traffic levels (IMO it will do nothing of the sort) & this is an issue to be discussed elsewhere but I like to highlight another more important issue that has been ignored. This would be the use of the A12 by non-drivers as in pedestrians & cyclists. You're probably asking how or where they use the A12, well if you ever travel along the A12, you might've seen paths along it between junctions. They are a mix of paths & shared paths creating what are safe links to towns along the A12 for those walking or cycling, relics of when this road was a typical standard 2-way road & when it had businesses along the whole length before it was dualed to 'ease traffic congestion' (that worked out well didn't it?) & forced cyclists off the A12 & onto these paths.

Now if you travel by bicycle along the A12 to & from Chelmsford you'll pop on & off the A12 with these shared paths to a 'reasonable' route to get to & from Chelmsford & these same paths link the towns to businesses along the A12 too so pedestrians can walk to them safely.

So where am I going with this, well these paths are right alongside the A12 & if a 3rd lane in both directions is constructed then these paths would disappear. Gone would be the link to Chelmsford from Colchester as well as other towns in between, gone would be the links between towns & businesses along the A12 for those walking & cycling. This would mean those cycling would have to seek alternative routes that would be longer, unsafe & undesirable for most.

This would result in those walking would more likely have to give up walking & use a car & the same for most who cycle, adding to the traffic on the already congested A12 & really would defeat the object of a 3rd lanes to reduce congestion on the A12. Though to be honest I am doubtful a 3rd lane would help ease the traffic on the A12 & reduce the problems on it daily, but that's another debate...

So what exactly can we do? Well the 3rd lanes on the A12 are looking to be done whether it is good idea or not, so we need to work with it to help encourage walking & cycling along the A12. As both sides of the A12 will be dug up to add these 3rd lanes, then this is the best time we can actually build even better segregated cycleways & foot paths to replace the outdated unmaintained unsuitable 2-way narrow shared paths on both sides.



There are plenty of examples of this where it has been done before. Netherlands have some great examples & even along motorways (now that would be cool to have here). It's even being done in London now so why not the A12 or any A road like it to be honest? As shown in the pictures I found on the internet.



And if we went with this idea then why not go along the whole A12 from Colchester to Chelmsford so then anyone can cycle along the whole A12 & not have to hop on & off it at every town.

It isn't that much further to travel & it'll be easier to stay on the A12 & do the whole distance, could even go around Colchester too with the A12 & give another alternative to travel to other parts of the town without having to go through the heavily congested town centre. Even drivers know what it is like to travel through a congested town with constant starting & stopping at every junction, its tiring with all that concentration.

We could even push the idea even further & do the 3rd lane & segregated cycleway & paths all along A12 right up to Ipswich. Would make getting there or anywhere along it more feasible by walking or cycling, works out less to travel to than to Chelmsford too.

And to be honest these routes as a segregated route would also be beneficial to drivers too as well as the 3rd lane, the more appealing the route is for those wanting to walk or cycle the more would likely others would walk or cycle than drive so less traffic on the A12. So it would be a win win for everyone in doing this. Having this done would give a choice for all who wants to travel & be able to in a safe convenient manner no matter what method of travel they like to use.

So we just need to spread the word on this & get the Government, Councils & Councillors to listen & supply the need for all & not just for those who drive.