Tag Archives: cycling

The 30 minute job and smelly me

The cranks felt like they had a bit of a clunk on the downstroke, just not quite right. Had a check, yes the bottom bracket was on the way out. No problem- order a new one, undo the cranks, then unscrew the old one, reassemble with the new one and go, go, go.
That was the theory anyway.

So waited for the order to arrive, meantime hoping the old one wouldn’t disintegrate. It didn’t. Next free day, down to work. Out with the allen keys, pop off the first crank. Unscrew the second, but no go, bit more force – still no, gentle taps with soft mallet. Then !?{}#%!#%{[}¥, the allen key was just turning round. So off to Chris at the garage, an amazing cyclist, after messing around with various cludges a nicely hammered in tork did the trick. Back home, screw out one side of the bottom bracket, then screw out the other – oh no, more !?{}#%!#%{[}¥. The whole casing, with the bottom bracket part firmly inside, came away from the frame. Not good, to say the least!

So, tried to unscrew it, no go. Needed a bit more oomph. Time to phone a friend. Eventually got hold of pal Gus, popped over and with a mole wrench, bench vice and metre long metal pipe somehow got the thing apart, without damaging the casing.

Back home, lots of reassembling with adhesive and grease, each in the right areas and wait till morning to see if it all worked. Unfortunately the floating screw holding the cable guides in place had gone as well, so a bit more adhesive there as well.

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Underneath my poor muddy bike, showing the relevant bits

So wheeled the bike out for riding with the team, no problem. Smooth again, just have to check that everything stays firm. So that 30 minute job, which took 3 hours seems to have done the trick.

Next job, cassette and chain – now that should only take me . . . . . . . ?

Now for the smelly bit. Riding along yesterday was lovely as ever. Past the bluebell woods with a good wind pushing me on.

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Bluebell woods with late daffodils clinging on

A newly surfaced road up in the nearby foothills was an absolute joy. Then a bit later on going past Frizells Wood I smelt a strong odour. I’m usually pretty good at keeping clean and using antioderant, but this was pervasive. Then it hit me, the wild garlic flowers were out with their pungent scent, not altogether unpleasant. By the way, who was Frizell? No idea, and I haven’t been able to find out.

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Wild garlic (ramsons), pretty but pungent

ps. Chain broke at the end of a ride today, luckily near the top of the hill beside the village. New chain & cassette went on a treat.

And a final recent photo

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The Flying Scotsman steams through the village past the old station on its way to Edinburgh

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.

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First check out the rear deraillier

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Second look for a cable breaking up

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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

Funny old Spring and bum cream

It’s been a pretty weird Spring this year, hot, cold, windy, still, rain, sun, snow. As I tap the rain is pelting down outside, but the sun is due late on today.

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Hairy gorse out for Spring

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Tulips in the sun

I was cycling up on the hills two days ago with snow around and the week before I was back in shorts a few times. But then variety is the spice of life?

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A 50 miler 2 weeks ago

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Johnny trying not to run me over (me lying on the road!)

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Climbing up Redstone Rigg 2 days ago

My ribs have mostly healed but a couple of weeks ago I forgot I was recovering. I’m involved with the local community cinema (Pix in the Stix). We were putting on ‘Bill’ for the kids film, a comedy about William Shakespeare – great if you haven’t seen it. The adult film was ‘The Lady in the Van’, another terrific one. While setting up for the shows I lifted over the speakers, fairly light and easy. Then I hoiked up the amp in its flight case. Big mistake, I felt something in my ribcage tug and knew I should not have done that! So I was set back a wee bit, but still out on the bike. It was the 25th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, so we decided to put on the film of Roger Waters, from the band, reflecting on this. He visited his grandfather’s grave from the first world war, and his father’s grave from the second world war, as well as giving a huge performance of The Wall. We also had a band playing, a younger member of Pix played some background music and I sang some old blues numbers. A brilliant night indeed, held in the old village hall at Tyninghame, which at one time was a bakehouse.

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Sound checks

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Setting up Pix in the Stix

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The band before ‘The Wall’

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Special cakes for the Pink Floyd night

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Aghghghghgh

I’ve had some good rides, as usual. I’m lucky as I relish variety in conditions. I’ve been up and down our local hills quite a bit. As regular followers know it’s steep round here, so I’ve needed to take it easyish as standing up peddling has caused discomfort or pain, till the last week or so. I look forward to going out with the groups I ride with, keeps me going pushing with folk a few decades younger than me. And there is good banter along the way or at the cafe too.

One of my favourite cafés is re-opening soon under new management. It’s going to be called The Lanterne Rouge, so it’s obviously going to give a huge welcome to cyclists. For those who are not into racing, the Lanterne Rouge was awarded to the rider who finishes the Tour de France in last place.

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Un Lanterne Rouge

Now the final bit, bum cream. As with all cycling things, eating, drinking, equipment, training etc. there are masses of opinions on what we should be doing and how, where, why etc. One of these is the more delicate parts of our anatomy which connect with the saddle. I am fairly scrupulous about spreading ‘chamois cream’ on my susceptable parts before a longer ride, but recently I forgot (or couldn’t be bothered – for want of a more appropriate word). One of these was an 85 mile jaunt to test bikes. Surprisingly I find few bad effects, so I’ve been experimenting a bit and it sometimes it makes a difference, others not. So I’ve reached totally no conclusion, not for the first time either.

So as ever a few extra pics for your delectation or otherwise:

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Up by the monument looking north to N Berwick Law and the Paps o’ Fife

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Subtle overshoes?

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Deep Spring ploughing locally

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Spring snow in the hills

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The climb ahead up to the tops, a mere 17%er

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At the top of ‘The Rigg’, warmer than it looks!

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Looking back over the Firth of Forth and the hills up north

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The Bass Rock below with the northern mountains behind

Nothing Much

Just felt like writing a bit. So here goes.

“Spring is sprung, the grass is riz” in the words of E.E. Cummings. So the weather has gone crazee, as ever. Mid April and snow, though just wee suggestions of it, but a dusting higher up. Before that I was down to 2 layers and hoping for shorts, that’s on the back burner again. Managing to get in the miles though, some warm, some cold, some dry, some wet and some very, very wet.

The first ride after the longish one was out with the Sunday crew, 51 miles in a whole slew of weather, but at least coffee & cake was on the menu.

After that it was much better, grinning like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, warm & dry once I’d climbed up into an inversion above the murk with lambs in the fields & skylarks yelling from above.

Then came our usual Tuesday ride  with the gang of FOSSILs (Fine Old Senior Souls In Lycra)  I ride with every week. Coffee stops and scones are just about compulsory. Forecast was not fine, but some were better than others. Half way round we were nearing the cafe, but cold & drouchit we passed on the stop and headed for home. So 32 wet, wet and chilly miles that took my gear a long while to dry out.

The last one was just gorgeous with the compensation of a glorious sunset, pheasants dotting about the place and a hare bounding up the road in front of me. If I wanted variety then living here gives it all.

Today was a wee bit different, nearby is a wake boarding centre, so we pottered down for a wee wander. As a bonus the local primroses were out in the woods and the bluebells just showing the mass of blue that is to come.

As ever a few pics:

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A steep hairpin

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Round & down

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Topping out

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Looking north, better get hame before the light goes

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Sunset with no rain or snow

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Cherry blossom in the sunset

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Fun at Foxlake

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Wakeboarding the jumps

 

Hard, hard: spondoolics worth of high tech, “Hold the Train”

The invite arrived in the electronic post, come and try out the new Specialized road bikes. Seemed churlish to refuse. But, it was at Knockhill race course about 50 miles away, ah well. So I requested a place – I could always get the train back if it all got too much.

The day dawned, the forecast was rubbish, windy with showers and heavy showers. But a simple thing like that wouldn’t stop me. So beans and egg to stoke up for lunch then away. The wind was awful, straight into it for mile after mile. I thought I’d get a wee bit of shelter through Edinburgh, but it was not to be. The wind was funnelling down the cycle ways, so aching legs and only half way there. I battled on, 3 drops of rain fell on me and I thought that’s it, some wetness to add ramp up any misery. Strangely enough my obstinacy gene kicked in and determination overcame any bad thoughts. So hey, on with the show, no more rain drops and the sun came out as I crossed the Forth Road Bridge, with the iconic rail bridge to one side and the building of the new road bridge to the other. At one point a ship crossed at an angle 300 feet below, a very strange feeling similar to when a train pulls away beside your carriage in a station and you feel that you’re going backwards.

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Forth Road Bridge – 300 foot down

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A wee rest & photo session

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A bad shot of the pillar for the newForth Road Bridge

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The old Victorian iconic Forth Rail Bridge

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Ships below

At least the wind was from the rear on the beam for the first time. That didn’t last as I climbed up and up to Knockhill (so well named!), the wind once more was angled towards me as well as sweeping down towards me. But I knew I was closing with my destination so no chance of feeling sorry for myself now.

I arrived to a seemingly deserted race course, with the scream of tuned race cars whizzing round the track. I was directed down a back door into the pits and spotted the Specialized team setting up racks for the bikes.

Enough – I needed a break. After 50 of the hardest miles I’ve ever done, into hard winds almost all the way, the cafe called. I signed in, went into the cafe and just wasn’t impressed. But a large coffee & chocolate muffin later and the legs had recovered slightly.

Then after a quick briefing it was back to the pits, and by now the racing cars had gone and an array of expensive Specialized bikes were on the racks tempting us nicely.

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Temptation

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More temptation

Despite my white beard and ragged looks, plus probably slightly staggering gait I was offered a pick of the crop. After all Bgddyjim had said, it had to be the Venge. What a bike, it exuded fast, fast, fast. It had the deep, deep wheels on it, so I was warned it might be temperamental in the wind. On with the pedals and after a couple of warnings I was off. It was lucky that they had put a chicane at the end of the straight to slow us down cause this just flew. There was a sharp bend at the bottom of the hill and I nearly overcooked it, but the handling was impeccable. Even on the Venge, the steep hill up meant I was way down in the gears, like everyone, as the wind was charging down towards us. We were all panting going up, but then for me it was a zoom down the straight, through the chicane and nailing the corner at the bottom this time. A wonderful bike but totally not for me. We have lots of small twisty country lanes, steep hills, mud, potholes, gravel etc. Even on the smoothish race track I could feel the bum massage would have been horrendous and as for submitting an expensive top notch machine to treatment like that – it would be doing it a total misservice. I can see why Bgddyjim loves this one, but twas not a choice I would make.

Next came the Tarmac, with disk brakes, once again a lovely ride, though not as sensitive as the Venge, but I felt once again a bit too stiff for comfort for my ageing banes!

Then I tried the Ruby, they didn’t have a Roubaix in my size, so this was the women’s version. It had disk brakes, electronic gears and a climbing pod so you could easily change gears going up hills on the bars. This I loved, with it’s Zertz inserts in the forks and forgiving geometry it just felt good, the gears were great and it felt perfect for our area. No slouch either!

So an hour shot past and I was ready for the trip home. Back down the hill it was magic, wind behind, sunshine, a bit of warmth, this was the biz! I retraced my route. Over the Forth Road Bridge and a pleasant chat with a cyclist going the same way, then shooting back into Edinburgh with the wind and sun behind me. I ruminated on my experience and concluded that my faithful Specialized Roubaix was fine for me for now, though it was good to try different stuff. The staff had bee so good as well, taking everything in their stride and being very knowledgeable but not at all pushy, superb.

I stopped to put my super Cree light on the bike and discovered somehow I’d picked up the charger instead of the light – how dumb?

At least I had my tiny emergency light I leave on the handlebar to flash my way through the town roads. It would be no good though once I got to the country roads. It was also getting cold. I was a wee bit (OK quite) tired by now as well, 50 miles of nasty headwinds earlier had taken it out of me. So off to Musselburgh station. As I turned on to the ramp down to the platform I saw all the passengers were piling out of the train & coming up the ramp towards me. I yelled to the train guard “Hold the train – HOLD THE TRAIN”. He acknowledged my strangled cry and I battled my way through the crowds and on to the train. Hurrah, made it, just as well the next one would have been an hour or two away. And how I thanked the guard when he came round for my ticket!

So 86 miles of cycling with over 4,500 feet of climbing, some of the hardest windward pushing I’ve done on a bike, racing round the track and trying to beat the dark.

Was it worth it – well aye!!!!

and . . . . . the ribs were fine as well as the white beard.

(As a postscript, I’ve also suggested to Specialized that our local race track at East Fortune would be a great place to hold the event, just over the hill and down. Not as challenging to get there, but that sounds good to me right now.)

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East Fortune next time – without the motorbikes?

 

Six weeks almost up

When I was knocked off my bike I read up on broken ribs, including the NHS site (National Health Service UK). It said that basically doctors did nothing & let it just heal naturally. This would take about 6 weeks. So I didn’t bother clogging up the health service unnecessarily, after all I wasn’t coughing up blood!

I seem to be good at the healing process luckily. I’m just 5 weeks in and apart from the odd twinge I seem to be OK. Only legacy is an unwillingness to push it up hills too much, as that led to pain when breathing. Even so I’ve still managed over 500 miles in March as well as a few PRs locally.

However on Wednesday Specialized are hosting a demo day, showing off new rapid bicycles (including Venges).  It’s on a race track at Knockhill in Fife, just under 55 miles away. I’m highly unlikely to be buying a new bike any time soon, but I’ve decided to cycle across and have a go. I think I may stand out a bit as white beards probably aren’t the norm for this type of event, especially as my bike & gear is a whole lot less than high spec.

But, should be fun, first of all trying out cutting edge bling bikes and secondly having a blast round the race track with no traffic etc.

Unless I’m feeling very, very fit (or stupid) I’ll probably cycle back to Edinburgh and get the train back.

So I’ve got a little apprehension but looking forward to it unless the weather is totally inclement.

As ever some recent pix:

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Near the Lang Stane looking north

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Easter at North Berwick

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Looking over to the Bass Rock

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Spring is sprung

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Our local cycling hazards – two lots of frisky horses this time!

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A lovely climb through the wood, closed road as well!

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A mistake putting the camera away, but I like it anyway

6 days, lost and 9 miles

Last week was my birthday, no big deal by now. Last year I decided I would try to ride my birthday miles each year as soon after the event as I could. This can only get harder though perhaps at some point kilometres may enter the fray. It was a 67 mile target last year, but somehow ended up at 95, so that was a most auspicious start to the whole thing. So last Sunday I set off for the requisite 68 miles. But, alas, twas not to be. Fate had intervened. Prior to this a car had hit me with its wing mirror at a junction. Ooh, and ouch and oh dear – I reckon I’d cracked a rib, as well as putting curves in the back wheel that just shouldn’t be there. Got to 40 miles and realised it just wasn’t going to be on.The ribs were paining me, so discretion became the better part of valour. I wasn’t far from home – 2 to 3 miles later I relaxed in a hot bath. A wee bit disappointed but hopefully there’s tomorrow?

So gradually built up again over the week. Still sore up steeps, but improving, hurrah for endomorphins. By the Saturday it was 6 days later. Terry was up for joining me and the chase was on. Cloudy, but sunshine due later, little wind, route on the Garmin, spirit willing, the few miles up to Terry’s and we were off.

The first 20 miles were fine, steadily climbing up to 550 ft+, with few steep hills to kick in the hurt. Then it all went wrong. I was the navigator, Terry was in front, took a turn right and shot off downhill, whoops that was all wrong.

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Come back Terry

A mile or so later I caught up & decided to carry on & let the Garmin correct us. Well up this long, steep straight hill we went for about 2 miles, ooch again. Then we started our journey to all over the place. We seemed to be going round about in what seemed like squares, circles, ovals or something. At least we passed some pretty places, with castles and all (not unusual round here).

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Chrichton Castle

We also passed folk belting around on aero bikes with numbers felt tipped on their arms, learnt later it was a triathlon as we had thought at the time.

Eventually I realised what was wrong (and I pride myself on good navigation). I had set the Garmin to recalculate – big mistake, it seemed to be pulling me home rather than back to my required course, ah well.

So having sorted it all out and done all these strange circuits to nowhere, we sort of caught up with our route by an unintended sprint (though that term is relative) along the busy A7 main road – no’ nice at all, get me off here! So through Heriot and down the old road, and up and down and up an down and  . . . . . At least we knew where we were, though I guessed we had carved a chunk off our intended route with our diversions. Further down the back road, we passed the spot where we were supposed to cross to head back. Nothing, no go, no track, no way, oh deary me!!! The map lied – they had resurrected the Borders Railway and there was no way across.

So we trundled on downhill, back on to the dreaded A7 and back up – another 4 miles we hadn’t meant to do to get opposite where the map told fibs to us.

Now came the hills.

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A bonny glen

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Bumpy roads again

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Spot the white cow sculpture, some house too!

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An old fortified house, nicely restored

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Approaching Soutra

By more ups and downs we ascended to over 1,200 feet to the remains of the renowned (in its day) medieval hospital at Sutra Aisle. Stopped for a quick look around then a crazy descent, yippee, and a stop at the cafe for coffees and lunch.

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Sutra Aisle, with sunshine weakly beckoning

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Sutra Aisle and a random motorcyclist

There was a lot of downhill back, so gorgeous cruising in the sun, mostly back on home turf, past the caterpillar hedges climbing over the landscape and eventually parting with Terry a few miles from my humble abode. Then – made it! Yippee.

But had I managed the magic mileage? Loaded up the ride stats.

YES!! 77.1 miles, 5:39:49 moving time and 4,869 feet of ascent. So 6 days late but 9 miles over, we must have done some wandering on our diversions. Much to my amazement I’d even managed a few PRs on some of the ascent. So altogether it was a most satisfactory result, followed by a hot bath soak.

Now, next year – where shall I plan to get lost next year?

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The wobbly, wobbly route

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Failure will become a Success

Saturday was fun. The cafe at Gifford closed a few months ago, but is starting to be renovated by a new owner. It was a real cyclist hub too. It will be called the Lanterne Rouge, which might be quite appropriate for me at times (for those who don’t know the association “The Lanterne Rouge“). It won’t open till May as they are totally redoing the place, but as the Gifford road race was on they were giving out coffee & cakes and raising money for the local hospice. The helpers and owner were lovely and the cakes superb. Hey had made a special energy bar/ flap jack which was wonderful. I had thought the racing was over, but when I came up the hill to Gifford, the motorbike cavalcade came down the road towards me, lights blazing, then the leaders shot past, followed by the 2nd group and then the peloton. They did a circuit and came past the cafe. I managed to munch and drink and headed off to the finish  to see then come blasting over the line – great.

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The marshals waiting for the next lap

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The breakaway comes through

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Back together the leader crosses the line

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Tired!!

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The pack comes through

Last year I decided to ride my birthday at least. I was 67 so planned a 67 mile route. One of my cycling buddies chummed me and we had a wonderful, but chilly day biking out to Stirling, getting the train back to Edinburgh and then cycling back home. The 67 miles turned, somehow magically, into 95. So a birthday ride+. Yesterday was another year on. Fortunately I don’t set the birthday ride to be on my birthday as the March weather here is fickle, to say the least.

This year my cracked rib has intervened as well. I’m back on the bike and slowly ramping up the miles again, though sore a wee bit, as it’s only a couple of weeks since the accident (“Only when I laugh” as the old joke goes).

So I cycled up to join the gang for the Sunday ride, ready to push the mileage if I was up to it. The first 35 miles were super, I was in shorts for the 2nd day running (and this is March in Scotland), just 2 layers on top, felt good & had excellent company. I took it relatively easy up the hills so as not to do too much energetic breathing and stopped in one of the towns to meet some folk, one of whom had an amazing looking tri bike. It was much heavier than I thought it would be too.

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Then down from the foothills and a fast cruise along the coast. Just Craig & I now, barrelling along together.

Then I realised that my 68 possible target wasn’t on that day. My chest was grumbling gently at me – there’s always another day sire!

So Craig pottered off, right on his target for the day, while I peeled off, heading for home. But 40+ miles was OK and proved I’m on the way to my birthday ride in the next couple of weeks.

My evening celebration was an a visit to Dunbar to see a lovely Science Festival Light Show projected on to the Town House, with the statue of John Muir (who was born here) being lit up as well, followed by an Italian meal – loverly.

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John Muir as a boy

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(2 days later) A few rides later into the hills & I’m ready for tomorrow. Forecast is good, no winds and not desperately cold. Wish me luck.

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A suspicious looking ‘Heavy’ horse

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It’s mucky in them thare hills!!

The Bad, the Good and the Don’t Understand

‘The Bad’: When I first started this, it felt so good. It was almost balmy at 6°C after -2°C for a wee while, down to 3 layers and beard not freezing. But it just hasn’t been so fine for the last few weeks and it’s been blowing a hooley for the last few days with storms Gertrude & Henry making themselves known and keeping me off the roads with violent winds. I missed the one quiet day in the middle as I’ve been doing the intros & lighting for our local pantomime, ‘Beauty and the Beast’. De-rigging the lights happened on the same day as the calm so ah well!

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Lighting the Pantomime Dame

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Doing my bit of introduction

Freezing weather with dicy roads, ice, snow, gravel, melt water, mud etc. I think you’ll get the idea.

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Roads a bit uneven!!!

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Snowy hills to be skied up later, roads damp here but not icy

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The Ninja outfit

New brake blocks first, pedal bearing collapsed, back wheel bearings went, replaced chain but one of the rivets came adrift and the chain plate bent back on itself causing a sudden halt but all is sort of back to peace and serenity again. Colin of Belhaven Bikes was superb, went into the shop to see about getting the wheel bearings replaced and he did it just about on the spot, brilliant service. The rest I did myself.

‘The Good’ is I have very much enjoyed my rides recently despite the conditions plus the snow allowed me to get out on skis locally for a couple of hours up in the hills.

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Skiing up – conditions better than it looks

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Wonderful stuff snow.

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Looking towards home, variable under ski

Even this wasn’t without a wee bit of grief though. First of all my collapsible poles decided to collapse when they shouldn’t (new ones have now arrived), then one of the skins on the skis used for climbing uphill decided that the glue holding it on to the ski was a bit old and parted ways a few times. More curses of an inventive nature. Just as well no one else was on the hill with me!! Had a good run down, though the snow was very variable with deep banks of soft stuff, delightful nevee and some solid ice to make life interesting! It was gorgeous scooting along on the lower stretch in the sun with fabby views and the coos keeping their distance.

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After the gate, tractor tracks

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Ready for gliding down

Now the ‘Don’t Understand’ part. Americans on guns, I just  don’t get it! In Britain we have some of the strictest gun laws in the world. Seems to work on some level as we also have some of the lowest gun crime/ murder rate in the world and the majority of our police are not armed. The majority of murders in the USA according to the FBI are by someone know to the victim. Why does an amendment made in the time of flintlock rifles need to apply to a modern situation? What need does a citizen have of semi automatic or worse weapons? Maybe the right to bear arms should apply only to flintlocks? Though it’s probably way too late for that now. I also don’t understand how the American Rifle Association with only just over 3 million members can seem, from my perspective, to dictate to the whole huge population of the States.IMG_3515

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Figures from the FBI, looks like you’re more likely to be murdered by family or someone you know.

Now I don’t think I want answers to these thoughts, it’s just a highlight of how different two nations can be. Our UK world history has been pretty horrific at times, but I feel we seem to have a better balance these days on the whole. I have travelled in various places around the world and I must admit the country that gave me the most unease was America.

Just don’t get me started on Trump though!

Enough of philosophising, I maybe should have just kept to the biking?

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Our local river in flood, though not too bad this time

 

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The storms bring good sunsets, but turn 90º and it’s all black clouds

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Skis showing the skins attached to the bottom of the skis for climbing up snow slopes plus the ‘freeheel’ bindings. Very marginal snow conditions here though!

Wet, dry, wet, wind, wind, wind, Portugal and still learning

What a turbulent December it has been. The weather has been all over the place. Cycling in negative temperatures, then next day over 12°C. Cruising along on dry roads to be followed by splashing carefully avoiding potholes hidden in flooded byways. All this to be repeated from one day to the next. Makes for interesting bicycling.

Then there’s the wind, today is howling from the south,  two days ago from the south east, but mostly from the south west with occasional notherly blasts just to round things off. Ah the great Scottish climate!December0

The snow arrived locally at the end of November, disappeared for a wee bit then dusted the hills again for a while before the temperatures rose again. On the occasional day it has cleared enough to see the Southern Cairngorms way up north, they seem to have more than a dusting of the white stuff, but the thought of being out in the mountains on skis in this weather is frightening, or seriously not to be contemplated at least. And the snow is forecast for here again tomorrow – ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’!

But, in spite, or maybe because of it all I have managed to rack up the miles, dodging the wild winds behind hedges or hills, choosing the weather window carefully, looking out the lights for a bit of night cycling, meeting up with other daft minded biking companions and other such strategies.

And it’s been so enjoyable, that amazing clarity when the rain clears, the sense of adventure in familiar territory, that joint feeling of accomplishment shared with others, and the craic over coffee & scones halfway through a ride.

Yippee, bring it on!

Thomas Metcalfe found my blog recently, so welcome to him and all the rest of you. Thomas runs a cycling business in the Algarve in Portugal and was really good to me in the Spring. My sister has a significant birthday. We’ll be meeting up there again in the early summer, so I better get my bike booking firmed up. What a transformation it will be from the Scottish winter. I’m not too good with the heat, but loved the smells and sights in the back roads of the Algarve -looking forward to renewing my acquaintance, though not so much the busier main roads. Time to look out some decent maps for the trip as well:

https://fossilcycle.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/portugal-and-hills-hills-hills/

https://www.swiftmomentumsports.com

The other news is that I’m just about finished with my video of the local mini hills part 2, with some odd music, mucky roads and dodgy fords so maybe I’ll get it out before the year end.

You’re never too old to learn? Well I certainly hope so! Over the year I’ve been doing some online short (6 week) courses with Future Learn – https://www.futurelearn.com. I have found the courses to be superb and they are free. So far I’ve taken the following courses:

Introduction to Forensic Science, Web Science: How the web is changing, Kitchen Chemistry (too basic for me though), Explore Filmmaking, Digital Storytelling. I’ve signed up for two more – Explore Animation and Visual Effects for Guerrilla Filmmakers.

The courses are designed by Universities or the National Film & Television School, the standards are very high and the online discussions with other students excellent, with good advice or positive critical response. The range of courses is very broad, so have a look you might find a new interest: https://www.futurelearn.com

So anyway, enough rambling – have a good New Year, and a few recent local photos to finish.

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