Thursday, 29 May 2008

Cycle Training on the Isle of Wight.

Well today Gareth and I took a trip over to the Island as part of our training plan for our LEJOG later in the year. We took the ferry from Lymington over to Yarmouth and we could not have chosen a worse day. It rained all day and I mean heavy rain. The plan was to cycle around the island in a clockwise direction. That is to keep on cycling till we arrived back where we started. We set off from Yarmouth at about 0915hrs.
We had only been on the road for a few miles when we had a crash!! We had just gone through Shalfleet and I was in front. We started to take a right hand bend and the bikes went away from under us. I hit the road and slid along the wet greasy tarmac about 6 metres followed by Gareth. The bikes ended up one on top of the other. Damage to the bikes appeared to be only superficial.
Our injuries consisted of grazing to our right knees and thighs and I also had grazing to the inside of my right elbow. It all happened so quickly and neither of us can remember too much about it. When I went down I hit my right side ribs on part of the bike and was winded and I was unable to get up for a full couple of minutes. The reason for the crash? Well the bend was very slippery possibly caused by oil on the road and the torrential rain. Twenty minutes later and we were on our bikes and on our way again. Needless to say we were very cautious on bends for the rest of the day. It was a case of head down and keep on spinning the pedals. At West Cowes we took the chain ferry across to East Cowes. When the ferry came in,about twenty cyclists got off going in the other direction. Did they know something we didn't? We carried on till about the 40 mile point when we stopped for lunch in a bus shelter. About twenty minutes after we had set off again Gareth said those magic words, 'I think I've got a puncture'. So there we were in the torrential rain fitting a new inner tube. As we were doing this a postman went by and said 'Having a good day guys'? I can't comment on our reply. Puncture repaired and on our way again we were now heading out towards Niton where the visibility was so bad due to thick mist that we could only see about 7 metres ahead. We then headed off along the southern coast road into a head wind which was buffeting us around all over the place. Coupled with this we were both now suffering with brake failure. The conditions had been so bad that it had taken it's toll on our brake pads. Our brake levers were now being pulled right up against our handlebar grips and this with maximum adjustment on the levers. At one point I sailed past Gareth on a steep downhill shouting 'I can't stop I haven't got any brakes'. Luckily I managed to slow up eventually and no more hills were encountered. We arrived back at the ferry at about 1630hrs. This was one hour later than we had planned. However if you take into account the crash and the puncture and also the terrible conditions I suppose that it was not too bad. Our average speed was only 12 mph. We had hoped for 14 mph. Total actual cycling time was 5.45hrs. Distance was 65mls. When we had set the date for this trip back before Christmas we had ideas of sunshine and great weather. How wrong can you be?!

Cycle Training on the Isle of Wight-Pictures.



Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Cycling by train.


Bikes loaded on a rail replacement BUS. Note how much space they have taken up!

CYCLING BY TRAIN contd........

Well, that's another bank holiday weekend over with. It was, at least weather wise, a typical bank holiday. Heavy rain caused flash floods which in turn brought the rail network in parts of the south to a grinding halt. Because the weather was so bad, people started heading home early.
The main road routes were then nose to tail but then that seems normal these days.
Going back to the rail network, the floods were bad enough to stop the trains running from the Dorset coast back up towards London. The power rails at Southampton were at one point under water. The rail companies arranged for rail replacement buses and coaches to operate, but with the volume of traffic on very wet roads it was obvious that people's journeys were not going to run like clockwork.The rail staff were doing their best to get pasengers on to buses and load up their luggage and get everyone on their way. And then we come to the cyclists!!
Now those of you that know me will be aware that I am a very keen cyclist myself ,but I must ask why it is that cyclists are their own worst enemy?
The rail companies state very clearly that cycles cannot be transported on rail replacement buses. However, the rail staff were doing their best to get the cyclists on their way and were overlooking this ruling and loading the bikes on to the buses where space permitted. This meant that some passengers with bikes were having to wait till space became available. Were the cyclists grateful to the rail staff for doing their best to get them to their destinations? Were they heck! They moaned and groaned and whined at having to wait for space on the buses for their bikes. When the staff pointed out the ruling concerning bikes on buses and that they were doing their best to get everyone on their way, that was met by more whining about 'stupid rules' etc...
Now lets just think about it,the bikes were being transported FREE. Bikes take up a lot of room, more room than a case even a large one. Bikes are also an awkward shape. There is not a great deal of room on a coach to transport items of this size and shape. The staff were doing their bit and what were the cyclists doing? Having a go at the very people who were trying to help them. How stupid (let alone unfair) is that?
One of the staff ,who was obviously a cyclist himself,suggested to them that they remove front wheels-drop saddle stems and turn handlebars in line. This would reduce the overall size of the bikes and improve the shape to make loading easier. Some of the cyclists complied but what did the others do? Moaned and whined of course. It's obviously easier to moan and groan at someone else than it is to help yourself. Well it's about time that cyclists stopped, moaning and started to wise up. You might not like the rules but at least be aware of them and be intelligent enough to recognise when people are trying to help you. And while your at it, get off of the pavements and stop jumping red lights. It strikes me that the modern cyclist feels that no rules actually apply to them. Well I have a message for you -THEY DO!!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

The four hour door.


This picture represents a tale of doubts and indecision and last minute thoughts. It stands for all that is dark in our lives and shows how one small action can create a chain of events that can affect the rest of the day and in some cases the rest of our lives. All will be revealed to close friends-just ask!

Monday, 12 May 2008

A weekend with the Sisters Grimm. 9th-11th May 08

'Have you booked'? one of the sisters asked me as I stood in the reception caravan. I told her that I hadn't as I cast a furtive glance over the huge empty field that was the location for the weekend static meet of the Dorset Group of the Backpackers Club. 'Is it a problem I asked'? Well it might have been ,we could have been busy I was told. 'But your not are you' ? I replied regretting the words as she gave me a look that could have turned me to stone. How many of you will be coming? she asked in the tone of the Spanish Inquisition. 'I don't know' was my answer knowing that she would not be happy. She tutted loudly as she informed me that 'it's not good enough'. 'No' I replied feeling like a naughty schoolboy who had just been caught smoking behind the bike sheds.
And so the scene was set for our spring static meet. I asked myself why do we continue to come to this location and go through this interrogation each time.I looked again at the large flat grassy field with lots of rabbits running free in the bright sunshine and no other campers in sight and I had answered my own question. I was then told not to put any tents in front of the water tap followed by a further list of minor rules and then I was asked if I needed any tokens for the shower. Now last time I had stayed at the site I had purchased a number of tokens that I had not used. I knew that if I told her this I would suffer a telling off for taking the tokens away with me I also knew that if I told her that I didn't want any tokens she would turn her nose up and look at me as if I was the local tramp. I decided on the latter and true to form she took a step backwards as she said 'so you won't be having a shower then'? What could I say but no without giving away my secret hoard of 'stolen' tokens.
Nine members turned up for this weekend and most of us suffered to some degree along the lines that I have described above.
Before the two sisters acquired their reception caravan none of us ever knew where they were. You could arrive at the site and it would be completely empty. You would choose your pitch, look around you-still no one in sight-and start putting up your tent and then as if by magic one of 'the girls' would be standing behind you with her hand outstretched requesting payment and asking'have you booked'etc etc.. Some say that beneath the camping field is a system of tunnels with various trapdoors hidden by the grass and that the sisters would use this labyrinth to creep up on unsuspecting campers as they started to erect their tents. Hence the name that we have given them -'The Sisters Grimm'. In view of all the above we in the Dorset Group of the Backpackers Club feel that we must keep the name and location of this site a secret as we would not want any other campers to suffer at the hands of THE SISTERS GRIMM.
The weekend itself seemed to be enjoyed by all who attended. Friday night spent in the local pub catching up with what everyone has been up to and where they have all been on their recent backpacking trips and then back to the tents for a good nights sleep.
Saturday started with breakfast and a good day in prospect. One member took a bus to Charmouth and walked back from there. Two other members went in the other direction with fully loaded backpacks. These were new Golight Pinnacle sacs and as a trip to the lakes is to take place in a few weeks time these two members wanted to be certain that the sacs were fit for purpose. The rest of us took a saunter down to the 'fifties cafe' at West Bexington where we had coffee and cakes etc and then we walked along the coast to Burton Bradstock and then round in a circle and back to 'the Sisters Grimm'.
Saturday night found us all back in the local pub where a major discussion took place regarding the recent articles by the TGO ultralight specialist writer. Or is that Barmylight. Apparently we will all be out in the hills with masks on our faces, plastic bags on our hands and feet, coloured lights on our heads and a water pistol in our hands. I can't wait for the next issue of TGO to see how barmy we are all expected to be next month.
On Sunday after a breakfast in the glorious weather ,it was time to take the tents down before one of the Sisters Grimm came round to charge us for an extra day. One minute over the time laid down in the site rules and each one of us would have to dig into our pockets for a further six pounds for the outstretched hand of one of the sisters.
Before heading home a short walk around Maiden castle was enjoyed ,with lunch taken in the centre of the castle. And then the weekend meet was over and we all headed off in our various directions.
Although this sort of meet is not Backpacking, it is a good way for us all to get together and exchange ideas and share tales of our own individual treks and backpacking trips. It's also another opportunity for us to enjoy a weekend with the Sisters Grimm.