Cycling Uphill

Cycling uphill
against a strong head-wind
is not much fun;
but ultimately satisfying
when you roll down the other side.

Brief Visit

Caen Hill Locks

Caen Hill Locks

Last week we went for a brief visit down to the West Country. We should have gone about a month ago, as we needed to go down to Falmouth in Cornwall on some personal business but circumstances prevented it.

On that occasion we would have been away for a couple of weeks, but this time could only spare one week due to other commitments, hence it was a rather packed week. However we did manage to stop for a few days on a camp site near Devizes by the Kennet and Avon Canal and cycle part of the tow-path including the famous flight of locks at Caen Hill, pictured above.

I had originally hoped we would be able to visit near-by Avebury and its sacred landscape as I have never been there before but unfortunately we could not spare the time, so that is one place still on the ‘bucket list’. Stonehenge, which is also in the area, I have visited two or three times in the past, before it became quite so commercialised so missing this was no hardship.

One way and another this year has turned out rather hectic and there is no promise of let up for the next couple of months. It has been increasingly difficult for me to find the time to post on this blog and still do the various other things I would like to find time to do. I was glad of the break away last week even though we were rushing from one end of the country to the other – after leaving the West Country we headed straight over to Essex for a lunch gathering with friends there before finally heading home.

Not having to write posts for the blog while we were away was a relief and I hadn’t realised just how stressful it had become constantly thinking of the need to post something. This has focused my mind a little and I have decided to take a bit of breathing space and step away from the blog for a while. Therefore this will be my last post this side of Christmas. I will review the situation and see how I am fixed to return in the New Year.

I thank all my readers who have followed me faithfully over the years, many of you have become friends and I thank you all as well for the comments you have left here.

I will probably drop by at Christmas with appropriate seasonal greetings and let you know what will happen for the future. I shall still be on Facebook for those of you who also join me there, but here, for now, it is goodbye. I wish you all well and will perhaps see you back here in the New Year.


Serene Swan

Out for a bike ride,
legs pumping, up, down, up down.
Serene swan swimming.

(Written after my bike ride on Monday.)

Admitting Defeat

A while back my husband, ‘the boss,’ decided that he was going to challenge himself to cycle a minimum of 100 miles a month as a way of keeping fit after his mild heart attack a couple of years ago. I decided to take the challenge on board too and as we usually cycle together it wouldn’t be a problem.

Now, 100 miles doesn’t seem much in a month, many people do that and more in a week or even in a day, but we are no longer in the first flush of youth and, as I say, this is the minimum – we frequently do more. While this isn’t a competition between us it has, over time become something of a game. He sometimes goes out without me when I have something else to do and gains some miles, so I sneak out when he is otherwise occupied and overtake his distance, he then goes out and beats my total and so on – it’s a bit of good humoured fun whilst keeping us fit.

This month the weather has been not the best and we have been busy with other things so cycling had not had the same degree of focus, we were struggling to make up our minimum mileage. As at the beginning of last week I was only up to about 87.5 miles. The boss, on the other hand, having managed to get out a few times without me, had a 20 mile advantage.

So last Monday I went out on my own while he had a hospital appointment and I cycled just over 14 miles, bringing me within spitting distance of his 20 mile lead. When I got home he was already back, was fitting new tyres on one of his bikes and preparing to go out for a ride to ‘test’ it (his excuse). He did 11 miles, thus taking back much of my gain. Having it in mind that I needed to only do about 6 or 7 miles to catch up I went out on Saturday. In showery weather I rode 8.5 miles, returning home rather chilly and damp but feeling confident that I was somewhere near his total now that I had nudged over the 100 mile target.

At this point there was only two days left until the end of September and the weather forecast was still not good. Then we both realised our mathematical mistake – we had forgotten to add on hubby’s 11 mile test ride to his overall total. Once again he was the best part of 20 miles ahead of me. Was it game over?

Yesterday was a wash-out, no way I was going out in that, but this morning, oh joy of joys, the sun was shining, the sky was covered with fluffy clouds with a fair amount of blue showing – I was going out on the bike and what’s more it was warm, I could wear shorts rather than the three-quarter or full length tights I had worn for the last couple of weeks.

Planning a route was tricky, I prefer to avoid busy main roads but after all the recent rain the small country lanes were a no-no, bound to be full of muddy puddles and ruts. I needed a compromise route on better roads but not major ones. Route planned, off I went. I have a cycle computer which I usually keep set to time and speed rather than distance, which is hubby’s choice so that he knows how far he has travelled. I like to keep a check on time as normally I want to need to know that I am not out longer than I can spare the time for. I did need to get back today as I had a fair amount to do since we are going away tomorrow for a few days!  I had momentarily thought of adding on another short loop at the end of my ride but decided against it. When I got home however I rued my decision. What I estimated was probably about a 13-14 mile route turned out to only be just over 11 miles,  bringing my total for the month up to 121.6 miles with no time left to do any more. Hubby’s total is around 128 miles and I have had to admit defeat. However, tomorrow is the start of another month….

No Time

Busy day,
making the most of the weather;
washing, cycling, gardening.
No time for computing!

Vintage Bikes

Home again after yet another weekend jaunt. This time to the National Association of Veteran Cycle Clubs National Rally. We learned of this rally from a couple that we met at the York Rally earlier this year and thought it sounded like a fun weekend. We were not members of this club but were assured we could attend if we paid a small affiliation fee. So off we went last Friday, up to Garstang in Lancashire arriving at the rally Campsite at lunchtime.

In the afternoon, with no official ride scheduled, we took ourselves off for a short ride, first to find the village hall a mile or so away where much of the event would be based and continuing on for a rather longer leg stretch, doing about ll.5 miles in all. It was overcast, cool and windy. This was late August, but it should be warm! Rather foolishly we had not taken any ‘winter’ cycling gear but at least had some base layers – I don’t expect to wear two base layers in August. The legs, in shorts, were a bit chilly!

Vintage Bikes

Some of the Vintage Bikes at the Rally

On Saturday there were two rides programmed, one short one of about 10 miles for the vintage cycles and a longer 25 mile ride for classic bikes which we had planned to do as we have classic, not vintage bikes. (We had taken our Henry Burton hand-built bikes from the early 1960’s).  However the weather had other ideas and it was raining heavily when we were due to set off. After a delayed start the two rides were lumped in together and we did a rather slow and steady ride of approximately 11 miles in company with a ‘Penny-Farthing’, (or ‘Ordinary’ as they were originally called) and various other vintage bikes, about a dozen riders in all went out on the ride. We enjoyed a stop at an ice-cream parlour where I had the biggest ice-cream I have ever eaten, and that on a day that was cold, wet and windy – hardly ice-cream weather! We did have occasional sunny spells and when the sun came out it was warm but we were pretty cold and wet by the time we got back to the campsite and were glad of the heater in the Motorhome.


Two of the ‘Ordinary’ cycles, commonly known as ‘Penny-Farthings’

Sunday was to be the main rally ride and many more vintage cycles turned up at the village hall to take part in a leisurely 10 mile ride to a local pub and back. The weather, although still cool and windy, was at least fine for the morning. We joined a classic ride of approximately 22 miles, again several more people had turned up just for this ride. The intention was to meet up with the vintage bikes at the pub, which we eventually did, but it was so crowded there we elected to ride on to a pub at the next village of Cockerham. Here hubby and I parted company with the official ride to make our own more direct way back to the campsite as we had not booked in for the lunch that was provided at the village hall.

Shortly after we got back to our Motorhome it began to rain heavily. After lunch we chose a lull in the rain to set off to the village hall for the end of rally get-together and to hand in our numbers. Even though this was only a short distance we got caught out in a heavy downpour and had to shelter for several minutes before continuing on.

We had intended to stay on at the campsite overnight as we were not sure what time everything would finish but in the event all finished early enough for us to make the journey home in the evening. Deciding quickly to avoid another cold night camping we packed up post haste and arrived home in time for a late dinner. Before we left we informed the organisers we were leaving and were offered a refund of our Sunday night camping fee but hubby told them not worry. In the end it was agreed to use the money to pay our membership fee to the club – so this is yet another cycling club of which we are now members!

Despite the unseasonal weather the rally was most enjoyable. We met up with a few people we had met before at other events and also several new and interesting people. The area was great for cycling; scenic, very pleasant and relatively flat, with just a few slightly more taxing uphill bits. It was great seeing so many really old bikes out on the vintage ride, several ‘Penny-Farthings’ and many other rare bikes that I cannot hope to name and confess I have no wish to try riding as they all look heavy and difficult to handle, but it was wonderful to see the riders all dressed up in appropriate gear for riding these elderly bikes. We understand that the rally was somewhat down on numbers this year, which may have been due to the weather, but those who were there were real enthusiasts and good company.

August Tandem Ride

What a busy weekend I had. On Saturday I finished my mini pond (see my last post) and on Sunday it was our monthly ride out with the local branch of the Tandem Club.

You may remember that when I wrote about our last outing with the club only a couple of weeks ago (here) we used the new tandem that my husband built. We had a few slight mechanical problems on the ride and the terrain was rather hilly around Ludlow in Shropshire so I did complain that it wasn’t the most enjoyable ride I had ever been on. This time the ride started at Audlem in Cheshire, about 15 or so miles from home. We took our trusty Longstaff tandem for this ride and, being Cheshire, the terrain was somewhat flatter, very gently undulating with only a few steeper climbs and on this bike my view of the scenery is not quite so restricted from my back seat.

In addition hubby has since bought and fitted an ‘Add-e’; a device that adds a small electric motor to a bicycle. This is an alteration he has been considering for some time and after the Ludlow ride he decided that he would bite the bullet despite the rather costly price tag! The tandem is quite heavy so going uphill can be a problem and a strain on his poor old knees. Normally people choose to buy a purpose built electric bike or adapt an existing bike by buying a new back wheel with the motor already fitted. These alternatives make the bikes very heavy and so people end up using the electric assist most of the time. The ‘Add-e’, by contrast, can be fitted simply and easily to any bike without the need to change anything and does not make any significant weight increase. The small motor  is fitted to the bottom bracket and works by engaging with the back wheel when turned on and peddling, disengaging when turned off of you stop peddling. The battery is also quite small and light and fits into a specially designed holder that looks just like a drinks bottle holder.  As we like our tandem the way it is, Longstaff tandems often being considered the Rolls Royce of tandems, we didn’t want to change anything so this device seemed ideal, especially considering it was required only to give us the occasional boost. The device can also be removed at any time returning the bike once more to its ‘original’ condition.

The club ride was our first proper ride out with the extra assist of the ‘Add-e’, although we had done a 18 mile ride on the Friday just to try it out. It worked very well and helped ensure we did not get left behind this time – although I doubt we would have done anyway as the pace of the ride was a bit more in our comfort zone and, as I said, the terrain was not so hilly.

Picnic lunch at Beeston Castle

Our ride took us in a big loop with a lunch stop at Beeston Castle, where I remember going with my grandmother to pick bilberries in my childhood (Beeston not being far from Wilmslow where I was born).  It has rather changed now. In the old days you could freely scramble about among the scrub land. (Somewhere I have an old photo I meant to look out!) Now it is owned by English Heritage and access is more restricted. It is also a lot less like scrub land than I remember, although perhaps we were at a different part of the site, we didn’t actually go up to the castle at the top of the hill. We all took a picnic on this occasion and picnic tables were available to use, so we were very lucky with the weather – the forecast had been rather worrying right up until the last minute. In fact we had wonderful day, warm and fine but not to hot.

Our ride continued on another loop back to Audlem with an additional stop at Overwater Marina for tea (and cake for those who wanted it). In all the ride was about 40 miles and there were 5 tandems out, one other of which was a purpose built electric bike. A couple of punctures had to be dealt with and one or two other minor problems – but not us this time thankfully. All in all a good day out. Next month’s ride is in our own neck of the woods and we are organising it.



Tandem Club Ride

Yesterday saw us off on a tandem club ride with our ‘local’ branch. The start and finish point was in Ludlow, Shropshire some 50 miles from home. This required a fairly early start in order to be ready when the ride set of at 10.00am.

Tandem Club ride

Ludlow ride mid-morning stop

I have to say this was not the most enjoyable ride I have been on with the Tandem Club. We took the ‘Champagne’ tandem, the one that the boss has built up from a frame that he bought at auction for £10. We have previously ridden it for short local rides, hoping to iron out any problems and have usually had to tweak one or two things every time we have gone out. This is the first time that we have done any significant distance and true to form we did have one or two problems, probably not helped by the fact that both wheels had to be removed in order for the bike to fit within the width of the car when on the bike rack. The first problem was that hubby had a bit of trouble getting them back in again properly, especially the back wheel.

Once we got going we found that the group set off at a considerably faster pace than we are comfortable with – most unusual as on previous rides with the club the pace has been just about right.  Added to this the minor problems which cropped up, and required us to stop several times to adjust things, meant that we were getting left behind and were constantly in catch up mode. On top of that Shropshire is very hilly so we were frequently playing catch up while going up hill!

One of the problems, that we have had before with this bike, is that the back wheel tends to shift a little causing it to rub against the bike frame. This needed adjusting and tightening. A new problem that cropped up was caused by the fact that hubby has changed the wheels since we last rode the bike and the brake blocks don’t really fit the new back wheel properly so were rubbing lightly against the tyre all the time – nothing much could be done about this other than make the decision to buy new brake blocks. The third problem to beset us was that, with a loud ping that made me think it had broken, the left hand chain came off. (A tandem has two chains, one on each side and the left hand one or ‘timing chain’ connects the two sets of pedals so that they go round together.) I found myself riding along anxiously wondering what was going to go wrong next!

From my point of view a further issue that detracted from enjoyment was the fact that I can see even less from my back seat (stoker’s position) than on our other tandem. My handlebars are lower so I could not see over hubby’s shoulders at all without taking my hands off the bars and sitting up. Also many of the hedgerows alongside the lanes were quite high so I couldn’t see over them at the side either and I do like to enjoy the scenery while we are riding along. At times I thought I might just as well be at home on the turbo trainer.

Scenic river view

Scenic river view

Well that’s enough complaining, to be fair it was a good ride and we were out in the fresh air in good company with people who didn’t complain about having to stop from time-to-time to wait for us to catch up and we did make it round the route. We had a short mid-morning stop on the way beside a very scenic river and bridge, with a lunchtime stop at an excellent café in Craven Arms where I ate rather more than was good for me considering we still had several hilly miles to go.

Once back at the car park in Ludlow, having ridden a good 33 miles, we had to again remove the wheels and load the tandem before heading home. We got back home at around 4.45pm feeling rather tired but after an excellent night’s sleep we are once more raring to go. Hubby has already bought the new brake blocks and fitted them so we are all ready to go again!

Cycling Again!

No Haiku today as I have now finished posting all 10 of my Holiday Haiku (the 10th, about falling off my bike was posted first!). This has actually worked out quite well as I shall be away for the weekend so I can start afresh on my return.

By the time you read this we will be in York for Cycling UK’s ‘York Rally’ which takes place from Friday 21st to Monday 24th June. We attended last year and enjoyed it so much that this year we are going as volunteer helpers from Thursday 20th – a day earlier than the official start of the Rally. This is making it rather confusing for me as I am writing this post on Wednesday to schedule for today, Friday (we have an early start on Thursday morning!).  We will be in our Motorhome with no electric hook-up or much in the way of WIFI so I am not even bothering to take my computer with me; I will not, therefore, be posting anything here for Monday but should be back on-line on Wednesday next week.

Being helpers does not mean we will miss out on the cycling and we are particularly looking forward to the Retro Ride which is a new addition to the programme on Saturday. We have our classic road racing bikes with us for this, but we also have one of our tandems for any other rides. The Rally offers a choice of several rides each day and other than the Retro Ride we have not yet decided which others we might do. We’ll wait until we get there to choose from the full programme and as usual I will report on the event on our return.


Travellers Return

I’m back. We have returned from approximately 8 weeks travelling through France and Spain in our motorhome. We have had a mixed bag of weather – snow (yes, snow), rain, thunderstorms, strong winds and I admit, some hot days with sunshine – enough to at least show some slight signs of a suntan (I’m fair skinned and don’t tan easily at the best of times), but generally a lot colder than we are used to when visiting this time of the year.

Family at La Pedals de CLip

Photo from La Pedals de Clip website

I now have an awful lot of catching up to do so I don’t intend to give you chapter and verse of my time away. However one thing we did do is take part once again La Pedals de Clip, a rally for classic road-race bikes, together with our daughter. I have reported on this event in the past (here) so there is no need for me to fully explain it again. Basically it is a fun event that ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’, very friendly and enjoyable. My husband and I both rode our Henry Burton classic bikes (built locally to our home in the UK) and our daughter rode her James Fothergill which was built in Liverpool. At one point I thought I might not be able to take part, having taken a tumble from my bike a couple of weeks before the event and hurt my elbow rather badly – beware of pedestrians in Spain, they have right of way apparently and do not always look before stepping out to cross the road! (Hubby stopped suddenly to avoid hitting the pedestrian and I crashed into hubby’s bike.) Fortunately the pain had subsided sufficiently by the ride day, although I did ache a bit afterwards!

Always a fairly tough ride, up and hill and down dale with a final 1Km hill climb to the castle of Sant Marti Sarroca where the event finishes, this year’s ride was tougher than last time we did it due to an almost continuous strong headwind all the way round. (I gather that last year’s event, which we didn’t do, was worse as the weather was very cold and wet.)

We made one or two interesting observations at the cycling event. First we got the impression that there seemed to be slightly fewer participants than previously – possible due to last year’s weather – but there did seem to be more younger people in evidence, which must bode well for the future of the event. I also got the impression that there was not as many females this time and in fact I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I was probably one of the oldest females, if not the oldest, taking part.

Before we went away I challenged myself to write at least one poem a week during the holiday. Usually when on holiday I do very little writing other than keeping a journal so I decided I wanted to make better use of some of my ‘spare time’. Although I didn’t literally  write a poem every week, (some weeks I wrote two and then maybe nothing for the next week) overall I wrote 9 poems plus 2 Elfje, 2 Tanka and 10 Haiku or Senryu and I wrote my usual journal. I have impressed myself – not bad for just under 8 weeks away! Most of the poems do need some further polishing (I didn’t say they were good poems!) but I hope to share the Elfje, Tanka and Haiku/Senryu with you over the coming days, starting here with one about my little accident:

Falling off my bike
the road bites my arm and leg.
My elbow swells up.


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