Long Shadows

Low in the sky,
October sunshine
casts long shadows.

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Still Air

Washing hangs limply
in the still air.
I watch as from the cherry tree
a lone leaf drops.

Mixte Upgrades

As I mentioned when we first obtained our Mixte bikes hubby’s one had a somewhat higher spec than mine. It had been built with better components and had 6 gears at the back with a triple front chain ring, thus providing potentially 18 gears. Mine, in contrast had only 5 at the back and just a double chain ring so giving me just 10 gear options. Mine had also come originally with drop handle-bars and the gear shifters on the down tube, the brakes were also a little stiff. A while ago I reported that we had experimented with various options for the handle-bars (see here) and had eventually settled on changing the drops for straight bars with upright bar-ends to match hubby’s and everything settled down nicely for a while.

Updated handle-bars and gear shifters

Updated handle-bars and gear shifters

The gearing however was still an issue as I did not have as low a gear option as my husband and this was a noticeable problem while we were away on our recent holiday trail riding in the West Country and I constantly found myself struggling up hills. So on our return my husband decided to upgrade my bike. First he oiled the brake cables and replaced the outers making them considerably less stiff. He then obtained a Biopace triple chain ring from our local bike charity Back2Bikes. This is the same as the one on his bike and now gives me 15 gear options – still short of his 18 but considerably better than the original 10 and, he tells me, my lowest gear is now lower than his!

The Biopace chain ring is different from the norm in that it is elliptical and is a design that I believe has been favoured by Chris Froome, though I don’t know if he still uses it. I am no engineer or physicist but as I understand it the elliptical shape, with its larger radius on the downstroke, enables you to put more power down. I’m sure it’s more complex than that – maybe someone out there can explain it better. Suffice it to say that the jury is out about its benefits as far as I am concerned. The variation from circular is barely perceptible and it doesn’t feel any different so I’m actually not that bothered.

He then, from the same source, managed to find a pair of Shimano indexed gear shifters to match his own and which fit on the handle-bars (see photo above), so no more reaching down to the down tube and gentling the lever until you feel the gear shift. I had a short ride out with this new set-up just before we went away for a few days last week and I found the changes to the bike a real improvement

Horseshoe Church Gate, Cotswolds

Horseshoe Church Gate, Cotswolds

This most recent break away was to stay with a group of friends in a rented cottage in Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds from Monday to Friday. This was hubby’s fairly regular ‘old pals’ reunion (five couples and a widow), which has a different venue each time we gather. During the day we often do our own thing, together if it is something we all want to do and separately if so we choose. We then join up for sociable evenings in restaurants and at the house. Several of the pals are keen walkers and since hubby doesn’t walk well due to his knees (though he is fine on a bike) and I am still temporarily unable to walk very far we decided to take the Mixte bikes with us. We took ourselves off on the Tuesday and did a 17.5 mile tour around the countryside and through some lovely Cotswold villages with their mellow yellow Cotswold stone cottages. We encountered this fascinating gate, made from horseshoes at one village church. The area is quite hilly and although I did struggle a bit at times it really tested the new set-up and I found it a great improvement.

Birdland Penguins

Birdland Penguins

We also used the bikes on Wednesday around Bourton, visiting the ‘modal village’ in the morning and the Cotswold Motor Museum in the afternoon. On Thursday we went by car to ‘Birdland’, again in Bourton and occupying a nine acre site. This is an amazing place, with so much to see and we were even in time to watch the penguins being fed. We both managed to walk around the site, with plenty of rests on strategically sited benches, although we were both suffering from overdoing it afterwards. I have to say I am now mostly walking fairly easily although I am still aware of a few aches and pains and have to be careful how much I do without resting but I hope to be fully recovered before too long and can finally put it all behind me.

Photo Quote

Photo quotation.

 

Just a thought to leave you with while I’m off-line again for a few days. Back next week.

The Camel Trail

The last trail ride of our early autumn holiday was the Camel Trail which runs alongside the river Camel in Cornwall, from Padstow on the coast, to Wenfordbridge. The full route is about 18 miles, however the final miles, from Wadebridge to Padstow offer the best scenery where the sea and land merge into the sandbanks and salty creeks of the estuary.

View from Motorhome

Campsite view from Motorhome

In view of my recent backwards step after my accident we decided that we would just do this final short section of about 5 miles, which of course we would once again double up on with a there and back trip. So we drove up to a spacious campsite called Timaru, near Wadebridge. We had the place to ourselves and the views were wonderful. Although the campsite had no facilities we weren’t bothered as we were only planning on staying one night and we were able to be self-sufficient in the motorhome.

We got directions for the shortest route to pick up the trail from the campsite owner. This was a lovely ride along some leafy lanes of maybe a couple of miles, much of it steeply downhill; this was a slight concern as it meant the return would be uphill! We joined the trail a few miles downstream from Wadebridge and headed towards Padstow. The trail was an easy ride of mostly well compacted gravel with some slightly looser areas and some tarmac. Being an old railway line running along the valley it was pretty well flat. The day was warm in the sun but it was a bit windy, which made it rather cool in the areas the sun couldn’t reach.

The estuary was indeed very scenic and I did get some lovely GoPro footage but unfortunately still haven’t found the time to get to grips with editing this into anything I can share here. I must also apologise too for the fact that I didn’t take any stills on either my camera or my phone – hubby did but, typically, he has not yet downloaded them so I can’t share those either. On the final stretch into Padstow the trail crossed over a magnificent old railway bridge and once in Padstow there are fishing boats to be seen bobbing about in what is still a working port.

As usual, once we had reached Padstow there was nothing for it but to retrace our steps. However we chose not to leave the trail where we had picked it up and carried on to Wadebridge for the full extent of our planned ride. The trail here ends at a roadside café and bike hire shop and if you wish to continue on to Wenfordbridge there is a section of on-road riding before re-joining the trail once you have passed through the market town.

We made the decision here not to return along the track to our starting point but to return directly to the campsite along the main road out of Wadebridge. What we hadn’t taken on board, but should have been obvious and soon became apparent was this was up a very steep hill! Our Mixte bikes are not among the lightest bikes in the world and, as I have mentioned before, mine does not have the gear range that my husband’s does and my lowest gear is not as low as his. This, coupled with the difficulty I had of putting much power down due to my groin injury, meant that I had to bail out and walk up the hill. I’m not sure which was the lesser of the two evils as walking was agony and I had to stop frequently for brief rests. Eventually we did make it to the top where we found a supermarket and could stock up with a few nibbles for our journey home, or should I say hubby did while I waited outside – I couldn’t face walking round the store. Riding the rest of the way back to the campsite with only a few gentle climbs was a welcome relief. In all the ride was only about 13 miles but, due to the steep hill, it seemed much more.

Timaru Totem Pole

Timaru Totem Pole

The campsite was most interesting, with plaques up by the water taps and other fixtures displaying little verses and pictures of rabbits; a child’s paradise. Near the owner’s house there was a sandpit labelled as a “Fairies Meeting Place”, which I gather was intended to attract the rabbits, which are a real problem there, and keep them from chewing up the shrubbery – apparently it works and every morning there are several rabbits having their “Fairy Meeting”. There is also a magnificent totem pole by the entrance to the camping field, made by the owner as his wife wanted one and they were far too expensive to buy. It was a lovely campsite and we were almost sorry we were only staying the one night, but we duly set off after breakfast the next morning to return home.

We were away for two weeks and guess we did a bit less than 100 miles of trail riding overall; which, having fallen off and struggled to walk from only our second day out on the trails, can’t be bad. I have to add that we have now been home for about three weeks and I am moving about much better, although I still have some pain and some days are better than others. It’s frustrating but I’m sure I will have completely recovered before too many more weeks have passed.

One result on our return home was that my husband decided to modify my bike yet again to improve my gear ratios – more about this next time.

 

Vanished

A breeze breaks up the stillness,
the atmosphere is heavy and grey,
the late morning sun has vanished again
and rain is on the way.

October

Red Spotted Toadstools

 

In woodland glades
red-spotted toadstools appear.
October colours.

Coast to Coast in a Day

What? you may ask! Well this was down in Cornwall and it is one of the few coast to coast routes that you can do in a day. It runs from Portreath on the Atlantic coast  to Devoran on the estuary of the River Fal, near Falmouth. The route is part of the Cornish Mineral Tramways and is about 11.5 miles, however once again we would double up by going there and back again.

Pau Amma on the pontoon

Pau Amma’s new home

We moved on down to Cornwall from Devon to a small campsite at the wonderfully named ‘Come-to-good Farm’. The site was very basic although we did have an electric hook-up for the motorhome. It was fairly near the Devoran end of the trail and we had chosen it as we wished to visit the people who had bought our small trailer-sailer ‘Pau Amma’ earlier in the year for their young daughters and who owned a boatyard nearby. We had also brought our little ‘pop-pop’ motorbike along on this trip but so far hadn’t used it so we pressed it into service to go and visit the boatyard.  Unfortunately no-one was there (we subsequently found out they were away for a couple of days – just our luck) however we did see our little boat tied up to the pontoon, she is the little blue one in the middle of the photo. Climbing on and off and sitting on the pillion was a tad uncomfortable after my little cycling accident some days before.

Our Mixte bikes at Portreath

Our Mixte bikes at Portreath

We picked up the cycle trail near the campsite just a bit inland from the estuary. It was a very hilly ride of about 3 miles to get to the trail, which we joined near a place called Bissoe where we passed the Bike Chain Café. I had made the mistake of assuming this was another disused railway line and this proved to be a big mistake. It was in fact more of a cart track that served the areas copper and tin mines. It was the roughest trail we have ridden, in parts very steep and very stony with patches of loose stones to ride through and we would have been much better off with proper mountain bikes with fat tyres! The rough ride jogged my injured arm painfully, was taxing on my groin problem and the constant attention to staying in balance was very tiring. There were a few short tarmac and on-road sections which gave some relief. On arriving at Portreath we stopped to reward ourselves with and ice-cream and admired the wonderful beach – it must be heaving in the full season and there were plenty of people there on a day that was warm and sunny for the time of year.

The Bike Chain Cafe, Bissoe

The Bike Chain Cafe, Bissoe

After a good rest our return was, unsurprisingly, pretty much the same as the outward one. We had found that there were plenty of others making use of the trail, walkers, families and other cyclists – mostly on mountain bikes it has to be said. Several cyclists actually overtook us and I confess I was going along a bit gingerly at times, especially downhill, having no wish to fall off again while still recovering from my previous fall. We were even passed by a Dad with his two kiddies on little bikes doing a short section of it and they were managing very well. On the way back we stopped off at the Bike Chain Café at Bissoe for a cup of tea and a bite to eat. Off to the right hand side of the photo there is a long line of bike racks but fortunately there were not too many people around. The café also supports a well stocked bike shop which we had to have a good look round of course.

Devoran, trail end

Devoran, trail end

Rather than leave the track at Bissoe, where we had joined it, we decided to continue along to Devoran so that we had completed the full trail. This section was easier riding and was flatter. It passes through the Carnon valley under the wonderful Carnon viaduct. The largest nugget of gold ever found in Cornwall was once discovered by tin streamers in this area. The last short section on-road brought us into Devoran. Then we had a long, hard, hilly ride back to our campsite. My Mixte bike isn’t as low geared as hubby’s and on one steep hill I had to get off and walk, but with my groin injury walking wasn’t something I managed very well. I found it very painful and had to have frequent rests, in fact I didn’t think I was going to make it but of course I eventually did and I was never more relieved to see the motorhome again.

In all we cycled about 27 miles. It was a pleasant day out but it was rather too much for me in my injured condition and I paid for it later. The next day should have helped me recover as it was a rest day for me while we moved on down to Sennan to visit various relatives in the area – or should I say they mostly visited us as I was completely unable to walk again and in considerable pain.

We decided that if it didn’t improve soon it was time I got properly checked out so a couple of days later we took a taxi to Penzance hospital – straight in to A&E, no-one else waiting to be seen! In turns out I have a severe groin strain which is likely to take some time to heal, but fortunately no serious damage. The advice was to try to keep moving, take pain-killers and carry on cycling as this is exercise without putting too much weight on my injury. I was given a powerful dose of pain-killers at the hospital then hubby’s cousin picked us up and took us back to his house where we spent a lovely time with him and his wife and I was even able to walk around their beautiful large garden without too much discomfort – and then the pain-killers wore off!

The next day we cycled a 6.5 mile round trip on road, to Lands End and back to our campsite. Lands End, like so many lovely iconic places is completely ruined and made into an expensive tourist attraction which you have to pay through the nose to get in – needless to say we didn’t, we turned round at the gates. We have been there many times in the past when it was open and free for all. I found myself wondering how the Lands End to John O’Groats brigade manage to start their rides without forking out the fee.

Final Burst

Summer’s final burst;
staged display of warm sunshine.
Frost awaits its cue.

Autumn

See how the summer flowers fade,
see how the skies turn grey,
see how the berries ripen red
and leaves more golden every day.
See how the seasons turn and change
as autumn comes our way.

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