Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Green . . ..


Well at last we can see the colour green. Don't misunderstand me- it is still very hot and we are both pretty well exhausted but for the first time on this trip we feel that we have made some progress. We hope to be able to give you a report about Pamplona tomorrow. We intend to have a free rest day so that we can get some chores such as washing done and also be tourists for a day. Crossing Spain at speed is a young mans game I think but it is always good to give them a run for their money. If you have not donated to our charity yet please do- John and I are all but killing ourselves here whilst you are probably sat at home with your feet up - or at best cycled 70 miles without panniers. You should try this sometime- afterwards anything will feel a million times better.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

More and more and more. .


Today was just more of everything. More heat- more miles and more pain. I have seen on the internet link that both Mark Cavendish and Matt Goss have had to retire from the Vuelta de Espana because of the heat here in Spain. I have to ask if those young pro cyclists have retired due to the heat what are us two oldies doing- perhaps we are mad after all. . . . The extreme heat has caused John's Thermarest mattress to burst. I think he blew it up too hard and the heat caused the air to expand and BANG! John is now having to use it as it is- it's not as comfortable as it was but when he replaces it after this trip I bet he won't blow the replacement up so hard! To make matters worse he has also managed to break the zip on his sleeping bag. We hope to get to Pamplona on Thursday evening- about 150 miles- we then plan to have a rest day so that we can do some washing and also look around the place, in other words play at tourists for the day. I think we both deserve that. . . . . .

Cycling Fuel.


Well we have now had our first day without Dave. As we thought hydration has been a problem - but we managed. Most small churches and chapels seem to have a water source. Most of our meals seem to consist of a tin of pasta with meatballs and a pepper sauce. A problem we have had throughout Spain is the ground is too hard. Trying to get the tent pegs in is like attempting to knock then into solid concrete. Last night I gave up and slept out under the stars without the tent. At one campsite we were plagued by groups of children riding their bikes around the site until about one thirty in the morning. Some of there kids were only about eight years old, maybe younger. They appeared to be locals and had no apparent parental control that we could see. What parent allows kids of that age out at that time of night? The campsite owners didnt seem bothered- it really was a campsite from hell. We are now north of Sacedon. We will keep pushing on for a few more days before having a day off as we want to get through Spain as quick as possible.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Dave has gone!


This morning at about 05.00hrs Dave had to set off on his journey back to the UK. He had sold his soul to his employers in order to participate in the start of ROCK2UK and now they are cashing in the chips. Both JD and I feel very much alone now that Dave has gone. We are very concerned about getting enough water as Dave was always able to provide this for us. It is still far to hot and the villages seem very few and far between. (See photo for one of the few villages ) We have had to wild camp due to lack of campsites. If we can keep pushing on and get further north earlier than planned we can then treat ourselves to a well earned rest day. This is proving to be far harder than LEJOG ever was. We were looking for a serious challenge and we have got one. We really are earning every penny for Cyclists Fighting Cancer.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The never ending road.


Today was a big day. We had to traverse two mountain ranges with a high plain of about 1000 metres in between. A total distance of about 95 miles. We had a headwind and it was still blazing heat. The road ahead was a straight line heading into a vanishing point. It was to hot to stop and there was no shade to enable us to get out of the sun. Dave has decided to stay with us for one more day before going back to the UK. He says that he is concerned about leaving us because of the extreme heat- but then Dave does worry anyway. We are now past Cuidad Real. We managed 12.47 mph and that was really hard going. When I looked at the map of Spain I couldnt believe how much further we still have to do before we get to France. I cannot remember whose original idea it was to cycle back to the UK from Gibraltar but at the moment it feels like madness and I am blaming JD. Tomorrow we will continue the torture- but none of us would miss this for the world.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Still like an oven.


The daytime weather is still like an oven. We have decided that for as long as Dave is supporting us we will try and get as many miles done as possible. Once he has left us we will find it difficult to get enough hydration. Dave is obviously able to carry more water than we can on the bikes. The more miles we can do in Spain before he goes back the better. Perhaps the Northern part of Spain will be cooler. Currently we are north of Montero. No bike problems at the moment and we are keeping our fingers crossed on that one. Our spirits are still high even though the heat is more intense than we have ever cycled in before. Average mileage covered over the past three days is in excess of 70 miles a day.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Like riding in an oven,


Our first day on our ROCK2UK was just like riding our bikes in an oven. For two UK guys who are used to max temps of about 80f today was serious heat. We were told at our campsite that it was 40c I think that equates to somewhere about 112f . We are now at Ronda which is 65miles from the Rock. It was from sea level to 1386metres at a gradient of between 6 to 9 per cent with only two sections of respite of about a mile each. In this heat it has been absolute torture - a living hell- talk about a baptism of fire for our first day. We had originaly planned to do this trip in September- after today we wished that we had. This level of heat just saps all your energy and when you are climbing hour upon hour it does make you wonder why we took up cycling. Perhaps tomorrow we will get to do some downhill. If it is cooler that will be a just reward for all todays effort.

Setting off.


Started the ride at 1000 hours this morning. Will try to post more later.

Friday, 19 August 2011

ROCK2UK - ALL PACKED AND READY TO GO........

EVERYTHING PACKED  INTO DAVE'S CITROEN
This afternoon Dave (the broom wagon) came round to load everything into the back of his Citroen Picasso.
Dave had assured JD and I that everything would fit into the back and still leave somewhere for us all to sit and he was right. Mind you I think that the front seat passenger will probably have a Shimano Brake/Gear lever stuck in his ear all the way to Gibraltar so I think that I will choose the rear seat. I do get the feeling that this trip has all the makings of 'The Three Stooges on Tour' and that's before we have even left Bournemouth..........

THE PLAN....
I don't like to make too many plans because they always have a habit of going a bit off course, but you  need to have some sort of broad overview and this is ours........
Saturday 20th in the evening we are going to head off to Seaton to stay at Dave's holiday caravan overnight.
Sunday 21st. Continue on to Plymouth to board the Brittany Ferry to Santander in Northern Spain.
Monday 22nd Arrive in Spain at about 12.00 noon local time, and then head for Salamanca by road.
Tuesday 23rd Continue our journey across Spain to Gibraltar hoping to arrive there in the early evening.
Wednesday 24th or Thursday 25th Start to cycle back to the UK.
Dave will stay with us for the first 4 or 5 days of cycling before he has to head back to the UK.
We will then be on our own (just JD & I ) for the rest of the ride back home.
We haven't set an exact timetable beyond that as there are always so many variables that can interfere with the best laid plans....The only fixed date we have is that we must arrive back in the UK on or before the 21st of September.

The great thing about doing it this way with only very loose plans, is that if we see somewhere that we want to explore further, we can, without feeling that we are going to throw our planning out.We will have enough days to do the ride....stop where we want and still have spare days for the unforeseen situations that always seem to occur when undertaking a trip of this nature.

During the time we are away I will make short posts to this blog every few days to let you all know where we are...but don't expect long posts with quality pictures as I will be making the posts from my mobile phone. When I return I will do a review of the trip with better images in a similar way that I did with our Northern France trip about 3 months ago.

I know that we are all really looking forward to this trip, but due to the distance involved it is also tinged with a fair bit of apprehension.
I have done walking/backpacking trips of this sort of distance before (South America), but this is about double the distance of my previous longest cyclepacking trip - still that is one of the things that makes it so worthwhile....I always like to push the boundaries and this distance will certainly be a first for us both on a bike trip.

 I hope that you will check in every now and again just to see how we are doing.
We both know that it is going to be a pretty tough journey......but then cancer is a pretty tough journey too, so please join us in supporting  'Cyclists Fighting Cancer'. .




Saturday, 13 August 2011

MAPS, MILES & PACKING

SOME OF THE MAPS FOR ROCK2UK
These are just some of the maps that I need to take with us for our ROCK2UK ride back from Gibraltar. Now I can hear some of you saying what about your GPS?

Well yes I will be taking my Garmin bike computer with me as usual and it does have mapping for all of Europe but the problem is I don't trust it....It runs with a rechargeable battery and although I am taking a solar panel charger and a mini wind generator there is always the what if.....
what if I fail to generate enough power to keep Garmin....Phone..Camera...etc going!?

Or.....
the Garmin might just freeze up or it might just stop working...it's electronic after all and my relationship with electronic equipment like the computer I am typing this on is one of love and hate. 
If my computer was a Wife...let me tell you she would be an EX Wife!!!!!
Trust me......there is NO trust between me and any item that is electronic.

Anyway...there is nothing better than being able to open up a map and see not only where you are, but also where you have come from and also where you are going.  A sheet map holds so much information that can be seen at a glance....and it is not electronic and battery powered.

The downside- as can be seen in the picture above- is that eight maps minimum weighs a fair bit and also takes up a fair bit of pannier space. I thought about cutting the maps into smaller strips covering just the sections we will be cycling through, but as the maps are on both sides of the sheets (apart from one of the maps) that is not really a viable option.

Of course I could help reduce the weight as I go by disposing of each map as it is used.....but that seems a bit of a waste...who knows I might decide to cycle the route again next year..*#! 
However, thinking about it the best idea seems to be to slip them into JD's panniers...he'll never notice.....!!!

My mileage for the year has been going quite well. My goal was to set off on the ROCK2UK with 5000 miles already under my belt for the year. 
Well I achieved that last weekend which I am well pleased with....especially as I was unable to ride a bike at all for an entire month in February due to medical advice.....By the time I get back from Gibraltar I should have added a good few more miles to my overall total.

The regular rides that I have been doing this year have been a vital part of my recovery and rehabilitation and it is my first hand experience of that which has drawn me to 'Cyclists Fighting Cancer' as a charity to help raise funds for.
If I can help some kids with their recovery from the effects of cancer, then my own illness and subsequent recovery will have had some positive purpose.

As far as packing is concerned...I am at the 'neat piles all over the spare room' stage.
There are still some items of gear that I can't make my mind up about....so I have put them in a neat pile and I will think about them for a day or two.

After the thinking.....I will complete the packing..!!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

CAUGHT IN THE RAIN

JD SHELTERING FROM THE RAIN
JD and I were out for a training ride together on Monday.....
We will probably only manage one more ride together before we leave for Gibraltar although we will manage quite a few more miles riding on our own.
Anyway back to our Monday ride.....the original weather forecast was for a dry day, however as we set off from Wimborne there were one or two big black clouds hovering over in the direction we were heading for.

Now regular readers will know that I like to avoid riding in the rain if I can. Well actually getting caught in the rain is one thing...I can live with that- after all there is not much you can do about it.
Where I do draw the line is if it is pelting down before I leave home....under those circumstances I probably would't bother.
To be truthful it's not about me getting wet...it's more about the bike getting filthy on the muddy country roads and all that cleaning afterwards...I can do without that..!
The big black cloud seemed to be dancing around us as we headed in the direction of the 'Tarrant' villages. At one point we rode through a light shower but after a few minutes it stopped again.....
About 30 mins later it rained again....this time it didn't stop.

Just as we were riding through Gussage St Michael we noticed a small wooden bus shelter. It didn't take more than a second for the decision to be made. A couple of minutes later the two of us plus the bikes were sat inside in the dry having a slightly early lunch break.
While we were sat inside the shelter a guy who works in a small workshop across the road came across to chat to us....I have spoken to him before...he normally rides mountain bikes but has recently purchased a road bike because he has signed up to do a charity ride from London to Paris in early September.
He was interested in our ride especially the distance that we will be covering. We joked with him that we were making the most of somewhere to hide from the rain, because when we are in Spain- if it rains -there probably won't be anywhere for us to escape to, as 'the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain' and we will be cycling across an awful lot of plain. (As well as an awful lot of mountains)
By the time we had finished chatting, the sun had come out....the roads were almost dry and we set off again suitably refuelled for the rest of our ride.....and we didn't even get wet.
CYCLISTS FIGHTING CANCER TEAM JERSEY
When I finally got home following our ride there was a small package waiting for me.It was my CFC team jersey and bibshorts for the ROCK2UK ride....
Enclosed in the package was an information sheet about the charity and I have reproduced some of that information below:-
CYCLISTS FIGHTING CANCER
Positively helping kids whose lives have been affected by Cancer.
Cancer treatments can cause a wide variety of issues, from loss of limbs to blindness, weakened hearts, lungs and muscles to depression and loss of self esteem.
Exercise is very important for rehabilitation. Bikes are the best form of activity for kids.
Our bikes and trikes give the kids a fun , exciting focus for their recovery and also provide a way to build lost self confidence.
£350 is the average cost of our awards.
500 bikes have been awarded so far.
£1050 is the cost of a typical adapted trike.
102% of the money given goes to our objective.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

REFLECTIONS...

CLOSE UP OF ZEFAL BIKE 'SPY' MIRROR 
I certainly wouldn't consider having any form of mirror on my Felt or Tifosi bikes but it does seem a good idea if you have a regular commute or want to do some touring.

When we were in France a couple of months ago I noticed that I had less movement in my neck when I had to twist to look over my left shoulder compared to looking over my right shoulder as I do when cycling here in the UK.

Mike had fitted a mirror to the handlebars on Chris's bike and I saw that Peter had also fitted one to the downtube on his bike. Both of these mirrors were large and in my opinion a bit unsightly, but of the two Chris's seemed to be the best  as it gave a clear uninterrupted view to the rear.

The one on Peter's bike was supposed to give him a view to the rear between his legs- which in theory sounds ok but in practice tended to have a view often blocked by the panniers he was carrying on the bike.
Anyway...the more I 'reflected' (sorry) on the idea of a mirror for touring, the more I liked the idea as a way of overcoming my aging neck problem.

After trawling all the usual internet sites I came up with the Zefal Bike Spy Mirror. The great thing about this mirror is that it is small - so it doesn't look as if you have a cup and saucer fitted to the end of your handlebars and you don't have to remove your bar end stops to fit it. It has a rubber fitting catch that binds around the end of your bar and can be fitted and removed in seconds... This means  you can instantly swap it from one side to the other.....ideal for when you go from the UK to Mainland Europe.

Although the mirror is small it poses no problems in seeing what is behind you as you cycle along and is also easily adjusted as you cycle.... I am hoping that this will do the job well for me as I cycle back from Gibraltar.
ZEFAL MIRROR FITTED TO TOURER
When the idea was originally conceived to cycle back from Gibraltar to the UK it was not my plan to raise money for a charity by doing it...
I just wanted to do it for my own sense of achievement I suppose and anyway, each of the long distance rides I have done with JD and others in the past were for charity so I felt that I had done enough..
However the more I thought about it, the more I thought that it would be an opportunity wasted!

On the long distance rides for charity that I have done with JD it has been for a charity that was basically decided upon by him and although I was perfectly happy to support him and his charity choice (all of which were first class charities by the way) on this ride I wanted it to be for a charity that was a bit closer to me.

Being told that you have cancer is pretty bad news for anyone....for a child or young person and their families  it must be devastating....after all, their lives have only just begun. At least when I was told I had cancer I had already done a fair bit of living!

'Cyclists Fighting Cancer' is the charity I have chosen to raise money for and their purpose is to provide bikes, adapted tricycles and equipment to children and young people whose lives have been affected by cancer.
The bikes provide a fun and practical way to regain lost strength, fitness and confidence.

You only need to read my blog over the past year to see what a difference riding my bikes made to my recovery process so please help me to raise funds for this really deserving cause...........
                                                                       .





Wednesday, 3 August 2011

ADDING A BIT OF COLOUR......

A BIT OF COLOUR
The preparations continue for the ROCK2UK road trip......this week the Revolution Touring Bike was taken over to Bicycle World at Longham in order for Mark to work his magic. Mark always prepares our bikes for extended trips like this one. Although I will do most day to day maintenance on my bikes I do like a professional bike mechanic to prepare the bikes properly for the longer trips.

Prior to taking the bike over to Mark I fitted new tyres...Schwalbe Marathon Kevlar 700x32.. the only new item Mark fitted was a new chain. The existing chain had only completed about 400 miles but I felt that I would be happier starting a ride of this distance with a new one. The rear wheel needed a minor amount of adjustment to make it true but other than a bit of oil and grease here and there nothing else really needed doing.

Before I left the bike shop Mark gave me four spare spokes- just in case. I am hoping that we won't need them, but on every trip to Europe that I have done with JD he has managed to break at least one spoke! Still as I say, hopefully we won't need them.

A couple of weeks ago when I was over at JD's house he was showing me his bike shed when I spied his bar tape. He had seen some Fizik blue edged duo bar tape at Bicycle World while Mark was servicing his bike. He thought that it would look good on the bike and add a bit of colour. He hadn't told me about it because he thought that I wouldn't like it and would take the mickey out of it......
He was wrong!    
I loved the way it looked and I thought that it added some real colour to the bike- ideal for a trip to a  colourful country like Spain.
I told Mark that I had to have some...so Mark wrapped the bars with the new tape when the bike was being serviced.
Love it or hate it, you must admit it certainly adds some colour!   

A step closer to what is normal........

Over this past week our campsite has taken a step closer to what we think of as normality...  The sign that was put out at the entrance to ...