Category Archives: John Muir

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!

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Shouldn’t do this to a Road Bike? John Muir might approve!

At last, the cough is retreating and I am starting to advance.

I’ve always been adventurous I think.

First Bike?

First Bike?

Trying to set fire to my infant school allegedly, though I’m sure I would have just been trying out how matches worked? I was hillwalking & youth hosteling with the family before I was ten and used to play around with my mates on our second hand (if we were lucky) bikes on the bomb sites nearby-ish. By 16 I had been doing canoe/camping expeditions over the Pennines & in Wales, and hitchhiking off to go climbing.

Into motorbikes

Into motorbikes

At university most of my mates took the ‘hippie trail’ to India, while I hitchhiked up to the Arctic circle with a friend & we kept leapfrogging each other on the way and occasionally meeting up. Sailing gave more adventures, with night dinghy cruises down the Clyde and some ‘interesting’ trips on the west coast of Scotland.

So much fun!

So much fun!

White water open boating

White water open boating

Another trip with a former student saw me camping on the glaciers in the Alps and climbing a multitude of peaks, with what I would look on now as a paucity of equipment.

Soloing Mont Blanc

Soloing Mont Blanc

Cairngorm Expedition

Cairngorm Expedition

And so on . . . . .

I might have thought I’d grow out of this nonsense, but I’m still up for a challenge, or something out of the ordinary. So I just set off on my road bike for the second time after finally feeling like riding again. I knew  was going to be even slower than normal so as I cycled up to Whitekirk (though the kirk {church} is red nowadays, not white) I realised it had been dry for a while. Just beyond the church the John Muir Way goes along Becky’s Strip. It’s supposed to be a cycle route, but there is only a rough, bumpy, grassy track, great for a mountain or cyclocross bike, but rubbish for a road bike. But, I couldn’t resist. I walloped along, passing a fairly surprised group of mountain bikers coming up the other way, and managing not to come a cropper en-route. Hurrah for the Specialized Roubaix zertz inserts, padded handlebars and 25 mm tyres – who needs cobbles?

After a couple of miles I reached tarmac again, but just along the road diverted off through a country estate. While meandering through I forgot about the gutter that cuts across the path at one point, lucky though, no snake bite punctures.

Then a very brief road section and back on to a path, part of the John Muir Way, which is also good for off-road biking. So shot off again – I love this bit, though usually on a mountain bike. Suddenly, CRUNCH, CRUnch, Crunch. Looked down & found a stick had caught in the front wheel, before flying off. I forgot to mention my road bike still had the ancient Crud road racer mudguards on. I don’t like a mucky bum and as we have our fair share of wet days I tend to leave them on till later. I noticed that the mudguard had broken, as it is designed to do, and the stay had wound its way round to the front of the wheel.

Whoops - it shouldn't look like that?

Whoops – it shouldn’t look like that?

After a quick check nothing rubbing too much & unlikely to cause any more damage so off again. Despite all this drama I still managed to get a 5th place cup for the segment, so much for feeling rubbish?

Great track on the John Muir Way - even on a road bike!

Great track on the John Muir Way – even on a road bike!

John Muir Way

John Muir Way

At the end of this a wee bit more tarmac and the down to East Fortune, trying to keep on the grassy middle section of a stoney track.

Track to East Fortune

Track to East Fortune

The motorcycle racing was on there so I took advantage of my senior citizen free entry status and cycled round the paddock. Some brilliant machines there, including sidecars and racing scooters, plus some lovely old racing bikes.

East Fortune motorcycle paddock

East Fortune motorcycle paddock

East Fortune motorcycle paddock - my favourite

East Fortune motorcycle paddock – my favourite

East Fortune motorcycle paddock

East Fortune motorcycle paddock

East Fortune motorcycle paddock

East Fortune motorcycle paddock

After a while it was off, with a flying visit to a friend, a bump along the sand track beside their field and onto the tarmac again. I had been carrying my camera over my shoulder again and managed to get some shots off of a deer leaping across the fields away from me as I pedalled along.

Roe deer leaping

Roe deer leaping

Finally it was down past the old mill (another stoney track), with a heron beside me at the river and then back home.

Heron on the Scottish River Tyne

Heron on the Scottish River Tyne

So shouldn’t do this to a road bike – definitely should!! My bike is made for biking and what fun.

Alas the bottom bracket has gone (I knew this before the ride), so I took the bike in to the shop. Colin said the bearing might take a day or two to arrive, so gave me a demo Dawes Giro Alto bike to have a try. Unfortunately it is raining hard (maybe why I’m writing this?) so this is one that will have to wait till it clears up a bit. It’ll be the 5th bike in as many weeks, my own, 2 hire bikes in Portugal (mtb & road Jorbi) plus a Trek Madonne III in Majorca and now the Dawes. Variety is the spice of life? But I still love my own poor battered beast.