Sunday, 14 September 2014

It's Gone...!!

The more observant regular visitors of this blog will have noticed that my bright orange Mountain Bike is no longer listed on the 'Bike Stable' section of The Purpletraveller...
The reason for this is simple......it's gone......moved on....in actual fact I have sold it.

Now don't get me wrong...it was a very nice bike but I just didn't get on with it...
Like two lovers splitting up "it wasn't her, it was me".

After 50+years of road riding I thought that I should give MTBs a try..... unfortunately to put it bluntly I just didn't enjoy it..... 
If nothing else it has confirmed what I always knew.....I just enjoy road bike riding too much..

I owned it for just over nine months...a personal record as it is the shortest time that I have ever owned a bike... usually when I buy a bike it is with me for many years.

Mind you the bike is not the only thing that has gone recently.....

Anne and I have now set a date for moving out of Purple Towers, that date is the 31st March 2015. We now have just under 7 months to sort out all the things that we have jointly hoarded away over the past years...
Each week now sees us having visits to the municipal tip disposing of all sorts of things...

Due to the type of adventure we are both setting off on next year, it's important for us to almost dismantle our current lives...certainly the lives that we have got used to....

I will share our plans with you in my next post......

Sunday, 7 September 2014

A Mistake.......!!

This time last week I had just set off on the Bournemouth-Holyhead-Bournemouth ride that I have wanted to do for the past three years.... With the benefit of hindsight that WAS a mistake.....

Each time over the past few years whenever a date has been set to attempt this ride, something has always cropped up and prevented the ride taking place.
This year seemed to be no different....

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that just three weeks prior to the start of the ride I was rushed into hospital where I had a heart procedure completed due to a constant racing heartbeat of 155bpm. 
The Doctors had advised that if I didn't suffer too many side effects from the procedure I 'might' be OK to attempt the ride....
That was all I needed to go ahead.....ignoring what were obviously warning signs I gave it a go, only to be forced to abandon the trip half way through the third day........
This is what happened........ 

Peter and I met up as planned at about 0900hrs on the Sunday morning......
We headed north passing through Wimborne and heading towards Blandford....
At about a mile short of Blandford town there was a sound like a pistol crack and I realised at once that my rear tyre had blown....

After removing the wheel and checking the cause, it was obvious that the inner tube had split. This in turn had blown the tyre off the rim. Even though I had stopped almost immediately, with the weight of the panniers the tyre itself had been damaged as well...

Peter and I tried to patch the tyre using tape. We then fitted a new inner tube, but on trying to inflate the tyre it became obvious that the tyre was damaged beyond any form of temporary repair........

We were then forced to phone Peter's son-in-law Chris, who lives in Blandford and kindly drove out to give us some help.... It was decided that Chris would drive Peter back home in order to pick up a used but serviceable tyre that we could use whilst I stayed with the bikes...

In about an hour and a half they were back... the tyre was fitted and inflated...all seemed OK.....Chris went on his way...panniers were loaded back on the bike and then we noticed the tyre had deflated again!! 
We took off all the panniers... removed the tyre... checked out the valve and inner tube etc etc... and we tried two more inner tubes before we found one that actually seemed to hold any air....

To be honest, we should have seen the 'writing on the wall' for the trip at this early stage.....
In total we lost four hours faffing around at the side of the road....but....we did finally arrive at our day's destination at Frome, albeit four hours later than we had planned....

Stuck at the side of the road...
We had phoned Howard to re-arrange meeting up with him as we had been unsure if we were actually going to make it to Frome... The new plan was to meet up with him the next morning....
We arranged to meet up at the 'Live to Ride' bike shop in the town where I had decided to have new tyres and inner tubes fitted just to be on the safe side...

Up until this point I had found the cycling OK and although not as fit as I have been I seemed to be dealing with the various ascents and the loaded bike perfectly well....

We met up with Howard the next morning and after time spent in a cafe with coffee and cake and with a new set of rubber hoops on my bike we set off again to continue our ride....

The ride went well until the Tuesday morning, when I found that even after the first four miles riding on the flat I was struggling... I seemed to be breathless and lacking any energy at all....... We stopped at a cafe at an M&S store at Cribbs Causeway just north of Bristol and during our coffee stop it became obvious that I was seriously unwell....  my heart rate seemed to be all over the place and it became clear that this was going to be the end of my ride......

I could not even face getting a train back home..... I was just not well enough....
A taxi was called and within half an hour I was being whisked back home....

A visit to the hospital was to show another electrical malfunction of the heart was causing both missed and jumped beats and this in turn meant that insufficient blood/oxygen was being pumped around my body...
Some of the symptoms that can occur are Palpitations.... Feeling tired... Shortness of breath.....
Chest pain and tightness and Dizziness or light-headedness.... none of these are ideal if you want to ride a bike........

Currently I am off the bike for the next seven or eight weeks...... I have an appointment with the Cardiologist at the end of October and I will find out where this is all going to go at that stage.....

To say that I am gutted and depressed is an understatement....!!

Peter and Howard continued with a revised route of the ride and managed to save something from what we had planned......

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Ready to go.....

Earlier this week I took back to the hospital the heart monitor that I had been wearing for six days..... The information will be downloaded and I will find out the results when I next meet with the Cardiologist. As that appointment isn't until October, there is obviously no immediate concern about my current condition. 
With that in mind, tomorrow I head off on my Bournemouth- Holyhead- Bournemouth cycling trip..... I have shown a rough plan of my route below:-


Bournemouth-Holyhead-Bournemouth  (The Rough Route)
The plan is to cycle to Holyhead via Chepstow Shrewsbury and Bets-y-coed. On our return we will take a more direct and diagonal route via the Lon Las Cymru.

I have read some very good reports about this route and I have wanted to ride it for sometime... Over the past few years when ever the plans have been made to tackle this ride something has always cropped up to stop us doing it. That is why I wasn't going to let this heart fiasco of the last couple of weeks stop me having a go at it....

I'm doing the ride with Peter Calcutt a friend from the Backpackers Club. We will be met on the first night stop at Frome in Somerset by Howard Kelly another Backpackers Club friend who will ride with us for the next three or four days before he has to return home to prepare for another trip......
Howard recently rode with me on my South Downs MTB ride......

If all the logistics come together alright we might be joined on the last day of the trip by Jason Boynton-Lee. 
Before I retired, Jason and I used to work together and he also rode with me on the Cherbourg to Santander (ACCR) ride back in 2009.....

Although I have decided not to post daily reports as I go along on this trip.... I will be doing a proper report on the trip on my return home.... 
Following that I will start to tell you about my next 'Big Adventure' which is due to start in seven months time and will mean some major changes to my life..........

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Just Like a Stuck Throttle........

At the end of my last post I mentioned my surprise hospital visit......
If it's of interest this is what happened...

One morning I woke up and immediately felt that something wasn't quite right. It took a minute or two for me to realize what it was...

My heart seemed to be pounding away flat out.
Normally my resting heart rate is about 45bpm particularly on waking up in the morning, but this seemed way way higher. It was as if I had just cycled to the top of an alpine climb..... 
At first I put this high rate down to the possibility of a dream or nightmare that I couldn't remember and I just lay there in bed trying to relax and get the rate down to normal.

After about ten minutes nothing had changed and I don't mind admitting that I was a bit concerned.
If you have ever had the throttle on a car stick wide open, that is what this felt like, but without any means of switching it off....

Anne insisted that I rang  the emergency health line and after answering lots of questions I was told that I should get someone to drive me to the emergency dept of the local hospital within the next hour......
The Royal Bournemouth Hospital
Before long we were at the hospital emergency dept....we spoke to the girl on the reception desk and had hardly sat down before I was called into an initial consultation room by a senior nurse and the next thing I was whisked to the 'Majors' section of the department and being checked over by a couple of Doctors...

I was told it would seem that I had a bit of an electrical short circuit in my heart causing my heat to keep racing along at 155bpm.... I was told that they would try and correct it with the use of a drug which should have the effect of causing my heart to hesitate and hopefully return to it's normal rate.... I was told that I would experience a 'sinking feeling' as the drug was administered.
They tried this twice and I experienced the feeling of dropping through the floor twice, but unfortunately it didn't work....

By now I felt both tired and breathless and the decision was made for me to undergo a cardiac procedure called a 'Catheter Ablation' .... It was arranged for this to take place in the afternoon and I was taken to a room in the Cardiac Ward where I was wired up to some machines and prepared for my visit to the operating theatre......

In the early afternoon I was wheeled along the corridor and the procedure was completed....
It consisted of me being given sedation to make me drowsy...I was wired up to more machines.... Local anaesthetic was injected into my groin....tubes were then inserted into the main vein of my groin and then long thin wires were passed through the tubes and up into my heart.... X-ray machines were used throughout so that the Doctor could guide the wires to the correct place in my heart and see the heart rhythm disturbance on a computer...

Once the Doctor had located the areas of abnormal electrical activity between the heart valve and a large blood vessel in the top right chamber of my heart, the ablation was performed. 
This is done by applying radiofrequency energy which heated up the tip of one of the wires positioned in my heart.

I was told that I would be awake throughout all of this.....but although I remember the start of the procedure and I remember the end of it.... I don't remember anything from the middle part..... 
Later I was told that I had needed an electric shock to the heart in order to restore its rhythm, so that accounts for me having no memory of a good chunk of all these goings on..... 

Anyway.... my heart was restored to it's normal pace....and after a few hours of further checks and observations I was allowed home in the early evening.
I was told that my heart appeared to be fit and healthy and that it was just a bit of bad luck that this had happened.......

That was about three weeks ago...today I had a heart rate monitoring device fitted to check out my heart rate etc over the next six days.....

In ten days time I hope to be setting out on my Bournemouth-Holyhead-Bournemouth cycle trip..
I am just hoping that my heart continues to run at a nice steady pace.............

Monday, 4 August 2014

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

........ The next morning we woke up to the sound of rain on the tents and that was the pattern for most of that day. 
We spent the time sorting things out on the bikes and around camp and just took life easy.... 
We also reflected on our decision to come off the trail and we both agreed that we were pleased not to still be riding the bikes along the track in what was now not the best riding conditions...

A check of the weather forecast was showing us that the next day was going to be a vast improvement and our plan was to take the bikes on a road route to visit Bignor Roman Villa...

The next morning as promised the sun was shining and it was dry....
We set off from our campsite at about 0930hrs and in just over an hour, after a really enjoyable ride along some lovely country roads, we arrived at the site of the villa..

First thing we did on our arrival... was to have coffee and cake...what else..!!


Howard getting his priorities right....

Coffee...Tea....and Cake.
 Bignor Roman Villa is a wonderful archaeological site that has some stunning Roman mosaics etc to see...
We both spent a really enjoyable couple of hours taking in everything that Bignor has to offer....
Throughout most of the year there are lots of School visits made to the site and it offers both fun and education for the children that visit...... (and that includes us)
Some of the stunning scenery surrounding Bignor

Some of the Bignor Mosaic floors.

Another section of mosaic showing the underfloor Roman heating ducts

Some of the Bignor buildings protecting the mosaics...

More Bignor scenery...
 After our visit we headed off to the pub about 2 miles down the road....
We had a good lunch there until eventually we headed off on our return ride back to our campsite.....
That evening we visited another pub about a mile from our campsite and enjoyed a pleasant evening chatting as we ate a very nice meal......with beer of course.... 

Tents packed and ready to head off....
The next morning, which again was bright and sunny, we broke camp and followed a road route we had worked out along country roads and lanes back to Petersfield...
It was a wonderful route, with lovely views and very quiet, in fact we only met one car until we were just a couple of miles from the town itself.......

We settled down at the outside tables of a cafe in the main square for a spot of lunch and then we headed off for the Rail Station and our respective trains home....

We'd had a really good five days out on the bikes....... it wasn't the trip that we had originally planned, but had proved to be so much better because we had decided not to stick stubbornly to our plans and had decided to be 'more flexible.'

My next trip will be my Bournemouth - Holyhead - Bournemouth trip setting off at the end of this month..... 
That will  be an 'easy' road touring trip of about 700 miles over fourteen days....no heroics...no fast pace....no battling against the clock..
Just a nice and steady touring pace with time for lot's of stops for coffee and photos.  
Well that's the plan...... it will be interesting to see how flexible those plans need to be.....!!!

NB: Sorry for my delay in posting this third and final report on the trip.....
         Truth is.... I've just had a bit of a surprise unplanned visit to the hospital....
         I will explain all in the next post

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.......