Sunday, 2 November 2014

It's been quiet..!!

It's been a good few weeks since I last posted an entry on this blog. To be honest there has not been too much to write about and I didn't want to end up boring you all with tedious repetition.

Having to stay off the bike over the last eight weeks has been hard, very hard. 
Cycling thousands of miles one year and then hardly any at all the next, has been really difficult...mentally as much as physically.

However, this past week I had a couple of hospital appointments and I am pleased to tell you that I will be getting back on the bike this coming week....
Obviously it will be easy and steady riding to start with and for the first month I only intend to use my indoor training bike, just to be on the safe side.

The Cardiologist at the hospital explained in some depth what the problem with my heart beat was and showed me on my latest ECG the abnormal rhythm that I have been experiencing. 
The good news is that if I can learn to cope with the uneasy feeling this inconsistent rhythm gives me I won't need to have any more treatment at this time or have to take any drugs to control it... 

Moving on to the plans for my 'Big European Tour' and a life on the road......

A couple of weeks ago Anne and I travelled up to Birmingham for a visit to the NEC and the Caravan and Motorhome Show.
We had a good couple of days there and saw some really great bits of kit as well as the very latest caravans and motorhomes ready for 2015.
We did end up spending a chunk of cash on some of the items that I had on my must buy list....

Yesterday we attended the Automotive Leisure social weekend....
AL are the suppliers of the Eriba caravan that we have ordered and it was nice to visit their premises and have a bit to eat and drink in a nice relaxed atmosphere whilst seeing all the latest models and accessories.....
We also had a demonstration of the Reich Motor Mover that we had included as an optional extra to the van that we have ordered...

I've posted a couple of pictures below showing two things that I like so much about the iconic Eriba vans....
First is a stripped down caravan showing the solid metal frame that helps to give these vans their solid structure.... No wood to rot here..!!
Next is a shot of the split front windows....very similar to the look of a split screen VW.

The solid metal frame on a Eriba caravan,

Similar to the iconic look of a split screen VW campervan.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Next Move.....

It must be over a year ago that I first mentioned the plan to move from Purple Towers and head off on a new adventure....
The general idea was to re-locate to the county of Devon and then set off on a UK and European Grand Tour and that is still the plan...but there have been some changes.

First....We WILL be leaving Purple Towers on the 31st March 2015, however up to now we have still not found a place in Devon to re-locate to, but we have decided that we are not going to let that stop us setting off. If a new location isn't found before our tour start date Anne and I will still be heading off on our full timing Grand Tour anyway......
  
In some ways, not having a permanent base for sometime will actually add to our commitment to the tour. We will become proper Nomads...taking a temporary roof over our heads along with us....much in the same way as I have when I've packed my tent and been backpacking and cycletouring.... only this time in a bigger way.

This brings me on to the next change....the roof over our heads...
We had almost made our minds up on a Motorhome.....indeed I even posted a picture of the model we had selected on this blog.
However something held me back from actually placing an order....some level of doubt still kept niggling in my head although I was unsure what it was.

I continued to research all the pros and cons and finally it dawned on me that for the kind of touring Anne and I were planning to do, the motorhome was not ideal. 
If we were planning on constantly moving on every day or two a motorhome would be perfect, however our plan is to base ourselves in places for two or three weeks at a time and for that a touring trailer caravan seemed more suited to our needs.

Unfortunately I tend to think that most traditional touring caravans look a bit like a 'fridge on wheels'. If I was going to go along the caravan route, it would need to be something a little different to most standard caravan designs...

I have always liked the look of the American Airstream trailer caravans, however I don't have a vehicle capable of towing one and have no wish to buy a vehicle that powerful anyway.... 
No, what I needed was something as Iconic as an Airstream but smaller... maybe more European... 
Enter the Hymer Eriba Troll 540........

An ERIBA TROLL 540
 The Eriba range of touring caravans are retro, iconic and quirky...... luckily only three miles from Bournemouth is one of only two suppliers in the UK of new Eriba vans.
One visit had us both hooked and in early summer we placed an order for a brand new 2015 Eriba Troll 540 model to be built with our own list of individual options etc....and to be delivered to us early in 2015..... My Honda CRV 2.2 i-DTEC will also be able to tow it..... a perfect match according to the What Tow Car site...

They are built in Germany (although they used to be made in France) and have developed an almost cult like following......

The range starts with the 'Puck' which is the smallest (I understand this is no longer made) then comes the 'Familia'...the 'Triton'....and then the largest model the 'Troll'. 
Each of the models is available in various layouts.... they all have a pop up roof or 'Pop Top' as it is often referred to and they are all built with a metal frame similar to the way an airframe is constructed, unlike the traditional 'fridge like' caravans which usually have a timber construction.....
Some of the New and Secondhand Eribas at the dealers compound..
Over the coming months I will tell you more about the Eriba vans and why Anne and I like them so much......

Sunday, 14 September 2014

It's Gone...!!

The more observant regular visitors of this blog will have noticed that my bright orange Mountain Bike is no longer listed on the 'Bike Stable' section of The Purpletraveller...
The reason for this is simple......it's gone......moved on....in actual fact I have sold it.

Now don't get me wrong...it was a very nice bike but I just didn't get on with it...
Like two lovers splitting up "it wasn't her, it was me".

After 50+years of road riding I thought that I should give MTBs a try..... unfortunately to put it bluntly I just didn't enjoy it..... 
If nothing else it has confirmed what I always knew.....I just enjoy road bike riding too much..

I owned it for just over nine months...a personal record as it is the shortest time that I have ever owned a bike... usually when I buy a bike it is with me for many years.

Mind you the bike is not the only thing that has gone recently.....

Anne and I have now set a date for moving out of Purple Towers, that date is the 31st March 2015. We now have just under 7 months to sort out all the things that we have jointly hoarded away over the past years...
Each week now sees us having visits to the municipal tip disposing of all sorts of things...

Due to the type of adventure we are both setting off on next year, it's important for us to almost dismantle our current lives...certainly the lives that we have got used to....

I will share our plans with you in my next post......

Sunday, 7 September 2014

A Mistake.......!!

This time last week I had just set off on the Bournemouth-Holyhead-Bournemouth ride that I have wanted to do for the past three years.... With the benefit of hindsight that WAS a mistake.....

Each time over the past few years whenever a date has been set to attempt this ride, something has always cropped up and prevented the ride taking place.
This year seemed to be no different....

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that just three weeks prior to the start of the ride I was rushed into hospital where I had a heart procedure completed due to a constant racing heartbeat of 155bpm. 
The Doctors had advised that if I didn't suffer too many side effects from the procedure I 'might' be OK to attempt the ride....
That was all I needed to go ahead.....ignoring what were obviously warning signs I gave it a go, only to be forced to abandon the trip half way through the third day........
This is what happened........ 

Peter and I met up as planned at about 0900hrs on the Sunday morning......
We headed north passing through Wimborne and heading towards Blandford....
At about a mile short of Blandford town there was a sound like a pistol crack and I realised at once that my rear tyre had blown....

After removing the wheel and checking the cause, it was obvious that the inner tube had split. This in turn had blown the tyre off the rim. Even though I had stopped almost immediately, with the weight of the panniers the tyre itself had been damaged as well...

Peter and I tried to patch the tyre using tape. We then fitted a new inner tube, but on trying to inflate the tyre it became obvious that the tyre was damaged beyond any form of temporary repair........

We were then forced to phone Peter's son-in-law Chris, who lives in Blandford and kindly drove out to give us some help.... It was decided that Chris would drive Peter back home in order to pick up a used but serviceable tyre that we could use whilst I stayed with the bikes...

In about an hour and a half they were back... the tyre was fitted and inflated...all seemed OK.....Chris went on his way...panniers were loaded back on the bike and then we noticed the tyre had deflated again!! 
We took off all the panniers... removed the tyre... checked out the valve and inner tube etc etc... and we tried two more inner tubes before we found one that actually seemed to hold any air....

To be honest, we should have seen the 'writing on the wall' for the trip at this early stage.....
In total we lost four hours faffing around at the side of the road....but....we did finally arrive at our day's destination at Frome, albeit four hours later than we had planned....

Stuck at the side of the road...
We had phoned Howard to re-arrange meeting up with him as we had been unsure if we were actually going to make it to Frome... The new plan was to meet up with him the next morning....
We arranged to meet up at the 'Live to Ride' bike shop in the town where I had decided to have new tyres and inner tubes fitted just to be on the safe side...

Up until this point I had found the cycling OK and although not as fit as I have been I seemed to be dealing with the various ascents and the loaded bike perfectly well....

We met up with Howard the next morning and after time spent in a cafe with coffee and cake and with a new set of rubber hoops on my bike we set off again to continue our ride....

The ride went well until the Tuesday morning, when I found that even after the first four miles riding on the flat I was struggling... I seemed to be breathless and lacking any energy at all....... We stopped at a cafe at an M&S store at Cribbs Causeway just north of Bristol and during our coffee stop it became obvious that I was seriously unwell....  my heart rate seemed to be all over the place and it became clear that this was going to be the end of my ride......

I could not even face getting a train back home..... I was just not well enough....
A taxi was called and within half an hour I was being whisked back home....

A visit to the hospital was to show another electrical malfunction of the heart was causing both missed and jumped beats and this in turn meant that insufficient blood/oxygen was being pumped around my body...
Some of the symptoms that can occur are Palpitations.... Feeling tired... Shortness of breath.....
Chest pain and tightness and Dizziness or light-headedness.... none of these are ideal if you want to ride a bike........

Currently I am off the bike for the next seven or eight weeks...... I have an appointment with the Cardiologist at the end of October and I will find out where this is all going to go at that stage.....

To say that I am gutted and depressed is an understatement....!!

Peter and Howard continued with a revised route of the ride and managed to save something from what we had planned......

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Ready to go.....

Earlier this week I took back to the hospital the heart monitor that I had been wearing for six days..... The information will be downloaded and I will find out the results when I next meet with the Cardiologist. As that appointment isn't until October, there is obviously no immediate concern about my current condition. 
With that in mind, tomorrow I head off on my Bournemouth- Holyhead- Bournemouth cycling trip..... I have shown a rough plan of my route below:-


Bournemouth-Holyhead-Bournemouth  (The Rough Route)
The plan is to cycle to Holyhead via Chepstow Shrewsbury and Bets-y-coed. On our return we will take a more direct and diagonal route via the Lon Las Cymru.

I have read some very good reports about this route and I have wanted to ride it for sometime... Over the past few years when ever the plans have been made to tackle this ride something has always cropped up to stop us doing it. That is why I wasn't going to let this heart fiasco of the last couple of weeks stop me having a go at it....

I'm doing the ride with Peter Calcutt a friend from the Backpackers Club. We will be met on the first night stop at Frome in Somerset by Howard Kelly another Backpackers Club friend who will ride with us for the next three or four days before he has to return home to prepare for another trip......
Howard recently rode with me on my South Downs MTB ride......

If all the logistics come together alright we might be joined on the last day of the trip by Jason Boynton-Lee. 
Before I retired, Jason and I used to work together and he also rode with me on the Cherbourg to Santander (ACCR) ride back in 2009.....

Although I have decided not to post daily reports as I go along on this trip.... I will be doing a proper report on the trip on my return home.... 
Following that I will start to tell you about my next 'Big Adventure' which is due to start in seven months time and will mean some major changes to my life..........

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Just Like a Stuck Throttle........

At the end of my last post I mentioned my surprise hospital visit......
If it's of interest this is what happened...

One morning I woke up and immediately felt that something wasn't quite right. It took a minute or two for me to realize what it was...

My heart seemed to be pounding away flat out.
Normally my resting heart rate is about 45bpm particularly on waking up in the morning, but this seemed way way higher. It was as if I had just cycled to the top of an alpine climb..... 
At first I put this high rate down to the possibility of a dream or nightmare that I couldn't remember and I just lay there in bed trying to relax and get the rate down to normal.

After about ten minutes nothing had changed and I don't mind admitting that I was a bit concerned.
If you have ever had the throttle on a car stick wide open, that is what this felt like, but without any means of switching it off....

Anne insisted that I rang  the emergency health line and after answering lots of questions I was told that I should get someone to drive me to the emergency dept of the local hospital within the next hour......
The Royal Bournemouth Hospital
Before long we were at the hospital emergency dept....we spoke to the girl on the reception desk and had hardly sat down before I was called into an initial consultation room by a senior nurse and the next thing I was whisked to the 'Majors' section of the department and being checked over by a couple of Doctors...

I was told it would seem that I had a bit of an electrical short circuit in my heart causing my heat to keep racing along at 155bpm.... I was told that they would try and correct it with the use of a drug which should have the effect of causing my heart to hesitate and hopefully return to it's normal rate.... I was told that I would experience a 'sinking feeling' as the drug was administered.
They tried this twice and I experienced the feeling of dropping through the floor twice, but unfortunately it didn't work....

By now I felt both tired and breathless and the decision was made for me to undergo a cardiac procedure called a 'Catheter Ablation' .... It was arranged for this to take place in the afternoon and I was taken to a room in the Cardiac Ward where I was wired up to some machines and prepared for my visit to the operating theatre......

In the early afternoon I was wheeled along the corridor and the procedure was completed....
It consisted of me being given sedation to make me drowsy...I was wired up to more machines.... Local anaesthetic was injected into my groin....tubes were then inserted into the main vein of my groin and then long thin wires were passed through the tubes and up into my heart.... X-ray machines were used throughout so that the Doctor could guide the wires to the correct place in my heart and see the heart rhythm disturbance on a computer...

Once the Doctor had located the areas of abnormal electrical activity between the heart valve and a large blood vessel in the top right chamber of my heart, the ablation was performed. 
This is done by applying radiofrequency energy which heated up the tip of one of the wires positioned in my heart.

I was told that I would be awake throughout all of this.....but although I remember the start of the procedure and I remember the end of it.... I don't remember anything from the middle part..... 
Later I was told that I had needed an electric shock to the heart in order to restore its rhythm, so that accounts for me having no memory of a good chunk of all these goings on..... 

Anyway.... my heart was restored to it's normal pace....and after a few hours of further checks and observations I was allowed home in the early evening.
I was told that my heart appeared to be fit and healthy and that it was just a bit of bad luck that this had happened.......

That was about three weeks ago...today I had a heart rate monitoring device fitted to check out my heart rate etc over the next six days.....

In ten days time I hope to be setting out on my Bournemouth-Holyhead-Bournemouth cycle trip..
I am just hoping that my heart continues to run at a nice steady pace.............

Monday, 4 August 2014

Plans....Make 'em Flexible... (part three)

........ The next morning we woke up to the sound of rain on the tents and that was the pattern for most of that day. 
We spent the time sorting things out on the bikes and around camp and just took life easy.... 
We also reflected on our decision to come off the trail and we both agreed that we were pleased not to still be riding the bikes along the track in what was now not the best riding conditions...

A check of the weather forecast was showing us that the next day was going to be a vast improvement and our plan was to take the bikes on a road route to visit Bignor Roman Villa...

The next morning as promised the sun was shining and it was dry....
We set off from our campsite at about 0930hrs and in just over an hour, after a really enjoyable ride along some lovely country roads, we arrived at the site of the villa..

First thing we did on our arrival... was to have coffee and cake...what else..!!


Howard getting his priorities right....

Coffee...Tea....and Cake.
 Bignor Roman Villa is a wonderful archaeological site that has some stunning Roman mosaics etc to see...
We both spent a really enjoyable couple of hours taking in everything that Bignor has to offer....
Throughout most of the year there are lots of School visits made to the site and it offers both fun and education for the children that visit...... (and that includes us)
Some of the stunning scenery surrounding Bignor

Some of the Bignor Mosaic floors.

Another section of mosaic showing the underfloor Roman heating ducts

Some of the Bignor buildings protecting the mosaics...

More Bignor scenery...
 After our visit we headed off to the pub about 2 miles down the road....
We had a good lunch there until eventually we headed off on our return ride back to our campsite.....
That evening we visited another pub about a mile from our campsite and enjoyed a pleasant evening chatting as we ate a very nice meal......with beer of course.... 

Tents packed and ready to head off....
The next morning, which again was bright and sunny, we broke camp and followed a road route we had worked out along country roads and lanes back to Petersfield...
It was a wonderful route, with lovely views and very quiet, in fact we only met one car until we were just a couple of miles from the town itself.......

We settled down at the outside tables of a cafe in the main square for a spot of lunch and then we headed off for the Rail Station and our respective trains home....

We'd had a really good five days out on the bikes....... it wasn't the trip that we had originally planned, but had proved to be so much better because we had decided not to stick stubbornly to our plans and had decided to be 'more flexible.'

My next trip will be my Bournemouth - Holyhead - Bournemouth trip setting off at the end of this month..... 
That will  be an 'easy' road touring trip of about 700 miles over fourteen days....no heroics...no fast pace....no battling against the clock..
Just a nice and steady touring pace with time for lot's of stops for coffee and photos.  
Well that's the plan...... it will be interesting to see how flexible those plans need to be.....!!!

NB: Sorry for my delay in posting this third and final report on the trip.....
         Truth is.... I've just had a bit of a surprise unplanned visit to the hospital....
         I will explain all in the next post

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Plans..Make 'em Flexible...(part two)

That first day of our ride had been a bit of a learning curve , mainly because my knowledge and experience of mountain bikes was almost zero.... but we had finished the day where we had intended to and we had also managed to visit a couple of cafes along the way....

During that first day I had noticed something with the bike that I was unhappy with....
I found that when I was putting the power down on the pedals, such as when riding up steep gradients, I was experiencing a slight clunk coming from the bottom bracket or pedal area.

That evening, between the bursts of rain I checked it out.....
What I found was a lot of lateral movement on the whole of the sealed bottom bracket unit....
It appeared as if the entire sealed unit was loose within the bottom bracket....try as we might we were unable to tighten it up enough to stop the lateral movement......

We made the decision that the next morning we would go 'off route' and drop in at a bike shop in Petersfield.... obviously not in our original plans...... So that is what we did.....

My bike being checked out at the bike shop...
We made an early start from the Sustainability Centre and headed towards Petersfield.... It wasn't long before we were in the bike shop with my bike being checked out....
I have to say that the guys in the bike shop were really helpful....whatever they were doing when we walked into the shop they stopped doing and gave all their attention to my bike..... cranks and pedals removed..... they managed to tighten up the bottom bracket and within about 45 minutes all had been put back and the bike was ready to continue with the ride.....

Bikes locked to the railings....another cafe stop...
 Well the bikes were ready but Howard and I weren't..... 
Petersfield has a number of coffee shops and cafes and it wasn't long before we were both sat outside one of these establishments with large mugs of coffee.....

We started chatting to a very nice couple who were also enjoying a nice relaxed coffee break and it must have been another hour before Howard and I eventually set off again....

Before long we were back on the SDW trail....
Some of the views from the top of the downs were simply stunning. Getting to those views though, was proving hard work with our loaded MTBs.
We were managing to ride up about two thirds of most of the hills, but then a mixture of gradient and lack of traction would get the better of us and we would end up pushing the bikes... not what I'm used to.!!

Going downhill wasn't much better.... It certainly wasn't the thrill that I have on my road bike going down hill... No silky smooth speed and the whoosh of the wind as it slipstreams around my helmet.... 

It started off fun as the bike bounced around on the very rutted down hill tracks....trying to keep the bike upright was a real challenge as was trying to stay on the thing.... as I say it started off fun.......
As the day went on though it was becoming quite painful....
I was starting to experience a lot of pain from my shoulder where I had broken my collarbone in my last crash...

Although that crash was a number of years ago now I have found that in certain situations it can give me a lot of pain and this was one of those situations..... 
My wrists were also aching from the constant jarring of the bike on the rough and rutted trail...

Towards the end of the afternoon we stopped at a watertap to top up our drinks bottles.....
I mentioned to Howard how I was finding the ride and to my surprise he told me that he was also suffering various aches and pains.....

We both sat there in silence at the side of the track drinking from our bottles.

Howard then turned to me and said "I'm not enjoying this, are you?"
I replied "I was but I'm not now."

So there and then the plans changed again......


Entrance to the C&CC site at Graffham
 I had noticed on the map that we were only about six or seven miles from the Camping and Caravanning Club site at Graffham.... 
I have stayed there a few time in the past, mainly when I have been riding in the Duncton Sportive as it was close to the Sportive start point.....
We decided to head there to camp and decide what we were going to do regarding the rest of our ride....

I have to say it was a real pleasure to be riding on the road again as we were heading for the site....even on the MTB with it's nobbly tyres it felt pretty smooth compared to  bouncing down those steep rutted tracks....
Our pitch at the Graffham site
It wasn't long before were were all pitched up at the Graffham site...but not before I had managed to consume two big chocolate ice cream lollies from the reception area's freezer cabinet....

Being told by the site warden that there would be a Fish and Chip van visiting the site that evening was one of the best things that we had heard all day...

As we ate our fish and chips whilst sat inside something that resembled a large bus shelter, that was perched on the top of a hill in the middle of the camp site, we reflected on our trip so far and came up with another plan.....
It was a very loose plan like they always are, but it was nevertheless a plan...a new plan.

I will tell you about it in the third and final part next time.......

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Plans..make 'em flexible...(Part one)

Over my years of cycling and backpacking one thing that I have learned is that any plans made need to be flexible.....very  flexible.
To be honest, it is probably best to limit the plans to nothing more than a start point and a finishing point and you even have to be prepared for those to alter as well....
My recent South Downs Way ride is a very good example......

The whole ride was to be a bit of a learning curve. Although I have been road riding in all it's disciplines, from club time trials in my younger years right through to the long distance rides that I have completed more recently, mountain biking has been something that I have not done in anything like a serious way. 

My thinking was that with my cycling experience and my experience of backpacking stretching back to the late sixties, combining the two on a cyclepacking trip might be something worth trying........
Our bikes at the start..
I met up with Howard at Winchester train station as per the plan...so far so good... 
Knowing exactly what our priorities are...and doing first things first.... we then spent about an hour drinking coffee......
Howard getting the priorities right...first thing coffee....
 I hadn't seen Howard for quite a while so we had a lot to catch up on... mind you..we would have spent an hour drinking coffee even if we had seen each other the day before...

After we had caught up on all the gossip and had finished our coffee we finally set off on our SDW ride.....
We passed the Old Mill in Winchester where some years ago there used to be a Youth Hostel and after some initial route finding checks we were on our way on the correct route....

The one thing that I noticed immediately, was how much slower you tend to travel on a loaded MTB, compared to the average speed that I would be looking to achieve on my road touring bike even when it is fully loaded with panniers on the rear as well as the front.... 

On my road tourer I normally achieve an average speed of anything between 12-18 mph fully loaded depending on how lumpy the terrain is..... on the MTB we were only managing an average of 7.5........
On the really steep sections our speed plummeted and although we managed to keep going on most of the hills, on some, loss of rear wheel traction at low speed saw us having to end up pushing the bikes.
Pushing the bike is something that I never have to do whilst road touring and I must admit that I was heard to say "what's the bl**dy point in having a bike if you end up pushing the bl**dy thing."

Still...the scenery was good...the rain that was forecast had managed to hold off....and we were managing to laugh at our efforts.....

Setting up our first camp...
 Before we knew it we had arrived at our first campsite......

 Our first day was to be just a half day ride due to us both having had to travel by train to our start point, so we wanted to ensure that we kept the first day just under 25 miles.
With this in mind our first nights camp was to be at the Sustainability Centre near Mercury Park  formerly the HMS Mercury inland naval base.

There is a Cafe..Campsite..and a Hostel at the centre and they have Yurts and Tepees set up for those who would like to experience an alternative form of camping....
Yurt at the Sustainability Centre
 One of the first things Howard and I did on arrival of course was visit the cafe.... while we were enjoying our pot of tea the rain that had been forecast for earlier in the day finally caught up with us...
View of the rain from my tent..
 Pitching the tents was completed in the rain which promptly stopped the moment we had finished....mind you it wasn't long before it returned and this time it set in for the rest of the evening........
So far everything had gone more or less to our very loose plans......

The following day..........Well!! 
I will tell you about that in my next post.......

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Just an update.....

 
The Felt on a day ride...
 After the longest break from the blog that I have had since it was started over five years ago I thought that I would give you a bit of an update.....

With all the good weather we have had recently there has been plenty of opportunity to get out on the bikes,,,,,,, lots of full days on the Felt which is always a pleasure to ride.....
My Daughter and her family taking a break.......
 I managed to get out on the MTB for a great ride in the New Forest with my Daughter and her family.....
My grandsons are so competitive..... I wonder where they get that from..?
The MTB  at a Canadian War Memorial in the New Forest...
 I have also been putting some miles on the MTB in preparation for my 'bikepacking' trip which is due to start in a couple of days time..... Unfortunately the current nice weather looks set to change a day or two after we set out on the ride....on the plus side of course it might well make the ride more pleasurable if its a bit cooler, so long as any rain isn't too heavy.....
Anne checking out a motorhome...this one is too small

Also over the past few months Anne and I have been checking out lots of motorhomes..but it seems that we are both set on The Autotrail Apache that I showed you a picture of in my last post..... We still have a few months to make our final decision.....

When I get back from the MTB bikepacking trip I will post up pictures and let you know how it all went.....
After years of  long distance road touring this will be my first offroad multiday ride and I am looking forward to it....

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Changes.......

Used Auto-Trail Apache 700 SE High Line Motorhome U2140 5/80
I wrote on this blog sometime last year about the changes that would be taking place here at Purple Towers over the next eighteen months or so. 
I also said that I would tell you more as our plans unfolded......
It is still our intention to relocate to Devon as our main base and things are underway to achieve that .....

Anne comes from Devon and still has family there, so it's not like moving to an area that we are not familiar with....
Devon is an adjacent county to Dorset and it would not be a major issue to get back often to visit my Daughter and her family as well as friends and cycling/walking buddies....

As well as our main relocation plans....... over the past couple of years we have also been looking at Motorhomes  (RV's if you are in the USA) with a view to go 'Fulltiming' in Europe for some sort of extended 'Grand Tour'. 
I would of course have a couple of my bikes on board as I would need to get my regular cycling fix.....

Before setting out on the Fulltiming Grand Tour I also hope to loadup the MH with some of my closest friends and some bikes and visit some of the iconic cycling climbs in the Pyrenees...the Alps and other areas in Europe.....

In an ideal world I would just do the trip on my touring bike....unfortunately all my friends are still working so time available is a major consideration for them.... 
Mind you it's also a major consideration for me, as there are so many cycling routes that I still want to ride...... 
I would never be able to get to all of them on my tourer, before my allotted time on this earth expired...

The MH in the picture above is an Auto-Trail Apache 700 SE  and that seems to be what we have settled on.....it has both a front and rear lounge area and all the mod cons that an ageing cyclist like me needs after a hard days ride.....

I will of course continue to be involved in the backpacking and tent camping scene, as well as my cycling...... more info as things develop further.


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

First Bike and Camp of the Year

The forecasts were right....the weather last weekend turned out to be just right for our first 'Bike and Camp' weekend of the year....


All set for the weekend
 Peter Calcutt and I had arranged to meet at the Church Farm Camp site at Sixpenny Handley on Friday afternoon.
As it was to be a road bike weekend we decided to use the cars to get there rather than load up  the touring bikes.... There will be plenty of time to use those later in the year when we cycle to Holyhead and back....
Red Sky at night....Campers Delight
 We had a lovely red sky in the evening, so all looked good for some nice sunny weather for our day rides on the Saturday and Sunday....
We had  planned some fairly straightforward cycling loops covering some of the routes that we used at last years Ten in Ten training camp week...... 
Lots of  Spring Flowers
 We found that some of the roads had deteriorated very badly with lots of deep potholes and lots of dirt, gravel and mud all left behind following all the flooding over the winter....
One of the country lanes we wanted to ride was still flooded...bad enough for me to refuse to take my bike through it..... If the truth be told I just didn't fancy having to clean up the bike after the days ride.....
One thing that did brighten up each of the daily rides, was all the Spring flowers dotted along the sides of the roads......
Getting the bikes ready for Sunday's ride..
For most of our chosen route on the Sunday there was a sportive taking  place, the UK Cycling Events Wiltshire Wildcat sportive.......
We seemed to be travelling the same route as the sportive riders but in the opposite direction....
Initially we started saying hello and giving a wave to riders as they passed us by on the other side of the road, but after the first couple of hundred riders had gone by in groups of any thing from 2 to 20 we gave up . 
From then on, we only acknowledged those riders that said hello to us first..... we weren't being rude, it's just that there were too many riders to keep saying hello to.... they only had to do it once....we were doing it every few minutes.........
The moon showing itself above a group  of tress on a distant hill....
It really was a cracking weekend.....
We decided to camp over until the Monday in order to make the most of the weekend and on the Sunday night it was great to stand outside of the tents and reflect on how lucky we had been with the weather....
As we watched the darkness extinguishing the last remains of Sunday's daylight, the moon appeared  over a group  of trees on a distant hillside....what a great end to our first bike and camp of the year....

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Just a little time out......

With the weather looking like this for most of January I decided to take a bit of a break from everything....so...no cycling....no blog...no twitter.
A bit of a hibernation really..... but don't worry...I'm now back and with some much nicer weather now being enjoyed I have started to get back into the swing of things........

Looking out on January's weather
I have started getting out on my bike again, with a number of circuits now having been done of my favourite training ride taking in the Studland ferry and going on to Corfe Castle and Swanage.... The shot below shows Tiffany the training bike back on the ferry again......

Back on the ferry.........
I have even managed to do a bit of bike tinkering and fitted the rear rack mudguard extension on the mountain bike as the two images below show......
Mudguard extension now fitted to rack....

another angle of the mudguard extension.
The forecast weather wise for the weekend is looking good, so there is a chance I will manage to get some nights out in the tent with some bike riding during the day....
It feels good that things are returning to normal......

Monday, 10 February 2014

No more Sportives.......

......more Sportives than ever.
Just an opinion........

One of the spin-offs of a recreation or sport becoming more mainstream, is that there are more and more people and organizations set up to meet the demand and make money out of it's increasing popularity. 

Of course there is nothing wrong with that....after all everyone needs to make a living... However the more popular something becomes it can't help but attract a closer look from all interested parties...

Ten years ago there were a few sportives being run in this area each year and in general, compared to nowadays, they tended to be smaller with a field of up to say, a couple of hundred riders .....
.....now hardly a weekend goes by without some form of organised sportive or massed ride taking place. 

Not only are they taking place more often, but they have more and more riders taking part with really huge numbers of riders hitting the road......

All good for the organisers...commercial or charity... also good for all involved in the bicycle industry with more bikes and accessories and kit being sold.....

However I feel that if we are not careful, it's this very increase in the popularity of Sportives which could end up being it's undoing. 

Take the New Forest area which is about ten miles down the road from me....
I love riding my bike along the forest roads and get a lot of enjoyment from sharing the experience with friends....
....but the roads are often narrow and difficult at the best of times, with a lot of visitors to the area deciding to spend their holidays there and adding to the already busy roads.....

When the sportives were smaller and not taking place so often people could live with the odd bit of inconvenience on the roads...  

Now there are so many riders taking part and as I said it is almost every weekend during the summer months, that I think eventually restrictions could well be introduced.... restrictions on how many sportives can be run in any area as well as a limit on the maximum number of participants.

I for one would not want to live in the New Forest area these days with the number of sportives that now take place. 

The roads are everyone's to share....the trouble is that nowadays these mass events seem to actually takeover the roads rather than sharing them and I  don't think that in the long term it does much to help cycling's PR...

As I said at the beginning...just an opinion....

For my part I've decided that I won't be riding any more sportives....
The last few I rode were not that enjoyable for me.... I found the huge numbers of riders involved actually detracted from the experience.....

I like to pace myself over the distance...
Unfortunately so many other riders don't, shooting off like rockets at the start only to slow to a snails pace further into the event... 

I then catch them up and have to try and negotiate passing all these pro-wannabees as they are strung out all across the first major ascent.... not the most enjoyable way to ride in my book, especially after paying the hugely inflated entrance fees that these events seem to demand these days...

Each to their own of course...but for me I will continue to concentrate on my own supported and un-supported long distance rides and also the Audax rides which I feel share the road a lot better (due to the smaller numbers riding them) . 

By the way, the cost of entering an Audax event in the UK is a fraction of the entrance fee for a sportive.....

For those that love them, Sportives obviously fill a need and can be a lot of fun for the riders. 
However I think that organisers should give a bit more thought about the effects the high number of events and riders have on the already damaged public perception of cyclists and a bit less about all the money that can be made......

  

Monday, 27 January 2014

Still Dodging the Rain....

Yes...I'm still dodging the rain...

I've never really enjoyed cycling in the rain even though over the years I seem to have spent an awful amount of time doing just that....
A summer shower can be quite enjoyable   but a winter downpour that just goes on and on does seem to spoil my enjoyment of the ride somewhat.....
Unfortunately over the past month, winter downpours seems to have almost become the everyday norm...

Most of my 'training' so far this year in preparation for this year's bigger rides seems to have been on my static bike, although I do try and get out on those very few and far between drier moments, not that there have been many of those.....

Last year I was pretty impressed with the results that I got from using the static bike as the centre of my training plans...it certainly didn't fail me during my ride over the Alps or on the ascent of the Ghisallo.
That having been said I would dearly love some nice dry cold and crisp winter days so that I can get out on the training bike more often....

One development over the past few weeks concerns my blog post where I highlighted the rides that I was planning for this year....
A friend of mine from the backpackers club read about my plans and got in contact to tell me that he would be interested in joining me for part of both the South Downs Way (easy) Double and the Bournemouth-Holyhead-Bournemouth ride...

Anyway a few emails later and it looks as if the dates for these rides have been set....
We should be setting off on the South Downs Way Double on Friday 27th June and the first two weeks of September should see us riding the Holyhead (Lon Las Cymru) ride.....

Hopefully we should have some other riders join us for all or at least part of these two rides but in the meantime it looks as if I will have to continue dodging that rain.....
Looking out of the window I have just noticed that it has started to rain yet again.....

Monday, 20 January 2014

Topeak MTX Beam Rack

Here is something that I have acquired in preparation for my 'South Downs Easy Double' ride which I am planning on doing later in the year...

Topeak MTX Beam Rack

This is a Topeak MTX Beam Rack which clamps to the seatpost.

It is not practical to use a standard style of cycle rack on the MTB such as I have fitted on my touring bike, due to the risk of the panniers catching on rocks and branches etc... so for off road bikepacking all the bags need to be carried higher but closer  to the centre line of the bike.

The pannier bags will be left at home and I will be using waterproof drybags similar to the ones I use when backpacking.....

Close up view of the MTX Clamp fitting

I was a little concerned at first that the clamp would not be strong enough to hold the rack rigidly enough when fitted to the bike.....I need not have worried about it, as once fitted to the seatpost properly the entire rack is absolutely rock solid...

The beam rack is able to carry up to 20lbs (9kg) of weight....and as my total summer backpacking kit weight tips the scales at just under 16lbs and I intend to spread this weight across the bike I think that this rack will be more than man enough for the job.

My intention is to carry my Tent...Sleeping Bag...Thermarest (inflatable mattress) & some items of clothing on this rack. 
As the tent is the heaviest single item at approx 3lbs I estimate that the total weight that I will actually be carrying on the rack will be well under 8lbs max.

Topeak sell a small mudguard unit that fits underneath the rack and that seems a pretty good idea in order to help keep me, my kit and the bike clean..... needless to say I have placed an order for that too..... 

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...