Tag Archives: wind

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?

 

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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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The Challenge

Rachel (RachelSquirrel) has challenged me, not a cycling challenge as such but a photograph and writing one.

The rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!

So how could I possibly refuse. I’m starting today as I have a photo:

Regrouping beside the blacksmiths at Saltoun

Regrouping beside the blacksmiths at Saltoun

So here’s the photo, taken this morning. We’ve had a glorious few days with temperatures up to 19ºC and hardly any wind. Then yesterday the grey skies arrived again and this morning the rain had set in and the temperature was down to 5º, it’s approaching midsummer, a Scottish midsummer so winter had arrived again! So donning a modicum of clothing, but still a bit foolishly I ventured out to join the Haddington Cycle Club. After a damp ride the few miles up to the town and then a wee loop as I knew I was early, I approached Samson on his pillar on top of the fountain. No-one was there, so I set off on another mini loop, just in an attempt to keep warm. When I arrived back folk were gathering. There were a couple of new folk so it was great to meet them and welcome them. It always gladdens my heart when newcomers turn up for a ride.

Now we assembled, a complete dozen, and set off  into the wind and rain down the way I had just come up, ah well. We squelched our way up past the wild ponies on Traprain Law, a local volcanic laccolith of Phonolitic trachyte (a kind of volcanic boil which hadn’t been lanced, there was a Roman silver hoard found there as well, but no chance of a sighting today). Then came the steeper climbs up to Whittinghame and Gifford. Despite, or maybe because of the rain everything looked just superb, vibrant greens and browns.

Eventually we had a slightly longer stop than the usual catchups, at Saltoun, to munch a bit of sustenance. Saltoun is a lovely wee village, with a three angel statue, an unusual church with a spire on top of its tower and a blacksmith’s forge with a huge pile of old horseshoes outside. It’s brilliant on the rare occasions I’ve cycled past and a horse is being shod, with the forge roaring away, all red and gold flames. Today it was silent though, but the temperature had risen to a balmy 6º and the rain had stopped. The village was the first place in Scotland to have a barley mill  in the early 1700s as well.

After refreshment and chat we were off again, with chilly damp feet cooling nicely on the hurl down the hill. We got back to Haddington and I signed up, metaphorically, for an extra loop especially as it passed my house. So up the 6º climb out of the toon, and the temperature rose to faintingly hot 12º with glimpses of sun, before I arrived back home after a somewhat damp 44 miles and bid farewell to the group on the loop.

So history, geology, statistics, meteorology, equines, pain and suffering as well as joy, what more could you want in a story?

And tomorrow, hopefully, two wheel adventures of a different kind!

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.

What do you Feel? The First Bit.

OK, yet another ramble in the realm of the senses. This one has been a long time ruminating, wondering and generally meandering through ideas. There are two sides to feeling, the physical and the mental. So, I thought I’d put my thoughts down about the first type.

Cruising well, no aches!!

Cruising well, no aches!!

It’s Spring now officially, so though the temperature is in double figures, how come snow has recently been pelting on the windows? So the sensations of the weather, that soft snow caressing your face or the hail at the other extreme causing agony to any exposed bits. The rain, so different every time. That ‘soft rain’ as the Irish call it, a wee smurr that gently makes contact. Then another contrast, that lashing gale where it feels like sandblasting might be a preferable experience. Even when there’s nothing falling from above, there’s the wind, almost always present here. If there’s dust or sand mixed in then there’s the delight of the perfect exfoliant on your skin. When the wind blows hard behind the sudden warmth of that still bubble of air around you if you’re going downwind at the same speed. On a still clear day there’s the feeling of the sun on your skin, reminding you that your sun screen has not been rubbed in it usually is. So just a few of the feelings we get in our changeable climate. Then there are the internal physical feelings – oh no! Those knees are twinging again, overdoing it, seat too high or low, too far forward or back or just the glorious ageing process? The pain in the shoulders as the 90th mile goes past. That slight pain in my feet, shoes done up too tight, too many socks to combat the cold? Also, the various aches in the legs either top or bottom, that tightness after a hard week, that pain that tells you that a rest day is in order, but worst of all CRAMP – aghghghghg. The one that comes last here is the behind, that bad saddle sore or better, the discovery that chamois cream really does work. Best of all though is the ride where once you have finished you realise you haven’t thought about your body at all, except maybe to delight in the smooth workings of all your bits – yes, it does happen. I’m certain there are masses of things good and bad I have missed out, there is just so much to enjoy and hate about your physical feelings. On a totally different tack, the other day was wildly windy. We had battled upwind to visit a local castle.       Talk turned to Strava segments on the return. So it was hell for leather on the way back, with a final dash hard up our local hill, yoh must be a PR. Alas no, the Garmin had gone nuts. Ah well, I’ll just have to wait for the next gale! The segment was from the railway crossing up to the B1377, never mind.

The Cyclists’ Ephemera? plus Community

Snow on the Lammermuirs, Central Scotland

Snow on the Lammermuirs, Central Scotland my local stomping ground

There are a series of events known as The Photographer’s Ephemeris. These are when the sun or moon line up in a particular way briefly to light up a landscape or scene. There are apps to show the direction of the light at times of the day at a particular location. I have one photograph I have tried to get of the moonlight reflecting off a bay towards a local hill. So far, no joy, too cloudy or the moon was not quite right, I’ve seen it a couple of times, but didn’t have a camera with me that would do it justice.

Anyways, I think there is also an ephemeris for cyclists. Those moments with elements which come together fleetingly to bring delight or joy.

Recent ones have been turning a corner on a cold sunlight winter morning to see a fresh white ribbon of frost stretching away from me. Oh oh!! But on regardless – and that frost was so new it was full of grip, even on my road bike. I crunched up that road with a broad smile delighting in the unexpected pleasure.

Another was passing 3 buzzards within a mile of each other on the wall or fence beside the road. They each gazed at me unconcerned without even ruffling their feathers. Then just a wee bit further a hare raced along the road in front of me for a while to be followed by an iridescent pheasant strutting it’s stuff.

This morning, going to meet the Sunday group I sometimes ride with, I found myself pushing up the hills easily once again with a real grin of pleasure. In the village I had been unaware of the wind, but it was gently giving me a wee push from the rear.

So these little bursts of good feeling are sometimes the highlight of a ride.

Another of the highlights in my life are the communal activities of the area. I am part of a drama group for which I’ve acted, directed, produced plus plenty of backstage or technical stuff. I also help with the local community cinema. We put on a couple of films every month, often doing special things to go with the film. The latest film was ‘The Lunchbox’, a delightful Indian film. So we dressed the Community Hall with exotic stuff (exotic to us that is), served Bombay Mix, spicy popcorn and onion bhajis. It went down well with the beer! There’s loads of other stuff happening as well.

The other activity for our community is a cycling group originally started by a bunch of retired folk but it seems to be growing. We meet every Tuesday do between 30 and 40 miles and a coffee stop is usually obligatory. This is a very social ride with plenty of chat en route and occasional forays to further afield. This year it is going to be Mallorca. As well as this group there are a couple of others on a Sunday I alternate between. Once again, there is usually some good chat, though only one stops for a brew. The other has a fast & slow group, splitting half way through the ride. If the split is at a point where it is mainly downhill or flattish I’ll try & hang onto the fast group if I’m feeling good, otherwise it’s the slower bunch (still no slouches) for me.

So plenty of variety and lots of the spice of life.

The Photographer's Ephemeris

The Photographer’s Ephemeris

Snow, ice, rain, cold – no probs – but wind and thorns!!!!

A Standing stone on the hill above the village

A Standing stone on the hill above the village

Well, Scottish winters are strange beasts. You get just about everything that weather can throw at you, or beguile you with.

Recently it has been no exception. It has been yo-yoing from -3ºC to 13ºC, from gloriously sunny days to cloud and murk, from total calm to wild winds, from dry delightful roads to torrents streaming down the street or ice & snow patches.

Most of this I don’t mind. Just put on a few more layers or discard them. Wear a wind/ waterproof jacket. Go slow for dodgy conditions, or climb to warm up.

But, recently, the winds have been ferocious. I can hear it clattering against the pan-tiles on the roof, I can see the rain being battered against the windows, we even had one blow in. And as for thoughts of riding in it – just forget it.

If my ride was all downwind, maybe, just maybe I’d venture a tiny weeny thought about it. But, upward into the teeth of a gale just ain’t my idea of fun. Done it too many times mountaineering or sailing. And as for side winds, those gaps in the hedges and fences are scary places to be if a gust hits at the wrong time, especially if there are other vehicles around.

Today the wind dropped about, so I was out with the gang. Just icy patches to contend with, wee snow flurries with sun shining through so taking it very easy and the warm delights of the cafe beckoned. Mostly stayed just above zero as well. But, we came back along my bête noire – a local road that had its hedges cut over a month ago. I think I’ve now had 4 punctures on that road from thorns within that time and that’s on puncture resistant tyres. Ah well, nature will have its way – I just wish it wouldn’t. It’s so wretched replacing inner tubes this weather, and the the cadence thingy decided to get tangled up in the spokes a bit – hurrumph!

But at least I got out, good company, sunny day and some good roads in places.

Now it’s time to batten down the hatches again, the next storm is coming through soonish.

My boat was in there somewhere!

My boat was in there somewhere!