Sunday, 10 March 2019

Return of winter and schoolboy errors....

We'll I was right not to trust the spring like weather that we enjoyed a couple of weeks ago....we have now been plunged straight back into winter weather.
Very strong gale force winds.... Lots of rain and now very cold again.....

Before the weather changed and we were still enjoying the spring like weather I was out on one of my regular Dartmoor cycling loops when I had a front wheel puncture.
After negotiating a 40mph downhill section into a river valley I crossed the bridge and then had a two mile up hill section of about 8% to pull me back out of the valley again.

Just as I got to the top of the climb I heard a sharp pop and the dreaded hissing sound of escaping air.....
The moment it happened my first thought was how lucky I was that it hadn't happened whilst I was zipping downhill at 40mph.... Front wheel punctures can be quite dangerous and difficult to control on fast descents.

My second bit of luck was that there was a bench just 100yds ahead of me...somewhere nice and comfortable to sit down and mend the puncture I thought.

 I removed the front wheel and took off the tyre and inner tube and then took out the spare inner tube that I keep under the saddle.
It was then that I realised that the spare tube would not be any good with the wheel.... The pro-lite wheels that the bike is currently fitted with have quite a deep rim and the tube had a short valve....this if fitted would barely be long enough to go through the deep section rim let alone have enough valve showing to attach my mini pump to in order to inflate the tyre again.

School boy error number one.... I can't believe that I have been carrying that inner tube around for at least a couple of years when it was in fact useless as a spare on this bike with those deep section rims.....

Oh well I thought I will just have to repair the puncture instead...
At first I couldn't find where it was...I finally spotted it on the inside of the tube.

(It had been caused because a bike shop mechanic when replacing a spoke had just made a hole in the rim tape to fit the spoke nipple and had not made good or replaced with new rim tape so the tube had been rubbing on the edge of the spoke hole.)

Anyway...now for schoolboy error number two....when I checked out my puncture repair kit I found that the patch glue was rock hard..totally useless.... I also wasn't carrying any self adhesive patches as an alternative so I was well and truly stumped....

The fact is that over the past ten years I have only ever had two punctures when out riding. One big blowout on my touring bike fully loaded. That was a rear wheel puncture which caused the rim to also damage the tyre.....and once on the Felt which again was a rear wheel...

Because I had never had a puncture when out riding the Tifosi I had neglected to check that tube and puncture kit were all ok.

As I have said schoolboy errors... caused by complacency I suppose. Just goes to show that even with 60+ years of riding under your wheels you can still make stupid errors..
I was pretty embarrassed having to phone Anne and having to ask her to come out and rescue me...

Moving on.....
Below are a couple of images taken from inside Eva the Eriba during the current return to wintry weather...
Also the last image is of a Rolls Royce Dart engine taken at a 1940s themed cafe at the nearby ex RAF Harrowbeer about a mile from our campsite.
The airfield was operational between 1941 to 1945 and was under the control of 10 Group Fighter Command... (Lots more information on the internet if you are interested)
The aerodrome was built from rubble from Plymouth after the blitz...

The cafe has a small museum attached to it and the 1940s theme even runs to the cups and saucers that your tea is poured into...interesting and quirky with 1940s music played in the background....we loved it!









Sunday, 24 February 2019

Who would have thought it......?

Yes...who would have thought it.... Here at the Dartmoor Caravan Park the good weather that we have been enjoying this past week has seen me actually sitting out sunbathing in February.

Tee shirt and shorts has been the camp uniform of choice and when out on my cycle rides I have been wearing my summer cycling kit...

Normally I wouldn't be wearing this sort of attire until at the earliest April....
Apparently this sort of weather is what we would expect to have during mid to late May...

Unfortunately the weather forecast has just informed me that this brilliant weather is due to change a bit on this coming Thursday until then I will continue to make the most of it with a couple of good rides planned for both tomorrow and Wednesday....

Below are some pictures taken around the site and out on my bike over the past few days....

I hope the weather has been good wherever you are.....



At Burrator Reservoir 

Sign at the entrance to our current site.

Near St John's church at Horrabridge

Our pitch earlier today..It really was as warm as it looks.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

A Hint of an Early Spring ?

Over the past couple of weeks we seem to have been enjoying a hint of an early spring......
Now I am not someone who is fooled by nature's habit of kidding us into believing that winter is on the way out and that spring has arrived early.... However I do think that when the weather is good you need to get the bike out and make the most of the good weather when it's here and that is just what I have been doing....

Not all of Dartmoor consists of wide open areas of wild  moorland there are lots of narrow country lanes  bordered on each side by hedges that take you from small village to small hamlet...
One of these hamlets is Sampford Spiney. I used to cycle there when we stayed at the Tavistock C&CC site so it seemed a good place to head for on a recent ride...

Near Sampford Spiney.



A great lunch stop


After riding up the very steep drag of a hill from Horrabridge up towards Sampford Spiney there is a very nice spot at a junction of lanes surrounded by trees where I pulled over for a brief rest....
As I stood there chewing on an energy bar an old gentleman  riding his ebike stopped and we fell into conversation. He told me that he had started cycling way back in 1945 which was three years before I was born... Over the years he had raced...toured and ridden for fitness... Apparently only three weeks ago he had a stent fitted due to an aortic aneurysm and was told that he should wait six weeks before riding his bike again but cabin fever had set in and he just had to get out and ride... This is something that I can fully understand.

He told me that over the past few years due to his health problems he had tried various types of ebike but each one had failed due to one reason or another but he had persevered with them because they had allowed him to continue to ride way beyond what would otherwise have been possible.....
As he zoomed off on his ebike I reflected on the way cycling allows you to meet some very interesting and colourful  people... I was so impressed by his determination to continue to ride despite his health problems way into his late eighties... Hats off to you sir......

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Looking back at Rendlesham.....

With the current spell of bad weather I have to admit that I have not been out on the bike since my last post on the blog..... Not just the weather I have also been putting up with a pretty bad cold that seems to have migrated to my chest.

Experience has shown me that there is no point in going out for a ride when I have a bad cold
 ...there are no gains to be made...I don't enjoy it and I seem to come back feeling worse than when I set out...It also seems to delay my recovery.....
Because of this I thought that for this weeks post I would look back on a walk that Anne and I did last summer when we were staying in Suffolk.

I had read that there was a trail in Rendlesham Forest just a few miles from where we we were staying that was centered around the area of the Rendlesham Incident. 

In late December 1980 there was an apparent UFO 👽 sighting over a couple of nights around the Woodbridge RAF base which is in the middle of the Forest...
At the time the base was being used by the USAF and it was American servicemen and the base commander who made the first sightings.
It was even reported that a UFO had actually landed in a clearing in the forest.....

Now although I don't actually believe in so called UFO sightings I thought that the Rendlesham UFO trail would make for a good walk in the forest and give it some interest....

We both had a really enjoyable day.... We collected maps and information from the forest visitor centre. This gave us the route that followed the timeline of the incident itself.

A few years ago the Forestry Commission had arranged for a replica of the UFO to be placed in the clearing where the USAF men had reported seeing it land....... 



Coming towards the end of the walk this 'UFO' was the highlight of the walk.... It was difficult to find at first sat in a forest clearing but it gave the walk a bit of a treasure hunt feeling....
Perhaps Anne and I are easily pleased but the whole day was voted a real success by both of us. We had a very enjoyable picnic in the forest and we also saw plenty of wildlife as well.....



A few weeks ago I heard on the radio that it had recently been announced that the whole incident was a prank played on the USAF by the SAS.       Now I have no idea if that is true or not but in no way does it diminish what was a great day out. For those of you interested in knowing more about the Rendlesham Forest UFO 👽 Incident just google it.... 👽 

Sunday, 27 January 2019

New Helmet plus the E-Bike Evangelists....

My new Louis Garneau Helmet.

Rear of the new helmet.
I have had my Catlike helmet for a number of years now and it has stood up to the wear and tear of regular riding pretty well....However last year it had finally started to fail me with a clip on the strap giving up and a problem with the retention system as well.....
I managed to repair both items and it was safe to wear but Anne wasn't convinced and insisted that I get a new one....
Apparently we are advised to replace our cycling helmets every few years anyway as the effects of UV light can weaken the structure of the helmet......
Anyway just before Christmas we were in Plymouth and we popped into Evans Cycles to see what they had in stock....

Apart from all the usual run of the mill models what I did see was a Louis Garneau helmet that was being sold off as a sale item.
Apparently Evans are no longer doing business with the supplier of these helmets so were clearing their stock....

Now I did know something about these helmets as I had read a review on Bike Radar about them back in 2013 when they first came out.
At that time the price was £159.99 and Evans were now selling them for £50 so there was quite a saving to be had.
They only had two of them left in stock and luckily one of those was in my size... A purchase was made.......



The helmet is described as an aero design and is reasonably light and very airy..... I have managed to ride with it for about 200 miles and have found it to be very comfortable and due to the shaping around the ears it doesn't interfere with my Oakleys which is a good point as I was a little concerned that they might not be compatible.
If I get the same sort of life out of the LG as I did with my Catlike then I will be well pleased..... Obviously I hope that the protection element of the helmet is never put to the test........

Now over the past few years e-bikes have become very popular.... For people that might have a health problem I can understand that they are the perfect solution allowing people to continue riding when otherwise they might have  had to give up bikes altogether.

Indeed for people like myself with a heart condition they are ideal.... Mind you I am not about to buy an e-bike yet as I intend to ride an ordinary bike for as long as I possibly can.

I have noticed as I travel around that a lot of people with E-bikes don't really need them.... They are perfectly able to ride an ordinary bike but because they have bought one of these things they seem to be intent in getting everyone else to buy one too....
The number of times I have met people on a campsite with one of these bikes and when they see me with my bike they seem to want to convince me that I should get one too... "try it" they say "it's so different to riding a bike like yours" We'll of course it is...it has a motor in it.

I ask them if they have a health condition that necessitates them having a powered assistance bike and mostly the answer is no... I ask why they have bought it then and they tell me "because it makes it easier"

For me this misses the whole point of the purity and simplicity of cycling...doing it under your own power.....

Now it could well be at some point in the future my cardiologist forces me on to one but until that day I will continue to cycle under my own power.
I will carry on resisting the enthusiastic utterings from the E-bike evangelists.....


Saturday, 19 January 2019

Gatorskin Problem.......

For the past ten years or so I have been using Continental Gatorskin tyres on my training bike the Tifosi.....
I have found that they have a long life and that the puncture protection has been first class......
They are not the most exciting tyres to ride on as they don't give too much feedback but as the tyres are used mainly during the winter that is not much of a problem......
During my winter training rides one of the most important features that I look for in a tyre is their ability to reduce the chance of me getting a puncture and in that area the Gatorskins have proved to be superb....
Let's face it the last thing you want while out on a ride in not the best of conditions is to be stood at the side of the road repairing a puncture.

Anyway I was a bit surprised to find following a recent ride that the Kevlar mesh tyre wall protection was coming away in several places around the front tyre.....Checkout the image at the top of this post...

Looking on the internet this is something that other riders have experienced as well although this is the first time it has happened to any of my tyres.....
Although the tread area of the tyre was still very good I bought a new tyre to replace it..... I always like to ride with good tyres and I also took the opportunity to replace the inner tube as well....

I would be interested to hear from other Gatorskin users of their experiences regarding the tyres...






Saturday, 12 January 2019

Awning...Pub....Cattlegrids and Ride...,,

A bit late I know... but a Happy New Year to you all......

I failed to mention in my last post that this winter we are managing without an awning....
Before we left the  C&CC Tavistock site our Kampa inflatable awning finally gave up and died....
The 'Dead' awning...

 This awning had lasted for two seven month summer touring seasons but had finally given in to UV damage.... It had worn very thin in one or two areas but what finally finished it off was a period of some strong winds which had caused the awning to rip away from the beading where it attached to the caravan.......

This is the second awning that we have lost since we started touring around...the first was a full season poled awning which lasted for two summers and three winters before it was killed off by the 'Beast from the East'..... 

The Kampa awning was made from a thinner and lighter material but was an inflatable model that proved better for touring as it was easier to erect and take down.....

We do intend to replace the awning in April at the start of the UK touring season.... We plan on buying an inflatable version of the first awning we had which was made from a vinyl type of material that didn't degrade from UV exposure to the same extent as the Kampa awning.....
Hopefully this will give us the best of both worlds and with a bit of luck a little longer lifespan...

Managing without an awning in a small unit like our Eriba means that we have lost half of our usual living area....... We normally use the awning for all of our cooking as well as relaxing in and when the weather is bad I ride my bike on the turbo in there....
It has proved a bit challenging at times but we have managed to come up with alternatives and seem to be managing with the reduced living area quite well.....

It's not for everyone and you have to get on pretty well to be able to manage in a small camping trailer/caravan but it is possible if you are open to coming up with alternative ideas to deal with the lack of space.......

The lack of space of course is only in the caravan.....step outside and you have all the space you could wish for...... As it was dry and quite mild on Christmas day we cooked a full Christmas turkey dinner outside in the heart of the Devon countryside...... Hardcore BBQing as my daughter described it when I told her about it.....

Boxing day was spent with a walk down to the 'Who'd Have Thought It' pub at Milton Combe.
'Down'.. to the pub is the right way to describe it as the Combe is accessed down a 20% hill.....


The Who'd Have Thought It Pub....
 The pub was really quiet on Boxing Day.... Log fires in each area of the pub..... Great food and good beer..... It really made for a lovely traditional way to spend the day.......
Interior of the pub on Boxing day...Nice and Quiet.
 Following our lunch and a couple more pints of good local brew we headed back to the site.....
I had forgotten all about the 20% hill we had to walk up until we hit the lower slopes of the hill... After a nice lunch and a few pints it was a bit of a shock to the system.....
Back at the site we were able to sleep off our athletic endeavours.....

 Up until about a week before Christmas we had suffered weeks of wet weather but following the shortest day the weather seemed to change and since then we have enjoyed far more settled weather.......

The image below shows the strength of water on the river Tavy as it flows under the bridge.
The volume of water flowing off the moor and into the river was huge as can be seen by the height of the water under the arches of the bridge...it really was very high.....
River Tavy..... plenty of water flowing off Dartmoor.
 With the more settled weather I have managed to get out on my bike quite a lot..... Riding around Dartmoor you have to exercise a fair bit of care as there are a fair number of cattle grids all around..... 
Going over the grids really shakes the bike up... (going over some of them in a car can be bad enough) 
Hitting one of these grids at the wrong angle when on the bike can cause you to lose traction and end up having a nasty fall....

One of my cycling buddies.. Jason... knows how dangerous they can be. 
He had a nasty fall when out cycling on a club run around the New Forest area.... That fall kept him off the bike for a number of months.... 
It only takes a moments lack of concentration especially if it is wet or even just damp......

A couple of days ago I cycled up to Princetown of Dartmoor Prison fame.....
Those of you who are familiar with Dartmoor will know what the roads are like if you want to cycle there..... They are either going up or going down and the gradients can be quite challenging....

I have done a lot of walking around Dartmoor over the years and Princetown has always been a place to top up on supplies etc....
The Plume of Feathers pub has a campsite behind it and I have enjoyed many a stop over there when on a Dartmoor walking expedition. 
I have also enjoyed many a good full English breakfast at the Fox Tor cafe before heading off again on the walk....

It is probably fair to say that Princetown is probably the walking/cycling centre of the moor and it is a real draw for the thousands of tourists who visit Dartmoor each year....

My route up to Princetown from Crapstone was (apart from a couple of short downhill sections) more or less uphill all the way....
My cardiac consultant told me to avoid going over 85% of my maximum heart rate but on this ride my HR monitor was beeping and flashing red for most of the ride up there.....

On the easier gradient sections it is possible to ease back slightly and eventually drop back into the green zone.... however there are sections of very steep gradient where I was in my lowest ratio and it proved impossible to ease back.....to do so would probably have ended up with me falling off as I couldn't really go much slower.....

The choice was stop and walk or say to hell with it and carry on..... call me stupid but I wanted to cycle there and not walk...I am not a quitter so it is a balance of risk so I carried on....

Anyway.....I made it and am pleased to have done it..... I am 71 in about a weeks time so I felt a little glow of self satisfaction having done it so early on in the cycling year....

One last point regarding the ride..... it took only a third of the time coming back as it took me cycling up there which gives you some idea of the uphill gradients encountered on the outward leg.........

A lot of the local club riders do this ride on a weekly basis but it has to be said that in the main they tend to be 'young bucks' without a diagnosis of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy ha...ha...
Tiffany the Tifosi outside the Fox Tor Cafe....