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!

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!

Outing No. 2

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about our tandem, you can read the item here. Since then my husband has spent some time fiddling and tweaking the set-up. Yesterday he decided it was time for another outing so he quickly replaced the pedals (a necessary item!) and off we went.

When we bought the tandem it came with mud-guards and carry racks on both front and back. These he had removed but now he replaced the front carrier so that he could take a small box of tools with us in case of need. Since the route we planned was in a slightly different direction from our usual cycling routes, using some lanes with which we are not very familiar, we also had a local map in case we got lost – back lanes are notorious for having no signposts – in a drawstring back-pack which I carried.

Shortly after leaving home we had to stop at traffic lights on the main road that runs past our house to negotiate the road-works where some new housing is being built (always a problem as I hate feeling that I am holding up the traffic!) before turning down our first lane. This lane is well-known to us, we call it Strawberry Farm Lane, which is not its real name but there used to be a pick-your-own strawberry farm at the top, alas no longer there. Here, rolling down the hill, we overtook some joggers. This reminded us how noisy the brakes are, (something else that needs attention) but at least the joggers heard us coming and called out that it was better than a bell! A short stretch along another main road out of our town and we were on yet another familiar lane, this time uphill.

At the crossroads at the top we saw signs for a ‘Cycling Event’ and worried about getting swept up in it! However we saw no other cyclists at this point and have no idea what the event was – perhaps a time trial for a local club. Straight over the crossroads, down the lane opposite and along to the next crossroads, over another main road and we were onto unfamiliar territory. A short distance along this lane my husband decided that the gear lever for the back chain ring was slipping and he had been having trouble engaging the gears. The tandem has two sets of gears, three on the front ring and five on the back making a possible 15 in all. We pulled over. Out with the tools while he tightened up the lever.

We had only just got going again when we were stopped by a van asking for directions, their satnav had taken them to the lane but could not identify the isolated property they were looking for, so off with my back-pack and out with the map! The property was marked and they had passed it. A short while later we had to pull over so that they could overtake us as they returned down the narrow track.

After another mile or so, having turned onto yet another unfamiliar lane, my husband decided the other gear lever was also slipping so it was out with the tools again. After that we had a long slow drag up a steep hill, which we managed since neither of us wanted to admit defeat. This lane brought us back onto yet another of the main roads through our village (small town) so all was plain sailing as we were to follow this one home. It is galling, however, when two people on one bike get overtaken by a solo cyclist! To be fair we were out for enjoyment and only travelling at cruising speed whilst the over-taking cyclist was going at race-pace. Passing through the centre of our town we passed another group of cyclists going in the opposite direction, all waved and bid us ‘good morning’.

Once back home a check on the map showed us that we had done about 10 miles in roughly an hour (including stops) so we hadn’t actually been breaking any speed records! We also reflected that it had been a good job we had decided to take tools and the map.

Chipped paintwork

Now my husband has taken the bike to bits yet again and has taken the front forks to a paint merchant to match the paint so that he can touch up some of the paint chips (see photo above). If he can find a source of replacement Decals (below) he may repaint the whole frame. Either way it looks as if it will be some time before we go out on the tandem again.

Gitane Decal

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