Category Archives: Sportive

A Wee Bit of a Ride

Early September – it was time for the Tour of Tweeddale again.

Tweeddale is in the Scottish Borders and is a fabulous venue for cycling of all sorts. I’ve done this event for the last five years, since it started. The distance in the past has varied from 85 to 99 miles but this time it was just over the 100 mile mark.

So having done what I hoped was sufficient training, I met up with some cycling pals ready for the off from Peebles. Another couple joined us on the line so a nice group of five were ready to go. I had stayed in the town the night before so had till 7.30 to wake up and get ready. In previous years, it was over an hour to drive down, so usually up at 5.30 to 6 am and I’m not good at mornings.

It was a chilly start, but not desperate and we were soon away and getting warmed up. The first section headed eastwards down beside the River Tweed on the back roads of the Tweed  Way. It was gorgeous, zooming up and mainly down with the wind behind and good views as we sped along. After the first 20 miles we left the Tweed Valley and climbed up and over to descend towards Selkirk.

We bypassed the town and headed for The Swire, otherwise know as the Witchy Knowe, the first real and steepest climb of the day.

img_8036

First food stop, bottom of ‘The Swire’

A quick food stop and then on up.

img_8035

Ronnie replenishing

img_8040

Theo at the bottom of the Swire

A lovely climb, reasonably steep but at a fairly constant gradient, and the countryside looked fabulous in the sun.

img_8038

Heading up the Swire from the north

Up and over the cattle grid and a swoop down to the next valley.

img_8039

Top of the Witchy Knowe

img_8040

Bottom of the Swire

In a wee while came Berrybush, another lovely climb, less steep but extensive forestry at the top.

img_8033

A wee break before the climb – the bottom of Berrybush

We hurtled back down and arrived at the Gordon Arms for the next food stop. Ah, the soup – just brilliant. The volunteers were great, the food stops full of lovely stuff and some chat with other riders in the sun, bliss or what.

img_8034

The Gordon Arms, 2nd food stop

Then back on the bikes to trundle down to Moffat, except for one thing. The wind was head on and mush stronger than expected, having been forecast to come up later. So it was a bit of a gruelling ride down with us swapping leads while the others sheltered behind. But, as compensation, the scenery was fabulous, with the gentle border hills vivid green in the sun, St. Marys Loch glinting and outlining the sailing boats busy out racing and the occasional bursts of chat when a lull in the wind allowed.

We rattled through Moffat, just stopping at road junctions, before heading for the last real climb of the day – The Devil’s Beeftub. This was the long one, 6 1/2 miles of climbing ascending just over 1000 feet, but not too steep and highly enjoyable, especially with the wind behind us now. After the climb it was a rapid descent for over 25 miles back to Peebles, going so well we even ignored the food stop on the way.

So at the end of the trip a great ride together.

ps. I am working on the video – you have been warned!!

Advertisements

Squeaks, creaks, tweaks and Tweeddale

Beware, acute visual boredom may result from this post if you follow the links.

First – the squeaks and creaks – apart from me bones. I noticed a sort of squeaky, creaky sound whenever I changed the rear gear. It was hard to locate  the source while out, so I thought the noise was coming from the rear and the derailleur and cable needed some lubrication. A dose of white lightning later on and I was on my way again on the next ride. Goodness me, it was still there. I tried just pushing the lever without changing gear and sure enough the creak and squeak was still the same, though possibly louder. Got back, put the bike on the stand and pushed gently on the lever again. Aha, found it – seemed to come from near the gear lever. So – it must be the cable going – so obvious. Slipped the cable out of the adjusters and then the frame brackets, no problem, just a quick look at the cable end. Pushed the lever to the side – nothing obvious, pushed the cable nipple through so I could see it, nothing. So, one more thing eliminated. Everything put back together and no noise. Aha!! Sorted!!

Out on the bike next time and back it came again – this was not good, as well as being irritating. After the ride I was determined. My ear travelled up and down the frame as I carefully tweaked the gear lever. This time, this time!!

It appeared to come from the bottom bracket, what? Then it struck me, I  turned the bike over and yes – the noise was coming from the cable guides at the bottom of the frame. Right then, I was going to be that squeak’s nemesis. The tweak was set in motion. First clean out the guides from whatever gunk was there, didn’t appear to be hardly any. Next white lightning oil liberally applied over the cable and guides. Next turn bike over and cross fingers. The evil seemed to be gone, so turn over and repeat process to be sure.

IMG_4004

First check out the rear deraillier

IMG_4003

Second look for a cable breaking up

IMG_4005

Finally – the cable guides – the culprit!

Next day out again and a quiet gentle gear change, but something felt not right with the pedal action. A sort of gentle clunk on the downstroke. I guessed what this one might be.

Back home, up on the stand, rock the pedal – yes, right this time, the bottom bracket bearings were away. So a quick order in for a replacement and I await the posties knock at the door, while hoping the one in the frame lasts for another couple of days. Fingers crossed again. It seems there’s always something.

Meantime, I did a Sportive down in the Scottish Borders last September, with some pals. I took my sportscam along and managed to get some not-too-bad footage and have finally finished editing. The Sportive is The Tour of Tweeddale, a superb event which I have done since it started 4 years ago. Last year it was 82 miles this year it’s 102 so should be interesting(?). I discovered that the Garmin VIRB app for the mac will allow me to superimpose stats onto the video so for a stats freak like me that’s no’ bad as we say. So for your delight if you wish you can follow the link, to get to the slightly better bits skip to 0:25 and 5:30

Tweeddale and The Wall of Talla: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dow_0wd58zs

Portugal and hills, hills, hills

Been away a wee bit for a holiday, meeting up with some of my family. I’m not a great fan of the sun, with my freckles and originally red hair, but enjoy the heat. Nice to be able to wander around in shorts and suncream for a while after the coldish Scottish winter.

Coffee time - again!!

Coffee time – again!!

Family joy

Family joy

I managed some cycling too. I tried to hire a road bike but could only get a mountain bike for the first few days with a road bike later, but that turned out well. Around where we are staying are these interesting bike paths along the clifftops and also the towns with their cobbled streets.

Coast by Prianha

Coast by Prianha, I cycled this one

Interesting paths, I walked this one!

More interesting paths, I walked this one!

So it was fun razing around the place, despite bashing my head on occasional branches and sore wrists (I get this on my own mountain bike as well).

Interesting track along the dyke

Interesting track along the dyke above the estuary for a few kilometres

Across the estuary, Mount Foia in the far distance

Across the estuary, Mount Foia in the far distance waiting for another day

Sardine fishermen

Sardine fishermen

There was also the joys of hoopoes hoping across the path in front of me, Iberian (azure) jackdaws flashing through the trees, the flamingos and egrets out in the bay, the smiles and waves of passers by, the sounds of the sea, wind and so on and so on.

A lurking hoopoe

A lurking hoopoe

An Iberian Jackdaw

An Iberian Jackdaw

You had to watch out on some of the paths as there were big, really big (20m deep holes) with only sketchy fences round them. If I fell down one of those my remains could have stayed there for a long, long time. Also the cliff paths were a bit dodgy at times, so walking in places seemed a good option.

Best to stop right now?

Best to stop right now?

One of the big, big holes.

One of the big, big holes.

By day four though, enough was enough. Luckily I had the nice road bike for the next three days. So even more sun cream and the joy of a decent road bike underneath me. The mountain bike had only done one ride, this one was brand new, so I was really spoilt. The owner was an ex-pro rider Tomas Swift Metcalfe (https://www.swiftmomentumsports.com/) and he spent ages setting up the machines and swapping stories, routes & places to go or not go and hints about the area. We had a bit of a hiccup at first as he’d had a delivery of new bikes, but they hadn’t put the wheels in, so he’d been hunting around Portugal trying to find wheels for clients for the week.  He was meant to be delivering the bike the evening before the hire, but we arranged for the delivery early the next morning.

The road bike at the villa

The road bike at the villa

It was great to be freewheeling on a road bike again, though there were still those steep cobbled streets to contend with, much less comfortable than the mountain bike. The western Algarve is a strange area for cycling. Some fast roads being the only routes in places, but mostly reasonable drivers despite the accident record of the country. Then head away from the coast a little and it’s mainly excellent quiet country roads, with fruit and olive trees, vines old houses, cattle with their cow bells clanging. I spent some time getting mislaid, as I foolishly hadn’t loaded up the right maps on my Garmin, but navigating by the sun or wind a bit I managed to sort things out. I cycled up to Silves, a lovely old town. As I went past the Cathedral a group of about 40 cyclists, a club outing, went past the road end. I followed them up, overtaking a few, then reached the main group who were waiting for the stragglers. We exchanged cheery waves and holas and I carried on my way.

Silves Cathedral

Silves Cathedral

A Square in Silves

A Square in Silves

Next day I managed a climb up to Foia, the Algarve’s highest point at just under 3,000 feet. With 55 miles and over 4,000 feet of climbing altogether it was four hours well spent, even though I didn’t see much at the top as it was shrouded in mist. 20 miles up at 4% average and 6% for the last 6 miles with some much steeper ramps made an interesting climb. The road down from the summit was fast with mainly sweeping turns and a real joy. I heard a plasticy clang on the way down after going over a bump, looked down and back but couldn’t see anything obvious. It was only when I got back I realised that the spare water bottle had jumped out and must have rolled off the road.

Route Profile for Mont Foia

Route Profile for Mont Foia

The mist at the Foia summit clearing slightly

The mist at the Foia summit clearing slightly

Colourful Portugal

Colourful Portugal

My last ride was a quiet saunter up into the foothills through some small sleepy villages, only marred by a puncture, ah well can’t have everything! I had a first experience on the way – a strip club!! I’ve always liked abandoned buildings, so I had a look inside. Even abandoned it looked very seedy and out of character in that rural background.

Abandoned strip club

Abandoned strip club

Seedy interior

Sleazy interior

The area was interesting with orchards full of oranges, apricots and other fruits plus the vineyards. There were many spring flowers dotting the pastures around as well.

Up country, house(?) for sale but the horse?

Up country, house(?) for sale but the horse?

An old water wheel

An old water wheel

Orange trees

Orange trees

The other great way thing was that my sister, niece and respective families were out, so I had a magical time being a Grunkle and playing lots, both in and out of the water and the sea caves. So an interesting time with some good roads and tracks and some great views over the ocean and hills. Not sure if I would like to spend more time in the area on a road bike though as there seem to be few rural roads away from the coast in that area.

Snail House

Snail House

An older lady in Lagos

An older lady in Lagos

Spotted in the bakers

Spotted in the bakers

After a while away at 20º I was back home in Scotland and had signed up for the Tour de Lauder (http://www.tourdelauder.co.uk/). This is a tough Sportive round the Scottish Borders of 89 miles (140+km) and 6,000 feet (2,000m) of climbing. It was a hard day as well and a contrast from Portugal. Not long after we set off in the pouring rain we climbed out of Lauder. The temperature dropped to 0º and the snow arrived. Dropping down a bit it was back to the cold rain, which eventually died away. By the end of the day the temperature on the tops had gone up to 14º, typical Scottish weather!! The route was difficult, not for the major climbs, but the great number of energy sapping ups and downs throughout, and especially toward the finish. The wind turned gradually during the day as well so most of the time we had a head wind, which we luckily worked together. Quite a challenge altogether but well worth doing.

Route Profile for Tour de Lauder 2015

Route Profile for Tour de Lauder 2015

The steep climb snakes up from the bottom of the hill, just visible to the Witchy Knowe.

The steep climb snakes up from the bottom of the hill, just about visible top left, to the Witchy Knowe.

Johnny reaching the top.

Johnny glad to be reaching the top.

Captured by RM Photography

Captured by RM Photography

So a quiet week, then off to Mallorca with some cycling buddies for some more sun dodging and sleeveless cycling.