On Your Bike

It occurred to me that it is some time since I wrote about my cycling activities here. That is probably because cycling has taken a bit of a back seat of late.

As regular readers will know we were away touring through France to Spain and back for a couple of months in the autumn last year. We took our tandem with us and whilst individual trips out were of varying lengths, some quite short and others longer, we covered quite a considerable number of miles peddling around with great enjoyment. It is an excellent way to see the countryside.

Since we got back however we haven’t been able to spend as much time on the bikes as we would have liked; an angina diagnosis for my husband, a sciatica attack for me, extreme weather (snow and ice) in this part of the UK and Christmas approaching fast all took their toll. When we did get out it was often separately as my husband didn’t want to go too far or too fast and was trying to avoid hills, just spin the legs and see how he got on. Although prepared to cycle up to usual speed I wasn’t sure how my sciatica inflamed back, hip and leg would stand up to it so didn’t want to ride out too far from home either. This meant that we restricted ourselves to the occasional ride of between 3-6 miles, weather permitting, until after Christmas. We have also interspersed these rides with short sessions on the turbo trainer in the garage – is it just me or is it really much harder work on the turbo? And it’s so boring!

Gradually things are settling down for both of us and we are upping our cycling activity again, making sure hubby doesn’t overdo it. Having done some rides of 8-12 miles over the last few weeks we went out on the tandem yesterday cycling a grand total of 15 miles, the longest distance completed since mid November. We are looking forward to better weather soon so that we can work our way up to our more regular distances before too long and perhaps go out again with the  Sunday morning gang.

We do have a few cycling aims on the plot for this year, depending on how my husband gets on. For the last two years we have been to Spain in the spring to take part in a cycling event for classic road racing bikes called La Pedals de Clip, however we have decided against doing it this year as the event is taking place a good month earlier than usual and this is not convenient for us due to other commitments, plus we have no guarantee that my husband will be fit enough in time. Instead we are looking at possibly taking part in a similar event in June here in the UK and we are also looking at participating in a sportive/fun ride event in May which starts and finishes, conveniently for us, at the marina where we keep our boat. If fitness is not an issue there is also usually a cycling event in support of our local hospice in April that we could consider.

We have not committed to any of these as yet as it all rather depends on how things go health wise. On the plus side at least my sciatica is now gradually easing up and I expect to be fully back on form before too long, especially once the weather begins to improve and spring wins out in the battle of the seasons. Fingers crossed I will soon be able to cycle off the couple of extra pounds accrued over Christmas and New Year!

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Pedalling

On a bright and crisp morning
I pedal the cobwebs away —
me and my bike against the cold!

‘Bertie’ Bike

Typical isn’t it? Very shortly after I had published last Monday’s post (which you can read here) my husband finished the refurbishing of my ‘new’ classic road-racing bike, an original locally built ‘Henry Burton’. So here, to remind you, are the before and after pictures:

Henry Burton Bike

Before

 

Henry Burton Bike refurbished

After

As you can see the bike has had a re-spray. Various parts have also been replaced with era compatible components. (You can view the state of the bike when it arrived on my previous post here.) There have been a few teething problems with brakes and gears and some tweaking has taken place. I have taken it on a few very short test rides plus a first trial of about 9 miles and then yesterday a 35 mile ride. Unfortunately the gears are still not completely playing the game – there are only 5 (due to its age) but for some reason it absolutely refuses to go into 5th so at the moment effectively only has 4 gears! I’m pleased to say despite being the only lady amongst 10 men on the ride yesterday and despite my four gears to their (mostly) 16 options on their modern bikes I was able to keep up pretty well. The bike fits me well, has a nice light feel to it and is a joy to ride.

Hubby has had it up on the bike stand several times to try to solve the gear shift problem and all the gears appear to function smoothly but as soon as I get it out on the road 5th gear will just not shift. For the moment it has us puzzled but I expect it will get sorted eventually. Any bike mechanics out there with suggestions?

In case you are wondering, the red bow on the front is there because the bike is my birthday present and I was told to leave the bow in place until the day – it’s today (but I have still left it there)! I have also, you will have noticed, continued to call the bike ‘Bertie’ as the name seems to have stuck now.

Also of interest and something that I have not mentioned before, you may like to know that Henry Burton was a one-time racing cyclist (as was his son John). When he stopped racing Henry learned frame building from Ernie Clements, another ex-racing cyclist turned frame builder whom Henry worked for before setting up on his own. Our eldest son owns a lovely classic Ernie Clements bike which he has also refurbished – a very nice bike.

 

 

 

N+1 Strikes Again

Regular readers may remember that a short while ago I wrote about my ‘new’ classic road-racing bike – a locally made original hand-built ‘Henry Burton’ dating from approximately 1960 which my husband was going to rebuild, the frame being a better size for me than my French made classic road-racing Motobecane bike. You can read about the project here. Progress has been rapid and it is now reaching completion. The photograph below shows it on the bike work-stand for the brakes to be fixed. The photo isn’t very good as it is taken indoors, however once the refurbishment is finished I will take a better photo outside so you can see it in all its glory.

Henry Burton bike

You may remember I had decided to call the bike ‘Bertie’, acknowledging that it is a Burton bike. Most of my bikes have names. Now, however, with the complete change of colour scheme the bike looks far too feminine to call Bertie so I am considering a name change. The suggestion so far is ‘Henrietta’, but the jury is still out. I’ll let you know.

Meanwhile, back to the N+1: We have just bought another tandem! Our original one, a French made Gitane, was bought fairly cheaply on e-bay for a bit of fun. Although we are not sure, it probably dates from the 1960’s or 70’s, has been well used prior to coming into our ownership and, it is fair to say, we have had one or two mechanical problems with it – all sorted now.  It is also a little on the big side for us.  However we have had some great fun with it and we have found it comfortable to ride, we have even done a couple of 40 mile rides on it. Interestingly we have never actually given the tandem a name.

Last week, however, we saw  a tandem advertised in ‘Cycling Weekly’ magazine. The bike was in Stoke-on-Trent, not far from where we live. It is a Longstaff, hand-built by George Longstaff in 1997 and has seen very little use so is in exceptionally good condition for its age and is built to a high specification as a touring tandem. Longstaff’s was and is a highly respected Stoke-on-Trent bike builder and they still have a shop there, although it is now (as is Henry Burton’s in Stafford) a shadow of its former self. They were especially well thought of as builders of fine tandems and my husband has always fancied one made by them. So now we have one! Photo below:

Longstaff Tandem

When we tried it before buying, it soon became apparent that the gears were not working properly. The bike had been kept in a garage and had been unused for some time. However a short period of fiddling with the tandem on the work-stand soon had the problem fixed. and after a little more fine tuning we tried it out properly today on a short ride, a 9 mile loop out from home and back. It is a little lighter in weight than the Gitane tandem and a very comfortable ride so we are well pleased.

We will eventually sell the Gitane, so if anyone is interested in buying a tandem to have some fun with you know where to find one!

 

Conversation

Daughter
and son
both at home.
Main topic of conversation?
Cycling.

Disappointment

Daughter
in hospital.
End of hopes
for National Mountain Bike
Championships.

Shoulder
dislocated, fractured.
In good spirits
despite disappointment. She will
mend!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Our daughter arrived last week for a visit from her home in Spain, specifically to enter the National Mountain Bike Cross Country Championships last weekend and the Endurance Championships in the Isle of Man this coming weekend. Unfortunately on a practice session last Saturday she came a bit of a cropper — an early end to her racing season! I was glad that our eldest son was with her at the time, doing his own practice lap for the ‘fun’ race. With a bit of luck she will be out of hospital in by the weekend — fingers crossed.

Not Another Bike!

Henry Burton BikeYes, I’m afraid so, I have acquired another bike! Unexpectedly I must add.

Regulars will remember that I have written in the past about my bikes and I have one, a French made Motobecane classic Road Racing bicycle (circa 1980) which I call ‘Captain Beaky’ and which was bought so that I could take part in La Pedals de Clip in Spain this year. My husband and daughter both have English-made bikes from the late 1950’s and took part last year as well, but at the time I didn’t have a suitable bike.

I really would have liked to also have English bike but classic English bikes are very expensive, especially in good condition. Finding one in need of refurbishment and therefore not expensive is a matter of luck, especially if you want a small frame. The French one, however, was affordable though a little on the top end of a suitable size for me. We did what we could to make it fit better and it is not bad, in fact it is a very nice bike, but all along I have said that if I came across an affordable English bike with a slightly smaller frame I would get it. So, while not exactly actively searching for one we have been keeping our eyes open.

My husband recently made a visit to our local bicycle recycling charity ‘Back to Bikes’ in Stafford (they take in donated bikes, refurbish them and sell them at affordable prices. If they are not worth refurbishing they strip them for parts and/or scrap them).  He wasn’t looking for a bike but saw this one and brought it home for me. It is in need of complete refurbishment and there is a good chance ‘Back to Bikes’ would have scrapped it.

The bike is a locally made ‘Henry Burton’ bike circa 1960 (could even be slightly earlier). Henry Burton was an ex-cyclist cum frame-builder who built frames in his shop in Stafford, not far from my home, between 1950 and the early 1970’s. However he was apparently notoriously bad at keeping records and didn’t bother with frame numbers so we can’t be absolutely sure of the age. All we really have to go on is the style of the frame and its other parts plus the style of the ‘decals’. The shop in Stafford is now run by Henry Burton’s son and no longer builds frames although they do still sell Henry Burton bikes – built elsewhere and labelled as Henry Burton. My husband took the frame into the shop and Burton’s son has confirmed this is an original hand-made Henry Burton frame – see front decal below:

Front Decal

Our other aid to ageing the bike is the style of the script on the down tube, which is just about readable. Apparently Henry Burton had stopped using this style of script, opting for a more modern upright ‘print’ style by the mid-1960’s:

Down Tube Script Decal

This bike, which I have decided to call ‘Bertie’, is decidedly smaller framed than ‘Captain Beaky’ and is English through-and-through. At the moment it is totally in pieces and restoration has commenced. We have bought some new (old stock) wheels of the correct era ready to replace the not-so-good old ones, plus new tyres. A dent in the top tube has been repaired and the frame is in the process of being rubbed down ready for re-spray. We have found some replacement old style decals to be stuck on once the repaint job is done and the aim is that I will use this bike for La Pedals de Clip next year. If our youngest son decides to come along too then he can ride ‘Captain Beaky’, with some adjustment back to its original state in order to fit him. Watch this space.

Hot and Humid

Hot and humid
out on the bike
for a short, sharp ride
before the weather turns.

Missed Turning

A new cycling route today,
taking in the Croxton Wells,
slightly further than I had planned
due to a missed turning!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
If you are wondering what I mean by ‘the Croxton Wells’ check out Monday’s post here.

Toe Clip Rally 2017

Or, to give it its proper name ‘La Pedals de Clip’. This is a rally held in Spain to celebrate classic road-racing bicycles, which I have written about before here. This year it took place over the weekend of 20th-21st May, with the ride out taking place on the 21st. As mentioned in my previous post, my husband and daughter had taken part last year and, having decided to do it again this year we bought me a vintage road-racing bicycle so that I could take part too; a French-made Motobecane, circa 1980, which I christened ‘Captain Beaky’. Bikes have to be pre-1987 and have no modern fixtures or fittings. My husband and daughter were riding much older English-made bikes from the 1950’s.

The event is hosted by the small town of Sant Marti Sarroca in the hills towards Barcelona and imagine our surprise on driving into the town to register on 20th May when we saw a banner stretched across the road to advertise the event featuring two cyclists from last years event – my husband and daughter! After the event we managed to beg the banner from the organisers and my daughter now has it in her possession.

Pedals de Clip Banner

We had opted to ride the shorter of the two routes at 47 km rather than the longer 72 km route. The weather was ideal, fine and quite warm without being too hot (unlike subsequent days during our stay in Spain!) and the route was quite challenging enough for me – plenty of hills to cope with, not least being the 1 km finishing climb to the castle on the summit of the hill on the edge of town, much of which I have to admit I walked up, though I did ride through the finish. The ride had started at the sports hall below the hill and began with a parade lap through the town with many encouraging spectators aligning the route.

We completed the ride in just under 3 hours, not including the two refreshment stops available on the route (which included local wine for those who wanted it). All participants received a medal and a ‘goodie bag’ which included an event cycling jersey and cap and a pair of sunglasses amongst other things, as well as a bottle of local wine. Here I am on the final few yards to the finish:

Coming to the finish

In all some 500+ people took part in the ride. It was a wonderful experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even the bits over rough tracks where a mountain bike might have been better suited. Several people received punctures along the way and all were advised to carry spare tubular tyres or inner tubes. Fortunately we didn’t need ours!

Would I do it again? Oh yes, in fact it would be great to get my two sons involved as well, if not next year than perhaps the year after and make a family team before hubby and I are too old. Finding matching team kit may be a problem though – I think this particular jersey is no longer available so we might need new team kit!

I’ll leave you with this picture of my husband and daughter at the finish of this year’s event – it tells it all!

Finished

 

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