N+1

Last Tuesday, as I had promised in my Monday post (which you can refer back to here), I went on the Breeze ladies evening bike ride. This time I left the trusty old Raleigh MTB at home and went on my classic road-race Motobecane. What a difference a bike makes! I had no trouble keeping up at all, no mega struggles, no breathlessness. Admittedly we didn’t go quite so far as the daylight was fading fast, but we did keep up a reasonably fast pace.

This was to be the last Tuesday evening ride due to the loss of daylight. From now on the rides will be on Sunday mornings starting at 8.30 am, the first one being on 16th October, and will cover around 20 to 25 miles with a café stop. I’m not sure if I will do the Sunday rides as I usually go out for a ride on Sundays with my husband, often on the tandem, but if I can get myself up and to the meeting point in time I might go on the odd one now and then.

While out last Tuesday the ride leader mentioned that next time she would bring her winter bike. Winter bike! I thought. Do people have a special bike for winter riding? Apparently so. I had, in fact, previously considered that I didn’t want to risk spoiling my classic bike by riding it over the winter and thought I would use the old Raleigh for winter riding. This would then, I suppose, make it a winter bike, but as I have already proved, it would be no use for keeping up with the ladies if I go out with the group; there is no way I will manage to keep upon it for 20+ miles.

Now we get to where the ‘N+1’ of the title comes in. My youngest son, also a cyclist, seems to fairly frequently decide he needs another bike, (usually an MTB) whilst also seeming reluctant to sell any of his existing ones. When asked ‘How many bikes do you need?’ his answer is ‘N+1’ where N is the number you already have.

It is time to own up. I have just bought my ‘+1’ (which now constitutes part of ‘N’ I suppose). I have bought a second-hand (2-year-old) modern light-weight road bike to be my winter bike – it weighs about the same as my classic bike – so that I can keep up on longer rides and my lovely classic road-race bike can stay tucked up warm indoors. Here is the new one:

New Road Bike

The bike is a Form Longcliffe 5.0 FE. It is a ladies specific road bike produced by Forme, a relatively new manufacturer based in Derbyshire and founded in 2010. Their bikes are designed specifically for the UK roads and all-year-round UK weather conditions, which can be grim, grimy and variable! The bikes are rigorously tested in the Derbyshire Peak District and the company offers a lifetime guarantee, such is their confidence in their product.

This bike is recommended by reviewers as an ideal winter bike. We collected the bike yesterday morning and, after lowering the saddle for me, yesterday afternoon we went out on a 7-8 mile round-trip stopping for a cuppa at my eldest son’s home to show it off. The gear shifters are on the brake levers and this is taking a bit of getting used to but it was a comfortable ride. It is in need of a bit more tweaking to fit me properly and so we have now also put on a shorter handle-bar stem and adjusted the saddle slightly further forward to shorten the ‘reach’. I have yet to try it out again because it has been raining today and I don’t want to get it wet do I? I have also ordered some new toe-clip pedals for the bike, the previous owner had the sort that you clip your shoe into and I’m not sure I fancy those – though as I have the pedals for them now I might give them a go sometime in the future.

As I write my husband has the bike in bits up on the work-stand in our lounge. He is trying to fix the mudguards better as they rattle rather and he thinks some of the fixings are missing – new ones are on the way from the engineering department. For most of the year I will not use the mudguards but they are a useful addition for winter riding. Hopefully it will be all back together and I can test it properly within the next few days, weather permitting! Now I wonder what my next ‘N+1’ will be?

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PS: Just another little reminder of my daughter’s cycling blog – Mad Cycling in the Midday Sun – about her cycling exploits in Spain.

 

Playing Chase

Unaware
of my presence,
two young squirrels playing
chase up and down trees
and across the lawn.

Over

Summer’s over,
evenings cooler,
darkness earlier,
soon be Winter!

Breeze

As you know I took up cycling again earlier this summer. So far on these pages I have written mostly about our tandem but I do also have two other bikes – a heavy old (25+ years) Raleigh mountain bike type which used to be my daughter’s and also a much lighter classic road-racing bike (a more recent purchase). I ride one or other of these two or three times a week and we go out on the tandem about once a week. Usually if I go out on my own I ride the Raleigh and only go a short distance, between 6-9 miles, the knobbly off-road tyres now replaced by road tyres. If I go out on the road bike I am usually in company with my husband and we do a bit more, say 10-15 miles.

Classic Road-race bike

My Classic Road-race bike

It has occurred to us from time to time that it might  be fun to ride out in company with others, as a social activity and for me to learn to ride out in a group. However, as I am sure you have noticed, cycling clubs seem to consist mostly of men. They think nothing of going out to do a minimum of 30 miles, and often considerably more, at a pace more suited to a breakaway group at the Tour de France. (My eldest son rides out on his own every Sunday morning and regularly does around 60 miles in not much more than a couple of hours.)

In my search for a more leisurely group I recently came across a cycling network going under the name of Breeze (www.breezebikerides.com). This is an initiative set up by British Cycling in conjunction with Sky (check out http://www.goskyride.com). Breeze is billed as ‘The fun and friendly network for women from British Cycling’, the idea being that they provide easy-going local bike rides to encourage more women to take-up or return to cycling in an environment where they will not be intimidated by the men. They claim to go at the pace of the slowest rider and no-one gets left behind. Okay, this is women only so hubby can’t come, but I discovered that there was a local group that meets on a Tuesday evening on the outskirts of our county town about 6 miles from my home, so I signed up for a ride a couple of weeks ago. The ride was scheduled to last an hour and I thought that being as this was to be a fun, social, leisurely ride with some of the participants having done very little cycling (as suggested by the publicity) that we would do possibly up to 10 miles at a relatively easy pace. How wrong can you be!

Raleigh MTB

My old Raleigh

To be fair the ride was billed as ‘challenging’, but that’s a relative term isn’t it? I mean what’s challenging to one person is easy to another. The best I could ascertain was that it would include some hills – fair enough, they are hard to avoid around here. I decided to take my heavy old Raleigh – after all I didn’t want to look too capable if some ladies were fairly new to the game. Big mistake! The group, eight of us plus the ride leader, were all on modern, light-weight, hybrid or road bikes, obviously long-time regular riders and all except a couple probably at least half my age if not younger.

The leader announced we would be doing about 15 miles (in an hour!) and proceeded to set off at a substantial pace. Now I have my pride and hate to feel that I am the one holding everyone else up so I put in mega effort to keep up on my heavy old bike. In the event, as we were losing light (the nights are drawing in) we only did around 14 miles but at the last proper hill (as opposed to the many smaller humps) I got left well behind and had to peddle like the clappers to catch up my considerable deficit once I got to the top, meanwhile they of course were still bowling along. No-body seemed to have noticed my absence by the time I coasted up behind them as they stopped at a junction. Seeing we were all there off we went again without me having the chance to catch my breath.

Once back at the car park I discovered that the week before they had gone much more slowly as one lady in the group couldn’t keep up. Perhaps I should have swallowed my pride and admitted I was struggling. I was asked if I would come again. Well I couldn’t go last week as I had something else on but I said I would probably sign up for the week after (ie tomorrow).

I gave myself a rest the next day but on the Thursday I went out for a short ride on the Raleigh and I just ‘hadn’t got the legs’ as the pro’s say, not only that I also still seemed to be struggling to get sufficient air into my lungs. In fact it took me best part of a week to fully recover! I have signed up for tomorrow, but I have learned my lesson – this time I will take my road-race bike.

With the nights drawing in I understand these Tuesday rides will soon swap to Sunday daytime but Sunday is one of the days my husband and I ride out together, often on the tandem, so I may not continue with the group. Perhaps we could start a mixed social cycling group nearer home, the Skyride network encourages this but I think, with winter coming, it might be better to wait until the Spring before trying to set up such a group. Watch this space.

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PS: For those who may be interested, my daughter who lives in Spain has recently set up a blog about her cycling activities at Mad Cycling in the Midday Sun – check it out!

Walking The Dog

Passing my house,
crossing the road
and on out of sight
glued to her mobile phone —
walking the dog.

Bees

September.
Bright sunshine,
warm as summer.
Bees gather late pollen.
Harvest.

Public Spirit!

Tree on grass triangleAs I have mentioned before, our house is on a corner plot. On the corner itself is a triangle of grass, separated from our plot by a footpath which runs diagonally across the corner. On the triangle of grass there grows a tree. Actually it could well be a tall shrub as it has multiple trunks and the foliage starts low down, plus it isn’t all that tall by tree standards! I don’t know what species it is.

Because the corner is north facing the tree/shrub grows at an angle leaning out towards the road in order to grab what afternoon sunlight it can. This means that the branches, which at this time of year are laden with bright red berries, dangle over the road, not only obstructing the view round the corner for traffic trying to turn out of our road but also very nearly touching cars, cyclist and other road users as they turn in.

The triangle of grass with the tree belongs to the council and they mow the grass several times a year but they never touch the tree, so each year I go out and do my public-spirited bit by pruning the tree. Over the last few weeks I have been looking at the tree and, noticing that it had once more stretched out over the road, I had been thinking it was time to do something again.

So, yesterday afternoon (in the morning we had been out for a ride on our tandem – this is irrelevant but I add it so you know that the tandem hasn’t been abandoned in the shed!) I took my wheel-barrow and tree pruning tools and lopped off the offending branches. I try to prune only just enough to alleviate the problem. I took the picture at the top of this post after pruning, showing the that the turning is now clear. I’m sorry I forgot to take a ‘before’ picture to show the difference.

Tree branch and berriesThis second picture is a close up of a berry laden branch from a tree of the same species which grows in our garden. Our tree is growing up beside the remains of a stump of another tree that had already been chopped down when we moved here. I believe this one to be self-set, possibly from a berry dropped by a bird from the tree on the grass triangle just over the hedge. There are several such trees in the neighbourhood at varying stages of growth so I think it probably self-sets very readily. If any one can tell me what it is I would be very grateful.

Race

Clouds,
wind-blown,
race each other,
jostling for position, destination
unknown.

Encouragement

Overcast and humid.
A weak and watery sun
tries to break through.
Birds sing encouragement.

Breakdown

I used to belong to two Writer’s Groups. One, as far as I am aware, still meets every week on a Monday afternoon, and the other just once a month on a Monday evening. This, you will realise, could cause some conflict, but we (I gave a lift to a friend who doesn’t drive and who also attended both groups) avoided this by not attending the afternoon group on the days when the monthly group held its meetings.

Writer’s Groups are in many ways a good idea. It means that people who enjoy writing, whether or not they wish to publish anything, can meet like-minded people for encouragement and helpful advice. Another advantage is that usually there is writing involved and having a deadline (ie the next meeting) ensures that you actually do sit down and do something. Writing to a set topic also helps focus the mind and sometimes to write outside your comfort-zone, trying new genres.

The Monday afternoon group met in a local Library on the other side of our County Town. Several exercises were set each week as ‘homework’ and we were also encouraged to take part in writing a ‘communal’ novel (usually a farce – not my genre at all) and also to bring along whatever we were working on privately. None of this was compulsory of course and I rarely managed to produce anything in all categories each week. In fact I never contributed to the novel at all, not only because it wasn’t my type of genre but also because I don’t believe that such multi-collaboration produces anything worth reading! The aim of these collaborations was simply to help those who had never written a novel to have a go, but the results tended to have too many characters, be rather meandering, disjointed and confusing and very similar to each other, with the same kind of humour every time; rather like a poor imitation of a Brian Rix Farce. I had tried to suggest trying a different genre from time to time but with no success. The resulting book was often self-published by the group and sometimes read out on hospital radio or at the local prison and the justification for continuing with the farces was that this is what their readers liked.

To cut a long story short, the amount of writing that was required to fully participate on a weekly basis with this group meant that there would be little time to do anything else and I do have a life outside writing. On top of that, very little criticism, helpful or otherwise, was offered, we simply read our exercise and then on to the next person. So, although we enjoyed going to the group and socialising with the other welcoming members, my friend and I both decided to hit it on the head.

The Monday evening group is different. We meet in a pub in a village a few miles from home, central for most members and, as I mentioned, only once a month. We simply set a topic at the end of each session to write about for the next meeting. This can be interpreted however we wish, fact or fiction. We read this out at the next meeting, providing copies for everyone, and invite comments and constructive criticism from the others. This enables us to write a longer piece if we wish, and sometimes even instalments from prospective novels. The fact that there is a core of only five people means that there is time for everyone to read even a fairly substantial piece and receive helpful comments. On the whole it is more challenging than the other group and more rewarding.

The August meeting for this Writer’s Group was cancelled as most of the five were unable to attend, including me. We don’t have a set Monday each month, with such a small number it is easier to arrange a date for the next meeting to suit all participants at the end of each session. I suddenly realised we were into September and I had heard nothing about our meeting so I contacted one of the others only to discover yesterday evening that it is tonight. I am assuming the subject is the same as that set for the cancelled meeting – ‘Breakdown’ – I hadn’t come up with any inspiration last time round so can I come up with something at such short notice for tonight? I’ll give it a go. I better go and get on with it…

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