Sunday Ride

Yesterday was our July Tandem Club ride, a circular route of just under 30 miles, starting and finishing in Ellesmere, Shropshire. An interesting and somewhat hilly ride though great scenery with the usual lunchbreak about half way round.

It was also something of a chapter of incidents! There were only three tandems out plus one solo bike – the ride leader whose wife was in Jersey, visiting their daughter and new grandchild (he’s going out to join them later this week). Just as we were about to set off from the car park said ride leader discovered he had a puncture.

How many cyclists does it take to mend a puncture?

This enforced delay while the puncture was fixed enabled me to have a good look at all the yarn bombing on posts and fixtures around the car park and take a few photos. Here are a couple of them.

Only a few miles into the ride one couple had their chain come off – something that happened to them several times throughout the ride. A bit later something similar happened to the second couple, which left us as the only ones not to have had a problem with a comment of ‘your turn next’ being stated.

So we stopped for lunch, which was excellent. On returning to the bikes, sure enough our time had come, we discovered that we now had a puncture (probably caused by the twigs and thorns on the road when we passed by a tractor doing hedge cutting) and yet again time was spent effecting a repair. So then we carried on again until… couple number two had a serious problem – a mangled chain wheel and broken crank. Fortunately we were only about a couple of miles from the end of the ride by this time so the chain was removed and only the ‘stoker’ (wife) able to pedal. Luckily they had an electric assist on the front wheel and, unlike ours, this worked independently from pedalling so they were able to coast along much of the time without anyone turning the pedals, just a boost from the back pedals from time to time. They were very relieved to get back to the car park.

This is the longest ride I have done so far since I broke my wrist and fortunately we were on our electric assisted tandem (the boss had wanted us to take the newly restored Mercian tandem, but this has no electric assist so I refused!). Having the electric assist made the hills easier for me with less pressure being applied to the handlebars. This was also the first time I have ridden without my arm in a sling, meaning that I could actually use my left hand on the handlebars when needed. However, I think this was a bad idea, it maybe made me feel slightly more secure on the bike but is also allowed me to use the hand more than I think was perhaps wise even though I avoided using it all the time. Today it aches like billy-ho! No hand exercises today, I just can’t face them. Hopefully it will have rested enough by tomorrow for me to resume the exercises.


Tandem Club Rally

We returned home on Saturday from our week away at the Tandem Club National Rally and I have been a bit busy since. I was hoping to post here yesterday but I didn’t find the time, jobs take twice as long at the moment – still better late than never.

The campsite for the week was the Rugby Club at Corsham , Wiltshire, a lovely part of the country. Cycling with my arm in plaster we knew was going to be a bit of a challenge. We arrived on Saturday and on Sunday we tried a short lap of the camping field – I was not happy, didn’t feel at all secure so the boss went out with a group on his solo bike that he had taken along just in case!

Monday saw a treasure hunt ride of a bit over 15 miles scheduled which I thought would be fun but it rained so rather than risk getting my plaster wet we didn’t join in. On Tuesday we thought it best to do a short ride on our own to see how I got on, so we did a 7 mile round trip to the nearby National Trust village of Laycock – a beautiful, unspoiled village which was used in the filming of Pride and Prejudice. We stopped for coffee there and on the way back had to shelter under a big beech tree while a heavy shower went through. I felt reasonably safe riding, though heavy traffic and road junctions were a bit scary. After that we decided to do our own thing as most of the arranged routes were far longer than I felt I could cope with. We did the treasure hunt route on Wednesday, solving most of the clues – too late for the competition anyway so no prizes. On Thursday we did a route of just over 14 miles, taking in much of Corsham itself, another interesting place with an unspoilt town centre, used for the filming of Poldark. Then on Friday we did a bit over 16 miles based on the treasure hunt route but with some variations.

Despite my handicap I did enjoy the week. We were able to renew acquaintances from previous events and there were some interesting evening talks and activities, including a killer of a quiz in which our team of 6 managed to come 4th. The weather was a bit unsettled but there was some good spells of warm sunshine and we managed to avoid most of the rain. However the evenings were quite chilly and the final evening’s BBQ with Rhythm & Blues Band was a bit of a wash-out as it rained quite heavily most of the time. I did take some photos on my camera (easier to hold then my phone) but I really can’t cope with downloading them just yet. Wednesday evening’s Tandem Club’s 50th Anniversary ‘party’ was a great success though.

We have the York Cycle Rally coming up in a couple of weeks, just a weekend this time. I was hoping I would be out of plaster by then but my next appointment isn’t until a few days after the rally -perhaps it is just as well, the wrist would still be week and I might be tempted to do too much. I’ll be glad when things get back to normal though, I think the boss is getting fed up with doing all the cooking, housework needs attention and the garden is in dire need of some maintenance! It will all have to wait.

All Alone

A Poignant Picture
(An Elfje)

all alone
in the chapel.
Her beloved consort's funeral.

This is my last contribution to the Poetry Group’s Platinum Jubilee Collection. It recalls the iconic image of the Queen at the Duke of Edinburgh’s low-key funeral, held under COVID restriction at St George’s Chapel, Windsor on 3rd June 2021.

When you read this I will be away at the Tandem Club National Rally, which is going to be rather a challenge with my arm in plaster! The boss is also taking a solo bike in case I can’t cope with cycling every day, even on the back of a tandem. All being well I’ll be back next week.

Tandem Sunday

On Sunday we went out for our first tandem club ride this year. Bad weather prevented rides in January and February, then along came Lockdown! Now that this has greatly eased it was decided we could safely meet as long as we took care.

The plan had been to stagger the start so that we were not in a big bunch, however as only 5 tandems signed up for the ride it was deemed safe enough to ride along together, reasonably spread out.

We met at Audlem, near Newcastle under Lyme. Our criteria for a meeting place is that it has to be a car park where we can stop all day, preferably free of charge, there must not be a height barrier as some members transport their tandems in a van, and there should be public toilets available as some members travel a long way to our meets. Under the current circumstances we knew that facilities were likely to be an issue as they would probably be closed and this may have been a factor to put off some of the members from joining us. We opted to transport our tandem with our motorhome, thus having our own on board facilities!

Lunch is usually a cafe stop, though in the summer some of our rides are bring-your-own picnic rides and this was the chosen option for this outing, safety being a prime concern.

Canal Lifting Bridge

Canal Lifting Bridge

The ride was a repeat of one last summer. We rode out along a variety of country lanes and over the Shropshire Union Canal. When we arrived at the spot where the road crosses the canal we found that the bridge was about to be operated and thought we were in for a long wait to let a barge through but they kindly waited for us to cross first and then we stopped anyway to watch the bridge lifted and the barge pass.

Picnic at Beeston

Picnic at Beeston

Our picnic lunch stop was at Beeston Castle, where there are table and benches set out for visitors to use. Many of us were also thankful that the visitors facilities were also open. We then continued our round trip back to Audlem, taking in another stop for an ice-cream just outside Audlem at Overwater Marina.

Tandems at Overwater Marina

Tandems at Overwater Marina

The ride was just short of 42 miles, the longest ride we have done this year. The weather was kind to us; a bit overcast at times with a chilly breeze but some long sunny spells when it was quite warm. In all a lovely day out on the tandem and good to catch up with other tandem-riding friends after a six-month break!

Tandem Club Ride Plans Change

Yesterday was our monthly Tandem Club ride. You may recall that when I last wrote about our Tandem Club outings (here) I had said that we were organising the September ride – and so we were, but unfortunately things do not always go according to plan.

Yes, we had come up with a route and had tested it out in a series of outings that saw us riding sections of it to check that it was all suitable. We had even located a convenient starting point – this is always a problem as we need a big enough car park, preferably free, with no height barrier across the entrance and with conveniently situated public toilets since many of our members travel some way to the ride and may need a comfort stop at start and finish. We had also arranged a lunch stop, made a provisional booking and notified everyone of the menu choices so that they could make their selection in advance. So far so good.

I was looking forward to the ride, which incorporated sections of trails along disused railway lines and canal tow-paths to make it more interesting. So imagine our dismay when a few weeks ago, we happened to go into Stafford to the car park we were to use for the ride and noticed that there were various signs up around the place informing us that the roads around that part of town would be closed on our arranged date for our ride due to a Civic Parade – we would have no access to the car park and there were no other suitable car parks we could substitute. Since we were due to go away for a couple of weeks, from now until the end of the month, we could not change the date (we haven’t gone – but that’s another story).

So we contacted the group organisers, who were on holiday in France, and explained the problem. Fortunately they came back to us with the information that they had another ride route ‘in the bag’ which started in Market Drayton, Shropshire, which could easily use the same lunch stop so those arrangements could stay in place and they would notify the members of the change of starting venue.

It was with relief that we accepted this proposal and so yesterday we made our way to Market Drayton, with our new tandem carrier rack on the car roof – it’s trial run. Seven and a half tandems had booked for the lunch (well, 7 tandems and a solo bike!) but shortly before setting off we received an email informing us that one couple had cancelled so we had to notify the café knowing there was a risk that the two meals might still need to be paid for. Fortunately they were very good about it, no doubt as we were early enough that the meal wasn’t already being cooked.  So six and a half tandems set off through the Shropshire countryside. Several miles into the ride we were joined by another tandem, members who hadn’t booked for the ride and who were happy to take pot-luck at the lunch stop, but one couldn’t help feeling that if we had known earlier that they were coming we needn’t have cancelled the order for the ones who dropped out!

The last few miles to the café were inevitably along lanes that we would have used for our ride. We were a bit early arriving at the café but staff took this in their stride. What I haven’t mentioned is that the café, at a Garden Centre, is one the club has used before and happens to be less than a mile from our home. This turned out to be to our advantage as somehow one couple had double-booked a lunch which we hadn’t picked up on so we still had two meals ordered that were extra to requirements and these would have to be paid for. The problem was solved by one of the additional couple agreeing to have one of the meals. This still left us with one meal to pay for as the other extra person didn’t want the pre-ordered meal. At this point I had an idea – our youngest son, Chris, was at home and would need to get himself some lunch. We phoned home and suggested he might like to join us to eat the extra meal; he was happy to oblige!

The food was excellent, we were fortunate that the mix-ups didn’t cause any serious problems and, after parting with Chris, were soon on our way again. continuing our circle back to Market Drayton. The route was all on roads, mostly country lanes and as always in this area the scenery was wonderful if becoming decidedly autumnal. The weather was a bit on the cool side although the occasional sunny spells were pleasantly warm. Sadly they didn’t last long.

As we neared Market Drayton our ride leaders, who live only a short distance from the car park, invited us back to their house for refreshments. About half of us took them up on the offer. Replenished with tea and cake we set off again for the short distance back to the car park. This is when I really felt the cold as the ride was too short to generate much warmth despite peddling quite hard. By the time we had the tandem back on the rack and setting off for home I was very chilled and it took me most of the evening, despite winter woollies donned on our return, to get warm again. However it was a very pleasant ride of just over 31 miles and we were very grateful that the changes of plan all worked out in the end. Our ride route is now on the back burner and we will bring it out again another time.

Preparing to set off after lunch

Preparing to set off after lunch.

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