Category Archives: Sports equipment

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?

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It just got worser & worser

One for me and the water for the dug

One for me and the water for the dug

Well it looked like it couldn’t get worse, my good bike out of action and my tatty old trusty iron steed as a replacement.

First the trusty iron horse let me down. It started skipping in the gears and obviously needed a new chain, so I fitted one plus a suitable cassette. The bike sounded better, but started skipping on the middle chain ring. I went out and met my Sunday riding crew at the cafe, as I knew I would hold them up if I started at our usual meeting place. Managed to juggle between the low & high chain rings, which proved interesting. After coffee & scones with the gang we emerged to discover a spoke had broken on my back wheel. I had some string so tied it up to one of the others & cycled back the 15 miles with a bit more decorum than normal, ignoring the wobble in the wheel.

So, I needed a cheap (not really worth spending anything much) chainset and new spoke. After searching the internet for what seemed like a millenium I discovered you can get parts for an ancient obsolete velocipede if you try hard enough, so sent off my spondolicks. The chainset just arrived today so still to be fitted.

Meantime, one of my biking pals offered me his spare bike to use till everything is sorted. After adjusting brakes, headset etc. it felt a little safer to take on the highway, but a little uncomfortable as I don’t want to upset his settings.

Another meantime, the bike shop got in touch so it seems that the derailleur I had is all twisted up and is also obsolescent, even though just a very few years old, so another wait till an alternative is found.

So my lack of luck with machinery this year continues, but . . . . . . . .

I am still out on a bike, haven’t had to revert to my mountain bike & it looks like things will be sorted for the 80 mile sportive I’m doing in a couple of weeks.

Now – where is that team car when you need it?

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.

Sharing my bath and other nasties

In Nambiti Game Park, South Africa, near Ladysmith,  winter sunrise

In Nambiti Game Park, South Africa, near Ladysmith, winter sunrise

I know, I know, ‘they’ recommend a cold bath, even with ice after a hard ride.

I know, I know a shower is the thing to get you clean and flush away the debris of a long ride.

But, I love to soak in a hot bath for a long time (topping it up occasionally), finishing a few chapters of my latest book.

But after a 90+ mile, very hilly ride I decided warm water relax would be just the thing.

It had been a hot ride (31 degrees for a while – and this is Scotland!), I’d been very, very slow. Dehydrated despite drinking litres of fluid, but legs felt OK.

So into the bath, ah bliss. Then a noticed the wee black dots around me in the water. The berry bug season has started. These tiny wee flies are not a good thing, they crawl into the tight areas of clothing and take a tiny bite out of you. The result – red, itchy spots for days after. Luckily when cycling they don’t seem to bite, just crawl, so maybe the induced wind keeps them at bay?

So ignore the things, with all that water they aren’t surviving anyway, make sure I rinse at the end and goodbye to my shared bathing experience.

In the middle of the ride I had got slightly off route. I came across this ford and started to ride across, slowly luckily. After a metre the bike started sliding all over the place. In a feat worthy of Danny MacAskill, I managed to regain my balance, unclip and get my feet on the ground. Then on foot I ploutered across the ford with the bike, still slipping & sliding all the way, but without falling into the river, just. So, it was soaking wet feet for the next 45 miles.

Finally, they’ve been spraying tar and gravel chips onto some of my favourite routes locally. One road was resurfaced about a year or two ago and was a pure delight, a ribbon of tarmac. It’s a wee quiet back road so now it’ll be a while before it will be properly rideable again.

Ah well.

8th Time lucky?

After numerous repairs, sorting time again

After numerous repairs, sorting time again

Back home from South Africa. Fabulous roads, lots of sun (winter but 25 degrees C in the sun), but on a borrowed mountain bike.

Offroad could have been fun & I managed a couple of dirt roads. So what went wrong?

First of all, bits were hanging off & needed adjusting. Flat tyres and a bit sad altogether. So a quick go-over, trip to the garage to blow up the tyres (no pump available) & then head out on the road. Discovered only a few of the gears were working and the bike weighed a ton. More adjustments but to no avail, not worth spending too much time so I was just grateful to be out on two wheels.

Next ride the rear wheels skewed & hit the frame. So a quick walk back, re-adjust, tighten up & go, with the spanner in my pocket.

Another ride, 2 1/2 miles out and a strange bump, bump, bump from the rear tyre followed by an explosion. The workers on a nearby building site looked up in amazement (fear?). The rear tube had forced it’s way through the back tyre, which was pretty bad having been used for slides & skids, and had not lasted long.

Walked back, then next day off to the bike shop for a new tyre. Because of crazy thorns off-road a ‘tubeless’ solid tube was fitted. Looked like no tubes so no hassle.

After a couple of rides, after 10 miles and 1/2 a mile or so from the house. strange wobbly sensation from the back wheel & rubbing again. Dismounted & found the tyre had dismounted too. A guy walking passed tried to help me ease it on again but no luck, so another walk home.

Back to the bike shop. Discovered the wire had ripped right out of the bead of the tyre. Neither I nor the shop had seen it before (or so they told me). New tyre was then fitted so it should be hassle free.

Out again next day, just got 1/2 mile from home. The new tyre started coming off the rim again. Walked back and gave up as I was coming back home in a couple of days.

Then, back home to Scotland – hurrah a decent bike, no hassles at last. Boy, was I wrong!!!!

First ride out, great going way better than expected, except one of the farmers had put a water hose across the road, with a metal cover on top. The sun was out & I didn’t see it till the last moment. At over 30 mph, managed to jump the front wheel over but smacked it a bit with the rear.Waited for the hiss, but nothing so completed the ride.

Next day out with the B-Spokes (a group of mainly FOSSILS), so went through to the bike – flat. In double quick time whipped the inner tube out, chucked a new one in and pumped up the tyre. Noticed the rear gear cable was looking a bit frayed. But, no time to wait – sped off to meet the others.

Good ride, good coffee, good scones but 2 miles from home, guess what? Yes, the rear gear cable snapped so I waved the others on ahead and slowly made my way back.

So, the conclusion is – not much really, except to hope for a better few weeks and a wee reminder that checking the bike is a good thing? Maybe all bad things may come to an end?

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.