(Re)building my bike

Since I was young I have always been interested in how stuff works. I have taken apart many a toy, and building Lego Technic sets was one of my favourite things to do when growing up. This curiosity remains to this day. As a bioscientist, I am fascinated with how life works, and as a lecturer, when new technology is introduced I am always looking for explanations of how things operate and where data comes from.

This need to understand also extends to my bikes. From the start of my commuting-by-bike journey I wanted to be able to do my own maintenance. Not just because it saves some cash (my bikes still get an annual service done by a professional mechanic), but because I think that if you know how things work, you can also appreciate using them more, and in most cases repair stuff when it inevitably breaks.

My road bike in particular receives a lot of abuse. It is used year round in all weathers for commuting 45 km daily. The cleaning, maintenance and service intervals are therefore short, and parts wear out quicker. I noticed a month ago that the bottom bracket was making a grinding noise on the left side, and a quick inspection revealed that the bearing was rough. Although I could have just replaced the bottom bracket, I decided the time was right to make the upgrade to 11 speed, something which I had been thinking about for a while but couldn’t really justify.

The old bottom bracket was making a grinding noise, and looked really grubby

I decided an upgrade to Shimano 105 R7000 would be ideal, as it is robust, relatively affordable, replacement parts are not too expensive and it is reliable, all the things you need for a bike that is used mainly for commuting. I asked my bike mechanic to order a full groupset minus the brakes (these had already been upgraded to 105 a few weeks before because I had to replace the rear brake caliper) and ordered some new bar tape.

Whilst waiting for the parts to arrive, I spent a lot of time reading up and watching YouTube videos on how to install groupsets. I had never done this before, so I had quite a bit to learn. Taking stuff apart is easy, putting it back together again is harder. I found a few YouTube channels particularly helpful, and by the time the part arrived I was somewhat confident that I would manage without major dramas.

The strip down, frame deep clean and installation went relatively smooth. The hardest part really was installing the heatshrink tube around the brake outers at the handlebars (idea from here) and the bar tape. All the rest was a matter of think twice, don’t forget to grease, and take your time. Part by part the bike came together, and after the best part of a day the bike went from Sora to full disassembly to 105.

Some fine tuning of the derailleurs and brakes later it was time for a shakedown ride. I went for the roughest tarmac I could find and spend half an hour trying to get parts to fall off. Luckily all that needed doing was torqueing up the seat post clamp as I forgot to before I left. The difference between old and new groupset was noticeable not just because of the extra two gears, but because of the difference in feel: post-upgrade everything feels more refined and sharper than before.

I am very happy with the process and the result, and am now confident that I can repeat the trick whenever it is needed, and replace every part myself should it break. Additionally, working on the bike was very therapeutic, and seeing it all come together was really satisfying.

Next on the list is replacing the lower headset bearing. Ideally I would have done this during the rebuild, but unfortunately the order didn’t arrive in time. I have the part on the shelf, just need to find some time to install it. In a year’s time I will be looking to respray the bike, so I am looking around for ideas and good frame painters. If you have suggestions, please leave them in a comment!

On cycle commuting, working from home, and mental health

During Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 I wrote a piece for online cycling magazine notinthepeloton:

https://www.notinthepeloton.com/post/cycle-commute-v-wfh

Starting them young

To make the most of the COVID-19 lock down, I decided it would be a good idea to teach my son how to ride his bike without stabiliser wheels. The community hall car park is locked and empty, so makes the perfect practice area.

After initially trying to keep him focused on where he is going by himself, I soon realised that his urge to be destructive could be used for the greater good here… I told him to use his bike to crush the cones, which worked like magic. He was so busy thinking about crushing cones, he forget to think about cycling. This way, he rode for close to an hour with minimal support and had great fun.

It took a few attempts, but it looks like he’s now got it. Time to buy him a new bike… #ProudDadMoment

Some observations after cycle commuting for the past year

In March 2019 I started commuting to work by bicycle regularly, building up slowly from once a week to now 4-5 days a week. During the past 12 months and riding about 2000 km, I have learned and observed a number of things which I feel are worth sharing. I have listed them below in no particular order.

My commuting/club riding/all purpose bike. 2019 Giant Contend 1. Lovely bike, very comfortable.
  1. Not all motorists are dangerous lunatics out to kill cyclists
    Contrary to what seems to the the prevailing opinion among those who commute by bicycle, I found that on the whole, most drivers are fairly considerate and realise cyclists are vulnerable road users. I have had many an occasion where cars stopped to let me enter onto a main road, or where they stayed behind me patiently until they could overtake safely. These drivers will always get a thank you from me. Ofcourse, there are the few rotten apples who think they are more important than anyone else (not just cyclists) and have cut be off or performed a dangerous overtake. One of them lost an expensive wing mirror because of this as they did not leave me an escape route after cutting across me… it was crashing into the curb or into the mirror, I chose the latter.
  2. Rain is annoying, but not for the reason you think
    Having cycled through the winter, I have dealt with a fair share of rain. Although riding on a nice sunny day is always better, rain is really not that bad if you dress accordingly: a good waterproof jacket, and a change of clothes at work/at home make it very manageable. The one thing that is very annoying though is visibility. As someone who needs glasses on a daily basis, I have learned that rain drops on glasses in the dark are very annoying. They prevent you from seeing what is ahead, and any headlight coming towards you will effectively blind you for a few seconds. If anyone knows of a good solution please do let me know.
  3. Winter is hard on bikes, very hard
    I have had to up my maintenance game significantly during the November – January period. The combination of wet weather, crud on roads, gritting salt and oily lubricants are incredibly tough on any moving parts. Both front and rear wheel hubs have had to have a full service after 6 months from new, and a full drivetrain deep clean is a weekly affair instead of a monthly one during the summer. Additionally, caliper brakes require a weekly decrudding as everything sticks to them. On the plus side, I have gotten a lot quicker at doing the weekly maintenance, and used it as an excuse to buy a decent set of bike tools.
Maintenance is a key skill if you want to save some money… and is also best taught early!
  1. Clothing is key, and layering is the secret
    During colder months, it is tempting to go for thick jackets and warm jerseys. However, I found that during my 45-50 min on the bike I get quite sweaty, so using multiple thinner layers is more effective. As a side-note, I have found that cycling clothing can be quite expensive, but that there are really good value items from cheaper brands that do very well too. My favourite brand for clothing at the moment is Triban (a mid-range Decathlon brand), which I find does really good value for money jerseys, jackets and tights. Slightly more expensive is DHB, which is still fairly good value for money. Cycling kit doesn’t need to be expensive, but I feel that paying a bit extra for a good quality jacket and scrimping a bit on a jersey works better than the other way around.
  2. Cycling improves both physical and mental health
    I have noticed that when I cycle to work, I arrive less stressed, and when I cycle home from work, I am more relaxed when I get home. More importantly, my family have noticed too, which encourages me even more to jump on the bike when the weather is less than ideal. My mental health has seem improvements since I started cycling, probably because riding for 2 hours a day gives me time to unwind, and I don’t have the luxury to be distracted by work-related thoughts when riding. Physically I feel fitter, although I have a few minor bike related niggles that started playing up. However, these should be easily solved by having a look at my position on the bike, so I will be looking for a professional bike fit over the next few weeks. It is not cheap, but as I spend 8-10 hours each week in the saddle, I think it is important that I am comfortable…

There are ofcourse other lessens learned, such as “falling off hurts, even at slow speeds”, but the above were some of the more regular thoughts I have had about my cycling commute. My 2020 goal is to complete the Cycling Weekly 5000 mile challenge, and to complete my first 100 km ride over the summer, hopefully commuting by bike will help me achieve these goals. Anyway, enough ramblings for now. Thanks for reading, and watch out for the next post.

Grounded Theory methodology symposium – UPDATED

UPDATE: My GTNetwork18 presentation can be found here.

Next week (22 November 2018) I will be presenting a paper at the inaugural Grounded Theory Network symposium at Liverpool John Moores University. The paper will focus on the justification of Glaserian grounded theory for investigating evidence-based practice by higher education course leaders. It should be a good experience, and a great general rehearsal for a manuscript I am preparing on the topic. For those interested I have made the abstract available here and the actual presentation here.

In addition to the presentation, I have also been invite to represent Glaserian grounded theory on a discussion panel and answer audience questions from my perspective. This is slightly more scary, as I am early on in my GT journey. However, it will be a good exercise and it has forced me to pick up the methodology literature again. Fingers crossed!

Final research proposal approved!

NEWS FLASH

NEWS FLASH: My formal #ARUEdD research proposal has been approved by the university! After preparing for it for the past two years as part of phase 1 of the EdD (best thing ever!), I feel relieved and excited that it is finally there. I am actually starting EdD Stage 2. Next on the list is to get ethical approval for my project, and then it is time to start collecting data. Scary stuff! I look forward to talking to colleagues and course managers in other institutions. I am passionate about this project, because it affects me personally, and I think the outcomes may make a real difference to those in my role.

If you are interested in the project, I have added the proposal to this website. Please find it here.

Another snippet of good news: my #EBCMgt review paper with Dr Philip Howlett has been published a few days ago in International Journal of Educational Management (find it at DOI: 10.1108/IJEM-09-2017-0250). A blog post about it is on its way, and related conference material can be found here.

RCVS Knowledge Summary 3

RCVSKnowledge

My third Knowledge Summary for Veterinary Evidence was published last week. It is on raw feeding and periodontal health in dogs, and is the result of joint work with James Oxley, who is a Writtle University College Animal Science graduate and is currently working as an independent researcher.

The paper can be found here: http://dx.doi.org/10.18849/ve.v3i3.153

On to the next one!

 

Poster presentation

On 26 July I will be presenting the following poster at the 12th Anglia Ruskin Annual Research Student Conference. Click on the poster to get a copy of the corresponding abstract. Alternatively, click here.

2018 PGR Conference Poster NV

RCVS Knowledge Summary 2

RCVSKnowledge

My second Knowledge Summary for Veterinary Evidence was published last week. It is on raw feeding and urinary tract health in dogs, and is the result of joint work with Emma Taylor, who is a Writtle University College Animal Science graduate and is currently finishing an MSc in Veterinary Microbiology at the University of Surrey before starting a PhD at Surrey Vet School.

The paper can be found here: http://dx.doi.org/10.18849/ve.v3i2.155

On to the next one!

 

Grounded Theory Seminar

causeway
Causeway Business Centre, Petersfield

On 24 and 25 May I attended a Grounded Theory (GT) seminar in Petersfield. This seminar, led by Dr Helen Scott (Grounded Theory Online) with a surprise Skype appearance from Prof Tom Andrews (UC Cork) is aimed at doctoral researchers in all stages of their doctoral journey and intends to give researchers a platform to discuss their research, and to seek guidance from GT experts and peers.

I decided to attend this seminar as I am currently in the proposal stage for my EdD and was struggling with my understanding of the method and what it would look like in practice. Unfortunately Glaser’s approach of “Just do it” (no swoosh here, Glaser coined the term before a big sports clothing company did) is not the most helpful when you are trying to write a proposal as not only a novice GT researcher, but also a novice qualitative researcher.

I set of on my journey early on the 24th, and soon realised the M25 is a pig! After 3.5 hours I finally arrived in Petersfield, in a very nice business centre in what appeared to be a grade-listed building. After a friendly welcome and some much needed coffee, the seminar was underway. It was a small group, with seven researcher from various fields (urban transport, nursing, psychotherapy, business management, policing, ICT and education management) in various stages of their research (range: proposal writing stage – thesis writing-up stage).

Day 1 started with an overview and discussion of the GT research process. Although all of us were familiar with classic Grounded Theory, it was good to see that there was plenty of discussion on various details of the process, such as the purposes of properties, dimensions and degrees of a concepts, and how this affects GT research practice. Importantly, the discussions did not only address theory, but there was plently of talk about practice and GT in real life (real life is messy, but GT can cope with that).

After this, it was my turn to present my project, where I am in my journey and what I am struggling with. Although I had given this some though on the way in (plenty of time to think when you’re stuck in traffic), it was hard to put my concerns into coherent words. I am still not sure why, but I think it had something to do with being around people who were further on in the journey, and I am still getting used to the GT language. Confidence is a weird thing. However, I managed to talk through my project with Helen, and received some great peer-input from the rest of the group. This is what I think was the best aspect of the seminar: talking stuff through with other doctoral GT researchers, and hearing their experiences, woes and worries. As a result, I am now much more confident, and felt able to contribute to further discussions.

After a lovely lunch in a very nice garden, we discussed three more GT projects, during which everyone contributed and some lively discussions were had. It was now time to go to my hotel and have some dinner. I was fortunate in that two other seminar attendees stayed in the same hotel. We ended up having a great discussion over dinner and a few beers, evaluating the day and discussing our research. With my mind buzzing with research ideas and my brain turned to mush I went to bed.

Day 2 started with a brief recap from day 1, after which we went on to discuss another 3 grounded theory projects. Valuable discussions were held, and I felt much more able and confident to contribute to discussions and ask probing questions. My role as a lecturer came in handy as I could provide one attendee who was an MRes student with some advice. After another lovely lunch, we switched to practicing coding and memoing from an interview transcript provided by Helen. As a group I think we did a decent job, and again I felt confident I could make a valuable contribution. It turns out Glaser is right: you do really learn GT bu doing it. After a bit of an uncertain start, I got the hang of it and now understand coding a lot better. towards the end of the exercise, Helen shared with us her codes for the interview, and it was quite remarkable how similar our codes were; grounded theory is a powerful method!

We ended the day with a surprise Skype visit from Professor Tom Andrews, who shared with us his take on grounded theory. Tom was unfased by the technical difficulties we experienced and patiently answered our questions. It was really useful to hear from another GT expert, and hearing him confirm much of what we heard over the past two days. I now have Tom’s most recent paper on GT which I look forward to reading and incorporating it in my final #ARUEdD paper.

Overall, the grounded theory seminar has been a great experience. I have learned a lot, and feel much more confident that I will not make as much silly mistakes in my research as I would have done if I had not had this experience. I will most likely return in a year or two to get more assistance. I would wholeheartedly recommend the GT seminar to everyone considering or undertaking classic grounded theory research. Apart from the subject matter, it was incredibly valuable to discuss my work and woes with others doing similar research, and to simply network with like-minded researchers. We now have a Grounded Theory WhatsApp group, and it is going to be good to stay in touch!

If you are interested in a grounded theory seminar, or in grounded theory as a research method, please have a look here. I have no affiliation with Grounded Theory Online, but they are very helpful!