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.

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The Camel Trail

The last trail ride of our early autumn holiday was the Camel Trail which runs alongside the river Camel in Cornwall, from Padstow on the coast, to Wenfordbridge. The full route is about 18 miles, however the final miles, from Wadebridge to Padstow offer the best scenery where the sea and land merge into the sandbanks and salty creeks of the estuary.

View from Motorhome

Campsite view from Motorhome

In view of my recent backwards step after my accident we decided that we would just do this final short section of about 5 miles, which of course we would once again double up on with a there and back trip. So we drove up to a spacious campsite called Timaru, near Wadebridge. We had the place to ourselves and the views were wonderful. Although the campsite had no facilities we weren’t bothered as we were only planning on staying one night and we were able to be self-sufficient in the motorhome.

We got directions for the shortest route to pick up the trail from the campsite owner. This was a lovely ride along some leafy lanes of maybe a couple of miles, much of it steeply downhill; this was a slight concern as it meant the return would be uphill! We joined the trail a few miles downstream from Wadebridge and headed towards Padstow. The trail was an easy ride of mostly well compacted gravel with some slightly looser areas and some tarmac. Being an old railway line running along the valley it was pretty well flat. The day was warm in the sun but it was a bit windy, which made it rather cool in the areas the sun couldn’t reach.

The estuary was indeed very scenic and I did get some lovely GoPro footage but unfortunately still haven’t found the time to get to grips with editing this into anything I can share here. I must also apologise too for the fact that I didn’t take any stills on either my camera or my phone – hubby did but, typically, he has not yet downloaded them so I can’t share those either. On the final stretch into Padstow the trail crossed over a magnificent old railway bridge and once in Padstow there are fishing boats to be seen bobbing about in what is still a working port.

As usual, once we had reached Padstow there was nothing for it but to retrace our steps. However we chose not to leave the trail where we had picked it up and carried on to Wadebridge for the full extent of our planned ride. The trail here ends at a roadside café and bike hire shop and if you wish to continue on to Wenfordbridge there is a section of on-road riding before re-joining the trail once you have passed through the market town.

We made the decision here not to return along the track to our starting point but to return directly to the campsite along the main road out of Wadebridge. What we hadn’t taken on board, but should have been obvious and soon became apparent was this was up a very steep hill! Our Mixte bikes are not among the lightest bikes in the world and, as I have mentioned before, mine does not have the gear range that my husband’s does and my lowest gear is not as low as his. This, coupled with the difficulty I had of putting much power down due to my groin injury, meant that I had to bail out and walk up the hill. I’m not sure which was the lesser of the two evils as walking was agony and I had to stop frequently for brief rests. Eventually we did make it to the top where we found a supermarket and could stock up with a few nibbles for our journey home, or should I say hubby did while I waited outside – I couldn’t face walking round the store. Riding the rest of the way back to the campsite with only a few gentle climbs was a welcome relief. In all the ride was only about 13 miles but, due to the steep hill, it seemed much more.

Timaru Totem Pole

Timaru Totem Pole

The campsite was most interesting, with plaques up by the water taps and other fixtures displaying little verses and pictures of rabbits; a child’s paradise. Near the owner’s house there was a sandpit labelled as a “Fairies Meeting Place”, which I gather was intended to attract the rabbits, which are a real problem there, and keep them from chewing up the shrubbery – apparently it works and every morning there are several rabbits having their “Fairy Meeting”. There is also a magnificent totem pole by the entrance to the camping field, made by the owner as his wife wanted one and they were far too expensive to buy. It was a lovely campsite and we were almost sorry we were only staying the one night, but we duly set off after breakfast the next morning to return home.

We were away for two weeks and guess we did a bit less than 100 miles of trail riding overall; which, having fallen off and struggled to walk from only our second day out on the trails, can’t be bad. I have to add that we have now been home for about three weeks and I am moving about much better, although I still have some pain and some days are better than others. It’s frustrating but I’m sure I will have completely recovered before too many more weeks have passed.

One result on our return home was that my husband decided to modify my bike yet again to improve my gear ratios – more about this next time.

 

Site content copyright of Elizabeth Leaper (Libby).

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