Off the back of a lorry

Spotted from the passenger seat. The lifting device looks a little extreme for getting the bike on there. But it’s a nice bicycle!

bike on back of lorry

bike on back of lorry

bike on back of lorry

Published in: on June 7, 2010 at 9:22 pm  Comments (2)  
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Dusting off, tightening, oiling, riding

When Lucy’s mum decided, quite rightly, that the lean-to needed sorting out she attacked the job with gusto, pulling everything out, and sorting through the accumulated junk with a mind to a lot of it heading for the recycling centre. However, her eye was taken by the old red Richmond ladies bike I had picked up from an elderly neighbour for a tenner. This was a fine, if old, sit-up-and-beg roadster in good condition apart from a little rust on the back mudguard and rack, and a manky bell.

I said I’d clean it up if she wanted to give it a go. I dug out the size 14-16 spanners and set about tightening things up. The chain was foul, it looked like the dreaded 3in1 machine oil had been used to coat the links, which had then attracted every particle of soil and dust available until a greasy sludge hid the rivets. It took a good thirty minutes to get it down to bare metal. The chain itself was in pretty good condition, so a bit of dry lube later the links were purring over the sturmey archer 3 speed’s cog as I took a test ride to the garage. The brakes were not superb, neither were the tyres, but the creaking coming from the saddle was not unpleasant to listen to, although the saddle itself was nasty, plastic and unyielding.

I rode it back up the hill to the house, just in time to hand it over to Lucy’s mother who had come back to give it a go. It now lives at her house, which is immensely pleasing, otherwise the bike may have just turned into yet another of those bike refurb projects that I start but never finish.

bike and chainNext I turned my attention to my youngest son’s bike. This bicycle was the one our eldest learned to ride on, but now he has his BMX. Our youngest taught himself how to ride in an afternoon, with a little help from his grandfather. The bike itself has been a little neglected, and in true first bike style had been left out in all weathers. But it’s very robust, so with more tightening, pulling the wheel back to tighten the chain, and some oil (this time on a pretty rusty chain) it was hammering round the park and the grandparent’s drive again with all the grace of a bespoke racer. Sort of.

Both my full-size bikes need some attention – a snapped spoke on the Lemond and a slight buckle on the MTB. The Brompton is still working though, and I’ve been using it on the occasional commute to Frome.When I find the time, I’ll get those repaired. The Nocturnal riding season is upon us!

Published in: on June 6, 2010 at 9:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Photos – Cycle Camp in Normandy, France

Amazing cycling with the Explorers in France, during April. One thing I will say though, going from Cherbourg to Caen is the wrong direction when it’s that windy.

We took the fast ferry over to Cherbourg on the Thursday morning (little did we know that as we were setting off, a certain volcano in Iceland had gone a bit explodey) arriving in Cherbourg in plenty of time to get lost coming out of the port. Eventually we broke free from the endless ring roads and wheezed up a steep hill into the glory of the Normandy countryside. Thereafter the rides were superb, the French courteous, the food amazing, and the time had good. We rode about 40 miles maximum each day, staying in municipal camp sites for most nights, except for the second night where we found an amazing little site run by a family, where we could camp out of the wind, and order breakfast to be delivered from the bakery. We visited several of the major sites of D-Day. The Explorers in particular knew little of the battles and were just astonished by the scale of loss of life, it really shook them up finding graves of soldiers who were younger than some of them.

As is traditional on our continental rides, my wheel went wrong. This time a full buckle 8km from Bayeux necessitating a long lone run to the town with my bike, and a frantic hunt for a bike shop. A quick repair, and I was on my way again, another 10km to join the team at the final camp site.

The next morning saw the tents crusted with ice and a low fog all around. Within hours though we were riding through blazing sunshine to Pegasus Bridge and the ferry. We had failed to notice the lack of airplanes in the sky, but we did notice the sheer amount of passengers on the boat, and the fact that many of them were sleeping on their luggage on the floor, and that many of them looked more grimy and worn out than us, and we’d been cycle camping. It wasn’t long before we found out about the volcano. Thankfully we were first off the boat so managed to avoid the long queues as every single passenger went through a full passport check.

There’s a lot of photos here, so more appear after the first one if you click the read more link.

Cycling in France

On the road - each tree along this road represents a German soldier killed in Normandy in WWII

(more…)

Published in: on May 19, 2010 at 10:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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S24O Cycle Camp – photos

I have woken from my winter slumber. Last weekend, in preparation for the Annual Explorer Unit Cycle Camp on the continent, Mike and I took some of the Explorers on a Sub-24 Hour Overnight cycle camp. This is a pastime proposed by Grant Peterson of Rivendell Bicycle Works, referred to as  S24O – from the Rivendell site:

“If you have to work for a living and don’t have summers off, bike camping is easier to fit in, and the easiest way of all is with Sub-24 Hour Overnight (S24O) trips. You leave on your bike in the late afternoon or evening, ride to your campsite in a few hours, camp, sleep, and ride home the next morning. It’s that simple, and that’s the beauty of it. You can fit it in. It requires almost no planning or time commitment”.

(Read whole article on the Rivbike site)

It was a rainy start on the Saturday afternoon, we loaded up the bikes with the full kit. My poor Lemond Etape groaned under the weight of the tent, and as we left the village and headed towards Tellisford, a spoke snapped musically on the rear wheel. So I wheeled the bike back to the village while the others went for a cup of tea at Barrow Farm. I swapped the racer for my ancient mountain bike and we set off again.

Our route took in the enormously steep hill at Wellow, a Long Barrow, more hills, Faulkland stocks and the remains of the stone circle there, some hills, more hills and then some really big hills.

By the time we arrived at the campsite, hauled the bikes over the disappointingly locked gate and pitched the tents, the sky had turned into a solid sheet of grey and the rain started coming down in earnest. We cooked tea, got a fire going, then decided to call it a night, at 8:30pm. Inside the tent I read a book on my phone, eventually lulled to sleep by the gentle patter of rain on the flysheet, and the melancholy hooting of owls.

The next morning, I woke at 5:50am and went for a walk in the forest as the sun came up, it was anything but peaceful as Pheasants wandered croaking through the clearings, blackbirds and robins worked out their territorial rights in chirrups, tweets and loud, dazzling displays of tonal virtuosity. I arrived back at the camp at half six, the grass in the clearing was steaming as the sun rose fully over the treetops and illuminated the soft green fuzz of emerging buds that coated the branches. By 8:15am we had left the campsite, dropping the Explorers off at their houses as we rode back to the village – and taking a second breakfast on the way. We were back in the village by 11am, job done.

Bikes at the top of the hill Wellow

A brief water stop to celebrate making it up the hill at Wellow

Bikes parked

We locked up the bikes to make it to the Long Barrow on foot

Inside the Long Barrow

Deep inside the Long Barrow

Morning at the tent

The remains of last night's rain on my tent in the morning

Planning the route home

Planning a route that doesn't involve hills - impossible.

Breakfast

Second Breakfast

foot cog shadow

Somewhere in Frome

Cycling Satire

The usual winter illnesses, dark nights, no time and a host of different things have led to me not cycling at all for a while. Every excuse possible really. No matter.

I follow Tim Beadle on Twitter  http://twitter.com/t1mmyb a local cyclist and a bit of an activist, he also has a blog here http://www.timandkathy.co.uk/journal/ he recently tweeted a link to traffic and transport psychologist Ian Walker’s blog. I’m sure if you’re a UK cyclist you’ve seen or heard about Ian’s work at some point – he produced the very enlightening and thought provoking 2007 study on drivers overtaking cyclists that was widely reported on.

Dr Ian Walker, photo: University of Bath

Dr Ian’s blog is full of very interesting material for cyclists who ride on the UKs roads, but at the time of typing, his last post (dated 22nd October) is causing me mirth. I’m sure that you have seen plenty of vitriol in the mainstream press towards cyclists – mostly from car drivers – at first I used to get angry at the sub-clarkesonesque rantings calling for piano wire to be strung across cycle paths, or gleefully imagining a ‘lycra-lout’ bouncing off the bonnet of the columnists BMW. But now they are trotted out so regularly that their power to shock and annoy has diminished. Dr Ian has produced a marvelous and wicked piece called Why I hate pedestrians. Sample quotes:

“The thing is, it’s not just that pedestrians are all smug and annoying when they bang on about “health” and “pollution”. ”

“…have you noticed that even though pedestrians walk millions of miles on our road system every single day, they contribute nothing at all to the cost of that road system? ”

Read the whole thing and enjoy.

Published in: on December 16, 2009 at 10:59 am  Comments (3)  
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Three Worlds, Frome: homage to Escher

bike in water

Published in: on November 11, 2009 at 5:43 pm  Comments (1)  
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Never ride the route of a ride planned for a Sunday morning when it’s a Thursday lunchtime

Never have I encountered so many lorries, buses and impatient drivers as during a recent ride with my sister. She was due to take on the Trowbridge Triathlon and wanted to get an idea of the route before the day. So, as she works nights, and I work for myself a mere half a mile from my house, we decided to go out along the route on the Thursday lunchtime, a few days before the triathlon (which was on the Sunday). The first half of the ride was a nightmare as the A361 was heaving and angry, people squeezing past, dangerous overtaking and in some cases almost pushing us off the road.

Turning off the A36 was a relief, and it went well on the backroads around Dilton Marsh, until my sister failed to unclip from her SPDs at a junction, but still stopped. Crash Clatter Ouch!

We arrived back at Trowbridge sport centre 16 miles after setting off on the loop and met our stepmother, who took a photo.

After the nervewracking ride down the A361 in heavy traffic

After the nerve-wracking ride down the A361 in heavy traffic

Still it must have helped because my sister did not come last in the triathlon.

Published in: on August 9, 2009 at 6:58 pm  Comments (4)  
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Ride, ride against the dying of the light

One thing the Rode and District Nocturnal Velo Club cannot be accused of is “going gentle into that good night”. The Wednesday after the wildly succesful Rode Village Festival – the committee met in The Cross Keys pub to have a post-fest meeting. This being done, and the libations and rituals of preparation being completed (i.e. no small amount of ale, lager and spirits consumed), the ride could take place. This time we had the Rev Philip Hawthorn, curate of Hardington Vale with us. It always pays to have a man of the cloth around when riding the darkened lanes of Somerset and Wiltshire in the gloaming. For these are old roads, and it is an old darkness we ride through. No matter what armour to superstition and fear your sensibilities and beliefs have provided in the warm glow of the day, it all turns to rust when riding beneath the pale ghostlight of a waxing moon.

Anyway, Phil rides a rather splendid Specialized, a large frame as he is long of leg, and a keen cyclist to boot.

At 23:30 the last embers of the sun had long burnt out beyond the horizon. Only the dull orange glows of nearby towns tinted the furthest reaches of the sky. We headed out of the village via crooked lane, drifting briefly from the old sideroad across the A36 and onto the road to Rudge, as a lost spirit might materialise from a wall covering a long forgotten passageway and glide across a landing before vanishing into the opposite wall.

With four lights blazing we shot down the hill at Rudge, hung a left at the bottom and continued toward Brokerswood, turning right at the tin tabernacle and headed for the railway bridges. We took turns at the front, and as we approached Old Dilton, Mike made clear his intent to go up… The Hollow. In truth, there was nothing we could do, Mike had spoken what we all surely felt, this malevolent slope was sucking us in like a black hole, its gravity was too strong to ignore this far past dusk. We crossed the double roundabouts by the church. The only mercy was that night had mercifully becloaked the upward gradient in its mantle – that we would not be overawed at the hills severity. The pools of light cast forth from our bikes darted about the tarmac and the banks as the slope took hold. Spotlit glimpses of branches, thorns, earth and asphalt flashed about us as we wobbled our way up. Every now and again we caught sight of one of our companions in the bikelights, an afterimage of a rictus grin of grim determination burnt onto the retina when the light fell away to crazily dart around the banks as we struggled to maintain our upward course.

Then, against all odds, the ground leveled out – not only had we taken The Hollow at speed, it seemed incredibly short compared to the other times we have ridden it. Too numbed to change up gear, we spun the cranks crazily fast on the flat and hungrily gulped down great lungfuls of air as if we had emerged, crazed with the bends, from exploring the crushing darkness of an oceanic abyss.

Turning right at the top proved to be an alarming choice as more than one car shot past us with seeming scant regard for our safety. The noise of their passing all the more alarming given the quiet country lanes we had emerged from.

Rode and District Nocturnal Velo Club

We crossed the A36 and disappeared into the cthonic darkness of the lanes around Frome. Mike led out on the descent towards the town, Marcus pumping his legs like mad at the back to keep up on his mountain bike with its smaller wheels and heavier tread. The streets of Frome were near deserted and we had the sulphur glow of the streetlamps to ourselves, our shadows flickering about us as we passed from one pool of light to the next. Taking up the whole road we freewheeled together, the nocturnal peleton (or nocaton as Phil called it) shot through the narrow streets and into the town centre with incredible speed. Another hill up out of the town, past Iron Mill Lane and then left towards Lullington. The Creamery was lit up as milk was churned into the small hours. Up the hill we rode, a skeleton oak stood stark on the horizon, a warning of the hill we were approaching. Marcus and I rode far off the front racing each other down the final dip, a foolish act of faith as we rode faster than the eye could take in the tiny spotlit area ahead of us. We waited at a crossroad to take the picture below:

Rode and District Nocturnal Velo Club

Rode and District Nocturnal Velo Club

Finally we wheeled our way back into the village via The Mill, Mike peeling off down his farm track before Marcus and I said goodbye to Phil who powered off up Nutts Lane.

Around 20 miles accomplished, a good workout and a magical ride.

If you are local and you wish to join us on a Nocturnal ride – leave a comment below and we’ll try and arrange something.

I been riding – just not blogging

Hello to all. I am somewhat behind in the blogging side of things though I have been getting in a few rides, despite the weather.

First I took my car for its MOT and service – electing to use the Brompton to get back to the studio rather than a borrowed car.It was a good opportunity to use the little stretch of cycle path between Bradford-on-Avon and Trowbridge. In common with many cycle paths this is a really nice smooth path that unfortunately dumps you back into traffic at the exact point where a cycle path would be most useful. Still it made for a pleasant ride up the hill.

SDC16705

The Brompton is getting on a bit now. The folding pedal is starting to get a bit of rust on it, and there are some squeaks as I’m riding along.

Interestingly, if my Lemond Etape squeaks I’ll be trying to get it fixed within minutes of a rogue noise being detected. the slightest knock, grind, or high pitched emission from that bike is enough to have me out of the saddle and on the verge anxiously examining the cranks. With the Brompton I don’t mind at all, indeed it’s quite pleasant to have a squeak coming out as the Brompton trundles along the back lanes. The Brompton is a beautiful bike for Slow Cycling, although it can race along at 17-18mph with a bit of effort,  but then, why would you want to?

Guest Blogger – Yalda Davis: Cycling round Suffolk

In an historic first for The Highway Cycling Group blog, we have a guest blogger. Regular readers will be familiar with Yalda’s vintage Raleigh bicycle, but now Yalda has provided a splendid write up of her recent few days cycling round Suffolk, and supplied some terrific photographs that will have you longing to get on your bike and explore the countryside.

Rattlesden church

Rattlesden Church - Suffolk

Having been desperate to get out of London for several weeks, I finally booked my tickets to go to Suffolk with my bike for a couple of days, regardless of the weather – but hoping I would be lucky! Which indeed I was. But first things first – the 6.5 miles from the train station in Stowmarket to my parents’ house (where we always spent holidays when I was a child) I always found a particularly punishing ride – I defy anyone to tell me East Anglia is flat after doing that journey! On a one-gear bike at least…. Well, this time I had a pleasant surprise as it didn’t seem nearly so bad as before – all those 16 mile round trips to work and back with the long hill up to Manor House (London) along the side of Finsbury Park must’ve done the trick! Even the not-so-nice B1115 felt like a treat with the vast expanses of green on either side, and my rats must’ve liked the country air as they slept soundly in my bike basket (in a box of course!) all the way home despite the odd bumpy patch!
The following morning I set off for Punchard’s Farm, otherwise known in our family as the Jersey cows (for obvious reasons) – a favourite place of mine ever since I can remember. On the way I passed the brilliantly named (but only recently signposted) Louse Lane.

Louse Lane on the way to Punchard's Farm

Louse Lane on the way to Punchard's Farm

I was hoping to see some babies of one sort or another, it being the right time of year, and I wasn’t disappointed – a foal about 6 weeks old, and 6 fluffy kittens about 3 weeks old in the barn, in the cosiest little den I’ve ever seen, made of straw bales.

foalkittens

After that I carried on northwards to Rattlesden, a village with a lovely church and pretty thatched cottages. I then had to turn around to head southwest towards Lavenham, intending to take a narrow turn off on the same road as the farm I had just come from, as it is my favourite road in Suffolk (so far anyway!) However I managed to take a different route back for most of it, which satisfied my rather over-zealous determination never to return by the same road where possible!

A favourite lane

A favourite lane

Anyway this particular narrow country lane is my favourite for various reasons – first, it’s so narrow it has grass growing down the middle; secondly, recently I discovered that a farm from my (vague!) childhood memories (which I’d many times decided must’ve been either from a fairy tale, a dream, or else existed somewhere far away that I’d never remember the name of or revisit in my lifetime) was down this road: the low stone walls of the farm on one side of the road, and a pond full of ducks on the other. Nothing more supernatural about it than that, though still it retains that fairytale-like quality that it had in my mind for so many years. Thirdly, along this road is one of the most beautiful old houses that I’ve ever seen – which I now know is called Hill Farm! My fourth and equally satisfying discovery about this road was that there is a poppy field along it – and having not seen a poppy field for a long time, that was an extra special discovery.

Poppy Field

Poppy Field

After the delights of this road, I concentrated again on actually getting somewhere – Lavenham – in time for lunch. For anyone who doesn’t know Lavenham (plenty, I’m sure), it is an old wool town, with lots of crooked old beamed houses from the 17th century and earlier no doubt. It is popular with tourists, and being Sunday, with a French market on in the square, I probably could have picked a far better place to find a quiet country pub with a garden to eat in… Nevertheless, I found a table under a weeping willow, which though rather shady, created relatively successfully the illusion of peacefulness!

Afterwards I cycled the 6 miles back home, stopping at a stream on the way (my eternal quest to find nice rivers and streams in central Suffolk…), to complete a ride of 23 miles – rather longer than I anticipated!
The following day I decided on a less ambitious ride down through Kettlebaston (yet another of the strangely named villages round there….) – where, so the story goes (I wasn’t around to witness it!) my brother once cycled full pelt down the hill, didn’t manage to turn the 90 degree corner at the bottom and went flying into a hawthorn hedge – ouch! Then on to Chelsworth and Monks Eleigh. Chelsworth must be one of the most beautiful villages I know – it’s only minus point is that it lies on that infamous B1115 road where cars whizz past horribly fast. I visited its little church, tucked back behind a house, dating back to the 13th Century or possibly older. Here I did find a river to my satisfaction – I can’t believe I’ve never noticed it before – and I spent a while standing on a little bridge admiring it, reluctant to leave. Sadly all the riverbank seemed to be on private property so I couldn’t laze by it. In Monks Eleigh I enjoyed an icecream in the churchyard at the top of a hill and had a chat with the lady who had come to lock up the church – she seemed to find it odd that I was out cycling on my own!

The River at Chelsworth

The River at Chelsworth

This ride still came to 14 miles, which again was further than I thought this particular round trip would come to.

So – I was having such a wonderful time that I ditched my reserved ticket back to London and bought a new one for the following day – with the determination that I would definitely go there more often this summer!

Oh and on the way back to the train station I hit my record speed down a steep hill – 28mph, very satisfying!

Yalda Davis is a London cycle commuter, a fan of rats, and is Communications Officer for The Prince’s Rainforests Project: Add your voice to the call to stop tropical deforestation before it’s too late at www.rainforestSOS.org