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.......

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...