End of the Year

My stats have crashed since I’ve not been blogging regularly. Having built up my readership to hundreds a day, I’ve watched my readership dwindle to forty to sixty readers a day in the space of three months. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve not been riding on a regular basis at all, the last major ride I completed was to Bristol in October. Since then I’ve only pootled to the garage and shops, with one ride out to a local hotel and bistro for an evening of eating and drinking with some chums from the village. That particular evening ended with everyone else having to walk back through wind and rain while I rode home, with reasonable stability, in my new orange poncho. The pressures of work combined with the short days have made it all too easy for me to let the rides slip. Now the season has turned, the days are getting longer, there are no excuses now.

Here are some photographs from the end of the year. And a promise that I will ride more in the New Year.

Bike tyre skidmarks in Calne, Wiltshire

Bike tyre skidmarks in Calne, Wiltshire

Not sure if you can see this, this lady had a great bike and front and rear wicker baskets

Not sure if you can see this, this lady had a great bike and front and rear wicker baskets

Shopper outside WHSmiths

Hercules Shopper outside W.H. Smiths

Some beautiful panniers that I spotted in London

Some beautiful panniers that I spotted in London

Zoe has customised her Trikidoo - here with a basket

Zoe has customised her Trikidoo - here with a basket

...and here is her coffee cup holder

...and here is her coffee cup holder

I will do one last ride before the end of the year.

Published in: on December 26, 2008 at 11:29 pm  Comments (2)  
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Tuesday Ride XII – The fine art of getting lost

Last Tuesday, John turned up for the evening ride on his own. The distinct lack of Brad to relentlessly drive us on meant that it was a mere fifteen minutes before we were ringing around people we knew en-route who might put the kettle on for us or even offer us some cake. However everyone was rather thoughtlessly not at home, so by the time we go to Westbury, distinctly lacking in the tea and cake department, and no safe port available, we decided that perhaps we ought to do some cycling. John led me out along the road beneath the giant chalk horse carved into the hillside, but we quickly became fed up with motorists attempting risky overtakes or squeezing past us and forcing us into the verge. We turned left, racing downhill and I was quickly off my mental map and into uncharted territory. John’s curse is that he knows the backroads and lanes so well, even by name, that it’s very difficult for him to enjoy the simple pleasure of getting lost a mere few miles from home. However, once we had turned across ourselves a few times, double backed and taken some decidedly narrow lanes (at one point meeting a denim clad grey-haired hippy in a volvo head-on, he had a beard like an old testament prophet and some big aviators on. Without hesitation he put his car onto the verge to let us past on the road), even John wasn’t sure where we were. We found a hill that just took us down, down, down, and John started snapping pics on his phone as we drifted round the forgotten roads. This was blissful, our internal compasses were spinning wildly in the no-man’s land of the wiltshire backroads. Strewn with gravel and flood tidemarks, verges overgrown with grass overhanging the road, bending inwards to the grey, chalk-mud and dust smothered tarmac, these lanes sucked us deep into the landscape. These were old, old routes, cut deep into the Wiltshire soil by generations of feet, hooves, cartwheels and finally capped with tarmac. The road wound its way up again, passing skewed telephone poles and a distant church tower hoved into view. Sadly John now knew where we were.

Me on the lanes

Your author, lost in the lanes - one hand on his hip, freewheeling, bliss.

We crossed a busy road, the traffic seemed shockingly loud and abrasive after the calm of the lanes, then headed for Trowbridge. John and I parted at the pub near his house and I made my way home. As I wheeled the bike down the path at the side of the house, scimitar shapes raced between the gaps in the houses. Swifts diving and screeching at gutter height – beaks open as they hurtled through clouds of near invisible insects before wheeling away and climbing up and up, higher than any of their avian brethren dare climb.

Published in: on July 7, 2008 at 10:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Bicycles of London

Tight fit, even for a Brompton

I had a meeting in London today, afterwards I chose to walk to the station. On the way I started snapping bikes and cyclists on my phone, with an idea that I would surreptitiously try to photograph every bike I saw. It didn’t quite work out that way as cyclists were coming left right and center, but I got 114 pictures. Here is the edited down selection.

Published in: on June 12, 2008 at 11:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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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.

warminster-no-casualtieshalfway-point-carefully-arranged-shot-of-spire-ruined-by-claridgeheroic-cyclists-at-head-officestart-of-phase-2-james-sees-the-troops-off

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.

Mystery of the Orange Shopper: Solved(ish).

The Orange Shopper (close up)

“Thank you for your e-mail.

I can confirm that there was a non UK promotion in Spring 2005 that used
bikes to promote the launch of a crunchy cream bread spread. This product is
not available in the UK.

The bikes were sourced from www.thoemus.ch/index.php?id=226

Unfortunately we are unable to advise how one of these promotional bikes has
come to be in the UK.

I hope that this information is helpful.

Customer Relations
Ovaltine UK”

For the previous entry on the Mysterious Orange Shopper, click here

Published in: on March 12, 2008 at 11:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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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)  
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