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!

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The Sunday Gang

An earlier trip out with ‘The Gang’ on our previous tandem (we’re the ones in white)

The Sunday Gang is the nickname my husband gave to the cycling group we have often ridden out with in the past. It is not a club, just a group of friends and acquaintances who enjoy cycling together, no strings attached. It is organised by Bill (not his real name), in so far as it is organised at all – he co-ordinates the group, arranges the routes and e-mails round to let everyone know. They ride at the pace of the slowest rider so no-one gets left too far behind and usually cover around 20-35 miles with a café stop.

Several of the regulars also go out on a Wednesday when they ride further and at a much faster pace and we have joined them on a couple of occasions. I have to admit to never being very comfortable with the group as I have often been the only lady and at best there has only been two others, both of whom ride faster than me.

The group meets in the morning and we have a 7-8 mile drive in the car with the bikes on the back in order to join them, then on the return we have to re-load the bikes and drive home. This all takes extra time so sometimes, when the group has been heading out in our home direction we have arranged to meet them on route and then peeled off later where convenient ride home again.

We haven’t actually ridden out with them since my husband had his mild heart attack about a year ago. Recently, having got his heart problem and treatment thereof under control, he has expressed an interest in joining them again, especially if they are heading out our way and we can meet up with them on route and peel off when it suits, so he had indicated to Bill that he would like to receive notification of the rides once more.

Yesterday we were planning on going out for a ride on the tandem and hubby had been checking his emails the night before to see what ‘The Gang’ were doing. No messages. Then he picked up a message in the morning to say they were coming out our way and describing the route although there was no timing given. The nearest point to our house was barely a mile away at a crossroads so we made the decision to ride out in the hope of meeting them there.

We arrived at the crossroads where the group should cross in front of us, but of course we had no way of knowing (not having Bill’s mobile number) whether they were still approaching or had gone past. On the basis that if they had already gone through we would never catch them we decided to turn up the way they would come in the hope of meeting them. We didn’t. We retraced their proposed route for a few miles and there was no sign of them. So, knowing that they were making their round-about way to Stone, a town nearby we headed off towards Stone where we knew they often had their café stop at ‘Morrison’s’. We decided against the detour round to Morrison’s having no idea what time they planned to get there, and instead chose to pick up their route into Stone by going up Bury Bank, which we knew they would be coming down. We could always stop at our eldest son’s for a cuppa as we would pass nearby on our way home this way.

Bury Bank is a killer! It is a long drag of a steep hill. (Coming down, of course, is a wonderful freewheeling ride.) We have ridden up it maybe three or four times in total. The first time I rode up it I had to get off and walk. About three-quarters of the way up there is a layby and we usually stop there to recover before doing the final stretch. After levelling out for a short distance our route towards our son’s house requires us to turn left and then climb another steep hill into Swynnerton before freewheeling down towards our son’s.

Sure enough, as we went up Bury Bank we met ‘The Gang’ coming down! They didn’t stop, they were having fun freewheeling. We exchanged greetings and carried on to our son’s, only to find that he was still out on his own bike ride. Our daughter-in-law gave us a brew and as we left some time later our son still hadn’t arrived, but true to the day’s form we passed him a short distance from his home as we were going in the opposite direction. We stopped for a few words of greeting but as it was getting cold we soon headed off again. In all our ride was about 18 miles.

Later hubby e-mailed Bill to let him know we hadn’t picked up his message in time to make proper plans but had hoped to meet them out and about and when we did we were on the way home. Bill e-mailed back with his apologies that he hadn’t remembered to let us know earlier and said that he was amazed to see us riding UP Bury Bank – he said we must be mad, nobody in their right mind rides UP Bury Bank! But we did and we didn’t bother to stop for a rest in the layby either.

Site content copyright of Elizabeth Leaper (Libby).

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