Salisbury bike lanes, a study

As I had yet again left it too late to get my car tax done in time, I decided to ride my Brompton into Trowbridge and take the train to Salisbury. The morning was wreathed in mist as I hurtled down the A361, surrounded by the terrifying thunder of huge trucks squeezing past me. It barely took me any time at all to reach Southwick, but I came up short against the big dip in the road. I still arrived at the station with ten minutes to spare, enough time to note that the price of a ticket had gone up by 30% again.

On arrival at Salisbury, rather than shoot up Fisherton Street I took some of the little bike lanes on the Avon Cycleway, come let us ride them together:

I like this bit with the complex sluice and weir, that chap is about to ride over the little bridge

I like this bit with the complex sluice and weir, that chap is about to ride over the little bridge

I'm still following him, now we weave right.

We're still following him, now we weave right.

They've generously carved out some of the carpark for us here.

They've generously carved out some of the carpark for us here. Nice to see the double yellow lines

Now we're being taken out to Castle Street, the lane gets smaller and there are cars sharing the road

Now we're being taken out to Castle Street, the lane gets smaller and there are cars sharing the road with us. Careful.

Oh a nice orange shopper on Scots Lane! Check out those whitewall tyres

Oh, let us stop to admire a nice orange shopper on Scots Lane! Check out those whitewall tyres

Ah this is more like it, later on, heading down the nice stretch by Waitrose, the river on the right.

Ah this is more like it, later on, heading down the nice stretch by Waitrose, the river on the right.

Not really the sort of riding that builds up the strength in preparation for the continental ride.

France and Belgium 4-7 April

we’ll be setting off at 0530 in the morning. We’re driving to Dover in the scout minibus. Loading the bikes onto the ferry to Dunkirk. We’re riding from Dunkirk to Ypres, then next day we’re going to head down into France towards The Somme. We’ve no idea how far we’ll get, but on Monday evening we need to be in Amiens to catch a train to Boulogne Sur Mer. Tuesday morning will see us riding along the coast to Callais and the ferry to Dover.

Oh yeah, and we’re camping!

I might try and do bits of bloggin while I’m over there if I can find some wifi. Otherwise, if you are so inclined, please keep updated with my Twitterfeed http://twitter.com/ghostorchid though again, I’m not sure how much tweeting I’ll be doing.

Wish me luck!

Published in: on April 3, 2009 at 11:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Fecund Motion of the Soul: Of Salisbury bike shops and the sheer joy of riding for the sake of riding

My colleague and friend Zoe, she of the Trikidoo has been saving up her pennies and, after much deliberation, has chosen a bike. I went with her to the bike shop (Stonehenge Cycles in Salisbury) to pick it up. I’ve bought stuff from them before, they even ordered in my awesome poncho for me, and I’ve always been impressed by their customer service. However I was not prepared for how much their customer service would blow me away when watching them set Zoe’s bike up for her.

I knew they’d looked after her Trikidoo nicely, setting up her  dog basket etc and servicing it beautifully, so they knew Zoe. She’d been in once before to try out some bikes and be sized up for the bike, we were going in to pick up the made up bike. Zoe isn’t bikey (yet), but they were brilliant, the mechanic checked over the sizing carefully and made a few adjustments. Then he went through some basic maintenance tips, showed her how to get the wheels off, how to adjust the brakes. Took her through the gears and explained how they worked, made reccomendations for carrying things and which lock to buy and then checked and double checked she was happy with the set up.

Taking Zoe through the set up of her new bike

Taking Zoe through the set up of her new bike

They had done her a deal on some additional stuff like the water bottle, lights, saddle bag, pump etc. so the bike was fully kitted out. Two thumbs up to Stonehenge Cycles for customer service, they really looked after her and made sure the bike was perfect for her.

Zoe and I often work in our own offices so I only see her about twice a week. I got an email from her yesterday after she popped to the leisure centre on her bike at lunchtime:

I’m back – slightly delayed because I rode to the leisure centre on my fab new bike, and on the way back got distracted by the fun of riding a new bike in the sunshine, so took a longer route home. It’s lovely. I’m so in love with my bike! I now see why you enjoy riding so much..

Zoe's new bike, expertly and perfectly set up for her

Zoe's new bike, expertly and perfectly set up for her

That’s the beauty of a bike that is totally tailored to your needs. For someone who doesn’t ride much, getting hold of your perfect bike is an absolute revelation. I recall going for a ride with my brother in law along the Bradford to Bath towpath, and he shot on ahead quoting Withnail and I “I feel the fecund motion  of the soul!” as he exceeded the 10mph speed limit. There is that point when you ride when you find yourself grinning for no other reason than the sheer pleasure of riding a bike. I’m smiling now, remembering a perfect ride,  those moments where it just doesn’t matter where you’re actually going, what your speed is, or how many calories you’re burning. All you’re aware of is the bicycle, the rhythm of riding and the pleasure of being there in your present moment and how perfect it is. These moments of loving cycling just for the sake of cycling are to be savoured, enjoyed and recalled with happiness.

Almost as pleasing, is to see it in others.

Published in: on March 3, 2009 at 10:40 am  Comments (1)  
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Dead Chain

Dead Chain, spotted in the kerbside ice crusted leaves, Guilder Lane, Salisbury

Dead Chain, spotted in the kerbside ice crusted leaves, Guilder Lane, Salisbury

Published in: on January 8, 2009 at 8:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Moving Kids around Town with a Trikidoo

Now this is great. My colleague has just got hold of a Trikidoo, (just before the price went up as well), essentially a pedal rickshaw for children. It’s in a princess pink to please her two girls and it just looks great. She was determined not to use the car to drop the children off at school and nursery, but both locations are quite a reasonable walk from her house. In the forthcoming winter weather, the prospect of long walks in the cold with tired out children and a dog was pretty bleak. Now with this marvelous piece of pedal-powered people transportation, she’s going to find it so much easier and certainly much more fun.

Now my colleague is keen to customise this fine trike further, I have one of the famous Rivendell best bike bells in the world to give her, she’s looking into a front mounting basket for the doggy (at the moment he runs alongside) and a must for this caffeine addict, a cup holder. It already has a cargo bag under the back seat, but there’s loads of things that could be added – umbrellas, flags, extra bags – oooh, what about a trailer?

It certainly adds a much needed dose of cycle chic to the streets of Salisbury, it’s bound to be a talking point, and hopefully we’ll see a lot more of these around our towns soon.

And they're off. Note dog on left running alongside.

And off they go. Note dog running along side at the left.

Ting ting!

Published in: on October 24, 2008 at 6:48 pm  Comments (3)  
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The Simple Pleasures of a bike-train-bike commute

I woke too late to bike commute the whole way into Salisbury, so I hauled myself into the shower, got into some trousers so enormous it was like wearing a tent, and prepared the Brompton for a sprint down the A361 to Trowbridge station. Still yawning, I wove up the hill, crested, and put the bikes hubs to the test on a fast descent down the other side. The Brompton is a skittish ride at the best of times, at 30+ mph downhill it’s a study in terror, yet somehow I made it to the junction in one piece. Then it was simply a case of pointing the front of the bike down the road and turning the pedals. On arrival at the station (terrific skid up the ramp and onto the platform – no mean feat with brompton brakes), I discovered I’d missed one train and had forty minutes to wait for the next one. The bike took me into the town centre and located a coffee shop for me. Soon I was ensconced at an outside table drinking a latte and reading a book. This seemed mighty civilized, and it was a great shame to have to knock back the coffee and zip back to the station.

I thought that with the current high fuel prices it would be more economical to go the 31 miles by train, but no, I discovered that the price of the journey had gone up 33% in the last seven months, incredible!

The beauty of the journey soon erased the price from my memory, this is the same route I cycled when I rode to Salisbury a couple of weeks ago. The road crosses and dives under the track all the way to Wilton, sometimes mere feet from the track, other times it moves away, dipping behind an embankment or veering off to visit a lonely farm before rejoining its symbiotic partner, the railway track. I sat back and imagined my doppelganger riding at a speeded up pace level with the train. All those little milestones on the journey compressed into a blur of memories, the train moving too quickly to allow the mind to dwell on things like the toad crossing sign, the concrete bridge, the post office, the ox-eye daisies in the hedges, the constant pedal freewheel pedal freewheel rhythm of the rolling lanes. Train journeys seem to be a kind of time travel, you sit down, there is constant noise, but the feeling of motion is barely perceived. Very quickly (hopefully) you arrive at your destination. Strange, yet completely normal.

Cycling through Salisbury was a joy, apart from the fool who stopped on the bikes only bit at the traffic lights on Fisherton Street.

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:

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)  
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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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