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!

 

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Conversation

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

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.

The Croxton Wells

Further to my post last Monday on the subject of Well Dressing, which you can read here, I did eventually get to visit the wells on Friday. They were only left in situ for one week so this was really my last opportunity. I half expected them to have faded, having been decorated using natural materials, but in fact they were still in good condition.

Well No. 6This was a good excuse to go out on the bike (‘Lola’) and to prove that I did here is my bike by Well No. 6.

I was intending to ride the 6.3 miles Heritage Trail which included visiting the five village wells and the sixth which was a bit further away along a lane out of the village. Croxton is about 3 miles from my home so the round trip would have been about 12.5 miles. Unfortunately I missed a turning down one lane (see Friday’s post) and ended up doing a round trip of about 14 miles.

As I mentioned in my previous post the theme this year was ‘Supporting the Community’ and Well 6 is a spring-fed well beside a fishing pond, near the remains of an old manor house. This ‘Dressing’ celebrated the Shropshire and Staffordshire Blood Bikes (which now also cover part of Cheshire). This is a volunteer organisation that transports blood, as well as breast milk for premature babies and microbiological samples on behalf of the NHS, using specially equipped motorbikes.

Boughy's Well No 1The wells all served the community in times gone by, some providing water for the people of the community and others were used to water livestock and passing coach horses. Well No. 1, on the left, is known as Boughy’s Well and is another spring fed well on an area known as The Flash. This well provided drinking water for the village and is now protected by a fence. It was ‘Dressed’ by members of the local community and represents the police, fire and ambulance services.

Well No 2

Well No. 2 on the right was created by local children and represents Staffordshire’s Lowland Rescue Service, helping find missing people and saving lives at times of flooding as well as transporting paramedics to casualties in adverse weather conditions.

Well 3 RNLI

The  small ‘Dressing’ for Well No. 3 sits above a ‘sloping well’ carved into the sandstone rock. It celebrates the work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

 

Well No. 4 below is another ‘sloping well’ that was used to water farm animals and coach horses. This star-shaped ‘Dressing’ depicts the village groups that support the community, such as the choir, the church, the Garden Guild, the Tennis Club and the WI (Women’s Institute – who initiated the Well Dressing Festival).

Well No. 4

Finally Well No. 5, below, is known as ‘Cattery Well’ as it sits outside a local cattery! It is a deep spring-fed well and always has water. It provided a plentiful supply for local residents. This well is also fenced for safety purposes and the ‘Dressing’ sits above it. The ‘triptych’ design was created by children from the local primary school and references their school badge which includes a bee, train, kingfisher and the church. As well as learning about the ancient custom of Well Dressing while doing this the children also learnt about the importance of wells in rural villages.Well No. 5 Cattery Well

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.

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!

Panic Time

From time to time I post about my cycling activities. Just lately however I don’t seem to have had a great deal of time for cycling – either too busy with other things or the weather just hasn’t been inviting (I’m a bit of a fair weather rider). Occasional rides out on wet roads have needed major bike washing sessions on my return.

Revised Book CoverOne of my main excuses recently has been my latest book ‘Simply Elfje’ which is now nearing completion. The picture shows my revised (final) version of the cover. I have given myself an Easter deadline to get it done and that is fast approaching. The reason for this particular deadline is that I have so much coming up during the lead up to and after Easter that if I don’t get it done by then it will end up not getting done until July or August. So far I am on track. Fingers crossed.

Working on the book though, as I said, has made it difficult to get out on the bike very often and this is my reason for panic. At the end of April we are hoping to do a 45 mile charity ride in aid of our local hospice and then at the end of May we are already booked for a 40K Classic Road Race Bike rally in Spain.

I have mentioned these events before but I’m panicking because I haven’t done much training and now I’m really getting a bit worried that I won’t make the distance. On top of that we will soon be away for at least a couple of weeks as we are taking our yacht over to France. While on the boat I won’t be doing much cycling. Yes, we do have folding bikes on the boat but these are not good for serious cycling over long distances. They are a boon for going shopping or local sight-seeing, but a long ride? Forget it! We’ve tried it – jolly uncomfortable!

I have been getting out on the bike more over the last few days and today would be a good day for a ride too but I had to stay in this morning waiting for a builder to come and look at a little problem with a leak in a corner of our conservatory and also I’m so far behind with the boring things like house work that I do desperately need to give the house a blitz. On top of that I still have work to do on the book (final proof read!) and I’m expecting a visitor later, but maybe I’ll fit in a short ride after that. Tuesday and Wednesday mornings are out, so is Thursday afternoon – I have other engagements, but with a bit of luck I might fit something round those. I’m just going to have to make the effort. I’m loving my modern Raleigh road bike but I do need to get out on the classic bike soon too and once more get used to fact that I haven’t got as many gears to play with – those hills will get tougher!

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