I have heard it said, that one of the hardest things to mount on your bike is a rear rack. I can confirm that this is pretty much true. I bought a cheap one from Tesco of all places, (it was further reduced due to some of the black finish being scraped off), in order to add it to the Shopper that I have been restoring. Upon realising with horror that I have once again forgotten to book my car in for its MOT, I decided to pop it on the Lemond Etape, to prepare for some possible commuting. Luckily the rack came with many different sizes of bolt and fixings and, nice touch, ny-lock nuts. Still there was a good 30 minutes of using tweezers to offer up nuts in confined spaces and also contorting myself round the bike to get enough torque to turn the hex keys. All done now though, the Rivendell panniers fit nicely and my laptop bag will fit in one of the panniers, leaving the other for a change of clothes. Now to check the weather for Monday’s commute to Salisbury…

…Hmmm, sunny intervals, sounds like the weatherfolks are hedging their bets.

I can’t wait to see John’s face when he sees the rack, he does despair of my non race-style additions to the bike and my attire. To be fair, carbon forks, aluminum frame and canvas panniers is not the most consistent look.

Published in: on June 21, 2008 at 10:48 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , , ,

31 mile commute

I decided to ride to work in Salisbury today, I estimated it would be a journey of 30 miles and it would take me about two hours. The route was through the Wylye Valley though I started off on the A36, it was just before seven in the morning and there was not much traffic on the road. I reckoned I would be out of Warminster and going through Sutton Veny by the time the traffic on the main roads started hotting up. The weather was beautiful, already at the early hour the day was warming up nicely, having said that, there was still a morning chill, not that I suffered, for I was wearing my Swobo merino wool jersey – cool in the heat, warm in the cold.

national cycle route 24 sign

Arriving at Sutton Veny I was locked right into National Cycle Network route 24, and a splendid route it is, wide roads and next to no traffic. Every car with any sense is on the A36 which runs near enough parallel to this route. The road weaves around, over and under the railway line like a tarmac double helix, the only thing to look out for are farm trucks, tractors, diggers and local buses. There even appears to be a weird deficit of 4x4s on the road. I made it door to door in exactly two hours, it was thirty one miles.

The return journey was into a nasty headwind which had sprung up at about 2pm, it had clouded over as well. I hadn’t eaten enough for lunch so by the time I reached Wylie I was suffering. The rucksack – my father’s mountaineering backpack from the 60s was damn heavy, to top it all off, the post office was shut for half day closing. I limped into Boyton and slewed into the farm shop there. Immediately I was accosted by an assistant urging me to try some lime curd. Of course, in my starved, low blood sugar state – the taste was as though heaven had flooded into the fibre of my very being, as the subtle flavour exploded over my palette I practically had a religious experience and immediately added it to the pile of cheese, meats and flap jacks I had already hungrily picked up. I rode down the road with my purchases, stomach gurgling and legs hardly able to spin the cranks. Collapsing into a grassed gateway I clawed open the bag of tuck and began to devour everything bar the lime curd. Ten minutes later I was sated and back on the bike. It was still heavy going but at least I had some energy. I cut through Heytsbury and into Warminster that way thinking it was a shortcut, but in the end it added another 1.5 miles to the total. I knew Lucy and her mother were at the curves gym in Warminster at some point in the evening, so I meandered hopefully into the carpark to find they had just arrived. Thankfully they were able to take the incredibly heavy backpack leaving me much lighter for the final six miles back to the village. I arrived at the boy’s grandparents’ house 2hours and 40 mins after setting off from Salisbury – a huge difference from the journey there. Total 64 miles.

Some pics from the ride:

Into the Valley of The Wylye

t shirt one t shirt two

Many years ago, while I worked for Ottakar’s books, all the staff took part in a company wide effort to raise money for the children of Deogarh in India. One of things I did was a sixty mile cycle ride to our head office in Salisbury from Trowbridge, and back again. Considering how unfit I was at the time, it was an epic undertaking. John (who I still ride with on the Wednesday rides) was our guide, taking us into Salisbury via the beautiful Wylye Valley, rather than the hell that would have been the A36. At the top of this post you can see the front and rear of the T-shirt I made for the ride. I made one for everyone with the rider’s name on the back and their number, 1-4 on the front and sleeve. Below are some more pics from the ride.


On Saturday I took a ride out from the village and ended up retracing some of the route we took on the sponsored cycle ride. We had been promised foul weather, but although it was very gusty, there was no rain in the air. I headed for Dilton Marsh, then took the road up The Hollow. This was the steep hill that saw one member of the group simply exclaim “Oh F*** off!” and dismounting to walk up as soon as he saw the gradient. I remember cycling up behind John, but being unable to breathe at the top as we waited for the other two to walk it. This time I took it with ease, crossed over the road and headed for Upton Scudamore. On the way I passed the layby and bridge where in April I had seen a seriously filthy amount of flytipped rubbish. I’m happy to say that someone has tidied it up. here’s a before and after for you:

Rubbish! Little or no rubbish!

Through Upton and over the main road to another ghost road. A fragmented old stretch of tarmac overgrown and crow-haunted, it deposited me almost by the Warminster sign, next to a crab apple tree by the side of the road. The back roads of Warminster saw me wondering if I was taking the right route. It seemed to me that in retrospect, the sponsored riders appeared to have stopped off at every grocery shop on the way. I crossed Imber Road and sped down long stretches of tarmac dotted with speed bumps, still not 100% sure of where I was going, sat up in the saddle with one hand on the handlebars I drifted towards Bishopstrow with the vague recollection that we had at some point crossed the A36 via a bridge. The only way that could have happened was if we had gone over the Warminster bypass. So I headed that way, tacking my back a little like a sail to allow the tail wind to push me through Bishopstrow village and, yes, over the A36. There was little traffic on the road and I crossed the bubbling Wylye river in peace. Here on the backroads I simply turned the cranks and enjoyed bicycling, cow parsley brushed my shins as I rode close to the verge. A myriad range of birds, swallows, buntings, finches and sparrows, dipped and sped across the road at head height. Sometimes they stalled into the wind, flapping wildly but unable to make headway as the gusts rose and fell. Across the tall grass in the field, the wind blew in eddies and currents; where the evening sun struck the seedheads the ripples of light moved over the surface of the field, tracking the path of the zephyrs like waves on water.

Rather like when fishing, cycling connects you intimately to the movements of the breeze. On the banks of a pool or lake, with the bait in the water, you notice that the wind rarely moves in one direction. You will see your float drift one way, then another. After a while you learn the subtle changes that signal a change of wind direction. So it is on the bike, the wind is moving around you all the time, a gust will almost stop you in your tracks, but then as it dies it creates a sort of patch of pressure where the wind seems to be sucked back the other way, suddenly driving you forwards. On such days it can feel as though you are being pushed and pulled along, you can ride on the drops when the wind is against you, but sit up tall to take advantage of a sudden tailwind. When the sun is out, it can be quite enjoyable, so much more than sheer, baking heat and still air.

At Sutton Veny I decided I had gone far enough and turned towards the Warminster bypass roundabout. It was a brief ride into the wind, then left, leaving the wind mainly on my right. By the time I got to the lead up to the crest of Black Dog Hill, I was glad of the lorries and using them to draft up the gradient. I arrived back at the house having notched up twenty six miles. Leaving me only twenty to thirty miles in order to rack up 1000 miles on the Lemond Etape since Feb 2007.

In Praise of Old Tools

business card of Penny Farthing Tools Salisbury

I’m sitting outside, typing on the laptop, waiting for John to arrive, we’re going on the Wednesday ride, at the moment it looks like a trundle round the Frome bypass then up a stupidly big hill under the forest, sounds interesting, and more on that later.

As I’ve started restoring this old shopper, it’s given me a good excuse to have an overview of my tools. A workshop is a fine thing to have access to, it allows you a place for your tools, and of course, the space to actually own some. I think it’s a shame that many of my friends have less than the bare minimum of tools in their houses. The attitude these days is that if something’s broke, buy another. I remember my wife’s Uncle Roger telling me how his grandfather, a ship builder lavished incredible care on his tools, and never recovered from having a portion of them stolen. Although I have bought a fair few tools brand new, I tend to pick up other ones as donations, or from shops like Penny Farthing Tools in Salisbury. Penny Farthing is a terrific store, essentially it seems to be in an old garage, but it is packed, absolutely packed with amazing tools. Some are specialist or collector’s items, but alongside all that you will find a box of spanners where everything is 50 pence, or an old oil can for a couple of quid. I absolutely cannot leave without spending some money – often only two pound fifty or so, but coming away with a nice tool, such as a well used spanner, or a wire brush drill attachment – or even as I did once, a German Engineer’s folding ruler that folds out to two meters.

penny farthing tools - salisbury

I am reaching the stage now where when I need a tool for something, I actually have it in the workshop, I recall the days when I would be having to take a trip to the hardware store for a new screwdriver or wire cutter. At the moment though, I own very few bike tools beyond tyre levers, chainbreakers (2) box spanners and bike size hex keys. I could also do with a magnetic tray to hold small parts.

Luckily for my bank balance, Penny Farthing’s only bike tool was an old fashioned bike spanner. Well, it was their only bike tool, until I bought it.

Aspice Christophorum et Tutus Viam Carpe – ding ding!

I was in Salisbury yesterday, for work purposes, and had to go to Waitrose on the way home to pick up some chow for tea. As regular readers of The Highway Cycling Group will know, I like to take photos of bikes that are chained up outside shops. I struck some gold this time. I saw an old lady, dressed in a big coat and a woolly hat locking up her bike, which looked like quite a nice traditional style roadster of the sit up and beg variety. As she wondered into the store I took a closer look at her steed. It was laced with rust, the cables, once white, were discoloured, and much of the protective paint had come off the basket. In time honoured tradition of old lady’s bikes, the tatty old seat was covered in classic style with a plastic carrier bag. However, the handlebars had a beautiful shiny bell mounted on them. It was quite large, and as I moved in close, I could see it had a St Christopher on there, surrounded by the words “Aspice Christophorum et Tutus Viam Carpe” – which I guess means something like “Look at St Christopher and travel on safely“. St Christopher of course being the patron saint of travellers, but he’s also revered by athletes; mariners; ferrymen; people who carry things; archers; automobile drivers; bachelors; boatmen; bookbinders; epilepsy; floods; fruit dealers; fullers; gardeners; lorry drivers; mariners; market carriers; porters; sailors; surfers; and transportation workers.

Fabulous! A search showed that these bells, often made in Germany, come up from time to time on ebay, fetching around USD 20 or so. Nice. This one was so shiny in comparison to the rest of the bike, it looked like maybe it was a gift for the old lady. I hope it was.

Published in: on March 20, 2008 at 9:07 pm  Comments (8)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Bikes Outside Shops (Part I)

bike outside shopbristol bike outside shopmore bike outside shopnice bikebike vs trolleypashley princess with child seat

Recently I’ve started taking pictures of bikes I see outside shops, here’s a selection from Bristol and Salisbury.

More at the Highway Cycling Group Flickr page here.

Published in: on March 2, 2008 at 12:04 am  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , , ,

The Salisbury Branch – Cycling in The New Forest

This just in from our Salisbury branch courtesy of Novemberfive blogger Jez. A brief write up of an excursion to The New Forest upon Mountainbike steeds. Read about it here.

Mrs Whitworth tackles some gnarly singletrack

Carrying lots of Tools with a Brompton

Some swine had kicked in the door of my father-in-law’s outbuilding last night so I was on hand this afternoon to help put on a new massive bolt and padlock, which should hopefully hold it until he can get the door fixed. The weird thing was nothing was taken, not even the incredibly expensive sets of golf clubs. My in-laws live down the hill from us and two roads down, a slightly convoluted route by road despite the short distance as the crow flies. Not easy to have to haul a pile of tools there and back by hand. I hate the idea of using the car to move stuff around in the village so I thought I would bring the necessary tools down using the Brompton. It’s amazing how much stuff you can fit in the Touring Pannier.

The brompton fully loaded with tools and reading material.

Inside the Touring Pannier.

In all I carried:

  • 1200rpm Electric drill
  • Large case containing 50 piece drill bit set
  • Large fixings box containing bolts nuts and washers
  • Sharktooth twincut saw
  • 1m steel rule
  • Piece of plywood
  • Sanding block
  • Sand paper
  • Additional hole boring drillbits
  • Bradle
  • Drill chuck
  • Box of two different sizes of screws and wall-plugs
  • Copy of Rodinsky’s Room by Rachel Lichtenstein and Iain Sinclair which I am reading at the moment

There was still plenty of room in the bag. Handling was barely affected and weirdly it seemed to run smoother, even though I was wearing enormous trousers and therefore cycling with my feet half off the pedals to avoid them catching on the casters. I recall this being the case when I transported five copies of Nick Mason’s gigantic biography of Pink Floyd in the same bag along the Town Path in Salisbury. As long as the bike is kept upright it’s ok. I think that with an empty bag and the weight off the front the handling is skittish as I put the power into the cranks, the bike tends to want to pull off the ground with the effort. The weight of the bag seems to ensure the wheel stays glued to the road and the transfer of power goes unhindered to the chainwheel. Sure the acceleration is a little slower but it definitely rides along much more smoothly.

Rodinsky’s Room is excellent by the way, I can’t recommend it enough.

Published in: on September 1, 2007 at 10:02 pm  Comments (7)  


brompton on the trainbrompton on the train part twoWes and daisy and my brompton

I had to go to Salisbury for work purposes today. Just to make it interesting, my car is due its MOT and is therefore off the road, so I had to bike from the village to Trowbridge to catch the train. The ride of choice was of course the Brompton. Unlike the good old days of the ‘guards van’, most rail operators in the UK won’t let you take your bike onboard the train without a reservation, even then it’s not certain you will get on the train with your bike, the conductor may still turn you away for any number of reasons. It’s a major bone of contention with cyclists, and a symptom of extreme short-sightedness in the rail operators (and indeed transport policy-makers). It would be fantastic to just get on the train with your bike without any hassle and head on to South Wales, The Cotswalds, Scotland, where-ever. I’d love to just load the bike onto the guard’s van, meeting up with other cyclists as they come and go from the train. It’s not some weird cycling utopian dream (like ‘why can’t everywhere be like Centre Parcs’), it’s how it used to be. I have fond memories of being in the guard’s van with my dad on the way to London. There was always a cat in a cage, a massive trunk, two tea chests and at least four cyclists at any one time. The floors were wooden and well-worn, planks moving about as the train bogies swung round the corners, alarming creaks and rattles coming from everywhere, great fun. Well those days are over, the idea of having to reserve a space for your bike, or not take it on certain services during certain peak times of day, seems to me to be the antithesis of what cycling represents; freedom and spontaneity in travel. So what can you do if you want to turn up unannounced on the train with your bike and still be allowed to take it on board? The answer is buy a folding bicycle. As far as I am aware all train operators allow them on board fully folded. In theory the bike should also be covered, but in the few years I’ve been taking the Brompton on trains I’ve never had any bother with my bike being uncovered, though I know others have.
Anyway, got up late, missed the first train, caught the second, had to wait at Westbury station for ages. On the Southampton train I stored the bike in the luggage/disabled area (I would have given the space up if anyone needed it) and relaxed for the 20 mins into Salisbury. Relaxed a bit too much, fell asleep, arrived grumpy and befuddled. Still Zoe, one of my colleagues in espace solutions LLP (websites:design:consultancy), soon cheered me up, firstly by giving me her dogs to look after while she dropped her girls off at nursery, and secondly by handing me a much needed cup of tea. I changed out of my enormous trousers into more suitable work attire, did a job of work, then after a nice little ride through town I caught the train back. I noticed that the clip holding the handlebars to the wheel when the bike is folded is starting to fail, leading to the handlebars unfolding when I pick it up. I know it’s possible to get a custom made clip so I’ll need to look into that, either that or make my own.

I decided to get off at Warminster and cycle back that way. Not sure why, I think I just prefer the A36 to the A361, not that there’s much in it really. Also, from warminster there was more downhill. It was spitting with rain, thankfully I’d just missed a downpour (about 0.25 inch of rain) and the ride back was pretty easy. I think that constitutes the longest single ride I’ve done on the Brompton, a mere eight or so miles. However, I did have the front bag loaded up with a laptop, my filofax, my notebook and a complete change of clothes.

Novemberfive Bikecam

My chum Jez (author of the blog Novemberfive), built a mount for his camera to go on his bike. Here is the latest of his bikecam films, join him as he rides to his allotment and back. Nice views of Salisbury’s leafy streets, green areas and underpass system.

I found Salisbury to be a really nice city to ride round, there are a few hills but nothing unmanageable. There is fairly reasonable provision for cyclists although the boxes at nearly all the traffic lights could do with a fresh lick of paint; Often I would arrive at the lights on my brompton to find 4x4s occupying the space, crawling forwards with drivers on the phone. Also a monster pothole outside Waterstone’s once ate the back wheel of my Brompton, necessitating a complete rebuild and a fresh tube. Apart from that, Salisbury is a bikey city.

Published in: on June 8, 2007 at 12:49 pm  Leave a Comment