Friday, 28 August 2009

Family Cycling - The Return

The Golden Child, rental trailer and the old workhorse

Well we went to bed last night to a forecast for heavy showers today, got a thunderstorm in the night and strong westerlies this morning. The forecast was to improve over the day so we had a lazy morning and then went into Keswick after lunch. The weather had brightened, the wind lessened and things were looking good.

As we drove south though things decided to look the other way and the weather turned black - Borrowdale disappearing behind a curtain of rain. We only had a limited rental window left the for the trailer so as soon as we arrived at the car park I shot off to collect it. The decision to cycle the path could be made when the rest of the group arrived.

Leaving the car park the heavens decided to open. I don't mind being soaked as I soon dry out when cycling but thought the rest of the group would have vetoed the excursion in my absence. However, the shower was short lived and they were just about ready upon my return. The day was looking good again.

The sky turned blue (in small patches) as we left the old railway station - me with child/trailer, the BIL with child/tag along, the wife with her old tank of a bike, the sister with her sub £70.00 "full suspension" bike and the two eldest nieces with their little bikes.

The incline at the beginning is the steepest section but it didn't cause us any problems. I just dropped to the front middle ring and put my head down - the trailer was noticeable but not too difficult, a bit like riding with full panniers and a bit of head wind. Everyone else made it up still cycling although some were puffing more than others.

Once past the wooden path section, which clings to the cliff above the River Greta as the route goes below the A66 flyover, the rain started, got heavier and also decided to approach from a 45 degree angle. The youngest niece, exposed on the tag along, was not enjoying it but the Golden Child was having a great old time eating biscuits and shouting "faster Daddy". We were about halfway to Threlkeld and decided to press on and hope for better weather for the return. If better weather was not forthcoming the BIL and I could always leave the kids/mothers at the pub and return to Keswick for the cars.

As we arrived at the pub the rain now decided it was a good time to stop and the Sun even made an appearance so, after welcome refreshments, the concensus was for all to return on the bikes. The youngest niece strongly vocalised her opposition to this but was quickly vetoed by her mother who for some reason didn't fancy being left in the pub for an hour or so. Me? I have no problem being in a real ale pub for several hours or so but probably not with either my daughter or youngest niece so I can see her point.

The Sun had had enough by the time we set off and the rain had returned after resting for exactly the time we had been inside. We decided to split into two groups as we only had 45 mins to return the trailer. My wife and I went ahead so I could leave the Golden Child with her while I went to unhitch at the bike shop, the rest of the group following at a more sedate pace.

The return journey was kinder with the weather in the end and when I met up with the rest of the mob I found they had actually all had a good time. Returning to the holiday home (and Ninny Nanny who we had left having a bath that morning) we found it had been glorious weather there and hadn't once even threatened a spit of rain.

That's the Lake District for you!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Kiddie Trailer

A day of walking today.

Attempted Catbells but a combination of an ailing 'Ninny Nanny' + several young children forced a bailout from the saddle between the two peaks. Better safe than sorry I always say.

Did go into Keswick to book the kiddie bike trailer for tomorrow. Keswick -Threlkeld - Keswick railway path here we come!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Family Cycling

Me (left), the BIL and his two eldest

Loading the cars at the end of the ride

We headed to Keswick today to cycle the old railway line to Threlkeld which is now a walking/cycling path and part of the C2C route. By we I mean me, the brother in law (BIL) and his two eldest girls. The wives decided to join us for part of it along with the youngest niece (5) and my daughter (3) - bad idea!

We descended to the path from the busy dual carriageway with the two youngest girls on kiddie bikes/stabilizers. As soon as my daughter left the tarmac and started on the gravel section she didn't want to carry on any more and the tears ensued. I offered to tow her on the Trailgator I had brought along and which she had resolutely refused to use prior to this point and she, to my amazement, said yes. Well she managed 5M and the tears became a torrent and the wails became a wall of noise. She actually didn't like it one bit.

So? The BIL, two nieces and myself did the return trip and had a great ride. The two wives and two respective youngest children went back to the Horse and Farrier pub in Threlkeld to meet 'Ninny Nanny' (the BIL's mother!) who we had left nursing a half pint of bitter, reading the Mirror and gently muttering to herself.

And me? I had to tow the golden child's pink, tasselled kiddie bike to Keswick and back to various passing comments from those we past along the lines of "you've lost one". Very funny for the first couple of times but wearing after the next five comedians had made their stab for the Perrier.

And the upshot? The wives liked the bit they did so much we are going to do it all again this week but I have to tow the golden child in a rental, tow along, kiddie trailer.

Happy holidays!

Monday, 24 August 2009

New Bike!!

Spoke to my wife about our plan to buy a "runabout" car this year. We both had a car before getting married but have only run one between us for several years. She misses the independence (especially when she has our little girl while I'm using the car for work).

I am averse to spending money without good reason and since cycling to work think we don't need a second car, particularly as we live next to a Metro Station and on a main bus route. However, I do have my sights set on a new bike (see my Dream Bike section) and suggested to my better half that I buy a bike for commuting/touring instead (thoughts of the Pennine Cycleway next year), she has the car for her own use while I'm at work and I convert my Marin back to a mountain bike for messing around on i.e. put knobbly tyres on and take mudguards off. She said yes!

I am going to order a Koga Signature in the next month or two using the cycle to work scheme. Just need to confirm my current work situation (might be changing employer soon) and then will have a visit to the local UK dealer - Cycles Sense - in Tadcaster to firm up frame size and get thier opinion on some decisions to be made. Do I go for front suspension or use rigid forks along with a suspension seat post instead? rim brakes or disc brakes? is a "butterfly" handlebar as good as made out or just posey nonsense?

The choices to be made!

Brotherly Love Part II

Got out early today and did the same route by myself.

Managed to average 15.4mph and reduced the circuit time from 56 to 42 mins!

Noticed the difference in the legs this time but really felt i had managed some exercise.

We are just off the for the pootle version now as he is out of bed.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Brotherly Love Part I

Went for a ride this AM around the area we are staying (just north of the Lakes). It is mostly flat with quiet country roads. I planned a 10 mile circular route and hoped to complete it in under 40 mins.

Invited my brother in law along for the ride, not expecting him to be so keen to join me. He has an old racer, used to cycle to work up to a year ago and on top of that he is taller and leaner than me. I expected him to set the pace. How wrong could I be?

I set off first as I knew the route and within 1/2 mile had opened a fair gap. I thought he was happy to have a gap on the twisty roads but realised after another mile the distance was increasing despite slowing my pace. I stopped and let him catch up and then tucked in beside him. He was working hard and had a bit of a sweat on. I didn't want to make a competition of it (despite my inclination) and so we finished off the rest of the circuit at a nice pootle.

We got back in 54 mins and averaged 12mph. I am planning the same ride tomorrow and hope to do it by myself at some point this week and see what times I can achieve - brother in law willing!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Pedestrian Pillock

Deansgate circa 1930
Trams don't operate on this street now and the cobbles are long gone

My last of ten consecutive nights shifts tonight before my holiday so on a bit of a high. This one (and the first) are actually additional shifts i do on an ad hoc basis. So instead of heading to Bury tonight i turned left and blitzed 6 miles down the A56 into Manchester city centre.

20 mins and i am on Deansgate making about 18mph. Very little traffic as the road is partially shut due to roadworks but a fair number of pedestrians about (Friday evening in the city centre!!). It is still light but i have my front flasher on anyway. Then it happens. A male youth steps into the road without once bothering glancing in my general direction. Even though he is crossing my lane and oblivious to my presence i am not concerned - i have seen him and there is a 5M gap between us - stop pedalling, aim for the gutter area,  pass behind and he'll be none the wiser. Or so i thought!

He must catch my flasher in the corner of his eye. Something makes him look anyway. All of a sudden the situation is dramatically changed. My flasher is now a full beam headlight and he is a frozen rabbit. Stay frozen i think, there is room for me to pass, start using the rear brake. No good - he decides maybe the middle of the road is not a place to wander into without thinking and so makes the decision to dart back to the pavement from whence he came. My route is now cut off. I will hit him if i carry on. Both brakes on hard. Lock the back wheel up. Turn away from him. Try to minimize the damage.

I slide to a halt with less than 10cm to spare. How i didn't flatten him i will never know. The look on his face was priceless - part gormless and part stunned with a smattering of embarrassment. He mumbled something i didn't listen to as i cycled round him. I realize my feet have not left the pedals, i have avoided a potential nasty collision by dint of my observation and riding skill, it is my last night shift and i am going to the Lakes for a weeks holiday tomorrow. I don't even tell him he is a pillock - he knows already. I feel really good.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Saddle Options

Since my recent saddle problem and the borrowed saddle/seat post, i have really noticed the benefit of a saddle that, well...fits! My old saddle is fine for comfort but is starting to come apart at the seams and i was thinking of getting a new one anyway.

Since starting this blog i have been reading some of the great cycle touring blogs, such as Mark Beaumont's,  and have been impressed by the number of times the Brooks B17 leather touring saddle gets mentioned.

I think i will get one. Just need to justify the cost to my wife. On the other hand maybe i will not mention it to her. I don't have many vices and i did agree not to buy a motorbike when we got married!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Muppet Man

Riding home yesterday morning, i came to a set of red lights with a van stopped in the cycle box. I nipped past him and stopped next to a fellow cyclist. I was first away as the lights changed and was very shortly overtaken (with very little room) by the van man who then pulled over towards the kerb having barely just passed me. He then had to stop completely as the the two lanes of traffic filtered into one and all 4+ wheel traffic was at a standstill ahead. I stopped at his open window and politely but firmly made him aware of how dangereous his driving was. To give him some credit i don't think he was being deliberately idiotic but rather just had no idea of how to drive around cyclists. Isn't that normally the story!

While i was conversing with this muppet, the cyclist from the lights plus another passed me. I caught up with them at the next set, after filtering through the standing traffic, joining them in the cycle box. We briefly commented about the van man and one said he had done exactly the same thing to him at some earlier lights. Who knows? maybe he might be more aware next time? maybe?

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Saddle Problems

The day i was starting my current run of night shifts i noticed there was a little play in my saddle. Attempting to tighten up the required bolt it sheared into two pieces. I went along to Cooksons Cycles in Whitefield to see if they had a spare and arrived at 17.00hrs ( i was due to leave for work at 19.00hrs). They couldn't have been more helpful and while they didn't have the right size bolt they have lent me a secondhand seatpost and saddle while i await a replacement part to arrive. Great service.

Unfortunately, coming home from work yesterday i noticed the saddle - pedal distance had changed and realised the seatpost had dropped 10cms or so since it had been fitted. I don't carry a full range of tools on my commute and so couldn't make the required alterations until i got home. The difference in power and speed was quite noticeable during the ride. I felt like i was riding a little kids bike (although still managed a cyclist on cyclist overtake!). I have now altered my "with bike" tool/spares kit to make sure i don't have the same problem again. Lesson learned.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Pothole Dodging

On my way home from Bury there is a section of the A56 that has several potholes as per the photo examples. These are made worse by the fact they are encountered just after leaving a set of lights and starting up a hill - the traffic setting off from the lights racing to get past the slowing cyclist so giving limited room for manoeuvre.
I have therefore decided to do something about the state of the road where it presents a danger and to this end have filed a report with fillthathole. I haven't had anything back to say there is imminent work planned but have received an acknowledgement.
I''ll let you know how it goes.

Friday, 14 August 2009

GPS Average Speeds

Interested in my average speed on my commute, i set my SatMap GPS unit on the bike on my way to and from to work last night/this morning. Managed an average moving speed of 14.5mph and an average speed (including stops) of 13.9mph.
A little anal i know but useful to see how (hopefully) my fitness continues to improve as time goes on.
It was interesting to see on a long moderate hill section how easy it was to squeeze out that little bit more effort in order to make double figures and on the flat to make 20+mph

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Rush Hour Joy!

Have just started a run of night shifts so will be heading towards Manchester with the rush hour traffic. To make things even more interesting a stretch of dual carriageway (the A56 before the M60) is currently reduced to one lane because of roadworks. I imagine there will be at least half a mile of standing traffic when i get to it. Going to really enjoy filtering past feeling self satisfied and virtuous.

Will try and post some pics of it later this week. Wish me luck.

Setting Up A Blog

Inspired to start blogging since starting cycling a 13 mile (return) work commute from Prestwich to Bury this year. I hope to write a bit about my experiences, vent my frustrations and document changes in fitness levels.

Also planning a sponsored cycle of the Pennine Cycleway in summer 2010 to raise money for the Marfan Trust. I hope to have a following (of sorts) to help inspire me in the preparation and the ride itself.

Anyway, thanks for looking and let me know what you find of interest or what you would like to write more (or less) about.