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

 

Travelling

Once more I’m off on my travels. While we are away we will be taking part in the Pedals de Clip classic road-race bike rally in Catalonia, Spain (for more information click here.) As so often Internet access will be variable so I will not be posting here for the next month. I should be back around mid-June. While I’m away I hope to get to grips with the e-book version of ‘Simply Elfje’ and, with luck, have it available on my return.

Cycling Challenge

Cycling challenge badgeWe did it! A week ago yesterday my husband and I completed our 45 mile cycling challenge in aid of our local hospice on our tandem. This is to date the longest distance I have cycled.

I have to say, I have discovered there are one or two advantages of being on the back of a tandem: 1) You don’t get so many flies in your face and 2) You can hide behind the driver when you come to a hill so you don’t see how steep it is or how far to the top!

We were well ‘rugged up’ to start with as it was a bit chilly. After about a third of the course it (and us) had warmed up and the route passed a short distance from our home so we took a diversion for a drink and the chance to strip off a bit before re-joining. A short while later we came to a local hill that has always caused me problems. I have never previously got up it and usually try to avoid it. That said, on the few occasions I have tried it I have managed to get a bit further up each time before getting off to push. Hiding behind the driver on the back of the tandem this time I/we did it  – not that it has ever caused my husband a problem. (I am also pleased to report that a few days later we tackled it again on solo bikes – and I got all the way up it!)

We did have one or two minor mishaps along the way; we broke three spokes and the dog jumped out of his basket! Okay, I’ll explain. The first broken spoke we mended at a canal-side café, where we took the opportunity to have out packed lunch followed by an ice-cream. After our experiences in Spain last autumn, when we broke seven spokes, we now carry spares. When we completed the ride we found we had also broken another two. Hubby has since checked the wheel thoroughly, thinking there must be a reason why the spokes keep on breaking on the same wheel. He had had the spoke tension checked and was told it was fine, but has now decided that they probably need to be tighter, being a tandem, so they have all been tightened up and we will see what happens next time we ride out.

Setting off on our cycle challenge

Setting off on our cycle challenge

As for the dog jumping out of his basket – well we have a small basket on the front of the tandem (see picture) in which a small soft toy dog travels. He has our front light strapped to his wrist. On the way round while going along a bumpy country lane he flew out of the basket and landed in the middle of the road – he hadn’t been wearing his seat-belt! We stopped, I went to fetch him and we fixed him more firmly in his basket with a bungey-cord as a seat-belt. A group of other cycling challenge participants caught up and stopped to ask if we were all right. “Yes, thanks.” we said, “we lost the dog!” We all laughed and one lady confided that her husband had a soft toy seal in his bicycle panier!

The last couple of miles were probably the worst, I was just about ready to stop! My knees ached, my thighs ached, my wrists ached, my shoulders ached and I didn’t want to see another hill for a long time to come! Interestingly though, when we finally stopped I was fine and the next day bore no lasting effects.

At least I can now feel confident that I will be able to complete the Pedals de Clip classic road racing bike rally in Spain in a couple of weeks time. This will be only a mere 46 km on my Motobecane road bike ‘Captain Beaky.’ Just don’t remind me about all those hills!

Success

Success!
“Captain Beaky” bike and I,
up that hill at last,
the one that has for so long been
our Nemesis.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
There is a hill near my home that I usually avoid on my bike because the few times I have attempted it I have had to get off and push, though each time I have managed to get a little further up before getting off. We managed it at the weekend on the tandem but today I managed it for the first time on a solo bike – I’m proper chuffed!

La Pedals de Clip

That’s it, I’m committed now, signed up and paid my entry for La Pedals de Clip, a classic road racing bike rally in Spain on 20th/21st May this year. I have my matching outfit ready. This is what all my recent pre-occupation with cycling has been about.

Pushing Dad at Pedals de Clip

Pushing Dad! (picture from Pedals de Clip website)

Last year my husband did the event with our daughter (see photos) who you may remember lives in Spain. He had two classic road race bikes, a Freddie Grubb and a James Fothergill for those in the know. Both were in need of some renovation which he did in time for the event and we took them over, giving the James Fothergill to our daughter. At the time I had asked if I could do it too but was told that we hadn’t another bike of the correct era, so I had to be content to watch, wait and take photos!

After the event our daughter suggested that as they had the bikes they should do it again this year and I insisted that in that case I was going to do it too. Hence, when we returned to the UK, we began to search for a bike for me. I had hoped to find an English ‘special’ like the other two but to buy one of these was way above budget, so we settled for my Motobecane (French bike) which I have called Captain Beaky and which I have written about before. This was in excellent condition for its age, having had one previous owner, and although on the top end of what was a reasonable size for me was relatively easily modified to a better fit.

The requirements for the Pedals De Clip are that the bike should be pre-1987, should have toe-clips not modern clip-in pedals, all cabling exposed not hidden in the tubing and gear shifters on the down-tube not modern flipper-type. In other words nothing modern on the bike. Captain Beaky is circa 1980 so just squeezes in, the Grubb and the Fothergill are mid to late 1950’s so the advantage to me is that I do have slightly better gearing capacity – this should help me on the hills which are my bug-bear!

Talking bikes at the finish

Talking bikes at the finish

There is a choice of two routes for the rally. The long route is 72km, but we have opted for the short route of 47km. For our daughter this is an easy day out to spin the legs between her usual endurance races but for me this is a major excursion. My usual regular rides are only about 10-12 miles with the odd 13-16 mile ride thrown in every now and then. Over this winter I have hardly done much at all as the roads and weather have not been very inviting and now I am slightly worried that I have set myself too big a challenge, after all I’m still on the border-line between bike rider and cyclist (see my previous post on this topic here). I am assured though that plenty of participants got off and pushed up many of the hills. The route finishes with a very steep climb up to a castle and, yes, plenty of people walked much of it then mounted up to ride through the finish, but that option does not appeal to my competitive nature (though I’m sure I will probably end up doing some pushing).

As you may have read here before I did buy a winter bike, which I recently replaced with one that is a better fit, hubby having taken over the first, and I have been out as much as my ‘fair-weather cyclist’ attitude will allow but fitness has inevitably fallen off. However I am now managing to get out a bit more often again and fitness is picking up at last. The winter bike has more gear options than Captain Beaky so I will soon have to start some more serious training using the classic bike if I am to be ready for the event.

As part of our preparation we are planning to do a local charity fund-raising ride at the end of April. This  will be a 45 mile route so quite a bit longer and if I manage that hopefully I should manage the 47 km Pedals de Clip (which will no doubt have more and steeper hills). We had thought to do the 20 mile option for the charity ride but that is off-road and for MTBs and we want the road riding practice. Hubby fancies doing it on the tandem though, but I’m not 100% sure about that as part of the route is along the canal tow-path and this, I think, will be slightly challenging on the tandem – there is a risk we may end up in the canal! On the plus side the route will take us almost past our house and we have the option to make the slight detour for a quick cuppa before re-joining for the rest of the ride.

To find out more about La Pedals de Clip check out the website at www.lapedalsdeclip.cat

Meet Lola

Bike 'Lola'A couple of week s ago I posted about the number of bikes we have between us (you can read the post here) and I mentioned that I had a Raleigh Capri One bike, with only a few miles on the clock, belonging to our son’s girlfriend as she had no room to store it at home, having borrowed a mountain bike from our son. She gave me permission to ride it while it was here, which I did, but only the once since it was almost brand new and I didn’t want to spoil it.

The bike (pictured) fitted me as if it had been made for me, the only adjustment needed was the saddle height. The frame is actually XS size! I found it very comfortable and easy to ride and I said at the time that I would be reluctant to give it back. It is specifically designed for endurance/sportive riding with a more comfortable riding position than an outright race bike so is well suited to my needs. Well, now my son’s girlfriend has decided it is not the bike for her and offered to sell it to me if I wanted it. Did I want it? You bet I did.

To be fair I love my Forme bike, ‘Fifi’, which I only bought last autumn as a winter bike to save going out on my Motobecane classic road racing bike ‘Captain Beaky’ when the roads are wet and muddy, but it is on the top end of the correct size for me and we did have to make quite a few changes for it to fit me anywhere near correctly. It too is a lovely ride but having bought the Raleigh I didn’t really need it anymore. So to cut a long story short, my husband has decided to take it over as it fits him well and will make a good winter bike for him.

The interesting thing is that I asked my son if the Capri One had a name and it turns out his girlfriend had called it ‘Lola’ which, as it happens, is the name I had seriously considered for the Forme instead of ‘Fifi’, so ‘Lola’ it still is.

Ready to Ride.The day I handed over the money was a cold day, but fine and reasonably dry, so we decided to celebrate by going out for a ride, me on Lola and my husband on his newly commandeered Forme bike, Fifi. Here we are, all ready to ride and rugged up against the cold – except hubby forgot his gloves and had to go back indoors for them!

Now however, this has upset the balance – instead of five-and-a-half bikes apiece (the half being the shared tandem) I now have only four-and-a-half while he has six-and-a-half. Then again, he is thinking of parting with his most recent acquisition, the full-suspension mountain bike. He has offered it to our daughter-in-law, but it fits me quite well and if she doesn’t want it I may commandeer it for myself – it’s good to keep these things in the family!

Bikes

I haven’t written anything about cycling for a while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t done any. I must confess I am a bit of a fair weather cyclist though and lately it has been too cold, dank and miserable for me to go out much. Our rides have been fairly short, about 10 miles at most, sticking to main roads at quieter times (the lanes are just too mucky). Last time we went out I was wearing pretty well two of everything – including leggings! I have to say two pairs of gloves does tend to make gear changing a tad difficult.

One thing I have noticed recently while thinking about more than actually riding is the number of bikes that we own between us. I have written before about mine, and shared pictures on this blog (no new ones today, sorry, but I am trying to get this post scheduled quickly as I shall be away for the weekend and back too late to post for Monday – ie today if you are reading it). I have, as you know, Captain Beaky (my Motobecane classic road racing bike), a clunky old Raleigh mountain bike and my more recently acquired Fifi (my Forme Longcliffe road bike) as a winter bike.

In addition I now have my son’s girlfriend’s lovely Raleigh Capri One road bike on loan. She has borrowed a mountain bike from him, hasn’t room to store both so we are storing it for her with her permission for me to try it out. It’s a super bike, fits me better than Fifi, being a slightly smaller frame, and I am going to be reluctant to give it back!

Now to my husband: he has his classic road racing bike – a Freddy Grub, for those in the know, dating back to the late 50’s/early 60’s and also a clunky old Raleigh mountain bike of the same era as mine. Recently he fished out an old classic road-race type frame that was in our barn (having been rescued many years ago from a ditch) and discovered it to be a Claude Butler of similar age to the Grubb. So he has now restored it and has ridden it a few times,  however the frame is a bit big for him, though it fits our son quite well. He has also since bought another Raleigh mountain-bike, not quite so old and full-suspension this time – a friend was selling it cheap and he can’t resist a bargain!

So I have three, plus one on loan, and he has four. On top of that, as you know, we also have a tandem. Then there are a couple of folding bikes on board our yacht, for use in port when we have no other transport. That makes five and a half a piece. Our youngest son who lives at home also has several bikes (I haven’t dared count them), mostly mountain bikes, plus several more in various stages of renovation including at least one road bike.

The bad news is that many of these are actually overwintering in our conservatory as they are probably better protected from the cold and damp, with the bonus that they are ready to hand when required. It does mean we can’t use the conservatory, but then it is a bit cold out there right now. At least most of the mountain bikes are down the garden in the shed.

Thinking about owning all these bikes it does beggar the question – why do we need so many? Well, you know the answer to that already, we have discussed it before (read about it here) – you need N+1, where N is the number you already have.

Sciatica

New Road BikeThere are many pleasurable things about riding a bike and many benefits too. I have just discovered a new one – Sciatica!

I have been suffering with Sciatica for the best part of three months. Now I’m not one to complain about aches and pains, I usually suffer in silence and if anyone asks I say I’m fine.

I was never molly-coddled growing up; all the childhood minor ailments, knocks and bruises were greeted with “You’re full of aches and pains nobody ever died of.” Only if I was really ill or injured was there any sympathy. Minor problems were treated at home, we only had the doctor if it was something more serious. My mother hardly ever took to her bed, if she did we knew she really was unwell. I don’t easily take to my bed either. As a mother you haven’t time to be ill. Who would get the children up, washed, dressed, breakfasted and off to school if you don’t? Who would do the shopping, washing, ironing, housework, cooking if you don’t?  Sitting at the doctor’s surgery waiting to be seen is such a waste of time that could be spent more profitably doing something else. All this means I have little sympathy for those who wallow in self-pity and take to their beds at the first sign of a sniffle declaring dramatically that they have The Flue or dash to the doctors with every big toe ache. If you have a real problem I’ll be there for you but don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.

I’m loath to admit that I have Sciatica, as far as I am concerned it is a just nuisance. Anyway only old people get Sciatica don’t they? and, just as I refuse to be ill, I refuse to be old – I’m not going to be old until I’m really old, whenever that may be. I will not give in to it. I will not limp. I walk as tall and briskly as usual as I go about my business doing my best to ignore the constant ache. Sometimes it is worse than others: sometimes I’m just aware of it in the background, but at other times it is a more persistent and painful ache across the small of my back, down my left hip, buttock and thigh, with pins-and-needles in my lower leg and foot. Then I can’t get comfortable sitting, standing, walking around, even lying in bed. Though it is often okay first thing in the morning it soon kicks in again and it is finally wearing me down. I don’t do pain-killers, they only mask the pain not cure it and I want to know if it is there or not. I want it to go away, permanently.

Two things give some relief. One is having a shower, ironic since it was getting into the shower that I had the first twinge of pain in my sciatic nerve. I allow the warm water to play over the effected areas for a couple of minutes and find that I then get a few hours relief before it kicks in again.

The other thing that helps (you knew I would get round to it eventually) is riding my bike! Whilst I am cycling along there is no pain, no ache, no nothing – all is well, and what’s more the effect lasts for several hours after I get off the bike. But eventually the nagging ache kicks in once more.

Sitting in front of the computer doesn’t help. Maybe I should turn it off now and go for a bike ride. Oh dear, no chance of that; it’s my writer’s group meeting tonight and I have yet to do any writing for it, so it looks like being another day in front of the computer.

Tandem Touring

Okay, so this is not quite as the title suggests. We have just returned from almost six weeks of touring through France and Spain but I have to admit that we weren’t actually touring on the tandem – we were in our motorhome with the tandem on the back so that we could go off for rides on it at various locations along the way.

Motorhome and tandem

Motorhome with tandem, Valencia, Spain

One of the drawbacks with a motorhome is that you have no alternative transport and if you want to go anywhere you either have to drag the lumbering thing with you, use public transport or take a bike. (Some people actually tow a small car but one of the reasons we swapped our caravan for a motorhome was in order to avoid towing.) So we decided it might be fun to take the tandem.

The first tandem excursion was a couple of days after we had arrived in France on the overnight ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe. We had stopped at an Aires in the village of Montville just north of Rouen. The plan was that we would cycle into Rouen and visit the cathedral. Hubby reckoned this would be a round trip of about 12 or maybe 13 miles. In the event it was more like 25 or 26 miles, was extremely hilly, alternately cold then hot then cold and took considerably longer to get to Rouen than we had envisaged, giving us only about an hour in the town before our return trip. I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed with the cathedral but have since learned that there are two in Rouen and I think we went to ‘the wrong one’. Maybe next time!

We then spent a few days with some friends who run a B&B near Alencon before moving on south so it was about four days before we got on the bike again. This time we were at an Aires called La Petite Gare at Uzerche, an old railway station. The track has been removed to create a public amenity and cycle path. It was a lovely gentle and flat ride! It was hot and we were in shorts and t-shirts. This was to be our last ride for a while as we wended our way via a visit of several days with my cousin near Toulouse and a few other overnight stops plus two days at Carcassonne – lovely medieval city, could have done with longer here – until we arrived at our daughter’s some 45 mins drive inland from Tarragona in Catalunia, Spain.

We stayed here for about a week and as we had no intention of driving the motorhome up and down their lumpy, bumpy, rocky, narrow track on a regular basis the tandem was our transport of choice. On it we made trips into the local village and to the nearest town, Mora D’Ebre. I have to say it was colder here than I had expected and we were glad we had packed some warm cycling gear. On one ride we nearly ran over a large snake that was thrashing about in the middle of the road. I wondered if it had been knocked by a tractor that went down the road ahead of us. When we returned down the road a short while later it had gone so can’t have been badly hurt.

Husband and tandem

My husband and tandem,
Peniscola, Spain

Then we discovered that we had six broken spokes in the back wheel! Why the wheel didn’t collapse we will never know. We tried to get some replacement spokes from our daughter’s favourite bike shop but they didn’t have the correct size. It was a few days before we managed to get any and by then we had moved on to a campsite near Peniscola, north of Valencia. We bought ten spokes so we had four spare. A few days later we broke another and this was to be the pattern for the next several days. We bought another six spokes in Oliva, just south of Valencia, when we only had one spare one left. The next day another broke. My husband had not been convinced when we bought it that the tandem had its original wheels and when the chap from the bike shop in Oliva looked at the wheel he said the spokes were not of good enough quality. Now we had replaced all the ‘inside’ spokes in the back wheel with stronger ones and checked their tension. Fortunately we had no further trouble.

Snow over the Mountains

Over the Mountains

The bike next came out in San Sebastian after a horrendous drive over the mountains from Pamplona in the snow! (After two days of almost continuous heavy rain) This is not what we went to Spain for. Once the snow and rain had stopped we had a gloriously sunny day, though cold, and rode the tandem through the town and along the sea front. What a lovely place – though riding a tandem through town with all the roadside furniture and pedestrians drifting around over the cycle track does not make for easy riding. Maybe we would have been better with solo bikes! Every time the pilot slowed down without warning it jolted through my body as I tried to peddle against sudden resistance, being unable to see ahead too well to anticipate!

Your truly, San Sebastian. Where did I leave the tandem?

Your truly, San Sebastian. Where did I leave the tandem?

Our last tandem ride of the trip was around the old city at La Rochelle, France, again a very interesting place. There had been a marathon earlier in the day and although the event had finished when we got the bike out the place was still heaving and again a tandem was not really the ideal bike for the stop/go conditions. After that it was back to our friends near Alencon before returning to the UK, it was pretty cold and frosty so the bike stayed on the back of the motorhome.

It was great fun to have the tandem with us but in retrospect taking the solo mountain bikes might have been a better idea – easier to get around towns and less likely to break spokes out in the rough countryside.

Now the tandem needs a thorough overhaul – especially the back wheel! Will we use it again over the winter? I don’t know but if we do I’ll be sure to tell you all about it.

 

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 up on 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?

_______________________________________________

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

 

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