Category Archives: road bike

A week mainly in Spain

Was in Portugal and Spain last week for a ‘wee'(?) cycle tour with a pal, Eric.Spain with Eric 2018

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My old bike packed and ready to go

We travelled lightly to Faro, sharing rooms en route. The weather was considerably warmer than Scotland when we landed and cycled over to the ferry to cross into Spain. En route we managed to detour into some majorly rough country roads, with 2 portuguese punctures and bumpy roads. Changing countries by ferry always seems romantic to  me, especially as continental Europe generally has no barriers between countries. This day was no exception.

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Waiting for the ferry

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Crossing the Border

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Eric surveys the Spanish landing

 After landing in Ayamonte it was a steep ascent up into the town, then a quick descent to pick up our road out. The Spanish roads were so much better, with an introduction to the courteous and considerate Spanish drivers, especially those driving lorries – great all the way through the trip. The smells & views of the vegetation were varied and great. Eventually, after just over 66 miles we arrived at our first destination Punta Umbría, where we met up with our other pals who were based there for a week. Once there we wolfed into a huge meal, showered and enjoyed, after a fashion, a hilarious Spanish karaoke.

Next morning we piled into breakfast, fueling up well for the miles ahead. Then farewells to all and off to the local bike shop for a couple of tubes, finally pointing our wheels northwards. Every so often we stopped for a coffee, lunch or just to explore a town, gradually heading onwards and upwards into the hills.

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Lunch at Beas

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Art Nouveau detail

Some of the architecture was gorgeous with art nouveaux details and buildings and other older Spanish cultures evident.

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Jabugo and its pigs

In another smallish town, Jabugo, the street was full of pork butchers, seemingly every second shop (not to good for a non meat eater) as it was a specialism of the district. As the day went on the temperature rose up to 29ºC, a foretaste of what was to come. I’m not too good at these temperatures and Eric steamed up the hills ahead of me. Luckily I’m OK descending so it we played cat & mouse most of the day. Eventually after 85 miles we arrived at Galaroza, a delightful town with steep cobbled street, fountains and churches.

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First Spanish Hostal at Galaroza

We had located a Hostal, and booked ourselves in for a meal. After freshening up we had a dusk saunter round the place, returning for a delightful meal, with refreshing cervezza (beer).

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Just up from the Hostal

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A famous fountain with 10 taps

Next morning a reasonably early start, we filled our water bottles from the fountain and set off with the temperature a chilly seeming 12ºC. Still heading north it was a series of climbs and exhilarating descents, with the usual stops along the way.

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Fregnal de la Sierra, a cooling trough

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lunch at the centre

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Looking back

This time the heat went up to 38ºC, so plenty of extra water, fresh orange & coffee stops along the way.

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Jerez de Los Caballeros

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Making pals?

After 89 miles we arrived at Badajoz, found ourselves a hostal for the night and after the usual shower and washing cycling gear, roamed out in search of dinner. I found out one thing with today’s temperatures. I had to  fit a screw together bottom bracket as Specialised would not dell me the original cups used for the bearings. A friend had skimmed it a bit to fit. In Scotland it worked fine, and in the mornings in Spain it was also good, but come midday it had been creaking and groaning. I also realised that with the heat it was expanding and not quite as tight a fit as it needed to be. Unfortunately we weren’t near any bike shops at a convenient time, so I learned to just live with the post lunch complaining. Back again and it’s fine again.

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Badajoz

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Outside the music school

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Confirmation Day?

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A mathematician’s dream building

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On the way out

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Looking back

Next morning was a reasonable 14ºC, though it gradually climbed up to 35º. This time we crossed the Spanish plains, into a strong headwind. It was quite morale sapping, similar vistas for miles and often head down to maintain progress. We stopped for quite a while in Mérida, a bonny city with loads of old or unusual buildings and Roman ruins (felt a bit like one myself!)

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The Roman aqueduct at Merida

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Diana’s Temple

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The Chinese Palace

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A Roman arch

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Basilica a Santa Eulalia

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City Walls

I just wished it had been a bit cooler, but counted myself lucky to be able to see such sights and sites. After an 86 mile day we reached Zafra. I went in to the hotel and asked for the toilet. Unfortunately it was down a dark passage, I still had my shades on and blundered into a heavy glass table with metal edges. So with me blooded and bruised we checked in. We settled in for the night after a wander round the town and a meal.

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After dinner in Zafra

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And another trough

So our 5th day dawned and this time a welcome 11ºC start. After noon up it went again to 33º, a bit wearing.

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Medina de Las Torres

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Beside the motorway . . .

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. . . which takes a short cut

IMG_6432After the usual visits & stops we completed 97 miles, with me a bit frazzled, but still basically OK. We had to ring to get someone to open up the hotel at Pilas, but as usual wheeled the bikes in and settled down to our usual washing cycle gear to get rid of the salt & sweat.

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A pleasant hotel room for the bikes

Then round the town, settle for dinner & sleep. They usually start dinner about 9 pm, so we were seldom settled till late on.

Once again an earlyish start, 11º and a meandering course towards Ayamonte. But . . . . it was cooler – strange as we were right down in the south, with North Africa not too far to the south.

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Horse sculptures on the roundabouts and real horses in the town – Almonte

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Busy streets?

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Crossing the Rio Odiel

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An industrial past remembered?

Once at Ayamonte we had ice creams.

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Ayamonte

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Gutting fish

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My poor creaky bike, but a lovely bench

Then caught the ferry across to Portugal and Vila Real de San Antonio and found a tiny room to squeeze into for the night with amazing bedspreads.

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A ‘different’ translation

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Back to Portugal

The place was really quirky but interesting. So, our last wander round the town, somehow different from the Spanish ones, a gorgeous meal in a pleasant restaurant and back for a night’s kip.

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Room with a view

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Decorated benches

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The bedspread

Next day was a leisurely ride back to Faro as it wasn’t too far at just over 40 miles. We stopped at a lovely town, Tavira, en route. There was a craft type market, a walking event to encourage folk to do some exercise and an excellent local band playing.

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Tavira

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The champion arrives?

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Posing

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Fabby Band

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Faro harbour

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Faro old town

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Turtles in the pool and strange statues

IMG_6510I had another Portuguese puncture though it was soon mended. But eventually  we had to leave for the airport, pack our bikes and catch the flight home.

Despite the afternoon temperatures it was a good trip, with lots of interesting towns and sights and the joy of such excellent driving around us. We had averaged over 80 miles a day till the last day, which was way beyond what I had expected. We’d had some interesting and challenging roads and some lovely landscapes. I can see why Eric likes cycling in mainland Spain so much and will probably be back to try another area.

 

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A Friday Bike?

There used to an expression for cars – a Friday car was supposedly one built lat on a Friday, just before the weekend when folk just wanted home. So it was prone to mechanical problems.

I think my bike seems to fall into this category.

Almost a year ago I bought a new Specialized Roubaix, with the front suspension.

I had got it home, been out a couple of times and found the gear change a bit tight. When I turned the bike over to clean it I saw the cable had been routed over the casing instead of through it. The shop I bought it from is away in Fife so I arranged with them to have it sorted at my local bike shop. Job done, bike running smoothly again.

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Crossed cable, should be down in the grooves

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How it should be

The next thing I spotted were cables rubbing where they entered the frame. A wee patch did the trick this time.

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preventing cable rub

Next, a couple of months down the line, the seat tube has an insert of rubbery stuff to dampen vibrations. I saw it looked like a wee mouse had been having a nibble at it and quite a nibble at that. So back on the email to the Fife shop. They got in touch with Specialized and a new seat tube came winging my way.

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The mice have been nibbling?

The rear derailleur design by Shimano seems a bit dodgy as cables tend to wear quickly, more annoying than anything else.

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Not too good design by Shimano?

Then, just before Christmas, I heard the front suspension unit making funny grinding type noises. On close inspection the rubber boot surrounding the unit had developed some small holes and the salt & road chemicals had got in and rusted the unit. I got in touch with Specialized and they said I would have to buy a new unit, despite this being a manufacturing fault. However, the Fife shop came up trumps and managed to get Specializd to send them one and posted it to me. However, before it arrived I took the bike in for a service at my local and Colin said the headset bearings were exuding brown gunge as well. So tried to get new ones, but guess what? They’re a special size because of the suspension units and they were out of them, so just waiting for them to arrive as well.

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Just a wee hole?

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Lit up and rusty

So, what next?

Now, after all of this, would I buy another Roubaix? Despite all this carry on would I buy another one. The answer is yes. I love riding it. The roads round here are full of holes, gravel, farm muck, stones etc and the bike is so comfortable despite it all, it climbs well and we have steep ascents round here plus it just feels good. After well over 7,000 miles in less than a year on it, it does the job.

On a different note, as usual, I’ve been involved with our drama group in the village. I’ve given up acting as I’ve always found learning line bad and it’s getting worse. So I’ve been involved on the techie side with sound, lighting etc. This time it was lighting, so wheeking up & down ladders, mounting and setting lights, helping to programme the lighting board etc. Unfortunately for me it was a kid’s panto with 45 taking part. It was a huge, sold out success but . . . . several of the cast had coughs etc. and guess who succumbed? Yup, yours faithful. I was off the bike for 10 days, still not back to full strength after 2 1/2 weeks but gradually improving, though well over 300 miles behind my mileage last year. As I sometime say, “Ah Well!!”.

And here’s what makes it all worth it.

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Winter sunset ride

Another Month Gone By

What an amazing year so far, not even the end of March and I’m almost up to 2,000 miles of mainly joyous cycling, plus a new bike to play with.

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Showing off again? Fat & mountain bike together.

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Above the estuary

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He’s behind you, somewhere

The last few days have been splendid, with that evil wind finally decreasing and the sun coming out to play more. I’ve even been cycling in shorts again, lounging in the outside chairs at the cafe stop and overheating some of the time!

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Cafe stops & bare legs in March!

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Mainly blue skies and sunshine as well

As usual, shortly after my birthday I cycled my birthday miles – 69. It was wild and windy, but I managed to find some shelter in the bunch for part of the time on the upwind section. Back down out of the hills and along the coast we flew and quite near home I had averaged 16.5 mph, but was still 10 miles short. So on down to Dunbar and then a wrong decision, back home via the hills and into the wind again solo, oh how the average plummeted! Ah well!

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Into my 70th year on earth

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Some of the gang

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The new machine

There’s been some great rides too, both solo and with companions.

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Climbing one of the steep ones

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The hill fort caption board (see photo above for a view from above)

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Over the tops

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The road is there somewhere

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An adder escaping into the heather

I bought a new bike for my birthday, as my other one was wearing out after much use & abuse over the last 9 years. I went over to Fife to collect it, planning to cycle home via the Forth Road Bridge and Edinburgh. The ride up to the bridge was pretty desperate, with wild, wild winds and gusts. When I got to the bridge it was closed to lorries, pedestrians and cyclists, so back into Inverkeithing, onto the train station and as I wheeled the bike onto the platform the train was pulling in, yippee. I secured my less new looking bike & settled down for a short journey over the Forth rail bridge to Dalmeny on the other side. Whilst purchasing a ticket I was told that the train didn’t stop there, so my cycle journey was shortened by getting off at the outskirts of Edinburgh.

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The new road bridge over the Forth, from the train, on the way out

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Forth Road Bridge closed because of the gale

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An unexpected train journey for the new bike

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Looking out to the Forth Estuary

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Whoops – discovered this fault when I got home, no wonder the front gear change was clunky!!

I went right through the centre of the city, dodging cars, buses, taxis and trams etc. Once back into East Lothian I flew along in a little calm bubble as I was going the same speed as the wind.

And how has the bike been? Magicke. It has front suspension, which is great on our dodgy roads, the handling is superb, the disc brakes brilliant and all the hidden cables etc. make it a joy to keep clean. I’ve had it now for over 300 miles and the only change was putting on my old Brookes saddle, I just didn’t get on with the Specialized one, despite tinkering with the adjustment. The suspension is sometimes a bit clunky at times but works well and makes a difference to my tender ageing parts.

On foot, there have been some gorgeous days walking as well, though we missed seeing a kingfisher by a minute or so the other day. Plenty of other flora and fauna to entertain though.

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Seen on our walks . . . .

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Another recent highlight was going to a talk by Grame Obree, former hour world champion amongst many other achievements. He was ‘pure brilliant’, outlining his background, successes, downsides and personal philosophy with humour and truthfulness. It was a very enlightening evening, enjoyed by everyone I spoke to.

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Examining “The Beastie” at Graeme Obree’s talk

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At Graeme Obree’s talk ‘The Beastie’, how he fits in I’ve little idea

So, now Spring is rize, hopefully fewer layers and some good longish rides await.

Since I wrote this (tempting fate?) I’ve been off the bike for a week, but the cough, stiffness and aches are diminishing so should be out soon.

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
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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

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

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!

6 climbs and a few more

 When I wrote about 6 steep climbs round about here,  Jean (https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/) suggested that some photos would have enhanced the blog. At the same time I was trying out an app called footpath, which is great for working out routes for cycling. I decided that I would link them together in a cycle/ photo bonanza. So I managed it, though some of the photos are a bit dodgy as they were taken on the move with the camera slung around my neck.  The weather was ideal, warm enough for shorts & short sleeve top, cool enough to not become dehydrated easily. What a ride, some of my favourite climbs here, and when the gradient was less than 10% it was a real bonus. First of all the boring bits for some, the route & profile:

   Over 110 feet climbed for every mile

  Quite a few ups and downs?

   

 Hill no. 1: Kippielaw
The first hill, not even a mile away, this is short but with a real lurch into the sky at the end. The hill in the distance is Traprain Law with the remains of an Iron Age fort on the top, complete with hut circles and a magnificent view over the Firth of Forth, north up to the Highland and south to the lowland hills.

   
 Hill no. 2: Up into the Beil Estate

After a fabulous colonnade of yew trees you cycle past rhododendrons till another wee steep ramp leads up to the top. Just after this a deer stopped in the road and gazed at my approach for a while before it sauntered off into the woods 

 Then on and up another a couple of ascents before reaching Pitcox, another good climb (though not one of the chosen) past the water bottling plant. Pitcox is a tiny place, but a couple of 100 years ago it had a religious house where monks from the refectory in Melrose who had misbehaved were sent. 

 The climb up from Pitcox past Findlay’s Water

Then it was past the Witch’s Stone at Spott, which often has coins left on it. I tried to take a photo but had nudged the dial of the camera on to the wrong setting. Just before this a fox had sauntered across the road in front of me, my day for wildlife? 

 Hill no.3: Starvation Brae – a local test piece 

 Then came the climb out of Spott – Starvation Brae, not sure why it is called this though. This one is hard – gradually steepens, then has 3 steep bits to the top. A real heavy breathing one by the top.

Onwards and downwards and upwards and downwards . . . . . . . . 

   
Hill no. 4: The Brunt – east side

Then it was across the ford, luckily dry but the road is a mess, then up The Brunt, another climb leaving you puffing at the top. 

 One of my favourite sections, a gorgeous half mile through a wooded dell, dappled in the sunshine. Then came the big one, over a mile long with an average gradient of 9%+ and several steep ramps double that.

   
  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, the first ramp  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, looking up to the second steep ramp, climbing at 5-8% here
  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, a sight I saw a few times  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, getting near the summit
 Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, the cattle grid at the top usually a good descent now!Hurrah, a lovely swoop back down the other side to look forward to, but:

Roadworks slowed progress, looks like they are putting in a new track for the wind turbines.
   
Some climb? 

Then it was down for a while, this time slowed by gates. After the valley in the distance it would be another undulating climb back over the distant hills.  Up beside Whitadder reservoir dam

I was now on the section of the road that the Tour of Britain will come down in September. should be fun!  

Whitadder Reservoir, not too many cheering crowds this day.

 
  Another great section with lots of undulations over the moors, I would do this section a couple of times this trip. Many sheep, birds including oyster catchers some way from the sea and cows.
  Approaching Redstone Rigg  Hill no. 6: Redstone Rigg, another local test piece
So the last of the 6 hills loomed up. This is one spoken of in awe locally, though Elmscleugh is far harder, but being further away from Edinburgh is cycled less. I’ve already booked my place here for the Tour of Britain, fantastic views of the riders coming up from miles away, unfortunately it will probably be mobbed with other cycling fans.

Bog cotton and a butt for grouse shooting at the top of ‘The Rigg’   

The wonderful descent with Whiteadder Reservoir in the distance. I went down here at 46 mph, but on a good day have manage 55 so what will the Tour riders be doing? They will have to watch out on the cattle grid in the middle of the descent .
  Iron Age Green Castle Fort, with its 3 ring defence
So back down & up & down & up till home, passing a dead badger on the way. Well pleased and satisfied. And for those who still think Central Scotland is flat?