Category Archives: speed

Flying Sheep and Somersaults

I’ve been biking over our local hills a bit recently. Usually this entails some steep climbs and a minimum of 3,000 feet of climbing. It’s been magic but hard going, tempered by fabulous descents.

The roads are a bit rough and gravelly in places, so a bit of caution is required. The wildlife has been a bit manic as well, not sure if it’s the youngsters being a bit hung ho, or just that’s the way it is.

But there is a dangerous side to all this. A pal a wee while back had a pheasant try to run through his front wheel while on a group ride. He was barreling along downhill at over 35 mph when the bird ran out in front of the group, dashed back into the hedgerow then swung but out again. The bike stopped dead, Eric catapulted over the front and broke his hip and the bike’s forks were broken.

Then last week another pal was coming down off the hills, I would imagine going pretty fast. This time it was a sheep that dashed out. After his abrupt stop and sumersault he is now recovering from a broken elbow and arm, so a few weeks off the bike.

It’s dangerous in them there hills!

My encounters have been luckier. Some roe deer hopped out in front, but I managed to slow down and let them caper about for a while before they disappeared into the undergrowth. Various pheasant, grouse and partridge have threatened to try to bring their lives to an end, all thwarted by a bit of caution. The worst have been the sheep, running harum scarum all over the place.

I took a sports cam with me on one of our trips to make a wee vid of a journey over the hills. At the moment it is too long (15 minutes) and I haven’t done the music so it’s not ready to inflict it on you all yet.

One of the shots was a sheep running out in front of me on a fast downhill section. It looks incredibly close on the video, but I had seen it and it didn’t feel anything like as bad in reality. When I was editing that section of the video I noticed when I looked at the still, the sheep was levitating across the road, so maybe hover biking is the way to go?
Sheep1

Sheep2

Sheep3

Sheep4

Sheep5

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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

Majorca10

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?

Englandshire & Welsh ups & doons

Well then, a visit doon sooth to cat and house sit in an 11th century Grange (a farm run by monks from the nearby Abbey).
Stopped at my nephew’s overnight to perform my role as a gruncle as well. Unfortunately when I arrived at the Grange Rob messaged me to say I had left my cycle shoes at his 😱, but that they’d posted them off 😃.
So two days later, the cat stopped clawing me enough, in that tender way cats do, to allow me to thank the postie & get out on the bike.
There wasn’t too much time before sunset, so I thought a wee 15 to 20 mile spin would do the trick.
But . . . I’d forgotten a couple of things or more. First of all there’s a lot of steep hills in Herefordshire, at least four on the ride had sections over 18%. Then there’s all these little twisty turny lanes all over the place – more of this later. And it was getting chilly, luckily I had a laminated OS map section tucked down my front (lucky in more senses than keeping me warm).
So carefully down the steep, gravelly, pot holed, narrow road, up the steep road opposite, a lovely descent till the fences and defences round the base where the SAS are rumoured to train. The next day we were stopped in the car here as two huge plane bodies made their slow, slow way round the tiny lanes.
Then down the main road and off up and down, up and down, up and down the dodgy wee lanes (you get the idea?). Suddenly, despite the map, I decided I was somewhat mislaid. After a sweeping whooshing descent, through an icy shower, map time again and I realised that I’d gone a bit too far.
Decision time, back over different ups & downs or try to whizz back along the flatter valley, trying to race against the fading light.
So, the valley it was. I raced along and made it to the bottom of the steep initial hill and crawled up it before turning down the lane home in the gloom.
It was brilliant! I love those times when you get it all slightly wrong and haul yourself out.
So 30 miles instead of 20, and over 2,500 feet of climbing, so much for a quick wee trip!
😈

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The Cat being looked after.

Adventure – Thoughts on a Talk.

Soloing Mont Blanc a few years ago

Soloing Mont Blanc quite a few years ago

For the last couple of years I’ve been giving occasional talks to various groups and I’ve committed myself to another soon.
To me I’ve led what seemed to be a fairly normal life, but seeing things through the eyes of others it seems less so.
Previous offerings for talks have been a trip to Nepal, climbing & trekking, and another on ‘Hidden East Lothian’, showing all the odd places, objects, and wildlife in the area that folk normally don’t see or notice.
I was asked to do another one which is coming up soon. So what to talk about – I decided on ‘Adventures’

So, first look up Adventure, how is it defined?
1a : an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks
b : the encountering of risks
2: an exciting or remarkable experience
Origin of ADVENTURE
Middle English aventure, chance, risk, from Anglo-French, from Vulgar Latin *adventura, from Latin adventus, past participle of advenire to arrive, from ad- + venire to come — more at come
First Known Use: 14th century

Ah yes, done a bit of this!

Looking into Tibet from Yala Peak, Nepal

Looking into Tibet from Yala Peak, Nepal

Started early, with my Ma & Pa, trekking over the hills & Youth Hostelling before we were 10. Staying in odd locations around Britain and so on. By the age of 16, I’d been on a few multi day canoe/ camping trips with pals, including a canal trip with a total gale which blew canal boats out of the water, we managed to keep our tent down somehow. I’d also started climbing & mountaineering so used to hitchhike off to the hills. Me and my pals also from an earlier age used to go off on our bikes for the day & set up off road courses on old bomb sites in the city.

So when it came to a career, Outdoor Education was the thing, first as a schoolteacher, then into local authority centres. So adventure just became a normal part of life.

So now, retired I look back and realise that life has been a real adventure,

Singing & playing for the seals after a force 10 gale at sea, just below Loch Coruisk, Skye

Singing & playing for the seals after a force 10 gale at sea, just below Loch Coruisk, Skye

Square Rigger, Inca - The Clipper Challange 1982

Square Rigger, Inca – The Clipper Challange 1982

sailing in gales,

Canoeing the Falls on the River Tummel - I'm there somewhere.

Kayaking the Falls on the River Tummel – I’m in there somewhere.

The Grade III falls at Gradtully

The Grade III falls at Gradtully

white water, sea and loch canoeing trips,

Wandering up the Concordia Glacier in the Alps, this was a rock bridge over a deep crevasse

Wandering up the Concordia Glacier in the Alps, this was a rock bridge over a deep crevasse

Ski Mountaineering Scottish Highlands

Ski Mountaineering Scottish Highlands

Winter solo canoe camping & mountaineering

Winter solo canoe camping & mountaineering

mountaineering (summer, winter, on ski & foot), climbing, glacier wanders, bivvying on the ice,

Cyclist's road hazard on Mull, Scotland - a highland 'coo'

Cyclist’s road hazard on Mull, Scotland – a highland ‘coo’

cycle trips,

Cheatah

stroking cheatahs and so on. All not at a super high level, but generally just getting out into the wilds.

Now, as I get a wee bitty older, I maybe should slow down, but to hell with that. For my 60th I did a solo road trip round California and Nevada, sleeping in the car or woods,

Climbing in Yosemite, a few hundred feet up

Climbing in Yosemite, a few hundred feet up

climbing and rafting at Yosemite, skiing down the Palisades at Lake Tahoe & meeting many interesting folk.
Six years later, I’ve cycled more than ever over the last year and am hoping to do a few ski trips into the Scottish hills this winter and the rivers are up and calling.

So where did all this thirst for adventure come from? Well both grandads were in the Merchant Navy wandering all over the world. One of them was part of an Arctic expedition to the then relatively unknown Kara Sea.

My Grandad on the Kara Sea expedition, very early 1920s

My Grandad on the Kara Sea expedition, very early 1920s

As I said my mum & dad were into cycling & youth hostelling in a big way in their youth, so some of this has rubbed off too I reckon.
So for the next 66 years – well, life’s just an adventure isn’t it?

What do you hear?

Heading down from the Col du Galibier to Lauteret just before overtaking

Heading down from the Col du Galibier to Lauteret just before overtaking

Think this could be a theme coming on, wandering around the senses?

I was very conscious of the sound of my tyres on the road the other day. It was quite windy & I was freewheeling down hill with the wind behind. The tarmac was fairly smooth and a delightful hum came from the front wheel, with no other sound. It set me thinking.

Normal bike sounds, the usual sound of the freewheel, usually fairly quiet on my Shimano set up. The clunk of the gear change or horrendous crunch if, as I occasionally do, get it wrong. The rasp of the tyres in an occasional skid to stop or over-egging it, the squelch through a puddle or ford, the crunch through gravel, the click over the local train level crossing (which is far from level) or the thud over lumps of tractor mud.  The different noises from the brakes – a gentle rub of pads on the rim, a short squeal if there is dust around or a foul crunching if a wet day has thrown gravel onto the rim. The chatter of cycling companions around or beside you usually entertains you. Then there is the explosion of an inner-tube blowing or the hiss of it leaking.

Then there’s the traffic. The quiet hum of cars, or noisier deep throated rumble of a diesel vehicle, coming up behind. The click of a bike gear change that lets you know a fellow cyclist has teamed up. The roar of a boy racer’s car (not usually women) as it violently accelerates past you. The disturbing hoot of a horn sounding from an impatient motorist behind. There’s also the shout of an irate motorist from beside you, often for no reason, ah the joys of pathetic road rage. The sounds of trains running on nearby railway tracks or tractors working in the fields.

Then there are nature’s sounds surrounding you. The different wind noises is almost always a variable constant, sometimes the patter of rain, the crunch of hail or the crack of thunder. There is also the cries of birds and the flurry of wings as they fly towards or away from you. The sparking of the hooves of deer or sheep as they scamper out of your way, hopefully.  Dogs often bark, or sometimes growl as you ride past, sometimes giving you a doppler effect. Horses in fields or ridden along the road give a whole variety of snorts, whimpers coughs etc, with riders often shouting out a cheery greeting, or a quick ‘thanks’.

Also the welcome salutations of friends, other pedestrians or cyclists are an ever welcome part of the soundscape.

But, the worst is the sound of a fall or crash and the groans of the one who has come to grief, such a compendium of grating noises – hopefully hardly ever heard.

And the strangest thing of all, the fact that for those of us lucky enough to have hearing, we mostly just take all of this for granted.

So . . . . . . . . what do you hear?

Sometimes it’s just not . . . . . . . .

An East Lothian pheasant, not dashing out.

An East Lothian pheasant, not dashing out.

. . . . . got your number.

It’s been a funny autumn so far. The wildlife seems to be going a bit nuts. Drivers seem to be a bit less courteous or maybe less thoughtful, birds seem to have their minds on other things.

So – what’s the upshot of all of this.

The Lucky Times

Crossing the hills, the sheep take it into their minds to dash out in front of you, but decide to change course and head back to the edge of the road.

At the edge of the woods the deer skitter in front of you but head off into the trees.

The mad pheasants whizz across just before you, without getting that bit too close.

The flies & bugs that batter your face when your mouth is closed.

And as for humans, we manage to scrape past a big car belting round the blind bend towards us, with our wheels teasing the verges of the road and my back wheel skidding as I brake while angled over. Or the other one, when I was coming up the High Street in our village, she reversed out in front of me, I just managed to scrape round the rear of the ‘Chelsea Tractor’ without making contact. Went back and asked her politely to make sure she looked more carefully next time she pulled out and she said “But I did see you”. I was too flabbergasted to say or think of anything & just rode on shaking my head.

The Bad

Not to me, luckily, but to a cycling buddy.

On a Sunday we go out with a local group. I go out on at 9 am with the slower crew, a coffee stop is almost compulsory. He went out with the 8 am fast crew. I’ve been with them a couple of times, but just feel I’m holding them back when it gets to the hills, plus I feel knackered. Anyways, they were in a group speeding down one of our local hills at 35+ mph when a pheasant flew out into his front wheel. He went from fast to zero in a fraction of time and was thrown right off the bike. He was knocked out for a bit, but recovered consciousness but had a cracked shoulder blade, road rash & skid burns. After a hospital visit he was later back home to recover. The bike’s front fork was broken.

So sometimes, you just can’t do anything about it, fate seems to have its eye on you. So be thankful for the other times when it’s just not your day.