Sunday 30 November 2014

Star Wars 2015

After the disaster of last week's 'The not-so-great figure of eight', I started this week by fixing things a little. First off, I removed the Specialized Armadillo tyre and chucked it straight out. This heavy duty tyre had blown and obviously I don't rate said tyre. I replaced the tyre (and tube) with a Felt Speed RW all-weather puncture resistant one that Lin had donated me. Let's hope it fairs better! This tyre was a 700 x 25c as opposed to my usual 700 x 23c and it only just fit!

The next thing I fixed up was the brakes. Well, the brake blocks to be precise. My rear blocks were that worn they were almost non-existent! They should have been changed a while back. My new blocks were awesome - they were the Dura-Ace variety and the only piece of Dura-Ace to grace my bike. These blocks or pads were great and just slotted into the brake 'thing' and held in place by a little screw. Actually, these new pads should have been held in place by the teeniest weeniest allen screw but I didn't have a teeny weeny allen key to fit, so I made use of the old, previously fitted, phillips headed screws. 
Funky brake pads held in place by 'old' phillips screw
The last thing to fix was a fixture. I basically added or equipped my bars with my Carradice tool bag. This will ensure I am able to carry a spare tyre with me on future adventures!
Ready for adventure
Cycling events this week just consisted of two work and back commutes. My cycle-cross bike was making strange noises which need to be investigated. I wonder if the cranks need tightening?!

Next week, I hope to conquer the not-so-great figure of eight! 

On an equally exciting note, I'd like to conclude this blog with some news concerning Star Wars. Wait for it ... there is going to be a new film released in 2015! Better yet, I am able to add a few screen shots! Doesn't it look exciting?!

Saturday 22 November 2014

Commutes/The not-so-great figure of eight DNF

Quite an active week on the whole. Plenty of riding and plenty of adventure. Plenty of menace too. Managed to squeeze in 3 work and back commutes which was nice. The first 2 rides were relatively uneventful, however, the third was certainly eventful.

On my third commute, after work, I met up with a couple of mates - Jamie and Andy. We met up at the 'Canalside' cafe and bar, on the tow path next to the Gas Basin. This was such a lovely place for a meet and greet. This was a celebratory meet of sorts - I was returning their brevet card and certificates for completing the York Arrow event we completed last season. It was lovely to reminisce and talk bike nonsense for a spell. Was also nice to down a couple of pints of 'Black Rat', some quite potent scrumpy cider. After our meet, we all set off together - all retiring to our respective homes. It was cold, dark and wet. Andy was first to break off at the Five Ways junction. Later, Andy remarked how drivers just seem to speed up in bad weather conditions. It is well known, that most folk in Birmingham (and beyond) want to kill cyclists.
Please don't kill cyclists
Jamie and I continued along together following the tow path to as far as Bournville. I think this was the worst weather I have ever commuted in. Having drank so much I kept needing to stop for an emergency wee. Once Jamie had departed, I was still less than half way home. After what seemed an age, I finally reached home. I found I could cycle fine, but once off my bike it was difficult to walk.
Timmy no-mates
During the weekend, I decided I would ride my recently created DIY PERM - 'The not-so-great figure of eight' 200k audax. Things were bad from the start - none of my mates (for various reasons) were able to cycle with me, Lunar had kept me awake since 4 a.m. and my wife would rather I didn't venture out that day. Maybe I should have stayed at home...

At just after 7 a.m. I set off. The first leg to Henley-in-Arden was fine. Fine for me at least, I saw a couple of cars had crashed just before reaching Henley and car bits were sprayed all over the road. In fact, I saw these cars twice because once reaching Henley, my route reversed and followed some same road back onto section 2.

Section 2 was a longer stretch to Whitlenge. Things started ok and I cycled some paths that feature on my work and back commutes and cycled round some of Arrow Vale Lake. Nice. My route continued and took me past 'the Hardy's'. For the most part, nice roads were followed but cycle paths and mucky lanes featured too. At around the 30k mark, I was faced with the option of passing through a ford.
I didn't pass through the ford but shortly after got soaked anyhow because the heavens opened big time. I got soaked through to the skin. Wet, cold feet! Was real pleased once I reached Whitlenge and particularly the Whitlenge tea rooms! This was such a welcome stop because not only did I eat a full English breakfast that was scrumptious (and washed down with a pot of tea) but I also stripped off and dried my gear on a oil heater. I stayed here for about an hour, refusing to leave before the rain had stopped.
The road travelled (spot the mis-hap)
The next leg was menace. The weather was ok and the roads were fine. However, all was not well. I cycled past a bunch of 'terrors' on horses, with dogs, who were taking part in some hunt. Worse still, my route went wonky as I got confused where my route crossed paths with itself and took the wrong turn. I discovered my mistake but added extra k's and was generally annoyed with myself. I often do this silly sort of stuff. Eventually, I reached Bidford the next control but k wise, I should have been in Winchcombe. Grr.
Would the route get hillier? Maybe we'll never know!
Roads I had never cycled before started leading me towards (I believe) Winchcombe. With less than 10k to go, my rear wheel felt wobbly. I dismounted to take a look and BANG! The tyre blew right in my face. Good job I was wearing glasses! Damn! Game over. The tyre had blown, so much so, a massive hole was ripped in the side of it. So much for Specialized armadillo tyres. Pah!
I often carry a spare tyre but as Murphy's Law would have it - I didn't on this occasion. Was no use replacing the tube when it would be so exposed. I could fit a finger inside where the hole was blown. Thankfully my cousin Aid was able to pick me up and drive me home but he took an age to arrive. Was only one thing to do while I waited patiently...
... and have a drink in the nearest pub! So annoyed that game over was called after I had cycled 109k. The not-so-great figure of eight really turned out to be not-so-great. Unfinished business! Sadly, I think that destroys my plans of an RRTY award this season. On a brighter note, I cycled 284k this week which was nice. Oh, and Jamie reminded me that I completed a perm event from the Saracen Club and got a mention for being the first non-member to do so. It ain't all bad!

Saturday 15 November 2014

No cycling/Arrivee/Recognition

I knew this was going to be a naff week on the cycling front. My work commute was out as I was on a 5 day study course in Birmingham. The venue for this course had no shower facilities so cycling to and from here was out. Felt miserable as early as Tuesday and I had not cycled any miles and the withdrawal symptoms were kicking in - irritability, low mood and occasional hostility. In a bid to cheer me up, Strava sent my some data detailing my achievements thus far in 2014.
By midweek my withdrawal symptoms had gotten worse. Remedy was quickly found once I discovered that my latest copy of Arrivee magazine had arrived in the post. Better yet, me and my buddy Chris (well, half of him) featured in said magazine.
Arrivee No. 126 2014, Tim at Front, Chris on Right
On the photo above, Chris and I were cycling the Windsor-Chester-Windsor 600k event. You'll notice we were both wearing cycling caps.  This point was made because back in 2011 (when I cycled PBP) Chris et al gave me much grief for wearing a cap. Cap wearing is a common feature among my friends now. This point can be demonstrated in the photo below - Jamie and Andy as seen in the same edition of Arrivee. Nowadays, some folk are giving me grief for wearing sandals...
Arrivee No. 126 2014, (L-R) Andy, ?, Becky and Jamie
Our friend Becky also rode on the event pictured above - the Venetian Nights 200k. Jamie and Andy featured again in the same magazine for cycling an awesome 300k Standing Stones event. So cool that my friends and I were all featured. Except Ron. Ha! However, Ron did have a claim to fame when he was featured back in 2010.
Arrivee No. 110 2010
Friday was a better day. My course finished early. This meant I had time to fit a quick ride in. Took my single-speed road bike out for a quick blast and felt much better for doing so.
Saturday was cool too. Lunar woke up and demanded to be put in her cycling gear and then kept repeating 'bike'. Only one thing for it, I just had to take her out for a quick 10k jolly! If that wasn't cool enough - the organiser from the Arrow Event completed earlier in the year (last season now) must have got wind of my earlier withdrawal symptoms. Indeed, 'my' team (that is my good self, Chris, Ron, Jamie and Andy) had brevet cards all returned along with a tacky but funky French flavoured certificate for completing said Arrow!

Saturday 8 November 2014

Lunar Cycle/Sandals/Commutes/The fall

Started the week by fitting my rear winter tyre to Jenny, my single-speed cyclo-cross commute bike. Swapped the wheel skewer mount from front wheel to rear and added a rear light. Finally, placed the Hope  Vision 1 light to the bars. Cleaned up the bike and made her ready for the next commute.
My first ride of the week was with my daughter Lunar. We went for a 15k trek using Queenie, my single-speed MTB. Is always nice to share a bike experience with my daughter and she always gets real excited. What was also exciting was the fact that this was my first adventure testing out my new foot wear. I was wearing sandals! Yes, SPD sandals - a fancy pair of Exustar SS 503's to be precise. I know sandals shouldn't really be worn with socks but to be fair they didn't look too bad with my Sealskinz (water-proof socks). My feet didn't get the chills either in what I guess was about 10C. Will be interesting to see how my feet in sandals cope (or otherwise) with winter weather. This particular pair of sandals was gotten from Spa cycles for a mere £45 (they are keeping the low price up until the New Year).
Tuesday's commute was cold. It must have been around 5C and a thick mist hung in the air. I had partially prepared for the cold weather and was wearing a thin mid-layer between my merino base layer and waterproof jacket. This kept me warm but any colder and I think a thicker mid-layer will be needed, maybe a long sleeve jersey/jacket. A further buff around my neck and across my face might be needed too! Legs were fine - I was wearing knee warmers for the first time. No knocking knee's here! My feet were cold - not unbearably but cold all the same. I chose to wear my sandals plus Sealskinz socks. Hmm perhaps shoes or thicker socks would prove better?! (My current Sealskinz socks have a thermal rating of 2, they do a thicker sock with a thermal rating of 4. Hmm). Am quite pleased with my sandals, they are comfy and don't look too bad. The soles could ideally be a little bit stiffer and I should play around with the cleat position to optimise them further. On my return journey it rained, but at least my feet stayed dry!
On my Wednesday commute it was colder still, about 1C in fact. I was well prepared in that I had an additional Rapha type buff thing around my neck, a long sleeve jersey as my mid-layer and was wearing my Sidi cycling shoes with 2 pairs of socks (Sealskinz and a cool max pair) and toe covers! Oh and 2 pairs of liner gloves were keeping my hands warm. Quite toasty really and not too hot. It was much warmer on my return and a few layers were removed. Was a nasty commute back home because I fell off my bike (clipped the side of the entry 'thing' to the tow path) while racing another 'random' cyclist. That'll teach me! This particular night was bonfire night but relatively few rockets were seen screaming overhead.
Sure it was cold but at least not this cold!
Final commute was much warmer. Downside was that the cold weather had been replaced by wet. Was hoping to ride a DIY 200k perm over the weekend but the fair weather pixie got hold of me and prevented me from venturing out.

Sunday 2 November 2014

Dark Nights (aka The Frights)

My first commute of the week, on Monday, felt rather spookily unusual. The clocks had gone back, so the ride into work was in daylight which was nice. Better yet, the canal tow path was fully open, so I had quite a different trek to work than of late. On the flip side, the cycle back home was in the dark. Kids were on half-term and for whatever reason they appeared to quite like shouting ghastly screams as I sped past on my bike. Worse still, I cycled over a poor rabbit on my return journey.

''We sailed along the fields of green
I didn't know it was my last scene
Nay, goodbye, nay, adieu
I couldn't see the rabbits hiding out of view
Maybe light caught in my eye
And we were thrown into the wild rye
I hope you know my love was true
I couldn't see the rabbits hiding out of view''
On Tuesday, my Hope Vision 1 light arrived in the post. Was very pleased how nice this light looked aesthetically. The way it sits perched at hub level on the wheel skewer mount was just great. My next commute would test both the light and skewer mount out for sure! (I purchased this light from Winstanley's Cycles for less than £60 which included rechargeable batteries and charger. I think they had made an error, as they are selling the light alone for £95. At time of blogging, couldn't find a better deal elsewhere).
Was able to test and try my new light and mount on a further couple of work and back commutes. The light was mighty bright and this was set on the medium setting. Perfect illumination lit up the country lanes just fine. The mount annoyed me to be fair - it was too low to reach the light and change settings. Obvious really. I think I will add the light to my bars after all and maybe use the mount to set up a rear light. Watch this space...

Happy New Year 2022

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