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Now retired but busy still living..

Thursday 31 March 2011


 Just a short post today because I am just about to set off on the short cyclepacking trip that was called off a couple of weeks ago due to the bad weather........On my return I will be sure to post some photographs and a report of the trip..

My cycling week started off with a longer ride than I had expected. On arrival at the ferry just after 1000hrs on Monday morning this is what I was greeted with..Yep it was shut...No ferry. The choice was to cycle back home....or cycle round (an extra 25 miles on my ride) or....swim across with my bike! This last option was very quickly discounted....I mean- I wouldn't want to get my bike wet...! Go back home- well thats a 'wimpy' way out - I mean if one of my neighbours saw me return early they would use it as an opportunity to call me a 'quitter' or something like that.
Only one option left then. I cycled all the way round turning my 30 mile short training spin into a 55 mile slightly longer training spin. It did make a good start to the week though because the weather has been a little on the damp side since then.
It also gave me a good chance to take a picture of the ferry without any cars on it and also give you all a chance to see across to the far shore - the Studland side of the entrance to Poole Harbour. The ferry staff were up to something with a little 'dumper' type truck- moving things around on the ferry and it was this work that had caused the closure for the morning.
 In my last post I told you that I hoped to have some news for you regarding the Rock2UK ride in September.
 Dave finally confirmed that he was unable to drive the support vehicle for us, due to his employers refusing to allow him to take the required time off. I had intended to ride my Tifosi Training/Audax bike on the  trip and JD was planning on riding his Specialized Secteur Comp. All our gear would be carried in the support  vehicle and we would be able to do the ride at some speed.
 Problem ...what do we do now..? Logistics nightmare.
We spent some time looking at various options including trying to get another driver....but that would be a difficult one. Dave is good at driving support...he has done it on two previous trips and knows what to do and what is expected...he would be a hard act for anyone else to follow. More thought.....and then  that Eureka moment!  We will get the ferry to Santander as planned and proceed to Gibraltar from the top of Spain to the bottom as planned....but......we will do it on the bikes!! Once we get to Gibraltar we will then head north to the French border.....cycle the length of France...then a short ferry trip from Cherbourg and back to Poole

Simple...job done!!

The quicker you say it the easier it seems. We will obviously have to carry all our kit on the bikes in panniers. This means that we will have to do the ride on the Revolution Tourers....The ride will be completed  slightly slower and unsupported. The total distance we will be riding now will be something in excess of 2000miles......Lovely..!! The more I think about it the more excited I am about it... Not bad considering I thought the cancer might kill me less than 18 months ago - mind you I haven't done it yet. Doing this might kill me instead..!!! So now it is UK2ROCK2UK. Now I must go and load the bike for a much shorter touring ride.

Sunday 27 March 2011


A couple of weeks ago I mentioned on this blog that I was having a difficult time finding any interesting bikes to photograph here in Bournemouth. Well on the way across to the Purbecks by way of the Studland chain ferry on Friday for my daily ride I came across these....The first bike is a 1970's classic pro-race machine...actually I saw it on route to the ferry. I saw the rider in the distance and thought "Oh goody.. someone to try and reel in". Truth of the matter is that the rider of this beautiful machine was not really trying..he was
just out for a nice easy ride....as I got closer I could see by the shape of the bike that this was something rather special.....anyway in my childish competitive mind I just imagined that I was competing in a 1970's 'Milk Race' and that I was really a much  better rider than him and was about to gobble him up and spit him out....as I swept past him I said  "nice day for it"  referring to the the stunning weather that we were enjoying. As I 'took the lead' I thought to myself what a gorgeous bike that was.........
I arrived at the ferry just as it was docking and a few minutes later the guy with the Raleigh also arrived at the ferry...we struck up a conversation during which he told me a little of the history of his bike...Apparently it was a professional rebuild and I must say that it looked it...she really was a beauty and it was finished in a wonderful deep purple...my colour.!! The rider was new to the area and he asked me about local cycling clubs...naturally I gave him the details of my club so I will probably get to know the bike and it's rider a lot better in the future.

 We boarded the ferry and continued our conversation...a little while later another interesting machine boarded the ferry....a nice red Hetchins... My new 'friend' and I got into conversation with the Hetchins rider..he told us that the bike used to be his father's and that he had promised him before he died that he would continue to keep the bike on the road and ride it every now and then. The Hetchins guy was basically a MTB rider and not a roadie, but he was out with the bike fulfilling his promise to his Dad..When we arrived at the Studland side I let the two 'classic bike' riders go on ahead on their respective rides while I held back for a few minutes...This is my standard routine...I always like to allow any other riders on the ferry to set off for a few minutes...it gives me something to aim for....anyway...I set off myself a few minutes later catching up with the Hetchins first and passing him with a polite cyclists wave and then a short while later just as we hit the start of the hills near Studland village I caught  the 'purple beauty' for the second time that day.

Who would have believed it...two really nice classic machines on the one ride....It was my fifth time on the ferry this week and most days I really don't see anyone.

"What about the training rides?" I hear you ask...well in my last posting I was bemoaning the fact that I seemed to be stuck at about 15 - 15.2mph average speed on each ride and didn't seem to be making any noticeable improvements and how disappointing I was finding it. It seems that there is nothing better than disappointment to fuel the hunger to improve...this week I have found more power on the hills and also have made some improvements in my descending ..the overall result for the week saw me nudging 15.5mph over the 180.72 miles that I completed this week.....Different week.....Different results..!! As I have mentioned before - my training route is very hilly...over the thirty miles of the standard route only two 'one mile' sections are level....

As a nice little bonus...on the return ferry trip I met up with a young couple in their twenties who were on fully loaded touring bikes...and I do mean fully loaded..I don't think that I have ever seen such heavily loaded machines. When I go touring I try to do it very lightweight but these guys were in for the long haul and were on route to Spain - Gibraltar - Morocco and that was just the start of their trip. We obviously had lots to chat about regarding the Spain - Gibraltar section of the ride...A really nice couple and I wish them safe riding...I don't have a photo of them because I got the feeling that they would not want their image posted on the internet...

And....what about my own ride back from Gibraltar in September - any news ?   Well.....NO!  It is looking more and more as if the Rock2UK ride in it's original form will not take place....but I am hoping that by my next posting I will be able to report on some interesting developments regarding this trip.

Wednesday 23 March 2011



In my last posting I mentioned that I was about to set off on a short (Friday thru Sunday) cyclepacking trip with Mike & Chris. We had checked the weather forecast and it was warning us of  rain on the Friday morning but that this would clear up and we would have a good weekend.
Fast forward to the Friday morning........Rain!  Yes! just as promised rain . Where the rain differed from what we had been promised was that it was heavy...No! more than heavy...try torrential !! There was no let up. A phone call to Mike & Chris established a plan....we would wait until midday and see if the torrential rain would ease off to just a  heavy downpour. Come midday and the rain seemed worse. After having spent the Monday Tuesday Wednesday & Thursday cycling in lovely spring sunshine, there was no way that I was going to set off on a camping weekend in torrential rain. Now you can call me a wimp or a fair weather cyclist
if you like, but having just spent three weeks trying to shake off a bronchial infection the last thing I needed was to get soaked through cycling to the campsite. If I set off on a trip and the weather 'turns' bad , well that's different, but setting off in torrential rain has a touch of madness about it. Before I retired I would probably have still set off...but nowadays when I can ride my bike whenever I like, it just seems sensible to choose days to ride when the weather is dry...
When I cycled Lands End to John o'Groats it rained every day for the full 10days and 1,000 miles...riding the bike soaked to the skin is not a lot of fun...! Especially if it's cold....Well not in my book anyway.
As it transpired the Saturday and the Sunday turned out dry and sunny, although it was cold with a frost in the mornings.
We WILL do the trip....in fact the plan is to do it as part of a Spring Backpackers Club meet in nine days time- so hopefully I will be able to post some photos of the trip just after that.
Now the weekend is over and we are into a new week - the weather has gone back to 'the spring has sprung'  with a nice blue sky and just a light wind as can be seen in the photo of the main street in Corfe.
I am getting out everyday on the Tifosi covering between 25 to 45 miles. I seemed to have hit a bit of a plateau at the moment..I don't seem to be able to push my average speed much higher than about 15mph.
The shot of my Garmin 605 shows my ride today...(The speed of 3.7mph is the speed of the chain ferry as I was crossing back to the Sandbanks side) I still had a further 5 miles to ride before getting back home.The ascent over the 25.05 miles recorded was 4133ft.including two hills of between 16% - 18%. I know with more training rides I will be able to push the average speed up but I am going through a bit of a static time at the moment without any visible signs of progress. It can be very disappointing......!

The plans for the Rock2UK ride scheduled for September are still up in the air with  no confirmation from Dave Vaughan that he has the time off from his employers. I am getting quite concerned about this, as the longer the situation goes on the less time we have to sort out alternative arrangements.

Nothing else to report on at the moment but you can be pretty sure that everything will happen at once ....just watch this space...!!

Thursday 17 March 2011


 This week we have been seeing some great weather...Yes I think that spring has really sprung. Obviously with all this good weather staying at home was not an option I just had to be out on the bike. However before I could do that I had an early morning appointment at the hospital to check on the possibility of 'exploding eyeballs'. Good news....No high pressure in the eye..everything reading normal...even better I don't have to go back to the eye unit and they have signed me off. Yippee...another medical problem sorted!

 Anyway having had the good news at the hospital you would have thought that I would have had a good ride but that is not how it worked out. I just didn't seem to have the legs for it..I seemed to struggle up the hills..On the ascent of the 'hill of death' I really felt that I wasn't going to make it to the top. I just couldn't understand why it was so hard - when I got home my muscles ached really badly. I had a rest day and thought about what had happened..On reflection.the answer was simple.Over the weekend I had been a bit wound up thinking about my appointment  with Mr Morris the Eye Surgeon  and I had not eaten enough. There I was trying to power myself along on an almost empty tank...no fuel..! Anyway- one rest day and plenty of the right type of food (no cup cakes this time) and then the next time out on the bike and no more problems. Today I even managed to get a ride with JD. It was the first time that we have been out cycling together since about October last year. Our plan now is to ride at least once a week together right up to the ride back from Gibraltar in September. JD was riding really well...powering up the hills and on the flat he was managing between 25 - 28mph. He was riding his new bike and today was only the second time that he had ridden it so more power to him. Tomorrow I am planning to head off on a short cycle packing trip with Mike & Chris. They are part of the small group cycling in France with me in May and they too have new bikes, so they want to try them out with panniers and all the gear that they will be carrying in France. The weather forecast is not looking good for tomorrow with heavy rain promised but once it clears we are told that it should get back to the 'spring has sprung' kind of weather. Anyway, when I got back from todays ride I covered up the Tifosi and checked over the Tourer as that is the bike that I will be riding for the next few days. When I get back I will tell you all about the trip and hopefully have a few photos to share with you...........

Sunday 13 March 2011


As I mentioned in my last post I have been back riding again this week.
Following the 45 mile ride on that first outing, my subsequent rides were all over shorter distances. This wasn't because of any problem that I experienced on the 45 miles but just that I wanted to pace myself back over a reasonable distance.  It's always a bit difficult after a lay off of more than a week or two to know how much or how little to do. Looking back on the week though I think that I got it about right.

What really annoyed me when I was forced to stop riding just over 4 weeks ago, was that I was only 98 miles short of my first 1,000 miles for the year. During January I was managing to put in an average of just over 180 miles a week and then it went to zero.......
When I started back this week, it was really important for me to do that 98 miles as a minimum in order for me to push past that magic number.

I had to give myself a carrot...! Something that would help me focus on reaching my goal.
Now I am normally (well most of the time) quite strict when it comes to food intake...No chocolate...No cakes...No chips....Etc  etc. I realize how much harder it us to cycle uphill when you are carrying excess weight..As we have a fair few hills in my home area keeping my weight down is something I am constantly aware of.   So I promised myself that when I reached  the 1,000 mile mark I would allow myself to indulge in a 'chocolate topped cupcake'. Well not just one...maybe two or three....Just this once..!!

So during all of my rides this week I have focussed on the cupcake.You could call it the 'Purpletraveller Cupcake Training Plan'. Anyway,  it worked..!   It worked so well that even when I hit the goal I carried on cycling and did not even then allow myself to eat it. Just another 5 miles....then another 5.... then just a few more miles..... Anyway my final numbers on this first week back are:-

TOP SPEED REACHED DURING THE WEEK - 41.30 mph (downhill of course)

Now I realise  that these figures are not anything special, but for me following an enforced hiatus to my riding I am reasonably pleased. In truth I am just glad to be back out on the bike...enjoying the scenery and the ride.

In the end ...when the cycling for the week was completed I did eat the cupcake..and another...and another............!

Wednesday 9 March 2011


This week I took delivery of another parcel.......This time it was a LARGE parcel....Not a small box like the mini wind turbine I posted about last time. This time it was a BIG box and on the side it said 'PRO - LIGHT  Built the hard way - by hand.'
What could it contain..? Yes it was a wheelset. I have been thinking about up-grading the wheels on the Tifosi for a few months. The stock wheels that I got with the bike were OK but they were a bit heavy. They were Miche (Italian) wheels and they performed pretty well all things considered. However...I'm a cycling enthusiast....I am programmed to up-grade..!! So I decided to buy a new wheelset and keep the originals as a spare set.
But what to buy? That was not an easy decision.

When I bought the FELT I decided to go for a set of Fulcrum Racing Zero wheels. I really love that wheelset as they are light..they look great with the red spokes they climb with real zest and sprint like a rocket. So I thought I might go for another set of Fulcrum wheels- not another set of Zero's - at almost £1,000 I certainly couldn't spend that amount again - no this time I would be looking more at something along the lines of the Fulcrum racing 3's.
I checked out no end of wheels on the Internet. It was starting to drive me mad..All the wheels I liked I wasn't prepared to pay the price that was being asked. Lets face it everyone likes a bargain and I wasn't really seeing any bargains.

I subscribe to a number of Cycling magazines and in their wheel reviews one name kept coming up time and time again. PRO - LITE - BRACCIANO. In lots and lots of wheel tests the Bracciano's kept on getting very high marks.
In a number of magazines such as 'Cycling plus' they got the highest marks.
They are a reasonably light set of wheels - approx 1460-1480grms (like all wheels they do vary slightly) apparently they spin up to speed really quickly - they climb really well and they are a good stiff set of wheels.

When Cycling plus tested them the price of the wheels was quoted at about £360 so when I saw them for £235 I couldn't leave them in the internet shop could I..?

Funnily enough in the Cycling plus wheel test one of the other sets was the Fulcrum racing zero's...the Bracciano's beat them- in fact they were voted the 'Best in Test'.
Although they were not as fast or quite as good when climbing as the zero's they won overall as a balance of all these functions and PRICE...It was thought that they gave the most 'Bang for your Bucks'.

So that's what I have bought for the Tifosi and although they are not Italian made like the Zero's they do have an Italian sounding name...
I have also bought new tyres (conti gatorskins for training) and a new 12-25 cassette (lot's of hills in this part of the world) I should fit all this at the weekend ready for next weeks rides.

On the subject of rides...I started riding again today. First trip out after a break of just over four weeks I managed a distance of 45 miles...I just took it nice and easy and enjoyed the scenery.

Saturday 5 March 2011


 The Postman delivered  a small parcel this morning. That's it above - a mini wind turbine.
Now I am not a great supporter of wind turbines - well not the ones that they erect on the top of many decent hills in the Lake District ...Scotland...Wales..Devon....Cornwall...etc...etc...On the one hand they might produce a certain level of power harvested from the wind but on the other hand I feel that they do destroy the beautiful landscape of these areas.
I heard only last week that the Dutch developer ENECO plans to build a wind farm 8 to 10 miles off the coast here at Bournemouth. These will be 900 -1200 megawatt turbines and could power up to 820,000 homes. On the face of it this all sounds good stuff  BUT there will be between 150 - 250 of these monsters and they will certainly be a 'blot on the seascape'.
 Now, my turbine is a lot smaller than the one's that ENECO use and it certainly will not be a blot on anyone's land or sea scape. I have been using mini solar panels to power various devices when I go backpacking or cycle touring for a couple of years and for the most part they work quite well, but you have to have sunshine and in the good old UK that can be a bit of a rarity sometimes. Now don't misunderstand me I haven't run out of power yet- but I have come close. The gizmo that uses most power when cycle touring is my Garmin bike computer/GPS. When fully charged I get about 15 hours of power which equates to about two days worth of   use. Even on 100 mile fully loaded cycletouring days it will last for a couple of days. However if the weather is overcast I have found myself struggling to harvest enough solar power to recharge it fully, hence my new purchase. My plan is to now use both wind & solar power. I first saw these mini turbines last year when a guy  I know cycled across Europe. Two of these supplied all the power he required. (He had no solar panels). The turbine is supplied with various connectors for different electronic units and it can also be charged from the mains or from your computer via a USB cable. You then download the power to your device ie Garmin...Phone...MP3 etc.
Using a mini wind turbine on a bike works quite well by all accounts. The main reason for this of course is that you are creating your own 'wind' by the very act of cycling forward. Even on a day when there is no 'actual wind' no worries. You will be creating enough wind force just by the act of cycling along. I think that supplementing my solar harvesting with some wind power harvesting will keep me fully powered.....We will see and I will obviously report my findings to you all on this blog. As usual I had to read all the instructions and that included everything on the box as well. I wasn't surprised to read that the makers don't recommend that you hold the turbine in your hand as you cycle along (see above photo). The manufacturers supply a bike fitting kit with all the other bits and pieces in the box. The guy who rode across Europe last year had his fitted on the front forks of his tourer- one each side just below the brakes. I think that is probably where I will site mine in the end but not until I have played around with trying it on various parts of my touring machine. What I was surprised at was that the manufacturers suggest that you 'DON'T EAT' your wind turbine. What a disappointment - I had already prepared mine ready for lunch with some HP sauce to improve the flavour.


Six weeks off.

 The visit to see the Consultant went quite well really ...   My ' numbers' have started to creep up again so I am going to be given...