Category Archives: effort

Funny old Spring and bum cream

It’s been a pretty weird Spring this year, hot, cold, windy, still, rain, sun, snow. As I tap the rain is pelting down outside, but the sun is due late on today.

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Hairy gorse out for Spring

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Tulips in the sun

I was cycling up on the hills two days ago with snow around and the week before I was back in shorts a few times. But then variety is the spice of life?

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A 50 miler 2 weeks ago

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Johnny trying not to run me over (me lying on the road!)

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Climbing up Redstone Rigg 2 days ago

My ribs have mostly healed but a couple of weeks ago I forgot I was recovering. I’m involved with the local community cinema (Pix in the Stix). We were putting on ‘Bill’ for the kids film, a comedy about William Shakespeare – great if you haven’t seen it. The adult film was ‘The Lady in the Van’, another terrific one. While setting up for the shows I lifted over the speakers, fairly light and easy. Then I hoiked up the amp in its flight case. Big mistake, I felt something in my ribcage tug and knew I should not have done that! So I was set back a wee bit, but still out on the bike. It was the 25th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, so we decided to put on the film of Roger Waters, from the band, reflecting on this. He visited his grandfather’s grave from the first world war, and his father’s grave from the second world war, as well as giving a huge performance of The Wall. We also had a band playing, a younger member of Pix played some background music and I sang some old blues numbers. A brilliant night indeed, held in the old village hall at Tyninghame, which at one time was a bakehouse.

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Sound checks

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Setting up Pix in the Stix

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The band before ‘The Wall’

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Special cakes for the Pink Floyd night

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Aghghghghgh

I’ve had some good rides, as usual. I’m lucky as I relish variety in conditions. I’ve been up and down our local hills quite a bit. As regular followers know it’s steep round here, so I’ve needed to take it easyish as standing up peddling has caused discomfort or pain, till the last week or so. I look forward to going out with the groups I ride with, keeps me going pushing with folk a few decades younger than me. And there is good banter along the way or at the cafe too.

One of my favourite cafés is re-opening soon under new management. It’s going to be called The Lanterne Rouge, so it’s obviously going to give a huge welcome to cyclists. For those who are not into racing, the Lanterne Rouge was awarded to the rider who finishes the Tour de France in last place.

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Un Lanterne Rouge

Now the final bit, bum cream. As with all cycling things, eating, drinking, equipment, training etc. there are masses of opinions on what we should be doing and how, where, why etc. One of these is the more delicate parts of our anatomy which connect with the saddle. I am fairly scrupulous about spreading ‘chamois cream’ on my susceptable parts before a longer ride, but recently I forgot (or couldn’t be bothered – for want of a more appropriate word). One of these was an 85 mile jaunt to test bikes. Surprisingly I find few bad effects, so I’ve been experimenting a bit and it sometimes it makes a difference, others not. So I’ve reached totally no conclusion, not for the first time either.

So as ever a few extra pics for your delectation or otherwise:

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Up by the monument looking north to N Berwick Law and the Paps o’ Fife

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Subtle overshoes?

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Deep Spring ploughing locally

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Spring snow in the hills

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The climb ahead up to the tops, a mere 17%er

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At the top of ‘The Rigg’, warmer than it looks!

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Looking back over the Firth of Forth and the hills up north

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The Bass Rock below with the northern mountains behind

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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!

Sometimes Magicke

I thought I would try out an app on the iPhone/iPad to devise cycling routes. From somewhere Footpath appeared. I sometimes think that this sort of app is modern magic. Once the app kicks off, all you do is touch the draw button, then draw a vague line along a part of the route you want to take, the app then joins up the roads. You can also fill in the route manually for off road stuff. Clicking on the gradient box at the top shows the profiles and amount of climbing to look forward to(?) Clicking on the distance box changes the display from miles & feet to km & metres. All very simple, plus you can save the route to upload to your GPS or other mapping apps.

In my last blog I outlined some of the steep ascents round about and and Jean (https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/) suggested that photographs would have enhanced the blog. So, the idea came to link them all and photograph them all as I went round. I have mapped the route, with just a tiny bit of climbing? And as I said before some folk think central Scotland is flat. So next time I have the inclination and the weather it will be time to pack some goodies and document a special ride. The link for the app is: https://footpathapp.com

And – here’s the proposed route

Roasting in Majorca: quite a few pics

As I’ve posted before, I’m not a fan of very hot and sunny weather so when a bike trip to Majorca was mooted and I found out that the temperature was usually in the low 20s I thought that this would be great. So bike hired, saddle from my own bike taken off and all packed and ready to go – I was definitely up for it. We arrived at Palma, coached over to Port de Pollensa and had a late lunch and unpacking session before heading for the bike hire. The bike was a Trek Madone and looked ok. I had asked them to put an 11-34 on the back, but an 11-32 was fitted, which was fine. Went for a wee 5 mile tootle in the sun up over 1200 ft to a local 16th century tower with Johnny and then back to the shop to get the rear gears adjusted. After that everything was sorted. But it was still hot. So back to the pool for a relax and beer.

Johnny climbing up into the tower, too dodgy with look cleats!

Johnny climbing up into the tower, too dodgy for me with Look cleats!

Near the tower above Port de Pollensa

Near the tower above Port de Pollensa

In the town

In the town

Looking over the beach to the tower

Looking over the beach to the tower

Day two the group pottered about getting first day things sorted and as we set off the heat started to build up. We climbed over the first col, I felt a real drouth, despite drinking loads. Slapping on even more suncream we carried on to a monastery where shade, huge fresh pressed orange drinks and coffees were indulged in and even in the shade it was hot, hot hot. I’d had to leave my bike in the sun & the Garmin went up to 47°C – ouch, more suncream.

Map reading time again

Map reading time again

Lunch at the monastry

Lunch at the monastry

Coming down from the col

Coming down from the col

Some of the crew on the road

Some of the crew on the road

Next ride was a ‘flat’ day! We were mainly in the central plains area. Being lower down it was even hotter. All the cliches about heat became true for me. It was good to be mainly on the wee roads again and the traffic was great, giving us wide berths when passing and slowing down when appropriate. Goats, sheep with deep clanging sheep bells occasional cows or bulls and loads of twittery birds in the trees and bushes. After a bit Pete & I became ‘detached’ from the main group. They hadn’t waited at a particular point and we went a different route. So, up into the village square and a coffee and orange while we waited for them. Unfortunately they had waited at the bottom of the village while we were at the top. Eventually we carried on without them, going through some pretty towns and villages on the way.

San Pablos, a lovely town

San Pablos, a lovely town

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San Pablos Square

Looking back

Looking back

Pete had been to a cafe in Petra almost a year before to the day so we went there for lunch, it had been mentioned as a place we would aim for and sure enough there, in one of the squares, were the others. After a bit of chat they went off for lunch and Pete & I demolished another Zumo (giant fresh pressed orange) and coffee. The cafe was totally geared up for cyclists (ho ho?), fresh orange segments were served to us, water bottles filled with ‘go fast’ natural, osmosis filtered spring water for free and ice cubes put into water bottles. Plus we had pleasant banter with the family owning the cafe in a mixture of Spanish and English – just superb.

Petra Square, just a few cyclists

Petra Square, just a few cyclists?

Then it was the hot road back. I lost my cool a bit at the others dithering over route choice for the umpteenth time and just made my own way back eventually. At least I choose a route with a slightly cooling sea breeze. Because it was a ‘flat’ day we only climbed just over 2000 feet.

Tree roots through sandstone by the road

Tree roots through sandstone by the road

One of the many lovely churches

One of the many lovely churches

Good sign?

Good sign?

Another day and guess what? Yes, it was hot, hot, hot again. Pete & I left early to catch the cool. We went up to Lucc, this time by the shady route, which was magic. Once over the col we switchedbacked our way over to the highlight of the day, Sa Calobra. This is a must for cyclists to the area. First you climb up to a wee pass, then you go down to the deep turquoise sea . The descent is fabulous, over one of europe’s few spiral bridges and down a multitude of hairpins. After whooping with delight a lot you reach the bottom, knowing “The Only Way is Up” as the group used to sing. But first, yes, coffee, zumo and a trip through the tunnels to the local ‘Torrente’.

Pots but no pans, one broken, one stapled together

Pots but no pans, one broken, one stapled together

Pete finishing a long, hot climb

Pete finishing a long, hot climb

Under the aqueduct, now defunct

Under the aqueduct, now defunct

Sa Calobra, far busier than it looked

Sa Calobra, far busier than it looks

The tunnel to the Torrente

The tunnel to the Torrente

The rugged limestone cliffs on the coast

The rugged limestone cliffs on the coast

Then back up, 7+ miles at 7+% in the heat. So slowly, slowly spinning my way up with spectacular views, smiles and a sense of wonder at this amazing road. Plenty of time to look at everything, with wee stops for photies and a derailed chain. Just over an hour later – the top and this time a fanta, just for a change. The whole team were together again and we flew along, relatively speaking, to the fantastic descent to Pollenta, oh I love going quick and this had it all, glorious, sinuous curves, occasional sharp bends or hairpins, straight smooth bits and scenery to match, bliss!

Squeeze past?

Squeeze past?

Looking back at the last bit of a wonderful 2,00+ foot climb.

Looking back at the last bit of a wonderful 2,000+ foot climb.

The spiral bridge, where the road crosses itself

The spiral bridge, where the road crosses itself

We needed an easy next time so it was  off to the Cap Formentor. I just missed the others setting off so pushed hard up the first hill to meet them. This just knackered me for the trip out. I tried to film the decent, another smooth but curly road, but the sportscam switched off for some reason. The route was spectacular with huge sea cliffs, shady roads, a tunnel and wonderful views. Coffee and orange at the Cap with hundreds of tourists and cyclists milling about. The way back was scary, hire cars coming round blind bends half way across the road, others trying to scrape past or blowing their horns and on one blind bend downhill a woman walked out in front of me without looking, that one was so close, so close. Eventually back to the hotel shaking my head a bit as almost all the other days had been so different.

Tunnel on the road to Cap Formentor

Tunnel on the road to Cap Formentor

Cap Formentor, amazing scenery but cycle early otherwise busy and dangerous

Cap Formentor, amazing scenery but cycle early otherwise busy and dangerous

Coming back from Cap Formentor

Coming back from Cap Formentor

The morning after saw us all take off together to wander around the lower foothills and onto the plains again, just for a change it was hot.

A huge ladslide

A huge ladslide

One of the many round-a-bout sculptures, a touch of Miro?

One of the many round-a-bout sculptures, a touch of Miro?

Love the tiles

Love the tiles

Pete rcovers

Pete recovers

I fancied a mainly solo day for my last ride , so initially Johnny & I pottered  over to Cala de Sant Vincenc for morning coffee by the sea. It was gorgeous, steep limestone cliffs dropping into the bay, with vivid turquoise water. We pottered round the bay and made our way back up towards Pollenta. Johnny left to go back & I did my last climb up to the Col de Femenia via lovely back roads and some rough stoney paths. The descent from the Col was fantastic, speeding down, it was great to have my Garmin map highlighting the approaching tight turns and hairpins.

Cana de Vincenc restaurant for coffee

Cana de Vincenc restaurant for coffee

A cove at Cana de Vincenc

A cove at Cana de Vincenc

The hire bike and a rustic gate

The hire bike and a rustic gate

A restored donkey powered grinding mill with wooden gears

A restored donkey powered grinding mill with wooden gears

Strange limestone scenery

Strange limestone scenery

An egret (I think) in the meadow

An egret (I think) in the meadow

Sensible donkey?

Sensible donkey?

So that was it, 7 days of sun, sun, sun.  Over 300 miles and 20,000 feet of ascent travelled.

And what did I think? The landscape, the villages and the roads were lovely and in places spectacular, but for me the heat was a real problem, one day the average temperature was 29.5ºC. Just too much, I felt permanently thirsty, with a searing throat, though this may have have more about my developing cough. The road users were mainly delightful and except for the Formentor day, very courteous and patient. It was wonderful to see cyclists everywhere and some of the climbs were like something out of a fantasy world – especially Sa Calobra with its twists and turns and the amazing spiral at the top. Would I go back -possibly if cooler, but dry weather and a certain lack of lurgi could be guaranteed. So for your delight, here are a couple of local gravestones as a finisher for the article.

A happy gravestone?

A happy gravestone?

Hope she's got her suncream?

Hope she’s got her suncream?

Tour of Britain 2015 – Checking Out the Route

A wee bit of joy came the way of the Scottish contingent of this Sceptred Isle just recently. This year’s Tour of Britian (henceforth, for the length of this blog, to be know as the TofB) is not only coming to Scotland but will be a local whizz past as well. I’ve already booked my spot on the Rigg, but more of this later. So we’ve maybe got Mark, Bradley and who knows who else likely to be popping past in September?

So why all this fuss – well, the route for the TofB has just been announced and Stage 4 goes from Edinburgh over our local hills, the Lammermuirs, down to Blythe in Englandshire. So I decided to check out how the route looked after the winter. It’s still not vastly warm yet, in our terms, so I was well happed up. An easy first bit up to the cafe at Gifford. Arrived – shut!! Ah well, if I will arrive on their day off serves me right I suppose.

Outside the cafe at Gifford - Yester Kirk

Outside the cafe at Gifford – Yester Kirk the TofB will belt round this corner, hopefully the bus will be out of the way

So no coffee or sustenance just off up the hill.

The glory of tractors? Hills to climb up top right

The glory of tractors? Hills still to climb up top right

Lovely day with a gentle wind behind, I came up the first wee steeper ascent with its 17% rise. As I puffed over the crest I thought of how the pro teams would just treat it as a wee bump. Then a steady climb up past Snawdon and over the first cattle grid.

Down to the cattle grid, the steep climb up Redstone Rigg ahead top right

Down to the cattle grid, the steep climb up Redstone Rigg ahead top right

I once rattled over this grid coming the other way down the hill fast and my bike bag under the saddle shot past me off into the undergrowth. The thump of the cattle grid had broken the clip holding it on. So, I wonder how the pros will cope with this at speed.

Then up Redstone Rigg, another 17%+ climb, getting gradually steeper as it nears the top. The roads are a mess here so I guess there’s work to be done. And my chosen spot is the bend at the steepest bit, good views of them coming up the hill and then speeding past.

Slow for me, but for the pros?

Slow for me, but for the pros?

Top of the Rigg, a bit of work needed?

Top of the Rigg, a bit of work needed?

Another cattle grid at the top and then a left turn

The cattle grid at the top

The cattle grid at the top

This is followed by an amazing, glorious descent, long and fast. My max down here is 50 mph+, so I dread to think of how the teams will do. There’s also a cattle grid on the way down so that could be dodgy as well. At the bottom I turn back for home, more hills, past the white castle iron age hill fort, the monastery and back.

Looking back up the hill - the fast descent

Looking back up the hill – the fast descent

White Castle Iron Age Hill Fort

White Castle Iron Age Hill Fort

Nunraw Monastry

Nunraw Monastery

A couple of days later Terry gives me a buzz. We’d done my birthday run together, so how about another ride? So off to the land of the wind turbines, with an 18% climb up to them. First though a stone on our back roads. I shot down the hill not realising, half way up the other side looked back and no Terry. Had he skidded off the road? Had he riden into a fence? I made my way back up the steep hill and there he was busy mending a pinch puncture, perfectly OK of course. A group of cyclists came past, stopped for a wee chat and then they carried on.

Almost done

Almost done

Flat tyre restored, we carried on up Elmscleuch, the steepest climb around here, I reckon. At the top a turbine sprouted from my head, so energised we carried on over the tops and eventually down to the valley to rejoin a lower part of the TofB route.

Elmscleugh, second steep bit to come, only 7% here

Elmscleugh, second steep bit to come, only 7% here

Self generating energy?

Self generating energy? Just call me Turbine Heid

This time the road was good, with just occasional gravel, and we swept down the glen and over the lovely bridge that crosses the River Whiteadder.

Elegant Bridge over the River Whiteadder

Elegant Bridge over the River Whiteadder

We soon left the TofB route and started our climb back over the moors, engulfed at one point by smoke from a muir burn (burning off the heather to allow new shoots to grow for feeding the grouse, which then get shot!).

House at Longformachus

House at Longformachus

Passing the muir (moor) burn

Passing the muir (moor) burn

Ghost Rider?

Ghost Rider?

Eventually back to Gifford and a welcome coffee and Danish pastry, then home 50+ miles and 5,000+ feet of climbing, not bad for a wee recce?

107.2 km – it’s only going to get harder as the years go by?

Harbingers of Spring

Harbingers of Spring

Well spring appears to be sprung. it’s suddenly warmed up (for now), there’s a vast snow melt & floods up north and the season’s flowers are emerging.

Plus I get to be a little older in birthdays in a few days time.

So what am I planning if the weather allows? I should be taking the train up to Stirling and cycling home. It’s just 107.2 kilometres and on reasonably flat terrain, compared to here.

Why 107.2, well it’s 67 miles and that’s the birthday I’m hoping to celebrate. I think this is maybe a bad precedent to set? Next year it may have to be 108.8 km, the year after 110.4 and in 33 years time 160 km. I think I’ve maybe made a rod for my own back?

Maybe I should have made the challenge 67 km, but where’s the fun in that?

And just for your enjoyment a wee neighbour just up the river a couple of days ago.

A Dipper keeping an eye open beside the Scottish Tyne

A Dipper keeping an eye open beside the Scottish Tyne

ps Apologies – I just can’t resist – it’s the mathematician in me!!

“And I would ride 8,000 km” – not quite the same ring as . . . . . . .

Looking across Belhaven Bay towards Traprain Law, next to the cycle path

Looking across Belhaven Bay towards Traprain Law, Scotland next to the cycle path

to paraphrase The Proclaimers famous song – ‘And I would ride 5,000 miles’ – it sounds so much better, even though it is less impressive, maybe?

Being a maths graduate (seems another lifetime away with the flares & tie die shirts), I love statistics, numbers & spreadsheets etc. So I accumulate masses of stats (thank you Garmin).

Just recently I reached the 8,000 km mark on the bike this year, which included 86,00 metres of ascent, over 350 hours of cycling and endless amounts of fun, happiness, companionship and enjoyment. My biggest ride so far was 147 km (92 miles) with 1,478 metres ascent (4877) – this was done on a blisteringly hot Scottish day, ending up fairly dehydrated. Was going for the century ride, but enough was enough. So, call me a geek if you wish, but, that’s your problem not mine.

There was also some angst, pain and frustration mixed in.

So what does it all mean? Not too much I suppose to most, but recollections of some excellent times for me & my pals. I usually annotate rides with weird titles & descriptions, but they mean something to me. So looking over my rides what churns away in the memory banks?

“Wott!! No coffee, scones or sprinkles?” – I have been out with one Sunday crew for a while now, but was requested to join another so popped along to see. The group is around 25, so we cycled along sort of together for a while, then split into fast & slow. Knowing there was a lot of downhill & flat I went for the fast and we flew, managed to stay with them for a long while till we hit the sea front and woosh, off they went, clung on for a few miles & then finally acted my age, and I wasn’t alone. But – no coffee stop as is usual for me. So – nowadays I alternate between the two groups, both of them good in their own ways.

“Tour of Tweedale,1ºC at the start, 30+ miles to warm up – then glorious”  – a Sportive in the Scottish Borders, 82 miles and 1,270 metres (4,000 ft) of ascent with a few tough climbs (one ramps up to over 20% – the Wall of Talla!) It was great, with a couple of pals, a magical food stop with wonderful home made soup and goodies plus plenty of good craic & meetings with pals and groups to follow (and lead) – just perfect despite the initial cold. I’ve done this for the last 3 years and the distance has varied from 80 to 99 miles – definitely the best Sportive I’ve taken part in.

“No Day of the Triffids” – a ride over the hills on the Sunday, the Triffids were the huge wind turbines which usually suddenly loomed close by as we crested the top of the hills.  Because of the thick, thick mist we couldn’t see them this time so had to creep down the hill slowly, slowly dodging gravel, potholes each other and one daft, mad car – so no daft 45+ mph descent for me this time!

And then there was South Africa – a whole different experience in oh so many ways.

Out in the bush, South Africa on "that bike" @£$%$&^%)?!!!!

Out in the bush, South Africa on “that bike” @£$%$&^%)?!!!!

And then there’s the wildlife met en route. Deer, badgers, swans, hares, rabbits, stoats, weasels, skeins of geese, rabbits, dogs, heron, eider ducks, fish, sheep, skylarks, pheasant etc. etc. Wow. are we cyclists sometimes so lucky to be involved in biking?

And looking forward already to next year, I’ve booked a week in Mallorca with the Tuesday bunch I cycle with – yippee!!!!