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!

Velo Retro

Last weekend we attended the Velo Retro cycling event for vintage and classic bicycles which takes place in Ulverston in the English Lake District. This is the first time we have been to this event, which we first heard about last year although it has been going for about 5 years. The Velo Retro is part of the Ulverston Festival weekend and so there was plenty going on – stalls, vintage vehicles, music, food and other entertainments.  We went up on Friday in our Motorhome and camped at Ford Park, just a mile or so from the centre of the small Lakeland town. Ulverston is the home of Laurel and Hardy and there is a statue of them in town and also a museum in their honour.

Saturday was registration day for the rides. There were three to choose from; a short family ride called the Saunter, Le Loafeur (which we did) was approximately 30 miles around Lake Coniston and L’Ancienne was about 52 miles which included a section alongside Lake Windermere. After registration we went along to the ‘Best Bike’ competition with two of our classic bikes, the Freddie Grubb and  Claud Butler, not expecting to win of course, just for the fun of taking part. There were some wonderful bikes there but we were surprised about the number splendid bikes that didn’t turn up for this not particularly serious competition, although those who did win or were commended were worthy winners.

Velo Retro Start

Lining up for the start.

After taking part we took ourselves off to reconnoitre the start of the Sunday ride, riding it for a few miles before looping back to the campsite – in all we did about 15 miles. It was very hot and sunny and so quite tiring. I was seriously hoping that it would be a little less hot the next day as I do find the heat exhausting. Sunday, fortunately proved to be cooler and fresher, much to my relief. We had opted to use the George Longstaff tandem for this event. Our start time was 9.30am so we arrived at the start in time to see L’Ancienne riders set off at 9.15am.

Food stop

Monk House food Stop

Although the ride was just round the lake where you would expect it to be flat, the roads weren’t able to completely adhere to the lake side and being the Lake District there were also several hills to negotiate, some steep enough to be quite challenging. We had a food stop at the top of the lake, at Monk Coniston House, with a lovely lake view through the trees, before continuing down the other side of the lake. Just a few miles from the finish came the toughest climb of all – a long drag up and up and up until there was a steep kick up as you approached the top. We got off to walk here (the tandem is quite a heavy bike) and we were not the only ones!

Finishing photo

Our photo at the finish

Then came the fairly easy roll back into town where we were greeted with bells and whistles (literally), had our photo taken and grabbed a free beer and pizza which we ate and drank while listening to some very pleasant live music while watching some appropriately attired people dancing. After absorbing the atmosphere for a while we were beginning to cool down so headed back to the campsite for a relaxing evening before packing up and heading for home on Monday morning.

This was a very friendly event and sufficiently small to retain a welcoming feeling, it is run entirely by volunteers and is definitely one to add to the calendar for another year

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.


The Tandem Club

Tandem Club preparing to leave the cafe

Tandem Club preparing to leave the café

We first became aware of the existence of the Tandem Club around the time that we bought our first tandem a few years ago, but at the time we didn’t think about joining it. However a few weeks ago my husband was after a few bits and pieces for a tandem he was building so we went on a visit to a bespoke tandem builder on the outskirts of Telford and not too far from our home. While there we saw an advert for the Tandem Club and noted that there was a local branch serving Staffordshire and Shropshire, offering rides out once a month, always in a different area of the region. So hubby decided to join. Yesterday we went out on our first ride with the club, which met up at Wem in Shropshire, not far from the Welsh border and about an hour’s drive from home.

Wem, of course, is famous for its Treacle Mines, which have apparently been in operation since the time of the first Queen Elizabeth if not longer. The local residents are known as Treacle Miners – but that’s another story!

We had an early start as we needed to be at the meeting place for 10.00am. As usual we were quite early, which was just as well as we did have some trouble finding the correct car park. It was a chilly start and at first I thought I was not going to be warm enough but of course once we got going both I and the weather did get warmer. Including us, three tandems turned up – the organisers and another couple who had travelled from Wales and also on their first outing with the club. There was also a solo cyclist who does own a tandem but apparently his wife was not well so he had come on his own.

We set off for a wonderful tour of local villages at a leisurely pace. We were in no hurry as it was only 15 miles to the lunch stop and we had two hours to get there. Meals had to be ordered in advance and the club works on the basis that if the ride has to be cancelled due to the weather then we still turn up at the lunch stop for a bit of socializing so that the café doesn’t loose out on the booking. I could list all the villages we rode through but that would be boring for those of you who have no idea where they are. Suffice it to say lunch was at a café in Baschurch, where we were joined by another couple of tandem riders who came without their tandem. It was an unhurried affair, the surroundings were very pleasant and the service excellent.

The possibility of showers had been forecast for the day and we did have a short one while we were at the café. It had stopped by the time we left, having hardly wet the ground. The sun came out and we had a delightful continuation of our round trip through the countryside and back to Wem. At one time I was almost too hot and I contemplated removing a layer of clothing but I simply resorted to unzipping my jacket a bit, which was just as well as it was beginning to get quite chilly again by the time we got back to the car park. The round trip was about 29 miles in total which we rode, as previously mentioned, at a leisurely pace, which allowed for conversation on route. The terrain was gently undulating with only one quite taxing hill up to the village of Clive. The other new members had a slight mechanical about half-way up, hubby and I stopped to see if they needed assistance, which they didn’t, and we were soon underway again. Meanwhile the others waited at the top for us to catch up and take a breather.

We got home again around mid-afternoon and were glad of a cup of tea and a warm up. We had taken a bottle of drink with us, I had bought a couple of sample sachets of a new rehydration drink to see what it was like – it was horrible! So we didn’t drink much on the way round and I will not be using that particular brand again, I’ll stick to the one I know and love.

It was a very pleasant outing, more social than trying to cover significant ground at excessive speed and, although we have no details as yet other than the date, we are looking forward to next month’s ride when maybe a few more tandems might come along.

We didn’t have time to visit the Treacle Mines of Wem and saw no signs to indicate their whereabouts but we did pass a shop with ‘The Treacle Mines’ painted on its fascia so perhaps that was the entrance and the mines are underneath the High Street. We shall have to investigate another time. Check out my post in a couple of days time when there will be more information about the Treacle Mines!



The Yellow Peril

The Yellow Peril tandem

My husband always likes a project on the go, especially during the winter, and this winter was no exception. Now anyone who has been following my posts will know that we have more bikes than you can shake a stick at, as the saying goes, but that never stops hubby deciding we need one more (N+1). So, being mechanically minded, he decided it would be fun to have a go at building a tandem from scratch – well, out of two scrap bikes to be precise.

He took himself along to our local bike ‘re-cycling’ charity shop, Back2Bikes, and came home with two mismatched scrap frames which he then proceeded to saw up and reassemble as a tandem frame. You might wonder why we need another tandem, as indeed did I, however the frame used for the back of the bike is quite a small one and the idea is that it might suit our grandson who is too small for our current tandem but had enjoyed sitting on it.

The conversion job was finished at the end of last week, having been painted yellow and christened ‘The Yellow Peril’ (see photo above), so yesterday, a cold, misty and damp day, we went out on a shake down ride (in our thermals and well wrapped up). The plan was to meet up with the Sunday Gang, who we have ridden out or met up with in the past. We knew they were making for a café stop at Morrisons in Stone so that is where we headed. We took the scenic route out, going up past our eldest son’s home – no-one in so we didn’t stop. About a mile into our ride we heard and then saw a flock of geese flying in formation overhead and I was reminded of Rachel Field’s poem ‘Something Told the Wild Geese’:

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go,
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, “snow.”

Not that these geese were going anywhere yet. I think it is probably the same flock that has flown over our house several times, just going from one waterhole to another. We rode on, negotiated a crossing of the busy A34 main road and arrived at the café stop shortly after the Sunday Gang, enjoyed a bit of a natter and a cup of coffee with them, then set off once more on our own way home, this time by the more direct route. Our round trip was about 14 miles so was a fair test run for the ‘new’ tandem.

There is some tweaking to do! When we set off I felt fairly insecure at first. We had a bit of a wobble on the first couple of corners as hubby adjusted to the steering, which he found a bit twitchy. After the first mile or so, when we had got the feel for it, we relaxed and enjoyed the ride – except for the fact that the back end, being a bit small for me, either found me sitting fairly comfortably on the saddle and banging my knees against my thumbs on the handlebars or sitting uncomfortably further back on the saddle to give me a longer reach. This of course, won’t be a problem for our grandson. There also seems to be some room for improvement with the gear changes, so this too needs tweaking, but overall it all worked very well and was a fun ride.

This morning hubby has gone off to get some name transfers printed; his own name to go on the downtube and ‘The Yellow Peril’ to go along the front crossbar. Then, after attending to the few tweaks needed, it will be time for son and grandson to try it out – but that might have to wait for better weather!

Nothing to Write

The following word ramble is a bit of a stop-gap place holder really. We have been away for a few days and I have some catching up to do, especially as I didn’t even take my computer with me knowing that Internet access would be limited and it’s refreshing to have a break from the Internet every now and then.

We went down to our boat in the Motorhome on Wednesday for a routine check on it and give it a generally wash and clean as it is still unsold, then on Friday we moved on to a campsite up the coast a bit as we had a lunch engagement with a group of friends to go to on Saturday.

The time away was fairly low-key and we didn’t really do very much. The first couple of days while we were at the boat were quite mostly dry, sunny and fairly mild but cold at night. We had no access to electricity but we do have a heater that can use either electricity or gas so we able to keep warm. We took the tandem with us but only used it once, for a short ride around Burnham-on-Crouch (where the boat is currently based) and to do a bit of shopping – at a guess barely three miles. We had taken it thinking we might use it to visit my husband’s brother and his wife but in the event they came to us instead.

When we moved up the coast to Thorpe-le-Soken the weather changed, turning rather cold, windy and, by Saturday evening, very wet. We were glad that we had an electric hook up so were able to keep warm. A large chunk of Saturday was of course taken up with our lunchtime get-together – excellent company and a superb meal. However the result of this wonderfully relaxing few days away means that I have nothing to write about!

With winter coming on our trail rides will probably be few and far between now so cycling will be less of a focus for these ramblings of mine. I have in mind one or two other topics to write about but these will need some research. Perhaps I’ll get my act together by next week.


Handlebars and More Trails

When we bought my Mixte bike it had drop handlebars. This is not normally a problem, both my road-race bikes have them. I find them very comfortable and like the fact that I can change hand positions to relieve any pressure. However, for some reason those on the Mixte were not comfortable. Whether this is because the bike is heavier or the reach is a bit further away I don’t know, but I was feeling a lot of pressure around the base of my left thumb, with considerable aching. My husband suggested changing the handlebars, so he removed the drops.

Haughton, Stafford Greenway

Haughton, accessed from the left, trail ahead

At this point we decided to go and finish riding the Stafford Greenway, a local disused railway line that we had already ridden in part, once as a family outing and a second section on our own. We had bought the Mixte’s for rides such as this, but with no handlebars on mine at the time we decided to take the tandem.

We picked up the route by riding through the lanes to Haughton, where we had left it on our family ride and headed up the trail towards Newport, the end on the cycle route. The track was narrow in places and there were quite a lot of dog walkers and joggers out, but it was a very pleasant ride, mostly through trees with a few more open sections, especially towards the end. At one point there was a cow on the track, obviously escaped from a nearby field. We left it to find its own way back!

Free bicycle pump, Newport

Free Bicycle Pump

When we came to the end of the route we were pleasantly surprised to find a bicycle pump fixed beside the track. I have heard of this sort of thing before but never actually seen one anywhere. We didn’t need it but it would be a godsend to anyone who does.

Leaving the track on the outskirts of Newport we rode through the town and made our way home via country lanes rather than retrace our steps down the trail. In all we did a round trip of about 27 miles.

Now, we had a set of ‘sit-up-and-beg’ type handlebars in stock at home which needed shortening. My husband suggested I tried these on my Mixte, so he chopped an inch off each end and put them on the bike. I tried it round the block, a scant half-mile, but I found steering very jelly like, I didn’t like such an upright riding position. Also, I didn’t feel at all secure and I had difficulty in squeezing the brake levers, as the angle of my hands on the bars put strain on my painful thumb when I needed to brake and there really wasn’t any alternative position. On top of that we both decided they looked dreadful, not at all in keeping with the bike. Back to the drawing board.

Hubby’s Mixte bike has straight bars, to which he has added some bar-ends (like Viking helmet horns) which gives him some alternative hand positions. We also happened to have some spare straight bars in stock so my bars were changed yet again. We then got some similar bar-ends and put those on along with some foam rubber handlebar covers.

Last Tuesday, my eldest son had the day off work and we went for another family ride, (without our daughter who is back in Spain). We had decided on another trail ride, along the Biddulph Valley Way – a good chance to test my new handlebar configuration. Yes, this is another disused railway route, running from Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire to Congleton in Cheshire.

Border snack stop

Border Snack Stop

The whole route is 12 miles and would have to be a there and back again ride, which was likely to be rather much for our grandson, so we rode about 7 miles to where the route crosses from Staffordshire into Cheshire, stopped for a drink and a snack, and then rode back – a round trip of some 14 miles and which Tom could manage. This is a lovely route, some really smooth tarmac and some gravel tracks, a few road crossings which require care and some wonderful open views as well as a ride through a park with a lake in the early stages.

I’m pleased to say the latest handlebar swap seems to have done the trick, I survived this ride without any aches and pains around the base of my thumb and applying the brakes was much easier – always a good thing. The other good thing about this day out is that our grandson is doing a ’50 miles in the month’ challenge, for which he should get a medal on completion and he now only has about 4 miles left to do. Way to go, Tom!

Biddulph Valley lake

Biddulph Valley Way Lake

Near Miss

What is it with cars and country lanes!

We have been having a spell of glorious weather lately and have made the best that we can of it by going out as often as time allows on our bikes. Yesterday was no exception and we did a bit over 20 miles on our tandem, ambling along enjoying the scenery and the sunshine, much of it down lanes that were new to us or which we have only used once or twice before.

When out on the bikes we do try to avoid the main roads as much as possible, only using them as linking sections to a variety of country lanes. These lanes are generally quiet, scenic and a safe place to ride, being relatively free of any traffic. Mostly these lanes are little more than wide enough for one car and you do occasionally meet vehicles coming towards you or maybe catching up behind. Often it is almost impossible for those behind to overtake and so they have to creep along patiently behind us until we find a gateway or wider stretch where we can pull over. Most such drivers are extremely considerate and we always make a point of thanking them. Similarly many of those coming towards us do wait where the road is slightly wider if possible when they see us, or they at least slow down so that we can safely pass in a controlled manner. Again we always thank them.

Sadly to say, however, not everyone is so considerate. There seems to be a percentage of drivers who consider that country lanes are their own personal speedways, after all no-one else uses them do they? They are quite and empty aren’t they? Let’s face it this is their own short cut through to avoid traffic on the main road so why should they have to drive slowly and carefully? We met one such yesterday, coming towards us in a 4×4 with nowhere for us to pull off. Did he slow down? Not a chance! He came hurtling towards us regardless, so we had to jerk to a sudden halt and ram ourselves into the narrow stretch of grass verge while he hurtled past a hairbreadth away from us, without so much as a glance in our direction. We were lucky not to have been knocked off.

This set me to thinking. Whilst out on the ride we also passed first two people riding horses,  then a group consisting of mum and dad with two small children being led on ponies and later another group of about six horse riders. I dread to think what might have happened had said 4×4 driver hurtled round a bend and encountered any of these! The lead horse of the larger group actually shied and nearly stumbled onto his knees at the sight of us. Had we been a hurtling 4×4 it could have been fatal, the car might even have ploughed into the following horses, which were actually filling the width of the road as they came towards us (though they did move over and single up as we passed).

I’m sure none of you would be so inconsiderate, but just in case…. think about it and please always take considerable care when driving down narrow, twisting country lanes, you never know what obstacle might be round the next bend, after all other people are just as likely to consider the lane to be a quiet traffic free zone and themselves not be paying full attention or expecting speeding vehicles.

Incidentally large tractors and other farm vehicles also totally fill the width of the road in narrow lanes, but I have never felt unsafe when encountering a tractor. They are working vehicles and their drivers seem to be well aware of the risks they pose, they do not travel at excessive speeds and are high enough up that they can see far enough ahead to react accordingly. Being large they can also be seen in plenty of time thus allowing bike riders, pedestrians or horse riders to wait at a convenient gateway or other passing spot.

Country lanes are not the place for driving at top speed. The only problem in country lanes are speeding car drivers!

Charity Bike Ride

Cycle Challenge Poster

Last year my husband and I entered a cycle challenge event in aid of our local Katherine House Hospice on our tandem. Imagine our surprise when we saw our picture on the posters and other advertising material for this year’s challenge. Well we just had to enter again didn’t we?

As you can see from the poster it took place yesterday. Last year was a rather chilly day, at least to start with and as you can see we had to wrap up warm. This year it was a different story, it was a hot day and we were able to wear shorts and short-sleeved tops from the off.

As usual for this event there was a choice of routes, from a 8 mile family fun route, a 20 mile mini route, a 45 mile midi route up to a 65 mile maxi route. Last year we did the midi route and this is the one we opted for again. We have a different tandem this year. Those who follow my blog regularly may remember that we took our old one, a Gitane, seen in the poster, out to our daughter in Spain last autumn having bought ourselves a better one, a locally built George Longstaffe – a Rolls Royce of tandems.

One of the advantages for us on this ride is that after the first 10 miles or so it passes within a few hundred yards of our home and so we took a slight detour for our first refreshment stop. Last year this is where we divested ourselves of some of our extra clothing as it had warmed up by then. We then returned to our point of departure from the route and continued on.

Tandem SignThe event is not a race so we took our time, enjoying the countryside, especially in view of my husband’s recent angina diagnosis, we didn’t want to push it too hard. A few miles further on from our home stop we had to make a detour from the event’s original planned route due to a road closure for resurfacing. This meant going down some rather narrow lanes one of which was dreadfully riddled with potholes and liberally sprinkled with gravel – neither much fun on a tandem and we felt that the sign my husband had decided to hang on the back of the bike was somewhat justified!

At one point we missed one of the route signs and went straight on instead of turning right, despite thinking that we should have made the turn. A bit further on we caught up to a group who had also missed the sign and after a brief discussion we agreed we needed to go back to the turning. This time we did notice the route sign on the corner but it was barely visible. We found out after the event that some of the signs had gone missing altogether and some had to be replaced by the organisers.

Our next stop was at a canal-side café where we had stopped for lunch last year. This time we were rather early for lunch and it was very crowded as there was a canal-side festival going on, the fine and sunny weather making it an attractive local event, so we had a quick stop for some of the drink and snacks we had with us and used their facilities for a comfort break before continuing on. About 10 miles from the finish we stopped again at a local farm park where they make their own ice-cream; we felt we deserved a treat (and another comfort break). This stop was longer than intended as there was a very long queue for the excellent ice-cream. Thus refreshed we set off for the final leg back to the Hospice.

It was a very enjoyable ride, despite being hot and sweaty and we both caught the sun, now having red lines showing where our shorts and sleeves came to! There were a number of hills to struggle up – some were short and punchy, others more of a long drag and the last two or three I could have really done without as the heat got to us a bit, but nothing we couldn’t manage without too much difficulty. Our two or three detours, due to home visits, road-works and missing signs meant that we went the extra mile completing 46 miles rather than the 45 stated as the route length. Again we received a rather nice badge for our achievement so now all that we need to do is collect in some of the still outstanding sponsor money we have been promised and hand it in to the Hospice. Then perhaps we will do it all again next year.

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