Category Archives: paradise

A Wee Seasonal Vid

On Tuesdays I usually go out with a bunch of mature folk such as myself. A couple of years back (or more) we were riding in the snow on our mountain bikes & I was filming. One of the guys shouted out something like ‘I bet you’ll put this on Youtube with the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies’. So how could I resist?

I filmed it with a Panasonic FZ18 hanging round my neck – interesting one handed shots and all done real time as it were.

A special for you all on this festive season.

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What Do You See?

A wet, chilly miserable day near Kinross

A wet, chilly miserable day near Kinross

My rides vary as we have such different terrain here. Keep to the coastal strip and the ground is undulating, though still with a few sharp hills. Head south and you climb up to the moorland with a lot of steep hills and ascents.

Just a wee local hill

Just a wee local hill – Lothian Edge behind

Then there’s the weather, varies daily from thick haar (smist) floating in from the North Sea, sunshine, gales, calm, clouds, rain, hail, snow – we do have a somewhat variable climate.

There’s also who you are cycling with, solo, with a bunch of friends (coffee stop mandatory), with the ‘Young Thrusters’ wheeling along at a pace that sends my heart rate into orbit.

A flock of swans in a local field with the LAmmermuir hills behind

A flock of swans in a local field with the LAmmermuir hills behind

So, do you keep your head down, do you sit up and look around or just mix and match? I’m usually the latter, my cycling aim is enjoyment, but sometimes that might be the fun of testing myself or screaming down one of our fantastic descents. Other times it’s with a bunch of cycling pals, riding beside each other & chewing the fat, gossiping or discussing the meaning of life. Some times I stop to look at a sunset, what’s scurrying in the hedge row, or watch an adder snaking across the road. Or at times I dangle the camera from my neck and go deliberately to look, photograph or film.

Riding back home, crunchty, crunchety.

Riding back home, crunchty, crunchety.

Some of the places I’ve cycled have been just amazing, especially one’s just around the corner if you don’t take them for granted.

So do you hang over the handlebars, watching the bike a few centimetres in front, do you hang loose or are you just a mixture like me?

Just a couple of miles from our village

Just a couple of miles from our village

A dramatic local castle above the sea

A dramatic local castle above the sea

Mid ride rest beside the loch

Mid ride rest beside the loch

A 1/2 Naked Lady . . . .

Getting to know the cheetahs with my granddaughter at Nambiti, S Africa

Getting to know the cheetahs with my granddaughter at Nambiti, S Africa

I had been thinking of writing about some my strange meetings on my bike when I read Jean writing about her encounter with storks (http://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/behold-a-stork-sightings-during-cycling-trip/).

This has nudged me into looking back a bit at some of my wildlife encounters.

I’ve always worked in the outdoors, canoeing, mountaineering, climbing, skiing, sailing, travelling so have had some pretty amazing happenings, including bears in USA, wild boar, monkeys & huge lammergeier in Nepal, foxes high up in the Alps, a field full of hedgehogs sniffing round my bivvy bag in Norway, stroking cheetahs in S Africa, deer, eagles, capercaillie & a shrew running around the snow in Scotland, being ‘buzzed’ by an owl while riding my motorbike at night and more. But I was thinking more of stuff I’ve come across in my bike wanderings.

Some have been sweet & unthreatening – a shrew dashing across the road in front of my wheels, a weasel running across and diving into the hedge beside me, a hare skelping up the road ahead at a vast rate of knots before wheeling into a gap somewhere.

Others have been a bit more hairy, going along at speed then a couple of deer suddenly clattering on to the road in front & very, very close, their hoofs raising sparks on the tarmac as they tried, successfully to wheel round & scamper off, just missing me. Another deer careering through the woods beside me at over 25 mph for 1/2 mile before turning away. What looked like a piece of wood rolling across the road in front of me, till I realised there was no wind and it was an adder, the only poisonous snake we have her in Britain. Bites or stings or just bruises from insects of various sizes pinging in to me.

But what is probably the most memorable and exciting?

One sunset ride I was down in 1st gear slowly climbing up one of our little steep climbs at about 15%, The road was a narrow with steep banks, trees and bushes above. Suddenly a large animal popped out on the way ahead a few metres away. It was a large male badger. I thought ‘Ah, it’s seen me, it’ll just turn away’. I couldn’t stop anyway or turn round – not wide enough. I was also aware that badgers have very powerful teeth. So – committed. The badger turned a bit more & started trundling down the hill towards me. Oh !@£$%&(@!!. What could I do, just carry on, no other real option really. Just a metre in front the brox decided enough was enough, or I just wasn’t very interesting. It wandered up the bank and off into the undergrowth. I grunted past it with a bit of relief and wonder at the magic of it all.

So what about the 1/2 naked lady?

 

I’ll just have to leave it for another time I suppose.

Your Inner Grandad

Near the top of the 2000 ft climb up Bealach na Ba, Scotland

Near the top of the 2000 ft climb up Bealach na Ba, Scotland

Abbey Dore & Mill Lane, England

Abbey Dore & Mill Lane, England

 

Hills is hard, there’s no denying.

Just outside the village is a 9 percenter, go the other way and it’s 15.7%, a third road out is 8.5% and just a wee bit further out the hills get steep – I think you get the message. A couple of days ago I was down in England and borrowed my nephew’s touring bike. On the ride was a hill which ramped up to just under 20% – aghghghgh it was hard.

I see all my friends & bike acquaintances (young & old) puffing & panting, grinding their way up the hills. I just think – crazy!!! Get some lower gears and start enjoying the climbs. My bike came with a Shimano 105 cassette, but I’ve modified it to with a mountain bike one which has a 34 tooth rear (for the non techies – a big yin!!). What bliss it is to potter up all but the steepest climbs with my wee feet whizzing away. I don’t really understand all this macho stuff, this suffer for your ride business. I much prefer to be able to just let the legs do the stuff and I seem to get up the hills as fast as most and certainly less puffed.

I’ve even noticed that on the steep climbing days the professionals in the Tour de France, Vuelta, Giro etc are using bigger cogs.

So – embrace your inner grandad and make life a wee bit easier, cycling up grades is bad enough sometimes for us mere mortals, so maybe look at making it a tiny bit easier for yourself. You can always aim for harder climbs if you like the suffering!

It’s life’s illusions I recall . . . . . .

With the B-Spokes

With the B-Spokes

It’s a funny thing being out on the bike. While keeping an eye on the road I also like to have a wee neb around me. As it’s usually a quickish glance, sometimes things just aren’t what they seem.

There is a narrow road I normally whizz down  at well in excess of 40 mph from the wind turbines standing at the top, like the Day of the Triffids. It suddenly becomes completely different. Happed in mist, the turbines disappear and even the sound is so muffled I don’t hear them over the slight noise of the bike & road surface. Visibility is so bad I can hardly see the guy in front and we are reduced to crawling down with brakes full on. Suddenly a monster rears up ahead, becomes a huge car with lights full on, going too fast and just missing us. Once beside us, it just appears ordinary again and our heartbeats subside. Then a hundred feet down everything clears and the road becomes normal again.

Another spot I go past, this time climbing up, appears to show an ancient standing stone. I once stopped to have a look – it turned out to be a broken tree stump, though quite high. I still often give it a nod when I pass.

One winter I was just finishing a ride, cold but pleasant and dry. As I turned the corner going slow the road was looking quite wet, almost flooded. I suddenly was on a road width skating rink. Previous snow had solidified to thick ice for about 50 feet along the road with a skim of water on top. I slid to the ground, it was hardly falling, and came gently to a stop no worse for wear but had to skate across with my bike to where the road started.

And then there’s the wildlife, huge birds swooping down to transform into crows, a massive rustling in the undergrowth that becomes a rabbit, a giant dog in a field that is really a hare. Not cycling but ski touring – coming over the top of the hills and wondering how trees could grow this high when the ‘branches’ started to move and a big herd of deer moved off.

Then there’s the illusion of speed or lack of it, sometimes I feel fast and am really pathetic when I see the stats, other times seemingly cruising along and astonished at what I’ve done.

(Added this a day or so later after cycling & thinking: The other thing is the phantom cyclist(s). You spot someone up ahead & start to twitch, ready for action, then you get closer and a fencepost with a sign attached, or a piece of something else suddenly has been morphed from that cyclist you definitely saw.)

So it’s cycling, this strange perception of time, space, weather, fauna, flora, environment etc. that changes every time I click my shoes into my pedals and go.

So, what happens to you?

Screeching Monkeys – disintegration

Top of the climb

Looking back, the hill up going south from Garvald, East Lothian

I was heading south to the Lammermuirs, hoping for a good climbing day.

Then I heard it, luckily just before I started the bigger ascents. A quiet screeching noise coming from the bottom bracket.

So, do I keep going?, do I do the sensible thing & turn back? At least I stopped & had a look & a wiggle of the cranks – a wee bit of play, but the bearings only done just over 2,500 miles. Decided to keep going on for a whiile. The screeching suddenly become loud and tortuous, what were all those monkeys playing at down there? So headed for home. On the way back the rain came down in absolute torrents & the bike went quiet. Made it back & squelched into the house.

Next day a friend helped me to dismantle the bottom bracket. As we took out the crank there was the sound of clattering bits of metal falling on to the concrete slabs. Tiny ball bearings & odd shaped pieces of disintegrated bearing cage rolled & bounced around. The seal had gone on the one side, probably some time back & everything on that side was totally dry. Strange thing was there was little notice of this failure, which with the lack of phone reception on our deserted moor roads & huge rainfall that day could have lead to an interesting situation. Later on checked the pedals, which I knew had some play, undid them and the bearings were totally shot. I had got some replacements ready.

A couple of days later all the bad bits replaced, and the bike is smooth again & a delight over the heights.

Conclusion, maybe I should check things a bit better, my summer bike is my winter bike & in Scotland this is a rough deal for any machine. Also, my last bottom bracket lasted from new (6 years) so maybe they don’t make ’em like they used to? But hey, the joy is worth the travails.

Another thing brought home how good even my old bike is, went out on my old hybrid and what unjoy it seemed to be to ride it. It’s not about the bike?

Alastair

Skylark ascending, pheasant and pestilence of flies

Skylark

A skylark in the Lammermuir Hills

The title for a recent ride brought to mind the joys and perils of riding.

The first of the two in the title may be obvious in our rural area, along with toads jumping across the road in front, buzzard soaring, weasels scurrying, deer and badger roaming etc, etc.

But, amongst this seeming paradise of flora & fauna there is a downside.

Yesterday was a double attack, first a unpleasant nasal attack – flew straight in somehow, unpleasant -but was easily snorted out. The second was a bigger bug which hit the back of my throat. Fair gave me the boak it did!! Managed to choke/ spit it out, but a day later my throat is still somewhat sore.

Other encounters have also been ‘interesting’, dodging sheep at high velocities (me not the sheep), desperately climbing up one of our steep ascents when a badger wheeced out from the side and started to work its way down towards me, only veering off at the last minute, deer leaping out just in front scraping hooves on the tarmac desperately in attempt to escape, a ‘stick’ rolling across the road which turned out to be an adder. These are just some of those I recall, but have managed so far to avoid any consequences.

So the idyll of the countryside ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, and I haven’t even got started on mad dogs, gravel on the bends, thorns from trimmed hedges and mountains of mud & stones from farm vehicles.