Saturday 30 November 2013

Another Yatmon Experience

During the week, a group of 4 super hero's assembled to complete the Yatmon 150k audax experience. The super hero's included Doo (the author), 'Rocket' Ron, 'Lots of points' Lou and Mark Weaver 'the Diva'. Sadly 2 further super hero's were unable to complete said mission - Dave 'the Meekon' was assigned elsewhere and Mark Rigby (codename Black sheep) was responsible for stamping control passes and finding a suitable pub for celebratory purposes.

Doo awoke quite early that morning feeling a little rough. He tried to keep his whinging and whining to a minimum. First mission was to collect Ron and then head for a pre-breakfast. Ron had no kitchen and Doo had no milk, eggs, bread or cereal. After a fuel up at Maccy D's, the Rocket and Doo felt ready for adventure and headed for the next stop - destination Black Sheep HQ.

At Black sheep HQ, most of the super hero's assembled together and made ready their machines. Indeed, this is where Mr Weaver 'the Diva' met captain Black Sheep for the first time. We learnt that Black sheep had already released Lou and after issuing and/or stamping our control passes, we followed. Lou took on the role as 'control carrot' and it was a sub-mission to catch this 'carrot' before breakfast. I guess the others took on the role as 'donkeys'.

It was a nice day for a mission. Wintry it was but not too cold and not too wet. Doo and Ron had taken precautions and were layered up for a freezing day. Top layers were soon removed at the first control in Mitcheldean. This control and subsequent controls up until Monmouth proved interesting in that the control staff would give us coded messages (from the carrot) to break. We deciphered that the carrot was about 30 minutes ahead of us at this control.

I left the control just moments before Ron and Mr Weaver as I wanted to take photographic evidence of the red, yellow and orange leaves I saw at Mitcheldean on an earlier mission. Most of the leaves had now fallen. Still, some colour was left (which made me think momentarily about the Meekon) and was worthy of a picture.
Tree's the colour of Meekon
Shortly after taking said picture, Ron and Mr Weaver could be seen skirting over the hill and heading towards Drybrook. They were slightly delayed because (rumour has it) Mr Weasley's machine had sprung a leak. It was nice to take a picture when all was well.
Ron and Mark (W) just past Mitcheldean
Pretty roads took us to Goodrich where we stopped at the P.O. to receive further coded messages and control proofs. The message here was that the carrot was now nearing the breakfast stop and was making time on us. In addition, the carrot would stay in touch by taunting us with text messages. Without further ado, we were off.

Up and over Yat Rock required probably the most energy during the mission. Ron and Mr Weaver didn't trust my 'once over the summit, it's down hill all the way to Monmouth' comments - and rightly so. A few little climbs here and a pull there was required before we reached the 5 Acres garage.  Message deciphered - we had to reach next control before breakfast would be all eaten up.

Not too far into the next stage and we found the descent that I had been bigging up. The road was a little damp but we flew down it all the same. Down, down, down into Monmouth. We lost Ron who rocketed over the lights but were soon re-united once they had turned green. Ron had to wait for me - I knew where the control was. At control, we knew we had caught the carrot because her machine was parked outside. The Monmouth control was a Wetherspoons ('spoons') pub which was just awesome. We caught up with Lou inside (if truth be known, she waited) whilst we munched over breakfast.

As a group of 4 we left Monmouth and headed for Grosmont. We passed the infamous Rockfield recording studios where the likes of Led Zepellin et al had recorded material. Surprised Mark Weaver our Diva wasn't so interested. At about the half way point we had ideas of sacrificing the diva at the Stone Circle. Lucky for Mr Weaver, we had a taste for cake and could hear the next control beckoning us. Sure enough, we had plenty of cake at the control in Grosmont. The super hero's all felt good for their continued support at this cafe but sadly it is not likely to stop the demise of said shop.

Much Marcle was the next control. Lots of activity occurred before and after control but Doo couldn't quite remember the order it occurred in so has been presented here in a jumbled tale. First off, the organiser 'Stevie P' had the group take their machines where they had not ought too...
No entry, really?
Next off, we were attacked by the 'Hounds of Hell' - Lou took the rear and nearly had hers bitten! Not to mention this cow like beast that came towards us from someone's random drive. Heard rumour it was an one-eyed beast, I didn't care to take a second look. Another mishap was when a transformer in the shape of a tractor tried to take us from the road - it caught Ron but the rest of us managed to steer clear. The controller at Much Marcle was silenced somewhat when he saw Lou accompanied by a group of male super hero's...

The last stage wasn't too bad. Only pot holes and the disappearing light were the real challenge. We cycled in our group all the way back to the arrivee with no real menace. Once at the arrivee we felt great that mission was accomplished. Captain Black sheep had secured a table and much drinking, eating and merriment followed. The control passes were stamped for a final time and the super hero's await patiently for validation.


Earlier in the week, I cycled my TTT 20 route. Total distance for the week was 182k. Remain hopeful that I will complete 12,000k before the year is out.

Sunday 24 November 2013

What no Stone Circle?!

First ride of the week was the completion of the Yatmon 150k audax. This was a hilly permanent event (2.25 AAA) that I have now completed for the second time. This really was a classic ride, organised by Stephen Poulton.

Started the Yatmon 150 from Blacksheep HQ. This was the obvious start because I cycled this event with Lou Rigby. Was great to cycle this event with Lou because she had completed the ride several times before and knew the odd substitute road to take to avoid much mud, major traffic or pot hole menace. Indeed, I cycled an alternative route to the first control in Mitcheldean. The weather wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t too bad. Light rain was intermittent all day but none of the forecast heavy stuff came our way. This first stage to Mitcheldean was perhaps the wettest. Last time I cycled this event, I went straight past this control.
Lou, without Arnie her Airnimal
The route was quite hilly but it wasn’t all climbing. After a gentle pull up from Mitcheldean, a super descent followed. The colours at this time of year were awesome – leaves the colour of orange, red and yellow. God’s creation was truly wonderful. The fog and mist had cleared by the time we reached Goodrich and I loved viewing the castle as we made our way to Goodrich Post Office, our next control.
Profile demonstrating hilliness of the Yat Mon Audax
From Goodrich we climbed the steepest ascent up past Yat Rock. Didn’t stop to admire the views on this occasion (knew that the Yat Rock log cabin would be closed) instead cycled on to an alternative control at 5 Acres Garage.

Lovely descending route from garage pretty much all the way to Monmouth. I free-wheeled for the most part. Had visions of the calendar perm I cycled with Ron a week back because we cycled some same roads (reverse direction). Ha, and as chance would have it, we stopped at the Wetherspoon’s pub that Ron and I rated so highly during last audax too! Weatherspoon’s pubs are great. Just like last time I had a full English breakfast!

Suitably fuelled, we made our way to Grosmont. Once we reached the 75k mark (aprox) I spotted the ‘Stone Circle’ I thought I saw last time round. It wasn’t actually a stone circle at all – it was standing stones. These weren’t standing stones from some prehistoric site though, they were stones for sale. I was a little disappointed but pleased to solve the riddle of these stones. Strangely, Lou said she had never spotted these stones before. Was pleased to reach the control in Grosmont as the weather had turned a wee bit wet again. Both the P.O. and pub were closed so we used the café where I stopped last time around for our control. The café owners informed they were to be shutting up shop in the near future. After much cake and elderflower cordial we left Grosmont.
What no Stone Circle?!
The cycle to Much Marcle was through much mud. The roads were wet and covered with that red coloured mud found by Red Marley. My poor chain didn’t sound too happy. This was the longest section and definitely the most muddy. Stopped at a local stores for our penultimate control.

Last stage was relatively flat and fast. We had to light up as it was now dark. We passed through Red Marley but luckily it wasn’t too muddy and my chain had stopped sounding ill. Nice spotting the lights that lit up Tewkesbury and a fast finish back to Blacksheep HQ. Back at HQ, had my brevet card stamped for the final time and enjoyed a cup of tea and a catch up with the Blacksheep pair.

My second (and final) ride of the week was only a short affair. Ron and I took our mountain bikes (mine a single-speed) out for a quick blast around what we called the 'LemNoAid' route. This was very similar to the LemonAid route but Aid wasn't out and we changed the original route  a little at the end. Still remain very pleased with Queenie's forks and disc brakes. To top that, Queenie has now been fitted with sparky spoke reflector things too! Woo Hoo!

Cycled a total of 173k this week. My yearly distance to date now stands at 11,354k. Wonder if I can complete 12,000k before the year is out?!

Saturday 16 November 2013

Christmas is coming and I'm getting fat...

Only cycled twice this week. Both trips out were using Kay O, my trusty single-speed road bike. She performed great now that she had her rear wheel straightened out. The saddle still remained uncomfortable - the lambs wool saddle cover I purchased was way too big, must have been designed for a fat bottomed girl! First trip was a blast around the AM SR 1 route and the second was a nice trip out to Earlswood Lake.

I was Tim 'Tool-man' Taylor again this week too. I was having trouble with my BB on my MTB. Most folk will know that BB stands for bottom bracket. Perhaps it should stand for bloomin' bother! Most folk will know that my DIY skills are poor. Sadly this was proven when I faffed about changing my bottom bracket. It took me forever to get the BB off and then an age to get the new one on. Once on, I realised the chain wasn't over the chain ring so had to do it again. Then my gearing was out on my front mech big time. I thought the gearing was perhaps out because I hadn't added the 'shim thing' for the 73mm cartridge shell. This shim was deliberately not added because I did not see one present on the old BB I had just removed. Suffice to say, I removed and refitted the BB with the shim thing and things were better. Can honestly say that I can now change a BB. However, the gearing was still out a little. The front mech just didn't push the chain over to the large chain ring - I think it would have if I didn't mess around with the cable after the second installation. Oh well, will have to ask someone to take a look at it - like I should have done in the first place!

Sunday 10 November 2013

November Rain

Chris and I at the completion of the St. Crispin's Day Night Ride
The photo above was taken at the completion of the St. Crispin's Day Night Ride that Chris and I cycled a few weeks back. It was a great event, albeit somewhat bizarre. It's not very often that one cycle's a 100 miles just to collect a bottle of wine. Oh, and the wine was very crisp and tasty - just ask my wife SJ!
'Cycling is healthy'

My first ride of the week was a MTB jolly with Aid using our single-speeds. Just a short trek but nice to get out and see Aid cycling again. A little dirty following the November rain.

Second ride was a short single-speed MTB trek again. Had wanted to take out my single-speed road bike but noticed she had a flat tyre and a buckled wheel. (Local bike shop fixed buckle at end of week and hoping to ride that bike soon). Remain real pleased with forks and disc brakes.

My longest ride of the week was saved for the weekend. On Saturday, Ron and I (and about 40 others) cycled the 'Mr Pickwick's Cymraeg Cyrch' 200k audax. This was a lovely ride that I completed once before back in 2010.
How many climbs on the Mr Pickwick's Cymraeg Cyrch audax?
According to the organiser et al the route only had one climb. As can be seen from the profile above, the ride had at least 4 notable climbs. Strava indicated that these 4 climbs were 4th category climbs too!

The ride started at Tewkesbury. Ron and I had hoped to make the 7 a.m. start but our leisurely nature forced us to start in the second group which left about 40 minutes later. For a short period, at the start of this first stage, Ron and I cycled in a small group of 4. The other 2 riders were Roy (I think), the 'older guy with the yellow helmet cover' and Ant aka Augustus Gloop. Was pleased Augustus was here - had told Ron about him cycling into the back of me during PBP. Augustus gave Ron a slightly differing account and talked much during this first stage. I think Ron has a wide knowledge base surrounding PBP now! Ron and I pulled back once we had reached Goodrich and spotted the castle. What was not so good about Goodrich was the fact that the November rain was pelting down real hard. I was wearing my new Northwave gore-tex shoes I purchased in the summer (sale) and some Cube waterproof shorts. The shorts were great and I give them top marks. Sadly, and quite disappointingly the shoes let in water after so long. I think water ran over the top of the shoes and made it's way inside. Maybe I should invest in waterproof socks too (I have a pair of SealSkinz but they don't work). Not long after reaching Goodrich we had to cycle off-road tracks along the riverside (by the Forest of Dean) which was fun but dirty and bumpy and wet. After about 10k of this cycle-cross style cycling we hit main roads again and shortly after reached the first control.

The first control was a Wetherspoons pub. We like Wetherspoons and this one did not disappoint! Ron and I both had a large full English breakfast and a hot drink. The pub was up a flight of stairs and at least 3 cyclists fell down these stairs because of their cleats. Menace.

Suitably refreshed, we left Wetherspoons and continued on our journey. The rain had now stopped and everywhere looked bright and fresh. The autumn colours were fantastic, as was the rainbow we spotted. I really enjoyed this stage and wondered how we could cycle so many relatively flat miles despite viewing mountains all around. Many cyclists said they saw snow on some peaks but I didn't spot that. Without too much trouble we reached the next control, the White Hart pub.
Waterproof shorts and (not so) shoes
Had been to this White Hart pub on several occasions before. Ron didn't recognise it which surprised me. Chris and I were here one time when they were serving camel burgers. Today's delight was a steak pie.

Leaving Talybont-on-Usk and cycling to Symonds Yat East was quite an effort. The once flat roads were now quite undulating in nature. Not sure how many times Ron and I cycled that 'only one hill'. Really must have been hilly because Ron never tends to notice hills but on this trip he did! Lots of hills and no AAA points. We momentarily got lost in Monmouth and started to cycle an additional hill before finding the correct path. And a path it was - it was that off-road track we cycled earlier along the riverside. At least this path was flat and despite being very muddy, at least the rain had stopped too! We were both pleased to reach the Saracens Head pub control. On the way out a heavy smell of sewage was here, so pleased it was not on the return journey.

Final leg was in the dark. Ron had a new rear light that would put the Blackpool illuminations to shame. So bright was this light and hypnotic that I had to get Ron to put it on a lower setting - it was proper burning my retina! This final stage was initially undulating again but the occasional fireworks helped distract me from this fact. Plus, I needed a wee and Ron wouldn't let me relieve myself until we caught up another cyclist. After about 15k we reached a cyclist and I was pleased to stop for my much needed comfort break. We again managed to catch this cyclist (and overtake) before to long. Before reaching Tewkesbury, Ron's helmet light failed and my bar light failed. Some strange phenomenon was  happening as other cyclists reported light failure too. With Ron's bar light and my head light we continued on. Once we found signs for Tewkesbury the roads flattened out and we sped along at quite a pace pretty much to the finish!
My GPX track log for the Mr Pickwick's Cymraeg Crych audax
Woo Hoo, another 200k event completed. Our route is presented above. So pleased we finished in a Wetherspoons pub. Ron and I had to celebrate our achievements with Mark (organiser) over much beer and some sweet chilli noodles.

So, what are the scores George Dawes? Well, managed to cycled 267k this week. My yearly total to date is now 11,181k.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Tim 'Tool Man' Taylor

This was an altogether different kind of week for me. Firstly because I only rode single-speed machines all week. Secondly, and most alarming, because I carried out 2 repair jobs on my bicycles – all by myself! Ha, who would have thought hey.

My first repair job was the tightening of Kay O’s headset. A simple job one might conclude but it had me baffled to begin with. I thought by tightening the bolt on the stem, it would fix the rattling headset but no, that didn’t do a thing. A headset is actually tightened by turning the bolts on the handlebar stem. Advice from Chris and the watching of a You-Tube video prepared me sufficiently to complete this task.
Kay O
So, my first ride of the week was a blast around my TTT 20 route on Kay O. This was the first time Kay O had done this route and I wanted to feel how she rode compared to Florence, my previous single-speed road bike. There was a few differences. Kay O felt faster, though actual time taken to complete course was actually about average. Florence was clearly the more comfortable to sit on – on this note I have ordered a lamb’s wool saddle cover for Kay O (will blog about this after it has been tested). Kay O looked better and was certainly a lighter machine. On the climb up the last hill, I really felt ‘out of puff’ and presumed the gearing on Kay O must be higher. The gearing was strikingly similar, I was probably whacked for not cycling said route for some time.  In conclusion, both bikes were great. I prefer Kay O because she feels faster, is much lighter and looks awesome (plus has better components).

So, what about the gearing?! Florence ran a 42 x 16 chain set which equates to a 1:2.6 ratio. Kay O runs a 48 x 18 chain set which equates to a 1:2.7 ratio. Not a lot in it at all. Kay O has very slightly higher gearing but weighs considerably lighter than Florence. I chose the 48 x 18 gearing simply because most hardened audax (fixed) riders stated this was their preferred gearing. It seems fine with me and I was always happy with the gearing on Florence without realising it was very similar.

The second repair job I completed was fixing the brakes on Queenie, my single-speed MTB. I fixed the menace rear brake by simply removing the old Hornet Promax and replacing with a Shimano Deore. Both these disc brake sets are hydraulic and relatively cheap budget. The Hornet’s brake lever became loose and would no longer bite. The Shimano lever looked aesthetically pleasing and lever reach can be changed unlike the Hornet.
Queenie, with new rear brake lever
The Deore disc brake came pre-bled, so installing was easy – even for me. The caliper looked pretty cool too and was easily attached to bike. To sit the disc pads right was a simple task (but one I messed up before time). To set it up, the disc lever has to pressed tight and then the bolts holding caliper to frame tightened – simples! (I just tightened bolts in past and couldn’t understand why pads rubbed). The hose was a little bit lengthy but I have no intention of cutting it down and re-bleeding just yet (sounds like a more high-tech challenge). As simple as my cycle jobs were, I felt great that I completed them myself. I kinda felt like Tim ‘Tool man’ Taylor and treated myself to a Park tool (AS-1 tool) and a torque key so I can perform these tasks again in future with even more ease.
Queenie's new rear disc brake
With Queenie all fixed up, I took her out for 2 cycles in the week. For such an old bike with newly fitted (budget) forks and brakes, she performed just great. The Deore disc brake worked fine right from the start and didn’t require any breaking in period. Amazing. I prefer this disc brake to the Avid’s I have on my other bike. Recommended!

Cycled a total of 87k this week and all on single-speed machines. My buddy Chris is building up a single-speed himself – I believe this really is the way forward. My yearly distance to date is now 10,914k.

Happy New Year 2022

Happy New Year folks. I wonder what's in store for 2022,  - something crazy, something new? It's a shame Covid is still here and I&#...