Tuesday, 30 December 2014

One Year Time Trial: Steve Abraham's Attempt to Break Tommy Godwin's 1939 Annual Mileage Record (75,065 miles)

Jersey logo
Steve's jersey logo

2015 will see UK Audax legend Steven Abraham attempting to break Tommy Godwin's long-standing record of 75,065 miles cycled in one year. Steve has been planning and preparing this for the past two years.

I am not going to detail here (a) Steve's own record achievements; (b) the sheer magnitude of what this venture involves; (c) how he plans to do it; (d) all the ways people are supporting him, and/or (d) how he needs to finance it. It's all on his website -- just click the links on each topic. 

Do have a look. This is a challenge of epic proportions. Everyone who knows Steve personally and who have followed his cycling exploits believe, if anyone can do it, he can. I have not met him but I am fascinated by his plans, his focus and organisation and his mental aptitude for something like this. 

And he's not the only one having a go at breaking this record -- not one, but TWO, Americans are also apparently having a go in 2015: Kurt Searvoge aka "Tarzan" (another experienced endurance cyclist) and William "Ironox" Pruett (a successful triathlete). Ironox isn't giving much away about his plans but it looks like Tarzan intends to spend his winter months cycling in warm/dry places like Florida. 

Steve will not have such a luxury option here in the UK... and neither did Tommy Godwin. 

So... is this a good time to ask about YOUR cycling goals in 2015? ;-)

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Cycling Highlights 2014

I spend more of my time and energy looking ahead, not back. Cycling plans for 2015 are already shaping up nicely with tickets booked for two Cycle Shows and also TWO cycle tours! Happy days ahead. 

But while dreaming of next year's rides during these dark, cold winter hours, I am also indulging in reflections on the past year -- the rides, the bikes, the weather, the scenery, the people and even some philosophical musings on how cycling as an activity, a process and a lifestyle has changed how I see myself. More on the latter later!

In the meantime, my year awheel featured -- 

Thuds, Floods and Mud!

Serious bike portage required! Story here.

Followed by trail clearance (same story same link)

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Dance Like Nobody's Watching*

Have you ever been "caught out" going about your business, having no idea that anybody's watching? 

Adam caused a bit of a buzz this week -- amongst our friends at least. He was planning a route from St Pancras to my office, as he was meeting me after work to go see Once the Musical (great fun, by the way, but not a patch on the film), and found that a Google StreetView car had captured me on part of my commute. (This is not a route he normally would take so it was serendipitous that he was looking at Bayley Street at all.)

He posted a link to Google on Facebook. In response to all the mock-surprise comments from friends - yes, some cyclists do stop at red lights! And yes, some do indicate before turning! (I sometimes even do it when there's no one behind me!) 

Here are my 10 seconds of "Fame", doing nothing more extraordinary than crossing Tottenham Court Road from Bayley Street into Percy Street at about 9am on an ordinary work day in July 2014. 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

A Mountain and A Ferry to Paradise (#ScotTour Day 8)

Today was sad: our last day on Skye and so it felt the "beginning of the end" of our cycling holiday. However, today's itinerary would see us cover nearly the full length of the Misty Isle and see a corner of it that's well off the beaten track. Lots still to look forward to, then!

We were really fortunate with our B&B in Portree, where the landlady was very happy to let us keep our bicycles looked in the rear 'service' yard, out of sight from the street (behind the blue gate). Adam fixed that gate the day we arrived so we were in her "good books" right from the start! 

Last minute fettling before leaving Portree

Setting off from our B&B: starting with a steep bit!
Be careful not to go flying over that wall into the harbour below!

As on Day 5 of our tour when we visited the Talisker Distillery, we left Portree southbound on the A87. Although our bikes were fully loaded this time, again I found this hill not to be the hardship I had originally expected it to be.

A pause to look back towards Portree and the Trotternish Ridge
- the Old Man of Storr on the right

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Puch Princess Reborn: Sacrilege? Or Best Of Both Worlds?

This post comes with a health warning... and an apology. 
Some of you may be offended by what I've done with this vintage bicycle. 
For the offence, I am truly sorry. For what I have done... not so much. 

Because this time I listened to what the bicycle was telling me, what the bicycle wanted. True, I curated this build according to my preferences but at the end of the day, I had a 35 year old frame that wanted to go fast but couldn't due to the limitations of its build and/or its rider. 

The rider, I couldn't change any more than I can for any other bike (those grumpy knees!) but the build, I could. 

This is not a restoration but a rebirth as something else entirely.  

Sunday, 23 November 2014

In London Next Friday Night? Come to Sustrans' Long Distance Cycling Evening

Thinking about cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats, the Coast to Coast cycle route or something further afield in mainland Europe? Want to learn more or hear travellers tales from fellow long distance cyclists?

Sustrans is hosting another edition of its popular Long Distance Cycling Evening. This is an informal evening of discussion, hints and tips on all things cycle touring. Learn from experienced cyclists about planning, logistics and their adventures in the UK and further afield... on journeys lasting from a couple of days to a few weeks and even months. 

Speakers lined up for this week's event will talk about their experiences of cycling in the UK and across Brazil, Russia and Australia, and more. 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Crankarms: The Long And The Short Of It

This post is about options for crankarms with lengths outside the "normal" range -- particularly those shorter than 170mm -- available in the UK.

Photo: Highpath Engineering

You may be wondering why this question even comes up. For many of you, crankarms in the most commonly available lengths (e.g. in the 170-175mm range) suit you just fine.

But -- if you: 
(a) are a woman and/or 
(b) are shorter than, say, 5'8" and/or
(c) have proportionately short femurs and/or 
(d) suffer from arthritis or other chronic conditions of the hips, knees or ankles...
then you may just find that slightly shorter cranks fit better, give you more power and efficiency and perhaps cause less pain. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Review: FASTRIDER Trolley Pannier

I may have found my perfect commuting bag!

A few months ago (after several months of commuting with my two-bikes-plus-train solution), the thought occurred to me, "Wouldn't it be great if I could pull this pannier along through train stations (between bikes) instead of carrying it?"

I seriously began going through my (extensive!) collection of wheeled holdalls, business cases and suitcases, looking for a suitable candidate that could be reinforced and to which I could fit pannier hooks (Klick-fix for preference).

And then I spotted this on ebay: 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

#Coffeeneuring DNF: Down To The Wire

Photo: paulscho/flickr via http://totalwomenscycling.com/

So today was the final day of the 2014 Coffeeneuring Challenge

I simply ran out of time to complete seven rides, squeezed between coursework deadlines, relatives coming to visit and a migraine ambush. 

Still, last year I only managed four rides, so I'm pretty pleased with six this year. If I hadn't missed the second weekend altogether and thus found myself playing catchup, I'm sure I could have finished. 

Meanwhile, I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the photos posted up by other coffeeneurs on the Facebook page. There are some very talented photographers out there, pedalling, sipping and snapping. 

I hope the two other UK bloggers (The Pointless Project and Town Mouse) who I know were participating, have completed in style. 

How did you do? 

Same time next year, then? 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

#Coffeeneuring 2014: Ride 6

Destination:  Chilterns Gateway Centre (National Trust), Whipsnade Road, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, LU6 2GY
Date:  Saturday, 15 November 2014
Hot drink of choice:  Black Tea
Total mileage:  25km
Bicycle:  Lorelei the Puch Princess

My friend Tim* joined me for today's coffeeneuring expedition. He was quite intrigued by the whole concept! 

"Wow, a whole 2 mile minimum?!"
Which rules out the cafe in the village, unless I want to take the looooonnng way round. 

"Does it have to be a HOT drink?"
Well, yes.
And then he remembered the "hot beverage" designation, which is impossible for an Englishman to say without one arched eyebrow and tongue firmly in cheek. 

"Did you remember to get a photo?
Yes, I did. 

"Will I get mentioned on your blog for this?"
Well, of course!

*who I had not seen in... let's see... eight years as near as I can figure out, possibly longer. I remember a camping trip in northern France before I started my law degree in 2005. One dear friend on that trip has since died. It seems a lifetime ago. Tim and his girlfriend Kate (later wife) discovered kite buggy-ing on the beaches around the mouth of the Somme on that trip. The trip was also memorable for all the small snails on our campsite that worked their way into my tent, sleeping bag, everything I owned... and came home with me... mostly squished flat. I didn't own a bike, then. Neither did Tim. He 'found' me this year via this blog. Turns out, we've been crossing each other's paths at various local events for the past two years without spotting each other. It's almost uncanny. Meeting up with him again is one of the very nicest things that has happened as a result of this little blogging lark of mine. 

Friday, 14 November 2014

Winter Brings My Cycling Indoors

Right on cue, the rain is lashing at the house... and lashing at me when I go out on my bike. 

Almost exactly a year ago, I pondered whether getting an indoor trainer or rollers would be useful in maintaining a level of cycling fitness through the worst of the English winter weather*. 

I didn't pursue the thought last winter but it did stick with me even when the weather improved in the spring. As the summer segued into autumn, I laid a few hints in the ear of my beloved (who is no fool) and so now possess a new set of Tacx Antares rollers.

I had a very interesting first session on them last night and will post about that shortly. But first, here are some tips on setting rollers up and getting started riding them. 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

#Coffeeneuring 2014: Ride 5

Destination: The Grove Lock Pub, The Grove Lock (as in, the canal lock), Grove, Leighton Buzzard, LU7 0QU
Date:  Sunday, 9 November October 2014
Hot drink of choice:  Cappuccino 
Total mileage: 42.8km
Bicycle: Riley the Enigma

This was an intermediate level ride hosted by the Luton and Dunstable Cycling Forum, led by Adam. We gathered in Grove House Gardens, our usual meeting place for Dunstable-based rides. We had an all-time high with a turnout of 23!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Review: CARRADICE STOCKPORT Bag for Brompton S-Type

I've had my Carradice Stockport bag for 18 months now so it's time for a long-term report and full review.


As I mentioned in my preview of the Stockport, this bag is styled differently from the City Folder M. It is in Carradice's "Classics" range rather than the "Originals" range. This reflects the more refined look that the Stockport has, with styling a little more appropriate to city/business use than the more "audax-y" look of the Originals range! 

Monday, 3 November 2014

#Coffeeneuring 2014: Ride 4

Destination: The Rising Sun (Public House), Front Street, Slip End, Bedfordshire LU1 4BP
Date:  Saturday, 1 November October 2014
Hot drink of choice:  Bog standard instant coffee. White. 2 Sweeteners. 
Total mileage:  6 km
Bicycle:  Bridget the Surly Cross Check

A very welcome break after six hours at the books.
On a wooden swing in the rays of a Setting Sun, if not a rising one. 
The coffee was instant but I wasn't the one who had to make it, so hey.
As Damo says, "it's all good". 

I had a brief mental tussle over which bike to take. The key factor was the lack of time I had for coffeeneuring today, so I needed minimum fuss: ordinary clothes, ordinary shoes. As I freewheeled out of the village on Bridget, I realised that, for every kind of ride I might do, there is a bike in my stable that does it better than Bridget, but there is no type of riding -- at all -- that Bridget can't do. 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

The Original Swoopy?

You may recall the story of my Puch Emerald, bought as frame + forks + headset (only) on ebay a few years ago, which we attempted to build up as my London Town Bike. 

I've never known what the original factory build may have looked like, but there is a complete bike listed on Ebay UK at the moment, which the seller claims is "totally original and unrestored". 

Monday, 27 October 2014

#Coffeeneuring 2014: Ride 3

Destination: Harpers, Half Moon Lane, Pepperstock, Nr. Slip End, Bedfordshire LU1 4LL
Date:  Sunday, 26 October 2014
Hot drink of choice:  Cappuccino
Total mileage:  11.5km
Bicycle:  Lorelei the Puch Princess

Almost exactly a year ago, I used a new-bike-shake-down ride for coffeeneuring.... or a coffeeneuring ride as a shake-down. Here I am, doing that again. 

This past Sunday, I wanted to check out the new Harpers Food Hall and Cafe the other side of Slip End. Harpers are a family run business going back to just after WWII. They started out basically as butchers, gradually expanding into a range of premium meats and even meat-based ready meals. For decades, they were in Studham, not too far to the west of us, but last year they refurbished an abandoned and delapidated old pub as a spacious "show room" for their wares, with a meat counter, cafe and function rooms. 

In any case, this was a perfect excuse to get away from the books (finally finishing my law degree) and see how the recent re-build has changed Lorelei. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

#Coffeeneuring 2014: Ride 2

Happiness is a rich smooth cappuccino
(with soy milk for my friend Grace)

Destination:  Look Mum No Hands!, Old Street, London
Date:  Saturday, 18 October 2014
Hot drink of choice:  Cappuccino
Total mileage: 56.4km
Bicycle:  Lucy the Brompton

This was our friend Andy's 40th Birthday Ride. 

Some of you may know Andy: he rode London-Edinburgh-London in 2009 and out of that came an amazing little book called Barring Mechanicals. Andy is a lovely guy: gentle and unassuming and terrifically funny. He's also something of an IT whiz. This past year his job has meant he's basically been living in a hotel in New York, writing and fixing code 22 hours a day. So his wife knew exactly what he'd want when he came home: a pootle on his bike with a bunch of friends, ending with CAKE at London's iconic bicycle cafe/bar/workshop, Look Mum No Hands!

So that's what he got. 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

#Coffeeneuring 2014: Ride 1

Destination:  Jake's Cafe, Woodside Animal Farm, Woodside Road, LU1 4DG
Date:  Sunday, 5 October 2014
Hot drink of choice:  Cappuccino
Total mileage:  7km
Bicycle:  Riley the Enigma

Today was all about easing back into cycling, three weeks after my medial glute muscles staged a mutiny, causing all sorts of havoc for my knees -- as if they aren't Grumpy enough all on their own! And then I had a 24-hour vomitting bug on Thursday/Friday. So all in all, I have felt a little fragile but determined to get on my bike for no good reason other than 'just because', not because I had to get to anywhere. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

What Determines "Ride Quality"?

Bicycle frame as architecture

I started writing this post nearly 18 months ago, trying to make sense of what makes a bicycle comfortable to ride. At the time, the particulars of geometry fascinated me. Later that year, my drive to find a bike that would let me ride longer and further without pain led me to having a custom titanium touring frame designed and built, and then a complete bespoke bicycle built up around that. 

After a year with the custom titanium bicycle, I have found myself wondering how much of my satisfaction with this bike is the result of the geometry (and size/shape/proportion) and how much is down to frame material (and tubeset). Would a steel frame made to exactly the same plan have done the job just as well as titanium has? 

Monday, 29 September 2014

Dreaming (Cycle Show 2014 at the NEC, Birmingham)

It doesn't happen at every cycling show that I see something I really want, but it did at this one. 

Stainless steel. 
By Mark Reilly. 

(C) Adam Bell.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Cycling For Everyone (Cycle Show 2014 at the NEC, Birmingham)

Adam and I travelled to Birmingham on Thursday to attend the first day of the Cycle Show, held this year in Birmingham at the NEC Exhibition Halls. We left home at 7.15 to cycle 12 miles to Leighton Buzzard to catch the train to Birmingham. (My knees were in nearly unbearable agony all day -- walking and standing didn't help -- so we got a taxi when we disembarked from Leighton Buzzard on our journey home.)

Friday, 26 September 2014

Mystery Bike

There is a "new" bike in my future. The build has started and I hope will be finished this weekend. 

It is an interesting concept combining certain features I love from very different schools of thought on what a bike "should be". No doubt a few readers will be amazed while others will be horrified! 

I can't wait to unveil this new "brain child" of mine but what I can show you, for now, is a rather unremarkable collection of parts that will be fitted. 

There is one component there that may hint at what's going on. Care to post a guess? :)

Thursday, 25 September 2014

A Change Of Season... And Back (#ScotTour Day 7)

Cresting the 'backbone' of the island

This day was a replay of the previous, in a minor chord. 

We re-traced our 'steps', this time on our bikes rather than on a bus. So we saw almost exactly the same sights... but at a slower pace. 

But the crucial difference today was the weather. Whatever and wherever we had yesterday, today it was the opposite. And while we enjoyed some sunshine and warmth while on the move, the mist and chill rolled in from the sea just exactly when we got off our bikes for a little sightseeing. Its timing could not have been worse. While I had taken arm and knee warmers and wore a somewhat-weather-resistant gillet, Adam (who to be fair does not feel weather fluctuations as I do) was in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey and opted to leave his jacket in our room. So in a reverse of fortunes, he suffered while I... not so much. Unfortunately, his discomfort forced us to cut short our visit to the Skye Museum of Island Life and we opted not to walk up the hill to the Kilmuir Cemetary (and Flora Macdonald's grave) at all. 

So here are some photos from our day. It was wonderful to fly along quiet roads unencumbered by loaded panniers! And except for that badly-timed hour at the Museum, it was very nearly a perfect day to be out on a bike. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Amiiee's 40 Mile Smile #determined #icandothis

Ready to Ride
(C) Ryan Browne.

This is a ride report on this year's 100 Mile Smile Ride

No, it's not, not really.

This is the story of Amiiee (pronounced the same as "Amy", no connection with the French "Aimee").

The story of a girl who Does.Not.Cycle. The story of an impulsive, stubborn teenager who announced one day a few weeks ago that she wanted to ride 40 miles of the 100 Mile Smile Ride on Sunday, 14 September 2014. The story of a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve but always "has her Game Face on". A girl who chose her own challenge, sought no counsel, did nothing to prepare for it and then chronicled it on the day on social media under the hashtags: 


Me? I just wanted a day out and since the weather was looking good, I fancied a ride on Lorelei. But basically, I was along for the ride, keeping Amiiee company, ready to shore up energy levels and flagging spirits as needed, wayfinding and generally just making sure we didn't get lost.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

On the Tourist Trail: Portree and the North End (#ScotTour Day 6)

Midway through our cycling holiday in Scotland, we took a second day off the bike to get to know Portree and the area a little better...

To be honest, my knees were complaining quite a lot, which posed a bit of a dilemma for me. Taking a day off cycling makes little difference, and walking instead of cycling is in fact worse. But I did feel in need of a rest, or at least a break, even though the town I chose to take that break in is a hilly one. Either way, my knees were not going to have an easy time of it.

Nonetheless, the harbour drew us like a lure.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Catching Up... And Moving On

Sorry for the lack of new posts in the past few weeks! It's been crazy busy at work, with our small team of 6 legal brains working flat out way past normal leaving times. I leave home at 7.45am and have been getting home around 9.30/10pm with nothing but dinner and sleep on my mind. We all agreed over drinks in the pub last night though that it feels we are over the hump of it now, so normal hours and a normal life should be possible again for the foreseeable future. 

So, I hope to finish my reports on our Scottish cycling holiday in June and have them up soon for your reading and viewing pleasure... a bit of inspiration for your own next cycling holiday, perhaps? 

Nonetheless -- the cycling here at home carries on!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Announcing: A Viking Invasion

Yes, I did it:  I ordered a Viking Bromley singlespeed mixte from Parkers of Bolton, taking my chances with buying via mail order. 

Opening the box.
(Is there anything else as exciting as taking
delivery of a big cardboard box
that by its shape and size screams NEW BIKE?!)

If you are thinking of doing the same, here are a few points to consider. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

WOMEN'S CYCLING Giveaway: And The Winner Is ...

... Sarah L. of Somerville, Massachusetts, USA!

Congratulations, Sarah, your copy of Women's Cycling is winging its way to you now. I do hope you enjoy reading it and pick up some tips to help you with your next cycling challenge, which I understand is a 50 mile charity ride next month. Good luck!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Combined Ops

What a busy weekend! Hard on the heels of a Friday Night Ride to the Coast (Whitstable edition - one of the nicest ever - dry, not too cold, light tailwind), Adam and his son and I headed off on Sunday to the Headcorn Aerodrome in Kent, for The Military Show & Vintage Aircraft Weekend. 

The main draw for us was the scheduled appearance of the only two airworthy Lancaster bombers (one kept by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the other by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum), reunited here in the UK this summer to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. They were to be based at Biggin Hill airfield for the weekend but scheduled to do fly-bys and aerial displays over airfields all over the South East, including Headcorn. Adam and Sam went down to Eastbourne last Friday for the airshow there, and saw the Lancasters along with a number of other WWII-era aircraft. But Sunday would be my chance to finally see them, too. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The London Town Bike Challenge: A Look at the Modern Viking

Just a few days ago, I wrote about the dilemma of finding a suitable bike for commuting in London with minimal risk of being stolen.

Recently I spied a new-ish Viking step-through framed bicycle locked up in the West End, one street away from my office.

I recognised the Viking name, partly because of a recent discussion on the Lovely Bicycle! blog about the Viking company, its English and Irish history and the "competent but un-inspired" reputation of its bicycles, but partly also because I run regular searches on Ebay for mixtes (as you do) and the Viking name comes up regularly as the main modern alternative to all the vintage Raleighs and Peugeots out there. From the Ebay listings, I knew the current owners of the Viking brand offer a 7-speed mixte called 'The Continental' and a singlespeed called 'The Bromley'. I also knew they are incredibly cheap! The Continental runs £160-£180 and the Bromley is often well under £150. Most are offered for sale by Parkers of Bolton, a well-established online retailer in the north of England. And if you visit Parkers' website, you'll find both models at even lower prices than those on Ebay. 

Frankly, I had assumed that the Vikings on Ebay were "Bike Shaped Objects" on a par with what you can expect to buy from the likes of Halfords. True, the Viking name has more 'heritage' behind it than Apollo but these days it's difficult to know who owns the Viking brand or where exactly the bikes are made. It certainly is not Wolverhampton or Derry anymore! 

But to be honest, I was really impressed by the bike I saw in person. It was obviously quite new so it's hard to say what it will look after the coming winter, but the welds were tidy and the build looked really quite nice. 

So at this kind of price point, is Viking worth considering?  I'm going to take a closer look at the two models of mixte.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The London Town Bike Challenge

A common sight in central London.  Basket optional.
Image courtesy Watch My Wallet 

For the past 5 weeks, I have been without a commuting bike that I could leave locked up in London overnight. As explained in previous posts, when I started a new job in central London last April, I had assumed that I would resume using Lucy the Brompton for round-trip commuting duties (especially with her more hill-friendly 8-speed upgrade), but found in reality that she's too heavy for lugging up and down stairs at Luton rail station (where there are no lifts to the platforms). I then thought that the solution would be to eliminate the need to carry a bike on the train at all -- simply have one bike that I ride back and forth between home and Luton station and a second bike that I ride in London between St Pancras station and my office in the West End. Obviously, however, the Brompton would not be ideal for either role: not really hill-friendly even with those 8 gears and far too valuable to leave locked up anywhere out of my sight, whether at Luton or St Pancras or my office. 

The Surly Cross Check is perfect for the Bedfordshire end of my commute -- it's tough as old boots with touring gears, full mudguards and a sturdy rack. The question was, what to use on the London end? 

Monday, 11 August 2014

Magazine Review: WOMENS CYCLING ** And First Blog GIVEAWAY! **

A new magazine launched here in the UK last year, aimed specifically at women cyclists.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I first heard about it. I had been reading the likes of Cycling Plus, Cycling Active and Cycling Weekly for years. None of these well-established titles expressly say they write for men, but it's pretty obvious that they do! Each occasionally has an article or two per issue dealing with issues specific to women, but these generally are along the lines of "5 Winter Jackets for Women" (when the corresponding article for men is "20 Winter Jackets for Men"). One of these magazines (I've forgotten which) tried including a separate supplement for women with one issue. It was about 16 pages long. All the articles had a whiff of condescension. You know the test for how to give advice or write a how-to article? Swap out all the pronouns and ask yourself, would I say this to a man?

The mainstream articles were spectacularly failing to address women as equals, but frankly I wasn't too confident that a womens-specific magazine would be the answer. Would everything sound as if it was pitched to beginning cyclists?  Or, at the other end, assume all women are interesting in how the pro cyclists are doing -- albeit the female ones, not necessarily Mark Cavendish et al.

Well, I am pleased to say that Womens Cycling has got it just about right. After reading two issues (and finding it just a bit of a bother to find them each time a new one came out, as not many shops were stocking this title yet), I took out a subscription.

Here's a little peak into the latest issue, which landed on my doormat a week ago.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Last Goodbye

It is with great sadness that I announce that Swoopy could not be saved.

We made another attempt to build her up -- this time with a proper plan and a selection of new components that all worked together, as opposed to a hodgepodge of old parts we happened to have lying around!

Unfortunately, the slight kink in the driveside rear triangle (just above the dropout) means there is no way to prevent movement of the wheel in the dropout. Adam believed that fitting a rear mech would help make allowance for any movement, but we have not been able to find a mech hanger that fits the dropout very well. The best fitting one we found could not be fitted so that absolutely no movement was possible.

So today I'm afraid we stripped the frame again and are awaiting the next visit of the rag-and-bone man.

I am very disappointed as she was a lovely ride -- quite sprightly and responsive.

RIP Swoopy.

In looking back at my first post about Swoopy, written with such excitement and hope, I am grief-stricken too by the fact that the kitty who inspected her that momentous day is gone now, as well.

Unbeknownst to us, she had heart disease and one morning in early June, her little heart just gave up. And with her last heartbeat, my heart was broken too.

RIP Sara.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

The Talisker Loop (#ScotTour Day 5)

On our first day based in Portree, we set off back the way we had come the previous day (I detect a pattern here...). We had an appointment on the other side of the Isle at 11am and could not be late!

This called for a Big Breakfast.

I left the B&B saying "Today, I am going to suffer". I dreaded the climb up out of Portree towards Sligachan (remembering the wind and inconsistent gradient) that was such an unwelcome surprise the day before) and figured I better resign myself to it -- make my peace with it, manage my expectations -- well before I actually had to do it. 

That "talking to" I gave myself must have worked, because it was... dare I say it, a breeze. Adam was waiting at the top and I cruised up to him saying "I don't believe it, my heart rate is still normal". 

At Sligachan, we turned westward off the A87, onto the A863. The day before, it had seemed to me that this road (across the middle of Skye from coast to coast) was siphoning off a great deal of traffic from the A87 -- for which I had been very grateful! So today, I was braced for quite a lot of motorhome and caravan traffic, on a road even less suited to it than the A87. 

We were immediately faced with a climb upwards into -- surprise, surprise -- low cloud and mist. There were no motor vehicles, none moving at least. Instead, we found ourselves negotiating a few families (with children) and walking groups, all strolling down (or up) the middle of the road. We went by a few cars parked up alongside the road, before cresting the backbone of the Isle and free-wheeling for miles down towards Loch Harport. 

The view across the valley, as we coasted to the coast.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Lifting The Veil (#ScotTour Day 4)

On Day 4, we left Elgol to cycle to Portree.

The first part of the journey saw us retracing our steps back to Broadford. This was not however a matter of seeing the same things twice, because -- you may recall -- the first time we cycled this road, we couldn't see much due to the mist and low cloud.

On this sunny Sunday, however, all was revealed.

Crossing the cattle grid leaving Elgol. 

The Highlander overlooking Elgol

I had my first opportunity to take close-up photos of Flag Irises, which were blooming in mad profusion all over Skye. I had no idea irises could be yellow. I learned later that this is one of only two species of iris that are native to the UK and the only one native to Scotland. Large "stands" of Yellow Iris in western Scotland form important feeding and breeding habitat for the endangered Corn Crake

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