Flying Visit

Star Gazing Hare, CotswoldsLast week my daughter came over from her home in Spain to attend a course in the Lake District (not cycling related). She finished at lunchtime on Friday and wasn’t flying back until Sunday so with a couple of days to spare she was able to pay us a visit, which was wonderful and especially so as we didn’t know until almost the last-minute. She arrived mid-afternoon on Friday in her hire-car.

On Saturday morning we were able to fix her up with a bike (we’ve got plenty) and some cycling gear (she’s a similar size to me though taller and slimmer!) plus a spare helmet and, together with our youngest son we went off for a lovely bike ride in the morning. It was mild, fine and cool without being cold – a lovely Autumnal day. Our route took us around the lanes, through some local villages until we picked up the Stafford Greenway trail in Haughton and followed it along to Gnosal before once more taking to the lanes in order to return home. Becky had done the Stafford to Haughton stretch with us before (see here) so this was a new section for her. Maybe next time she’ll get to finish the trail!

The interesting thing about this bike ride is that daughter Becky (who blogs at Mad Cycling in the Midday sun), hubby and I all had cycle computers on our bikes and our son was using his Strava ap. – so when we got home and checked our mileage I made it 16.7 miles, Becky made it 17.9 and hubby made it 18.5. While hubby would like to believe his computer I think on balance mine might well be the correct reading since our son’s Strava ap. gave the same reading and since the ap. works on GPS ought perhaps to be the more accurate! It just shows how inaccurate these computers can be when there is a 2 mile discrepancy in the readings!

We finished off the day with the rest of the family – eldest son, daughter-in-law, grandson and youngest son’s girlfriend – enjoying an Indian take-away with us followed by apple crumble and custard for desert as requested by Becky, who obviously doesn’t get it very often back home in Spain. She left us again very early Sunday morning to catch her flight home from Liverpool airport.

Typically none of us thought to take any photos on our little bike ride so I have none to share with you, hence the handsome chap at the top of the page. The photo was taken in the grounds of the Cotswold Motor Museum at Bourton-on-the-Water, the venue for our ‘Old Pals’ reunion that I wrote about last week.

I later discovered from a free magazine that I picked up while we were there that he was part of the Cotswold Hare Trail. These hare sculptures were hidden around various villages in the Cotswolds and vary in size from five feet tall to less than nine inches. My chap is one of the five feet ones. The aim of the trail is to raise awareness of the Cotswolds AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). There were apparently 130 of them to find this year and anyone who found and recorded them all, taking a selfie with them, could enter a prize draw to win a blank five feet tall one to paint for themselves! This chap was the only one I found, and that was by accident as I was unaware of the existence of the trail. He actually seems to be from last year’s trail so was probably auctioned off then and is now a permanent fixture at his current location rather than being hidden. This year’s batch are due to be auctioned off this month.  Profits from the auction will be donated to Cotswold AONB projects.

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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.

Site content copyright of Elizabeth Leaper (Libby).

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