T25 rust attack - driver's footwell

Since buying the van earlier in the year I haven't had chance to pull up the mats properly and find out what was underneath a think layer of wax protector. Well... below you have it.

The floor has been replaced sometime, but I don't understand why the metal wasn't undercoated - only protected by the wax. hence it went rusty. I've sanded it back .

Look what I found. A couple of holes near the accelerator pedal. I will need to patch these up!

Look what I found. A couple of holes near the accelerator pedal. I will need to patch these up!

After cleaning it up and wiping it down with turps, I added  Hamorite Krust . It claims to turn any rust into a clean surface 'after 15 minutes'. It converts iron oxide into stable iron composites.

After cleaning it up and wiping it down with turps, I added Hamorite Krust. It claims to turn any rust into a clean surface 'after 15 minutes'. It converts iron oxide into stable iron composites.

VW aircooled mechanics: South West

Finding a good air-cooled mechanic in Gloucestershire is a bit like finding hen's teeth. But after widening my search I've hit upon what looks like some good options.

  • VW Camper Co - near Banbury. They offer some very expensive conversions.
  • Karlin Ltd - Warwick. Looks like a small but specialist garage.
  • ManFlowers - Evesham. Good work, but too busy to help me.
  • North Street VW - main dealer near Stow on the Wold

After speaking to the team at North Street, who came recommended, it turns out the guy that used to carry out all the air-cooled work has left. But he's willing to come back in and do jobs. He's 60 years old and has been working on air-cooled engines for many years…. let's see what the price is!

Photo by Sorapop/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Sorapop/iStock / Getty Images

VW camper floor clean up

When you buy a camper van you need to have the right approach. DIY jobs need to be little and often. Or maybe, major and often. Today I pulled up the front mats to the front footwells.

The floor panels have been replaced in the past, but they were starting to rust. I have started to sand down through the rust, but it doesn't look too bad. There is much worse elsewhere, but I better protect what's good.

Searching for Dr Drip

My VW camper was in the garage for a good few weeks as the pushrod tubes were replaced. Due to a seal breaking, the camper was leaking oil, badly. We've had it back for a couple of weeks... and now I've discovered, to my horror, that the problem isn't fixed. It looks like the crankshaft seal has gone as well. Oh joy.

But finding a mechanic that enjoys working on VW aircooled engines isn't easy. However, I'm compiling a list of aircooled mechanics around Gloucestershire and I'll post them up here soon.

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First ride: Rose Xeon CGF Team

The first sight of the Rose Xeon doesn't disappoint. In gleaming white and with restrained graphics, it looks a class act. With the seatpost high it has a purposeful stance and looks raring to go. I immediately noticed the weight. This bike is featherweight compared to my previous alloy and steel bikes.

Two things that really stand out with the first look are the hydraulic SRAM Red shifters upfront and the rear brake neatly tucked under the bottom bracket. The SRAM Double Tap gear change system is simple to get to grips with and the gear lever gives a solid click to ensure you know a gear change is about to engage.

When you hit the roads of North Gloucestershire you are never far away from a slow grinding hill or something that feels like you're riding up a vertical wall. The gearing is perfect for these roads. The engineers have done a great job at creating a frame that is stiff and comfortable. It soaks up all the bumps with ease and handled a pot hole with ease.

The Rose carbon road frame is also very stable. A friend recently moved to carbon and complained of a fidgety ride and it being blown about. This bike is rock solid on the road.

It's is a cycling cliche, but you do feel as though all the power you put through the pedals is transferred onto the road. While riding the bike it seems to scream out for more, whether that's up or downhill. Just keep pedaling.

This is where my fitness starts to lag, as the tempo of the ride is much higher than normal and no breaks between bursts of energy. Over the next few weeks I'll look to improve stamina and only then will I start to get the most out of the bike.

What's really surprising is that Rose road bikes don't get much coverage here in the UK. The other big German manufacturer, Focus, receives much more exposure. So Rose bikes really are hidden gems.

 

Can the right road bike transform your performance?

I once read that the right road bike can make up 20% of a rider's performance. So with my first rides lined up for my new Rose Xeon, I wanted to test this theory.

For the last few years I've been riding alloy and steel bikes weighing 10kg+, so moving down to under 7kg should make some difference. But how much, in the real world? I ride at the weekends, but no way am I a club cyclist. Just an enthusiast loner out early on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

So I've plucked some numbers out of Strava. And the results speak for themselves.

20 miles - 1,700ft of climbing - 10% improvement

  • Alloy bike - 1hr 38min - av speed 13mph - top speed 40.5mph
  • Rose Xeon - 1hr 29min - av speed 14mph - top speed 45.6mph - 7 personal bests

30 miles - 1,600ft of climbing - 18% improvement

  • Alloy bike: 2hr 10min - av speed 13.3mph - top speed 39.4mph
  • Rose Xeon: 1hr 50min - av speed 15.9mph - top speed 42.6mph - 7 personal bests

So there you have it, some of the (roughly calculated) real world improvements I've seen to my Strava times. I believe the improvements will get better as I get used to the bike and I adjust my technique to the lighter weight.

Introducing the Rose Xeon CGF Team

UPDATE: one year on review of Rose Xeon CGF

When buying a new road bike at around £1,000 you have a tough challenge. You can go for a top of the range aluminium bike with a good groupset. Or a bottom of the range carbon offering with a lower groupset. For me the differences between both options are negligible. To make the change worthwhile you should aim for carbon and the highest groupset possible.

Looking online and trawling eBay hasn''t delivered any worthy options. I like the Hoy range, but the aesthetics of the bike are questionable and it's aluminium. The Boardman bikes get great reviews, but I'm already planning how I can upgrade elements of it.

But I'm not despairing as I've discovered Rose bikes. A German manufacturer that sells direct. The bikes and the spec are really impressive from £800 upwards. The frame weights are also fantastic for both alloy and carbon. I reckon you get 30% more for your money.

Last week I joined the Rose Bikes Facebook page and asked if there were any ex-demo bikes available...... and there are.

A carbon version of the Xeon CGF Team is available. With a carbon frame, high spec SRAM groupset and decent DT Swiss wheels, it weighs in at just 6.9kg. Even better is that it's an ex-demo which means it's discounted by 50%. Watch this space.

 

This is an alloy version of the Rose Xeon.

This is an alloy version of the Rose Xeon.

Times are changing

When it comes to bikes, I've always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. All the guys at the weekend dressed in lycra, zipping around on bikes that far exceed their capabilities. Carbon frames, electronic shifting, aero wheels. Trek. Cannondale, Giant. Yawn. I'll stick to steel and cheap alloy bikes - thank you very much!

But things changed today as I  struggled up a hill and a rider passed me as though there wasn't even a hill. I was huffing and chuffing while he sped away on his flashy carbon bike (however, he still looked as though he was dressed as a condom).

I've bitten the bullet and started looking. But I will always refuse pink lycra.

I'm just bitter as everyone is faster than me.

I'm just bitter as everyone is faster than me.

WOT no van

In the last post I spoke about my CamperPlan. However, things haven't been going to, errr, plan. It's been at the garage for weeks, as they try to fix the pushrod tubes.

First the machanic was on holiday, then JustKampers sent the wrong tubes, then the new ones didn't fit and then they didn't rewire correctly so it wouldn't start.

A key learning for those new to VW campers. Only go to aircooled specialists.

The AA didn't have anything to do with the muck up. Just the garage.

The AA didn't have anything to do with the muck up. Just the garage.

The VW CamperPlan

We've had the VW T25 for a couple of months now and we love it. We've picnicked, camped, cruised and tinkered with it. I love driving it, you're just so relaxed as the engine chugs along and it makes the distinctive aircooled engine sound.

It's also been in the garage a couple of times. And is still there...

My plan was simple. In the first few months drive it as much as possible, with the aim of breaking things. We then replace the weak elements to make the van reliable, so we can go on long trouble-free family trips.

The current issue is an oil leak, which requires the engine to be taken out, so the leaking pushrod tubes can be replaced. Arrggghhhh. But I guess that's what driving a classic car is about.

The good news is that the family still love the van (I think) and we're looking to get it in tip top condition, so we can use it for holidays next year. Well, that's the plan.

While we on holiday we started to make big plans for next year. Rather than arranging home exchanges and doing 1,800 mile round trips to the black Forest, we'll find Devon campsites near the beach and travel 200 miles. 

The objective is to build:

"A camper van that can travel across the UK and be somewhere we can stay dry and warm for five nights."

I need to work on the details, but it's split into: be reliable, be heated, be light at night, be secure, be well equipped, be good to drive and be a good investment. Simples....

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The Colnago is back on the road

It's taken a few weeks longer than I thought and cost a few more £s than expected, but my Colnago is back on the road. It was fully stripped and cleaned. I discovered a seized headset and buckled wheels. I've replaced the seat, upgraded brake and gear cables, new tyres and brakes from the shed.... and it's looking good. I would like to add brakes and tyres from the same era.

It's a steel framed bike and rides really well. And the brakes perform brilliantly. I'm looking forward to taking it out properly at the weekend. The only issue is the gearing - you have to work hard to get it up the hills. Going downhill fast isn't a problem.

Paint matching cycle frame

I've searched through old pictures and catalogues to try and find what frame and model this Colnago is. It's obviously been upgraded over the years from 7 speed to 8 speed, as the rear spacing is 126mm.

However I haven't found which model it is, so I took a trip down to Halfords with my forks to try and match the blue with a spray can. This is when I discovered they offer a very smart service. They mix paints. They normally created match pots for a wide variety of cars going back many years.

But with a big smile and enthusiasm, I persuaded the chap at Halfords to help me try and match the blue. We searched through the booklets of car colours until we found the closest match and then we added more blacks and blues to try and get it close.

I walked away with a paint pot that seems pretty close.... we'll see what happens soon.

Colnago stripped bare

So the project begins.

To be honest this is a couple of weeks in. The first problem was a frozen in headset that I soaked in WD40 and other oils, but couldn't budge it. In the end I bit the bullet and took it to a bike shop. They had the tools and muscle to break it free.

The headset was a rare Stronlight from the 90s that didn't a special spanner to release it. Unfortunately I couldn't track down the tool, so I've ordered a new Campagnolo Record headset from Wiggle.

There are some nasty scuffs on the forks, so I want to try and cover those up a little, somehow.

Stripped bare.... the clean up begins

Bikes as art

Mark Jones Velo Art paintings are hand crafted original artworks that celebrate bicycles and cycling. 'Velo Art' and ‘Still life cycle’ acrylic on canvas range of paintings reflect a passion for the cycle.

You can see them in person at the Look Mum No Hands Hackney Cafe, London and Zappi's Cycle Cafe, Oxford.

Next exhibition is the UK handmade bicycle show 2014 at the Olympic Velodrome, London