‘Bertie’ Bike News

It’s a few weeks since I wrote about cycling so it’s about time for an update. I should say that I haven’t really had much of interest to write about lately on that front as we haven’t been out on any more trail rides for a while, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been out and about on the bikes. Although the days are getting shorter and the weather cooler we have still been out for our normal road riding jollies of varying lengths and recently I have had cause to re-test my classic road-race bike ‘Bertie’.

I have written a few posts about Bertie in the past. You will find the most recent here, and if you follow this link you will also find links to earlier posts about the rest of Bertie’s story.

Although I have ridden ‘Bertie’ (now more usually referred to as ‘HB’) many times, including at the Eroica Britannia, I have always had a slight problem with the bike. More specifically with the gears. HB (Bertie) has the gear shifter on the down tube in the old style and there are only five gears. At least in theory there are five gears but in practice I have, more often than not, only had 4 or sometimes only 3 as No.5 and sometimes No.4 refuse to co-operate. Fortunately with at least four gears and given that it is the top not the bottom gear that has given most problem the bike has still been a pleasure to ride.

More recently though all the gears have been slipping. Sometimes I have changed down when going uphill only to have the gear lever slide its way back up again and changing gear had become somewhat imprecise. So hubby decided it was time to have a serious look at the problem. First he tightened up the gear lever. This was an improvement, it stopped it changing gear of its own accord, but made it rather stiff to operate.

Simplex Derailleur

New Simplex Derailleur

He had been mumbling for some time that the derailleur was not the best it could be and that perhaps he should change it, so finally last week he did just that. He tells me that the Simplex derailleur he has now fitted is not only in better condition than the old one that was on there when we acquired the bike (I think it was a Shimano – a good make but mine was rather worn!) but that it is also more in keeping with the age of the bike, or more age-specific as he termed it.

A  few days later we went out on a test ride. After a 16 mile ride I have to report that the problem seems to have been solved and HB’s gears seem to be fully operational, which is absolutely wonderful.

On this ride hubby rode his newly acquired hand-built Henry Burton bike, which he also declares to be a joy to ride. This he bought from Henry Burton’s shop in Stafford, now run by his son. The bike had been built by Henry for a local man in the 1960’s. The previous owner has now died and his family asked Henry’s son to find the bike a good home and along came my hubby!

This is not the only Henry Burton bike my hubby has recently acquired, he also has a slightly more recent model which was made by Falcon and branded as a Henry Burton (they stopped making their own bikes when Henry retired) which he obtained from our local bike re-cycling charity Back2Bikes and which he has just finished refurbishing. This, with our two Mixte (also branded Henry Burton but built elsewhere) brings our total of Henry Burton bikes to five. I think that is probably enough don’t you?

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A Tandem Tale

We have just had a few days away with our motorhome and tandem in the Delamere Forest area of Cheshire, not very far from home but with only a few days of decent weather in the forecast and the fact that it is a great area for cycling it seemed a good choice. Before we set off my husband put the pannier rack over the rear wheel so that we could carry panniers should we wish to pack rain gear, shopping, picnic lunches or whatever while out cycling. We also bought a new OS map as we didn’t have one of the area.

Tandem deraillierWe arrived just after lunch on a hot Tuesday and in the afternoon went for a short ‘shake down’ ride of approximately four miles, complete with one pannier as we were going via the local shop where we hoped to buy some Marmite, having forgotten to take any with us. Unfortunately they were out of stock. On the way back to the camp site the driver (hubby) changed up to top gear – the chain seized up and the pedals would not budge! A short stop by the roadside showed that the small nut that held the pannier rack on was obstructing the chain on the offside which had then become jammed. With some slight difficulty it was eased off and top gear declared out of action. The derailleur was adjusted to make it impossible to attempt top gear. A full repair will have to wait until our return home. You can just make out the small offending nut near the top right of the photo.

Snack break

Snack break

The campsite was right on the edge of the forest, which consists mostly of pines interspersed with a few deciduous trees. A short stroll on Tuesday evening showed us that riding the tandem through there was probably not the best idea. On the next couple of mornings we took ourselves off on a couple of  approximately fifteen mile routes out into the lanes of the surrounding countryside, heading west along the only proper road through the forest on Wednesday and east on Thursday. The terrain was fairly hilly, quite steep on occasions but very scenic. The worst hill was a very long slow drag in full sun on Wednesday, which was not helped by the fact that it was a busy major road. We had to stop for a blow half-way up but made it without getting off to push. On the plus side, most of the cyclists we passed during the ride greeted us cheerfully and checked if we were okay on the odd occasions we stopped to check the map.

It so happens that our campsite was next door to the railway station where there was a well recommended café that also sold a locally made ice-cream with the wonderful name ‘Snugburys’. We decided to stop to sample this as we passed on our way back on Wednesday. However when we got to the station we discovered that neither of us had brought any money! We disappointedly made our way back to the campsite for lunch and after changing out of our sweaty cycling gear walked back down to the station café for our ice-cream – it was delicious.

Forest Rest

Resting in the forest.

Our route on Thursday caused a slight additional problem in that it took us off the new OS map on to the adjacent one and matching them up was slightly tricky as there was no overlap, plus the second map was quite old and there was some variance in the colours used for the roads. One hill was a real ‘kick-up’ and I did have to bail out and walk the last bit, my legs not having recovered from Wednesday’s long drag. We stopped to check the map several times and invariably someone stopped to offer assistance. On the way back this time we decided to risk riding a track through the forest to avoid a five or six mile hilly detour if we continued on the road. The loose stoney track, which dipped, climbed and swirled round tree routes was a bit hairy when you are on the back seat and can’t see where you are going and at one point I got off to walk.

On both days the weather was just too hot to consider an afternoon ride but having enjoyed our ice-cream on Wednesday we decided a repeat was in order and returned to the railway station on Thursday. We sat on the quiet platform while we ate, determined to see at least one train. Chester was two stops up the line one way and Manchester some way off in the opposite direction. Eventually a train came along from the Chester direction and I was interested to note that there was a special carriage for bicycles. Not so long ago bikes were very unwelcome on trains but there is obviously now a change of heart, especially as the Delamere Forest is widely advertised as a cycling area – at least for mountain bikes.

The weather changed on Friday; cold wet and windy. This was not a problem for us as we were returning home anyway. Fortunately we had put away our awning and put the tandem on the motorhome bike-rack the night before so we had a leisurely start to the day before heading off, arriving back home in time for lunch.

Next time we visit this area we will take the mountain bikes so that we can ride the forest trails more easily. Meanwhile we have discovered a few teething problems with the tandem, but nothing that a few hours in the workshop can’t cure. As I mentioned in my previous post about the tandem (here ) the driver operates the brakes and gears. The tandem has three brakes, normal centre-pull calliper brakes on the front and back wheels plus an additional drum brake on the back wheel. This means that one brake lever operates two brakes and this makes for very hard work, especially when controlling speed down-hill. My husband has decided to ease his load by setting it up so that the drum brake is operated from the stoker’s (my rear seat) handle bars. It will be interesting getting used to the new set-up. Then we will plan our next adventure!

Site content copyright of Elizabeth Leaper (Libby).

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