Friday, 28 September 2012

What was in the Parcel...?

Parcel waiting for me
The other day I got back from my regular daily ride to find a parcel from SJS Cycles waiting for me. What was in the parcel....? Well. it was an Ortlieb Ultimate5 Classic Bar Bag.
Ortlieb Ultimate5 Classic Bar Bag
Now people that know me well will also know that I have always said that I would never have a handlebar bag. 
There are a number of reasons for this.....

First, most of the bags that I have seen seem to twist downwards on the bike no matter how firmly the mounting is tightened. Indeed when cycling back from Gibraltar a year ago JD gave up on his bar bag for just this very reason.....

Second, and this is probably what has been my main reason...  
I like to have a clear view of my front wheel when cycling and a handlebar bag tends to obscure this view. Now I don't know why I feel this way, but  after cycling for more years than I care to remember without having one, that clear view of the front wheel has seemed important to me....it's probably cycling stupidity but that is the way I have felt..... 
Also a number of bags that I have seen seem to be so huge forcing the brake/gear cables into a sharp angle....
The bags fitted to Mike and Chris's Bikes
Anyway, regular visitors to this blog will remember that at the end of the post on the 10th September I included a photograph of two friends of mine..Mike and Chris. 
What did they have on their bikes?....
Yes you've got it, Ortlieb Ultimate5 Bar Bags. 

I was quite taken with the way these bags looked.....they are not too big, fitting as they do quite neatly between the hoods on the bikes and because of their size they don't force the cables into odd shapes and angles. 

Being the 'style gurus' that they are Mike and Chris have even chosen colours to match their other bags. 
Well that did it.....as I cannot resist matching all my kit to whatever bike I am riding I took a serious look at the bags and ended up ordering one.......  
My bag in a very nice grey
I decided to order mine in a grey colour......this is not a dull grey but a rather nice bright colour grey. 
Most important of course is that it matches my existing pannier set. 
Currently on the rear I have a set of grey and black Altura panniers with a matching rack bag/box. On the front I have a pair of Ortlieb Front Roller Classic panniers in black. 

I figured that having the grey bar bag on the front would colour coordinate the front and rear sets.... stylish eh?
Bag is supplied with a detachable shoulder strap
The bag is supplied with a detachable shoulder strap....this makes it easy to take the bag with you at the coffee and lunch stop on those touring rides. 
The capacity is listed as 7L so it should hold all the things that I might need during a touring day....camera....wallet.....snacks...etc. The bag's retail price in the UK is in the region of £55.00 and you can be assured that it is of the very high quality that Ortlieb is famous for.
At first glance fitting instructions look compicated
I must admit that when I first looked at the fitting instructions they did look pretty complicated, but after I had read through them properly they were simple enough. Click on the image and take a look....you will see how the mount is attached to the handlebar.....once completed and tightened up the mount is rock solid so no slipping downwards with this fitting!

So, not too big...doesn't slip round on the bar....that's two of my original objections for fitting a bar bag dealt with, what about my major one.....
Well , you've caught me out there, because I have to say that it does obscure the view of my front wheel that I like so much... 

However I have told Mike and Chris that if I now fall off my tourer because I can no longer see the wheel, it will be their fault !!....

That will teach them for showing me items of kit that they know  I won't be able to resist buying...

Monday, 24 September 2012

HARDLY A CAR ABOUT.

BIKES AT THE NEXT PURPLE TOWERS?
This time of year is one of my favourite times for getting out for those nice long rides on the bike. Now that the summer (what summer? I hear you say) really is a distant memory, the roads are quieter on my regular riding loops with hardly a car about.

A few days ago JD and I decided to do a loop that we hadn't ridden for some time.....a good six months in fact. 
This particular loop takes in lots of good old fashioned English country lanes and apart from the town of Wimborne where we started the ride, we hardly saw a motorized vehicle apart from the odd farm vehicle or riders on horseback, not that a horse can really be described as motorized!! 

We stopped for a short break outside a nice country mansion which JD told me that I should buy as the next Purple Towers. 
He even pointed out the various buildings in the grounds that could be used to store bikes. Unfortunately the only thing standing in the way of such a purchase is a huge wedge of cash, but that's just a minor point.
DEFINITELY AUTUMN - LOTS OF FALLEN LEAVES
 As we rested the bikes against the Mansions front wall, we couldn't help but notice the fallen leaves that had been blown up against it, proving as if proof was needed, that autumn was certainly upon us. 

Cycling along some of these country lanes you can't help but be transported back in time, to what it must have been like cycling the English countryside before the car became king...before owning a car became a must have requirement for almost everyone. 

I can still remember a time before my Father owned a car when we would all go out for a ride and a picnic on our bikes. 
Mum and Dad with one of my two sisters each perched in a seat on the back of their bikes. 
I would ride between them on my beloved BSA with it's two tone blue paintwork......... 

Obviously cars were around but not every one could afford one then and it was certainly long before the days of the cycle path. 
We used to ride on the road and I cannot remember ever feeling vulnerable as I rode along the main roads near to my home. 

Those early cycling days came back to me as I rode along the Dorset lanes with JD the other day.
CHETTLE VILLAGE SHOP AND POST OFFICE
As if to complete the cycle ride of nostalgia we stopped for a coffee and a cake at the little shop in the village of Chettle. 
The building is quite interesting being made of a wooden frame and corrugated iron. 

The lady in the shop told us that the building had originally been an old army hut up at the Blandford Army camp. 
Following the war the MOD sold off a number of these types of buildings as being surplus to their requirements. 
This particular hut was purchased from them in the early sixties...dismantled and then re-erected on it's present site and used to house both the shop and the post office. 

I love these buildings with  all the history that surrounds them. 
It has stood on this spot for fifty years and I don't know how many years previously at the army camp.  
I wonder for how many more years it will stand here.... acting as it does as a reminder of a time when there was hardly a car about....... 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

COUNTING STEPS...

These past couple of day's I have been reading 'Counting Steps' by Mark Charlton.  
Over the past few years I have been a regular follower of Mark's blog, Views from the Bikeshed. http://viewsfromthebikeshed.blogspot.co.uk/

Mark's blog is not a blog about just cycling....or walking...or backpacking. No, it is about far more than these subjects. These subjects are visited occasionally but are not the essence of what his writing is about. Mark's writing is more personal and reveals a lot about himself as a father and his interaction with the people and world around him.

Counting Steps is Mark's first book and he say's in the introduction that the essays in the book are a response to the delight that he has found in fatherhood and landscape, to the people he loves and the places he finds himself returning.

I have not completed the book yet, but I am enjoying it's contents very much....I would suggest that you visit Mark's blog and if you too enjoy his writing style you can obtain your own copy of 'Counting Steps' from the blog......

Thursday, 13 September 2012

ON A RIDE LAST FRIDAY......

JOHN ARRIVING AT ONE OF OUR REGULAR RIDE STOPS
 One of the things about going for a ride with JD is that you never know what is going to happen...
If I was a youngster, my Mum would be telling me to be careful when I went out to play with him. He was probably one of those kids around which all sorts of minor and quite innocent mishaps seemed to happen and over the years nothing has changed. 

JD still holds the record for the most punctures in one morning that any of our group has ever had. This major achievement occurred back in 2008 when we were riding Lands End to John O' Groats.....
Then when we were riding on the Atlantic Coast Challenge Ride in 2009 he managed to achieve the highest number of broken spokes award......
As I said if something is going to happen it WILL happen to him. 
Brake adjustments.....Saddle adjustments.....Mudguards falling off....you name it and JD has been involved. 
I can't count the number of times his Garmin has been returned to the suppliers due to setting up problems etc....

French road workers have been known to hose him down  whilst he stood in a large barrel of water in order to cool him off.....
Ex pats living in France have taken him into their home to feed him and give him cold drinks, because they felt sorry for him, as he looked such a wretched sight one hot afternoon in southern France.... 
I won't even begin to tell you about some of the things that happened on our ride back from Gibraltar a year ago..but you get the picture. 

Things seem to happen to him and he gets involved in things.....
So I always go out on  a ride with JD having a heightened sense of anticipation and wonder.... 
I wonder what can possibly happen on the ride and I anticipate that it probably will...... 

Well last Friday before my weekend camping trip I had arranged to meet up with JD to do our short training loop....just a quick 40 miles I thought so not much can happen on that......
I should have known better from previous experience..... 

If someone had told me that we would go off on our ride and JD would end up helping to launch a rigid inflatable boat for three pensioners in their seventies I wouldn't have believed it....but then again I probably would. 
Anyway, that's exactly what happened. 
As we were sitting down having a drink and an energy bar at Swanage seafront we saw this group of three pensioners manoeuvreing a large inflatable boat along the road. 
They then came up onto the promenade where we were sitting, where they nearly wiped our  bikes out in the process of attempting to get it down to the beach. 
Next thing JD, always wanting to help and get involved, jumped up and before you could say 'cycle ride' he was helping them launch the thing into the sea......

To be truthful it did look a bit like an accident waiting to happen and I did shout over to JD asking him ' do you want me to call the coastguard now John?' 
My coastguard offer was declined but the female of the little group did see the funny side.....

JD eventually arrived back on the promenade after about 20+minutes discussion with the little seafaring group, probably having discussed the distance across the channel to France and likely paddling time.......
Anyway before the coastguard really was required we got back on our bikes and rode away in the direction of Studland. 
I must admit that later on I did tune into the local news just to see if three pensioners in a boat had gone missing off the Dorset coast near Swanage......

Going on a bike ride with JD is always more than just a bike ride..!!! 
JD LAUNCHING A BOAT AND GIVING SEAFARING LESSONS

Monday, 10 September 2012

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF SOME GOOD WEATHER

HELINOX CHAIRS WAITING FOR SOME SERIOUS LOUNGING ABOUT
After my Friday ride with JD (which I will tell you about in my next post) the plan was to spend a weekend camp with Mike and Chris who are friends of mine from the Backpackers club......

Over the last eight years or so we have spent many an hour lounging about together at various campsites while we chew the fat and attempt to put the world to rights......
I have been backpacking and wild camping with them on Dartmoor and other places and also they have been part of our cycle touring group on two trips to France in the recent past, so it is always a pleasure to spend a weekend camping in their company.......

During this weekend we were able to do some very serious and professional 'lounging about' as we each had our new Helinox chairs to assist us in this very non- active activity !!! 
I must say that these chairs have really transformed the comfort of time spent in camp......

We obviously must have appeared very comfortable whilst using them as we were asked by a guy camping near by where he could obtain one.....
These chairs are at just the right height to enable you to prepare your meal...cook your meal.....eat you meal and even wash up without having to move from the comfort of the chair.....

If you are an active person these chairs will help you become lazy and if you are already lazy, these will help you turn laziness into an art form....
From sitting down to have breakfast on the Saturday morning we hardly moved till about 14.30 when we felt that we should at least try and get some miles under our bicycle wheels.......
THE TIFOSI WAITING TO BE RIDDEN
 Mike and Chris had ridden their touring bikes over to the site at Sixpenny Handley. 
For them it is only just over an hour on their bikes from home......
In the past I have cycled over myself, but for this trip because I had ridden a training  ride with JD on the Friday morning I decided to load the Tifosi on the back of the little Peugeot 107 and drive over......

It is not often that I use the car....indeed my annual mileage since I bought the 107 is only 2103 miles per year, but I just couldn't face riding a fully loaded tourer out through the Bournemouth area in Friday rush hour traffic.....
The roads are narrow enough and it can be a real hassle on a tourer with the extra width of the panniers.  
You end up just becoming part of the traffic jam as there is no room to pass any of the vehicles on either side due to the narrow roads... 

Anyway as I was saying.......after we had all achieved our diplomas in 'Lounging around as an Art Form'  we thought that a ride would be a good idea....
As I had brought the Tifosi I planned on doing a loop I had come up with that was based on hills whereas Mike and Chris on the tourers opted for a more leisurely route that was also based on hills.  
My route was planned around going up and down them....
The route Mike and Chris chose was planned around avoiding them..!!   

I really enjoyed my ride....the hills varied in gradient with a number of 16% and 20% lovelies, which although I had done them in the past on my tourer had never done them on the Tifosi. 
It's always a bit more of a challenge with a 34/25 gear compared to the much lower gearing of my touring bike.

On the road back to the site I stopped for an energy bar and a drink before going up the 'zig-zag' hill near Shaftesbury. 
As I was munching the bar a young roadie went by on his Madone and started riding the 10% of the zig-zag so I set myself the challenge of riding him down before getting back to the campsite.....
I  gave him between 5 &10 minutes and I knew that so long as he didn't turn off the route I had about eight miles in which to catch him..... 

Although not a huge gradient the zig-zag hill is a bit of a pull up due to it's length and very sharp hairpins....I found the right gear and spun up the hill nicely....
The view that opens up as you reach the top makes the effort more than worthwhile and I could also just see way over in the far distance the red jersey of the young guy that had passed by at the bottom of the hill......

Well I did manage to catch him about a mile from the campsite entrance but it did take some major effort to do so as he certainly wasn't hanging around. 
It just added an extra bit of fun to the last few miles of the ride....anyway....I have never grown up...
I know that for a fact, because my wife often tells me! 

As it was I got back to camp about fifteen minutes or so before Mike and Chris. They too had enjoyed their ride having headed out on a loop to the south of our location. 
They had seen me go by a few miles further back and had called out to me, but I was 'on a mission' and hadn't heard their call.....
THE TOP OF ONE OF THE 16% HILLS
Following our rides, we felt that we needed to sit down and do some more serious lounging around. So that is what we did for a few more hours...... 
I have to say that it was pretty entertaining watching Mike cook a curry with rice all from the comfort of his Helinox chair. 
Mike belongs to the school of cooking which states that you should use as many pans as possible during food preparation whereas my system is to use as few as possible.....probably down to the fact that I was cooking a dehydrated meal. 
I had an Adventure Food's Goulash which was supplied by Outdoors Grub and I can happily report that it was very tasty and filling.....I have no hesitation in recommending it...
MIKE & CHRIS ABOUT TO HEAD BACK HOME
All in all we had a very enjoyable weekend camp and the weather was pretty much perfect for it......
Due to the very wet weather that has formed the basis of our summer this year, none of us has done as much camping as we usually manage to, so a weekend with the promise of good weather just couldn't be allowed to pass by........

Thursday, 6 September 2012

THE SUN IS OUT....

BALES OF HAY WHILE THE SUN IS OUT....
This week has seen a vast improvement on the weather.....
Each day I have got up, looked out of the window and yes...the sun is out! 
What an improvement to my daily ride this weather can make... The farmers have been active in their fields trying to 'make hay when the sun shines' and achieving it to as can be seen from the picture above. 

Anyway, my plan is that after tomorrow's ride - (a ride that JD is going to do with me which proves that the weather is good) - I am going to meet up with Mike and Chris for a cycling and camping weekend up near the Dorset/Wiltshire border. It will be nice to catch up on their news and also to have a couple of nights in my tent not to mention some cycling in some beautiful countryside in some nice weather....According to the weatherman this good weather is going to last for the next few days.
My fingers are crossed..........

Sunday, 2 September 2012

CYCLE TOWARDS AUTUMN.......

CYCLIST ON THE TARKA TRAIL AT MEETH STATION
It doesn't seem possible....Here we are now in September. 
Most peoples holidays are now over and the children are starting to return to school for the start of a new term. 
I am now back home following my own family holiday and hopefully the local roads over my favourite cycling routes will start to become quieter as the main tourist season draws to an end....... 

In many ways it has not been a good year so far for my cycling....
At the start of the year I had so much planned and due to either  the weather or other reasons most of the planning has ended up in the cancellation bin. 

A touring trip in France was cancelled due to various group members having hospital appointments that couldn't be altered and a week long  cycling trip back over to the Isle of Wight had to be abandoned right at the start because of atrocious wet weather backed up by huge winds - and that's just two of the trips that were planned, on top of these there were quite a few Sportives with DNS against my name due to atrocious weather conditions..... 

Just before I went away on this recent holiday JD sent me a text to let me know that due to another appointment that couldn't be changed he would be unable to take part in the Lon Las Cymru ride that we had planned to start on the 8th September. 
Still no worry I thought, we would miss JD on the ride but that still left Peter and I riding and Dave crewing the motorhome that we would be using as our 'team bus'.....then... whilst I was away on holiday I had a text from Peter letting me know that his house move had been delayed and he too wouldn't be able to take part either....

As I really wanted to share this particular ride with at least one other rider it left the trip pretty well dead in the water.  
I know that I could ride the route on my own but I did want to ride this one with company........ 
The older I get the more I feel the importance of not wasting time so I will need to put my thinking cap on and see what can be achieved as we cycle towards Autumn  over the next few months of the year....... 

I thought that I would share one of my monochrome images with you for this post...
Taken earlier in the year it shows an 'old style' rider dressed in shirt and khaki shorts riding along part of the Tarka trail (part of the national cycle network) at Meeth in Devon. 
The exact location is the old Meeth Halt Station and the platform although now overgrown can clearly be seen.........
The scene struck me as a bit 1950's in appearance and I just felt that shooting the image in B&W tuned into the 'overall days gone by' atmosphere...... No cars, just a man on a bike.....perfect!

Lot's of Changes Ahead ....

I thought that it was about time that I posted another entry on this blog, although to be honest most days have seemed a bit like Groundhog...