Category Archives: rural

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.

A Rose by Any Other Name . . . . . . . . .

Up in the Lammermuirs, Scotland

Up in the Lammermuirs, Scotland

What’s in a name?

I’m not sure, but I do enjoy giving my rides a special name rather than ‘Tuesday ride’ or ‘Morning ride”. Sometimes the name is descriptive, sometimes a little poetic and sometimes just plain daft. Not sure if my cycling friends enjoy them (though some do), but it is a wee bit of fun. A local friend who I cycle with has started naming his rides after the shape of the ride on the map, this also leads to a bit of entertainment and banter.

So what are these names? Here’s a wee selection from recent ones, earlier ones first:

‘ Wi’ the B-Spokes – coffee & scones, but still no sprinkles’

‘The best laid lack of plans’

‘Enough gravel for 1,000,000 grouse gizzards’

‘Wild Dunbar & Mike’

‘B-Spokes Tuesday & Jelly Legs’

‘Talks wi ‘pals + thorn and shrew’

‘1/2 century difference and wet, wet, wet’

‘Deluge & 1/2 naked lady’

‘Oer the Hill wi’ Nicky’

‘Blown over the hill – sort of’

So, are you the ‘morning ride’ variety or do you spice up life a little?

Wedding Roses

Wedding Roses

Life’s illusions 2 and pet hates

Shadows on the beach

Shadows on the beach

I finally succumbed. I’ve gone totally metric.

Most of my cycling pals talk in kilometres and metres so I’ve reset my Garmin to do the same.

So do I feel faster cycling at 81.271872 kmph rather than 50.5 mph? Do I feel I’ve climbed less if I wander up the hills for 616 metres rather than 2020 feet 113132 inches? If anything the reverse. I seem to spend my time trying to convert in my head rather than just going with the new. I’m sure that this will pass and I’ll be kilometreing with the best. Gosh, it’s hell being a geek!

Another illusion is the feeling of improving. Having been improving again on the bike, suddenly yesterday it all caved in. My legs became sticks of jelly on the hills, though I was OK on the flats & downhills – as fast as ever. Most of my cycling pals all speed off up the way as I painfully rose up the ascent. And why? Haven’t a clue, maybe it’ll be better today?

Finally pet hates, I have one main one. “To die for”. Why does this irk me so? I’m not really sure. What I am sure is that there may well be things worth dying for but a hat, a pair of cycing shoes, a dress, tickets to see someone perform? The folk using this phrase would certainly not give up their lives for these. Now “To live for”, that’s a different matter altogether.

Tour de France Training Short Term & just for Wimps, part 1?

With my granddaughter and her cousin, ready for the 12 zip wires of the canopy tour

With my granddaughter and her cousin, ready for the 12 zip wires of the canopy tour

5am in Dubai with free wifi.

I thought I would wait till I had 20 followers before I publish this one. So I’m halfway there. No publicity or promotion and the blog audience slowly grows, so must be doing something right that you like reading.

At last getting back to my own bike soon after several weeks in the Southern Hemisphere. Rain awaits, but hey it’s Scotland we’re talking about, though I do live just up the road from the sunniest place in Scotland, Dunbar, known locally as Sunny Dunny.

My last South African ride ended with a whimper though. After having a tyre replaced after it had done under 30 km and the wire bead parted from the main tyre – something I & the shop owner had never seen before, I took the new tyre with bike attached out for a spin. 0.5 km later I was walking back as the tyre had slipped off the rim, so not too much kilometre-age on that ride then!

So it’ll be good to get back to my trusty steed & ride around in the sunset again.

As for the training programme to demonstrate my point – you’ll just have to wait – 10 more sign-ups to go, surprised I’ve got this far already!

Give me my bike back

Near Platrand, South Africa

Near Platrand, South Africa

I want my bike back

Maybe South Africa doesn’t want me to cycle? And I want my bike back?

Staying with my step granddaughter here, gorgeous weather mostly, but . . . .

The only bike is an old heavy mountain bike. Only three gears working on the back cassette and they keep slipping. Three on the front, but squealing and complaining, plus desperately hard to change up. Is it worth trying to adjust, probably not as just an hour on the bike is enough anyway and I could make it worse

On the first ride out no pump to be found to blow up the tyre so a visit to the local garage. On the second ride out I discovered the kids had been practising skid stops so the tyre was well worn in places. About 2 miles from the house the tyre suddenly started bumping and then exploded, causing the guys at the building site next to me to gaze in astonishment. Especially as I’m sure a fossil like me in Lycra is a rare sight here. The cause, a big rip in the tyre. So off to the bike shop & had a tubeless tyre fitted.

Next ride out OK except I stopped for a pee on a dirt road up into the hills and I managed to puncture myself on a vicious thorn tree.

Next less than a mile from the end of a ride the new tyre suddenly slipped off the rim, luckily I was going slow at the time. There was no wire bead on it!!! Ah well.

So what conclusions? The cycling here is interesting! Folk seem friendly with lots of waves and cheery helloes. The way of life scenery is so different with the Drakensberg mountains in the background behind the savannah. The motorists are mainly very accommodating, and the roads excellent. Makes me yearn for my Specialized road bike instead of trundling along at 10 mph.

But I’m still so grateful I’ve been able to get out! The world seems so different on a bicycle.

Twitch, twitch, twitch

Getting Twitchy

Away from home for a while, visiting relatives in a different country.

Lovely relaxing in the sun, doing tours, experiencing a new culture.

But after a few days, involuntary plotting has started. My legs are beginning to feel unused, but a couple of wee walks have been a help. Up into the hills a wee bit.

Then my thoughts kick off again. There’s a beat up mountain bike in the garage, flat tyres, too small, but maybe?

I wonder if there’s a bike hire place in the town? I see some folk in bike outfits & road bikes on the roads out of town & wonder if I can make contact, but don’t know anything about the bike culture here.

My Garmin is charged up & ready to go and I’m sure I’ll make it somehow, but I’m not too good at just relaxing.

Maybe some gardening, Maybe I’ll take up running, all I need is my trainers, but it won’t be the same, will it?

Twitch, twitch, twitch.

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?

The Team Outfit

NBCC Jumpe

North Berwick Cycling Club outfit

I’ve never been much of a one for uniforms (apart from the cultural type – eg my days as a part-time university hippie).

But I’ve been inveigled into a couple recently. It’s all the fault of this cycling lark. I go out with a bunch of FOSSILS most Tuesdays, with a compulsory coffee & scones stop en route at various establishments in the vicinity. We also arrange trips away occasionally both in Scotland & abroad. One of our number suggested we should call ourselves something, I suppose it might stop the more derogatory remarks that might come our way?

So after a committee decision we became The B-Spoke Ones. Then it became a bit more serious and a suggestion was made to have cycling bib shorts and tops. So the outfit was committee designed & became the rather garish outfit shown in my profile picture, proceeding up Alpes d’Huez before the 100th Tour de France came up (twice) in the afternoon. At first I thought this outfit is so totally O.T.T., but then gradually came to like wearing it. At least it gives the motorists something colourful to aim for, or more hopefully avoid.

I also cycle with another more mixed group, loosely based around North Berwick & East Lothian. It is all organised as a Yahoo group & by emails.  There are a fast group that set off at 8 am, and a more sedate group at 9 am every Sunday. You can guess which group I’m in. Once again the idea was passed around for a group top and after much online discussion a design was settled on with lots of advertising on the rear to offset the costs. This time I didn’t succumb, but followed the many black & orange outfits in my undemure B-Spokes one.

But, one of the gang had bought a jumper, but he thought it was a bit daft advertising a local builders firm & not his own, so he’d only worn it twice. When offered the offending item for a total knock down price I couldn’t refuse. So I now have a dilemma.

Which one should I wear. Do I enter Sportives as a B-Spoke or a NBCC (North Berwick Cycling Club)? Or maybe I should just go along incognito. I think the B-Spoke might win as it is so easy to pick out in event photos and I like being a bit of a peacock, but then again . . . . . . . .

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