Bailing Out…. a Folk Session

It was a wet night that I went down to the folk session at Bowness-on-Solway. I packed my concertina into a big black bag and cycled the 12 miles along waterlogged country roads. The weather in Cumbria has been particular wet these day (if you have been keeping an eye on the news you will have seen the flooding). I expected a bit of flooding on the roads so I was prepared to slow down and judge the situation, but as there was no moon and it was very dark I could not see the pieces of road that was underwater…the section of road which I was not prepared for.

Getting to the session I was a little late as I had to make a call in to see Sadaf. She has been sitting on her keels for 7 weeks and had been checked only a few times. She was ok, and has been ok amazingly over the weeks with all the flooding and rain. She leaks water above the sea-line from an unknown spot, it is rainwater and generally there is a trickle in the bilges, but because of the amount of rain we have had she has been full.

When I got there she was full too. I was surprised to see how much water had gotten into the bilges. It was not up to the cushions, but up to the floorboards. The only difference I could see that could account for the increase in water, was the front cover/plastic had blown off and rain was getting in from the fore section…I do not know from where?

Bailing her out took some time, each section had about 2 big buckets of rainwater to sponge out, and there was 5 sections. The area underneath the cockpit was dry! So I am thinking the leak is towards the front of the cabin. I will have to make some checks.

The Bowness folk session begins at 8.30pm and I just got there in time, the musicians were there and the pub was nice and warm to dry my coat. It is nice and relaxed, playing a mixture of southern English, Northumbrian, Scottish and locally penned songs/tunes. The songs are dominant and the guy who writes them was getting good responses to his humor. Besides the local musicians a guy called Steve came with his guitar to sing: and some tunes were played from the Playford’s manuscript.

The session ends roughly when they sing the “Haaf Netters Song” with audience participation, is has become a bit of a ritual there.

The session ended about 11pm.

Then the long cycle home, with the rain in my eyes, somewhere along the route I got a puncture, but the tired stayed up enough to get me home. I could hear the roar from the sea as it raced into the estuary.


Byocycle City Speed Review (storing, keys and punctures)

During the summer I finally used the bike for what I first intended, which is to cycle from home to the boat, rig the boat, sail, and de-rig the boat and cycle home. I had hoped the electric bike would save my energy to do all this, as I was having trouble on my normal bike.

On a couple of occasions I cycled to the boat and folded it down, carrying it onto the boat and placing it into one of the side berths. The boat is 20ft, she has a cabin and although small it is enough to sleep and cook and store things. I strapped down the wheels and handle bars to the frame so it would not come undone (I wish the design would allow this to happen, there is no fixings to hold her fast once folded down), then strapped her to the boat so the bike would not fall over. There the bike sat until I had finished sailing. When finished I took the bike back to shore and assembled it again and cycled back. This time I used the throttle power more to give my legs a rest.

On one occasion I lost the key to the battery. I could not find it anywhere. All I could do was to cycle home using the gears. It was not so bad, taking it easy I did not notice the added weight too much. But another question arose “where to get another key cut?” When I asked in the shops in Carlisle they asked me what sort of key it is used for. So they were not used to its size or thickness. One shop quoted me more as it was an “electric bike”; finally I found a replacement for 6 pounds for 1 key. The bike came with 2 keys, and another fault (?) with the design is that once you have taken the key out of the battery where do you put it? You have to leave the key in the battery while riding so to have a key ring dangling is not good due to it catching on something. To have it with other keys is not practical as you have to remove it each time from the bunch. It would be better to have it on the bike attached to the seat (?) as you have to remove the seat to get the battery out. I am sure I lost the key in this process as I had to dismantle the seat and battery from the bike, therefore leaving the key loose.

Another question which arose recently was that I got a puncture in my back wheel. I am not sure if it was a puncture from the hedge cutting on the country roads, or if it was a fault in the inner tube as the back wheel was always going flat if I left it a couple of days. Perhaps over the weeks the pressure had made the hole big enough to cause the bike to go down quicker. Half way home I noticed the bike to be sluggish, I used the throttle more than normal and it got me home with 3 lights showing (normally I get home with 4 lights on the battery). The bike also felt unsteady due to the lack of pressure in the tire. I thought I had to take the back wheel off and realized what to do about the motor and its wiring? I mailed the shop where I had ordered it and their response was very helpful, offering to ring me back and offer assistance. In short I had to unplug the wiring on the back wheel and then take the wheel off as normal. In the end I did not take the back wheel off, I disconnected the brakes and slipped the inner tube out, found the hole and repaired it. So there is 2 puncture patches on the back wheel so far.

On many of my trips to the boat I have been taking lots of extra gear and food, the panniers where full and heavy. The bike handled well with the added weight, so no problems there.

The Summer is Over…Long live the Autumn

One could say the “summer is over” all activities seem to have stopped and I find myself being “back at work” which for me is making small-pipes and busking. But I can still write about the various activities I have done over a month or so, some of which were a welcome change: a travel to Orkney (a birthday present to myself); sailing once more after a period of 3 years; going to Piping Live 2015 in Glasgow; and a trip to the Isle of Arran (my last visit was when I was 21, a few moons ago!), and where my small laptop got a wash in seawater and decided not to work again (the laptop I had used on many of my previous blog entries R.I.P.)

There was a new insight into my electric bike which I will add to the review blog. I will be reworking my Dinghy Cruising Association articles for the blog, as I think they could be of some use to those who wish to cruise the Solway Estuary.

Over the next few days/weeks I will be writing several blogs on these topics and others too, such as: folk sessions; a new Small-pipe workshop which will be in October; and unintentionally learning an old instrument, the recorder! An instrument I hated when I was at school, but I find myself starting again.

So the summer might be over but let’s look forward to the autumn!

Byocycle City Speed Review (update)

It’s been about 9 months since I got the electric bike and I have learned a few things from riding it. The first is not to treat it like a normal bike, it is not. The weight and size of its wheels make it a very poor bike compared to a full size racer or touring bike with 700 wheels. But it is a great bike and if you use it in a certain way it is just as good.

I use the different systems as gears; I use the systems for different tasks:

The gears can be used as normal, but I rarely go onto the 1st or 6th gear. I use gears on the flat, on the top of a hill, on the descent, when I am climbing using the pedal system, but I do not use gears all the time, the bike is too heavy for that.

The pedal system is the most used while riding. It adds to the cycling, the motor and the cycling leave the legs without stress or tiredness. While going uphill I have it on and it is like being pushed, on a long flat piece of road I use it to make the head wind a little easier to cycle against. I rarely have it on ‘medium’ or ‘high’, I use it in ‘low’ mostly. I use the gears 2-4 depending on the hill, if it is a long hill I use a lower gear.

The throttle system, I use sparingly, I get bored sitting there not doing anything. I use it on flats, when my legs are tired, when I am peddling and I want a bit of help. I use it to get over busy roads fast, or to get passed a bit of road which I do not want to be on. I use it to coast along, to move but not to speed.

All these systems are used in a cycle of about 25 miles round trip; sometimes I get off and walk up the bigger hills to use different muscles in my legs. The battery is still on ‘3 lights’ when I am finished.

I can pack it into my boat, and I intend to use it on some camping holidays later this year.

Of course there are disadvantages, one being the size of the wheels makes you pedal faster, but this can be solved by better technique. My tires keep on deflating I am not sure if this is due to the weight or a leaking valve, but I am blowing the tires up every other day. I do not know how to change the back inner tube due to all the electrics or where to oil the motor parts… there were no instructions for this.

Byocycle City Speed Review


I do not normally do reviews of things I buy, but I chose this electric bike after a lot of research, but there was a lot of info I could not find online or via the shop, so I thought to add to the reviews that are currently on line.

I bought this electric bike online, I did not see it or try it out before hand, a risk? Yes, as to send it back would cost… but the reviews were promising. 
I was looking at two bikes the Byocycle City Speed and the Wayfarer, both had similar spec and both had good reviews. There was very little in the way of videos, the Byocycle Cameleon had a few videos but the city speed was poorly documented. The Wayfarer had a couple of good videos which showed durability. The Cameleon looks the same as the City Speed, in fact only a few of the components are different if you compare them, but there is a big difference in price. 

Although I have not had my bike long (a few months) I have been on long bike rides, around trip of about 25 miles to and from the boat. The trip involves quite a lot of hills and gradual climbs and the weather is not always good. Today for example I had strong icy winds in my face and heavy showers. The roads I cycle on are farm roads, tractors often produce cracks and pot holes and generally uneven surfaces, so not the ‘typical’ conditions that the info uses for getting the most out your battery. The spec say the battery will last between 20-30 miles on flat terrain with no head wind! 
I generally cycle everywhere, I do not drive a car, I have had no interested in learning to drive, and I try not to use the bus or the train if I can help it. Cycling is my chosen transportation, good for a lifestyle, fitness and low cost. The bike I was looking for had to be practical and useful to the distances I needed it for. It is not for a pleasant ride on a Sunday…
This morning the battery was fully charged and I had little luggage to carry. I learned a few years ago not to cycle up steep hills. I get off and push the bike up. This is not laziness but it saves the chain and it stops lactic acid building up in the muscles, by using other muscles it leads to a less painful experience. I only do this a few times as I cycle to 25 mile round trip, generally I cycle. 
On my way to the boat I peddle as much as I can, I use the “peddle/motor” option when I need it on gradual hills and when I get tired legs. I try and be in 3rd gear when I use this option as otherwise I am pedalling for nothing, as least in 3rd I can add to the motor.  When I am not using the peddle/motor option I knock it off. 
By the end of the 12 miles I was feeling tired… this is not because I did not use the motor enough, but I think because of the weight of the bike one is pulling the equivalent of a loaded trailer, when you come off the peddle/motor option the bike slows down, you feel the weight underneath you, and you feel your legs having to push that weight along. It is like riding through treacle! 
Coming back from the boat I try out the “motor only option”. As my legs are tired I need to rest them on certain parts of the journey. Also when you use this option you can peddle and not use the battery. I prefer this as I can have more option depending on the terrain. 
By switching from ‘peddle/motor’ option (by holding down the button on the control box) it automatically switches to the ‘motor option’, I can access the motor while peddling by slowly moving the throttle leaver next to the hand grip. This can be unsteady to achieve the right amount, so I press my thumb into the hand grip and rotate my thumb next to the throttle, I can get minute variations to suit my leg requirements.  When I release the throttle again it feels like I am cycling through treacle, the weight of the bike is apparent. You need the motor for this bike… it is too heavy to go long distances without it. 
The lights are very good, very bright and penetrating, the front light is turned on/off by the control box on the handlebars, it is connected to the battery. You need to have the control box set on ‘motor option’ mode otherwise you will be peddling all the time whether you want to or not. The back lights are not connected to the battery, but they are good lights.
I like the bike stand it is useful, I like its sturdy frame especially when I fly down the hills, there is no shaking of the frame. 
After the ride I noticed the 3 green lights indicating the battery strength was still on green (all 3) so I have not used a lot of battery to achieve my 25 miles. I will keep experimenting how to use the bike more efficiently, maybe increase the usage of motor only on this hills and give my legs more of a rest.

a bunji elastic on the folded bike will keep it together, and it is a lot easier to transport.