Category Archives: Cycling

It seemed a good idea at the time?

My niece decided to do a challenge – the Dunwich Dynamo. This is a 110 mile ride with a difference. You set off from London at 8 pm and ride through the night to arrive at Dunwich at dawn.
I suggested that it would be a good idea if my nephew & I joined in and we all started together.
The weather had been very hot down south, but I managed to meet up with nieces, nephew, partners and children which was magic.
On the evening we set off from central London. The huge Pride march was on so the road was packed with folk we had to wend our way round on our way to the start.

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Pride comes through Piccadilly Circus

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Meeting up at London Fields

 

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The titanic trio?

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Some of the multitude of cyclists

This is the most laid back event I’ve been to. Everyone turns up on the park (maybe 3,500 or more of us). There’s no entry fee.
When they’re ready folk move off, and we stream off down the road.
At first we all stayed together, with the pace being very, very low with a lot of stops.
Finally we were clear of the city and things picked up.
My niece Rudy had not done as much as nephew, so after 20 or so miles we left her with her pal and scooted off. As the pace increased we found several groups to work with and sped off towards the night.
As usual we waited for each other when separated till at 60 miles in, not long after dark and after I’d been whizzing down a hill, I waited at the bottom for Robert. No sign of him. I waited for a while, no show. I cycled back a bit – nothing! So I pulled out my phone – no service. After a long wait with masses of cyclists passing I decided he must have passed me and cycled on, scanning those who had stopped at food stops etc. No sign, so I carried on thinking I might catch him. I didn’t.
I kept checking the phone but still no service.

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No sign of Rob

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Through the night

I carried on to Dunwich through the night. The night ride was a bit weird. I read later that they reckoned over 3,500 cyclists had taken part. As we all rode through the dark there was a long snaking line of red lights, some still, some flashing. When we met a hill the distant lights disappeared, then reappeared over to the horizon, creating a hypnotic effect. Some bikes had multi coloured strings of lights and others sound systems, altogether very strange. Folk were on folding bikes, racing bikes, city bikes, tandems and elliptigos (a sort of stand up on platforms and push to propel the wheels).
A few miles out from Dunwich, as the sun rose, the mist descended in a layer over the fields and the temperature plummeted. So another couple of layers and on to the beach and the finish to arrive in time for the sunrise.

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Sunrise

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I had a bite and some coffee, dozed for a bit and went out to watch the folk swimming (brrrrrr!), with some skinny dipping.

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Early arrivals

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The early arrivals

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Rob flakes out

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Robert arrived a couple of hours later and Rudy about four hours after him. We had a wee doze on the beach, then caught the coach back to London, while the bikes traveled back by lorry.
As we set off from the drop down point, something immediately felt no right. A flat tyre! So after a quick replacement tube we set off back. The end of a memorable journey with over 120 miles under the wheels.

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Restocking

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And what happened with Rob & I missing each other? Looking at the Strava fly-by later we realised we had been about 100 metres apart, both stopped. He had overtaken me on the hill and in the dark I hadn’t realised. By the time I continued on slowly he had gone to the loo, so with all the throng there was no chance of spotting his bike.
And my phone? Turned out the SIM card wasn’t connecting properly (maybe the damp?). This has happened once before a few years ago. I took it out, cleaned it, popped it back in and it’s been working fine ever since!
Was it worth doing? – most definitely YES!
Would I do it again? – most probably no, for me much better to cycle in daylight with more to see and away from the busy south.

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Quiet and Tears

Been involved in a lot locally recently.

We’ve had an exhibition of a local artist’s work Robert Noble, who died 100 years ago and is buried in the church yard. He deserves to be much better known. I’ve been helping in compiling slide shows and creating a large introduction board for the show and exhibition. The exhibition seems to be popular, and in the process there have been many paintings that have been discovered. I’ve managed to get to the exhibition a couple of times and it is lovely. Hopefully I’ll get back again before it ends.

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Robert Noble Exhibition – information

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Robert Noble Exhibition

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Another more serious event was our Drama Group’s moving production of “The Women of Lockerbie” by an American playwright Deborah Breevort. It tells the story seven years after the terrorist bombing of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie. The women of the village tried to stop the clothes and artefacts of the victims from being destroyed so they could wash and return them to the families. They had been kept for that long as forensic evidence. The play is unusual as it is done like a Greek tragedy, with a chorus of women. I was in charge of the lighting for the show and on the last night we had a standing ovation, with many of the audience visibly moved to tears. It was a privilege to be part of it all.

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Women of Lockerbie – set

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Women of Lockerbie – the chorus

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Women of Lockerbie – confrontation

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Women of Lockerbie – the release

The cycling recently has been wonderful, though I find myself full of tears for a different reason. I need to wear specs so cannot wear sports glasses, so I find that at speed my eyes water a great deal. When I get back my eyes are slightly crusted with salt, which isn’t too good. I’ve thought about various solutions – fur fabric round the sides & tops of my specs (may look slightly weird or Groucho Marx like), a visor, safety over specs etc. but haven’t come to any conclusion yet. But I am glad my tear ducts still work well. I’ve been racking up the miles and height this year and enjoying climbing the hills on the bike locally so much. One of the recent highlights was a 52 mile ride with over 6,000 feet of climbing after which I still felt great. I’m gearing up nicely for a much longer overnighter in just over a month’s time.

But there have been other moments too. The other week I had a time when I was going quickly with the wind behind. I reached that magic moment when, for just a wee while, I was going the same speed as the wind. Sitting in this bubble of air everything went quiet. No wind noise, no traffic noise, the hum of the pedals almost muted and smooth tarmac with the tyres smoothly rolling along. To me, on the rare occasions when all this comes together, it just seems a form of Nirvana – the soul seems at rest. As usual, a brief moment and then it’s away. Ah well, here’s to the next time.

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A steep one up ahead

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One of the many hills and a hairpin

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Sheep lie in the road up ahead

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Bog cotton on the tops

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A rare greyish day

Looks like our good weather is going to continue for a while yet, off and on, so it seems the legs will continue getting an airing.

Paparazzi

Just a few weeks back I was out on the Haddington Cycle Club ride. One of the magazines, Cycling Weekly, came out to join us, to do an article on the club. We gathered in the square, next to the fountain with the statue of Samson on a pillar. I had to borrow a club vest as I didn’t have any club kit. We had all been asked to put on a show & turn up. Over 30 of us gathered.

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The Gathering – Haddington

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Andy gets his first shots

Powerbar, who sponsor the shoot, had a lass handing out bars and gels. I took the former, but passed on the second. We were given instructions, such as “ignore the camera for a ‘realistic’ shot” etc. and split into two groups.

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Leaving Haddington

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Passing Berwick Law

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Trevor joins the gang

It was a bit chilly and cloudy at the start but gradually improved through the day. I took my camera with me and at one point pushed ahead a little to take a shot of the gang approaching. Unfortunately I hadn’t seen the cameraman, Andy, up ahead and was ushered back into the fold for a photo up.

As we headed up the coast towards the hills the sun made an appearance. Trevor, the journalist, rode with each of us gathering info for the article. He was impressed by the route and the countryside and said he’d be back in East Lothian some time to ride for himself.

We reached the cafe up in the hills, the Lanterne Rouge, resplendent in its Bianchi blue. The staff were brilliant managing to serve us all reasonably promptly, despite the numbers. As expected, there was loads of chat and Andy was busy circling round, camera at the ready. We all had to pose for a mug shot, complete with our names on paper napkins for later identification.IMG_4083IMG_4084IMG_4085

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Andy at work in ‘The Lanterne Rouge’

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Leaving ‘The Lanterne Rouge’ and Gifford

Finally we left the cafe and sauntered, sort of, back to Haddington for a farewell to the team of two. We now await the publication, which is due in early June.

I then rode on to enjoy a ride of 70+ miles in all, great fun! When the article was published, there I was – a white bearded fossil talking about his plans for a world record attempt, when (and if) he reaches his centenary – time will tell!!

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Near the end of the ride, rough-roading it

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Ducks in Tyne Bay, sifting mud

This was going to be it, but I never got round to publishing. Then a couple of weeks later – out went the call again.

This time Scottish cycling wanted some publicity shots for the Tour of Britain, coming through Haddington then up to a King of the Mountain climb nearby at Redstone Rigg. This time it was more static, with us posing & riding around by the river. Quite a giggle, but when the photos came out I was nicely hidden behind everyone! So much for my 15 minutes of fame!

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Posing for club photo

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The race is on

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Swollen head?

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Official Scottish Cycling car

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Official Tour of Britain car

I’ve signed up to be a marshal for the Redstone Rigg section of the Tour of Britain this year. Up there on Sunday. Team Skye caught me in a shot there last time so maybe we’ll have to fight the photographers off this year, who knows?

Winter throws it all at you

It’s been quite a winter here so far. Temperatures have been bouncing around all over the place, -2°c one day +11°C the next. It’s also been blowing a hooley one day and calm as can be the next. So what has that meant for cycling? Basically unless it is icy, just get happed up and out the door, then turn the pedals.

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Sunset ride and on with the snow, though near home

It helps that it is so gorgeous round here, wether it be the waves with white horses pounding on the sea in the bays, the farmers going about their business in the fields or the dusting of snow on the hills.

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Rainbows near home

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Up in the hills

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One of the ‘interesting’ roads up high

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Below the hills with sunset approaching

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Another dodgy local road

We had a gale recently with cold sleet lower down. I had previously got out my skis for a failed cross country attempt up in the Lammermuir hills. This time I was lucky. I got up to the start before the reservoir and put on my skis beside the car, then away. Conditions were amazing considering there had been no snow at all two days before. Hardly any wind, deep blue sky and not too cold. I took a fun route up, the wax on my skis just gripping enough to get me up the first slopes. I then came across the wee feeder dam with its water channel leading off. Enough snow to pop along it for a mile or so. As I skied gently along the grouse were calling, making that sound like small motorbikes. I skied round the reservoir then fitted the skins for the steeper ascent to the tops. The snow was slightly crusted but I was soon up above the valleys, only breaking through the crust occasionally. It was glorious up high, calm, views for miles and white all round the horizon. A day to dream about? I only saw two folk out and passed only one, pausing for a wee chat. The descent was ‘interesting’, a few quick turns, but with a mixture of heather end breakable crust it was mainly a stop, a kick turn of my freeheel skis and a scoot off again on a long travers. I somehow managed to ski down, with the occasional slow speed tumble. Just a wee bit along from the car I had to unclip as the patchy snow lower down had decided it was time to melt.

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Hare tracks near the start

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Collecting water for the reservoir

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The viaduct just waiting to be skied

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Not too much snow low down

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Getting higher, with Hopes reservoir below

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A distant wind farm – Crystal Rigg

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Looking back at my ski tracks

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At the summit for today

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I came down the snowy bit in the sun, snow had melted now lower down

Next day, another storm and almost all the snow had disappeared. Sometimes you just have to grasp the opportunity!

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Up in the Lammermuirs again, 2 days after skiing, where’s the snow?

A couple of days later we were up over the hills again, this time on our bikes. It was blowing hard again, but we dug in and ploughed our way up Humbie for coffee and scones. Then with the wind behind us Terry & I peeled off to climb over the Rigg – a locally renowned section. We knew we would see plenty of folk as an audax was on and going that way. After scooting fast along the back roads, pushed by the winds, we came across bunches of cyclists heading upwards. We joined them and pottered slowly up. On the steepest section, (17°), I was hit by a ferocious gust and stopped dead with a quick dismount. I was fairly puggled anyway from fighting the wind uphill, so rested for a bit to regain my breath, once there was a slight lessening I mounted again and carried on to the top. The descent was fabulous, whizzing down at 45 mph. On the way we had met other friends so we pottered along, more or less together , chatting away. So a good 65 mile ride, not bad for February?

How do I keep warm on these cold days? Plenty of layers. Above 2 or 3°, 3 layers on top, double fleece gloves with oversize cycle gloves on top, buff and head cap too. Breathable waterproof socks over solid soled cycling shoes with no vents and bright pink neoprene overshoes. No real fancy expensive clothing, just stuff that does the job for me. If it gets below -2º another layer on top, winter cycling shoes and a ninja style neoprene face mask and bright yellow, horrible to us mitts. The final tip is to put shoes, socks and gloves on the radiator to warm up well before I go out. Works a treat and makes all the difference to me. I can cycle easily for 4-5 hours if I need to, and my circulation is rubbish!

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November 2016 – A rare pic of me, dressed for winter

Lastly a treat coming up. I’ve been looking at a newer bike as mine is now 8 years old. The new Specialized Roubaix Expert is looking just the bike for me, so I’ve been enquiring after deals – I’ll let you all now how it goes.

On a final note, there was a march through Edinburgh expressing our distaste and fear of Trump’s actions, as America affects us all. We joined in and it was good to see the home made posters appearing.img_8599img_3541img_3554And a wee antidote to politics from my ride today (2nd March)

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Snowdrops in the woods at a ‘comfort’ break

Lang Time Away

It’s been quite a while since I posted. An event happened that has thrown me for a while. I’ve also been away to weddings, visits, swimming with newts, cycling etc.

The event that upset me was the death of a former colleague and sometime partner in skiing, mountaineering, climbing, canoeing etc. over the years.

He fell off a descending a 4,000 metre peak in the Alps, which I had also climbed some years back.  He was a well respected mountaineer, known over the world and was usually a very safe pair of hands in the hills. We taught Outdoor Education in similar schools in Edinburgh in areas of multiple deprivation so had much in common in our outlook on life and education.

His commemoration was packed, with folk outside, me included, listening on a loudspeaker relay.  It was very, very moving.

There was an irony which he would have loved. Des was a keen cyclist and the family had asked for a cortège to accompany him on his final journey. About 40 of us gathered at the undertakers, along with a police escort. The wickerwork coffin was to be carried on a cycle tandem with a side car type arrangement. When it was placed on top the tyre was flat. The undertakers didn’t have a pump. They asked us for one and out of all of us only two of us had one. As the undertakers finished pumping up the tyre, one of Edinburgh’s tourist buses stopped opposite with the banner Majestic Tours on the side. All in all a real send-off which Des would have really chuckled at.

I was very much affected by his death and miss seeing his posts of adventures round the world, online banter and very occasional meetings.

Life goes on – I think I’m getting to the age where folk will pass away more often but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Coming up at the weekend is the Tour of Tweeddale sportive. This is a lovely, laid back event in the Scottish Borders which I’ve taken part in for the last 5 years. The long route, which I’m doing is just over 100 miles this year, the forecast so far is reasonable, there are some some good hills and I’ll be together with some good companions. It looks like the usual superb day out, if a longish one.

Finally, as usual, some recent pics from our part of the country.

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Harvest time around the village

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The London train passes the former station

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Up in the hills, the coos & sheep

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One of our rougher hill roads, this is one of the better sections

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Up high in the Scottish Borders

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After the deluge – heading for Sunny Dunny (Dunbar)

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A wee coo at peace with the world, ignoring the cyclist passing

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On a local walk

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Fa’side Castle, a great sight on a ride

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Mending our old bridge, been there several hundred years already

Fast (for me) riding, Portugal and back again

I’m not usually a quick rider, except downhill, but one evening just under a month ago, I just felt great and pushed up the heart rate.

It was misty but I kept pushing those pedals and just whistled along. Just over 25 miles and with 1000 feet of climbing  and lots of twists, turns and road junctions I managed just over 17 mph with an average heart rate of 145 bpm.

So, well chuffed and I felt good at the end.

But enough of stats!

Four days later I was in Portugal. I had arranged bike hire with from the same hirer I had used last year. There was a bit of a hitch that time, and another this time. The hirer had not read my email properly with my change of mobile number, so at the prearranged time at 9 am, no call, no bike. I managed to finally get in touch and the bike eventually got to me at 3 pm. Being from northern climes it was still way too hot to contemplate going out. Later that evening the temperature had cooled down a bit and it was time to go. A short 15 mile ride, with temperature averaging 23º. I went up into the local town of Alvor.

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Trying to get up the High Street, Alvor

I managed to get a bit(?) mislaid, but landed up down at the sea front.

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Alvor – at the lagoon

I decided to head back along the boardwalk, an interesting choice rattling and bumping along on 23mm tyres, so a wee bit of an adventure for several miles.

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The boardwalk

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Under the boardwalk, still a bit of a way to the cliffs

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Rock Coves, Prianhia

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Beaches at Prianhia

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Algarve sunset

I tootled around, on the back roads as much as I could, doing around 30 miles a day for the next 7 days. It was my sister’s 70th and the family had gathered to celebrate so I could only get out early in the morning. Reasonably cool first thing but the temperatures rose later in the morning, reaching 33º on my last ride.

The riding was very varied, the main roads, when I couldn’t avoid them, were busy but the drivers were mostly good though there were one or two hairy moments. The country roads were brilliant, mostly well surfaced with a couple of exceptions. Down by the coast it was very dry & dusty, quite a parched landscape. In the foothills there were orange groves then higher up eucalyptus plantations and some native woodlands, much cooler to cycle through out of the blaze of the sun.

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A colourful water tower, well lit at night

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Mont Fóia creating its own weather

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I manage to get mislaid in Portamao, my track looking like a heap of spaghetti, but the next day I managed to thread my way through more successfully.

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Portimao

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Portimao marina

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Them be pirates, argh

The ride to Silves was a bit hurried, but some of the wee hills on the route were good fun, despite problems with the lower gears. I adjusted them later and all was OK after that.

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Up above Silves

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Silver castle and cathedral

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The white bridge at Silves

The last day of cycling  was the best. Up to the top of the highest hill in the Algarve, Mont Fóia. I had been up here last year and was looking forward to renewing the acquaintance. The summit is at 902 metres (2,959 ft) and you climb up from the sea to the top, with little respite. The time before it was happed (shrouded) in mist and I didn’t see much. This time it was clear, but that meant hot, hot, hot by the time I got up there. The main climb of over 2,500 feet  is 12.5 miles long at an average gradient of 4% average, but with steep ramps up to 14%. The views got better and better as I climbed, with Storks & their young perched on telegraph poles, snakes roadkill beneath my tyres but very few riders, mainly folk going to work or shopping on their ‘sit up and beg’ bikes.

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One of the many storks, with young

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Snake road kill

So I climbed to Monchique, the village below the mountain. I didn’t stop there but carried on up the final 4.5 mile summit climb. It had steepened up too. Then I heard a puffing sound & a creaking gradually getting nearer. It was a young English guy on a slightly battered mountain bike. We eventually seemed to be going at a similar speed so teamed up and worked our way up the hill, mainly into the wind. At the top the view was spectacular in every direction, apart from the mess of masts and military establishments on the summit as well as a grotty looking cafe.

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A well earned summit rest

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My companion up the final slopes

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South to the Atlantic

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Military occupation of Mont Fóia

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Coming down off Mont Fóia looking north

My companion on the last bit of the climb had descended before me, so after a wee break for water and a bite it was time to go. Except for a brief time in Monchique I didn’t go under 20 mph all the way down, reaching almost 40 mph at one point. It was so exhilarating. By the time I reached Portamao the temperature had rocketed and the traffic increased so I made my way circumspectly back to base. An excellent 47 miles of riding with just that short break up high.

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The road to Mont Fóia (kms)

So a good 8 days of riding, despite the unwelcome (for me) heat.

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I thought this tree was wonderful

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Sunset by the sea

After much merriment, good company, food and drink it was back home to 10º average for the next ride, but it was welcome. At least I could dress up for it and not have to smother myself with factor 50 and be laden with water bottles. The next biggish ride was a 60 miler down into the Scottish borders. Still coldish, and it totally poured down at Duns, but warmed up a tiny bit on the way back. A strange thing happened, the Garmin stopped recording the height gain, while still totting up the mileage. At the end of the ride my Garmin had read just over 4,000 feet of ascent while the other saw over 5,400. One of my pals said he had read that there’s a wee hole in the bottom of the Garmin that allows the barometer to sense the pressure. When it is such wet weather this can block and stops the sensor from registering the height properly. Sure enough, when I got home & took the cover off a stream of water poured out from it – problem solved. Strava kindly corrected the data for me at the click of a button and it went up to over 5,400. My Garmin has been fine since.

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Back home to the mist & murk

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A wet Duns – Statue commemorating Wojtek the bear https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wojtek_(bear)

Since then it has warmed up to a reasonable 16º C so shorts again and some varied riding, with a 50 miler two days ago with the older yoofs retiree gang.

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Our local volcanic hill, Traprain Law (Law is Scots for hill)

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Faside Castle, yet another one visited by Mary Queen of Scots

And I thought that I wrote I would hold back on the stats!! I hope the pics make up for it!

The 30 minute job and smelly me

The cranks felt like they had a bit of a clunk on the downstroke, just not quite right. Had a check, yes the bottom bracket was on the way out. No problem- order a new one, undo the cranks, then unscrew the old one, reassemble with the new one and go, go, go.
That was the theory anyway.

So waited for the order to arrive, meantime hoping the old one wouldn’t disintegrate. It didn’t. Next free day, down to work. Out with the allen keys, pop off the first crank. Unscrew the second, but no go, bit more force – still no, gentle taps with soft mallet. Then !?{}#%!#%{[}¥, the allen key was just turning round. So off to Chris at the garage, an amazing cyclist, after messing around with various cludges a nicely hammered in tork did the trick. Back home, screw out one side of the bottom bracket, then screw out the other – oh no, more !?{}#%!#%{[}¥. The whole casing, with the bottom bracket part firmly inside, came away from the frame. Not good, to say the least!

So, tried to unscrew it, no go. Needed a bit more oomph. Time to phone a friend. Eventually got hold of pal Gus, popped over and with a mole wrench, bench vice and metre long metal pipe somehow got the thing apart, without damaging the casing.

Back home, lots of reassembling with adhesive and grease, each in the right areas and wait till morning to see if it all worked. Unfortunately the floating screw holding the cable guides in place had gone as well, so a bit more adhesive there as well.

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Underneath my poor muddy bike, showing the relevant bits

So wheeled the bike out for riding with the team, no problem. Smooth again, just have to check that everything stays firm. So that 30 minute job, which took 3 hours seems to have done the trick.

Next job, cassette and chain – now that should only take me . . . . . . . ?

Now for the smelly bit. Riding along yesterday was lovely as ever. Past the bluebell woods with a good wind pushing me on.

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Bluebell woods with late daffodils clinging on

A newly surfaced road up in the nearby foothills was an absolute joy. Then a bit later on going past Frizells Wood I smelt a strong odour. I’m usually pretty good at keeping clean and using antioderant, but this was pervasive. Then it hit me, the wild garlic flowers were out with their pungent scent, not altogether unpleasant. By the way, who was Frizell? No idea, and I haven’t been able to find out.

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Wild garlic (ramsons), pretty but pungent

ps. Chain broke at the end of a ride today, luckily near the top of the hill beside the village. New chain & cassette went on a treat.

And a final recent photo

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The Flying Scotsman steams through the village past the old station on its way to Edinburgh