Sunday, 20 July 2014

Plans..Make 'em Flexible...(part two)

That first day of our ride had been a bit of a learning curve , mainly because my knowledge and experience of mountain bikes was almost zero.... but we had finished the day where we had intended to and we had also managed to visit a couple of cafes along the way....

During that first day I had noticed something with the bike that I was unhappy with....
I found that when I was putting the power down on the pedals, such as when riding up steep gradients, I was experiencing a slight clunk coming from the bottom bracket or pedal area.

That evening, between the bursts of rain I checked it out.....
What I found was a lot of lateral movement on the whole of the sealed bottom bracket unit....
It appeared as if the entire sealed unit was loose within the bottom bracket....try as we might we were unable to tighten it up enough to stop the lateral movement......

We made the decision that the next morning we would go 'off route' and drop in at a bike shop in Petersfield.... obviously not in our original plans...... So that is what we did.....

My bike being checked out at the bike shop...
We made an early start from the Sustainability Centre and headed towards Petersfield.... It wasn't long before we were in the bike shop with my bike being checked out....
I have to say that the guys in the bike shop were really helpful....whatever they were doing when we walked into the shop they stopped doing and gave all their attention to my bike..... cranks and pedals removed..... they managed to tighten up the bottom bracket and within about 45 minutes all had been put back and the bike was ready to continue with the ride.....

Bikes locked to the railings....another cafe stop...
 Well the bikes were ready but Howard and I weren't..... 
Petersfield has a number of coffee shops and cafes and it wasn't long before we were both sat outside one of these establishments with large mugs of coffee.....

We started chatting to a very nice couple who were also enjoying a nice relaxed coffee break and it must have been another hour before Howard and I eventually set off again....

Before long we were back on the SDW trail....
Some of the views from the top of the downs were simply stunning. Getting to those views though, was proving hard work with our loaded MTBs.
We were managing to ride up about two thirds of most of the hills, but then a mixture of gradient and lack of traction would get the better of us and we would end up pushing the bikes... not what I'm used to.!!

Going downhill wasn't much better.... It certainly wasn't the thrill that I have on my road bike going down hill... No silky smooth speed and the whoosh of the wind as it slipstreams around my helmet.... 

It started off fun as the bike bounced around on the very rutted down hill tracks....trying to keep the bike upright was a real challenge as was trying to stay on the thing.... as I say it started off fun.......
As the day went on though it was becoming quite painful....
I was starting to experience a lot of pain from my shoulder where I had broken my collarbone in my last crash...

Although that crash was a number of years ago now I have found that in certain situations it can give me a lot of pain and this was one of those situations..... 
My wrists were also aching from the constant jarring of the bike on the rough and rutted trail...

Towards the end of the afternoon we stopped at a watertap to top up our drinks bottles.....
I mentioned to Howard how I was finding the ride and to my surprise he told me that he was also suffering various aches and pains.....

We both sat there in silence at the side of the track drinking from our bottles.

Howard then turned to me and said "I'm not enjoying this, are you?"
I replied "I was but I'm not now."

So there and then the plans changed again......


Entrance to the C&CC site at Graffham
 I had noticed on the map that we were only about six or seven miles from the Camping and Caravanning Club site at Graffham.... 
I have stayed there a few time in the past, mainly when I have been riding in the Duncton Sportive as it was close to the Sportive start point.....
We decided to head there to camp and decide what we were going to do regarding the rest of our ride....

I have to say it was a real pleasure to be riding on the road again as we were heading for the site....even on the MTB with it's nobbly tyres it felt pretty smooth compared to  bouncing down those steep rutted tracks....
Our pitch at the Graffham site
It wasn't long before were were all pitched up at the Graffham site...but not before I had managed to consume two big chocolate ice cream lollies from the reception area's freezer cabinet....

Being told by the site warden that there would be a Fish and Chip van visiting the site that evening was one of the best things that we had heard all day...

As we ate our fish and chips whilst sat inside something that resembled a large bus shelter, that was perched on the top of a hill in the middle of the camp site, we reflected on our trip so far and came up with another plan.....
It was a very loose plan like they always are, but it was nevertheless a plan...a new plan.

I will tell you about it in the third and final part next time.......

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Plans..make 'em flexible...(Part one)

Over my years of cycling and backpacking one thing that I have learned is that any plans made need to be flexible.....very  flexible.
To be honest, it is probably best to limit the plans to nothing more than a start point and a finishing point and you even have to be prepared for those to alter as well....
My recent South Downs Way ride is a very good example......

The whole ride was to be a bit of a learning curve. Although I have been road riding in all it's disciplines, from club time trials in my younger years right through to the long distance rides that I have completed more recently, mountain biking has been something that I have not done in anything like a serious way. 

My thinking was that with my cycling experience and my experience of backpacking stretching back to the late sixties, combining the two on a cyclepacking trip might be something worth trying........
Our bikes at the start..
I met up with Howard at Winchester train station as per the plan...so far so good... 
Knowing exactly what our priorities are...and doing first things first.... we then spent about an hour drinking coffee......
Howard getting the priorities right...first thing coffee....
 I hadn't seen Howard for quite a while so we had a lot to catch up on... mind you..we would have spent an hour drinking coffee even if we had seen each other the day before...

After we had caught up on all the gossip and had finished our coffee we finally set off on our SDW ride.....
We passed the Old Mill in Winchester where some years ago there used to be a Youth Hostel and after some initial route finding checks we were on our way on the correct route....

The one thing that I noticed immediately, was how much slower you tend to travel on a loaded MTB, compared to the average speed that I would be looking to achieve on my road touring bike even when it is fully loaded with panniers on the rear as well as the front.... 

On my road tourer I normally achieve an average speed of anything between 12-18 mph fully loaded depending on how lumpy the terrain is..... on the MTB we were only managing an average of 7.5........
On the really steep sections our speed plummeted and although we managed to keep going on most of the hills, on some, loss of rear wheel traction at low speed saw us having to end up pushing the bikes.
Pushing the bike is something that I never have to do whilst road touring and I must admit that I was heard to say "what's the bl**dy point in having a bike if you end up pushing the bl**dy thing."

Still...the scenery was good...the rain that was forecast had managed to hold off....and we were managing to laugh at our efforts.....

Setting up our first camp...
 Before we knew it we had arrived at our first campsite......

 Our first day was to be just a half day ride due to us both having had to travel by train to our start point, so we wanted to ensure that we kept the first day just under 25 miles.
With this in mind our first nights camp was to be at the Sustainability Centre near Mercury Park  formerly the HMS Mercury inland naval base.

There is a Cafe..Campsite..and a Hostel at the centre and they have Yurts and Tepees set up for those who would like to experience an alternative form of camping....
Yurt at the Sustainability Centre
 One of the first things Howard and I did on arrival of course was visit the cafe.... while we were enjoying our pot of tea the rain that had been forecast for earlier in the day finally caught up with us...
View of the rain from my tent..
 Pitching the tents was completed in the rain which promptly stopped the moment we had finished....mind you it wasn't long before it returned and this time it set in for the rest of the evening........
So far everything had gone more or less to our very loose plans......

The following day..........Well!! 
I will tell you about that in my next post.......

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Just an update.....

 
The Felt on a day ride...
 After the longest break from the blog that I have had since it was started over five years ago I thought that I would give you a bit of an update.....

With all the good weather we have had recently there has been plenty of opportunity to get out on the bikes,,,,,,, lots of full days on the Felt which is always a pleasure to ride.....
My Daughter and her family taking a break.......
 I managed to get out on the MTB for a great ride in the New Forest with my Daughter and her family.....
My grandsons are so competitive..... I wonder where they get that from..?
The MTB  at a Canadian War Memorial in the New Forest...
 I have also been putting some miles on the MTB in preparation for my 'bikepacking' trip which is due to start in a couple of days time..... Unfortunately the current nice weather looks set to change a day or two after we set out on the ride....on the plus side of course it might well make the ride more pleasurable if its a bit cooler, so long as any rain isn't too heavy.....
Anne checking out a motorhome...this one is too small

Also over the past few months Anne and I have been checking out lots of motorhomes..but it seems that we are both set on The Autotrail Apache that I showed you a picture of in my last post..... We still have a few months to make our final decision.....

When I get back from the MTB bikepacking trip I will post up pictures and let you know how it all went.....
After years of  long distance road touring this will be my first offroad multiday ride and I am looking forward to it....

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Changes.......

Used Auto-Trail Apache 700 SE High Line Motorhome U2140 5/80
I wrote on this blog sometime last year about the changes that would be taking place here at Purple Towers over the next eighteen months or so. 
I also said that I would tell you more as our plans unfolded......
It is still our intention to relocate to Devon as our main base and things are underway to achieve that .....

Anne comes from Devon and still has family there, so it's not like moving to an area that we are not familiar with....
Devon is an adjacent county to Dorset and it would not be a major issue to get back often to visit my Daughter and her family as well as friends and cycling/walking buddies....

As well as our main relocation plans....... over the past couple of years we have also been looking at Motorhomes  (RV's if you are in the USA) with a view to go 'Fulltiming' in Europe for some sort of extended 'Grand Tour'. 
I would of course have a couple of my bikes on board as I would need to get my regular cycling fix.....

Before setting out on the Fulltiming Grand Tour I also hope to loadup the MH with some of my closest friends and some bikes and visit some of the iconic cycling climbs in the Pyrenees...the Alps and other areas in Europe.....

In an ideal world I would just do the trip on my touring bike....unfortunately all my friends are still working so time available is a major consideration for them.... 
Mind you it's also a major consideration for me, as there are so many cycling routes that I still want to ride...... 
I would never be able to get to all of them on my tourer, before my allotted time on this earth expired...

The MH in the picture above is an Auto-Trail Apache 700 SE  and that seems to be what we have settled on.....it has both a front and rear lounge area and all the mod cons that an ageing cyclist like me needs after a hard days ride.....

I will of course continue to be involved in the backpacking and tent camping scene, as well as my cycling...... more info as things develop further.


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

First Bike and Camp of the Year

The forecasts were right....the weather last weekend turned out to be just right for our first 'Bike and Camp' weekend of the year....


All set for the weekend
 Peter Calcutt and I had arranged to meet at the Church Farm Camp site at Sixpenny Handley on Friday afternoon.
As it was to be a road bike weekend we decided to use the cars to get there rather than load up  the touring bikes.... There will be plenty of time to use those later in the year when we cycle to Holyhead and back....
Red Sky at night....Campers Delight
 We had a lovely red sky in the evening, so all looked good for some nice sunny weather for our day rides on the Saturday and Sunday....
We had  planned some fairly straightforward cycling loops covering some of the routes that we used at last years Ten in Ten training camp week...... 
Lots of  Spring Flowers
 We found that some of the roads had deteriorated very badly with lots of deep potholes and lots of dirt, gravel and mud all left behind following all the flooding over the winter....
One of the country lanes we wanted to ride was still flooded...bad enough for me to refuse to take my bike through it..... If the truth be told I just didn't fancy having to clean up the bike after the days ride.....
One thing that did brighten up each of the daily rides, was all the Spring flowers dotted along the sides of the roads......
Getting the bikes ready for Sunday's ride..
For most of our chosen route on the Sunday there was a sportive taking  place, the UK Cycling Events Wiltshire Wildcat sportive.......
We seemed to be travelling the same route as the sportive riders but in the opposite direction....
Initially we started saying hello and giving a wave to riders as they passed us by on the other side of the road, but after the first couple of hundred riders had gone by in groups of any thing from 2 to 20 we gave up . 
From then on, we only acknowledged those riders that said hello to us first..... we weren't being rude, it's just that there were too many riders to keep saying hello to.... they only had to do it once....we were doing it every few minutes.........
The moon showing itself above a group  of tress on a distant hill....
It really was a cracking weekend.....
We decided to camp over until the Monday in order to make the most of the weekend and on the Sunday night it was great to stand outside of the tents and reflect on how lucky we had been with the weather....
As we watched the darkness extinguishing the last remains of Sunday's daylight, the moon appeared  over a group  of trees on a distant hillside....what a great end to our first bike and camp of the year....

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Just a little time out......

With the weather looking like this for most of January I decided to take a bit of a break from everything....so...no cycling....no blog...no twitter.
A bit of a hibernation really..... but don't worry...I'm now back and with some much nicer weather now being enjoyed I have started to get back into the swing of things........

Looking out on January's weather
I have started getting out on my bike again, with a number of circuits now having been done of my favourite training ride taking in the Studland ferry and going on to Corfe Castle and Swanage.... The shot below shows Tiffany the training bike back on the ferry again......

Back on the ferry.........
I have even managed to do a bit of bike tinkering and fitted the rear rack mudguard extension on the mountain bike as the two images below show......
Mudguard extension now fitted to rack....

another angle of the mudguard extension.
The forecast weather wise for the weekend is looking good, so there is a chance I will manage to get some nights out in the tent with some bike riding during the day....
It feels good that things are returning to normal......

Monday, 10 February 2014

No more Sportives.......

......more Sportives than ever.
Just an opinion........

One of the spin-offs of a recreation or sport becoming more mainstream, is that there are more and more people and organizations set up to meet the demand and make money out of it's increasing popularity. 

Of course there is nothing wrong with that....after all everyone needs to make a living... However the more popular something becomes it can't help but attract a closer look from all interested parties...

Ten years ago there were a few sportives being run in this area each year and in general, compared to nowadays, they tended to be smaller with a field of up to say, a couple of hundred riders .....
.....now hardly a weekend goes by without some form of organised sportive or massed ride taking place. 

Not only are they taking place more often, but they have more and more riders taking part with really huge numbers of riders hitting the road......

All good for the organisers...commercial or charity... also good for all involved in the bicycle industry with more bikes and accessories and kit being sold.....

However I feel that if we are not careful, it's this very increase in the popularity of Sportives which could end up being it's undoing. 

Take the New Forest area which is about ten miles down the road from me....
I love riding my bike along the forest roads and get a lot of enjoyment from sharing the experience with friends....
....but the roads are often narrow and difficult at the best of times, with a lot of visitors to the area deciding to spend their holidays there and adding to the already busy roads.....

When the sportives were smaller and not taking place so often people could live with the odd bit of inconvenience on the roads...  

Now there are so many riders taking part and as I said it is almost every weekend during the summer months, that I think eventually restrictions could well be introduced.... restrictions on how many sportives can be run in any area as well as a limit on the maximum number of participants.

I for one would not want to live in the New Forest area these days with the number of sportives that now take place. 

The roads are everyone's to share....the trouble is that nowadays these mass events seem to actually takeover the roads rather than sharing them and I  don't think that in the long term it does much to help cycling's PR...

As I said at the beginning...just an opinion....

For my part I've decided that I won't be riding any more sportives....
The last few I rode were not that enjoyable for me.... I found the huge numbers of riders involved actually detracted from the experience.....

I like to pace myself over the distance...
Unfortunately so many other riders don't, shooting off like rockets at the start only to slow to a snails pace further into the event... 

I then catch them up and have to try and negotiate passing all these pro-wannabees as they are strung out all across the first major ascent.... not the most enjoyable way to ride in my book, especially after paying the hugely inflated entrance fees that these events seem to demand these days...

Each to their own of course...but for me I will continue to concentrate on my own supported and un-supported long distance rides and also the Audax rides which I feel share the road a lot better (due to the smaller numbers riding them) . 

By the way, the cost of entering an Audax event in the UK is a fraction of the entrance fee for a sportive.....

For those that love them, Sportives obviously fill a need and can be a lot of fun for the riders. 
However I think that organisers should give a bit more thought about the effects the high number of events and riders have on the already damaged public perception of cyclists and a bit less about all the money that can be made......