Category Archives: Cycling

Failure will become a Success

Saturday was fun. The cafe at Gifford closed a few months ago, but is starting to be renovated by a new owner. It was a real cyclist hub too. It will be called the Lanterne Rouge, which might be quite appropriate for me at times (for those who don’t know the association “The Lanterne Rouge“). It won’t open till May as they are totally redoing the place, but as the Gifford road race was on they were giving out coffee & cakes and raising money for the local hospice. The helpers and owner were lovely and the cakes superb. Hey had made a special energy bar/ flap jack which was wonderful. I had thought the racing was over, but when I came up the hill to Gifford, the motorbike cavalcade came down the road towards me, lights blazing, then the leaders shot past, followed by the 2nd group and then the peloton. They did a circuit and came past the cafe. I managed to munch and drink and headed off to the finish  to see then come blasting over the line – great.

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The marshals waiting for the next lap

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The breakaway comes through

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Back together the leader crosses the line

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Tired!!

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The pack comes through

Last year I decided to ride my birthday at least. I was 67 so planned a 67 mile route. One of my cycling buddies chummed me and we had a wonderful, but chilly day biking out to Stirling, getting the train back to Edinburgh and then cycling back home. The 67 miles turned, somehow magically, into 95. So a birthday ride+. Yesterday was another year on. Fortunately I don’t set the birthday ride to be on my birthday as the March weather here is fickle, to say the least.

This year my cracked rib has intervened as well. I’m back on the bike and slowly ramping up the miles again, though sore a wee bit, as it’s only a couple of weeks since the accident (“Only when I laugh” as the old joke goes).

So I cycled up to join the gang for the Sunday ride, ready to push the mileage if I was up to it. The first 35 miles were super, I was in shorts for the 2nd day running (and this is March in Scotland), just 2 layers on top, felt good & had excellent company. I took it relatively easy up the hills so as not to do too much energetic breathing and stopped in one of the towns to meet some folk, one of whom had an amazing looking tri bike. It was much heavier than I thought it would be too.

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Then down from the foothills and a fast cruise along the coast. Just Craig & I now, barrelling along together.

Then I realised that my 68 possible target wasn’t on that day. My chest was grumbling gently at me – there’s always another day sire!

So Craig pottered off, right on his target for the day, while I peeled off, heading for home. But 40+ miles was OK and proved I’m on the way to my birthday ride in the next couple of weeks.

My evening celebration was an a visit to Dunbar to see a lovely Science Festival Light Show projected on to the Town House, with the statue of John Muir (who was born here) being lit up as well, followed by an Italian meal – loverly.

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John Muir as a boy

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(2 days later) A few rides later into the hills & I’m ready for tomorrow. Forecast is good, no winds and not desperately cold. Wish me luck.

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A suspicious looking ‘Heavy’ horse

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It’s mucky in them thare hills!!

A wee Contretemps or not?

A lovely day for a ride? It was, went over my little local hill, my ‘personal challenge’, then was going to head east for. 20 – 25 mile loop. Coming back down to the main road you go under the by-pass road through a wide bridge that feels like a tunnel.

  
The route shown actually goes under the road, not over it.

I signalled that I was going to turn right and started to move out when the ‘Chelsea Tractor’ behind me pulled out and started overtaking. Muttering somewhat I pulled back in and waited till it was clear before signalling clearly again and moving out. Ahead of me the offending car pulled over to the left and signalled a left turn. As he/ she/ it swung to the left I slowed right down and moved to the centre of the road. I drew forward to get a clearer view before turning right, but went slightly over the white line ahead of me at the junction.

  

As I slowed (doing less than 4 mph) I saw this red car, cutting the corner towards me. I instinctively veered left away from it, but was caught by the wing mirror and flung to the ground. I felt a huge blow to my chest and lay there for a wee bit gasping for breath. Eventually I calmed down and started getting up. The bike was a mess, I think the back wheel had been run over and was certainly a curious shape. The front wheel was turning, but rubbing and the handlebars and levers twisted round, plus the a pain in my chest. Ah well!

Folk came running up and a woman from the car behind me kept saying “you were over the white line. Then an older lady, who it turned out had been driving the car that hit me, came back and was asking worriedly how I was. There were offers to run me home, but as it was just at the end of the village I told them I was OK to get myself back, loosened off the brakes and set off home, drama over.

The damage? A suspected broken rib, the back wheel needed rebuilding, the front wheel straightening, new handlebars and pride mending. And I’ll not be riding till things clear up a bit.

So, who’s to blame I keep getting asked, or did you ask for her insurance etc. Well I think it was a bit of fault on both sides, I was too far over or out, she was clipping the turn. Both of us should hopefully learn from it. Ah well again!!

  
May be a while before I’m up here again.

   
A happier ride the day before

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A sunset ride the day before

 

The Bad, the Good and the Don’t Understand

‘The Bad’: When I first started this, it felt so good. It was almost balmy at 6°C after -2°C for a wee while, down to 3 layers and beard not freezing. But it just hasn’t been so fine for the last few weeks and it’s been blowing a hooley for the last few days with storms Gertrude & Henry making themselves known and keeping me off the roads with violent winds. I missed the one quiet day in the middle as I’ve been doing the intros & lighting for our local pantomime, ‘Beauty and the Beast’. De-rigging the lights happened on the same day as the calm so ah well!

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Lighting the Pantomime Dame

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Doing my bit of introduction

Freezing weather with dicy roads, ice, snow, gravel, melt water, mud etc. I think you’ll get the idea.

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Roads a bit uneven!!!

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Snowy hills to be skied up later, roads damp here but not icy

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The Ninja outfit

New brake blocks first, pedal bearing collapsed, back wheel bearings went, replaced chain but one of the rivets came adrift and the chain plate bent back on itself causing a sudden halt but all is sort of back to peace and serenity again. Colin of Belhaven Bikes was superb, went into the shop to see about getting the wheel bearings replaced and he did it just about on the spot, brilliant service. The rest I did myself.

‘The Good’ is I have very much enjoyed my rides recently despite the conditions plus the snow allowed me to get out on skis locally for a couple of hours up in the hills.

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Skiing up – conditions better than it looks

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Wonderful stuff snow.

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Looking towards home, variable under ski

Even this wasn’t without a wee bit of grief though. First of all my collapsible poles decided to collapse when they shouldn’t (new ones have now arrived), then one of the skins on the skis used for climbing uphill decided that the glue holding it on to the ski was a bit old and parted ways a few times. More curses of an inventive nature. Just as well no one else was on the hill with me!! Had a good run down, though the snow was very variable with deep banks of soft stuff, delightful nevee and some solid ice to make life interesting! It was gorgeous scooting along on the lower stretch in the sun with fabby views and the coos keeping their distance.

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After the gate, tractor tracks

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Ready for gliding down

Now the ‘Don’t Understand’ part. Americans on guns, I just  don’t get it! In Britain we have some of the strictest gun laws in the world. Seems to work on some level as we also have some of the lowest gun crime/ murder rate in the world and the majority of our police are not armed. The majority of murders in the USA according to the FBI are by someone know to the victim. Why does an amendment made in the time of flintlock rifles need to apply to a modern situation? What need does a citizen have of semi automatic or worse weapons? Maybe the right to bear arms should apply only to flintlocks? Though it’s probably way too late for that now. I also don’t understand how the American Rifle Association with only just over 3 million members can seem, from my perspective, to dictate to the whole huge population of the States.IMG_3515

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Figures from the FBI, looks like you’re more likely to be murdered by family or someone you know.

Now I don’t think I want answers to these thoughts, it’s just a highlight of how different two nations can be. Our UK world history has been pretty horrific at times, but I feel we seem to have a better balance these days on the whole. I have travelled in various places around the world and I must admit the country that gave me the most unease was America.

Just don’t get me started on Trump though!

Enough of philosophising, I maybe should have just kept to the biking?

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Our local river in flood, though not too bad this time

 

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The storms bring good sunsets, but turn 90º and it’s all black clouds

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Skis showing the skins attached to the bottom of the skis for climbing up snow slopes plus the ‘freeheel’ bindings. Very marginal snow conditions here though!

Wet, dry, wet, wind, wind, wind, Portugal and still learning

What a turbulent December it has been. The weather has been all over the place. Cycling in negative temperatures, then next day over 12°C. Cruising along on dry roads to be followed by splashing carefully avoiding potholes hidden in flooded byways. All this to be repeated from one day to the next. Makes for interesting bicycling.

Then there’s the wind, today is howling from the south,  two days ago from the south east, but mostly from the south west with occasional notherly blasts just to round things off. Ah the great Scottish climate!December0

The snow arrived locally at the end of November, disappeared for a wee bit then dusted the hills again for a while before the temperatures rose again. On the occasional day it has cleared enough to see the Southern Cairngorms way up north, they seem to have more than a dusting of the white stuff, but the thought of being out in the mountains on skis in this weather is frightening, or seriously not to be contemplated at least. And the snow is forecast for here again tomorrow – ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’!

But, in spite, or maybe because of it all I have managed to rack up the miles, dodging the wild winds behind hedges or hills, choosing the weather window carefully, looking out the lights for a bit of night cycling, meeting up with other daft minded biking companions and other such strategies.

And it’s been so enjoyable, that amazing clarity when the rain clears, the sense of adventure in familiar territory, that joint feeling of accomplishment shared with others, and the craic over coffee & scones halfway through a ride.

Yippee, bring it on!

Thomas Metcalfe found my blog recently, so welcome to him and all the rest of you. Thomas runs a cycling business in the Algarve in Portugal and was really good to me in the Spring. My sister has a significant birthday. We’ll be meeting up there again in the early summer, so I better get my bike booking firmed up. What a transformation it will be from the Scottish winter. I’m not too good with the heat, but loved the smells and sights in the back roads of the Algarve -looking forward to renewing my acquaintance, though not so much the busier main roads. Time to look out some decent maps for the trip as well:

https://fossilcycle.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/portugal-and-hills-hills-hills/

https://www.swiftmomentumsports.com

The other news is that I’m just about finished with my video of the local mini hills part 2, with some odd music, mucky roads and dodgy fords so maybe I’ll get it out before the year end.

You’re never too old to learn? Well I certainly hope so! Over the year I’ve been doing some online short (6 week) courses with Future Learn – https://www.futurelearn.com. I have found the courses to be superb and they are free. So far I’ve taken the following courses:

Introduction to Forensic Science, Web Science: How the web is changing, Kitchen Chemistry (too basic for me though), Explore Filmmaking, Digital Storytelling. I’ve signed up for two more – Explore Animation and Visual Effects for Guerrilla Filmmakers.

The courses are designed by Universities or the National Film & Television School, the standards are very high and the online discussions with other students excellent, with good advice or positive critical response. The range of courses is very broad, so have a look you might find a new interest: https://www.futurelearn.com

So anyway, enough rambling – have a good New Year, and a few recent local photos to finish.

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Target, Ice & Joy

Well made it. Since I started cycling in earnest, when I retired, my annual mileage has gradually increased. This year, early on, I decided I’d try for 6,000 miles. The other day I made it. The average temperature for the ride was down to -2º. There was ice on and beside the road with the field covered in hoar but we did over 50 miles though we had to stop early on for coffee, scones & a warmup. It was a weird day of temperature inversions. The higher we climbed out of the valleys the warmer it became, followed by descent into the chill zone again.

I also found I had ascended over 110,000 metres during the year, over 12 1/2 Everests – makes me tired just to think about it!!

Not long after I passed my goal we stopped so I could frolic with the angels.

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Frolicking with the angels

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A satisfied character?

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The family shield

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Inscription part 1

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Inscription part 2

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Inscription part 3

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Inscription part 4

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Below the angel

Once in a while

Every so often I manage a photo that satisfies me. Technically I’m sure this is wrong on so many counts. Taken into the sun, hazy, blotchy etc. But I was pleased with it.

This is on Sunday’s ride, billed as ‘The Kippielaw Extravaganza’, we all met from various localities, climbed a few of the wee steep ascents and after 25 miles landed up here at Kippielaw (law is the Scots word for a hill). I was trying to get my sportscam working, was delayed, looked up and grabbed my old camera slung around my neck.

So glad I did.

Why I don’t upgrade, a target plus winter is here!

I like old, worn-in stuff, though it is pleasant to get new gear, usually out of necessity. The same applies to my bike. I got it 2nd hand off eBay after much research several years back. It’s a Specialized Roubaix compact, that has undergone a few transformations since I got it.

Why the Roubaix? Comfort!

For those who don’t know it was designed for rough, cobbled road sections in France & Belgium. We have rough, though only a tiny, tiny minute cobbled bit locally. They designed the geometry to be forgiving, put ‘Zetrz’ inserts in the frame and seatpost and gel wrapping on the bars, all to dampen vibration. And it does. As we fly down roads locally I can hear the other bikes clatter and chatter, while mine appears to me to run quieter. The rest complain of jarred arms, while I try not to appear too smug at my comfort.IMG_3433

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The other addition to comfort has been my Brookes Cambrian saddle. It was comfortable for me from the moment I sat on it, and has now done quite a bit of mileage, still a delight to use – I usually forget about it, which must be good?IMG_3432

During this time others have got upgrades, lighter, flashier bikes and delight in them. That’s great, but do I need to climb hills 10 seconds faster? Do I need to be more aerodynamic to gain another 24.34567 seconds advantage? And do I need to up my fashionista cred? I think not!

But, onto my target – I’ve been increasing my mileage year on year, so I made up a target for the year, and I’m now just over 120 99 miles from it. It’s a wee bit hilly round these here parts so I’ve also racked up a bit of height climbed as well. All I have to do now is to hope that December doesn’t become intolerable with the weather, though it should OK if it carries on as it is. And the goal I’m aiming for – you’ll just have to wait and see.

So on to the final bit, Winter has most definitely arrived. A storm is raging outside, though I’m toasty enough inside. The snow on the hills has come and gone and come and gone and come again. It has been raining, flooding, dry, snowing, sun shining, cold, warm, freezing, blowing hard, still etc. So a typical Scottish time of year then, but still cycleable as long as I’m happed up well, though even the shorts have been on at times. Most of all it is absolutely not boring!

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Snow just visible in the far hills - the Lammermuirs

Snow just visible in the far hills – the Lammermuirs

Took 4 tubes to sort this one - 1 faulty valve, 1 blow out, 1 faulty and it was cold & windy of course

Took 4 tubes to sort this one – 1 faulty valve, 1 blow out, 1 faulty crease with a hole and it was cold & windy of course, Kevin not a happy bunny!

Taken today - another day & night of rain, but warmer

Taken today – another day & night of rain, but warmer

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
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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

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

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.