Tuesday, 29 June 2010

No More Training

Hoped to get in another fully loaded 30+ mile ride tomorrow AM but plans were dashed when I found out the Golden Child's nursery school is shut for a trip and I will have to look after her all day while the wife is at work. I managed to fit in about 12 miles today and have two more days to cycle to and from work but that is it before the big ride. Still, I am spending a full "Daddy Day" with my girl, making sure she has fun, ice cream and swimming. And if I am not ready for the Pennine Cycleway by now what is an extra 30 miles tomorrow going to achieve?

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Whatever The Weather

Typical Cyclist Tan Lines
The long range BBC weather forecast (always with a pinch of salt) is looking good. Will need that sunscreen for sure. 
Monday 28 June 2010 to Sunday 4 July 2010
A hot start to the week will continue in England, Wales and often Scotland and Northern Ireland. Atlantic fronts are still likely to attempt entry into the northwest of the UK but will lose most of their rain before they reach land. Nevertheless sometimes cloudy and breezy weather will affect the northwest.
Monday 5 July 2010 to Sunday 18 July 2010
Even more of the same...Except that this time the Atlantic fronts are held even further at bay: Scotland and Northern Ireland should enjoy more of the sunny and warmer weather. Some showers are still possible which may be thundery. Temperatures, of course, look likely to remain above normal.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Trans Pennine Taster

Trans Pennine Trail
Went on a training ride yesterday and also stayed overnight checking out the camping kit. No real problems found but will make a few changes to kit selection.

I went through Manchester centre and picked up the Trans Pennine Trail (Sustrans route 62) around Stockport, following it to the reservoirs along the Woodhead Road (A628) before rejoining the road to the Crowden Camp Site. This section is also shared with the Pennine Cycleway so I will be seeing this route again soon. Just before the first dam/reservoir at Hollingworth I noticed two touring cyclists a couple of minutes or so behind me. I expected them to pass me in a short while but we seemed to be going at the same pace so when I stopped to consult the map/GPS I waited for them to catch up and have a chat. 

Jason and Graham were cycling the full length of the Trans Pennine Trail having started from Southport the day before. They hoped to climb the steep section of the route along the Woodhead Pass over the Pennines and stop at Penistone for the night but hadn't made the intended distance and were considering the Crowden Camp Site option. I said I might see them there but had to get a move on as my wife/daughter/mother in law were meeting me there in 45 mins and so I bid them farewell. They seemed nice and I hoped we would meet up later.

Got to the site with 15 mins to spare, had an ice cream, set up camp and was just getting some water for my noodles when the guys arrived. They had taken a different crossing over the reservoirs and ended up pushing their bikes up some steps and navigating a difficult stile. My route was much more bike friendly up to the A628 but then I had longer cycling with the 60+ MPH traffic along the road. Not too scary as I was happy to  take the primary position when needed to stop potential idiots passing on left hand bends or very narrow sections. No doubt there were a number of comments made in the following traffic but none had to wait longer than a minute or two to pass and...do I care? 

My wife and crew arrived after another hr or so having got caught in Manchester evening traffic. We had a lovely couple of hrs in the balmy evening weather - my little girl running and skipping around the campsite with Grandma chasing behind while my wife and I sat and let them get on with it. The guys  meanwhile had set up their tents near mine and decided to buy a disposable BBQ and various tinned meat products from the camp shop as they did not have any cooking gear with them. They planned to camp nr pubs/chippies and of those there were none nearby. I did try and persuade my wife to drive 6 miles or so to the nearest pub/shop and back to pick up some beer for us but strangely she was reluctant. Graham managed to acquire two tins of Strongbow from a fellow camper and generously gave one to me (he doesn't drink apparently. Strongbow in particular or alcohol in general I'm not sure). We chatted for a while before heading for cover in our respective tents as the midgies were out in force.

The tent was fine, new sleeping mat great, lightweight sleeping bag warm enough (just) but will have to wear socks, tracksters, and long sleeve top, compressible pillow very comfy, Trangia stove great (as always), noodles for tea worked well and the dried milk for the cuppa adequate. Will take a cable lock rather than U-lock (more options to secure the bike), long matches as better than lighter for stove and I must, must remember to buy some midge repellent (they were awful). 

One change to the bike set up. I found one of my SPD pedals was loose on it's bearings! I changed to flat pedals and multi-activity shoes just before the ride and found no problems and several tangible benefits. Being quicker off the bike on a tricky, loose, steep uphill section, far better when walking/pushing the bike on rocky terrain and lastly being able to wear the shoes comfortably while camping. I have decided to go with this set up rather than SPD pedals/shoes but will likely still take my trekking sandals to give my feet chance to breathe!! 

I covered a fairly hilly, mixed surface 32 miles to the site with about 3 hrs cycling and felt great. The next morning I did a faster, mainly tarmac 30 miles back home in 2 and a half hrs. No stiffness, knee problems or...ahem...chafing issues. I even managed to get some free coffee and cake at the Bike Friday meeting in Manchester and bumped into Nigel who lives near me and blogs on cycling/triathlon stuff. 

A great taster for things to come.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Two Weeks Tomorrow!

As I write it is only two weeks until I will be packing my panniers (and no doubt unpacking various bits again) and checking the bike over in readiness for the next morning and a shortish train journey to Derby and from there the start of the Pennine Cycleway.

The preparation has been going well and I have been able to easily complete at least one 35-50 mile ride per week with full panniers + my normal commuting miles. I know the minimum daily distance I plan (50 miles) is eminently achievable and the kit is more than up to it. The only thing I won't know is how I will feel after 3 or 4 days consecutive riding? Only experience will answer that one I suppose.

The kit list is (almost) finalised. 2 Ortlieb Front Roller and 2 Back Roller Panniers will carry most of it and a an Ortlieb bar bag will carry some small/valuable/frequent use items. Here's the breakdown.

Left Front Pannier
A washing/utility line, Ortieb 3L water/shower bag (empty), Trangia stove, matches, wash cloth, fuel bottle, cutlery, bowl, cup, Swiss Army Knife and rain/wind jacket.

Right Front Pannier
Food for the next day. This will likely be weetabix for brekkie, bananas/flap jacks for snacking and noodles/risotto/pasta for tea. Tea bags and dried milk also included for morning and evening cuppas (lunch will be bought along the way). A cable lock, maps, paperback and electrical stuff completes this bag.

This balances the weight nicely and keeps the fuel and potentially wet coat away from the food, electrical kit and sleeping sac. 

Left Rear Pannier
A Vango Micro II tent (an old friend no longer in production) which although a little bigger/heavier than I would have bought just for cycling it is still more than adequate for the job. This pannier will also will house my head torch, sleeping bag and...ahem...a compressible pillow! I make no apology for this item as gone are the days when I will just roll up my sweaty clothes and make do - I am a middle age cyclist after all.

Right Rear Pannier
Various clothes (split into daytime cycling and evening camping/pubbing attire), a pair of lightweight trekking sandals, wash bag, wet wipes, small towel, toilet roll, small first aid kit, chamois cream, various plastic bags (multiple uses) and bike repair stuff including: a small foot pump and gauge, puncture repair kit, spare inner tube, cycling multi tool, electrical tape, cable ties, rubber gloves and chain lube.

Bar Bag
Notepad and pen, Nikon Coolpix 8400 camera with 4 Gb card, "Gorilla" pod, GPS, iPod/Sennheiser PMX680 sport headphones, Oakleys (if not wearing them), small sun cream, mobile, wallet and keys. On the top of the bag (in a waterproof sleeve) will be the current map. I may also have the Contour HD bullet cam in the bag but am not sure if I will take it yet. I am reluctant to wear a helmet all the time and would need to put this on to film 'on the go', the battery would need daily charging and the card would be full after 2-3 hrs recording with no option to download the data. Is it worth it? I can video with the Coolpix after all. I may just take the bullet cam, use it sparingly for sections I cannot do with the camera and when it is full it is full. Decisions, decisions!

I have decided to take mains chargers whereas I was hoping to be reliant on a solar charger. Tests on the solar charger were not good as even on a sunny day it took 8 hrs to charge the battery and this would only then just about fully charge the mobile/iPod or instead could only make very small inroads into the GPS battery. So I have decided to take 3 chargers for the phone, iPod and camera and will use these at cafes, pubs and the like en route. I had no problem doing similar with a laptop when I travelled before and none of these items require daily charging or a huge amount of 'mains' time.

The GPS (a SatMap Active 10) is a different beast entirely. The rechargeable battery I have for this is normally good enough for a several hrs moderate to heavy use when hill walking. I found though even in low power mode when cycling (minimal map viewing, low backlight, screen off after 30 secs, position update every 4 seconds instead of 1) I could not reliably expect it to last more than 2 days and so would need to charge it each evening. As I plan to camp/wildcamp this is not really doable and so have gone with the 3 alkalines per day option instead. Even when these will no longer power the GPS they are never completely drained even so I will then further use them for a small radio.

Cycling clothing
I will be wearing something along the lines of an orange or yellow breathable short sleeve top and, if cold, a long sleeve Merino wool top under it, a pair of padded lycra under shorts and a pair baggies over them, some breathable/waterproof socks, multi activity shoes, pair of fingerless cycling gloves, a microfibre buff on wrist to wipe the sweat which can double as a headband (God forbid) if I am really leaking.

A Cateye trip computer, 3 bottles/cages and a great little "dinger" with built in compass that came with the bike and is surprisingly useful. I will also have front and rear LEDs I don't plan to use. I will bungee the helmet on the rack and use it for any technical or high traffic sections.

Now I just need to decide on some new music to take. Any suggestions for good cycling tunes?