Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Taking Care of Your Feet (Athletes foot and nails)

One of the least mentioned touring topics is taking care of your feet.  When your on the bike for any length of time especially in the wet, your feet get damp especially in between your toes, and in the warm weather your feet just plain sweat.
Athletes Foot (Tinea Pedis)
Not nice to cycle with or any time for that matter.
This the perfect environment for atheletes foot (tinea pedis) caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes.  On a long trip this can be a real discomfort and if not taken care of can cause an infection etc..

I seem to be prone to this so I had to learn how to prevent/avoid/treat!  So here's my advice:

TIP 1:  As often as possible get your shoes off and air your feet

TIP 2:  Dry your feet thoroughly fungi don't like dryness!  I take special care to dry in between my toes; not usually available when camping but if you can use a hairdryer on them after a shower.

TIP 3: plenty of clean socks and change them in the day on a long ride

TIP 4: In hot weather try cycling with a good set of sandals they do SPD clip in sandals now

TIP 5: Treat with athletes foot medication, as always check with your doctor first but theres plenty of over the counter powders that do the job.

TIP 6: Treat them early not later, especially the moment you feel any tingling

TIP 7:  Go for decent cycling shoes, my current combination is a pair of goretex spd cycling shoes and a pair of SPD compatible sandals.

There are a lot of socks available for cycling and they now come impregnated with silver which makes them anti microbial and anti fungal, so it's worth while investing in some if your prone to it like me.


Another issue that can occur is bruising to the nail, mostly the big toe nail.  I have only found a few causes to this two of them avoidable:  A good old bang to the nail, very tight socks or poor fitting shoes.

You can't really avoid the accidental knock, but you can avoid tight socks (I have this if I cycle for too long in goretex socks) and when I cycled in a pair of shoes that didn't fit well.  The answer is simple don't cycle in poor fitting shoes and don't cycle for long stretches in tight fitting socks.

I have found one thing that does exasperate it and that's letting your toenails grown too long, it doesn't have to be much just letting them go as long as the softer front of your toe can be enough!  so keep them well looked after.

heres a good guide to cutting them:  Follow this to a cutting guide

Nasty and painful
Heres a good guide about them: Follow this link for a guide to them

Heres a link to treating a bruised toenail:  Follow this link for treatment

When this has happened to me touring, I have nipped into a local shop for ice and raised etc.. with some ibruprofen etc..   If your out in the wild, try to find a cold stream for some relief!  In this case "PREVENTION" is far better than cure!

If anyone else has anymore tips or advice please send them!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Useless Rear Brake Tektro Novela - Maintainance and Repair

On my last ride my rear brake had become pretty useless I think I could have gotten more braking if I had squeezed my finger and thumb around the brake disc.

Now this was the first bike I had ever had with disc brakes so I hadn't really got a clue, however I have done motorbike disc brakes so how hard can it be... ahem

The first thing was to diagnose the issue and this was what I came up with:

1. The rear brake cable was contaminated (there was a lot of drag when pulling and it wasn't returning properly, I suspect it got some sea water in it.

2.  The rear disc was contaminated, just wiping a tissue over it left black oily residue

3.  Because the disc was contaminated I was pretty sure the pads were contaminated.


Stage one:  I disconnected the brake cable and removed it from the bike as well as the sleeve.   I cut off the crimp at the end and pulled it out of the sleeve.   Sure enough it had contamination and corrosion, it was dull etc..   I laid the cable on some paper and I sprayed it with a light oil, I then fed it back into the sheath and worked it backwards and forwards.

I then oiled the new cable and threaded it through, the new cable glided easily so that was one issue resolved.  I refitted the cable and but didn't connect it onto the disc brake lever at the rear.

Stage 2: Decontamination

I removed the rear wheel and took it outside, I put sprayed the disc surface with disc cleaner and then worked it in with tissue.  I did this to both sides then wiped the disc thoroughly, I did this two times until I was getting no more residue or contamination off.  I left the rear wheel outside for a while so the solvent on the disc could evaporate thoroughly.

Stage 3:  New Pads

To fit my new pads I needed to remove two retaining bolts on the inner housing, this allowed me to remove the existing pads, i could see clearly they were contaminated.  They are only held in place by magnets so it's not a hard task.

Once the old ones were removed I examined the mechanism it seemed ok but I applied some lubricant to the moveable parts, it moved even more freely now.   I then fitted new pads in and replaced the two bolts.

Stage 4: Adjusting:

The first stage in adjusting my brakes was refitting the wheel and then I fully tightened all of the brake adjusting nipples, on the rear brake and the adjuster on the brake itself so I could get the maximum adustment later.

I then moved the rear brake lever and refitted the brake cable, keeping an eye on the outside pad I pulled the lever and adjusted the cable tightness so that it left the outer pad 1-2 mm from the disc itself.  I just checked the manufacturers website and they recommend 3mm gaps either side of the pad, I will try that later see if it makes any difference.

I then turned my attention to the inside adjuster, between the bolts that I had removed to fit the pads earlier.   I tightened this so that the inside pad protruded towards the disc, again leaving 1 - 2 mm clearance from the disc.   I then turned the pedal to ensure there was no catching on the disc.

I made the wheel go faster and then pulled the rear brake, it bit very well but the bite point was at almost full extension on the brake lever.   I slackened off the brake arm lever and then removed some of the slack on the cable bringing the disc slightly closer.

I then cranked the wheel again and pressed the brake lever, it was an amazing difference the brakes felt like new.

Now I should mention this, that when I went for the new cable I showed it to one of the "bike mechanics"  he told me I would most likely need a new disc/pads and possibly a new rear brake as the tightness on the cable was likely to be a damaged brake mechanism.   I knew enough to know a new brake would not have been necessary, if it had I would have made a warranty claim!!

In the end, it cost me some spare time, a brake cable £3.99, some cleaner £4.99 and a new set of Pads £12.00 front and rear.   Had I gotten the shop to do it....  I would have paid top price for the parts and labour of about £40.00 per hour...   This is why I like to maintain the bike myself, it's fun, saves money and best of all makes me better able to deal with on road emergencies myself!

I will try and take photos to add.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Aberystwyth to Barnards Green (Malvern) The Journey Back

After my trip with Marc to Aberystwyth last week I pretty much knew that I would have to come back a week later.  The original plan was to cycle back as well, but Marc with his “get the job done” mission outlook on life had already booked a train ticket back and wasn’t really excited about coming back the way he had come.  This didn’t sit well with me as I felt I was just not finishing the job… 
I guess that I understand one day I may not be able to accomplish it so I had better do it while I can, or maybe I was feeling that I was somehow just plain chickening out!  The upshot of all this is I find myself on the journey back to Aberystwyth so that I can cycle back this time solo as normal.
I had arrived at work and noticed my headset was loose, this was the second time it had come loose, I pulled out my allen key to tighten it but there was no more to tighten… disaster… it wasn’t huge play but it was noticeable.  There’s a bike shop over the road, I called them and asked if they could do an emergency job, no chance they were fully booked.  I asked if I could get a new set of bearings and possibly cups and bolts I didn’t know what the cause was but figured I could cover most of the bases and do a repair in my break or when I arrived..  they said pop over.. the guy checked it out and we found one of my spacers had cracked at the back, never happened before.  He took pity and said leave it with him. 

About half an hour later he had put a new spacer on and the headset was as good as new, I picked the bike up paid a tenner for the repair (well worth it)..  another one of life’s little curveballs overcome with the help of someone willing to put themselves out for other people..  remember that because I can’t remember when I have been truly stuck because someone or something always comes along… that’s why I will always go out of my way for complete strangers because that’s whats saved me sooo many times.

The plan was simple, leave directly from work and catch the 5:50 to Birmingham International then the 6:09 to Aberystwyth.  The plan was simple until I got to international, I made my way down to the platform, I was expecting one of the more modern trains, but it looked more like one of the more local trains.  It was only two carriages so in my naivety I believed that it would be a quiet train…  How wrong can you be.
I approached the guard and asked if it was the Aberystwyth train he said yes, but you can’t get on because I already have two bikes on and there’s only two carriages so it will be jam packed once it gets to New Street.  My mind froze for a second and I blurted out “I have a reservation”, something I made damn sure of after last weeks debacle and quickly produced my ticket.

I could see the drop in the poor guards face, he checked my reservation and said resignedly; “I am going to have to throw one of the other bikes off”.  Almost as if he was hoping that I would say no it’s ok I will catch the next one and pay £60.00.  I am helpful but not stupid…  He got to the bike carriage and quickly located the owner of the last bike to get on and asked him to leave the train.  The gentleman was in his mid to late 50’s and simply refused to get off, stating that he had a season ticket and didn’t need to reserve his bike as he travelled this train all the time, see I told you it wasn’t going to be simple.

The guard repeated twice that he would have to leave and I suggested I didn’t mind putting my bike alongside and standing with it, but that wasn’t really fair on him as he explained that the gangway had to be kept clear H&S and the trolley had to come through and I would block the only toilet.  At this point the guard simply picked the guys bike up and walked it off the train.  I got on and parked my bike with the other gentleman giving the guard an unfairly hard time, I then had a brainwave, his bike was only light so I said, “I don’t mind if he puts his bike on top of mine”, the guard seemed to think that would help all round and he brought the bike back in and laid it out on top of my bike.   
The guy gave one last harangue to the poor guard and I stepped in between as my patience was now a little thin and said, “ the rules are clear, reserve your bike or it’s on a first come first served basis”, stop giving the guard a hard time”, I think my tone of voice made my point, the guard had used the diversion to escape and the other gent decided that it was time to shut up, he slinked off without a thankyou…  I began to wish I had left his bike off and simply waived at him from the window, ahh the joys of time travel… Groundhog Day would have been good at that point.

I settled down and waited with trepidation for the New Street onslaught…  The guard wasn’t wrong, it was sardine city fortunately there was a pleasant and understanding lady who sat down next to me.  I should explain that I am fairly broad… and my shoulders extend nearly a third into the seat next to me, a cause of several train related incidents previously with the person sitting next to me somehow believing that I had the ability to fold inwards at the sternum… and the fact my other shoulder was pressed up against the window was an excuse to avoid folding my sternum.  I have learned to apologise up front to avoid several hours of sitting next to someone huffing and puffing or in the case of some men, deliberately putting pressure on my arm until I tell them to ease up or I will relocate them (pleasantly).

The train atmosphere was stifling so I started up my laptop just to chill out and begin this blog for the weekend.  We pulled out from new street and I suddenly became aware that we were travelling through a very long tunnel… I didn’t realise there was such a long one so I decided to look it up.

 It is a long trip to Aberystwyth I hadn’t had a meal yet and I needed water but my bike seemed like an eternity away… through the crowd.  I waited a while as we went through a few more stops, Smethwick Galton Bridge..  Wolverhampton… The crown thinned out and I decided to head for the water.  It wasn’t to much of a challenge, I made the last stretch by asking one of the sardines to pass my bottle for me and made my way back.

As we passed a few more stations the lady to my left eventually got off along with the Norwegian or Finish gentleman with an enormous macbook who was sat opposite.  I felt positively rich with space and positioned myself on the opposite seat so I had a view of my bike.  Eventually we hit Shrewsbury and the other guy with the bike got up to leave, I followed to ensure he didn’t tear a hole in my bike as he pulled his bike off the top, I can imagine he was in no way grateful for me interceding to keep him on the train and people can do strange things when they are in the throes of righteous indignation, I know I am one of them but that’s a different tale…..

A young girl in her early twenty’s came and sat opposite me, she too had a huge mac book and a matching pair of studio quality headphones perched on her head.  I began to read some more of the moominland midwinter and she couldn’t help but lean over to get the title.  I turned my eyes towards her and her head dropped down as if caught in some nefarious deed, people are funny.. if I am curious about a book someone is reading I just ask them, it usually leads to some good conversation.  I bet she was wondering what a 40+ yr old was doing reading the moomins… im a psychopath dear we all have fixations on our childhood favourites…  with me it’s the moomins with others it’s pulling tails off puppies…

I settled in for the ride occasionally looking out at the changing countryside, whilst alternating between typing, reading and whatever track was on my ipod nano, (incidentally it was rage against the machine – killing in the name of, probably why I was feeling a little belligerent J  The journey was passing pleasantly for the most part.  I had bought myself a black coffee as usual no sweetners fortunately I come prepared haha arriva trains I have learned your tricks…  Coffee is one habit I haven’t been able to give up, I kicked sugar & milk but coffee eludes me…  maybe my heart would stop if I didn’t carry on.. anything is possible.

I got a momentary signal and Jazzy popped up on skype, confirming bill was visiting at the end of August, while jazzy swanned off abroad, she really is a bohemian…. Poor old bill, I was looking forward to his visit and the chance to make a fuss of him the way he and jazzy look after me.  (they are my adopted scotish parents, everyone should have some), please Scotland don’t leave the UK you are the only known natural source of adopted Scotish Parents…  I can imagine you would have to resort to kidnapping some …  if you could get past the hillclimbing mc haggis’s. (see the Broons and oor wullie for an explanation)

I looked out of the window to a lonely hillside and imagined what it would be like in winter, it was alive and verdant now but I imagine in winter it would be exposed and barren alone through the winter, all at once I thought of the Groke, poor Groke… I had always felt sorry for the Groke as a child I imagined I would put on lots of coats and go and sit with the Groke no matter how cold it got.. but I would probably end up like the squirrel with the marvellous tail…  yeah I know turn to page 26.. read the Moomins and you will understand, if you can’t be bothered just imagine im going a little senile..

I glanced out of the window again and the train was running parallel with a snaking river for a moment there was an optical illusion and it appeared as if the river was racing the train like some water spirit from a studio Ghibli production.  It soon passed and the trees lining the railway subsided to give me a wonderful if fleeting glimpse of the river flattened out over shallows in my imagination I could almost smell the water…  I would much rather be out there..    I spotted a min suspension bridge straddling the river just before the train pulled into Machynlleth.  It seemed oddly out of place.
It wouldn’t be long before I pulled into Aberystwyth, I was hoping there would be a late night shop for supplies, I had planned to get my supplies while at work, in the end I had nipped for a quick lunch with the server team but no supplies for tonight.

Aftert disMy plan was to camp out in the grounds of the Castle ruins but the weather was so lovely I decided to camp out on the beach.  I made a quick dash to the local Co-Op, I bought the makings of mince beef and vegetables with two nice roles and then set about cooking it on the sea front.  I pitched up on the beach, after checking the seaweed line and asking several locals I determined I was very safe camping at the sea wall, I made sure I was camped by one of the shallow ramps in case an emergency getaway was required.
Can life get any more perfect than this?  I am out on the beach it is warm but the kind of warmth that surrounds you like a cocoon.. theres a sea breaze and I can hear the crashing of the waves at high tide…  theres a light blinking in the distance and the seafront is marked out by a waving line of street lamps.  Dotted further along the beach towards constitution hill are campfires out on the beach, I had passed by several groups of teenagers just relaxing and enjoying the sea.  Im listening to Kal ho na ho on youtube and tapping out my blog.  Its really time for bed but it’s so nice I don’t want to sleep.

Couldn't resist a photograph of an enfield, not an orginal but
it's great to see this old design still going.

My view from the Beach the sky was a beautiful
azure blue

shaky shot

Eating my evening meal on the sea front

Packing up in the morning aroused this big lads's curiosity.

Whats that then, can I eat it, is slobbering over your camera acceptable!
he flung himself down anyway and demanded some fuss1

Almost packed, and no rubbish or sign of my presence was left.

Things look so different in the morning

yep the weather looks bad

Rain and cloud
I didn't really capture it on camera, but there was an awful rain storm, at one point I was cycling uphill against the wind and what seemed like a river running downhill.  At one point there was a lightning strike to my right and the resulting sound put quite a wobble on me!

Coco's Truck Stop
Keith & Angharad Evans
Time for a bacon and egg bap :-)

Haulwen (Welsh) = Sunshine (English)

Entering Powys

The Post Office at Llangurig
You can get coffee here and it's cheaper than the stop
just down the road, who's coffee isn't briliant!

A well spring opposite the Llangurig Post Office
a nice place to have that coffee!

Rhyada Carnival

Rhyada Carnival

Only 40 miles to Leominster (yay)

The Thomas Shop
If you ever travel along the A44 and get the chance, don't miss dropping into the Thomas Shop!  I am not going to say much other than it's worth the visit and the closest you will get to time travel.  It was a real find and I didn't want to leave!


Apologies for my camera but it was steamy and I didn't

Wooo Back in England, missing wales already

The Border Bean Cafe
Just opened in the High Street Kington

Callum & Shaun
cycled from Rome to Home together

On the Black & White Village Trail

I had one puncture all day, and it happened the second I saw
this vehicle..  Thankyou to the car behind me that avoided hitting me
when the puncture caused my bike to slew sideways.
That is the last slime filled innertube I will ever buy, at the higher
pressures they don't seal, and the Halfords Ones are the worst ones I
have come across.

I didn't take anymore photo's, I was fairly tired after this.  The rest of the route took me through Bromyard and I finished the trip in Malvern as that was easier for my sister to meet me and collect my bike etc..   Thankyou to the two ladies who invited me to the Pub, sorry I was too tired!