Category Archives: bicycle

Lethargy and other musings

Some days I’m just content to do very little. Reading, messing around on my iPad or computer or just day dreaming. This morning has been one of those times.
In my early mountaineering days (now over half a century away) we called it festering. Sitting in or out of the tent or bothy, chatting, reading or just absorbing things around us. Sometimes because of the snow, winds or rain, sometimes just too knackered to be bothered.

It’s nowadays a time to contemplate. Think over things that have been, cook up plans for the future that may or may not happen or just meander through my mind, hopefully the better bits of it!

It’s also sometimes good to look over the huge amount of photographs I’ve accumulated, some scanned in, others taken digitally. It’s always good for a giggle or a memory or a touch of sadness.

This afternoon I’ll be busy again. Our community cinema is on so I’ve been tweeting it and will go down to help set up in a wee while.

So where has it all got me? No idea, except for this blog!!

But here’s a few of my memories to invade your life with.
   
Yesterday, cycling below the snowline 

 

The sheep say hi, lined up for my inspection 
  
Near the top of the road

   
Started young! No beard either.


Only 16, just before the beard growth 

    
Winter mountaineering in the Cairngorms- 1970s

 
Soloing Mont Blanc

   
Blasting in blo-karts

  Festering in the French Alps

  
Trapezing on the Forth

 
Dame Rosy Glow – aren’t pantomimes wonderful (oh yes they are, oh no they’re not etc)

   
A wee rescue on the River Tay

 

In the Falls at the Linn of Tummel



   

Telemarking, Glenshee



 

Swiss Alps, Lagginhorn I think

   

Rescue duty, the chimneys were blown up last year

 Local winter cycling 
   

Climbing in Yosemite, a small route, only 600 feet high


  Festering in my bivvied bag on the glacier 

More adventures to come I hope, and lethargy!

Some Local Hills and so many stats – aghhhhhhhh!

 

Angels.png

After the Kippielaw extravaganza ride I was annoyed that I’d messed up sportscamming (?) it. So A couple of days later I went out to film a few local short step ascents. I’ve also discovered that you can map any footage to the Garmin GPS so I thought I’d combine the two to really mess with folks minds. And as for the music!!!

So a wee Christmassy fillum to waste a bit of time on.

Before that a wee greeting for all my virtual followers, I’ve had so much fun seeing your posts and reading and responding to your comments.

Have a great festivity time.

Alastair

The Greeting: http://www.electroniccottage.co.uk/XmasAnim2015.html

The Vid – part 1 (still working on part 2): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXoMPSd2pmE

Make Do and Mend

I wasn’t quite a war baby, but I wasn’t born long after the Second World War. My parents had obviously been through the hostilities and the rationing that involved and lasted for a 8 years more. So I learnt by their example to be fairly thrifty.

When I was younger, before outdoor clothing became trendy and the thing to wear, I used to make my own clothes including wetsuits, latex dry suits tops, over trousers, cagoulesc, summer & winter climbing trousers etc. I also made my own rucksack with clips used in convertible sportscar tops so I could just unclip the lid.

This has spilled over into my cycling. Recently I found myself mending some overshoes that had gone underneath. I had some Gortex and so sewed some new pieces into the overshoes. I bought some mudguards recently unfortunately I caught them on a fence and it broke off the rear section. I just drilled holes through and adapted the pieces to fit complete new ones. I’m really bad at checking things like tires and have won them right down through the tread at times. So for better or worse it looks like this early training has lasted through my life.

I also like browsing through charity shops for stuff at times.

My road bike was bought on EBay, and is now over 8 years old, comfortable with it’s Roubaix flex inserts, paddle bars etc, ideal for our roughish roads round here. So I’ve no intentions of changing it any time soon.

This attitude may be not too good at times, but it has served me well and I wonder if the emphasis on modern consumerism has gone too far these days, or am I turning into a grumpy old yin? Several of my older pals are similar to myself, maybe it’s also that we have the time as well?

But, it is good to have the skills to sew, mend and repair stuff surely? I never quite got the hang of knitting though!

   
I’m sure black thread would have been more appropriate?

 Looks like I’ll have to redo the taping!

  
The ‘Zertz’ inserts on the Roubaix that help absorb vibration.

Coos, Gravel, Wet Leaves, Fences, Needles and Glaur.

It was another Tuesday ride. We had gathered together outside The Smithy as usual. It was a wee bit blowy, but not too bad and a bit damp underwheel.

“Let’s go over the hills” one of our bright sparks suggested. Two of our number had to be back early, but would come up part of the way, so off we went.

It was wet on the roads and there had been a bit of a blow so it was soggy leaves as well. So taking it easy, especially on the downhills we gradually wended our way upwards.

After a punishing climb up, It was just stunning as ever on the tops with great views and the sheep behaving themselves. Though we were taking care as Ali had come a cropper a few weeks before on one of the steep descents near here, damaging himself badly when a woolly beast ran out in front of him.

Dodging the loose stones, gravel and puddles we made our past the Whiteadder reservoir with it’s short steep climb at the end, then on to the turn off, about 20 miles in. I once got here to find it blocked off as a car rally was being staged. No big deal for a motorist, but a bit of a way out for a cyclist.

We climbed up the road which deteriorated as we went, steeply (yet again), past the hairpin with more gravel, potholes, stones, puddles and glaur. Eventually we made it up to the top and into the forest. The road was a beautiful shade of brown, covered in wet pine needles from the surrounding trees. So cautiously we made our way down to start the relatively easy climb out of the next valley. We passed a few coos (cows) by the side of the road, then more a more till a big herd blocked the road. Peddling slowly Ali led us up to them, shouting and gesturing. Luckily they moved, mainly sauntering off to the side. Then up once more, this time through the Triffids (giant wind turbines) to the last big summit, through mud, cow pats and road works. I always love this section as it usually is deserted and remote, but not so much this day.

From the top it’s a glorious, fast descent, usually at well over 40 mph (65 mph). But not today, the road was wet, covered in mud and slime and just too dicy to contemplate going quickly. Then by the farm at the bottom a closed gate, which I had never even realised was there. Luckily we were creeping down because of the conditions under our wheels. After hoiking our bikes over the gate, more ups and downs, more glaur, more gravel, more potholes. A cyclocross bike might have been a better bet than a road bike.

Eventually we got down to Dunbar, a welcome coffee break with scones and meeting pals accidentally. Then away hame. Altogether an enjoyable ride despite (or because) of the conditions.

On a relevant tack, I never usually recommend stuff, but I’ve been using a chain lube called Squirt, which I’ve mentioned before. It performed wonderfully and despite the bike being plastered with muck at the end of the ride, the chain was clean. It also just needs a quick wipe occasionally, nothing more. It seems to be extending the chain life and makes the chain run so smooth. And I have nothing to do with the product at all, it just works for me.IMG_0685Up onto the Lammermuirs, the road ahead
IMG_0688Ali comes up, with lowland East Lothian spread out below
IMG_0689IMG_0692Johnny emerging from the climb
IMG_0693IMG_0694After Whiteadder the valley before the hill beyond, the Triffids await.
IMG_0695Another top, looking over the Scottish BordersIMG_0698A wee rest for a changeIMG_0700Into the forest and the pine needle road, easy does it!
IMG_0710The “Day of the Triffids” arrives
IMG_0711IMG_0712A glimpse of the sea, our coffee and scones await down there somewhere?
IMG_0713More glaur on what is normally a super fast descent. Torness, a nuclear power station is below usIMG_0716The farm gate I’ve never noticed before and more glaurIMG_0718Yes, muddy again? We had just come out of the hills top right

IMG_0719Dunbar, coffee and scones await

IMG_0720Made it!IMG_0722

Should you do this to a bike? Of course, a wee bit of water & all is OK!

Meanderings, Thanks, Diets and other stuff

So here we go again, haven’t posted for a while, just been ruminating on possible topics.

I’ve never set out to gain followers, just wanted to see how or if they accumulated blog, by blog. So I wanted to say a huge, huge thanks to all of you who are following, have commented and\or encouraged me. Also a big thanks to those who’ve enjoyed (?) my comments on their posts.

I’ve also learnt about other cultures, countries, customs, adventures etc. It’s been fun following folk from and to all over the place and the photos have been a delight. I’ve not met anyone for real yet, even though some are to to far away, but maybe sometime? I’m also surprised at how I have concern for people I haven’t met, when hurricanes hit the Phillipines I wonder how Chyrel from ‘Ride All the Way’ is doing & that she is OK. Same when I read others have had accidents or illnesses.

Now, one of my pals asked how I managed to ride so well, was there something special in my veggie diet? I replied I do have a special diet, it’s called The Hill Diet. We are lucky round here in my part of S.E. Scotland. If I go east I can cycle along by the North Sea, if I go north I can do some wee steep hills pass castles and follow the Firth of Forth. To the west I have a slightly more even ride as the glaciers of old carved the landscape east west. Finally head south and I’m into the hills over the Lammermuirs, a glorious upland landscape of ancient hills smoothed down full of sheep, heather, grouse, birds of prey and more plus, yes, lots of hills. So for my hill diet I tend to head south, it’s as simple as that!

And here’s one I climbed yesterday, just outside the village peaking at 18% – aye, a goodie, though short!


There’s also the joy of fellow cyclists, I’m lucky to have three local groups I bike with. One is a group of FOSSILs like me, we meet near the village and there’s a mostly compulsory coffee & scone/cake stop along the way, usually covering 40 miles plus, loverly. The other two are mixed groups on a Sunday and I alternate between them, I manage the ‘faster’ group with one and the slower group with the other as the faster riders head for the hills and are too like whippets for me & I feel I’m holding them up (in fact I know am!) So all in all good times. But I do a fair amount of solo riding, just loving being out and I find most of my faster times or PRs on segments are when I’m alone. It also means I can stop and take photos/ look at things without feeling I’m holding folk up again.

Tonight:



Then there’s advice, given and received. I’m fairly sceptical about all the guff I feel is discussed in cycling. For example I do not drink too much on rides under 40 miles, even when pushing hard, unless I’m thirsty which is not often. Yet almost all the advice is drink, drink, drink. And as for some of the ‘rules’, fashionistas etc. Just don’t get me started!

But the best advice for me to myself is to enjoy myself out there.

The weather, in typical British fashion is another influence. It is so changeable, here we are almost into November in Scotland and the shorts were on again. Maybe it will be the winter togs next week and time to get the skis prepped instead of the bike?

So there you are, or rather, there I am, just a couple of recent pics to leave you with as ever.
Enjoy yourselves.

Alastair

An update – as we assembled for our Sunday ride, one of the guys said “I read your blog yesterday”, so now I’ve met a follower – and only 5 miles away! So cheers Craig, long may you read & enjoy.

Also a wee treat for geeks when I manage to get it uploaded. I’ve done a video of one of the Sportives I did in September, but cannot get YouTube to accept it. So back to re-editing and trying again. It may be the music I made up is too like something else that’s in copyright, ah well back to the drawing board – or in this case Garageband.


  

Paddling for a purpose

A couple of weeks ago they demolished the chimneys and turbine hall on a nearby defunct power station at Cockenzie in East Lothian. A pal, his daughter & I paddled out to watch from the sea, take photos and video.

Finally I managed to get it on YouTube. The problem seems to have been using a Police track ‘Can’t Stand Loosing You’. Once I replaced it with a Randy Newman track, away it went. So duly posted: Cockenzie Chimneys Come Down. Look at around 25 seconds in, a strange figure appears from the smoke & dust.

    
Today was a strange ride. I was out for my usual Sunday ride, often about 40+ miles. As I neared home I realised it was just under 70 miles, it’s funny these days of longer rides, not at all intended. And it was so good: Didn’t mean to go this far!

So, there we go.

How much is too much, or too little?

Or is enough, enough?

I’m not very good at posting these days and I’ve been finding it hard to keep up with everyone’s posts. So what’s the solution, if any is required?

Skim reading is OK but then I have to go back and re-read things I know I have overlooked. I usually like pics in posts, but don’t wish to neglect the text. Just going by titles doesn’t always help much either. So I find myself binging on catchups, commenting on stuff that’s a bit out of date. Ah well.

As for my own posts, I like to act on ideas I have, rather than just feeling I have to churn out another post as I haven’t done one for ages. And I usually take a wee bit of time, either on or off the bike. Ah well again!

So just to finish a few pics to give a bit of lightness for the article from some recent rides.


Coming down from the hills & dodging sheep

Autumn leaves

Waiting for the flood?


Lovely local roads


Sun power?


Glorious shafts

  The Haddington Cycle Club head off from the Humbie Hub
Catchup time

  
Away from the rain

All together again

Time to Upgrade!

Yes!!

I’ve had enough.

More than enough!

So time to turn to The Catalogue yet again (More on “The Catalogue”) and there’s lots of choice.

Well, will it be the High Grade 1902 model?

Well, will it be the High Grade 1902 model?

Now, this looks the job, not too pricy at this real knock down ticket, and I can get an extended warranty too.

Or is the Royal Roadster the one for me?

Or is the Royal Roadster the one for me?

With a regal name it must be good and just look at those modern rod brakes, just the thing.

Looks so good at full spec

Looks so good at full spec

Once fully kitted out it would be just right. By keeping the illustration I would know at a glance what all the important parts are.

Mind you the Royal Worcester is a looker!

Mind you the Royal Worcester is a looker!

But then there’s this Worcester, another regal design. It’s also got a three year warranty so it MUST be better? It’s got best Shelby steel tubing to so maybe, just maybe?And I can get a trade in too.And I can get a trade in too.

The Imperial maybe for a refined chap like mesel'

The Imperial maybe for a refined chap like mesel’

Then I spot this one, pricy at over 11 guineas, but made to my own order. Can I afford to though, but surely Imperial most be way better than Royal? I’ll have to get my pipe out and ponder on this one.

Or am I still young enough for a racer?

Or am I still young enough for a racer?

Then I spot this, a pure thoroughbred, designed for the job. Bound to be not as comfortable though, can I take the pounding? But look at that front cog thing. It looks so impressive.

Or I could go the patriotic route for my good lady

Or I could go the patriotic route for my good lady

Oh dear the prices are going up, and with a four year warranty too – must be the best. I couldn’t afford one for each of the family though, so better delve a little more.

Some for the kids as well

Some for the kids as well

Now these may be the ones for the kids. They are also “exactly the same in construction, as juvenile cycles sold to the aristocracy” so can’t go wrong here.

Or maybe a tandem for togetherness?

Or maybe a tandem for togetherness?

Maybe my good lady and I would be better off on a tandem, prices are good too. And the fittings seem to be of a high quality too.

Should I ask them to fit the racquet carrier?

Should I ask them to fit the racquet carrier?


What about the golf clubs?

What about the golf clubs?

Well, I’m all of a quandary. So many bikes, so many options. What is a bloke to do? Think I’ll sleep on it and see what’s what in the morn.

Toodle Pip and Nighty Night all.

Little Things Mean a Lot?

The song says it.

There I was, just over half way through a 25 mile ride. I’d decided it was to be a hill day so up and away. As I rode through the lovely old village full of old red sandstone houses, tucked in a fold in the landscape, I changed gear for the climb up the main street, or so I thought.

Houses at Garvald just before the break

Houses at Garvald just before the break

The Inn at Garvald

The Inn at Garvald

Ping went the gears of my heart, sort of. The cable had broken, no warning, no slight tension in changing, no missed gears, nothing, just Ping. Well, it was going to be top gear home all the way, or rather a choice of two with a double front ring, though the lower one scraped a bit, so best to avoid it if possible.

Look - no gear change!

Look – no gear change!

At the end of the village the road ramp up for a short, sharp hill with the gradient going over 10%. No way was this cycleable by me. A quick unclip, dismount and trundle up to the top, hop on, clip in and away again. Then, just a wee bit of time to visualise a suitable route home before I reach the junction. OK, decision made, turn left and up, maintaining speed, calves feeling it already. imageTurn right and more up and a glorious sweeping top gear descent awaits, just as well as I have no other option. A little later on after a few ups and downs I remember the steep hill to come. Luckily there’s a big descent before it, a sweeping bend and then up. I hurtle down, checking there’s nowt coming, whoosh round the bend, stand up near the top and creep over the crest and then away – phew. Then it’s just undulating along beside the River Tyne, well pleased, only one walk – hurrah.

I get home, look out my spare gear cables – all too short. Naughty words quickly follow this discovery.

Next day the local bike shop beckons. It’s mostly a gentle downhill plus a following wind with only one short real hill so I arrive in reasonable order, with only slightly aching calves. Stop at the door, it’s looking absolutely not right. No bikes stacked outside, no John Muir metal sculpture to welcome me. It’s a Saturday, Colin never closes on a Saturday, he’s always there on a Saturday!!!! But not this one, there’s a notice on the door – closed till Wednesday, oh dear.

Colin's John Muir statue, outside his bike shop

Colin’s John Muir statue, outside his bike shop on an ‘open day’

So, back home, pushing that top gear against a wild wind and slight rise. So far it has been almost 25 miles pushing hard on that big gear. on the way back I call in on a pal but he’s out of cables as well. Once home I give up, I cannot face the hills and wind up to one of the other bike shops, plus it’s my Tuesday ride with the gang coming up, so I submit to the car journey there and back.  No problem, three cables and nipples bought, one for the bike, one for a spare and one for my pal. The cable quickly fitted, the gears run smooth again and all is set fair again, ah the joys? So that little thing, a wee broken cable certainly meant a lot!

And – where’s the team car when it’s needed?

A wee addendum, had a bit of bother getting the old bit of cable out, gear lever wouldn’t move up, eventually turned the bike upside down – result!

6 climbs and a few more

 When I wrote about 6 steep climbs round about here,  Jean (https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/) suggested that some photos would have enhanced the blog. At the same time I was trying out an app called footpath, which is great for working out routes for cycling. I decided that I would link them together in a cycle/ photo bonanza. So I managed it, though some of the photos are a bit dodgy as they were taken on the move with the camera slung around my neck.  The weather was ideal, warm enough for shorts & short sleeve top, cool enough to not become dehydrated easily. What a ride, some of my favourite climbs here, and when the gradient was less than 10% it was a real bonus. First of all the boring bits for some, the route & profile:

   Over 110 feet climbed for every mile

  Quite a few ups and downs?

   

 Hill no. 1: Kippielaw
The first hill, not even a mile away, this is short but with a real lurch into the sky at the end. The hill in the distance is Traprain Law with the remains of an Iron Age fort on the top, complete with hut circles and a magnificent view over the Firth of Forth, north up to the Highland and south to the lowland hills.

   
 Hill no. 2: Up into the Beil Estate

After a fabulous colonnade of yew trees you cycle past rhododendrons till another wee steep ramp leads up to the top. Just after this a deer stopped in the road and gazed at my approach for a while before it sauntered off into the woods 

 Then on and up another a couple of ascents before reaching Pitcox, another good climb (though not one of the chosen) past the water bottling plant. Pitcox is a tiny place, but a couple of 100 years ago it had a religious house where monks from the refectory in Melrose who had misbehaved were sent. 

 The climb up from Pitcox past Findlay’s Water

Then it was past the Witch’s Stone at Spott, which often has coins left on it. I tried to take a photo but had nudged the dial of the camera on to the wrong setting. Just before this a fox had sauntered across the road in front of me, my day for wildlife? 

 Hill no.3: Starvation Brae – a local test piece 

 Then came the climb out of Spott – Starvation Brae, not sure why it is called this though. This one is hard – gradually steepens, then has 3 steep bits to the top. A real heavy breathing one by the top.

Onwards and downwards and upwards and downwards . . . . . . . . 

   
Hill no. 4: The Brunt – east side

Then it was across the ford, luckily dry but the road is a mess, then up The Brunt, another climb leaving you puffing at the top. 

 One of my favourite sections, a gorgeous half mile through a wooded dell, dappled in the sunshine. Then came the big one, over a mile long with an average gradient of 9%+ and several steep ramps double that.

   
  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, the first ramp  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, looking up to the second steep ramp, climbing at 5-8% here
  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, a sight I saw a few times  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, getting near the summit
 Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, the cattle grid at the top usually a good descent now!Hurrah, a lovely swoop back down the other side to look forward to, but:

Roadworks slowed progress, looks like they are putting in a new track for the wind turbines.
   
Some climb? 

Then it was down for a while, this time slowed by gates. After the valley in the distance it would be another undulating climb back over the distant hills.  Up beside Whitadder reservoir dam

I was now on the section of the road that the Tour of Britain will come down in September. should be fun!  

Whitadder Reservoir, not too many cheering crowds this day.

 
  Another great section with lots of undulations over the moors, I would do this section a couple of times this trip. Many sheep, birds including oyster catchers some way from the sea and cows.
  Approaching Redstone Rigg  Hill no. 6: Redstone Rigg, another local test piece
So the last of the 6 hills loomed up. This is one spoken of in awe locally, though Elmscleugh is far harder, but being further away from Edinburgh is cycled less. I’ve already booked my place here for the Tour of Britain, fantastic views of the riders coming up from miles away, unfortunately it will probably be mobbed with other cycling fans.

Bog cotton and a butt for grouse shooting at the top of ‘The Rigg’   

The wonderful descent with Whiteadder Reservoir in the distance. I went down here at 46 mph, but on a good day have manage 55 so what will the Tour riders be doing? They will have to watch out on the cattle grid in the middle of the descent .
  Iron Age Green Castle Fort, with its 3 ring defence
So back down & up & down & up till home, passing a dead badger on the way. Well pleased and satisfied. And for those who still think Central Scotland is flat?