Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Tandem Dreams Can Come True!

We missed out on a lovely custom Swallow on Ebay last spring, so we pulled ourselves together and made sure we didn't miss out on this

We have a few things to sort out before we can ride her much, as the original owners were quite different in height and proportions to us, but here she is in all her current glory. 

She is 7 feet long, so we have christened her "Queen Mary" (as in, "she's as long as ..."). 

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

FRIDAY NIGHT RIDE TO THE COAST - Southend edition (10/11 March 2017)

Waiting for the train to London

A belated mini-report on the first FNRttC of 2017, back in March!  

I felt a bit like a prodigal daughter: my last "full value" (i.e. not partially train assisted) FNRttCs were the London-to-Whitstable run in August 2014 and the Cardiff-to-Swansea ride in September 2015. 

Gathering at our new Starting Point on the Southbank © Adam Bell

The Welsh ride was interesting from a fitness point of view, because we had just returned from the Lowlands Tour (8 days of riding the flats of France, Belgium and the Netherlands) and one thing any Welsh route is not going to be is "flat"!  I lamented my overall lack of 'climbing fitness' but only had to walk one hill. 

This year I hit the roads early on by commuting every day since the Christmas period, then starting physiotherapy in late January. 

The result? While our March ride was much hillier (by design) than our long-standing, traditional Southend route, I enjoyed every single minute of it. 

© Adam Bell

I blinked while a donut and two halves of bacon sandwiches disappeared

The Beach's Seaside Breakfast

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Navigation On Tour

Maps or GPS? Which do you use? Which do you prefer?

On this next mini-tour, I am taking the plunge and attempting to use my Garmin Edge 810 for navigation*!

I have used the GPS before (on our July tour in Europe) just to watch our position on Garmin's pre-loaded map and of course I use this device all the time to record ride data (where I've been, distance, speed, etc). And I've used my phone at times for navigation, which isn't too difficult (though I don't have a phone holder so always have to stop if I need to check the route).

I do use Ride With GPS to plan our routes. (This is my responsibility and is my favourite part of pre-tour preparation.) Adam then checks the routes over, as he has a much better concept of elevation, gradient and sheer difficulty than I do. He is also much better at identifying sand or gravel segments! He loads the routes onto his SatMap device and uses that for navigation. As we go along, we stop and consult but generally he is in charge of on-the-road navigation. 

But I have been wanting to get more involved in the navigation as we travel along, at least so that I know where we are, how far we have to go, where the nearest water/lunch/coffee/toilet stop may be, etc. without relying solely on Adam. 

So it's about time I gave the Garmin a go at what it's designed for, eh?

Uploading the routes from Ride With GPS was a doddle, thanks to RWGPS's very useful how-to guide. 

Opening the route up on my Garmin also went without a hitch. (I admit it, I was holding my breath.)

So far, so good!

* Of course, I am also carrying paper maps. Lovely Ordinance Survey maps, carefully folded in my waterproof case on top of my bar bag.  Which will be most useful? How frustrated will I get?!

Monday, 4 September 2017

A Story of Priorities And Compromises

We leave on Saturday for a short cycling jaunt in the Scottish Borders. It involves a few days of cycling, carrying our kit and staying in B&Bs -- so, by our personal definition and style, this qualifies as light touring. 

However, the main point of our trip is to meet up with my youngest sister who will be touring Scotland (by car) for three weeks. Her itinerary begins with two days in Edinburgh. As we have never been to Edinburgh, we thought to ourselves, "wouldn't it be fun to take the train north to a suitable point so that we can spend two days cycling to Edinburgh?"

Our itinerary evolved into: 

  • Day 1: take the train to Berwick-upon-Tweed; 
  • Day 2: cycle to Haddington (approximately 45 miles); 
  • Day 3: cycle to Edinburgh (approximately 25 miles) incorporating a visit to the Battle of Prestonpans site (because, well, Scottish history and Outlander and all that); 
  • Days 4 & 5: visiting and sightseeing in Edinburgh with my sister (along with a long-time friend who is flying into Edinburgh for these 2 days -- she and my sister haven't seen each other in over 20 years); 
  • Day 6: train to Lockerbie then cycle to Kirtlebridge (about 10 miles); 
  • Day 7: cycle to Penrith (about 60 miles); 
  • Day 8: visiting friends in the Lake District (who own a brewery!); then 
  • Day 9: train home. 
The upshot of all this, it's hardly a full-on cycling tour. 

One key feature is that we have no idea what sort of overnight bike security we are going to have, especially right in Edinburgh.

So we decided not to take our "good bikes" but rather our commuters:  Adam's Pinnacle Arkrose and my Surly Cross Check. 

This is Compromise No. 1. 

Depending on our priorities for this trip and how readily these two bikes can be adapted to meet those priorities, we hope we will not regret this! However, given the type of cycling we'll be doing (including a bit of Sustrans off-roading), the rather low mileage and the desire to not take expensive bikes, we think our priorities pointed in this direction. 

Now. Using my daily commuter for touring duties prompted some questions about my current set up on this bike. 

My priorities definitely require being able to carry two water bottles and having access to a few things such as maps and camera without having to stop. 

In commute mode, the Cross Check is fitted with one bottle cage and a small easy-on/off framebag that I use to stash my lights, computer and other sundries when I lock my bike up for the day. 

The obvious change is to use a handlebar bag, which would take over the carry role of the framebag while also freeing up space within the frame to mount a second bottle cage. 

Fine in theory... there are my two key priorities met. 

But.... the current front-end set up on the Cross Check involves: 
  1. Tiagra STI shifters dating from the days when the cables ran outside rather than under the bar tape, 
  2. secondary cross-top brake levers, and
  3. fork-mounted dynamo light. 
These factors all pose difficulties: can a handlebar bag be wedged in here somehow?

It has taken a little experimenting and trial and error but I think we may have found a solution: 
  1. a t-bar accessory bracket mounted on the steering tube under the stem, which projects the mounting area for 
  2. a Klick Fix unit sufficiently beyond the cross-top brake levers, on which can be mounted
  3. a small Vaude handlebar bag. 

Clearances are tight but everything does fit quite neatly. I can reach the cross-top brake levers just fine. 

(Will post better photo later!)

I won't be able to use the dynamo light but I can still use my small (battery powered) Exposure light on the accessory bar that is fitted over the stem.

There still remains the question as to how accessible the contents of the bar bag will be on the move, given the cable routing right around the zip opening of the main compartment. But even if it proves too tricky to unzip the main compartment of the bag and pull things out (and then put things back inside and re-zip), I should still be able to access the small top compartment (which has pockets just the right size for my compact camera, a packet of tissue, lip balm, small coin purse, etc.) and of course view the map. 

I expect to discover some drawbacks once we're actually travelling but it's a short trip, so nothing here is a deal breaker. 

Meanwhile, I think overall this is a solution that addresses my priorities while any compromises that may be required are still acceptable. If anyone has any other suggestions, please let me know in the comments!

It will be good to see how the Cross Check performs as a back-up touring bike for trips like this involving mixed-surface trails and some security concerns. 

(Frame bag to come off, bottle cage to be fitted Then add panniers!)

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