Wednesday, 22 June 2011

HOW GOOD ?

PRO-LITE BRACCIANO WHEELSET
I thought that I would report back to you on some of the cycling gear that I have recently been testing out.

I will start with the Pro-Lite Bracciano wheelset that I have been using on my Tifosi Training/Audax bike. When I took delivery of them they were both true and perfectly round.  These wheels have now been used on the bike for well over a thousand miles and are still round and true.
They have 27mm V section 6066 Aluminium rims.  In the front there are 20 evenly tensioned aero spokes and in the rear there are 24 spokes laced in a 2 cross pattern.
The freewheel makes a quite distinctive and loud noise.....but I have to say I like the sound.

These wheels have a real turn of speed as well as giving a very comfortable ride. They really are a light and fast wheelset at 1482grms.
Responsive and stiff these wheels are superb and have proved great when ascending and also on the descent. Finally they are fantastic value for money and I would say that they are almost as good as the Fulcrum Racing Zeros that I have on the Felt and those wheels are almost four times the price..!!
A great buy and a wheelset that I really do recommend.
UNIROSS  HY MINI WIND CHARGER
This item I have used on two trips now. A weekend cycle camping trip...and a longer trip (11 days) to Northern France.

This neat looking bit of kit can be charged from the mains or from your computer via a USB cable or it can be charged on the bike by the wind generated by forward motion.
When fully charged it had no problems in charging my phone and my Garmin GPS cycle computer.

One drawback for a lot of people is that this charger is not compatible for charging an i-phone.

On the trip to France, most of the campsites we stayed at had facilities for charging from the mains power......because of this I am still uncertain of the units ability to charge sufficiently from wind power alone. It has proved fine when using a mix of both mains and wind and I get the feeling that you would need a full days cycling ( 6-8 hours) at reasonable speeds to charge the unit from just wind power only.
I do intend using the Hy Mini charger on my trip back from Gibraltar starting mid August and I think that will prove it's worth one way or the other.
On that trip I will also have the back up of a Solar Panel charger and a Power Monkey just in case the Hy Mini charger fails to do it's job.........
RSP TOURLITE (TOURING RACK LIGHT)
This light unit has proved a total success......
Once fitted to the rack on my touring bike I could just forget about it. Because it is actually screwed on to the rack, there is no need to have to remove it from the bike when you park up and leave your bike.
The unit has 3 LEDs and can be used in either of two flashing modes or a non flashing mode.

Peter Calcutt has one of these lights fitted on his bike and on our return from France I cycled behind him from the ferry port at Poole.
I  found that if I was in line with him while cycling along an unlit area I could see nothing past him as this light is so bright. In order to reduce the glare of this light I needed to cycle slightly to one side of him.
From behind you would have no idea of the size of the 'vehicle' in front displaying this light. Believe me this light is BRIGHT.
In my opinion there is no way that a driver would NOT see you if you were using the Tourlite.
If you look at the photo above you can see how bright the light is in daylight. Along an unlit road it is unmissable and on a lit road it appears as bright as the best costing a lot more money.

Yes, this really is a first class and top value light....I paid only £12.95 for it and I think that is really cheap for such a powerful light,
BLACKBURN LOWRIDER RACKS AND ORTLIEB FRONT PANNIERS
There is nothing that I can say about the Ortlieb Panniers that has not been said before. I love them.
The way that they just drop onto the racks and are instantly secure and the ease of removing them is fantastic.

I was a bit concerned before I had used them, that they might upset the steering on the bike. I need not have had any concerns.....the bikes steering was not affected at all.....indeed I had no problems on descents in France of just under 40mph.
I certainly felt that the bike was MORE stable using both front and rear panniers than it has been in the past whilst using rear panniers only.

The Blackburn Lowrider front racks are as fitted to the Ridgeback Panorama bikes that Mike and Chris used on the French trip...Peter also had fitted the same racks to his Revolution Tourer.

Now I am a bit of a perfectionist and when I fit something I like to ensure that everything lines up with equal distances etc. One thing that I found an irritation, was that after fitting I noticed that the rack on the right side of the bike sat closer to the wheel than the one on the left of the bike. No matter how I tried I could not get them to match perfectly.
 I happened to mention this to Peter and he said that he had found the same problem when he had fitted his.........on speaking to Mike he told me that he had noticed the same on the bikes that he and Chris had and remember their racks were fitted at the factory.

Anyway it seems that when Blackburn manufacture these racks...the machine that drills the hole for fitting to the front fork is very slightly out of line and that's why this misalignment is repeated on all of our front racks.....
Having said all of the above the racks perform just as they should....were easy to fit....and look good on the bike.


UNFORTUNATELY THERE WILL BE A HIATUS ON THIS BLOG FOR A FEW WEEKS. 
I WILL TRY AND RETURN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

FRANCE - DAY TEN & ELEVEN

COASTAL VIEW

SMALL COVE ON OUR COASTAL RIDE
The day of the Coastal Ride that Peter and I had planned started dull and very overcast. We had experienced rain over night but at about 0700hrs the rain stopped. We had breakfast and prepared the bikes and at about 1000hrs we were off.
Mike and Chris had planned to have an easy no cycling day while Peter and I were cycling along the coast. The route out of the town centre was easy to follow and as I had pointed out to Peter we only needed to ensure that we kept the sea on our left.
The route was typical French coastal road cycling ....plenty of ups but just as many downs...the road surfaces as most of the time in France were smooth and the cycling was exhilarating. The only real downside were the crosswinds which meant that you had to keep your wits about you....if you weren't careful you could get blown badly off course. After about an hour it started to rain and for only the second time on this trip I had to put on my waterproof race cape.
We visited Pointe du Grouin which seemed to attract quite a number of visitors and then we headed for the small town of Cancale where we found a small cafe for lunch. I must say that I found Cancale a bit of a dissapointment...I don't know why but I had expected it to be a more attractive place than it was. Having said that, the rain of course did not help.
After lunch we headed back to St Malo via a more inland route but the crosswinds were just as bad.
We found our way back to the campsite with no problems, even being cheered on and waved at by a coach full of French schoolchildren.
Cycling is such a popular sport in France that wherever you go you often get schoolchildren waving and shouting 'Allez Allez' in encouragement as you go past.
That evening the four of us had a look around a World War 2 Fort that was just behind our camp site before settling down for a meal.
So our cycling was now all done....apart from the five minute ride to the ferry port on the Friday we wouldn't be doing any more riding. The plan was that on the Friday morning we would have a lazy breakfast.....break camp and pack everything in the panniers....and than leave the bikes at the campsite while we had a look around the old walled section of the town just the other side of the ferry port. The camp receptionist said we could leave the panniers in the office for safety and lock our bikes up just outside the office.
We had a great day looking around the town (some pictures below) and before we knew it the day had gone and we were in the short queue for the ferry and our return trip to the UK. On it's return to the UK the ferry called in at Jersey and we arrived back in Poole just after 2300hrs.....

It had been a great trip and although we didn't cover huge distances it had been another key step on my recovery back to health after my cancer treatment. There was a point during my treatment that I didn't think that I would get back on a bike again, let alone do a trip like this, so this was a bit of a milestone for me.
It was certainly a good test of Me - Bike - and Equipment prior to the ride back to the UK from Gibraltar (UK2ROCK2UK) that JD and I plan to do in a couple of months time.

I will tell you about the success or otherwise of certain items of equipment in my next post.......



VIEW OF THE FERRY FROM NEAR OUR CAMPSITE

THE ETOILE DU ROY IN THE PORT OF ST MALO - THIS SHIP WAS BUILT AT MARMARIS IN TURKEY  AND IS AN   AUTHENTIC REPLICA OF THE FRIGATE HMS BLANDFORD FROM 1741

A FRENCH CUSTOMS BOAT

A VIEW FROM THE OLD TOWN WALL - ST MALO

ANOTHER VIEW FROM THE TOWN WALL

GENERAL SEA VIEW

NEAR ST MALO PORT

OUTSIDE THE OLD TOWN WALL

PETER PACKING UP ON OUR LAST MORNING

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

FRANCE - DAY 9

TOP OF THE HILL NEAR ST SULIAC
After two nights in Dinan it was time to hit the road again.
With just three days left on this trip we felt that it would be sensible to head for St Malo. We wanted to have a complete day to look around the town and Peter and I also wanted to have a day to cycle around part of the coast from St Malo to Cancale.
That was days ten and eleven taken care of, so today  the plan was to cycle to St Malo by way of the small coastal village of St Suliac. Chris had read somewhere that this was a place worth a look so the plan was laid and we were on our way.
The route seemed fairly straight forward apart from a small error made within ten minutes of leaving the campsite. This meant that we cycled in a bit of a loop before finally heading off in the right direction.

OLD FORTRESS TOWER OVERLOOKING St SULIAC
VIEW OVER St SULIAC FROM THE TOP OF THE HILL

It was another very warm day and with a bit of a breeze it made for good cycling. Just a few miles from St Suliac we had a choice.... Up and over a steep hill or take a low level route..... Apparently the route via the hill offered some great views as a reward for making the effort to grind your way to the top in something approaching the granny gear. Mike and Chris decided to take the lower level route and Peter and I went for the granny gear..!
At the top was an old fortress tower ruin and some lovely views looking over the village......well worth the struggle to get there. After taking in the views and taking some photographs Peter and I freewheeled at some speed down into the village. We headed to the coastal end of the village where Mike and Chris had already arrived. Just a little way along the coastal road we found a little beachfront cafe where we stopped for lunch.




VIEW FROM BEACHFRONT CAFE
 After lunch we set off  back along the coastal road and then headed up the hill out of the village....before long we were on the outskirts of St Malo.
We found a couple of campsites about five miles from the centre of town, but Mike and Chris said that they would prefer to be closer to the ferry port itself as they wanted to be within walking distance of the old part of the town.
This was because they intended to have an easy day of exploration while Peter and I were cycling around the coast on day ten.
The ride into the centre of St Malo was not too difficult although we did need to check the route a few times. After all the quiet cycling routes we had been cycling on this trip it came as a bit of a shock to the system to be back on busy traffic filled roads again.
ROUND HOUSE SEEN IN THE CENTRE OF A TRAFFIC ROUNDABOUT-  St MALO
 We headed for the Port area and before long picked up signs for a municipal campsite....we followed the signs and eventually we arrived at the site which overlooked the ferryport . We couldn't be closer and it really proved to be an ideal site for our needs....close to the town.....easy to cycle to the ferry (about 5 mins ride) and also well placed for the coastal cycle ride that Peter and I had planned for the following day....
That evening we found a small restaurant only about five minutes walk from the site and after our meal I rewarded myself with a giant cream & icecream confection for my efforts in the granny gear earlier in the day......
A JUST REWARD FOR GRANNY GEAR USAGE....!

Monday, 13 June 2011

FRANCE - DAY 8 a day in Dinan

VIEW FROM THE OLD TOWN WALLS

WALKING ALONG THE RIVERSIDE CYCLE TRACK INTO TOWN

GENERAL TOWN VIEW

VIEW NEAR TOWN CENTRE

LOTS OF OLD BUILDINGS

ANOTHER OF THE OLD BUILDINGS

ATTRACTIVE COBBLED STREETS

ANCIENT MOTORBIKE FITTED IN WITH THE OLD BUILDINGS

OLD TOWN GATEWAY

ANOTHER GENERAL VIEW

VIEW BY THE DOCK

FOR CAT LOVERS EVERYWHERE..........

Sunday, 12 June 2011

CONGRATULATIONS........

Congratulations to Bradley Wiggins on winning the Criterium Du Daphine today.
Bradley has shown that he can really hold his own with the best of them in the mountains as well as being able to produce a good time trial result....
This must all bode really well for his chances in the Tour De France.....I can't wait..!!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

FRANCE - DAY 7

CYCLE TEAM.......

................FOLLOWED BY PETER

IN THE SHADE AS WE GOT TO OUTSKIRTS OF DINAN

RIVER ROAD DINAN

VIADUCT WE CROSSED  ON ENTRY TO DINAN

OUR NEW TWO NIGHT HOME - CAMPSITE DINAN
Day seven was an A to B day.....a travel day. After two nights at the campsite near Mont St Michel it was now time to move on again. The plan was to head for the town of Dinan. We had heard that this was an interesting place to head for as it had lots of history.
The day was another of those very hot days when you only dare stop if you can get under some shade...It was fine as long as you were cycling along as the act of moving forward helped to create a breeze which in turn kept you cooled. However...when you stopped..phew..!  HOT.
We had some initial difficulty finding our correct route.....Peter likes to know exactly where he is at any time on the map whereas my system is more basic. I just like to go on instinct, on the basis that every road and turn will end up taking you somewhere.....anyway, the result of our joint efforts plus some sprinkling of GPS meant that for the first few miles we seemed to travel in a big loop before eventually heading off in the right direction.
The route when we found it was really quite straightforward just following a couple of roads for the entire distance.We found another nice Cafe/bar for lunch with the proprietor showing us a safe place for us to put our bikes out of the heat of the sun.
When I got to the outskirts of Dinan I pulled over and waited for the others (in the shade)......First to come by was a cycling team followed not far behind by Peter...five minutes later Mike and Chris arrived. We then all headed down a hill and before we knew it we were all cycling across a massive viaduct. This was a very high structure and gave us a fantastic view up and down the river.
First stop in town was the tourist information office to enquire about campsites.....and eventually we were heading along the river road in the direction of one of the nearest campsites....
It wasn't easy to find and we seemed to finish the day as we started....cycling around in what seemed to be a bit of a circle before we arrived at the days destination.
The plan here was to follow a similar plan as at previous sites...stay over for two nights giving us a full day the next day to explore the town......


TO BE CONTINUED.........

Friday, 10 June 2011

ANOTHER BLOGGER GLITCH....?

IT APPEARS THAT THERE IS ANOTHER BLOGGER GLITCH.......

IT SEEMS THAT A NUMBER OF BLOGS - OF WHICH THIS IS ONE- ARE MISSING THEIR FOLLOWERS LISTS & ALSO THEIR ADSENSE PANELS FROM THE SIDE BAR.

LET'S HOPE THAT THE PROBLEM IS SORTED SOON.

FRANCE - DAY 6

BREAKFAST DELIVERED TO THE TENT
Day six started with breakfast delivered to the tent.....Chris had ordered croissants from the campsite reception and she had popped along there to collect them and then she kindly delivered  them to our tents..... Oh the joys of camping...!
After breakfast we mounted our unloaded bikes for the short ride to Mont St Michel.....the plan was to spend the day doing the 'tourist' thing.
PLENTY OF PARKING FOR BIKES
 It was an easy ride along the cycle path that followed the river to the Mont. Half a mile from the Mont the path joined the road to cross the causeway. There was quite a queue for the car park but being on bikes we were waved past by the car park attendant and just slightly further along the causeway we came to the bike parking area....lots of it....no worry about parking for us and no charge either....
CLOSER VIEW OF MONT St MICHEL
 Lots of tourists of course, but then that is what we were too...tourists I mean...! The day was spent looking around ...taking pictures....eating....drinking (coffee only) and enjoying the day.
ANOTHER MONT VIEW
 Mont St Michel is a lot larger than St Michaels Mount in Cornwall England. This French version has a village around the base and the Mount and the Abbey set upon it is much bigger. From a distance however they do look very similar. A lot of the 'village' around the base consists of tourist shops and little bars and restaurants but all very interesting nevertheless...If you are ever in this part of France it is certainly worth making the visit.
VIEW OF THE CAUSEWAY FROM THE MONT

ANOTHER VIEW FROM THE MONT   -SLIGHT MONET OVERTONES

MASSIVE WALLS OF MONT St MICHEL

ABBEY VIEW

OUT BUILDING IN THE GROUNDS OF THE MONT - NOTE SIDE OF ROOF FACING PREVAILING WIND
We all enjoyed our visit and late afternoon we headed back to the bikes and ride back to the campsite. This was the second time that I have visited the Mont. The previous time was about twelve years ago when I went on a weeks camping trip with a classic car club that I was a member of. The weather on that first visit was not as good as the weather we enjoyed on this trip.....

TO BE CONTINUED............

Thursday, 9 June 2011

FRANCE - DAY 4 & 5

ON ROUTE ON DAY 4
After two nights at Coutances it was time to move on.
Target for day four was a small town on the coast called Genets.  We planned to pick up the coastal route and head down toward Granville and then on to our days destination.
With a mix of both map and GPS we managed to get out on to the correct route fairly easily and it wasn't long before we started to get glimpses of the coast. Weather wise it was another beautiful day.
As with any coastal route there were quite a few ups as well as downs. Chris is not too keen on hills and on some of the stiffer climbs she has to get off and walk, we would normally wait for her at the top.
Unfortunately Chris is not too keen on the downhills either, using her brakes for most of the descent. I usually tried to get in front of her for the downhill sections as I hate riding on the brakes.
Towards the latter part of the day's ride we had some great views of Mont St Michel away in the distance...


THE BISTRO GARDEN

CAMPSITE AT GENETS
At Genets we quickly found the campsite and booked in at the reception.
Chris might be slow going up and down hills but she did a cracking job as 'communications officer' managing to ensure that what we wanted was what we actually got....She tells us that her French speaking is a bit rusty but it seemed pretty good to the rest of us.
That evening Chris was back in action at a small Bistro in the town where we had chosen to have our meal. The garden of the Bistro was so 'bohemian' with some really weird items dotted around. Unfortunately the evening was a little chilly so we decided to go inside for our meal which was served in what appeared to be old baked bean cans....so odd but oh so French..!!
VERY HOT ON DAY FIVE
 The morning of day five started a bit cloudy but the day turned into a very hot day.
We were heading for a campsite about four miles from Mont St Michel and the route meant negotiating a lot of minor roads around the river estuary near Avranches.
After only about an hour Mike decided that he would have to cover his legs from the sun....he had got sunburnt on the top of his legs just above his knees the day before. We stopped and while Mike was donning his cycling tights the rest of us were putting on another coating of high factor sunscreen.
MIKE COVERING UP HIS LEGS
 The route for most of the day was quite flat with no 'nasty' hills so Chris was well pleased with today's cycling.
We found a little cafe for lunch which consisted of a ham sandwich followed by coffee. The French call it a sandwich but it is actually a huge french bread roll about 18" long....and the bread is really tasty..!
At about 1600hrs we pulled into the campsite.. We were planning on staying here for two nights as we wanted to spend a day looking around the Mont.
The receptionist at the campsite was really helpful giving us advice about a cycle route that we could take to the Mont and information on tides and viewing times.
WELL I'LL SOON BURN IT OFF ON THE BIKE..!!

CAMPSITE PITCH NEAR MONT ST MICHEL
 That evening we had a look around and found a reasonable place to eat and then we decided that we would walk a couple of miles up the cycle route to get a bit of a closer view of the Mont.
The campsite receptionist had told us that Mont St Michel would be lit up at about 2200hrs and we all wanted to get a good view of it before our proper visit the next day.
2200HRS - MONT ST MICHEL LIT UP
It proved to be well worth the walk and lots of other people were out to get a good view...After taking some pictures and taking in the view for about half an hour we made our way back to the campsite.....

TO BE CONTINUED......

Cabin Fever .......

 Sorry for this week's posting being three days late but like the rest of the UK last weekend saw the arrival of storm Ciara and our in...